Photographs by Junichi Ito Styling by Stephen Watson & Jared Lawton
Doctors call it nitrogen narcosis. Diving’s old guard call it Martini’s Law. Both mean the same thing: For every 15 meters of depth, the physical effect is equivalent to one drink. Euphoria? Hallucinations? All that and more. But you don’t need an underwater trip to see that modern sports watches are reaching higher levels of dry-land appeal. Slowly surface. It’s time to decompress.
Surveying the heroes of the Brooklyn food scene with a selection of fine chronographs.
Photographs by Doug Young
It’s almost as easy to lampoon the great awakening of American eating (“The chicken’s name was Colin. Here are his papers.”) as it is easy to lampoon modern-day Brooklyn (“Nah man, Martha’s, that new artisanal mayonnaise spot.”) But the fedora foodies are moving to Ohio, and the half-cocked concept joints closing down, leaving behind only the smartest, realest, most passionate culinary characters. The kind of characters that made Brooklyn’s food scene so remarkable to begin with. The kind of characters that make modern dining feel like a privilege.
In recognition, we spent two days touring the borough, catching up with its most exciting and influential local chefs. We talked about food and progress and the city. Then we dressed them in exciting and influential chronographs, newcomers and mainstays, and photographed them inside the kitchen.
Each chef had a different way of thinking about food. But they all agreed on one thing: It’s a damn good time to be cooking (and dining) in Brooklyn.
Name: Chef T.J. Steele
Known for: Spending more than a decade in Mexico, embedded with local cooks and mezcaleros, then returning to New York and blowing minds.
He says: “All the décor comes straight from my friends in Oaxaca. The bar tiles are from Francisco Toledo and Dr. Lakra. They did the murals, too. There was this famous cantina down there, and it had a mural with three pigs cooking a woman. So we kinda did our own thing with it. Three goats. Pretty great, right?”
They say: “Old-school Brooklyn baking is very much Italian, very traditional. New Brooklyn is lot of people like us. More casual, more home-style. When we came here in 1999, it was all delis, you know? Now there’s a coffee shop on every corner.”
Four & Twenty Blackbirds 439 3rd Avenue (718) 499-2917
Name: Chef Dale Talde
Known for: Besides finishing sixth on Top Chef? Probably the pretzeled dumplings.
He says: “There’s an ability to take risks out here. Maybe more so before, when rent was cheap. It was the Wild West. When we opened, I couldn’t name another restaurant on Seventh Ave. Did I think I’d still be serving that pretzel dish six years later? No. But I’m happy doing it, because that’s what the neighborhood wants. This restaurant belongs to their neighborhood. If you’re a chef, and you haven’t caught onto that yet, you’re fucking lost.”
Talde 369 Seventh Avenue (347) 916-0031
Name: Chef Erin Shambura
Known for: Creating a buzzy, wine-focused Italian restaurant that actually lives up to the hype.
Wearing: Hermès Arceau Chrono Titane, $5,100; hermes.comShe says: “We wanted a 1950s Italy feel, but in a modern-day Brooklyn setting. I lived in the Veneto, about 30 kilometers from Venice. The traditional, hand-extruded pasta has sentimental value to me. We’ve got this Tajarin, an egg-based noodle, a play on carbonara, so instead of heavy black pepper in the sauce, the black pepper is in the actual noodle. We’re serving it with ramps, house-cured pancetta, finished with an organic egg … People have so much more knowledge about food than they ever have. They’re eating so many more things. So we can have the pastas, but also sardines and whole fish, presented on the bone. It’s beautiful.”
Fausto 348 Flatbush Avenue (917) 909-1427
Name: Chef Vincent Fraissange & Cat Alexander
Known for: One of the borough’s smartest seasonal menus, dished up at an unpretentious bistro hidden under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
They say: “We got married three years ago, and started a catering company. We were looking for spaces, basically a commissary kitchen, and saw the ‘For Lease’ sign. We live like a block away, and this was a famous butcher shop in the neighborhood, Graham Avenue Meats, a staple for like thirty years. Once we signed the lease, we were like, ‘Man, the neighborhood really needs a restaurant.’ So we just went for it.”
Pheasant 445 Graham Avenue (718) 675-5588
Name: Chef Justin Bazdarich
Known for: Initiating Brooklynites to gourmet-level, rustic wood-fired eats.
Wearing: Patek Philippe Ref. 5905P Chronograph with Annual Calendar, $78,250; patek.com
He says: “My other restaurants [Speedy Romeo] have wood-burning ovens. At first, New York City said we couldn’t have a wood-burning grill. We had to figure out all this stuff with permitting, but we got it done. So I’m sticking with that wood-fired theme here [at Oxomoco], but just doing Mexican cuisine.”
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
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.