Keeping an eye on the time: powerful players in the watch world by Richard Holt
A lot of people find it difficult to leave the house without wearing a watch. Whether it is just the one for all occasions or something different for every outfit, it is an essential part of the armour they need in order to prepare themselves for interaction with other humans. For certain people, they would rather venture out without trousers than go without a watch.
For anyone who has never fully understood the impact a watch can have, they might have a look at Frank Underwood, the character in the Netflix series House of Cards. Kevin Spacey’s ruthless politician makes an art form out of powerful hand movements – a master of the clenched fist, he can use the gesture when addressing expectant voters to show his good-hearted determination, or as a sign to the viewer that he is going to summon up all his demonic fury to destroy whoever is getting in his way. He wields a watch with such malevolent grace that you find yourself in awe of his style, no matter how far he strays from the moral code expected of high office.
Underwood wears many different models, but every watch is by IWC. Although the company is Swiss, its origins, appropriately for a US politician, are American. The International Watch Company was founded nearly 150 years ago in Schaffhausen, on the banks of the Rhine, by a Bostonian watchmaker looking for a skilled workforce to make high-quality pocket watches for the US market.
With the recruitment of local expertise, IWC’s reputation for quality was quickly established. The company passed into Swiss hands in the late 19th century, and in the 20th, as watches moved from pocket to wrist, IWC became known as one of the finest brands. The factory still stands in the same place, with the Rhine flowing gently past a few feet away.
An IWC watch says something about the person wearing it. Yes, it is a premium brand, but also one that is cool without making the wearer appear to be trying too hard. It is about understanding that style and substance are not conflicting qualities, but part of the same thing. That is something any proper watch lover understands. For anyone else, you can always take a lesson from Frank. www.iwc.com
In 1959 Certina introduced its DS (double security) concept, for watches that were both extremely tough and water resistant. The following year, its early DS-1 models accompanied a group of explorers on the first successful climb of Dhaulagiri, one of the most challenging peaks in the Himalayas. This year Certina has released a tribute to that original watch, complete with 1960s styling, an automatic movement and a Himalayan engraving on the exhibition caseback.
This year’s Festival of Speed heralded the launch of a watch that celebrates the 40 years since James Hunt won the Formula 1 world championship. The focal point for the celebration was the red-carpeted VIP room that is the Tag Heuer Drivers’ Club, now a Festival staple, and the place where track stars can be seen taking a break after charging up the famous hill. TAG Heuer’s special edition of its Formula 1 chronograph has a quartz movement and is available on either a steel bracelet or a black NATO-style strap.
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