Porsche enthusiasts are a lot like other car enthusiasts. They’ve got lingo (“slant nose,” “Moby Dick,” “PDK”), icons (Bruce Canepa) and iconoclasts (Magnus Walker), a pedantic hierarchy (964 Carrera 911 RS trumps 996 911 GT3 RS, but both lose to 911 Carrera 2.7 RS). What makes Porsche enthusiasts unique is the degree of clubbiness, the vaguely secretive vibe. The ferocity of the mystique.
You can see how they got there. At their best, cars from Stuttgart are as involving and gratifying as any on the planet. The brand, as its devotees will remind you, has a long tradition of building innovative racing prototypes, ballsy street-legal sports cars, and exclusive special-edition models that blend the best elements of each. But the rarest Porsches tend to be kept under wraps. The company’s own museum meters out public appearances; private collectors are, understandably, hesitant to run irreplaceable, multimillion-dollar machines at the racetrack.
Held every third year (or thereabouts) since 2001, this vintage racing event is billed as the world’s largest gathering of Porsches. Derek Bell and Bruce Canepa and Magnus Walker are there, along with nearly 60,000 other zealots, letting their freak flag fly. So are the 964 RS, 996 GT3 RS, and 2.7 RS, plus virtually every significant Porsche racing car from the past seven decades, including Le Mans winners, like the 917 and 962.
All told, some 330 cars take to the circuit, the location of which varies depending on the year. Past venues include historic Lime Rock Park, in Connecticut, and Daytona Speedway. Rennsport Reunion VI (September 27-30, 2018) is scheduled to take place at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, in Monterey, California.
To mark the occasion, Porsche Design has created a new timepiece, the Chronotimer Rennsport Reunion VI Limited Edition. It pays homage to event, but also to the original Chronograph I, released in 1972. That piece helped put Porsche Design on the map; the company reportedly sold some 50,000 examples, more than a few of which wound up on the wrists of pro drivers.
Like the Chronograph I, the Chronotimer Rennsport Reunion VI Limited Edition has a distinctive matte-black finish, a nod to the instrument panels in the cockpits of racing cars. The 42mm carbide-coated titanium case is black, as is the dial; the sapphire crystal backing allows for a clear view of the automatic Valjoux movement. It all hangs on a black calfskin strap made from “original Porsche interiors,” replete with red contrast stitching. Each watch features a unique numbered engraving.
Each Rennsport Reunion feels like a rare and special thing, and this new Porsche Design watch aims to capture that sentiment. Accordingly, it’s limited to a scant 70 pieces, distributed only within the U.S. Other car enthusiasts might not see the appeal. But Porsche fanatics? The want for this one will be downright ferocious.
The website Mr Porter is best known for its selection of fashionable menswear, supplying modern shoppers with deftly chosen clothing by a range of labels, from Acne Studios to Z Zegna. It’s built a loyal following since launching in 2011. But recently, the site has been gaining recognition for offering designer wares of a different ilk: luxury watches.
“Our view on watches is the same as it is with fashion,” says Toby Bateman, Mr Porter’s managing director. “We’re trying to create a selection of brands that represents different aesthetics and different price points so that ultimately we’ll have something for everyone.”
Log on to mrporter.com, and you’ll find pieces from Montblanc and Baume & Mercier, starting at under $1,000, running up to investment-grade Piaget and Jaeger-LeCoultre. Mirroring the clothing side, which carries discovery labels such as And Wander and Herno Laminar as well as mainstays such as Gucci and Prada, insider watch brands like Ressence and Weiss are included in the mix.
All told, Mr Porter has hundreds of watches from more than a dozen brands. But the selection isn’t overwhelming. Like everything else on the site—and on its womenswear sister site, Net-a-Porter—what’s stocked is a concise, targeted edit instead of a scattershot.
“We’ve got buyers who can whittle down what can be a complicated and quite daunting shopping process for customers,” Bateman says.
His curation includes multiple iterations of classic pieces, quite a few exclusive styles and limited editions, the occasional desk clock, and even adventurous one-offs, like Bell & Ross with a transparent crystal sapphire case (priced at $480,000 and, as of this writing, still available.)
“We can talk about watches in the context of style . . . no one else in the market, online or offline, is really able to do that.”
– Toby Bateman, mrporter.com
But unlike a dedicated jeweler or watch retailer, Mr Porter’s overall breadth of stock—in addition to clothes and shoes, sunglasses, briefcases, neckties, and jewelry—helps shoppers imagine how a timepiece could fit in with their wardrobe. Bateman sees this as a major advantage.
“We can talk about watches in the context of style, and pretty much no one else in the market, whether their online or offline, is really able to do that,” he says. “If you go to a jewelry store on Madison Avenue or on Bond Street, you just see watches—you don’t really [get] ‘This is how you wear that diver’s watch,’ ‘This is the one for the office,’ ‘This is the one for jeans and a T-shirt over the weekend.’”
In terms of ushering high-end menswear into the e-commerce realm, Mr Porter’s has been a trailblazing force, and the site’s upscale look was crucial to its breakout success. Even judged by those lofty standards, timepieces get special treatment in terms of imagery and text. Every watch is photographed in-house with dedicated cameras; more details about each are included than would be with, say, a pair of trendy sneakers or a bomber jacket. Some pieces are even offered with multiyear warranties.
“When you actually see how professional and well-done Mr Porter is, it was a little bit of a no-brainer,” says Nick English, the co-founder of Bremont, the first brand to partner with Mr Porter when it began carrying watches, in 2013. “The whole experience is pretty amazing—they just do it really well. It’s the closest thing to going in there and talking to someone in a shop.”
Some watch companies view the site’s unique position—egalitarian and accessibilible, but still upmarket—as a bridge. Put simply, Mr Porter represents a medium to showcase items to shoppers from around the world that might be intimidated by a traditional watch store, or simply unfamiliar with their brand.
“We felt this is a good opportunity to potentially connect with a new clientele in a very convenient way,” says Giovanni Carestia, North American President of Panerai, which has been carried on the site since last year. “This is great way to raise the bar.”
Nearly five years in, Bateman describes the site’s watch business as being “in its infancy.” He says a Luxury Watch Guide expansion is planned, and Mr Porter did stock the new Cartier Santos when it launched in April. Still, the site’s catalog largely leans away from formal dress watches, emphasizing versatility. Zenith, IWC, and Nomos Glashütte are featured heavily. TAG Heuer and Montblanc smartwatches have been popular thus far, but—ironically, for a digital-only retailer—a broader range of tech watches will be added only if they fit well into the overall mix.
(Bateman: “It will depend on what comes to market and whether it’s got a good U.S.P. [unique selling point] that we can talk about with our customers.”)
Regardless, he says timepiece category has already helped broaden the site’s customer base. And whether or not Mr Porter becomes a major player in the luxury watch market, Bateman believes that it’s positioning the site as a more holistic retailer for the shopper of the future.
“Having watches on the site has enabled us to reach guys who don’t consider themselves to be ‘fashion guys,’” he says. “They come to Mr Porter and see the watch selection, but in the process they’re discovering Mr Porter. What they then see is that we create really great content which isn’t overly fashion-led—it’s quite lifestyle—and we have a very diverse product offering across all our categories. [Those shoppers] hopefully will become Mr Porter customers in other aspects.”
On a sunny Wednesday morning late last year, Fabrizio Buonamassa found himself behind the wheel of a sleek twin-turbocharged sedan, juking through traffic in downtown Palm Springs, making a beeline for the deadliest road in America.
Buonamassa, the 46-year-old head of watch design at Bulgari, had never been to California. The night before, he’d paced slowly across the rooftop at Chateau Marmont, taking in the Los Angeles skyline, seeming pensive. But when he arrived in Palm Springs, an unsuspecting publicist tossed him the keys to a new Maserati Ghibli. Buonamassa promptly set the navigation to Route 74, that infamous widowmaker of a mountain road running into Coachella Valley, and laid down two fat strips of rubber exiting the hotel parking lot.
“Police?” he said, slowing the Ghibli from felony to misdemeanor speeds, eyeballing a suspect black-and-white sedan in the opposing lane. When it passed, he shrugged, downshifted, and ripped into the throttle again. “Hah!”
Ostensibly, Buonamassa was in town for the Los Angeles auto show, celebrating the release of the new Octo GranSport and Octo GranLusso, the latest Bulgari x Maserati watches. The collection brings together two titans of Italian design—the former company being Rome’s premier jewelry house, the latter Modena’s oldest luxury automaker. For Bulgari, which is now owned by Paris-based luxe conglomerate LVMH, it’s an assertion of the brand’s domestic sensibilities. For Maserati, which has seen sales increase tenfold over the past decade, it’s an opportunity to bake in an additional layer of exclusivity. (While the GranSport and GranLusso aren’t limited-run pieces, they will be available only to Maserati customers.)
Still, joint ventures between watch companies and automakers can feel contrived. Buonamassa brings a unique credibility to this one. He grew up in Naples and studied in Rome, worshipping at the altars of Bertone and Zagato and Pininfarina, the famed carrozzeria that coach-built bodies for Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. Before joining Bulgari in 2001, he actually served as an auto designer at Fiat Group, Maserati’s corporate parent. It was the realization of a childhood dream.
“If I have to make a choice, my heart is closer to the Italian vintage cars than the Swiss watchmaking heritage,” Buonamassa admits. “My father, he was working for Hertz, you know, the rental car companies. He would travel and bring me home books of cars from around the world. I was sketching them from the age of four or five, and this is what I enjoyed drawing first—the cars. But I have always loved designing product. This idea of making emotion from an object. I just love it.”
These two new watches are a testament to that fascination. Buonamassa’s design cleverly recalls a vintage sports-car tachometer; the standalone, retrograde hand sweeps a linear path to indicate minutes, which are displayed in single digits and underscored by a “MINx10” multiplier. The GranSport even has hash marks near the top “6” marker, aping a redline. Hours are shown through a crystal aperture at the three o’clock position, clicking off like an odometer.
The GranSport is DLC-treated steel, black to match the textured dial. It’s slung on a black perforated leather strap with electric-blue contrast stitching, mirroring a Maserati bucket seat. The GranLusso brings a more formal vibe, with an 18-karat pink gold case and gray sunburst pattern dial, hanging on a padded chestnut band. Both pieces measure 41.5 mm, house the same 33-jewel automatic movement, are assembled in-house, and offer a 42-hour power reserve. More important, both pieces look and feel as unimpeachably Italian as the man who designed them.
Back in Palm Springs, having crossed Route 74 off his bucket list, the lanky Buonamassa strode across the courtyard at The Parker hotel, hands in his pockets. Wearing an impeccably tailored blue jacket, Jacob Cohen denim, and purple Persol sunglasses, he stopped to admire a large bronze statue of a half-peeled banana, installed on a grassy patch next to his room. Astrud Gilberto’s “Portami con Te” played over a lawn speaker. He hummed along with the refrain, smiled, then checked his watch.
“Oh!” he said. “Time for lunch.”
In the beginning, I started to appreciate beautiful drawings. Design was a consequence, because it gave me the opportunity to make sketches. This is why I’m a designer. I’m lucky because my profession is to make drawings.
I’m a formative designer. In my career, I design a lot of different things. I think that a designer should be able to do this. Honestly, the process is sort of a small mystery, but the approach is the same for airplanes, for cars, for watches, for furniture. You have to solve problems. You have to know the problems and imagine solutions, and you have to do this in a beautiful and unique way.
Design is a compromise. Even the credit process. And if you do not trust your idea, it’s impossible to sell, even to the boss. So I have to imagine something, to start to make sketches, to tell you I think that this idea is correct. The sketch is just a skill, it’s just a tool because sometimes I need to fix the image that I have in mind. But I have to trust the idea.
My job is to turn technology into emotions. Bulgari is well known for geometry and color innovation. We were the first to use cabochon cut in jewelry. We were the first to use aluminum in couture watches, plastic in watches—we were the first to use porcelain, exotic material, and steel in fine jewelry. This is the case with the Octo Finissimo, the thinnest automatic watch in the world. I have to know the technology, and I have to be able to transform it into something that makes sense to the client. Otherwise, it’s just a movement. Yes, okay, it’s a fantastic movement, but this is the role of the designer. And I have to do this through the iconic signs, the codes of the brand, and the heritage of the brand.
We have a word in our vocabulary, sprezzatura. That means you can make something very complex in a natural way. The most important innovations are made by simple things. And the simplicity, like Leonardo da Vinci says, is the latest complication. [The Octo] is very difficult to produce, but it works very well. It’s strong enough for everyday life, and it looks absolutely simple. This concept of sprezzatura, for the first time you can find it in watchmaking. Because in Swiss watchmaking, you can find a lot of watches that are very hard [to produce], but also very difficult in terms of language. How can I read the time?
If a product is able to talk to you about its function, I’ve done a good job. Good design expresses itself. If I tell you the watch is this, this, and this, and that you have to use it this, this, and this way, maybe it’s not a good design. It’s another thing.
The retro trend, it is copy-and-paste design. For some brands, it’s easier to open the desk and say, ‘I want to make the new edition of this watch.’ This is not our approach. We make a lot of sketches on the wall and we say, ‘This is good. Wow, it’s fantastic.’ After five minutes, we see again the products and we say, ‘It’s not Bulgari enough.’ The octagon has a lot of different meanings in different cultures, different religions—eternity, friend, perfect balance between the heaven and the earth. It’s a shape that Bulgari started to use in the 1950s. When we decided to revamp, for Gérald Genta, sure, you have to make an Octo. But the Octo that you see today, it’s an Octo made by Bulgari. This [new] watch, it’s the same shape, but with different attention to the details of the faces. It still performs, but in a contemporary way. This is the signature of the brand. When you see this watch, you cannot make mistake it. But when you see this watch compared to a vintage one, it’s two different worlds.
We don’t have a creativity issue at Bulgari. We don’t just put the logo on a watch and say it’s a Bulgari x Maserati, because we have a lot of ideas. The idea [for the GranSport and GranLusso] was to tell you the time in a different way—to tell you the time as a rev counter, as in the dashboard of a car, thanks to our retrograde and jumping hour movement. The number on the watch dial, it is the same font on the Maserati dashboard. After that, it’s a matter of color. The GranSport is very dark. It’s a nod to the performer. The GranLusso, it’s more exquisite. It’s more elegant, more luxurious. This is the two faces of the Maserati, the brand that invented the gran turismo, the kind of cars driven not only by performance but also luxury.
Bulgari and Maserati have a lot of elements in common. Both Italian brands made by [families], the Maserati sons and Sotirio Bulgari with his sons, Giorgio and Constantino. Very strong entrepreneurial skills. The same attention for proportion, the same attention for beautiful things. [The Octo] is an impressive watch in terms of technical skills, let’s say ‘performance,’ but it’s not the first thing you notice. Maserati is the same. It’s engine technology, performance chassis. But when you look at a Maserati car, first of all you see that it’s beautiful.
Encased in amber on this page is a collection of parts representing a greater sum, a tool made redundant by progress but reborn as a status symbol, an anachronism that survived as the object of enthusiast lust. Sound familiar? Parallels to the wristwatch aside, we loved the original Mercedes-Benz Geländewagen because of what it represented: an epic and improbable triumph of smart engineering and authentic style.
The backstory is equally as improbable. The first prototypes were commissioned in 1973 by the Shah of Iran, at that time a major Mercedes-Benz shareholder. He asked the company to create an all-new truck, one that could traverse his kingdom’s vast and harsh terrain. The resulting machine, equipped with a stout diesel engine and hardcore four-wheel-drive system, resembled a Jeep that subscribed to Architectural Digest and liked hitting the squat rack. It underwent extensive torture testing in the Arctic Circle and Sahara Desert, only to arrive in early 1979—just after the Shah was deposed.
Not that it mattered. Build by hand at a dedicated facility in Graz, Austria, the new truck’s overall rugged construction, robust mechanicals, and freakish off-road abilities were a revelation. It wasn’t long before the Geländewagen, known colloquially as the “G-wagen,” found its way into military fleets around the globe. Mercedes began offering a street-legal version to civilians across Europe. Sales held steady throughout the 1980s.
Then something funny happened. Which is to say, nothing happened.
Whereas modern cars get styling tweaks after two or three years, and a clean-sheet redesign after seven or eight, the Mercedes saw just one exterior overhaul, in 1990. Even then, it retained the same durable body-on-frame bones, the same upright windscreen, and squared-off profile. When the G-wagen finally arrived at U.S. dealerships, in 2002, it was stuffed with premium features and a complex V-8 engine but still rode on its original steel chassis. Customers lined up to pay six figures for what was essentially a brand-new antique.
They quickly discovered that, as a commuter vehicle, the G-wagen was compromised in nearly every facet. The mega-tall roof, engineered to accommodate a high seating position for scanning rutted dersert topography, became an albatross in parking garages. The soft suspension and slow steering were ideal for off-road handling but sloppier than a soup sandwich on asphalt. The braking performance and fuel economy, about which the less said, the better.
But the design resonated. Rolling around Beverly Hills or South Beach, where a curvaceous, high-tech supercar is all but mandatory, the G-wagen’s brutal angularity and warhorse vibe seemed vaguely rebellious and deeply cool. Mercedes leaned into the silliness, offering customers new levels of conspicuous absurdity—a six-wheel version, an exotic twin-turbo V-12 engine, a special-edition wearing fluorescent yellow paint. Incredibly, the G-wagen, effectively unchanged after nearly four decades in production, hit record sales last year before its all-new replacement was announced.
The cynical take is that we, as a people, are attracted to excess. Maybe that’s true. But the G-wagen’s brand of excess stood for something, even if many of the customers didn’t realize it. Planned obsolescence is a treadmill; newness is a cult. But function and quality, and good design, are forever.
“The G-wagen succeeds because it’s a piece of anti-design design. Of course, there’s something disingenuous about that—it’s a very elaborate, powerful, luxurious vehicle. But it’s ostentatiously boxy, and looks plain in the same way that someone in jeans doesn’t look dressed up. It’s a brilliant piece of reverse snobbery, which is why it took on a whole new life as a luxury vehicle. It appeals to people who want to spend a lot of money and avoid conventional status symbols.”
— Paul Goldberger, architecture critic and Vanity Fair contributing editor
How could it not? After all, Bell & Ross has been turning out fine timepieces inspired by flight decks and cockpit gadgetry for decades. The magic doesn’t lie in the concept—watch companies have long looked to the skies for inspiration—but rather in the execution. Whether it’s the square-jawed BR Instruments collection, the stealth-fighter BR-X Experimental series, or the retro-chic feel of the BR Vintage line, Bell & Ross offers a singular focus on aeronautical themes.
If the brand were a person, it would speak entirely in NATO phonetics and wear aviator shades in the shower.
The Racing Bird BRV2-94 doesn’t stray from that mission. But it does ratchet up the authenticity factor. This new chronograph is styled after the BR-Bird (pictured above), a concept aircraft designed by Bruno Belamich, the cofounder and creative director at Bell & Ross. His single-seat novelty plane recalls those competing in the National Championship Air Races, employing a 12-cylinder propeller engine and wearing blue, white, and orange livery.
The watch’s color scheme follows suit: white dial, blue bezel, and strap, high-contrast orange detailing, with pops of gray to evoke a checkered flag. Aviation buffs will appreciate the typeface, borrowed from traditional on-board counters. Also that the date window shows three digits, another overt reference to classic flight instrumentation.
The BRV2-94 is powered by a self-winding mechanical movement, offering a 42-hour power reserve and set inside a 40 mm steel case. The pièce de résistance, the BR-Bird’s silhouette, appears on both the caseback and dial. It’s a subtle reminder that, while plenty of Bell & Ross watches start with an airplane, these special editions hang in rarified air. To wit, production will be limited to a run of 999 pieces.
(Note: That number includes a streamlined, three-hand version, the Racing Bird BRV1-92, which is fractionally smaller and priced from $2,300.)
Before the Racing Bird’s debut in Geneva, Mr. Belamich gave Watch Journal an exclusive peek behind the scenes.
On the idea behind the BR-Bird and Racing Bird watches…
“Speed is a key source of inspiration. We also have a passion for technology. These factors constantly push us to excel, to develop highly complex mechanisms. By extension, we are interested in all extreme machines. Our concept vehicles [the B-Rocket motorcycle, Aéro-GT supercar, and BR-Bird aircraft] become a source of inspiration. Our universe is a world of enthusiasts. Our stories tell men about their universe, their machines, their uniforms and accessories, watches in particular. Time is a transversal element, common to all the universes of the extreme. These two new Racing Bird pieces are symbols of our passion for aviation and creativity.”
On the importance of being based in Paris…
“Paris has always been the heart of high-end luxury goods. We are honored to be crafting high-quality luxury goods in this beautiful city. It’s part of our DNA, and influences many of our design choices. But we are not in the fashion or trend business. We develop watches that serve a purpose: Delivering the clearest and most reliable time to professionals working under extreme conditions.”
On the essential elements of an aeronautical watch…
“We have four basic principles: Legibility, functionality, reliability, precision. We are inspired by the world of pilots and aeronautical instrumentation, the ultimate reference point for legibility and reliability. We regularly support elite units by designing watches that perform specific functions so we are able to see how they perform. Some examples include working with the bomb disposal experts of the French Civil Security, the Intervention Unit of the French National Police, and the French Naval Aviation and French Air Force. Our founding idea is that time is essential for professionals working under extreme conditions.”
On a Bell & Ross smartwatch styled after modern touchscreen fighter jet cockpits…
“We believe that smartwatches are a completely different experience than a traditional timepiece. Swiss watches have emotion. It is a craft to make a watch. Over time, [an analog] watch keeps its value—often it even increases in value because of the beauty of that craft. Tech devices become obsolete because their design is constantly being reinvented, the technology upgraded. In the future, it’s possible that Bell & Ross would incorporate some sort of technology. But our brand will always be Swiss-made. We will never create a disposable watch.”
Inside a modest workshop on the western outskirts of Buenos Aires, four men are hard at work.
They measure patterns and heat irons over an open flame, methodically whetting and polishing and hammering. The tables are covered in awls, spurs, wrought-iron pincers. Rolls of exquisite calfskin and horsehide are stacked waist-high. Rows and rows of hardwood shoe lasts line the shelves.
Welcome to Casa Fagliano, a bastion of traditional bootmaking. The workshop first opened in 1892, across the street from the Asociación Civil Hurlingham Club. The latter establishment grew into the nation’s equestrian sports epicenter, hosting Abierto de Hurlingham, one of the world’s most prestigious polo tournaments. Casa Fagliano found an eager clientele. English-style polo boots became a specialty.
Four generations later, the operation remains a family affair. Rodolfo, the 86-year-old patriarch, cuts leather and welts soles alongside his sons, Eduardo and Hector, and his grandson, Germán. To them, “mass-production” is a four-letter word; these guys make each boot by hand, one at a time. Order a bespoke pair with matching kneepads and wood trees, and you can expect to join a six-to-eight-month waiting list—albeit one that includes Prince Harry, Tommy Lee Jones, and the Sultan of Brunei.
Also Jaeger-LeCoultre. The Swiss watchmaker first collaborated with Casa Fagliano seven years ago, commissioning straps for a limited-edition Reverso Tribute to 1931. Now, the two firms have teamed up again, this time on a special version of the Reverso Tribute Duo, which features a Cordovan leather strap, designed and handmade in the Fagliano workshop. According to Geoffroy Lefebvre, deputy CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre, the continued partnership is a matter of values and pedigree.
“Both our realms share a passion for the product, respect for expert craftsmanship, meticulous attention to detail and the pursuit of perfection,” says Lefebvre. “The Reverso was originally created in 1931 for British Army officers in India who were anxious to protect the glass of their watches while playing polo…. Therefore the relationship between the inventor of the polo watch and the most prestigious polo boot manufacturer was natural.”
The two-tone Fagliano band complements the Duo’s pink-gold case, which, as ever, features two dials. The main face is sun-brushed satin gray; it swivels and tucks away to reveal a secondary dial, silvered with Clous de Paris guilloché detailing and a day-night indicator. Both sides have formal dauphine hands, gold-plated hour markers, and run off a manual, in-house movement, offering a 42-hour power reserve.
Just 100 examples of the Reverso Tribute Duo will be offered on a Casa Fagiliano Edition strap, an order that took the leather-workers an entire year to fill. But, unlike the previous Tribute to 1931, which was exclusive to American stores, this new watch will be available at Jaeger-LeCoultre boutiques worldwide—and, yes, that includes the Buenos Aires store.
How the high-fashion brand Hermès stole this year’s first show in Geneva.
At Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, the watches are only part of the celebration. There’s the people, the vibe, the scenery—and, of course, the displays. Watch companies go bonkers at the annual trade show, wheeling in ornate props and jumbo signage, effectively staging grandiose pop-ups inside Palexpo Center in Geneva. Hermès, which made its SIHH debut this year, has clearly been taking notes. The brand didn’t just show up. It made a scene. Literally.
Credit goes to RDAI, the Paris-based architecture studio that created a custom atrium for Hermès at the show. Also to Levi van Veluw, the award-winning Dutch artist who designed the installations inside. Van Veluw, 33, is known for his layered wood carvings, intricate and geometric compositions that often incorporate beads and filigree and colorfully painted elements. He previously collaborated with Hermès on a series of acclaimed window displays, installed at boutiques in Shanghai and New York, in 2014 and 2016, respectively.
But working within the confines of a trade event, and RDAI’s atrium, meant rethinking the approach yet again—something that became apparent to van Veluw during the early sketching phase and that informed the final product.
“I discovered the idea of making a fragmented sculpture through the limitations of drawing a perfect cube, which eventually became part of the [SIHH] installation’s overall concept,” van Veluw says. “The shapes are still symmetrical, but the way they form the overall sculpture is totally random and asymmetrical. It has something playful to it that naturally occurs when making a drawing.”
The resulting chamber-like centerpiece, called “The Alchemist,” was a standout at Palexpo. It featured a blocky, canary-colored exterior, with an explosion of blue-lacquered wood flotsam inside.
“It highlights the paradox of something complex that looks easy,” van Veluw says. “The inside is not a watchmaker’s atelier. It is instead chaos. Watchmaking gives the image of an industry that seeks perfection, where everything is always clean-cut. But I believe that no great idea, no strong innovation, arises from perfection. I instead think that chaos is key. And chaos is what I wanted to express inside. Like the mind of the watchmaker, full of ideas.”
SIHH showgoers were invited to step into the chamber, the bottom of which was transparent; you were actually stepping onto glass placed above the floor, giving the impression of floating. The new Hermès Carré H wristwatches were displayed in various stages of assembly.
“I put them in the center, as if they were the beating heart of the mechanism,” says Van Veluw. “Your gaze is drawn toward the watches thanks to the use of fascinating shapes like spirals.”
Nine original van Veluw window displays surrounded “The Alchemist,” rounding out the French fashion house’s watershed exhibition area.
“I wanted [the display] to be in harmony with the pavilion’s architecture, so it would not be aggressive” he explains. “I prefer people to be drawn by my art, rather than driven away by something impressive and arrogant.”
Bell & Ross channels the heyday of American Land Speed Record
Looking for a retro-style timepiece with a killer backstory? Look no further than the Bell & Ross Vintage Bellytanker collection, inspired by early Land Speed Record racecars, which invaded dry lake beds and salt flats during the 1940s and ’50s. Like hot rods, bellytankers were highly customized in nature and home-brew in spirit. Unlike hot rods, they weren’t recognizable as Mercurys or Chevrolets; Land Speed Record car bodies were streamlined fabrications, often utilizing World War II fighter plane emergency drop tanks—“belly tanks,” in military parlance.
Bill Burke, a former Coast Guardsman, is widely credited with building the first bellytanker, repurposing a P-51 Mustang spare that he purchased for $35. The resulting creation, once equipped with a hopped-up V8 engine, was capable of reaching 130 mph. (For reference, most family sedans of the era struggled to hit 70 mph.) But Burke soon realized the 165-gallon tank couldn’t accommodate a full-size driver seat. So he welded in a bicycle seat.
Repeat: These guys went 130 mph, inside a scrapped fuel tank, sitting on a bicycle seat.
Wherever there’s history, airplanes, and lunatic speeds, Bell & Ross is sure to be nearby. The company honors Burke and his breed of hot-rodder with Bellytanker editions of two pieces from the Vintage collection, the time-and-date BR V1-92 and the BR V1-94 chronograph. The former offers a simpler, plain-bezel look and smaller 38.5 mm size, while the latter measures 41 mm and features a fixed-position tachymeter.
Both employ an automatic mechanical movement, boast a satin-steel-polished case and gorgeous gilt metallic copper dial, offer 100m water resistance, and feature a too-cool custom casebook design. Unsurprisingly, these Bellytanker watches are a limited-run proposition. Only 1000 will be made in total—500 of the BR V1-92 and 500 of the BR V1-94.
Bell & Ross BR V1-92 Bellytanker ($2,300) and BR V2-94 Bellytanker ($4,400 – $4,700); bellross.com
Black bezel, bronze details, leather strap. Rado cranks up the contrast.
More than a century after the company was founded, Rado remains synonymous with pioneering use of ceramic. The material is handsome, hypoallergenic, lightweight. It’s also tough as hell, and that means most Rados won’t score and scuff like a comparable steel watch. For those who like a little patina on their wrist, there’s the new HyperChrome Bronze Chrono.
Limited to 999 pieces, special-edition takes the classic 45mm HyperChrome design and introduces bronze elements—the chrono pushers, side inserts, and crown are all hewn from the stuff. The addition of rose gold hands and indexes emphasize the metallic sheen, creating a neat contrast with the high-tech black ceramic. It’ll only get more striking with age, as the bronze continues to wear-in around the rest of the scratch-resistant case.
Inside, there’s a 37-jewel ETA automatic chronograph movement, offering 42 hours power reserve, and Rado says it’s water resistant up to 100 meters. Unique engravings (on the side, “CuSn8,” the code for bronze alloy, plus requisite caseback numbering) and a vintage-look leather strap (instead of the standard HyperChrome bracelet) round out the look.
Like what you see? Keep an eye out, as the Bronze Chrono is set to debut at Baselworld next month. Expect a price tag around $5,000 when it reaches retailers later this year.
We love complicated divers and bold pilots’ watches as much as the next guy. But unless you’re James Cameron, or currently enrolled in the Top Gun program, those might not be suitable for the office. For a stylish alternative, check the latest Neomatik models from NOMOS Glashütte, which bring a no–nonsense approach to the modern office watch. Simply called “At Work”—seriously, nonsense is verboten—this new line matches a slender automatic caliber and larger 38.5 mm diameter, then adds super-refined dial layout. The collection encompasses 14 pieces, all of them exceptionally sharp. Even in that company, the Metro, available for the first time in 18-karat rose gold, is a standout.
Sleek. Geometric. Detailed. The integrated steel bracelet and case of Ralph Lauren’s new 867 timepiece (now enlarged to 35 mm) feels unabashedly art deco, harking back to the architectural splendor of 1930s New York. The dial injects Jazz Age swing, agreeably mixing Arabic and Roman numerals with Breguet-style hands. To maximize the effect, go for that off-white lacquered face. It’s like Benny Goodman standing in a Raymond Hood lobby, sitting on your wrist. Sure, there’s a trusty Sellita-based, self-winding Swiss mechanical movement ticking away inside. But make no mistake: This one’s an American classic.
Hermès updates a high-class classic: the Double Tour Cape Cod.
More than a quarter-century after its introduction, the Cape Cod remains a smart-prep staple. The design marries nautical callbacks (the case shape comes from Hermès’ “Chaîne d’Ancre” link, aping an anchor chain), high-fashion flourishes (the “Double Tour” strap, added in 1998, was famously designed by Martin Margiela), and Parisian whimsey (Hey, square-inside-rectangle!)
This latest iteration emphasizes the maritime element, replacing the traditional Arabic numerals with Chaîne d’Ancre hour markers at the cardinal positions. It also introduces an handsome new blue-lacquered dial. Double down with the Malta blue grained strap, for full oceanic effect.
A. Lange & Söhne honors the inimitable Walter Lange with an inimitable special-edition timepiece (and an all-new movement.)
Walter Lange was a horological titan, equal parts technical maestro and visionary businessman. When the Berlin Wall came down, he seized on the opportunity to resurrect his great grandfather’s watch company; within a decade of relaunching, the firm was turning out instant-classic designs and developing superfine mechanical movements.
The felicitously named A. Lange & Söhne Tribute to Walter Lange celebrates the man, who died last year, by debuting an all-new movement. It’s a hand-wound, 36-jewel beauty, which features an independent, stoppable seconds complication. In a nice touch, the caliber name (L1924) and reference no. (297) also point to Lange’s birthday (July 29, 1924).
Breguet’s super-slim tourbillon gets a minimalist makeover.
Looking for a thin tourbillon? Talk about being spoiled for choice. In recent years, we’ve seen remarkably slender movements from Arnold & Son (2.97 mm) and Bulgari (1.95 mm). But both of those are manual-wind. Breguet’s caliber 581, found in the Classique line, lays claim to the thinnest automatic tourbillon on the market today.
The Classique Extra-Plat 5367 brings a new grand feu off-white enamel dial, sans power indicator, offering maximum contrast with minimal clutter. The 18-karat rose gold case retains the customary open backing—all the better to study the mechanical triumph therein: an 80-hour power reserve, at 4Hz frequency, from a 3mm movement.
Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Automatique 5367, Price Upon Request; breguet.com
Panerai devotees flock to the Windy City for a three-day extravaganza.
By Adam Craniotes
To understand P-Day, first you have to understand the almost mystical hold that Panerai has over its fans. Given its origins as a dedicated military supplier to the Royal Italian Navy, coupled with the fact that prior to its resurgence in the early ’90s, Panerai had produced only around 300 watches, this was hardly a guaranteed thing. In fact, before 1993, pretty much no one had heard of the quirky Florentine watchmaker, who traveled thousands of miles once a year to hobnob with fellow fans of these bold, oversize watches.
So what happened?
The year was 1995, and Sylvester Stallone was in Rome shooting the action film Daylight. While scanning the local jewelers, the actor came across a giant stainless-steel watch, the likes of which he’d never seen before. The watch was a Panerai, and while 44mm might not seem unusually large in today’s market, back then it was an anomaly. Stallone decided on the spot that the watch could be a star itself, and promptly bought the entire stock to bring back to the States to give his friends. Of course, he kept one for himself as well. The Panerai Luminor Marina Submersible ended up being featured prominently in the film, thus earning the nickname “Daylight.”
But it wasn’t Stallone’s star power alone that developed Panerai’s cult following. In 2000, an English watch collector by the name of Guy Verbist took it upon himself to create paneristi.com, a website for Panerai enthusiasts. Back then, the World Wide Web was in toddlerhood, and widespread high-speed DSL connections, WiFi and smartphones were still far off in the future, to say nothing of social media (Instagram, who?). And yet, Verbist helped build a thriving online community dedicated to the brand.
Which brings us to P-Day.
Since 2000, the Paneristi (as the fans call themselves) have come together once a year, each time in a different city, to celebrate the brand that’s become, as they put it, “more than just a watch.” While Officine Panerai (which is owned by Richemont) is involved to a degree, P-Day is always a balancing act of the official and the unofficial. Company representatives will usually set up vitrines of timepieces and, in the past, they have created limited editions timed to the occasion, but the company does not actually organize or subsidize the event. And it is this that makes P-Day such a unique experience.
This past October—only the third time that P-Day has taken place in North America—the event was held over a weekend in Chicago. Yes, “weekend.” P-Day is a three-day event. Local volunteers handled all the logistics, which included the planning of the daily activities, dinners and venues. This year, Chicagoan Raphael Shin led an A-team of Panerai diehards, including Peter Fruehling, David Press, Craig Faulkner, Mikki Conway, and Paddy Conway, who did everything from building the weekend’s dedicated website to arranging seating at the Saturday night gala.
For those who were unable to attend P-Day 2017, allow us to present the highlights…
Thursday, Oct. 19
The unofficial kickoff was a cocktail party cohosted by local jeweler Marshall Pierce & Co., and Red Bar Chicago at the heliport Vertiport. There were helicopter tours of Chicago, displays of luxury cars and, naturally, a slew of handsome watches on the wrists of the Paneristi.
Friday, Oct. 20
Steven Taffel, owner of the city’s famed men’s footwear boutique Leffot, hosted an event at his store, located in the historic Monadnock building in Chicago’s South Loop. (A watch geek, Taffel even sells vintage watches from his company’s official website.) As with cars and pens, shoes seem to go hand-in-hand (or is it “foot-in-foot”?) with watch collecting, so the gathering was a perfect fit.
Next came a whiskey tasting at the atelier of Chicago-based watch brand Oak & Oscar, hosted by brand founder Chase Fancher. Then it was time to split up into small groups for dinner, each hosted by a noted ‘risti, at local restaurants including RPM Steak, Maple & Ash, Barrio, and Topolobampo. The most energetic met up afterward at a local supper club for more drinks and music before calling it a night.
Saturday, Oct. 21
The unseasonably warm weather was ideal for the day’s watch walk. Led by the irrepressible Dave Press, the group visited Marshall Pierce & Co., Swiss Fine Timing and Geneva Seal, among other famed Chicago watch shops. (They also dropped by Bentley Gold Coast for another dose of supercars.) The afternoon was bookended with lunch at Epic Burger.
Of course, this was all a prelude to the evening’s gala, at the Chicago Cultural Center. There, Preston Bradley Hall was filled with over 160 ‘ristis from around the world. A warm keynote speech from Panerai’s youthful North American President Giovanni Carestia was followed by performances by local guitarist Andreas Kapsalis and country-western singer Brian Hughes. A roast/awards ceremony followed, acknowledging not only the accomplishments of the P-Day volunteers but also the winner of the group’s “Asshat of the Year” award. (An example of why it’s better for Panerai to stay officially uninvolved with P-Day.)
The group made their way back to the Palmer House hotel for an afterparty that lingered into the wee hours of the night. For many, this is the real main event, when old friends can trade war stories, and everyone can kick their feet up and reminisce. P-Day Chicago coordinator Raphael Shin was duly fêted for pulling off the 16th-annual P-Day in the fine, irreverent style to which everyone has grown accustomed.
The new Apollo Intensa Emozione elevates four-wheel exotica.
By Max Prince
There are sports cars, and, above them, supercars. But there’s nothing above a hypercar. These ludicrously fast, bespoke gems from boutique brands such as Pagani and Koenigsegg, represent the hottest trend in automotive exotica. Into this rarified segment rolls the new Apollo Intensa Emozione, a handmade Italian thriller that brings cottage-industry vibes to the bleeding edge of modern high-performance driving.
That starts with the chassis. It’s hewn entirely from carbon fiber, the same lightweight material used in NASA gliders, and built small-batch by composites guru Paolo Garella. The engine, an operatic 6.3-liter V12, receives similar treatment; Autotecnica Motori, the premier tuner in Italy, uses custom parts to deliver an astounding 780 horsepower and 560 pound-feet of torque, plus a screaming 9000-rpm redline. The minimalist interior brings fighter-jet chic, complete with made-to-measure bucket seats, molded to fit each individual buyer. But the really shocking stuff is on the outside.
Penned by Joe Wang, a former McLaren designer, the Intensa Emozione looks downright radical. The exterior focal point is a teardrop-shaped greenhouse with dramatic, upward-opening doors. The intricate network of aerodynamic scoops and vents recalls a Le Mans race car; the buttressed rear wing is so effective above 180 mph, it generates downforce greater than the vehicle’s total weight. Meaning that, at high speed, the Apollo could actually drive upside down and stick to the ceiling.
Production of the Intensa Emozione is limited to 10 units, with customer delivery beginning in 2018. Consider this one of the most desirable machines ever created, a singular convergence of art and science, exemplary of the breed. Because anything less is just a car.
One of the world’s most storied watchmakers celebrates a grand opening just in time for the holidays.
There’s always a hint of magic inside a Breguet boutique. Even brand-new locations come steeped in history, tracing lineage back to the original Geneva shop, which opened in 1775, and introduced the world to the first tourbillon soon after. That heritage is on display at Breguet’s New York flagship store on Fifth Avenue, adjacent to the St. Regis Hotel.
During a cocktail party celebrating the grand opening, collectors and select customers sipped champagne while exploring the new 2580-square-foot space. They discovered a Breguet craftsman demonstrating the art of guilloche on watch dials, as well as two specialty timepieces. The first was a replica of “The Turnip,” Winston Churchill’s famed gold Breguet pocket watch, created for the movie Darkest Hour starring Gary Oldman.
The other? Also an incredible pocket watch, this one as original as they come, made by A.L. Breguet in 1817. The piece represents one of only 35 tourbillons that the company’s founder personally crafted during his lifetime. It provided a neat segue to the Marine Équation Marchante Ref. 5887, the brand’s latest Grand Complication wristwatch. In addition to a tourbillon and perpetual calendar, it features a running Equation of Time, displaying the difference between mean solar time and true solar time. This is achieved through a differential gear, powered by two rotation sources, operating entirely independently: the rotation of civil minutes, and the lever in contact with the equation of time cam, which makes one full turn per year.
Horology buffs will appreciate that complexity. To everybody else, it might as well be magic.
699 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10022 (646-692-6469)
When the Swedish twosome known as Humans Since 1982 began working on what was to eventually become ClockClock 24, they didn’t set out to make a timepiece at all. It all started with a typography project in 2008 at HDK Göteborg, where Per Emanuelsson and Bastian Bischoff (the aforementioned pair) were still enrolled as postgraduate students.
“Playing with the idea of using clocks to create a moving typeface eventually led to the first sketches for ClockClock,” says Emanuelsson.
The original ClockClock and the ClockClock 24 make for an avant-garde approach to the traditional subject of timekeeping. The way it works in the ClockClock 24 is 24 analog wall clocks are coordinated to depict a digital read-out of the time. This ends up creating a dizzying display of motion that is quite captivating to watch. After developing the first prototype—with the assistance of an electrical engineer—in Emanuelsson’s dorm basement, the original ClockClock was soon picked up by Phillips auction house where it was purchased by a Russian tycoon. Soon thereafter, the pair decided to expand the operation and make their unique approach to telling time available to a global audience on the internet.
In addition to creating a innovative way of depicting the time, the two have advanced the way the age-old science of horology appears. By merging the two vastly different timekeeping displays, Humans Since 1982 ended up combining a methodology that has kept watch enthusiasts up at night ever since the quartz crisis and through today, where the digital era has left the time to be read in a series of numbers rather than as a physical representation of its constant passage. With all this change, it has left many wondering where to draw the line at what we can and cannot call a watch.
Of course, there can be no official answer to that question and it will be up for interpretation as long as we live, but the ClockClock does fulfill the kinetic desire we have when wearing a mechanical timepiece while executing its vision in a modern and approachable way.
“Our focus was always more on the ephemeral beauty of the passing of time than the reporting of time: in ClockClock the clock hands are liberated from their sole practical purpose of reporting the time—the clock hands also become dancers,” says Bischoff.
When they began working on what became the original ClockClock, Emanuelsson and Bischoff did begin to research horological history but they didn’t go digging through the notes of Abraham-Louis Breguet or John Arnold. Instead they sought their inspiration from an underappreciated source: the humble cuckoo clock.