Keeping an eye on the time: new releases in the watch world by Richard Holt
The watch industry has been known to take itself a little bit too seriously. When a new product is unveiled, it is done with such a flourish that you would think they had invented a machine to cure all ills and simultaneously provide a source of clean, limitless energy. What you generally get, though, is a watch similar to one they made earlier.
The mistake is forgetting the reason why people want watches: we buy them because they please us. And there isn’t anything wrong with grown-ups having toys, of course. The unwritten constitution of life does not demand you should stop having fun as soon as you get the vote.
But the watch industry is in denial – it likes to think of the products it makes in terms of need, rather than want. Which is understandable, given how things used to be.
The Ball watch company dates from a time when mechanical watches were a literal matter of life and death. In 1891, reliance on a faulty timepiece by the conductor of a passenger train in Ohio led to a high-speed collision. The loss of eight lives spurred the rail company to action, and a jeweller and watchmaker by the name of Webb C Ball was enlisted to ensure that all railway workers adhered to strict standards of timekeeping. He implemented a regime of regular testing to make sure no watch varied from the standard by more than 30sec.
This same ethos continues with the company today, with a Ball motto of Accuracy Under Adverse Conditions. Given this, you’d be forgiven for thinking that these would be first in line for a seat in the serious carriage.
The latest release, the Engineer II Magneto S, has a no-nonsense name and design to match. It has a large, simple dial with micro-gas tubes on the hour markers and hands, making it highly legible in low light.
So far so sensible. But the joyful genius of this watch is found on the back. With a twist of the bezel, a beautifully designed, wafer-thin iris aperture shimmers open to reveal the movement beneath. When closed, the system keeps the workings protected with an anti-magnetic alloy. But whenever you want, you can turn the satisfyingly weighted bezel and gaze lovingly at the beating heart within.
Ball takes its timekeeping seriously, but also remembers that customers need to be entertained. They would not want you to call this watch a toy, but it is a lot of fun.
Struthers London was founded by the husband and wife watchmaking team Rebecca and Craig Struthers, after years spent restoring and enhancing vintage timepieces. They have now launched a new watch in collaboration with London Morgan, the swanky Morgan dealership housed in a South Kensington mews. The Morgan Aero 8, inspired by the car of the same name, follows the Morgan philosophy of combining “state of-the-art technology and centuries-old techniques”, according to Struthers. The watch contains a vintage Omega movement that has been stripped back and “remastered”. The case is made of 18ct white gold and the Aero 8 is limited to eight pieces. £22,500
More than two decades after his tragically early death, Ayrton Senna’s name is returning to the range of Tag Heuer, for whom he was a well-known ambassador.
The brand celebrates its association with a series of special Senna editions of its Formula 1 watches. In brushed steel with three chronograph counters, they come with a Ronda quartz movement and represent the entry level to Tag Heuer ownership. They were due to be unveiled at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, which this year marked the Swiss watchmaker’s fifth year as official timing partner. The Tag Heuer Drivers’ Club is now a fixture at the world’s least sedate garden party. £1350
In brief, April 2010
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