By Roberta Naas
Photography by Jeff Crawford | October 1, 2014 | Watches & Jewelry
Chicagoans are inspired by all that is around us—as are watchmakers, who look to history, human achievement, and the endless possibilities of space to spur creativity and embolden their designs.
The art of watchmaking is a nearly 500-year-old tradition. Still, artisans continue to build even more beautiful, intricate, and mechanically innovative timepieces that are truly works of art. In the beginning, inspiration was drawn simply from the revolutionary ability—thanks to the development of the mainspring— to build these cutting-edge devices. But as time and technology progressed, watchmakers became more creative in their designs. Today inspiration can come from a host of sources: For some, it is architecture and design; for others, it is the heavenly skies and the natural world, the power of machines, or the richness of history. Here is a look at several stunning creations where inspiration has been channeled into an artful wristwatch.
In the last half-millennium, watchmakers have looked to other builders and inventors for design ideas, drawing inspiration from modern automated miracles such as cars, planes, rocketry, and even high-tech bicycles.
1. This Omega Speedmaster Mark II ($6,250) is inspired by the Speedmaster Professional chronographs that accompanied the astronauts when they took their first steps on the moon in 1969. The newest offering features an automatic movement and tachymetric scale on a sapphire crystal that is illuminated underneath by an aluminum ring filled with Super-LumiNova. It houses the Co-Axial caliber 3330 self-winding movement with an Si14 silicon balance spring and columnwheel chronograph. Omega Boutique, The Westin, 909 N. Michigan Ave., 312-291-9412
2. Movado’s Parlee limited-edition automatic chronograph ($7,500) is created in partnership with Parlee Cycles, a brand renowned in the cycling world for excellence. With just 250 pieces made, this exclusive high-tech watch is inspired by the ultralightweight material utilized to build Parlee road bikes; in fact, it is crafted from the same unidirectional carbon fiber used to construct the racing bicycle’s frame. The ultrastrong sports-performance automatic chronograph watches are available with dial accents in green, orange, blue, or white. New York Jewelers, 11 N. Wabash Ave., 312-855-4999
3. Hamilton first took to the skies with the American airmail postal service in 1919, when pilots made their fledgling runs between New York and Washington. For nearly 100 years, the brand’s deep involvement in aviation has inspired both the form and function of its designs. Hamilton’s Khaki Skeleton watch ($1,295) features a skeletonized H20 movement with propeller-like accents that pay homage to this unique history. Rogers & Hollands, Water Tower Place, 835 N. Michigan Ave., 5th Fl., 312-944-4300
Many of today’s foremost brands have a storied past from which to draw ideas for timepieces that blend the best design elements of yesterday with today’s innovations.
1. This Hermès Dressage L’Heure Masquee ($43,750) recalls the brand’s equestrian origins. The new 18k rose-gold Dressage watch features an inventive complication that “hides” the time: The watch’s default appearance only displays the hour hand, with the minute hand hidden behind it. With the push of a button on the side of the case, the minute hand moves to display the full time. The piece also features a dual time indicator. Just 500 of these watches will be made. 25 E. Oak St., 312-787-8175
2. From Rolex, the Oyster Perpetual Explorer watch ($6,550) is inspired by the brand’s great adventures in the Himalayas—a nod to the first successful ascent of Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary, who famously reached its summit in 1953 wearing a Rolex Oyster. The watch is crafted in steel with a perpetual mechanical self-winding movement and is a COSC-certified chronometer that is fitted with a steel Oysterlock bracelet. Razny Jewelers, 1700 Green Bay Road, Highland Park, 847-432-5300
3. Breguet founder Abraham-Louis Breguet is the father of invention when it comes to watchmaking: In the early 19th century, he designed and patented the first tourbillon escapement. Inspired by this history, Breguet continues to innovate and regularly releases stunning tourbillon timepieces. The new Classique Grande Complication Tourbillon ($102,700) is crafted in 18k gold and houses a hand-wound, hand-engraved movement offering a small-seconds coaxial with the tourbillon escapement. Tourbillon Boutique, 545 N. Michigan Ave., 312-836-3800
4. The new Montblanc Homage to Nicolas Rieussec limited edition ($11,500) is a tribute to the French watchmaker who patented the chronograph in 1821 to precisely measure the running times of individual horses at a race. This rich history inspired the brand to create an entire collection with distinct manufacture movements. The watch’s unmistakable appearance combines an off-center hour circle in the upper part of the dial and the chronograph’s elapsed-time displays in the dial’s lower portion. Like the 1821 original, elapsed time is shown on two rotating discs, above each of which a motionless hand indicates the passing seconds and minutes. C.D. Peacock, 172 Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook, 630-571-5355
5. Inspired by the record-breaking ultrathin watches it developed in the 1950s, Piaget returned to the drawing board and took three years to build this revolutionary new Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P ($27,800). The brand was even inspired to give the watch a name that harkens to the past (the original ultrathin caliber released in 1957 was called the Caliber 9P). This new 38mm white-gold piece is the thinnest mechanical watch, featuring movement parts that are actually merged with the case in an innovative design that is an impressive 3.65mm slim. Trabert & Hoeffer, 111 E. Oak St., 312-787-1654
From moon-phase timepieces to watches that depict the zodiac to those designed with globe motifs, this category of watch is imbued with imagination as vast as space itself.
1. From Jaeger-LeCoultre, this Duomètre à Quantième Lunaire ($42,700) houses an extraordinary Dual-Wing movement that offers two independent power supplies. The watch displays the date and age of the moon for the Northern and Southern hemispheres, synchronized though the jumping second-hand mechanism, which displays one-sixth-of-a-second increments. Marshall Pierce & Company, 29 E. Madison St., Ste. 600, 312-372-2415
2. This Bovet Amadeo Fleurier Orbis Mundi moon-phase watch ($66,700) offers hours and minutes with a second time zone, plus a moonphase indicator that can be adjusted to a specific time zone. The mechanical watch is crafted in 18k gold, and the moon disk is hand-painted. The watch can be easily changed from a strap wristwatch to a pocket watch to a table clock. Geneva Seal, 112 E. Oak St., 312-944-3100
3. From Arnold & Son, this HM perpetual moon watch ($29,950) is crafted in 18k rose gold. The 42mm watch features a blue lacquered guilloché dial and rose-gold perpetual moon indicator. The mechanical Caliber A&S1512 offers 90 hours of power reserve. Swiss Fine Timing Atelier Jewelers, 645 N. Michigan Ave, 312-337-4700
4. This Harry Winston Midnight Moon Phase automatic watch ($28,400) is crafted in 18k rose gold and offers moon-phase indication via a realistically inspired gold moon display in a subdial at 6:00. Beneath that moon indicator is a retrograde date indication on the outer rim. The watch is finished with a sapphire caseback for viewing the meticulously finished movement. 55 E. Oak St., 312-705-1820
5. A. Lange & Söhne’s Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase ($48,200) is crafted in 18k pink gold with a solid silver argenté dial, with a solid gold moon-phase indicator that features a patented coating process. The watch also offers big date and up-down power reserve indications, along with a subsidiary seconds dial with stop seconds. Sidney Garber, 118 E. Delaware Pl., 312-944-5225
January 23, 2019