Fleming Watches: Entering The Watch Scene With A Not So Entry-Level Watch

Fleming Watches: Entering The Watch Scene With A Not So Entry-Level Watch

THM Desk
27 May 2024 |
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American ambition and Swiss precision are what we can safely call infectious and intense. When you carry an inclination and affinity for both, the result is nothing short of impressive. To be honest, while we were locked down during the pandemic trying to imagine the ‘new world,’ mostly our fantasized recreation from Hollywood’s apocalyptic thrillers, a young Thomas Fleming envisioned his eponymous independent watch brand. With the heft of horological exposure limited to a personal collection and like many of us, an over-obsessive scrolling on Instagram, for Thomas Fleming, bringing the vision to fruition took effort and from our understanding, a few many phone calls to Switzerland.

The hustle ensued for three years and the resulting opus breathed the spirit of a cast of impressive Swiss masters with legendary status. The young American realized not only his dream but an ensemble of watchmaking veterans who wilfully lent him a unique culmination of expertise. The early days of march 2024 witnessed the launch of Fleming’s debut timepiece, the Series 1 Launch Edition. As an authentic expression of a classic dress watch, the Fleming Series 1 melds the essential crafts of traditional haute horlogerie with a contemporary execution, worthy of the $50,000 price tag.

Thomas Fleming's Series 1 Launch Edition in tantalum
Thomas Fleming's Series 1 Launch Edition in tantalum

The Genesis and Its Inspiration

For Thomas Fleming, the idea of creating his own independent watch brand was very abstract. His entrepreneurial spirit didn’t exactly have a horological genesis but of something we would all appreciate (especially the ones enduring the harsh spell of early summer). During his college days, Thomas together with his classmates thought of launching an all-natural beverages company in the spring of 2020. Well, then the pandemic struck and the launch was halted, a predictably smart move.

With not having much to do and ample time to toy around, Thomas obsessively started researching, thinking and posting about watches. This was when the dream of his very own watch company was conceived and the contemplation to launch a namesake brand gave birth. Well, this was also the moment when the realities of the trade hit him, he was American, had no watchmaking background and was not in possession of a gazillion dollars, hence he lacked every enthusiast’s vague checklist of the perfect ingredients to brew a luxury mechanical watch brand. But more importantly what he possessed was an undying passion for watches, particularly their workings and the philosophical essence of a mechanical watch’s “perpetuity.”

Thomas Fleming of Fleming watches, source - The New York Times
Thomas Fleming of Fleming watches, source - The New York Times

For Fleming watches to come into being, Thomas would seek inspiration from a watchmaking duo that defied the odds to establish their somewhat eponymous Manufactures, MB&F and Ming. Learning about the backstory of their operations, Thomas hit upon an enlightenment that reaching the opus of an independent watch brand is possible even in a non-traditional approach. Drawing parallels with art, the multitude of approaches and possibilities to realize a masterpiece and the myriad perceptions and opinions it derives is a reality for any artistic inception and Fleming embraced the idea that his watches, just like artworks would appeal a select few and this sort of complemented his aspiration as an independent watchmaker. Hence ensued a journey to dial in a pool of talent for marking a genesis of his inceptive series and in the next parts we will discuss Thomas’ ideation for the brand and the calling-in of Swiss masters.

Defining a Horological Theme

Designing the language of timekeeping in a palate that draws close affinity to his inspiration and cognition was the next step for Thomas Fleming. The approach to curate a collection fit for a definitive theme and scope of horology took shape in the form of a dress watch. More than a hit and trial, Fleming watches has extensively been a rigorous exercise in design where a lot of ideas sort of culminate into one or get expunged to let a singular aesthetic identity flourish. Without a background in design, Thomas Fleming had to look elsewhere for styling inspiration as well. While the approach Thomas took for his designs seems a bit clinically orchestrated to perfection, yet the unique melding of handicrafts of higher caliber result in a timepiece that looks aesthetically cohesive, is advanced mechanically and feels special.

Without a history, tradition and legacy to restrict the realization of aesthetics, Thomas Fleming sort of took a freehand approach at designing his watches where the best of best made a feature in his creations. There was no risk of deviating from any expectations and each feature was intended to be a nuanced expression of contemporary watchmaking but in a classic style.

Calling the Swiss to Create an American Watch

An all-star cast to feature in a single blockbuster is every producer’s dream! For Thomas Fleming, it was not only a vanity affair, but a calling necessitated by the very essence of his ambition. For creating a mechanical watch of the highest aesthetic and mechanical echelon, you cannot rely on every Tom, Dick or Harry claiming to be a master horologist, you need a vision and execution of a true master. And in the case of Fleming watches, the masters are quite impressive.

The Fleming Series 1 results from a skill culmination of the following:

  • Movement Development: Jean-François Mojon - Chronode
  • Dials: Comblémine by Kari Voutilainen
  • Art Direction: James Kong (COO at Fleming)
  • Designs: Neodesis, Le Locle
  • Component Making: Tradition Mécanique Horlogère SA (TMH SA), La Chaux-de-Fonds
  • Cases (Tantalum): Efteor SA
  • Straps: Jean Rousseau, France

Such a vividly creative exploration of fine watchmaking, yielded by an amalgam of certified veterans isn’t an impossible, but an impressive feat to achieve. With the timepieces being a sum up of such an extensive collaborative affair, I wonder why the brand isn’t called TF&F.

The Fleming Series 1

Lavish craftsmanship and superlative attention to detail are abundant in the inceptive masterpiece from Fleming. The Series 1 is a perfectly proportioned dress watch launched in March 2024 as a trio of iterations:

  • Series 1 Launch edition in Tantalum (25 pieces)
  • Series 1 in Platinum (9 pieces)
  • Series 1 in Rose Gold (7 pieces)
The tantalum, platinum and rose gold Fleming Series 1 iterations
The tantalum, platinum and rose gold Fleming Series 1 iterations

The moderate proportions of the Series 1 timepieces are defined by the 38.5mm and 9mm thick cases. Even a hefty aesthetic homage to classic dress watch design doesn’t prevent the Series 1 from exuding a nuanced allure that makes the timepieces appear contemporary in every sense of the word. Skeletonised horn-shaped lugs and alternating brushed and polished case finishing add immense artisanal charm to the timepieces, but the standouts of the Series 1’s ocular delight are the dials. The craftsmen from Comblémine work their magic with the rose gold and platinum variants of the Series 1 dials with elaborate hand guilloche engravings. The tantalum version gets paired with a multi-part dial featuring aventurine center disc and sub-dial encircled by a frosted platinum disc.

All the artisanal heft demonstrating a higher level of finishing for the case and dials houses a truly artisanal movement, the hand-wound caliber FM-01 developed by Jean-François Mojon of Chronode. With an excessively-ample autonomy of 7 days (168 hours) from its twin barrels, the caliber achieves a frequency of 3Hz. Its movement-side power reserve indication is a functional complement to the distinctly finished movement which emphasizes traditional haute horlogerie decoration.

Caliber FM-01 developed by Jean-François Mojon of Chronode
Caliber FM-01 developed by Jean-François Mojon of Chronode

Takeaways and Forecast Intentions

The harmony of American ambition and Swiss tradition is the core ethos of Fleming watches. Evident in every delectable facet of its timepieces, the embracing of haute horlogerie handicrafts and a sustainable contemporary business mindset pose the brand as a lasting entity in the ever-rigid confines of the luxury watch industry. While the Series 1 is an all-out exhibit of honest workmanship, it sort of teases a direction for the brand’s future. Thomas Fleming is already planning on introducing yet another collab timepiece, this time drawing input from the brand’s ambassador, Tennis Pro Casper Ruud. The Norwegian is a founding investor in the brand and his inspiration would definitely yield a sportier take on the Series 1.

For Fleming watches, the debut is impressive and how it carves a legacy founded on collaboration is a journey we are eager to follow and share with you.