by Punit Mehta, Founder & Chapter Leader – RedBar Mumbai
Cult, a term used to describe authoritarian groups with distinct beliefs, is now more than often used to describe a certain collection or a particular watch that has attracted the attention of collectors and enthusiasts alike. But does a “cult” watch classify as an icon? Let’s try and break it down.
If we delve into the history of wrist watches, one can observe the journey of this micromarvel of engineering from being a mere tool at war to being a symbol of power & status. Infact one can safely say that the watches produced during World War 2, have a substantial influence on the entire watchmaking industry, one of the most impactful ones being the A11 produced by Bulova, Elgin & Waltham.
Which then brings me to a very interesting point, “Cults”. A principle that leads to a certain paradox – With the actual “use” of watches being redundant, the number of people who are “enthusiastic” about these mechanical marvels is increasing globally.
Let’s start with the basics. Watch Enthusiasts are very different from watch buyers – an enthusiast could be a buyer but a buyer may or may not be an enthusiast! Ambiguous? Let me explain. A watch enthusiast is a person who is often intrigued by a watch and the different facets it offers, irrespective of the cost or rarity of the timepiece. An enthusiast will not merely consider it’s investment value and aesthetics, but the entire gamut of the watch including the movement, the intricate dial details, the technology and in some cases the brand history. Contrary to that, a watch buyer would solely focus on one of the facets and make his/her decision based on aspects such as the aesthetics, the social status, rarity of the watch and so on.
History has it that the watch enthusiast is certainly more emotional about the decision to buy a watch whereas a watch buyer would be more driven by the practicality of it.
In the recently formed watch enthusiast communities, certain watches have earned a “Cult” level status for themselves. Now these may not be the most expensive timepieces or ones that are on the never-ending “wait-lists”, but have still become some of the most sought after watches attributing to the uniqueness that they offer.
Listed below are a few examples :
Seiko Giugiaro ‘Aliens Ripley’ Watch – (7A28)
This odd looking watch was spotted in the movie Aliens with Ellen Ripley’s character wearing the watch back in 1983. The watch has a round dial with a protruding case without the usual crown, as the crown is placed under this protruding lug structure. The original watch was conceived by Italian car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro in the early 1980s, and is known for its blocky panel that houses chunky chronograph buttons to the right of the face of the watch. It was also the world’s first watch to use an analog quartz chronograph movement. The Seiko Giugiaro ‘Aliens Ripley’ Watch has seen multiple reissues ever since & has earned a Cult status for many from the Watch Enthusiast community.
Rolex – Submariner
No surprises here! Not very uncommon, the Submariner first released by the crown back in 1953 has been a Cult favorite ever since. The ‘Sub’ as it is fondly coined, has been amongst the first dive watches to be presented to the world. It represents an era of “Sports Steel” watches that are easiest to dress up or down depending making it extremely versatile and thus a favorite. Although one of the most difficult watches to be found at your Rolex AD, these watches are truly an epitome of how simplicity too can be extremely aspirational.
G-Shock – CasioOak (GA 2100)
From a world where iconic designs are usually a playground of a few, Casio brings out a watch, which is not only affordable but considered fashionable too. Did you know that the name Casio Oak is derived from the iconic Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, although apart from the shape of the case there is evidently nothing really common between the two.
The GA2100 introduced in 2019 was derived from the DW5000 with almost no immediate relevance to it’s predecessor! This watch became an immediate success in various watch communities, as it still represents the rugged DNA of a typical G Shock paired with aesthetics that not only appeal to the millennials but also to the seasoned watch collector. It is safe to say that every watch collector would typically have this or atleast some G Shock in his/her collection.
SEAGULL – 1963 Air Force Watch
A relatively odd entry in a world dominated by mainstream Swiss and Japanese watches, the Seagull 1963 made its way in the world of watches in 1961. Being the first watch made in China by the Tianjin watch factory for the Chinese airforce, it was assigned to the Airforce of the People’s Liberation Army for an assignment coded ‘304. In 1963 the first batch of 1400 aviation watches was manufactured & delivered to their Airforce. There have been multiple remakes of this iconic design ever since. For an affordable, vintage looking watch that has no Swiss watchmaking history, the Seagull certainly puts the “if it’s not Swiss, it’s not good” argument to rest!
Now this may come as a bit of a surprise but, although Panerai is a mainstream watch brand, it is one that cannot be ignored. Owing to its rich history dating back to the first Radiomir in 1936 for the Royal Italian navy , its unique shape and that ginormous wrist presence this design itself has become a “Cult”. Interestingly enough, ever since its inception over 85 years ago, the Radiomir has retained its aesthetic DNA. making it an obvious choice as a ‘Cult’ for many
Just like yours truly, watch enthusiasts globally just need a reason, a trigger or merely a fascination towards a particular watch to give it a ‘cult’ status. Contrary to belief, watch enthusiasts are actually very simple people who are sincerely captivated by the true pure beauty of the mechanism. Be it an “affordable” G-shock or a gigantic Radiomir, in my opinion, a true watch enthusiast is driven solely by his passion without any desire to rationalise the obsession.