5 Watches & Their Counterparts From The World Of Horological Collectables
For our latest edition of ‘In Good Company’, we delve into the world of watch-related collectables with the help of an expert who has made them his professional obsession
If you’re an enterprise in the business of luxury in the 21st century – that is to say, making and selling beautiful things of limited practical use – then the importance of crossover potential simply can’t be overstated.
From the gilded halls of auction houses to the queues in which shoppers eagerly line up for the newest fashion-stroke-streetwear collab, there has never been a time (in recent memory) when it has been more invaluable for brands to ensure everything they do reaches beyond the confines of their target audience.
It’s the reason why clothing designers are making so much restaurant merch; or why Rimowa has transposed the language of grooved aluminum into a life-sized, literal ‘cabin’. Everybody, it seems, is angling to cash in on ‘crossing over’ – a phenomenon that is certainly alive and well in watch culture.
Over the past half-decade, the thin (and arbitrarily drawn) line that separates luxury watchmaking from fashion, art, and the modern cult of celebrity has been steadily eroding. Now, for a certain type of very irreverent collector, there’s fun to be had in taking one’s patronage of Rolex or Patek one step further – hence the rise of watch-related ‘collectables’.
Best defined – and the jury’s still out on this one – as ‘any clothing, accessory or design object linked with a watch brand which isn’t a watch itself’, we’ve partnered with Alan Bedwell, proprietor of New York-based Foundwell and former vintage buyer at Ralph Lauren, to bring you a selection of the seasoned antique expert’s favorite horological collectables.
Think of these as a great way to sucker your design or fashion-loving friends (the ones who insist they “aren’t into watches”) into the hobby…
Audemars Piguet Dual Time x Crystal Porsche 911
Indicative of the offbeat, heritage-inspired designs that used to be the bread and butter of the ‘Jules Audemars’ collection, this yellow gold Ref. 25685 combines a classic proportion (i.e. 36mm) with the first dedicated self-winding, dual timezone movement to be produced at Audemars Piguet.
In spite of that textbook neo-vintage pedigree, we feel that the asymmetric dial layout and stylized displays (i.e. the recurring use of Roman numerals) imbue this precious metal dress watch with old-timey appeal - the kind of doohickey we can picture a rakish shipping executive wearing (circa 1970) whilst dialing in for his regular transatlantic telephone call.
“I imagine the individual who selects this watch [over something like a GMT-II] to be a connoisseur,” says Bedwell. “They travel, appreciate technology, and enjoy the finer things in life.”
For just such an individual, Bedwell suggests a 1:14 scale model of the Porsche 911 G Series - crafted by celebrated French glassmaker Daum. Just one of 38 cars, these meticulously detailed Porsche-themed glass reproductions laid the groundwork for the now highly collectible ‘Standard Large Car’ series.
“This stunning and rare reproduction of the G-Series 911 will look great on the Dual Time collector’s desk in the office,” Bedwell enthuses, “or on the bookshelf at home - steps away from the real thing sitting in the garage”.
Must de Cartier x Cartier Gold & Diamond Lighter
Among the most perfectly executed ‘fashion watches’ of the last 50 odd years or so, the Must de Cartier (inspired by a literal English translation of the French tagline ‘il fait que Cartier’) distills the most desirable aspects of the brand’s shaped watchmaking into an on-trend and accessible package.
The simplicity of this particular Must (a modern reference which pays tribute to the striking, lacquered blue dials of the 1970s) offers a great contrast to Cartier’s assortment of gem-encrusted lighters: especially, in Bedwell’s view, this 18k gold number designed in the Art-Deco style. “Cartier fans have fine, elegant taste and when necessary, enjoy a touch of flair,” says Bedwell. “I think those who opt for Musts will enjoy pairing them with those original gold and diamond lighter.”
Made sometime in the 1930s, this lighter features a ‘lift arm’ construction, with the detachable part of the snuffer set with 36 pavé diamonds - irrefutable proof that the brand took its ‘Jeweller of Kings’ mantle seriously even where watches and bangles weren’t involved.
Bedwell’s own view is that “there’s possibly no better way to light a cigarette than with a shaped watch on your wrist and this stunning lighter in your hand - both from the same venerable atelier”. “Even if it’s just to impress yourself,” he continues, “the combination will put a smile on even the most accustomed of faces”.
Vacheron Constantin Historiques Triple Calendar x Silver Cigar Compendium
A part of the critically beloved family of heritage-inspired ‘Historiques’ watches, this triple calendar (a.k.a. calendrier) is an ode to the Ref. 4240 - Vacheron Constantin’s first serially produced run of calendar wristwatches, originally launched in 1942.
Thoroughly modern in all technical respects, the watch recreates the ‘cowhorn’ (cornes de vache) lugs and iconic dual-window display of vintage VC calendars - finished with Art-Deco numerals that you’ll also glean across the wider Historiques collection.
“I like to think that the collector who wears this watch understands and has a healthy respect for the past,” Bedwell muses. “One can see the history of design being very important to them: if they happen to smoke cigars, whether at home or in the office, they’d probably store them in a compendium that’s as fine and elegant as this wristwatch.”
Crafted in the early 20th century by English silversmith John Henry Hill, compendiums of this size and complexity are unusual - making for a fine companion piece to the Vacheron Triple Calendar. Containing a divider for both cigarettes and cigars; in addition to three ashtrays and cutting accessories, there is essentially everything one needs to be a bona fide stoagie enthusiast.
“Pieces of this quality are rare,” Bedwell explains. “[This compendium] combines all of the elements you’ll need for enjoying the smoking pastime, and better yet, centralizes them under a single impeccably preserved lid.”
Piaget Altiplano x Art Deco Cufflinks
With the recent rise of popularity in smaller watches and elegant bejeweled designs, Piaget is the consummate example of a brand that is finally getting its dues.
The brand’s historic claim to fame has always been chicly appointed wristwatches powered by ultra-thin movements; and this Altiplano - part of a family of dress watches that utilize the manually wound caliber 838P - is in keeping with that tradition.
The dial itself, unadorned save for a sub-seconds (complete with ‘mated’ power reserve), makes for a great option when you’re in need of a timepiece to complement format attire - pared back, elegant, and largely very un-shouty.
Naturally, Bedwell was mindful that the archetypal collector of vintage Altiplanos probably has an equal sensitivity to dressing elegantly; and thus, it’s unsurprising that he turned to a pair of vintage platinum cufflinks (set with star sapphires) for this pairing.
“These stunning Art Deco cufflinks are a textbook match for Piaget. And since the watch in question is encased in white gold, it was important to select something that would ensure the wearer isn’t mixing metals - especially when they’re out on the town for the evening. Plus, the striking color of the star sapphires lends itself to the watch’s blued steel hands.”
Zenith Pilot Cronometro TIPO CP-2 x Zenith Military Clock Retailed by A. Carelli
As movement maker of the iconic Daytona family of Rolex sports watches (from 1988-2000), it should come as no surprise that Zenith has a history of making various other chronographs that offer some of the best performance in the industry.
This Tipo CP-2 offers a modern lens on the ‘Cairelli’ - a series of chronographs that Zenith supplied, through eponymous Roman retailer A. Cairelli, to members of the Aeronautica Militare Italiana. A deviation from the elegant, almost dandyish racing chronographs of the early 20th century: the original Cairellis sported dials featuring a hyper-legible bi-compax layout and a rotating bezel graduated for 60 minutes of flight time.
The CP-2 is extremely faithful to this design heritage, yet updates things on the technical front with the addition of the automatic calibre 4069 - the same 30-minute chrono movement you’ll find in the El Primero ‘Classic’.
“Considering the CP-2’s heritage,” Bedwell observes, “there could be no better pairing than this amazing Zenith A. Carelli military clock - from the cockpit of an Italian plane during WWII”. “This pairing is like that of fine cigars and rare whiskies - made for each other.” Well said.