There’s a glistening metallic sculpture displayed on a stand that grabs my attention the minute I walk into the Wilensky Gallery in Manhattan. The Cubist style piece contains striated light gold boxes of varying size and direction so nuanced, I’m beguiled by its complex structure. The work, perhaps done by a contemporary sculptor, looks like a glam rock asteroid that’s fallen to earth.
“People will walk in here and ask, “So who’s the artist?” explains Stuart Wilensky, president of Wilensky Fine Minerals and owner of the gallery. “They always look perplexed when we say, ‘Well, nature is the artist.’”
Indeed, the piece is really not a modern sculpture made with human hands, but a fine example of Pyrite, otherwise known as “Fools Gold,” a mineral that formed deep in the earth for thousands, perhaps millions of years.
The mistake is an easy one to make, says Wilensky. “After all, great artists have always been inspired by nature.” For 35 years, the dealer of the finest stone minerals on earth has been a proponent of recognizing their rightful place in the art world. His specialty is aesthetic minerals, meaning that they are attractive, colorful, and sculptural, like this one.
Like fine art, the beauty of these works please the eye and ignite the senses. Sometimes their allure is obvious, like a rose-red Rhodochrosite or an aqua green Indicolite Tourmaline. For others, the attributes are more subtle, and advanced collectors admire its rarity or crystal quality, form, and definition.
“We feel like we fit in here as an art gallery, we just sell a different kind of art.”
Not surprisingly, collecting these natural masterpieces requires a significant financial commitment. Wilensky’s pieces start at $10,000 and ascend into the six-figure range. His most expensive specimen sold for about $6 million—though he demurs at sharing any specifics, as details may easily identify the piece or compromise the privacy of his clients. He takes these relationships seriously, as almost all of these clients are dedicated collectors who have worked with Wilensky for decades. They trust him to guide them towards exceptional acquisitions.
“We don’t sell things that people are going to use for decoration in their homes,” says Wilensky.
“People are not going to come here and spend a million dollars on a mineral to put it on their dining room table.” His work involves locating the specimen, negotiating the deal, and then helping the buyer curate and display the prized pieces, often in showcases.
The dealer’s own appreciation for rare art and beautiful objects began at a young age, as his parents owned an art and antique business. At around age eight, he started helping his father gather pieces, visiting museums, castles, and ancient sites in Spain, the former Yugoslavia, and the Netherlands for weeks at a time. “I think back on it and I think, ‘My God, if my mother knew what we were doing, she would not have approved sometimes of where my father was taking me,’” he says with a laugh.
The Brooklyn native worked in his father’s business until he and his wife Donna discovered an Arkansas Quartz specimen at a flea market in Long Island. He was instantly captivated. Soon, the couple built their collection by scouring the Yellow Pages for dealers in New York City. “What is often the case with collectors, and it doesn’t matter what you collect, you start out as a collector and you become a dealer to support your habit,” Wilensky notes with a smile.
For more than three decades Wilensky operated his rare and fine mineral business out of his Hudson Valley home before his sons Troy and Connor joined him. They decided to venture to Manhattan two years ago to reach new audiences. Wilensky also wanted to offer a place other than a museum where people could see sublime minerals and better appreciate them.
By design, they chose a prime downtown spot in Chelsea’s Gallery District, perched on the corner of 20th Street and 10th Avenue. The 2,200 square-foot space is nestled amid contemporary art heavies like David Zwirner Gallery, Gagosian Gallery, and Pace Gallery.
Like many of the galleries in the area, Wilensky curates new shows every 60-90 days. The current one, Magnificent Emeralds: Fura’s Tears, showcases 30 of the most spectacular emeralds from around the world in one place, like a masterworks exhibition. It is named after an ancient Colombian origin myth that describes the birth of the gemstone from the goddess Fura’s tears of mourning.
“How else would you explain such beauty and perfection?” he asks.
“Magnificent Emeralds: Fura’s Tears” is the current exhibition featured at Wilensky Gallery through December 30, 2019.
What’s the best way to please your existing fan base while also attracting a new generation of watch collectors? Patek Philippe arrives in Singapore to show us how it’s done.
As the last family-owned independent watch manufacturer in Geneva, Patek Philippe maintains a special place in the world of fine watchmaking. The brand’s singularly elegant and artistic design language has always defined its products; centuries of experience mean the technical know-how is innate, a tradition of innovation represented by more than 100 patents.
Put simply: Nobody does it quite like Patek.
All that history and grandeur goes on display at the Watch Art Exhibition. This traveling show, which began in Dubai in 2012, and has since visited Munich, London, and New York, offers free public admission and an opportunity to view some of the rarest and most iconic pieces from Patek’s archives. This year, the exhibition rolled into Singapore, and Watch Journal was on the ground to experience it firsthand.
According to Patek, this was the ideal location for the 2019 show. For starters, it’s the Singaporean bicentennial—an important event in what’s become one of Patek’s most important retail markets. But the brand didn’t just grow here overnight. In fact, the relationship between Singapore and the watchmaker goes back to 1965, when the city-state first became a sovereign independent republic separate of Malaysia. Mr. Philippe Stern, the current ownership group’s third-generation patriarch, arrived on the scene to start a new sales network. The watches were a hit, Singapore grew into a booming financial hub, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, the bonds between country and brand is stronger than ever before. This much was clear inside the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel, which served as the base of operations for the Watch Art Exhibition. Inside, the venue’s 24,000-square-foot performance space was transformed into an extension of the watchmaker’s legendary museum and the grand salons of its Lake Geneva store. Important historical pieces were brought in from Switzerland; the accomplishments of scientists, metallurgists, and astronomers were proudly on display. There was even a live show presenting rare handcrafts, with master artisans practicing age-old crafts of enameling and engraving and marquetry.
In terms of programming, this resembled the previous events in London or New York. But the local flavor at this year’s Watch Art Exhibition was next-level. The entrance at Marina Bay Sands paid tribute to the spirit of Singapore, with hundreds of colorful paper flowers, called Majulah Singapura, installed for the occasion. (“Majulah Singapura” means “onwards Singapore,” the opening refrain of the national anthem.) Beautiful papercraft continued in the lobby windows, which were filled with artistic representations of birds and flowers. Also on display were new and rare pieces from the Patek Philippe Museum collection, along with unique timepieces created for Southeast Asian collectors in the past.
There were treats for the region’s current—and emerging—crop of brand aficionados as well. At the show, Patek unveiled a smattering of exclusive pieces, including six limited-edition watches created specially for Singapore. (Among them: Ref.5930G-011, a red-dial Worldtime Chronograph; Ref.5167A-012, a steel Aquanaut with bold red coloring; Ref.5067A-027, a red Aquanaut Luce with a diamond bezel; and Ref.7234A-001, a stunning blue Calatrava Pilot World Time.) More exclusive debuts, which ranged from dome table clocks to pocket watches and chronographs, offered a selection of rare handcrafts inspired by cultural and artistic expressions of Southeast Asia.
But in terms of high-watchmaking, the new Minute Repeater Ref. 5303R-010 managed to steal the show. Limited to a total of 12 pieces, this grand complication debuted an exceptional manually wound caliber; it displays the gong hammers on the dial side, exposing the entire repeater mechanism and tourbillon. The rose gold case and matching gilded baseplate are contrasted by a minute track running along the exterior, and a black leather strap with matching red stitching.
Predictably, all of these new designs kicked off a frenzy, with collectors and enthusiasts flying in from all points of the globe. But the ultra-desirable pieces (including the #trending red Aquanaut) were available exclusively to the residents of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Which is to say: Best of luck getting your hands on any of them.
Still, western collectors—and, really, anybody who cares about craftsmanship, design, or horology—could appreciate the Watch Art Exhibition. Patek’s history and products offer a unique perspective on humanity’s creative pursuits, and a small company that’s spent centuries honing its trade. Amid the monuments to that pursuit, the brand’s current patriarch, Thierry Stern, paused to reflect on the Patek Philippe magic.
“It’s a family taking care of the business,” he said. “I have two people who know how to design. So we talk. Knowing them so well, and them knowing me so well, the image appears in front of us. After all these years, you simply know how to do it.”
A cinematographer’s lifelong passion for cars supercharges Ford v Ferrari, out November 15.
In the mid-1960s, Ford and Ferrari, two companies whose products, leadership, and philosophies were separated quite literally by an ocean, embarked on the greatest motorsport rivalry of all time.
Riding a five-year winning streak into the 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours, Ferrari would be challenged by a Ford skunkworks team led by Carroll Shelby, a chicken farmer-turned-racing mogul from Texas, and Ken Miles, a gifted if short-tempered driver from England. The resulting battles and breakthroughs are dramatized in Ford v Ferrari, starring Matt Damon as Shelby and Christian Bale as Miles.
Reviews are glowing: At press time the film commanded an 89 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Notwithstanding the star power of Damon and Bale, the production surely didn’t suffer for having a certifiable car nut behind the camera.
“I have a lot of old cars, unfortunately,” says Phedon Papamichael, the Oscar-nominated cinematographer on Ford v Ferrari and other notable productions from director James Mangold, including the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, the Western 3:10 to Yuma, and the X-Men spinoff Logan.
In fairness, Papamichael isn’t the kind of obsessive who maintains a climate-controlled, 20,000-square-foot garage in Burbank. But it takes a certain madness—albeit an aesthetically enlightened strain of it—to keep such notoriously temperamental machines as a 1972 BMW 3.0 CSi, a ‘72 Alfa Romeo Spider and a ‘72 Pininfarina Peugeot 304 in running order.
“I also have a 2002 BMW Z8, and that’s basically my daily driver,” Papamichael says. “The others I … drive when I can.”
Such a tightly curated collection speaks of a man who wouldn’t drive something just because it’s fashionable. That quality also distinguishes Papamichael’s lens work on Ford v Ferrari, which favors classic, wide-angle closeups as well as fast, puckeringly tight cuts between the bumpers. “This is old-school Hollywood filmmaking,” he says, “really no different from what they used on Grand Prix [in 1966] with James Garner.”
There is refreshing revivalism at work in Ford v Ferrari, the kind that you wouldn’t expect to encounter at the multiplex—least of all during the bombast-heavy holidays. “To have a $100- million movie that doesn’t involve Marvel comics or extensive C.G.I., it’s almost impossible these days,” Papamichael says, “but we did it.”
Racing movies often prize frenetic camera movement over character development. Ford v Ferrari is “primarily a buddy movie, like Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid,” Papamichael says. As such, his camera serves the story first—going close on Bale as he explains the finer points of racing to his moon-eyed son—which ultimately heightens the drama of the race sequences throughout the film. “If you’re not connecting with the people on the screen,” he says, “it’s boring.”
Papamichael was raised in a clan of high-achieving car buffs. Uncle Nikos won the Acropolis Rally in his native Greece in 1953 behind the wheel of a Jaguar XK120. Papamichael’s father occasionally turned a wheel in anger on Greek rally circuits as well. So when the cinematographer runs late for this interview, it’s not surprising that the explanation he provides—aside from a veal-heavy lunch with Janusz Kamiński, the longtime cinematographer of Steven Spielberg—was wanting to catch the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix on TV.
“Boring,” Papamichael says of the world’s most-watched motorsport series. “You have all these drone shots and camera positions where you never really get a sense of the speed.”
In contrast, the races in Ford v Ferrari feel as visceral as title fights in a great boxing movie. Ford GT40s run wheel to wheel against Ferrari 330 P3s, their tires spinning so fast you expect them to skid across your lap. “In the end, we’re conveying a sense of what it’s like to do those speeds,” Papamichael says. “The cameras are vibrating because our rigs didn’t have any damping; they’re just hard-mounted to the car. We keep it low and close, inches away from the asphalt, and the bumpers just cut right through the frame.”
The filmmakers relied on a variety of sources to get their facts straight, including 16-millimeter archival race footage. Papamichael also shouts out The 24 Hour War, a documentary from 2016 that covered the Ford-Ferrari rivalry from every angle. But to create the look and feel for their film, Mangold and Papamichael were more free-associative.
“I was familiar with the story—the GT40s and the Ferraris and the aesthetics that went with them—so preparing for the film, I was more collecting images for color references and our palette,” Papamichael says. “On my mood board were Brigitte Bardot, a Riva boat, airplanes, and some other things, like watches. I’m 98 percent sure there was a Rolex Daytona.”
Might someone so discriminating in his cars and shot selection be a watch enthusiast, too? You might as well wonder if Scorsese’s characters ever utter bad words.
“I have some old Omegas, an IWC,” Papamichael says. “I have some Bell & Ross—not the square but the older, round one. I like watches, but I don’t go crazy.”
Panerai ambassador, Jimmy Chin, puts the rugged Submersible BMG-Tech Carbotech to the test with an independent film project made exclusively for the launch.
By Blake Rong
You may have heard this kind of story before. A couple flees a revolution, lands in America. In the unlikely cold of the Midwest, they raise a son. They pin their hopes and dreams of the future on him. He learns two languages, takes violin lessons, takes martial arts and swim lessons, reads books, enrolls in SAT classes. Earns straight As at boarding school. Learns patience, hard work, humility, the wisdom of keeping his head down. Every opportunity afforded to him off the sweat of their backs. He goes to a good university, where he studies international relations, with law school ahead. And then, he buys a 1980 Subaru wagon, drives to Yosemite, spends a year in the wilderness—then another. And never looks back.
“I was brought up with this idea of excellence: If you were going to pursue something, it was really not about whatever pursuit, it was about the craft,” said Jimmy Chin, 45, youthful and lean, who first fell in love with rock climbing in the late 90s. Back when it was still a fringe activity, Chin was living in Yosemite among the proud, Thoreau-like devotees who dubbed themselves “climbing dirtbags.” Among these characters—incredible athletes, said Chin, who were living on the fringes of society—he found his people, made lasting friends, and thrived.
During one climb Chin borrowed the camera of his climbing partner, Brady Robinson, and took a picture of him hanging in a bivouac off the side of El Capitan. Robinson developed the photo and sold it to the clothing brand Mountain Hardwear for the princely sum of $500—a fortune among the dirtbags. They split the money. Chin, still living in his Subaru, used his share to buy his first camera. He was hooked.
“I’ve been told, and I believe it’s true, you find your mentors, or the mentors find you,” said Chin. “I didn’t go to school for photography, I didn’t go to school for filmmaking, I was really fortunate in the sense that when I committed to the craft of photography, filmmaking, career, the universe would provide.”
In 1999, Chin and Robinson organized their first major expedition to Pakistan’s Karakoram mountains, the second-highest range in the world. The expedition lasted three months. The team climbed the 6,325-meter Fathi Brakk, a jagged granite spire that rises dramatically over pools of glacial water, like a fantasy castle inhabited by dragons. In an era before the Internet or widespread GPS, Chin and Robinson were to venture to one of the most remote places on Earth.
“I took a big leap in terms of making commitments to make that expedition happen. Convincing a group of my peers to trust me and making it happen and then going off and climbing these big alpine high-altitude, fairly complex climbs, that was a big leap for me, gave me a lot of confidence in trusting myself and following my instincts. I was the expedition leader, and it was a lot at the time. but I trusted myself, trusted in the universe, trusted that things would work out.”
The team climbed a dangerous and unproven new route. They endured falling ice blocks, rock slides that nearly crushed them. It was Chin’s first time shooting with an SLR camera. When they returned, his expedition photographs found their way to clothing catalogs, and suddenly, Chin was hot.
In 2001, Chin began shooting campaigns for The North Face, which became his sponsor. The next year, Chin participated in a 300-mile trek across Tibet’s Changtang Plateau; his photos were featured in the April 2003 issue of National Geographic. Chin’s parents saw their son give a talk in Washington D.C., surrounded by his photographs, and they understood: how one can build a life in circuitous routes, much like a snakelike climb up a rock face. Meru, the first documentary directed by Chin and his wife Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, debuted in 2015 at the Sundance Film Festival. It won the U.S. Documentary Award there and was shortlisted for an Oscar. It detailed his team’s climb up Meru Peak in India’s Himalayas, ascending a route evocatively named the “Shark’s Fin.” Last year’s follow-up, Free Solo, won an Oscar and a BAFTA, and at the 2019 Emmy Awards, racked up 20 trophies across seven categories. In Free Solo, the camera was on Alex Honnold attempting to freehand climb Yosemite’s legendary El Capitan. Now, Chin was returning home.
“I was brought up with this idea of excellence: If you were going to pursue something, it was not really about whatever pursuit, it was about the craft.”
“We’re constantly referencing time in relationship to where we are on the mountain,” said Chin. “It affects your decisions.” Time is of the essence: It is the one consistent variable among the unpredictable, a potentially lifesaving source of stability. Climbers check their progress by how much time has elapsed, which in turn determines their route, their energy levels, and weather conditions. Knowing when to turn around or whether there’s still time to push forward is vital. “I’ve always said that time is the only true currency, and I still believe that,” said Chin. “In the mountains, you could do big expeditions and big climbs. You’re constantly checking the time in terms of progress, in terms of where you are on the climb, how you make decisions moving forward or retreating.”
That’s the basic premise of a timepiece, anyway. But when, say, skiing down Mount Everest’s Lhotse Face, as Chin did in 2006, a watch’s ruggedness takes on another dimension. Panerai recently appointed Chin as a brand ambassador—at the Emmys this year, he wore a Luminor 1950 GMT—in the hopes that its latest ultra-functional timepiece, the Submersible BMG-TECH, can keep up.
Panerai is attempting to harken to its past of building properly rugged hardware. The BMG-TECH series recalls the dive watches issued to the Italian Navy as a fount of never-ending inspiration—one that has sustained the brand as it went from obscure foreign curiosity to fashion icon. Watches, said Chin, are like climbing gear: “Some of the most useful pieces of gear are the timeless and the most well-designed pieces that we still always use … it’s almost less about the watch getting me out of a bind but keeping me from getting into a bind.”
BMG-TECH is a bulk metallic glass, an alloy of zirconium, copper, aluminum, titanium, and nickel that is heated and rapidly cooled, a process similar to glassblowing, but where the atoms retain a chaotic structure at the microscopic level. It can never corrode, says Panerai. It is shockproof, scratchproof, and resistant to magnetism. It is super light, and the carbon fiber bezel only adds lightness. All the better to protect the P.9010 automatic calibre, an in-house movement with a three-day power reserve and 28,800 beats per hour. Two different types of Super-LumiNova differentiate the small seconds dial from the main functions, and the light blue adds a chic contrast. That beefy crown lock has always been a polarizing Panerai element; here, it aids in the watch’s 300-meter water-resistance rating. If the watch is as bulletproof as Panerai suggests, then it will survive anything Chin’s next expedition can throw at it.
There is always something coming up next. Viewed from Chin’s lenses, the world shrinks, and the vast remoteness of territories appears in our mailboxes and on our phones. There is an element of wistfulness to this—are there still far-flung lands to be discovered? Is there still time left? The Changpa nomads have been around for a lot longer than National Geographic; British surveyors crisscrossed the Karakoram mountains as early as the 1800s, and Yūichirō Miura became Chin’s predecessor when he skied down Everest himself, in 1970, complete with a parachute and broken limbs. (The ensuing documentary on Miura won an Oscar, something Chin can surely appreciate.)
In Chin’s mind, there are endless places to be explored. He spends part of his time in New York City and in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and despite his youth spent climbing the Rockies in a Subaru, there is still uncharted territory among the Tetons. “You know what, there’s still a lot of this planet that has not been explored,” he said. “There are so many mountains in the Himalayas that have not been explored. There are still tons of potential. You have to get creative. We have so much more tech these days to go further, and so our capacity to be explorers is changing and progressing and allowing us to push further to areas we’ve never been … the oceans, for example. And of course, there’s space!”
Chin in space? The world waits for that documentary with bated breath.
Created as a fitting tribute to DC Comics’ villains, RJ reimagines the character watch with a mischievous glint in its eye.
The world of high-end watchmaking can often be a sober and serious place. But in the world of RJ, haute horology and a sense of wonder aren’t mutually exclusive. The brand’s playful timepieces have smiles built right into their DNA.
Founded in 2004, and relaunched last year under the creative direction of CEO Marco Tedeschi, RJ has made its mark on modern watchmaking thanks to surprising collaborations. These draw inspiration from pop culture iconography, ranging from Marvel and DC Comics superheroes to beloved video-game characters like Super Mario, Space Invaders, and Pac-Man. If you’re looking for a tourbillon with an artisan-crafted Pokémon dial, this is where you’ll get it. There is even a pavé diamond and pink sapphire-encrusted Hello Kitty timepiece.
“We attract a wide range of people who want something different and, most importantly, something fun,” Tedeschi tells Watch Journal. “It’s essential for me to have a product you can identify by the wrist. There is simply no way to mistake an RJ for anything else in the world.”
That is certainly true of the brand’s two newest pieces. The first is a colorful callback to Batman’s original nemesis, The Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime made his DC Comics debut in 1940 and has been the arch-enemy of Gotham City’s crime-fighting bat ever since. The Joker’s distinctive look — purple-and-green clothing, exaggerated facial features — come through in RJ’s laser-engraved titanium tribute, which features hand-painting and is limited to 100 pieces. It’s a killer chronograph in every sense.
For those after a more conceptual homage, RJ is also offering a timepiece inspired by another one of Batman’s iconic foes: Two-Face. Calling on the villain’s conflicted nature, one half of the watch is pristine, while the other half is cleverly “burned away” (just as the character’s face was in the comics) to expose the skeletonized movement inside. It’s exactly the type of timepiece that attracted Tedeschi to RJ.
“I was interested in the brand for two main reasons,” he says. “The first was the main concept, which was the core product having a material that has a fascinating story incorporated within the watch, and, of course, the collaborations.”
For Tedeschi, leveraging those partnerships is the key to success moving forward. That means bringing more of RJ’s watchmaking in-house and starting to produce its own movements in Geneva. Here, he sees opportunities to make his company’s timepieces even more unique.
“We are going to increase the collaborations, and the idea is to work on the character differently,” he says. “Before we used to have a dial…. We are now, being a manufacturer, able to incorporate the collaboration with the movement itself.”
The addition of in-house mechanicals will no doubt yield unconventional results. But diving into the unorthodox is simply a matter of course for RJ. In addition to the pop culture-inspired collaborations, the brand is known for its DNA Concept watches, which bring history-making material to the wrist. One such watch used steel from the Titanic; another contained actual moon dust. The RJ6919, released earlier this year, has pieces from the Apollo 11 spacecraft integrated into the bezel.
(Tedeschi, on how RJ sources these fantastic materials: “It [the metal] was sourced from the original refinery, even from the same batch of steel they used in the Titanic. For the Apollo, we bought the various artifacts from different parties at an auction.”)
The CEO is staying tight-lipped about what surprises will be coming our way soon, allowing only that RJ is “currently following other sales to purchase additional unusual materials.” What Tedeschi can reveal is that the shape of the watch, with its distinctive case protective “bumpers,” will always remain the same.
“The shape is quite simple, integrated within the case, we will never exclude having the case shape without the bumper in the future,” he says. “The essential thing is to have those four elements at 30 degrees from the primary axis. That’s how we define the RJ watch.”
That faith in the DNA is a large part of the brand’s bright future under Tedeschi. It’s also a statement of confidence in RJ’s place in both popular culture and watchmaking. This is why Warner Bros and DC Entertainment are continuing to join forces with Tedeschi, bringing their most infamous characters to life as rare, limited-edition watches. Seeing the finished Joker product, it seems that faith is well-placed. For collectors with a comic-book bent, the only question left is this: Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?