by Karishma Karer
The evolving nature of a “grail watch.” Indeed, one’s preferences and priorities in the world of watch collecting can change over time. What may have been the ultimate dream watch in the past might not hold the same appeal today. As our tastes, budgets, and knowledge of horology evolve, so do our perceptions of what makes a watch truly exceptional.
The beauty of the watch collecting journey is that it can be a dynamic and ever-evolving experience. You may find yourself drawn to different styles, sizes, or eras of watches as you explore the vast and diverse world of timepieces. Vintage watches, for example, often carry a unique charm and history that can be immensely appealing to collectors.
Ultimately, the concept of a “grail watch” is a reflection of your personal journey and your evolving relationship with watches. That being said, there has been that one watch which has stood all “tests of time” for me, and I would even go ahead and call it my grave watch – the A.Lange & Sohne Zeitwerk.
It all began as I first laid my eyes on the “Original” ZEITWERK at SIHH in 2009. To my surprise, a traditional German Manufacture just dropped a mechanical digital display of time! This first version featured the manual-winding calibre L043.1, showcasing jumping hours and minutes via three discs and aligned apertures, moving from left to right. The design of the numbers and apertures bore a striking resemblance to the ones on the 5-minute clock atop the Semper Opera House’s stage in Dresden, a historical timepiece crafted by Johann Christian Friedrich Gutkaes, who also happened to be Ferdinand Adolf Lange’s mentor.
Now given the jumping hour and the jumping minutes, the movement requires periodic winding to set both the disc indicators in motion, ensuring a consistent transfer of energy to the balance. These additional springs draw power from the main source. Consequently, the amplitude of the balance wheel’s oscillations begins to vary unpredictably, thereby impacting the accuracy. Hence we saw the introduction of Caliber L043.1 which solved all these problems from a new barrel design to the use of a gear train and the constant force to protect the regulator from any fluctuations. In simpler words, the constant-force escapement enables exceptionally accurate one-minute disc rotations, precisely to the second.
Today, much like the Richard Lange and Lange1’s, the ZETWERK has become one of the key members of the A.Lange & Sohne family. Read more here.
From a digital display to a diagonal one, another watch that comes to mind is the Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921. To begin with, owning a Vacheron Constantin timepiece is truly a symbol of your appreciation for horological tradition. But, besides the historic connection, this one stands out for two reasons – the unique cushion-shaped case and that unconventional diagonal time display.
Born in the 1920s when pocket watches were giving way to wristwatches, this one was originally produced for the American market. In response to a need for enhanced legibility, while keeping the driver’s hands on the steering wheel, Vacheron Constantin ingeniously adapted a cushion-shaped timepiece, tilting both the dial and movement at a 45-degree angle.
Since then multiple iterations of this watch have been manufactured and in different sizes too, however, the one that stood out the most to me was that reproduction that marked the 100th anniversary of the American 1921 watch in 2021.
Why? Well, while the watchmakers in Vacheron Constantin’s Restoration workshop fully mastered the art of bringing back to life their most exceptional timepieces in the course of its long history, never before had they been called upon to rebuild a vintage calibre from scratch. Diving into the archive documents safeguarded by the Heritage department, they began by disassembling and examining every single component of the original 11-ligne Calibre Nouveau powering the original model.
Apart from the bridges and mainplate which had to be recreated, the Restoration workshop’s stocks proved to be a goldmine for the artisans who thereby had access to all the necessary blank parts. This involved extremely laborious research since a vintage case could contain an infinite number of components, all different in terms of size and shape. Finally, we witnessed the rebirth of a vintage that reflects a historian’s approach. An exceptional one-of-a-kind timepiece, a symbol of the Maison’s attachment to its heritage and to the continuous enrichment of traditional know-how.
Last but not the least I’ll wrap up my holy trinity with Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso. Originally designed in 1930 to withstand the blows of the polo matches held in India, this is a watch that I can confidently term an Icon, given how loosely the term is used today.
The transformation of this sports watch into a sophisticated dress watch has been nothing short of a revolution. Just a few years ago, Jaeger-LeCoultre was primarily associated with an extraordinarily exclusive clientele, often considered a brand tailored for a more mature and older audience. However, the perception of the brand has undergone a significant shift in recent times. It’s abundantly clear that there’s a Reverso watch to suit every wrist, without exception. From single-faced to double-faced models, available in various sizes, each one proudly showcases the remarkable craftsmanship of the artisans and watchmakers at Jaeger-LeCoultre.
When it comes to the Reverso, I must admit that selecting just one is quite a challenge for me. While I often find myself drawn to the single-faced models due to the ability to personalize them and make them uniquely mine, there are days when I crave the beauty of the Reverso One’s as well. And, of course, there’s the highly anticipated and much-hyped 2023 release—the Tribute Chronograph. Let’s be honest, it’s an exceptional timepiece! It’s a bit of a full-circle moment, as it reaffirms my belief that there is indeed a Reverso to match every wrist and, evidently, every mood.
From a generously sized mechanical digital timepiece to a case with a unique diagonal design and the addition of an outstanding rectangular watch, these three truly represent my cherished trinity.