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Thread: Origins of the Design

  1. #1

    Origins of the Design

    I thought it would be interesting to track the origin and evolution of iconic design; design elements in watches that are so influential that their longevity seems effortless and their reimagining original.

    For example, here's a Rolex Submariner 6204 from 1954, followed by a contemporary Submariner, followed by a Bremont Supermarine. While the Supermarine's dial, like dozens (or maybe hundreds) of other watch dials, takes its cue from the Rolex, it isn't unoriginal, or so straightforward that it could be considered a homage piece; though it does in some sense pay homage to the Submariner. In this example, I'm referring solely to dials.

    What are some other examples of iconic design (case shape, hands, registers, dials, etc.) that have become part of collective or inherited watch DNA? Breguet hands, anyone?



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    Last edited by Ryan; Dec 10, 2014 at 01:16 AM. Reason: Cut last sentence; adjusted giant jpegs.

  2. #2

    Origins of the Design

    Here's a Breguet pocket watch, designated No. 1135 (c. 1806), which was recently sold back to the company at Christie's "Important Watches" sale. It's as good of an example as any of Breguet's earliest iterations of "Breguet hands."

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    Followed by an IWC 5251 in gold c. 1981.

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    Followed by a Ralph Lauren Sporting Chronograph, c. 2012.

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    Last edited by Ryan; Dec 5, 2014 at 06:53 PM.

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  4. #3
    How about that bronze trend all the kids are talking about? Here's the Gerald Genta Gefica Chronographe from 1995. It's the first bronze watch on the market.



    Followed by IWC's Aquatimer Chronograph Edition “Expedition Charles Darwin,” reference IW379503, released in 2014.



    And finally, rounding out the trend, the Fossil "Vintaged" Bronze Chronograph Mens Watch, reference DE5008. I believe this watch is a 2013/2014 model.

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    Last edited by Ryan; Dec 10, 2014 at 01:14 AM. Reason: Minimized giant Fossil jpeg.

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  6. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan View Post
    How about that bronze trend all the kids are talking about? Here's the Gerald Genta Gefica Chronographe from 1995. It's the first bronze watch on the market.



    Followed by IWC's Aquatimer Chronograph Edition “Expedition Charles Darwin,” reference IW379503, released in 2014.



    And finally, rounding out the trend, the Fossil "Vintaged" Bronze Chronograph Mens Watch, reference DE5008. I believe this watch is a 2013/2014 model.

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    I believe the Panerai Bronzo came before the aquatimer, creating the bronze trend.

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  7. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Durp13579 View Post
    I believe the Panerai Bronzo came before the aquatimer, creating the bronze trend.

    I'm sure you're correct. It wasn't released before the Gefica Chronographe though, was it?

  8. #6
    Big Member Chase's Avatar
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    In the Sub's case the new model is not an homage whatsoever, it is the ongoing evolution of the original piece.

  9. #7
    What about the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, which was the successful response to the French Navy's specification for a watch for combat divers, in 1953?

    We can see from this that the Rolex Submariner, which was designed to respond to the same specification, gained as much from Robert Maloubier's concept in the specification than from their own design. Maloubier (a Captain in the French Navy) was the one who specified the rotating lumed bezel, for example. It was water-resistant to 91 meters (50 fathoms), and did not use a screw crown (it did use a stem with a double O-ring arrangement, which is just as good if kept maintained).


    (Picture from this Monochrome article.)

    The current 5015-1130-52 Fifty Fathoms:

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    (from Blancpain's website.)

    I'm not sure I see much in the way of reimagining. The hands have changed a bit and the dial has more texture effects. I'm sure the new one is bigger. I suspect the current model is made far better than the original, and is far more expensive. But given that it (and the Zodiac Sea Wolf) came out before the Submariner, I'd say the Sub represents one take on a class of watches, rather than it being the single ancestor of the entire breed.

    Here's a 1954 Zodiac Sea Wolf (from a catalog scan):

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    Okay, let's look at the iconic design, not those johnny-come-lately divers.



    This is the first limited version made for Alberto Santos-Dumont and a few others starting in 1904. It was equipped with a Jaeger movement. (Pictures from this Monochrome article.)

    The screwed-down bezel was added for the first commercial version in 1911, and this shows some reimagining:



    This is when the square screwed bezel appeared.

    And here is my Cartier Santos 100 XL, which combines the first case shape with the bezel, in a much bigger watch:



    It was introduced 100 years after the original model made for Santos-Dumont.

    There has certainly been conceptual migration here, but the original design statement comes through undaunted.

    Okay, here's something more recent, and much less well known, but with much more revision over the years while still within the original concept. The Ebel Sport Classic with the five-screw bezel, hexagonal case, and wave bracelet came out in 1977. Here's an ad for the first Sport Classic models:

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    Here's a mid-80's Sport Classic Chronograph, now part of the 1911 collection (1986 was the 75th anniversary of the company's 1911 founding):



    Here's a 1911 Senior from the late 90's, in pretty much the same case, sporting a Girard Perregaux 3300 movement (mine is similar but is powered using a Lemania 8810 and has central seconds):

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    (from WUS member Haf)

    And here's a 1911 Chronometer, which uses a COSC-certified ETA 2892A2, again in pretty much the same case, from 2005:



    This design has branched out, producing such variations as the BTR:



    ...and the Classic Hexagon:



    Is this an iconic design? Not if we respect the meaning of the word. But it is certainly characteristic of a single vision that has indeed been reimagined in various ways without undoing what made it unique in the first place.

    Rick "hoping someone does this with, say, the Tank" Denney
    Last edited by Rdenney; Dec 10, 2014 at 04:37 AM.
    More than 500 characters worth of watches.

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  11. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Chase View Post
    In the Sub's case the new model is not an homage whatsoever, it is the ongoing evolution of the original piece.
    I agree completely. I included it because It seemed important to show the current model when making an argument to the Submariner's lasting influence. And, of course, the Maxi Dial is an evolution itself.

    I didn't intend to make a claim that all watches, and there are many, that reference the Sub dial are homages. Far from it. I used the Sub-style dial as my first example because I think that it's one of the most re-interpreted watch designs in horological history. There's a big difference between a homage piece and the Supermarine in my opinion. And that's why I started this thread. To have some fun doing my own research and hoping that more informed members would add their voice to the discussion on how iconic designs have been re-interpreted and made new. My goal was to compare interesting similarities in a design elements (the dial in this case) to track watch evolution rather than declare homages. I hope these contradistinctions are clear.

  12. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Rdenney View Post
    What about the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, which was the successful response to the French Navy's specification for a watch for combat divers, in 1953?

    We can see from this that the Rolex Submariner, which was designed to respond to the same specification, gained as much from Robert Maloubier's concept in the specification than from their own design. Maloubier (a Captain in the French Navy) was the one who specified the rotating lumed bezel, for example. It was water-resistant to 91 meters (50 fathoms), and did not use a screw crown (it did use a stem with a double O-ring arrangement, which is just as good if kept maintained).


    (Picture from this Monochrome article.)

    The current 5015-1130-52 Fifty Fathoms:

    Name:  5015-1130-52_front.png
Views: 42
Size:  124.3 KB
    (from Blancpain's website.)

    I'm not sure I see much in the way of reimagining. The hands have changed a bit and the dial has more texture effects. I'm sure the new one is bigger. I suspect the current model is made far better than the original, and is far more expensive. But given that it (and the Zodiac Sea Wolf) came out before the Submariner, I'd say the Sub represents one take on a class of watches, rather than it being the single ancestor of the entire breed.

    Here's a 1954 Zodiac Sea Wolf (from a catalog scan):

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Size:  59.7 KB



    I certainly see your point regarding the Fifty Fathoms and Sea Wolf models and appreciate the Submariner's place in history as a result of Robert Maloubier's directive. However, I had hoped to make the case that the Sub plots and distinctive three, six, and nine o'clock bars represented a unique design element that has been consistently re-purposed. It is the plots and bars I was thinking of when I formed my first argument, but I see now that I didn't make it as clear as I could have. Thanks for the history, and I'd be interested to hear more about any other models that were influenced by the Navy's specifications. I wouldn't be surprised if watches that resulted in an attempt to meet these requirements include design that is visible in contemporary models; especially considering the popularity of dive watches.




    Quote Originally Posted by Rdenney View Post
    Okay, let's look at the iconic design, not those johnny-come-lately divers.



    This is the first limited version made for Alberto Santos-Dumont and a few others starting in 1904. It was equipped with a Jaeger movement. (Pictures from this Monochrome article.)

    The screwed-down bezel was added for the first commercial version in 1911, and this shows some reimagining:



    This is when the square screwed bezel appeared.

    And here is my Cartier Santos 100 XL, which combines the first case shape with the bezel, in a much bigger watch:



    It was introduced 100 years after the original model made for Santos-Dumont.

    There has certainly been conceptual migration here, but the original design statement comes through undaunted.

    Okay, here's something more recent, and much less well known, but with much more revision over the years while still within the original concept. The Ebel Sport Classic with the five-screw bezel, hexagonal case, and wave bracelet came out in 1977. Here's an ad for the first Sport Classic models:

    Name:  1978-panel.jpg
Views: 42
Size:  108.2 KB

    Here's a mid-80's Sport Classic Chronograph, now part of the 1911 collection (1986 was the 75th anniversary of the company's 1911 founding):



    Here's a 1911 Senior from the late 90's, in pretty much the same case, sporting a Girard Perregaux 3300 movement (mine is similar but is powered using a Lemania 8810 and has central seconds):

    Name:  82ByT.jpg
Views: 41
Size:  53.3 KB
    (from WUS member Haf)

    And here's a 1911 Chronometer, which uses a COSC-certified ETA 2892A2, again in pretty much the same case, from 2005:



    This design has branched out, producing such variations as the BTR:



    ...and the Classic Hexagon:



    Is this an iconic design? Not if we respect the meaning of the word. But it is certainly characteristic of a single vision that has indeed been reimagined in various ways without undoing what made it unique in the first place.

    Rick "hoping someone does this with, say, the Reverso" Denney


    Great points, Rick. The Santos wouldn't have been my first thought for progenitor of the screw-down bezel, but of course it is. What a classic model. Cartier's historical significance is too often overlooked. In your opinion, what debt, if any, does the Royal Oak and Gerald Genta's design owe to the influence of the Santos?

    I agree that Ebel's vision has remained consistent in the examples above. Was it design or function that drew you to Ebel in the beginning of your collecting?

  13. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan View Post
    I certainly see your point regarding the Fifty Fathoms and Sea Wolf models and appreciate the Submariner's place in history as a result of Robert Maloubier's directive. However, I had hoped to make the case that the Sub plots and distinctive three, six, and nine o'clock bars represented a unique design element that has been consistently re-purposed. It is the plots and bars I was thinking of when I formed my first argument, but I see now that I didn't make it as clear as I could have. Thanks for the history, and I'd be interested to hear more about any other models that were influenced by the Navy's specifications. I wouldn't be surprised if watches that resulted in an attempt to meet these requirements include design that is visible in contemporary models; especially considering the popularity of dive watches.

    Great points, Rick. The Santos wouldn't have been my first thought for progenitor of the screw-down bezel, but of course it is. What a classic model. Cartier's historical significance is too often overlooked. In your opinion, what debt, if any, does the Royal Oak and Gerald Genta's design owe to the influence of the Santos?

    I agree that Ebel's vision has remained consistent in the examples above. Was it design or function that drew you to Ebel in the beginning of your collecting?
    On the divers, Maloubier developed a specification and interviewed companies to make the watch. He chose Blancpain for several reasons, but one was that Blancpain CEO, Jean-Jacques Fiechter, was himself a diver. The Fifty Fathoms I pictured may not have been the first, and that may be confusing. The first used markings similar to the Rolex, but I don't know the source of those markings. Here's a brochure rendering of the 1953 Fifty Fathoms:

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    The first one I pictured was actually the Aqualung Edition, probably not dated as far back as 1953.

    I don't know what brought about the creation of the Sea Wolf, but I rather think it was a popular idea in 1953 and 1954 to create a "waterproof" watch for rugged outdoor activities, and everyone adopted the rotating bezel and the well-lumed clear markings and hands. In 1957, the U.S. Navy tested watches for diver use, driven by the politics of American watch companies. For them, the Zodiac failed because the bezel could be knocked off too easily, and the Rolex because it was too expensive. They also liked the Fifty Fathoms. But that test shows that these three were the diver watches of note in the middle 50's. The Zodiac, unlike both the Rolex and Blancpain, did not have a screw back, but rather had a compressor back that became tighter as the case was squeezed by pressure. They are unpleasant to remove. My Aerospace GMT from the 60's is in the same case. They were rated to 100 meters originally, and those ratings mean more than they do today.

    I was drawn to Ebel by opportunity. This is often the case with hobbies like this. I had an opportunity to buy that 1911 Chronometer pictured above for about a quarter its retail price, and I could not resist. The aesthetics appealed to me--it was creative and well-integrated as a design, modern and flexible, and also a little sporty even in the most elegant implementations. Their watches had the design and the function, for a while, and they spoiled me--nothing at their price point was on the same planet.

    I don't know if a bezel with screws owes all its allegiance to the Santos. The Royal Oak came out during the time the Santos was not being made, and it may have been the Genta design that pushed Carter to offer the Santos, and to offer it with a more pronounced screwed bezel. But bezel screws were sort of a thing in the 70's, and several companies adopted them as basic aesthetic and functional features. Many Ebels had a one-piece case and those screws were how one accessed the movement (or batteries, for quartz models). But Ebel stayed true to the concept for over 35 years, and more than that for the Santos and for the Royal Oak. Hublot's original quartz watch used the porthole design concept with a round screwed bezel. This was the time when companies were altering designs to accommodate the flat sapphire crystals instead of the deeply domed acrylic crystals, too.

    The Tank interest me in this context. It has morphed into a variety of shapes that all carry the same basic design idea. And the tank design is probably the most copied design in the industry.

    Rick "who likes owning watches a little out of the ordinary" Denney
    More than 500 characters worth of watches.

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