Field Ready: The Complicated Story of the Simple Field Watch

How the field watch journeyed from saving lives in the hellish trenches of World War I to decorating the wrists of fashionably rugged-looking civilians a century later is a rather befuddling tale. In this feature from our April-May 2019 issue, correspondent Allen Farmelo takes us through it.

At first only acceptable for women, the wristwatch finally gained currency among men during the American bicycle craze of the late 1800s when a bevy of clever devices for strapping watches to the wrist – then called “wristlets” – were developed and marketed for hands-free time telling. During the second Boer War (1899-1902) and World War I (1914-1918), soldiers began buying these wristwatches because they believed, quite accurately, that a watch could help keep them alive by synchronizing movements at the front with the larger artillery blasts happening behind them. When service ended, some survivors of these wars began to use their wristwatches for hunting, fishing, hiking, bicycling and driving the occasional automobile. Watch manufacturers in Europe and America were quick to catch both the military and civilian trends, and advertisements readily conflated both uses into one message: rugged men doing rugged things needed a rugged wristwatch.

Vintage Rolex Explorer - Christie's
A first-series Rolex Oyster Perpetual Ref. 6350 with honeycomb dial from 1953 that sold for CHF 68,750 at Christie’s Geneva on May 16, 2016. The time-only Rolex Explorer was a rebranded Oyster with numerals on the dial that debuted in 1953 as a rugged tool for the era’s most aggressive adventurers.

In 1903, Dimier Frères & Cie. issued a patent for a watch case with attached lugs to hold the wrist strap, and as early as 1913, the New York-based mail order company Ingersoll – capable of churning out as many as 8,000 watches a day – was advertising these new wristwatches to “outdoor folks” and “husky sportsmen.” Other companies dubbed similar watches the “Skirmisher,” the “Campaign Watch” and the “Territorial Wrist Watch.” Before long, “Khaki” began to appear in ads for watches with straps made of beige webbing, and as early as 1917, the American company Depollier was selling moisture-proof wristwatches with luminous dials and Waltham-built movements as the “Khaki Watch.” The field watch as we know it today was thus codified over 100 years ago.

Shedding Victorian Values and Embracing the Great Outdoors

While these new wristwatches appealed to soldiers for obvious reasons, they also appealed to a whole generation that was shrugging off the high decoration and strict etiquette of the Victorian and Edwardian eras in favor of stripped down, functional designs and increasingly relaxed social norms. Between the World Wars, wristwatches also aligned with a rising obsession with the great outdoors, epitomized by the legacy of John Muir’s conservationism, Teddy Roosevelt’s formation of the American National Parks and the vast popularity of Ernest Hemingway’s stories about the contemplative WWI veteran and trout fisherman Nick Adams. This was a context within which a rugged tool watch could begin to capture the hearts of civilians.

Rolex, Tudor and the Civilian Roots of the Field Watch

In 1919, Hans Wilsdorf moved Rolex from London to La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, where he began to perfect his waterproof Oyster case, and in 1946, he formed Tudor in order to offer similar but more affordable watches. A brilliant marketeer, Wilsdorf would exploit headline-grabbing explorers and athletes as watch brand testimonees, cementing the idea that a wristwatch could act as a symbol of one’s ruggedness and bravery. That symbolic power was – and still is – one of the core appeals of the field watch.

Even though Rolex took on only limited military contracts, many World War II soldiers – especially pilots – would buy Oysters for themselves because the legibility and accuracy far exceeded that of mil-spec watches. Wilsdorf couldn’t have asked for a better promotional lift, as these Rolex-wearing military personnel were fast becoming folk heroes and style icons. Capitalizing on that marketing opportunity, Wilsdorf rebranded the Rolex Oyster as the Air-King in 1945, a move that dovetailed perfectly with the emergence of the Jet Age after WWII. In 1953, Wilsdorf rebranded an Oyster with numerals on the dial as the Explorer, this time capitalizing on an Oyster having made it to the top of Mt. Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary’s team. Though neither the Air-King nor the Explorer were military issues, they brought straightforward aesthetics and battle-ready durability to the wrists of countless civilians.

Tudor Ranger - Vintage 1967
The Tudor Ranger was an affordable version of the Rolex Explorer.
Tudor Heritage Ranger - Contemporary
Reissued as the 41-mm Heritage Ranger in 2014, this watch helped Tudor achieve the vast popularity of their current line of vintage-inspired tool watches.

The Air-King raises questions about the differences between pilots’ watches and field watches. Though many watches were designed with pilots in mind (e.g., Charles Lindbergh’s clever Longines Hour Angle, Zeniths with billboard-sized dials, various chronographs and eventually GMTs), many WWII mil-specs covered watches for both air and ground divisions, making it difficult to draw a clear line between the two categories. Because most civilians never become pilots, commercial marketing of these watches focused on “the field,” a term which likely derives from ‘battlefield’ but which has long since become synonymous with the great outdoors. In the case of Rolex – as well as many other brands – the distinction between a pilots’ watch and a field watch may come down to naming conventions and marketing, neither of which deliver a definitive distinction.

Nonetheless, the Rolex Explorer was popular enough during the 1950s that Tudor brought out the Ranger as an affordable alternative in the early 1960s. With its black face, bold luminous markers and an impenetrable Rolex Oyster case, the Ranger epitomized the simple aesthetics and functionality of the field watch. In 2014, Tudor reissued it as the Heritage Ranger, a 41-mm field watch with a camouflage strap that helped shuttle the company back to the top of Swiss watchmaking. That camouflage strap suggests a military connection that was never really there while also capitalizing on the recent revival of camouflage in popular fashion; one can imagine that Hans Wilsdorf, the clever marketeer, would wholly approve.

The Rise of the Hamilton Khaki Field Watch

Why would a WWII-era watch design still hold sway over the popular imagination during the 1950s and ’60s, a time when fast-paced futurism promised to put the war as far behind as possible? Part of the answer is the endurance of military men as sex symbols in WWII-themed films after the war – especially 1951’s Oscar-nominated film The Frogmen, which helped cement Hamilton’s military watches into the popular imagination as symbols of masculinity and bravery.

Like most American manufacturers, Hamilton stuck to WWII-era military specifications after the war, but in 1964, the U.S. Department of Defense issued watch specification MIL-W-46374A, the template for Hamilton’s 33-mm Ref. 9219, a time-only watch with a 24-hour inner track that Hamilton would readily produce millions of. Predictably, those numbers swelled during the Vietnam War.

Hamilton Khaki Field Watch
Today’s 38-mm Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical is larger than its predecessors from the 1970s and ’80s, but the field-watch aesthetics and durability remain largely unchanged.

By the end of the 1960s, Hamilton had partnered with L.L. Bean to sell co-branded versions of the 9219 through the Maine-based mail order company’s catalog. Offered alongside Swiss Army knives, compasses, thick wool socks and other outdoorsy goods, Hamilton would repeat this co-branded marketing strategy with Orvis and Brookstone, as well as selling countless Hamilton-branded Khaki Fields to other commercial outlets. When the MIL-W-46374A specification became defunct in the 1980s – leaving massive manufacturing capability potentially inert – Hamilton began to hit the civilian market even harder with the Hamilton Khaki Field Watch, effectively transforming this military icon into an outdoorsy lifestyle accessory.

Mil-Spec Becomes Mil-Chic

In a stroke of good luck for Hamilton and other companies selling field watches, the military-influenced style was undergoing a complex journey into high fashion during the 1970s and ’80s. In 1971, Yves Saint-Laurent unexpectedly turned camouflage prints into runway chic, a gesture in perfect sync with anti-war protesters in the U.S. who sported combat uniforms with studied irony. By the 1980s, politically minded punk bands like The Clash helped make army jackets as common as blue jeans, while Andy Warhol started painting huge canvases with camouflage patterns. Camo had become a fashion statement, which in turn fueled a significant uptick in army surplus stores at the time.

It was in this milieu that the preppy weekender look – which has always borrowed liberally from military garb – would ascend to great heights. Paul Newman and the ever-outdoorsy Robert Redford sported aviator sunglasses, khaki pants and field jackets with effortless aplomb and massive sex appeal. Meanwhile Andy Warhol – somewhat confusingly as a glamorous, gay, urban art star – complemented his Levi’s, Chelsea boots and horned-rimmed glasses with a red L.L. Bean down-filled puffy vest. Passing away in 1987, this would be one of Warhol’s last looks, one so elemental and iconic that’s it’s been a men’s fashion staple ever since.

CWC Military watch
CWC has been selling field watches to civilians since the 1990s. The 38-mm General Service model pictured here is just one of many mil-spec models CWC offers today.

These outdoorsy styles became so widespread and have endured for so long that today we hardly notice the military origins of camouflage-print Louis Vuitton handbags, $500 Prada aviators, or the epaulets and ammunition holders on a Ralph Lauren jacket. Following yet another resurgence of the preppy outdoorsy look, today’s so-called heritage brands (L.L. Bean among them) are reissuing items from their back catalogs as the latest styles. Accordingly, in 2018, Hamilton was able to bring out the Khaki Field Mechanical, a hand-wound version that’s become a hit all over again – including, for the first time, fashionable camouflage straps.

Today’s Khaki Field series ranges from blacked-out 50-mm giants to svelte 38-mm steel versions with aged lume and olive green NATO straps. The latter are largely faithful to the aesthetics of the early Khaki Field Watch, and – following current trends down into the sub-40-mm zone – some of the most popular. The resurgence of the Hamilton Khaki Field proves once again that, while technology marches more or less forward, fashion will perennially circle back on itself.

The Mechanical Field Watch in the 21st Century

Beyond Tudor and Hamilton, the field watch is seeing a broad resurgence among many brands, old and new. Below are a few examples that demonstrate how brands today are playing with field-watch style, mixing up various features to create new models that scratch that old itch for durability, simple design and the symbolic power of sporting a tough little tool watch.

CWC General Service (£199-£449) – In the 1970s, the Cabot Watch Company, or CWC, established itself in order to snatch up newly available contracts with Britain’s Ministry of Defense as Rolex and Hamilton relinquished these shrinking partnerships. By the 1990s, CWC was starting to sell mil-spec watches to civilians, and today, CWC’s blocky, utilitarian General Service models are available in a range of compelling and affordable models. The CWC W10 GS, for example, sports an ETA 2824 automatic mechanical movement, a rounded, 38-mm stainless-steel case and a classic mil-spec dial that could easily pass for a WWII-era watch. Other CWC GS models recreate the quartz units of the 1980s and ’90s in a number of military-inspired colorways.

Longines Heritage Military
No two of the Longines Heritage Military’s “aged” dials will be the same. With its simple 38-mm steel case and minimal dial text, it captures the stripped-down appeal of a classic field watch.
Bell & Ross BR V1-92
At just 38 mm across, the Bell & Ross BR V1-92 Black Steel is one of the smallest watches in the Bell & Ross catalog, but its striking, straightforward dial gives it massive wrist presence.

Longines Heritage Military Watch ($2,150) – Despite its somewhat ordinary name, the Longines Military Watch was one of the most alarming watches in all categories for 2018 because it included an intentionally “aged” dial. That aging was achieved by randomly splashing flecks of dark paint onto the cream dial, creating what many call “fauxtina.” That dial may look a little odd against the otherwise unblemished case and the brand new blued steel hands, but these speckles add depth and warmth to the simple elegance of this 38.5-mm time-only field watch. The L888 movement (built on an ETA A31 base) beats a little slower than today’s standard, but in so doing offers up a robust 65-hour power reserve.

Bell & Ross BR V1-92 Military and BR V1-92 Black Steel ($1,990) – Where CWC and Longines can draw on their own heritage, younger brands don’t let that stand in the way of producing some of today’s most compelling field watches. Consider the Bell & Ross BR V1-92 Military and BR V1-92 Black Steel, two 38.5-mm automatic mechanical field watches released in 2017. Bell & Ross excels at playfully patching together preexisting design elements to create their own concoctions, and with the BR V1-92 Military they’ve done so with characteristic grace: aged lume, a minutes track around the dial (no hours), a “mouse pip” at noon, a red “MT” logo (stands for Military Type) and a decidedly plain brushed steel case. For those seeking something more straightforward, the Black Steel’s monochromatic dial offers eye-grabbing legibility and classic military style. Though neither model resembles any historical reference, both the Military and the Black Steel look just like field watches ought to; as such, they are brilliant examples of how functional military design elements have become fashionable aesthetic cues over time.

Weiss 38-mm Standard Issue Field Watch ($950-$1,995) – Another interesting riff on the field watch comes from California-based Weiss Watches, a recent phenomenon in the American watch scene. We might catch a bit of irony in the name Standard Issue Field Watch, as this design is neither standard nor issued; instead, like the Bell & Ross, Weiss has combined classic field-watch details to excellent effect. With a 38-mm steel case, a subdial for running seconds at 6 and a railroad minutes track, this watch exudes classic field-watch style. Meanwhile, the “Los Angeles, CA” label across the dial announces that there’s no bona fide military connection whatsoever. Two movements are available: the manually wound Caliber 1005 built on an ETA 7001 base and the automatic Caliber 2100 built on an Eterna 39 base. Those looking for a bigger watch will want to jump up to the 42-mm model that features Weiss’s in-house manually wound Caliber 2005 (starting at $2,250 for steel and going up to $8,950 for the solid 18k yellow-gold models).

Seals Model C Field Explorer ($640) – Affordable, funky and inspired by seemingly everything from WWII at once, the Seals Model C Field Explorer combines various field-watch elements into a wholly original-looking watch. The blocky case and wire lugs are reminiscent of a Panerai Radiomir, while the generously lumed numerals and markers, broad hands and high contrast outer track offer classic field-watch legibility. Inside is a Swiss Technology Production 1-11 automatic mechanical movement capable of storing 44 hours of power. For the funkiest version, go for the aged stainless-steel finish with the blue dial.

Weiss Standard issue Field Watch
Weiss Standard issue Field Watch
Seals Model C Field Explorer
Seals Model C Field Explorer

The Future of the Field Watch

Where complicated watches draw us into nuanced engineering feats and bejeweled watches dazzle us with diamonds, the field watch must stick to the simplest design formula without succumbing to banality. Witnessing and judging attempts by watchmakers to meet that design challenge is surprisingly rewarding, enough so that over a century after its inception, simple field watches are some of the most highly anticipated iterations each year. Despite the slow pace of their evolution – or perhaps because of it – we can count on field watches to hold our imaginations, not only as companions for life’s various adventures, but as symbols of who we’d like to be as we explore, scout, range and traverse whatever it is we consider to be the field.

Americana on the Wrist: Timex Goes Back to Its Roots With U.S.-Made American Documents Series

As major watch manufacturers go, it’s hard to imagine one more quintessentially American than Timex. Founded in Waterbury, Connecticut in 1854 as the Waterbury Clock Company, its mission to “democratize” timekeeping for the masses began with the manufacture of clocks that were less expensive alternatives to their European-made counterparts. It continued through the following decades with the mass-produced Long Wind pocketwatch in 1877, to World War I military wristwatches modified from ladies’ pocketwatches in the early 20th century, to the introduction of the first official Mickey Mouse watches at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933, all the way to the famous “Takes a Licking but Keeps on Ticking” torture-test TV commercials of the 1960s.

Timex American Documents - flat
Timex American Documents combines American parts and craftsmanship with a Swiss-made quartz movement.

Now headquartered in Middlebury, CT, the Timex Group USA, as it is now called, is a large conglomerate, with numerous subsidiary companies, licensed fashion brands, and manufacturing operations throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. As a consequence of that growth, however, as with most all the historical watchmakers founded in the United States in the 19th century, Timex no longer makes the majority of its watches in the U.S. For the company’s 165th anniversary in 2019, however, Timex chose to honor its legacy by returning, at least partially, to its Made-in-America roots with the launch of the Timex American Documents collection.

The initial launch of American Documents consists of four models, all assembled by hand in Middlebury, all outfitted with Swiss-made quartz movements rather than the Asian-sourced quartz calibers that power most of Timex’s contemporary models. The movement parts are gold-plated to prevent oxidization and friction on the metal parts, making the occasional battery change the only regular maintenance required by the watch’s owner. It is on their exteriors, however, that the American Documents watches live up to their mandate of “capturing the spirit of what it means to be American-made,” in the words of Timex Group CEO Tobias Reiss-Schmidt.

Timex American Documents - bottom shot
The forged steel cases have a beveled top ring and a brass caseback coin.

The watches’ 41-mm, satin-brushed steel cases are drop-forged (a first for American watchmaking) to maintain the material’s original grain and strength and feature a beveled top ring, individually turned in a proprietary process and polished by hand to a glossy finish. On the front side of the case, covering the dial, is a crystal made from Gorilla Glass 3 NDR, an impact-resistant, chemically strengthened glass used for iPhone screens and manufactured by its parent company, Corning, in Massachusetts. According to Timex, these crystals are cut in the same highly precise process used for the lenses of scientific instruments like telescopes.

On the back side is an inset coin in “Aged Waterbury Brass,” forged and stamped in New England, with a Timex logo centered in a tiny, hand-polished relief map of the continental United States, along with raised text reading “Waterbury, CT” and “Watchmakers Est. 1854.” Another, smaller brass insert, with a “TX” Timex logo, subtly decorates the fluted crown. (During the Industrial Revolution, Waterbury was a major producer of brass, earning it the distinction of being America’s “Brass City.”)

Timex American Documents - Crown Insert
A brass insert with relief Timex logo adorns the crown.
Timex American Documents - Caseback
The Aged Waterbury Brass Caseback commemorates the Connecticut city’s history of brass production.

The dials of all four American Documents watches — made from U.S.-sourced brass — are designed for classical simplicity: central hands for hours and minutes, small seconds on a 6 o’clock subdial, date window at 3 o’clock, and thin bar indexes for hour markers. Timex developed a new process to create the faceted hands, which are also made from brass and are, according to the company, the only such shaped watch hands currently made in the U.S.A. The dial itself is formed in the style of Timex’s early clocks and pocketwatches, two-layered and triple-printed on their faces for increased depth.

Timex American Documents - Dial - hands
Timex developed a new process to make the faceted brass hands.

Finally, the soft leather straps are made by American craftsmen from domestic cowhides sourced from S.B. Foot Tanning in Red Wing, Minnesota, a company founded in 1872 — nearly as old as Timex — and which remains the primary supplier of leather for Red Wing shoes and boots. The stitched, double-layered straps are designed to conform naturally to the wearer’s wrist over time.

Timex American Documents - reclining
Over the grained dial is a crystal in Massachussetts-made Gorilla Glass.
Timex American Documents - Strap
The soft leather straps used U.S.-sourced cowhide from Minnesota.

The packaging for American Documents is also a notch or two above that of your standard Timex. Each watch comes in a case made of solid, indigenous cherry wood, hand rubbed to a natural finish, with an inlaid magnetic closure and brass hinges. And since this is 2019 and not 1854, Timex has also included a digital component in its ticking tribute to Americana. Each purchaser of an American Documents watch also receives access to a downloadable, print-quality, high-resolution image from the American Documents gallery, a project that teamed Timex with photographer Bryan Schutmaat. To create this visual diary of America’s landscapes, people, and culture — the “documents” that lend the series its name, essentially — Schutmaat traveled from the Northeast, the cradle of American watchmaking, through Texas and the Midwest to the Montana Rockies. “There’s a sense of possibility that comes from the vastness of this country,” Schutmaat comments. “I wanted to capture the timelessness of our landscape to convey the spaces that bring us and our culture together, because American Documents, and every component of it, honors the beauty of our nation.”

The initial four Timex American Documents models are white dial/black strap, gray dial/blue strap, blue dial/brown strap, and black dial/brown strap, with a gunmetal-finish case. All are priced at $495.

Pilots’ Hours: Testing the Bell Ross BR V1-92 Black Steel

Bell & Ross’s watches are inspired by the history of aviation. Legibility, reliability and precision lead the list of specs. We checked all these attributes in our test of the BR V1-92 Black Steel.

Ever since Bell & Ross was founded in 1992, pilots’ watches have not only been part of the brand’s collection; they have also comprised its core. The angular BR 01, which is a replica of an airplane cockpit clock, caused quite a stir when it was launched in 2005. The Vintage collection, which is identified by the letter “V” in the models’ names, is just the opposite: it combines a classic round stainless-steel case with an opaque back, a no-frills dial and a simple leather strap with a pin buckle. The BR V1-92 Black Steel, our test watch, was introduced in 2017.

Bell & Ross BRV1-92 Black Steel - flat
Bell & Ross BRV1-92 Black Steel

The tripartite stainless-steel case measures 38.55 mm in diameter and satisfies all the requirements of a functional watch for everyday use. It’s not overly large, so it fits well on most wrists. It feels comfortable on the forearm because the case’s lugs curve downward and the handmade leather strap is soft and supple. The crown is large enough to be easily wound by hand and, with a little help from the fingertips, it can be readily pulled outward to operate the rapid-reset mechanism for the date display and to reset the positions of the hands. The case resists pressure to 100 meters and is sealed shut by a massive back.

A typical detail of the BR V1-92 is an extreme bulge along the circumference of the sapphire crystal. This not only accentuates the watch’s vintage character but also ensures that the case can be kept slim. This slimness, in addition, further enhances the wearing comfort. The narrow and steeply sloping bezel surrounds the sapphire crystal, which is anti-reflective on both sides. Together, these two components provide ample room for a spacious and handsome dial. The contrast of black and white gives the face an uncluttered look as well as optimum legibility. The Arabic numerals and the index lines in three different lengths are neatly applied to the face. The long hour indexes glow brightly in the dark, as do the four Arabic numerals and the white Super-LumiNova on the hands. The lance-shaped hour hand and the baton-shaped minutes hand recall the hands on aircraft instruments.

Bell & Ross BR-V1-92 Black Steel - front
The contrast of black and white gives the dial ideal legibility.

A tiny stylized airplane acts as a counterweight on the short end of the seconds hand. Bell & Ross says that this new detail is slated to adorn many of its watches and will underscore the brand’s affiliation with aviation. But the seconds hand occasionally causes problems because it can be confused with the minutes hand when viewed quickly. The second hand’s rhythmic movements soon clear up the confusion, but misreading happens relatively often, leaving the wearer out of sync for a few minutes. However, the seconds hand cannot be seen at all in the dark, while all the other indicators have a rich green glow.

Our test watch gained between 4 and 6 seconds per day. BR-CAL.302 is based on an ETA movement and runs a few seconds too fast, but it keeps time accurately on the wrist. The caliber remains unseen behind the case’s opaque back, which really isn’t a problem because the caliber is unembellished. All in all, the BR V1-92 Black Steel fulfills its duties in daily life: it fits perfectly on the wrist, it runs well, it’s highly legible, and its vintage styling is simple and handsome, but it may be a tad expensive.

Bell & Ross BRV1-92 Black Steel - side
The case’s lugs curve downward for a comfortable fit on the wrist.

SPECS:
Manufacturer: Bell & Ross, 8 Rue Copernic, 75116 Paris, France
Reference number: BR V1-92-BL-ST/SCA
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date
Movement: Caliber BR-CAL. 302 based on ETA 2824-2, automatic, 28,800 vph, 25 jewels, Kif Trior shock absorption, gold-plated nickel balance, Nivarox hairspring, bipartite index (Etachron), 49-hour power reserve, diameter = 25.6 mm, height = 4.6 mm
Case: Stainless steel, sapphire crystal with extreme bulge along its periphery, anti-reflective on both sides (above dial), water resistant to 100 m
Strap and cla­­sp: Calfskin strap with stainless-steel pin buckle
Rate results (Deviation in seconds per 24 hours):
When fully wound +6.1
After 24 hours +4.5
On the wrist +4.0
Dimensions: Diameter = 38.55 mm, height = 11.14 mm, weight = 64 g
Variations: BR V1-92 Military ($1,990); BR V1-92 Bellytanker, limited to 500 pieces ($2,300)

Patek Philippe Sets New World Record

The Only Watch 2019 auction was held on Saturday, November 9 by Christies’ in Geneva, Switzerland. The 50 one-of-a-kind watches made for the biennial auction were auctioned off to support the research into the cure of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic disorder characterized by progressive muscle degeneration and weakness. Luc Pettavino, founder and organiser of Only Watch (and winner of the 2019 GPHG Special Jury Prize): “What we do together on Only Watch is not just wishful thinking or good intentions. We are acting. The funds that we have raised over the past seven editions have been an incredible enabler for researchers all around the world to develop their science and get closer to a therapeutic solution for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. They have been used in the creation of biotech companies dedicated to drug discovery and preclinical development, they financed academic research.”

The Only Watch auction has been held biennially since 2005. To date, the charity auctions have raised more than $40 million, and this year’s sale has just added CHF 38,593,000 to that total. Main reason:

 

A New World Record

The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6300A-010 (the only stainless steel version of the Swiss manufacturer’s Grandmaster Chime) was not only the most talked about timepiece in the auction, the watch, equipped with a reversible case, two dials and 20 complications, sold for CHF 31,000,000 to an Asian collector, making it the most expensive wristwatch in the world.

 

The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime (Ref. 6300A-010) was created specially for Only Watch 2019. It stands out as the first and only version of this timepiece ever produced in stainless steel. 

 

Launched in 2014 on the occasion of Patek’s 175th anniversary, the Grandmaster Chime became part of the manufacture’s regular collection in a white-gold version in 2016. The most complex Patek Philippe wristwatch features 20 complications, including five acoustic functions, two of which are patented global premières: an alarm that strikes the preprogrammed alarm time and a date repeater that sounds the date on demand. The double-face case with the guilloched hobnail pattern is endowed with a patented reversing mechanism.

“Patek Philippe thanks customers, watch enthusiasts, and collectors for their trust in the course of the Only Watch auctions; they have been backing the rising prices and have invested considerable amounts in support of struggle against muscular dystrophy.”

 

6 Key Takeaways From The 9th Only Watch Auction

  • this year’s sale total was CHF 38,593,000, making it the biggest watch auction ever
  • 99% go directly to fund research into Muscular Dystrophy
  • the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6300A sold for CHF 31,000,000, setting a new record for the highest price ever paid for a wristwatch at auction
  • the Ref. 6300A also represents 80% of the total revenue of Only Watch 2019
  • 16 lots went for a lower hammer price than the estimate (see list below for all results)
  • with CHF 350,000, the Tudor Black Bay Ceramic One ended up being the watch with the biggest difference between hammer price and high estimate (it sold for more than 60 times its pre-auction estimate)

Scroll down for a closer look at how the participating brands performed:

 

Only Watch 2019 Results: Top 20

The 20 most expensive watches in 2019

 

Only Watch 2019 Auction Results: All Watches

(In descending order, prices are in Swiss francs, include the buyer’s premium and are rounded to the nearest franc)

Brand & Model
High Estimate
Hammer Price

Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime
3 000 000
31 000 000

F.P. Journe Astronomic Blue
600 000
1 800 000

Audemars Piguet Code 11:59 Tourbillon
240 000
1 000 000

Akrivia Chronomètre Contemporain
60 000
360 000

Tudor Black Bay Ceramic One
5 500
350 000

Richard Mille RM 11-03
250 000
320 000

De Bethune and Urwerk Moon Satellite
150 000
300 000

Louis Vuitton Escale Spin Time
100 000
280 000

Bovet Récital 23 “Hope”
80 000
280 000

Hublot Tourbillon Sapphire Orlinski
180 000
240 000

Hermès Arceau L’heure de la lune
55 000
210 000

Breguet Type 20
50 000
210 000

Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 1
200 000
150 000

Chanel J12 inséparables
27 000
130 000

Boucheron Ajourée Amvara
40 000
130 000

Czapek Faubourg de Cracovie
36 000
110 000

Voutilainen TP1 Pocket Watch
70 000
110 000

Montblanc 1858 Split Second Chronograph
48 000
100 000

MB&F + L’Épée & T-Rex Tom & T-Rex
40 000
85 000

Zenith El Primero A386
45 000
75 000

Jacob & Co. Epic X Chrono Messi
100 000
75 000

Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire
69 000
70 000

Konstantin Chaykin Joker Selfie
24 000
70 000

Christophe Claret Maestro Corail
106 000
70 000

Fabergé Winter
70 000
70 000

Andersen Genève “Montre à Tact”
55 000
70 000

Carl F. Bucherer Patravi ScubaTec
30 000
60 000

Frederique Constantin Meteorite Tourbillon PPC
36 000
60 000

JLC Master UItra Thin Perpetual Enamel Chestnut
70 000
60 000

Bell & Ross BR 05 Skeleton Blue
25 000
55 000

Armin Strom Pure Resonance
55 000
50 000

Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Automatic
50 000
48 000

H. Moser Endeavour Perpetual Moon Concept
45 000
48 000

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Barakuda
20 000
45 000

Singer Track 1
55 000
45 000

Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Ceramic
35 000
45 000

DeWitt Academia Slide
80 000
45 000

Louis Monet Memoris
40 000
42 000

Cyrus Klepcys Alarm
47 000
42 000

Moritz Grossmann Réserve de Marche Classique
50 000
36 000

Ulysse Nardin Exo-Skeleton X
45 000
35 000

Artya Son of Earth Precious Butterfly Engraved
35 000
27 000

Trilobe “Les Matinaux”
12 000
26 000

Arnold & Son DSTB
38 000
26 000

Girard Perregaux Laureato Absolute Chronograph
16 000
24 000

Ateliers de Monaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297
70 000
24 000

Rebellion Re-Volt
55 000
24 000

RJ Arraw 6919
21 900
24 000

Speake Marin London Chronograph
30 000
20 000

Maurice Lacroix Aikon Mercury
15 000
17 000

Source: Christie’s / Only Watch

Talking with Car-Mod Authority Jonathan Ward About His First Official Watch, the ICON Duesey

Above all, Jonathan Ward is a gearhead. His Los Angeles-based company, ICON4X4, produces what some believe are the highest caliber SUVs in the world. He tears vehicles apart and puts them back together in new and unexpected ways, elevating utilitarian machines into a purified expression of mechanical ability. Last year, the news broke that Ward was entering the watch business with the ICON Duesey, a timepiece inspired by classic Duesenberg automobiles from the early-20th century. Like the souped-up and customized Toyota Land Cruisers that emerge from his workshop, the ICON Duesey is not only an ode to mechanical creations of decades past, it’s a symbol of a man’s passion for creation and individuality.

Recently, I sat down with Ward in a crowded Manhattan coffee shop to chat about the ICON Duesey which is now available for purchase. Read on to learn about Ward’s creative tendencies that lean toward what he describes as “bespoke utility,” his experiments with VantaBlack, and a hint of what his next timepiece might look like.

Logan R. Baker: So what attracted you to watches in the first place?

Jonathan Ward: I was a goober as a kid, taking apart my piece-of-shit electric alarm clock. And geekin’ on the gears and seeing if I could put it back together and make it work again, which, was rarely the case. And my grandad, I remember, we’d get really bored, my sister and I, when we’d go visit my grandparents in remote Virginia. And one of our favorite habits, when we were really young, was to go up in the attic. It was one of those old school, very Americana, next to the church, white picket fence homes with a big-ass attic. So we used to go dig through there. And as a really young kid, I remember finding one of his rectangular Hamiltons. And just really getting fascinated by it. Years later, I ended up stealing it from him and having it restored. I just gave it back to him for their fiftieth anniversary.

LRB: I’m sure he loved that.

JW: I remember my dad having cool watches, so it’s kind of always been a thing for me. I was a mechanical geek. The continuity, the similarities, obviously, between vehicles, and watches is just immediate.

LRB: Why do you think there is so much crossover appeal between watch and car people?

JW: Just unnecessary, if it’s the right car, unnecessary attention to detail. The advancement of and use of finishes and materials and such. When I was eight I started sketching cars. And around the same time, I was starting to sketch watches. I just never thought about commercially pursuing it and followed automotive. Automotive is very interesting to me too because as a rampant hobbyist in various arts, automotive was this amazing perfect storm that was a really good extroverted platform that combines so many different arts that I dig, that that’s kind of what drew me there first. And then, I have an absurd photo file collection from going to collections and shows around the world and I’m never shooting, I’ve noticed, front 3/4 of a whole car, like hyper-rarely. Usually, it’s with a 100 mm and I’m geeking out on the cloisonne or the hinge or the clock or the watches, so just the gauges, clocks and gauges, I probably have four or five thousand photos.

LRB: Really?

JW: I’m very disorganized. Yeah, could be. So one of the very first times I saw one of the early Duesenbergs with that drum-style gauge if you’re familiar with it (Ed. note: see below pic) … I always loved jump hours, and it was immediately obvious that it needed to be a jump hour watch. No fucking brainer it was the way to go. So when I … you know for a while I was feeding the beast, and between kids and a small company with no partners, no partners, no nothing, I could dig watches and grab the occasional cheapie, and over the years I’ve allowed myself to get a bit more perverted, so I have a pretty intense collection.

The dash found in a vintage Duesenberg that inspired the scrolling minutes indication on the ICON Duesey.

LRB: So how long did the watch development take from concept to completion?

JW: Oh, it was supposed to be super-simple. It was in my head for decades, eventually, I was like fuck it, I have to make it, it has to get done. So I sit down Svend Andersen and a few other unique, one-off dudes … I brought my roughed-out sketches, and like, it’s kind of where I was going, like I’d really love to have one, but price points they were quoting me were outside of my reality. Then we partnered with my shop at Autodesk on some new CAD software, and I have proper engineers that know what the heck they’re doing, but usually, I can do Southpark CAD, enough as a communication tool for the client or my renderer or the engineers. But they volunteered to send a tutor down with the shop once a week. So I was like “Hmm.” Instead of doing automotive parts, because that can be knocked out in-house, I’m gonna pursue the watch. So for a year, I played with and educated myself with trial-and-error, just going for it and designing it, and 3D printing and machining shit, duct-taping 3D polymer and just kind of kept going. Then I talked my wife into being my partner and letting me do it. So I went for it, and it was a shitshow. Doing business in Switzerland as an independent American means showing up and saying “I want ten thousand watches.” It’s a total nightmare but it was cool peek behind the curtain because I’d met everything from dudes basically with trench-coats and watches to big corporate meeting rooms filled with twenty people. But something felt really wrong on both ends of the spectrum. The partner I really wanted, that I knew their track record and knew they had a great relationship with Dubois Depraz (Ed. note: Dubois Depraz built the jump hour module found in the Duesey), they were like, “Yeah, no, our minimum skew is five hundred units, and we like to do five skews per order,” and I was like “Nah.” So I was resigned that it wasn’t gonna happen, and as the meeting was ending the CEO came around kissing babies and handing out business cards in all the little meeting cubicles, he ducked into ours as we’re wrapping up; “Hi, nice to meet you.” As we’re walking to the elevator, he came back and goes “I know your brand. My friend has one of your trucks in Moscow. They’re amazing! What are you doing here?” And I told him, he was like “No, no, no, come back in. We’ll do it, I think we can scale to what you wanna do.”

LRB: Was there a single issue that really held up the process?

JW: VantaBlack. You know what that is?

LRB: Yeah, Anish Kapoor. Did you want to use that?

JW: Fuck yeah, I did. Would have been so cool. I got approval from the British government to export it because it’s technically a military material and you have to get approved where I’m using it in this segment, I’m not building fucking aerospace optics, or whatever. Then I got approval from the U.S. to import it. And then the Swiss Watch Federation shut me down. Because it’s a nano-particle and they blanket knee-jerk all nano-particle carcinogens.

LRB: There have been other watches that have used-

JW: Yeah, but they aren’t part of the Federation. And technically it’s a bit of a liability the more I researched, because down the road for service if it doesn’t go to a clean room with a respirator on the technician, it can be a health problem. Because it’s basically a forest of nano-particle trees, so if you touch it, it’s fucked.

The ICON Duesey on an original Duesenberg radiator cap.

LRB: Really? I didn’t know that.

JW: That’s why they only used it on the background sandwich layer of those watches. There’s a new VantaBlack though, not VantaBlack but the first competitor to VantaBlack, for which the application process is far more viable. So we went through fifteen different black things to figure out what worked on the dial. Of course, it wasn’t an enamel, it wasn’t paints and powders or DLCs. However, the onyx I ended up really digging. Actually, even more than VantaBlack, because the way the light plays is kind of cool.

LRB: Did designing and building your own watch influence how you perceive watches? How you collect them?

JW: No, not really. I mean, I think when designers don’t have constraints, their work generally … that’s their worst work. Even my, probably my favorite industrial designer, Raymond Loewy, when he did projects for himself … just no restraint because there was no constraint. In automotive we have it but not as tight. So with watches, the mandates and the limitations, the confines, I liked, as it creates a very clear focus of what we want to do, like legibility, geometry, ergonomics, sizing and packaging of movements. I really like all that. I mean, I want to screw it up a little bit but that’s why I did a jump hour. At least to last year, they were not in vogue and then, it’s just crazy how many came out this year. But that’s really what I mean. But no, as a collector, I’m not all over the place. I mean, I’ve got beat-to-shit, no name, ’40’s watches I paid 40-50 bucks for, up to stupid stuff. So I’ve always collected from purely a design. I don’t know reference numbers on my habits or … I really could give a shit. To me, it’s always about the craftsmanship and the design. The watch is totally irrelevant and we all know that.

LRB: You obviously work a lot with Toyota. And Toyota, from most people’s perspective, produces very utilitarian vehicles. But what you’re doing with ICON, you’re elevating that utilitarianism into something higher. Do you see that happening in the watch industry?

JW: Oh sure, I mean I … I think, in unison, the whole industry’ is doing that. From MB&F’s wacky shit to [Laurent] Ferrier’s simple elegance, to the new Glashütte line, I think with everyone that’s the thing. And, you know, there’s an ass for every seat, as Henry Ford said, so it’s interesting to see the spread and the styles and the genres and all that.

LRB: How has the feedback been among your long-time clients? 

JW: Well actually, what I really dig is how people don’t really know my brand, like they’re not into what we’re doing. They think of us for 4×4’s. They think of the Bronco or a Red Toyota. So it would have been if I was focusing on that customer base, which is our majority versus we do a lot of one-offs from Ferrari to power wagons, those are my favorite. If was doing this solely from a business perspective, I would have done a Bronco watch or a 4×4 watch, but I’m not that smart and I don’t want to. I’m more coming at all of those from the design of our utility vehicles, where the idea is bespoke utility. Evolve their capability, make them relevant for modern day and then make it so that geeks like me wanna touch it. Make all the materials and bring all the suppliers from aerospace, marine, and railcar and fuse them all together in a cohesive design, that’s what I really dig. So, the majority of the buyers are new to the brand and aren’t my automotive clients. Which is kind of cool.

The lizard that appears on the rotor and crown is a California Blue Belly and is a trademark of Jonathan Ward and ICON.

LRB: I mean that’s bringing a whole new audience into what you do.

JW: Yeah, totally. And feedback’s been kick ass. I’m tickled pink … one guy who is a client, we showed it to his dad, his dad put in on and never gave it back. His dad has a Duesenberg and he’s like, “Oh shit.” So then he called back and ordered another one. Another guy received it, and he said, “Way better than I thought. Like I was consigned to what I thought cause it’s pretty.” He had seen my prototype photos which were rough. In fact, here’s a valuable lesson I learned in the process. Keep your mouth shut. Find it on your own, bring it to market. Done, ready to rock inventory. I feel I wasted a lot of my gunpowder because I was so excited. So I came around and showed everybody the prototype. Stupid. And got all the love from the media but didn’t have product in stock.

LRB: So would you say that’s a big difference between the watch and the car industry? Because I know in the car world concept vehicles are a constant presence and a huge marketing tool.

JW: Yeah, in the car world, we do that all the time. Either that or it needs to be done smarter than I did. I don’t know. But next time, I’m just gonna self-finance everything. Not try and get presales. Not talk to anyone until it’s done and ready to rock.

LRB: What kind of other noticeable differences were there between the car industry and the watch industry that you didn’t expect?

JW: Well, in the automotive industry the supplier network, once you’re in the industry, is quite open and communicable and accessible. I could call someone at another manufacturer and say, “Dude, I really dig that such and such and who’s your supplier for that?” And he’s gonna tell me. Or they’ll reach out to me and do the same thing. Or, shit I gotta get this machined. Who’s the rock star in aluminum and I’ll send him to my guy. In the watch world? Eh—no one seems as open.

LRB: So, looking at the ICON Duesey, we see some Jaquet Droz in there, we see hints of Cartier, maybe some Bell & Ross. What kinds of watches helped form your design?

JW: I like French military watches for sure, World War I, World War II. I love Jaquet Droz. Those I’m such a nerd about. I spent so much time thinking about, really, all the details. In my head, the watch was purely based on the car and the design language of the ’30’s as well. I love Streamline Moderne, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, all that just chubs me right up.

LRB: So, will there will be another ICON watch?

JW: Hell yeah, hell yeah.

LRB: Are you trying to build out a whole collection?

JW: I don’t really know. But, I doubt in volume. I think I’ll continue to do runs of 50 or 100. Just look at my vehicles, I don’t have any dealers or reps. I don’t have salesmen. I have none of it. I enjoy that direct relationship, and the feedback it brings, and the tribal unity it brings. Also, I modeled [the Duesey] from anywhere from 39 mm to 44 mm. And, I ended up at 42 mm. But, the way the case body is, it’ll sit a little bit deeper and wear a little smaller. And, I think I might creep down to like 40 mm next time. But, it depends on which design I do.

LRB: What other watches do you have in your collection? How many watches do you own?

JW: Probably around 120. I’ve been on a run for a couple of years with trench watches. I really appreciate those. They’re heavily undervalued right now. I’m a sucker for a good story. So, if it’s a neat watch and it’s got a cool story, I’m in. I’m also really into world times too. That’s what I’m trying to decide for my next [ICON] watch because I’m floundering all over the place. I either want to do a GMT with a sub-dial, like a large second sub-dial at six. I haven’t even searched the complication yet, so I might get screwed and it may not exist. But, a 12 hour primary, with a 24 hour GMT subdial, it could be kind of cool. Or, if not a 24, maybe then just the dark, light chapter ring on the sub could help you understand night and day, in the alternate. Or, maybe a world time. I don’t know yet.

The ICON Duesey is priced at $11,500 and is limited to 50 total pieces. You can learn more about Jonathan Ward and ICON4X4 here.

A Monster Launch: Omega’s New Speedy Tuesday 42mm “Ultraman” Limited Edition Sells Out in Under Two Hours

If you weren’t one of the early risers who fired off an order for one on Omega’s Instagram page this morning, you’ve likely already missed out on the latest “Speedy Tuesday” model from the brand’s Speedmaster collection. Officially dubbed the Omega Speedmaster Limited Edition 42mm “Ultraman” and inspired by a historically significant model from 1967, the watch sold out its run of 2,012 pieces in just under two hours (one hour, 53.17 minutes, to be precise).

Omega Speedy Tuesday Ultraman - front
Omega Speedmaster 42mm Limited Edition “Ultraman”

In the event that one of those 2,012 pre-orders is eventually dropped (we’re told it does happen on occasion), and you’re still interested in obtaining one of these timepieces, read on for some detailed info. To start with the basics: “Speedy Tuesday” (or “#speedytuesday, if you will) refers to the series of articles on the iconic Omega Speedmaster model that have been a longtime fixture of online watch publication FratelloWatches.com, founded and headed up by watch journalist and Speedmaster enthusiast Robert-Jan Broer. The “Ultraman” in question refers to the titular character of a 1970s Japanese sci-fi series — regarded as a classic in the Japanese Kaiju genre — about a super-hero who battles giant monsters with the aid of a military-style Monster Attack Team. The new watch takes its design cues from an Omega Speedmaster “Moonwatch” of 1967 vintage that the show’s production team used to equip its heroic monster fighters, which made its memorable debut in the series’ fourth installment, “The Return of Ultraman.” Collectors prized that model for its telltale orange seconds hand, which matched with the orange jumpsuits worn by the team (the Monster Attack Team, of course, not the production team).

Omega Speedy Tuesday Ultraman - reclining
The orange seconds hand matches the one on the 1967 original.

The Speedy Tuesday “Ultraman” edition duplicates that emblematic seconds hand down to its exact dimensions and orange hue and expands the theme with a black tachymeter bezel in anodized aluminum with orange text, as well as with an orange racing stripe on the black NATO strap (an additional black leather strap, as seen in the photo below, is also included). Orange is also used for the “Speedmaster” script under the period-appropriate historical Omega logo, the tips of the hour indices.

Additionally, Omega has included some modern touches to drive home the model’s vintage-inspired provenance, including the first three-minute segment of the chronograph subdial at 3 o’clock in orange, which is an uber-nerdy reference to Ultraman’s ability to remain in super-hero mode for just three minutes before reverting back to human; and a hidden silhouette of the character’s distinctive (to fans, anyway) head profile in the small seconds subdial at 9 o’clock, which can be viewed by using a special tool included with the watch. Designed to resemble the Beta Capsule that Ultraman’s human host, Shin Hayata, used to transform into the giant hero, it features a UV lamp on one end that reveals the image when it shines on the dial.

Omega Speedy Tuesday Ultraman - soldier
Ultraman’s head silhouette appears in the subdial at 9 o’clock, visible under a UV light.

The Beta Capsule tool also doubles as a strap-changer, allowing the wearer to swap back and forth between the NATO and the leather strap, and thus “transform” his watch much like Ultraman changed from normal human to super-powered monster battler. The solid caseback bears engraved details including “#SpeedyTuesday,” the watch’s limited edition number, and the inscription “QUALIFIED BY NASA FOR ALL MANNED SPACE MISSIONS,” signifying it as a descendant of the watch that went to the moon and assuring us that, for all of its science fiction-inspired flourishes, Omega hasn’t forgotten or ignored this model’s impressive history in science fact.

Omega Speedy Tuesday Ultraman - caseback
The caseback features the engraved Moonwatch inscription, along with other details identifying the watch as a limited edition.

One final reference to the TV show’s mythology can be spotted in the packaging — a hexagonal box that references the contours of the futuristic table at the secret headquarters of Ultraman’s Monster Attack Team and includes, as previously mentioned, the Beta Capsule strap changing tool and additional leather strap. If you do manage to wrangle your way onto the list to purchase one, the Speedmaster Limited Edition 42mm “Ultraman” is listed at $7,100. If you can’t, and at one point are motivated enough to seek it out on the secondary market, we’re guessing it will be “ultra” expensive in comparison.

Omega Speedy Tuesday Ultraman - box
The hexagonal shape of the box is another reference to an element from the 1970s “Ultraman” TV series.

 

Borrowed Time: Anonimo Militare Alpini Camouflage Khaki Limited Edition

When I think of Anonimo, particularly its lineup of bronze-cased watches, I can’t help but be reminded of the old Barbara Mandrell song, “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool.” Because Anonimo was doing bronze long before it became the hot new case material in the horological world — before Tudor, before Hublot, before Montblanc, and notably before the brand to which it has been most often held up for comparison, Panerai (the latter, not totally unjustly: Anonimo was established in Panerai’s hometown of Florence in 1997 — after Panerai was acquired by the Vendôme Group and packed up for Switzerland — by a team that included Panerai CEO Dino Zei, and in its early days showcased designs very similar to Panerai’s).

Anonimo Militare Alpini - reclining
The Anonimo Militare Alpini continues the brand’s longstanding tradition of bronze-cased watches.

When new owners acquired Anonimo in 2013, the brand opted to pare down its portfolio, which had grown a bit unwieldy, to two major collections, Militare and Nautilo, (recently joined by a third, the thinner, elegant Epurato), retaining some, but not all, of the technical features and aesthetic keystones that defined its early models, as well as adding a few new ones. From the Militare collection comes the limited-edition, camouflage-dialed model that I review here, the Militare Alpini Camouflage Khaki Limited Edition, which provides a great showcase for many Anonimo stylistic hallmarks, old and new — not to mention being a really sharp-looking, undeniably masculine, sport-luxury chronograph.

Anonimo Militare Alpini - front
The cushion-cased bronze case with 12 o’clock crown is water-resistant to 120 meters.

Anonimo has always been known for large, thick, cushion-shaped cases, and this one is no exception, measuring 43.4 mm in diameter and 14.5 mm thick. All the major parts — including the raised coin-edge stationary bezel, the top-mounted, notched crown, and the pedal-like chronograph pushers with their grooved inserts — are made of a bronze alloy, with the exception of the caseback. Attached to the main casebody by six screws and decorated with a relief engraving of the Matterhorn (the Alpine mountain that straddles the border between Switzerland and Italy, thus lending this watch its “Alpini” surname), the back is made of solid, non-allergenic titanium, by now a fairly common choice for bronze watches, as bronze’s tendency to develop a patina — one of the traits that has endeared the material to today’s vintage-obsessed watch fans — would be less endearing were it to be permitted to turn one’s wrist green. (Patina is nice on metal, not so much on skin.)

Anonimo Militare Alpini - back
The caseback of the Alpini is titanium, with a relief engraving of the Matterhorn.

Also constructed from bronze are the watch’s slightly sloped lugs and the locking crown-protector device that clicks into place above the crown at 12 o’clock. The latter, patented by Anonimo and used on all its Militare models, hearkens back to some of the brand’s earlier watches, particularly those used for diving. It has been designed so that when it has been locked into place, it uses the pressure of the strap to secure the crown and prevent it from being inadvertently moved. The other side of the coin is that this protector needs to be unlocked and moved forward any time one wants to use the crown to wind the movement or re-set the hands, which does prove a bit of a hindrance at times. Even in its open position, the device’s presence makes it a bit difficult to get both thumb and forefinger on the crown, and I found I was better off simply using the surface of my index finger for winding.

Anonimo Militare Alpini Crown Protector
The patented locking device at 12 o’clock keeps the crown water-resistant.

The dial, whose dark khaki green tones are enhanced with a camouflage guilloché pattern, features another Anonimo-specific aesthetic hallmark, namely the unconventional placement of big, boxy Arabic hour numerals at 12, 4, and 8 o’clock — an arrangement that the company says is unique in the watch world. Another sign that today’s Anonimo is emphasizing its Swiss-made pedigree at least as much as its Florentine origins is that the brand now touts this triangular design as another visual reference to a mountain peak, as one would find in the Alps (which, to be fair, are in Italy as well as Switzerland). In any case, it does make for a very distinctive and very legible look. The numerals are applied and filled with Super-LumiNova. The intervening hours are marked by thin, applied white indices, while the minute track, also in white, is printed on the steeply angled flange. The triangle motif, which also can be read as a stylized letter “A” for Anonimo, is repeated above the logo below 12 o’clock.

Anonimo Militare Alpini - dial CU
The military green dial is notable for its camouflage guilloché finishing.

The hands — a slender pentagon for the minutes and a long triangle for the hours — are also filled with luminous substance. The central seconds hand, which counts off the chronograph seconds after a firm press of the top pusher, also uses a white triangle as its counterweight. The two subdials, slightly sunken below the dial’s main level and dotted with white printed numerals and indices, tally 30 elapsed chronograph minutes at 9 o’clock and display the running seconds at 3 o’clock, respectively. An attractive detail that can be seen under a loupe: the waves of the camo pattern are distinguished by alternating guilloché surface treatments, with horizontal, vertical and diagonal line patterns of various line thicknesses. The effect made me want to remove the slightly domed sapphire crystal over the dial and discover what that dial felt like to the touch.

Anonimo Militare Alpini - bezel CU
The groove-edged bezel frames a domed sapphire crystal over the dial.

Secured (and obviously, hidden) behind the relief-engraved titanium caseback is an automatic Swiss-made movement, the Sellita SW300, a workhorse caliber that is often used by manufacturers as an alternative to the ubiquitous ETA 2892, which powers the watch’s hours, minutes, central seconds and date. The chronograph capability comes from an added module developed exclusively for Anonimo by the chronograph specialists at Dubois Dépraz, called the Dubois Dépraz 2035M. (Here it should be noted that Anonimo did go the extra mile to create a top-notch chronograph despite not building its own module in-house; commissioning a module from this specialist Swiss firm allowed the company to take more of an active hand in its development when the easier — and perhaps, less expensive — option would have been to simply use the integrated Sellita SW500 chronograph movement, which is a popular stand-in for the ETA Valjoux 7750.) The modular movement offers a 28,800-vph frequency and a 42-hour power reserve.

The big bronze case is strapped to a tough, supple, olive-drab strap, made of calf leather and handcrafted in Italy. This type of no-nonsense strap, with the telltale white contrast stitching, is another longtime feature of Anonimo watches. It closes with a folding clasp, made of steel and finished with a shiny brass-colored treatment to harmonize with the bronze case. The Anonimo “A”/mountain peak triangle emblem completes the ensemble in raised relief on the buckle.

Anonimo Militare Alpini - buckle
The antic-brass-finished clasp has an Anonimo “A” logo on its top surface.

The inner surface of the strap is soft and smooth, making for great comfort on the wrist; the watch is heavy but not overly so, and the edges of the buckle can pinch a bit if you wear it too tight. Overall, the Anonimo Militare Alpini is a timepiece that makes its presence felt and seen in a positive way. It’s not ideal for every occasion — you’d stand out like a sore thumb wearing this watch’s military green and bronze combo with dark formal wear like a tux, for example, even though the camo pattern itself is relatively subtle — but it’s a perfect match for sportier, outdoorsy outfits, especially those in earth tones, khaki, or even, dare we suggest, military-style olive drab. Of course, you could always just throw sartorial caution to the winds and strap this on with a suit and tie anyway; as the soaring popularity of bronze as a luxury-watch case material reminds us, one never knows what might become a trend. One day you may be able to say you were “camo and cuff links” back when it wasn’t cool.

Anonimo Militare Alpini - wrist
The thick, khaki-colored calf leather strap is sturdy and comfortable on the wrist.

The Anonimo Militare Alpini Camouflage Khaki is limited to 97 pieces (presumably a number chosen to honor the year of the brand’s founding; one additional variation is available, with a brown camouflage dial and walnut brown strap) and priced at 5,250 Swiss francs, or about $5,300.

Five Watches Under $500 You May Have Missed This Year

As 2017 comes to an end, the WatchTime editors wanted to cover some notable watches of the year in a variety of price ranges. First up, here’s our guide to watches under $500 that you may have missed throughout everything that 2017 had to offer. — The WatchTime staff

Everyone loves a good bargain, even in the watch industry where prices can reach the unaccessible in the blink of an eye. While a lot of what we cover at WatchTime deals with watches in the four, five, even six figure range, we always keep an eye on timepieces that have more value to offer. And while there are thousands — if not hundreds of thousands — of great looking new and vintage watches that can be found for under $500, we wanted to focus on what was introduced in 2017 with this list.

Seiko Presage SARB065 - reclining
The Seiko Presage Cocktail Time “Martini” SARB065

While I have a profound appreciation for the Seiko SKX (I’m wearing a Pepsi 007 while writing this), there’s a recent addition to the Seiko stable that I’ve had my eye on for the past few months: the Seiko Cocktail Time. My colleague Mark Bernardo recently wrote about his experience wearing one here, and as you can tell by his review, I’m not the only one thirsty for a Cocktail on the wrist. You can find them for $425.

Tissot_Swissmatic_Nato
The Tissot Everytime Swissmatic

Back in 2013, Swatch unveiled the Sistem51 which was hailed at the time as the “only mechanical movement ever made whose assembly is 100 percent automated.” Priced at a neat $150, the movement had 51 total components, no regulator, and a power reserve of 90 hours. It provided a lot of bang-for-your-buck and was an instant favorite among many of my industry friends. We’ve seen a few different Sistem51 variations since, but a few months ago, we got the first taste of the Sistem51’s mechanics in a different Swatch Group brand: the always-approachable Tissot. The Tissot Everytime Swissmatic has an automatic movement with a 72 hour power reserve that was developed off of the Sistem51. At 40 mm, it’s available in multiple variations, such as white or black dials, a variety of straps, and a PVD rose-gold-covered version. Prices start at $395.

Citizen Promaster Diver
Citizen Promaster Diver

If you’re a diving watch fanatic like I am, then a Citizen Promaster is an easy selection given its good looks and affordability. This specific diver is 45 mm and came out earlier this year. It’s powered by the Japanese brand’s famous light-powered Eco-Drive tech. The dark-blue bezel and dial are a real treat to look at in person — and so is the 200 m water resistance, meaning the Promaster can tag along on your most intense adventures. At $395, it’s a lot of watch for the money.

Casio X Pigalle
The Casio X Pigalle DW-5600PGB-1 and DW-5600PGW-7.

Almost everyone I’ve ever met that is passionate about watches owns a G-SHOCK and for a good reason: They’re affordable, unbreakable, and generally just funky timepieces. There’s a lot to love about Kikuo Ibe’s 35-year old invention. Last month, Casio rented out Madison Square Garden in Manhattan for a big party celebrating the G-SHOCK’s 35th anniversary. Amid the festivities (which included performances by A$AP Mob and Virgil Abloh), one of the new G-SHOCKS released to celebrate the anniversary caught my eye. This collaboration with Pigalle — a streetwear label out of Paris — is shockingly simple and brings a whole new level of appeal to the ever-classic G-SHOCK design. They’re limited to 1,800 total and cost $140.

Finally, my last choice for watches under $500 from this year goes to the always-affable Timex. This year, Timex introduced two super-cool new watches to its catalogue. First, a collaboration with New York City menswear-designer Todd Snyder, and second, a supremely-unique, mechanical reissue from the 1960s that has a whole lot of sex appeal for its age.

Timex Todd Snyder
Timex-Todd Snyder “Blackjack”

The Todd Snyder collection currently includes six different watches that encompass a variety of vintage styles. There’s three military-inspired watches that are inspired by military-spec watches from the 1970s, a Mod Watch with a bullseye dial, and a digital Ironman. My personal favorite has to be the “Blackjack,” which serves as a homage to the automotive glory of Formula One drivers in the 1960s and 1970s. The Timex Todd Snyder collection starts at $98.

The Timex Marlin
The Timex Marlin

Finally, we have the Timex Marlin, a curious watch if there ever was one. The hand-wound Marlin marks the first time in over three decades that Timex has made a mechanical watch. First introduced in the 1960s, it became recognizable across the country after a particularly noteworthy commercial in which the Marlin was attached to an outboard motor underwater and flung from a propeller. Of course, the Marlin kept ticking and was instantly an icon. And now it’s back. You can find it for $199.

The Oris Clipperton Limited Edition

If you know anything about Oris, then you’re probably aware of its diving heritage. Both the Aquis and Diver Sixty-Five lines have fans all over the world and with the brand’s entrenched aquatic history comes conservationist endeavors through the sale of limited-edition timepieces. In 2017, we’ve already seen the Hammerhead LE and the Great Barrier Reef LE II, and now we have the latest update to the conservation collection.

The Oris Clipperton Limited Edition benefits Clipperton Island, a tiny French atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that is, unfortunately, covered in trash and debris. This impacts the diverse surrounding ecosystem, in particular its role in the migration of various species of sharks. It’s the world’s most isolated landmass, approximately 685 miles from Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. The 2.3 square mile coral atoll surrounds a freshwater lagoon and you can spot a large variety of bird species as well as coconut palms throughout the island. It’s currently uninhabited by humans, although it has a checkered past over the centuries as a landing spot for pirates, military personnel, and guano miners. In recent years, the only visitors tend to be scientific researchers, fishermen, and, on occasion, shipwreck survivors.

Clipperton Island - Oris
Clipperton Island 

Back in June, Oris announced that it was sponsoring the “Clipperton Expedition,” which supported a group of scientists, photographers, and conservationists on a visit to the remote island. Only accessible by boat, it took over 80 hours for the crew to reach the landmass. Six months later, this watch is the culmination of that trip and the brand’s efforts in getting the word out about the atoll and its precarious future.

Oris Clipperton

The Clipperton LE has a gradient blue dial that reflects the deep blue of the lagoon inside the atoll, which reaches a depth of 40 meters at some points, so it’s good thing the Clipperton LE offers 300 meters’ water resistance. Inside the 43.5 mm case, the Oris Caliber 733, which is based on the Sellita SW 200-1, offers a 38-hour power reserve. The dial is quite striking on the wrist and the color dances with the light in a manner similar to the constant motion of the ocean.

One of the more appropriate aspects of the timepiece is the presentation box that the watch comes in. Made from regenerative algae, it is an active demonstration in how Oris has embraced the landmass and its commitment to ocean conservation. The Oris Clipperton LE costs $2,000 on a rubber strap and $2,200 on a stainless steel bracelet. It is limited to 2,000 total pieces and will be available in retailers in February.

Oris Clipperton LE

 

How it Works: Casio Smart Outdoor Watch WSD-F10

Just about every smartwatch has functionalities that are useful in recording and tracking physical activity —  but only Casio has produced a watch specifically engineered for the rough-and-tumble of the great outdoors. Earlier this year, Casio released its WSD-F10 Smart Outdoor Watch, an Android Wear wrist device tested to U.S. military standard specifications and outfitted with a plethora of functions for outdoors enthusiasts. Here is what you need to know about this tough and versatile timekeeper, accompanied by photos taken during its “test run” on a hike through New York’s Adirondack region.

Casio Smart Outdoor Watch - branch

The WSD-F10 model has a hefty but lightweight case, measuring 61.7 mm x 56.4 mm x 15.7 mm and weighing in at 93 grams. It has been tested for 50 meters of water-resistance, meaning it can be worn during rainstorms and in situations that involve contact with water. The watch comes on a soft polyurethane strap engineered to conform to any wrist and to be worn in comfort for extended periods.

On the side of the case are two large operating buttons with a slip-free finish for ease of use even while wearing gloves. The “TOOL” button at the top right is used to engage the watch’s outdoor-friendly functions: compass direction, air pressure and altitude, sunrise and sunset times, tide graphs and activity graphs. The “APP” button in the lower left brings up the various apps, powered by Android Wear, which measure vital stats for such activities as trekking, cycling, and fishing. Users can also load their own apps to expand the watch’s feature set. A built-in sensor on the right side of the watch reads atmospheric data such as air pressure (which can be used to predict the likelihood of rain) and altitude.

Casio Smart Outdoor Watch - compass - wrist
Useful tools in the Casio Smart Outdoor Watch include a compass (above) and air pressure sensor (below).
Casio Smart Outdoor Watch - barometer - wrist

The watch’s face, equipped with a capacitative touchscreen, has a 1.32-inch dual-layer display, with both color and monochrome LCDs; color density is 320 x 300 pixels. Users can choose to display apps and data measurements in color or select the monochrome, power-conserving “Timepiece Mode,” which displays only the watch’s timekeeping data, to extend the watch’s battery life to more than a month. Otherwise, the watch’s lithium-ion battery requires a charge of approximately two hours (from the included magnetic charging terminal) roughly once a day. Various other watch-face options are available.

Casio Smart Outdoor Watch - weather

Among the outdoors-specific apps, powered by Android Wear (but not supported by iOS devices), are the following:

  • The ViewRanger GPS app, which provides route information, navigation guidance, altitude graphs, location data, and distance to the wearer’s next waypoint; this can be downloaded from www.viewranger.com.
  • The Runkeeper fitness app, for mobile running and cycling; used by more than 50 million people, it tracks and records routes for running, cycling, walking, and trekking. (www.runkeeper.com)
  • MyRadar, a popular weather app already downloaded by more than 17 million users; it offers real-time updates showing rain or snow near the wearer’s current location and allows them to check forecasts quickly and easily. (www.myradar.acmeaom.com)
Casio Smart Outdoor Watch - multiple
Several choices of watch faces are available, including this one that combines multiple outdoor functions on subdials with an analog-style time display.

The watch can also link to the Casio Moment Setter+ smartphone app, which can be configured to send info based on previously set conditions, including speeds, distances, time of sunrise, break timing, even when fish tend to be most active. The built-in audio mic — which can be used for Google voice searches — can be used even in harsh, rainy conditions. Other Google apps and services, including GMail, Google Maps, and Google Fit, are also supported.

Casio Smart Outdoor Watch w/ iPhone
Casio Smart Outdoor Watch w/ iPhone

Like all “smart” and “connected” watches, the Casio Smart Outdoor Watch requires a smartphone to connect with, in this case an Android device with Android 4.3 or later or an iPhone 5 or later model with iOS 8.2 or later. Available in red, green, black, and orange, this wrist device for tech-savvy outdoor enthusiasts and weekend adventurers retails for $500.