For me, one of the highlights of Dubai Watch Week 2016 was undoubtedly the chance to view theÂ Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie’s (FHH) exhibition “The Mastery of Time,” which first debuted a few months ago at theÂ Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris. This time the massive collection of historic clocks and watches was set up in the Dubai Mall, along with some additional contributions from the collection of Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, the hosts of Dubai Watch Week. Instead of just giving you a pile of photos from the exhibit, I thought I’d show you my five favorite finds and explain a little bit about why I think they’re so special. Okay, there’s a photo dump too, but you’ve got to hear me out first.Â
Rolex Deep Sea Special
Talk all you want about Paul Newmans and Explorer-dial Subs, this is the Rolex to end all Rolexes. If you’re unfamiliar, this is the so-called Deep Sea Special, a complete beast of a “dive” watch meant to push the limits of watchmaking. I put “dive” in scare quotes there because the Deep Sea Special wasn’t worn on the wrist of a human diver but was instead strapped to the outside of the bathyscaphe Trieste when it took Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh into the Mariana Trench in 1960. Â This isn’t the actual watch that accompanied the men to the deepest part of the planet (that one’s in the Smithsonian), but another in a very small series (it’s unclear how many were made, but a few dozen at the most) and one of the only examples to still have the original bracelet. To actually wear, fine, the Paul Newman still has the edge, but there’s no better example of Rolex as a true innovator and scientific collaborator.
HermÃ¨s Purse Watch By Tavannes
Created in 1928, thisÂ HermÃ¨s purse watch is another awesome little time capsule, though a much less hard-nosed and utilitarian one when compared with the Deep Sea Special above. These little folding purse watches were meant to be kept â you guessed â in a woman’s purse so that she would not have to wear a wristwatch or pendant watch. They’re popular today with collectors, who often use them as little travel clocks and desk ornaments, and this example, made by Tavannes to be retailed byÂ HermÃ¨s is incredible. We’ve told you before aboutÂ HermÃ¨s’s long history selling watches and collaborating with watchmakers and here’s further proof. All you’d need is a matching Birkin to complete the set.
Original Cartier Tank
Yeah, I walked through a massive exhibition of historic watches and clocks, one filled with countless grand complications, gem-set marvels, and crazy references, and I picked a simple Tank watch as one of my top five. This isn’t just any Tank though. This little guy dates to 1920, just one year after the Tank watch was first introduced by Cartier in Paris. There’s not denying the Tank’s status as a true icon of not just watchmaking, but also of design more generally, and this is the original design as it was first envisioned. To understand this watch is to gain valuable insight into one of the earliest commercially successful wristwatches and the trajectory of 20th century watchmaking at large. I’d never seen a Tank this early before and it was a real treat. (It’s worth noting by the way, that for much of its history relatively few Tanks were produced per year. In 1919 only six Tanks were sold; in 1920, 33.)
Audemars Piguet Grande Complication Pocket Watch
The Royal Oak gets all the attention and people sometimes forget that Audemars Piguet was, for a very long time, a complications specialist. The manufacture still has serious watchmaking chops, but look back in the archive and you’ll find crazy pieces like this. This pocket watch dates to 1908, and the clean aesthetic makes the very complex watch look simpler than it is. Packed into the gold case is a perpetual calendar, a single button chronograph, and a minute repeater. In fact, Audemars Piguet abides by the old rule that to be called a “grande complication” a watch must have a chiming complication, a calendar complication, and a chronograph of some kind. Obviously this watch makes the cut.
A. Lange & SÃ¶hne Tourbillon ‘Pour le Merite’
As most of you probably know, A. Lange & SÃ¶hne was resurrected after the fall of the Berlin Wall and presented its first modern collection in 1994. There were four watches in that collection, and one of them was the Tourbillon “Pour le Merite.” This was the new manufacture flexing its horological muscles as hard as it could, and the results were (and still are) astounding. The tourbillon is rather understated, despite the diamond endstones, and the fusÃ©e-and-chain system is entirely hidden under the dial. The model was only produced until 1998 and the version you see here (white gold with a bright blue dial) is one of the rarer versions too. If you’re a fan of modern Lange, and in particular a fan of Lange’s more technical creations, this is where it all started.