Vintage inspired watches make a splash
Bell & Ross WW1 Heure Sautante watch
Maximilian Büsser egacy Machine No.1
Daniel Novela with Jérôme de Witt
DeWitt Academia Tourbillion Force Constate a Chain
Many South Floridians are familiar with Art Basel Miami Beach, but have not heard of BaselWorld. Imagine Art Basel, but with contemporary watches instead of art. Oh, and booths that could pass for luxury homes. Most importantly it’s the one place where one can witness the greatest collection of watches the world has ever seen.
The newest trend is watches inspired by the first wrist watches introduced more than a century ago. The first wrist watches were basically pocket watches with lugs soldered on so there could be a watch strap. Websites such as www.CoolVintageWatches.com and www.wannabuyawatch.com have excelled at catering to this market. The major brands have taken note, and are producing contemporary watches inspired by their vintage brethren.
Three of the most innovated watchmakers at BaselWorld take different inspiration from what is considered “vintage.”
Bell & Ross introduced at BaselWorld their Vintage WW1 Heure Sautante, which is inspired by the pocket watch conversions of the early 20th century. It’s a beautiful interpretation, and this year’s Heure Sautante has a very manageable 42mm case. There are also other watches in the Vintage WW1 series which are sized 45MM.
Maximilian Büsser, formerly head of watchmaking at Harry Winston, founded Maximilian Büsser & Friends with his friends in 2005. The company is innovative. Maximilian Büsser & Friends is organized as a cooperative of friends instead of just employees. This year’s BaselWorld revealed a new limited edition Horological Machine No.4 and showcased my personal favorite, the Legacy Machine No.1 in rose gold.
The Legacy Machine No.1 was conceived when Maximilian Büsser started fantasizing about what would have happened if he had been born in 1867 instead of 1967? The result, a large 45mm watch that has a revolutionary new, in-house watch movement, inspired by pocket watch movements of the 19th century, with the first balance wheel suspended over the dial, on a double arch. The resulting beauty speaks for itself.
Jérôme de Witt, founder of watch brand DeWitt and connoisseur of vintage automobiles, was gracious enough to sit with me during BaselWorld to discuss his latest creations. Most fascinating is his non-conventional way of designing watches. Since de Witt was not traditionally trained as a watchmaker, he was also never taught what his limitations should be. Consequently, his watch designs are some of the most revolutionary of the last 10 years, resulting in the DeWitt Academia Tourbillion Force Constate a Chaine. Quite a mouthful, but its workings are fascinating.
de Witt’s love of vintage automobiles and their mechanics is evident in the chain mechanism, which is displayed on the dial. Constant power is important in mechanical watches, because changes in torque from winding the watches’ mainspring affects the precision of the timekeeping. Tourbillions can actually accentuate the problem. de Witt’s patented solution is to insert an additional mechanism that absorbs the force generated by the barrel once every second, and redistributes it to the tourbillion every 10 seconds, by way of an entirely hand-crafted and hand-assembled miniature chain that takes two days to assemble. Anyone who can appreciate the beauty of a vintage automobile will be smitten by this watch's dial. de Witt refers to his watchmaking as “classical audacity”, and for the staid world of watchmaking, it certainly is.
The trend towards vintage inspired watches is an exciting one, and when coupled with true innovation like these three brands has the best of the future and the past.