A little over a year ago I started thinking about watches. I know I wasn’t the only one. Fine timepieces were popping up all over – magazines, newspapers, blog posts and photo shoots – they were inescapable. My interest also grew because I was consciously moving away from being tied to my cell phone. I wanted to know the time, but not necessarily who was emailing, calling or texting while I was out for dinner with friends or fishing for steelhead before work. I bought an L.L. Bean Field Watch and a couple NATO straps and I was good to go. My time-keeping issue was more or less solved, but my curiosity with watches wasn’t going away.
The whole point of this blog, from the beginning way back in 2007, was to find out more about the things that have stood the test of time, to delve into the things that we love and find out why and how they are made. Not long ago, I traveled to Switzerland with Cartier to learn about the history of its famous Tank watches, and to see the newest member of the Tank tribe, the Tank MC, come to life. To be able to have access to the people, process and history that goes into something as unique and important as a Cartier watch, let alone, a Tank, is an important moment for both ACL as an aesthetic minded medium, and also for me personally. Because, there are few things in this world that as closely link men and style together more than the Cartier Tank watch. If I were never allowed to see another factory after this, deep down I would always know I went out on top.
The Cartier factory sits in a small town called La Chaux-de-Fonds, situated squarely in the valley between the Jura mountains. This long basin between Geneva and Basel in Switzerland is colloquially known as “Watch Valley,” for both its historical ties to many prominent watchmakers and the area’s continued role at the center of fine watchmaking. Stand basically anywhere in the area and you can see at least one famous watch brand. I can’t think of another place anywhere in the world where you can find as many significant luxury brands together in one area.
The demise of Detroit has been widely documented, almost to the point of nausea. I grew up hearing a similar song in Cleveland. If you live there or are from there, it makes you want to fight even harder. I can understand how Detroit feels; that underdog spirit is what makes me fly the Cuyahoga flag high every chance I get.
What’s crazy is what is really going on in the Motor City. There’s a beginning of change and some pretty astonishing things are happening. The road is long, but the desire to rebuild is there. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens to this great American city.
A few years ago Steven Alan (the man) introduced me to a few guys who had an ambitious plan to start making watches, bicycles, leather goods under the long mothballed shoe-polish brand Shinola. As much of the product as possible would be made in America, that’s what they told me. Made in Detroit to be specific. To say I was intrigued was an understatement. They asked me to come out to Detroit a few years ago (early on in this process) to see everything, but as I often do with brands I wanted to wait a bit and wait and see what was going to happen. It’s easy to talk the talk, it’s hard to actually make these kinds of things happen.
David Sokosh makes watches one at a time by hand in his studio in Brooklyn, New York. The watches are all crafted from from automatic movements of 70s era Swiss pocket watches. It’s a slow process (he’s currently has a 16 week back order) that produces really cool and one of a kind timepieces.
He started Brooklyn Watches after he was forced to shutter his Dumbo-based art gallery after the recession slowed things down. As he explains in yet another intriguing and genuine video from Etsy, Sokosh started making watches to sell at the Brooklyn Flea, just to give him something to do and to make some money. Eventually though, the watches gained a following and the endeavor turned into a full fledged business. It’s a great story and one that is beautifully captured in the video above. If there there were a silver lining to the recession, David Sokosh and Brooklyn Watches are certainly part of that narrative.
This could be dangerous…
IWC aficionados can rejoice, the Swiss watchmaker finally opened a New York store this week right in the heart of the menswear action on Madison Avenue. The shop is modeled most closely on the company’s outpost in Hong Kong, with each model family getting its own themed room and experience. Even though there are different environments for each collection, the rich wood that runs throughout the space serves to connect each area and creates a refined, yet unpretentious setting in which you avoid work while lusting over well-made watches. The expansive entrance — which is set up to be a sort of nautical looking lounge — beautifully houses the popular Portuguese collection. That main room also plays host to several steamer trunks that house the Portofino range.
Creating an iconic product requires many things: a willingness to be innovative, cunning, commitment, a tolerance for failure and at least a little bit of luck. It goes without saying that it is even more difficult for a brand to do justice to that icon when releasing a new version forty years later, but Audemars Piguet (one of the few remaining family owned independent high-end watchmakers in the world) can feel secure in knowing that it has done both with the Royal Oak. In 1972, at the hands of respected designer Gérald Genta, Audemars created a luxury sports watch and named it for the “British Royal Navy battleships, themselves christened for the tree where King Charles II hid from his enemies,” a watch that has since gone on to become an icon. The revolutionary design of the octagonal bezel, which resembles the porthole of ship, has helped the Royal Oak easily become Audemars Piguet’s most famous timepiece.
Today the good people of the International Watch Company unveiled their new range of pilots watches at the SIHH (Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie) watch trade fair in Geneva, Switzerland. As it so happens, I’m in attendance at the show and got a chance to check these guys out first hand. The Schaffhausen-based watchmaker released the Top Gun Miramar Chronograph Automatic (named for the location of the Top Gun USMC training base) in advance of the show, but today the company unveiled the full Pilot’s Watch collection — much to my enjoyment.