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I'm in Love with the Shape of You
The weirdest shape watches you haven't seen
Shape of You. Today, a shapely newsletter exploring the idiosyncratic geometry of watches:
Beyond the circle: Getting psychedelic with watch shapes
Our first YouTube video: How the Cartier Crash became a million-dollar watch
Watches as investments?
Beyond the Circle: Getting Psychedelic with Shapes
Usually when we think of “shaped watches,” we think of Cartier, more specifically the Crash. But it’s time to expand your mind. There’s so much more to be discovered in the world of eccentric geometry outside of le maison.1 Watches that make you ponder the psychedelic, the transcendental, the very limits of consciousness. Let’s take a look at just a couple examples.
In the 1980s, Dino and Roberto Falcone, father & son watch- and casemakers in Milan (happy Father’s Day!), produced a few odd, asymmetrical watches. Each one seems to be a unique piece from the horological artists, inspired by Dali's Persistence of Memory. All were in white or yellow gold, and all include mechanical movements and enamel dials.
A selection of these delightfully hallucinatory watches was acquired directly from the Falcones by Christie’s in 2013. Auction results ranged from CHF 23,000 (for the time-only watch, first image above), to CHF 50,000 (for the white gold with moonphase, below).
Generally, I think the whole "watches as art" is an overused sentiment (partially used to justify the obscene prices we pay for these minimally-useful bracelets), but it definitely applies to these crazy creations. The Falcones also made a few other watches, so flip through that Christie’s catalog to check them out.
This is the Exaequo Softwatch, another trippy watch explicitly inspired by Dali. Andrea ‘I Am Casa’ has a great YouTube video digging into the history of these if you want to learn more. The watch was produced for a number of years in the 1980s and 90s — eventually, the company went bankrupt when they started using Dali’s name on the dial without permission.
Paul McCartney even gifted a Softwatch to one of The Beatles’ sound engineers. The watch is engraved “Paul is Live” on the back, a wink to the whole Paul is dead conspiracy from the 1960s. Paul and Linda also wrote a note with the gift:
"Thanks for your help in squashing the old rumour that Paul is dead. Paul is Live with boots on!"
Nowadays, you might have to pay a thousand dollars or so for a Softwatch. Just a cof ouple years ago, they were a few hundred bucks, but it seems like they’ve been drafting off the popularity of the Crash. Regardless, it might be the most accessible way to get a fun, geometrically quirky watch.
Shape of You
This is by no means a comprehensive look at shaped watches.2 But isn’t it a little sad that these oddly-shaped masterpieces are mostly products of the past? Even Cartier — who was so bold to introduce square (the Santos-Dumont) and rectangular (the Tank) watches (the horror!) — now calls the supremely circular Ballon Bleu its top seller.
But hey, the most popular watch in the world — the Apple Watch, sorry! — is a square, or at least, a squircle. So perhaps the traditional watch industry should follow suit and get a little psychedelic.
Or at least, a little less circular.
I posted both of these watches on Instagram in the last week and people loved them both, which is why I decided to write a ‘sletter about them.
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THROUGH THE WIRE
I’ve wanted to do YouTube videos for a while. But the truth is: they’re hard.
So here’s my first effort. It’s on a subject I know and love: the Cartier Crash. After Loupe This auctioned an original London Crash for $1.5 million in May, I thought it was time to tell its story using dazzling multimedia.
I hope to do more with video in the coming months — reviews (of my watches and press watches),3 histories like this, and more. There’s not much original footage for this video; to be honest, this is me learning how to make, edit, and produce videos. But the result is okay for a first go.
Give it a view, please subscribe to the Rescapement YouTube channel, and let me know what videos I should make next.
A Collected Man takes a comprehensive look at our favorite question to debate: Are watches investments? I’ve taken on this topic before and don’t feel like analyzing it now, but ACM’s write-up is as good as any that has tackled the subject. As a follow-up, Chris Hall has a nice analysis in his Substack. His comparison of modern hype watches as investments and vintage watches (the previous “investment class” of the 2010s) is particularly insightful (tl;dr: new watches will never be like vintage watches, which are rarer, and have more character).
⛏️ Watch repair videos are the best part of TikTok/YouTube. Business Insider has a video of a vintage Cartier Tank Must being repaired and it’s 6 minutes of ASMR. 📿Pendant watches are swinging back into fashion, according to the NY Times. ⚽ Inside Kyiv on the night of Ukraine's stunning World Cup qualifier victory. Wright Thompson is one of the best writers around. 🎨 Three years ago, her art sold for $400 on the beach. Now it sells for $1.6m at auctions.
The next video will probably be on ‘one year with the T Black Bay 58 Silver’