Rescapement Jealousy List 2021
An interview with Philippe Dufour; the rise of neo-vintage; YOLO; remembering Virgil Abloh and more from the year in watches
It’s time for Rescapement’s second annual Jealousy List. I read a lot about watches — too much, really. Then there are the podcasts, videos, and other random bits of content I consume every day. I’ve made it an annual tradition to recognize and highlight stories from other publications that I wish Rescapement had published. Congrats to those on this list, I love/hate you. But more importantly, keep up the good work. Because of you, there’s never been a better time to be a watch enthusiast.
FROM THE L.A. TIMES
An L.A. Times reporter goes on a hunt to find a missing super complication pocket watch commissioned by J.P. Morgan in the early 1900s from British watchmaker J. Player and Sons. Along the way, he meets dealers, antiquarians, and a descendent of the Player family. But does he find the pocket watch?
FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES
Technically, it’s not even about watches. But this piece captured the zeitgeist for all of us working from home. So it might not be about watches, but it explains the current moment we’re experiencing in watches — the unprecedented interest, prices, and hype.
FROM A COLLECTED MAN
Like I said last year, A Collected Man does the best in-depth articles in all of watches. So it’s always a struggle to choose just a piece or two to feature from them (excluding, of course, the undeniable bangers I wrote for them this year). And like last year (then, it was Swatch), one of my favorite articles from ACM took on a subject far afield of the typical high-end independent or neo-vintage watches they sell on their retail side. This year, it was caseback engravings. These engravings often tell stories that are incredibly personal — after all, the engraving is there for no one but the wearer — stories just waiting to be revealed to those who flip the watch over and ask “what’s that mean?”
FROM A COLLECTED MAN
A Collected Man is also incredibly adept at breaking down and explaining trends, while at the same time creating an incredible collectors’ resource. They did that with this piece, examining perhaps the trend of 2021, the rise of neo-vintage watches.
In this article, Cara Barrett lends Hodinkee’s platform to smashing outdated gender norms in watches (down with “shrink-it-and-pink-it”!), plain and simple. An excellent companion piece is Jenni Elle’s YouTube video, Here’s Why Women Don’t Like Watches.
Using Drake’s seeming infatuation with the innuendo-laden Richard Mille RM-69 as a jumping-off point, GQ manages to tell the fascinating history of erotic watches, dating back to the 1500s. Part satire, part entertainment, part provocateur for provacation’s sake — our fascination with the erotic watch continues to endure.
FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES
Sure, it’s an article about the Nautilus. But when you secure an interview with Patek’s leader, Thierry Stern, to discuss ending the Nautilus production, it’s cause for a bit of jealousy. And when Patek announced a certain blue-dialed Nautilus at the end of the year, the words from this February interview started to get put under a microscope. (“A watch should not be a top leader on its own. That is too dangerous,” Stern said of the 5711 at the time.)
FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
The Omega Museum’s purchase of novelist Ralph Ellison’s (author of the Invisible Man) Omega Speedmaster at Phillips in December was one of my favorite stories of the year. The watch received all kinds of press, telling the story of how the consigner originally acquired the watch from Ellison’s estate sale for just $6,000 years before Phillips auctioned it for $667k. But the story is best told by fellow novelist (and watch enthusiast) Gary Shteyngart. It’s one of those stories that felt bigger than watches.
Hodinkee largely eschewed in-depth content this year. Instead, some of their most enjoyable pieces focused on the culture of watches or collecting, or the people around watches. One of my new favorite semi-regular columns is the “complete newbie” series, where a writer from outside the world of watches tackles tasks like buying her first watch or meeting her first “watch collector” (the horror!). Sometimes, the fun series even manages to provide some surprisingly deep insights, like this one from when the correspondent visits the Audemars Piguet House in London and leaves with a free umbrella, pondering if this is what true luxury is:
“On some level, I could not deny that I left feeling pleased about myself, well-liked. I’m not saying that whatever passed between me and the AP House was or wasn’t real. I’m just saying that I can’t tell the difference and I didn’t want to. Maybe not having to know – and never having to – maybe that’s what luxury is?”
A runner-up from Hodinkee is the “Watch of the Week” series, where writers peel back the current to offer a personal take on their favorite watches. Ben Clymer started the series off with his look at the Jaeger Le-Coultre Reverso.
True scholarship is still the backbone of collecting. As A. Lange & Sohne continues to take off in popularity, there is growing interest in the history of its most iconic models, including the Lange 1. This in-depth piece from Subdial will serve as a reference point for Lange collectors for years to come, providing essential information on understanding and identifying the various generations of Lange 1s. As far as Lange scholarship goes, A Collected Man also published a comprehensive collector’s guide to the Datograph.
We all love following Dimepiece on Instagram. But the female-forward publication has also put together a handful of fun articles and interviews on its website. For me, a favorite was this interview with Phillips watch specialist Isabella Proia.
Sure, reading about watches is great. But so is listening to some of the smartest people in the game talk watches. In just nine episodes this year, Collectability’s John Reardon has managed to create perhaps the best watch podcast around, getting superstar guests like Eric Wind, Ben Clymer, Aurel Bacs, Davide Parmegiani, and others to sit down and have open, honest, and fun conversations about watches.
2021 might as well have been the year of Cartier. But there’s so much more to the brand than hype. In this piece, Neha Bajpai explores the colorful history of shaped watches from Cartier, Vacheron, Patek, and others, teaching us about their history, designers, mechanics, and more.
Does it get any better than interviewing Philippe Dufour in his Vallee de Joux workshop? Yes, if you also happen to get some time with his daughter — and watchmaking apprentice — Daniela. This is an intimate look at the work of Dufour, and there are even some honest insights from Daniela on the pressure of following in her father’s footsteps.
FROM WATCHES BY SJX
When watch vet Dr. Helmut Crott writes about a hand-made masterpiece from one of the great English watchmakers, Derek Pratt, you read it. In this piece, Dr. Pratt gives a close-up look at this beautiful hand-made tourbillon pocket watch crafted by Derek Pratt, a master watchmaker perhaps most closely associated with his work at Urban Jurgensen. Honorable mention from SJX was this article from Dr. Andrew Hantel which explores waterproof Movado chronographs, an extension of the For Your Reference we published here a couple of years ago.
FROM THE FINANCIAL TIMES
A brutally honest — and fascinating — interview with Seiko president Akio Naito. In an interview rife with interesting quotes from the man who runs the brand, here’s the most honest: “Seiko has become a brand of no clear identity,” he says. “‘Everything for everybody’ ended up being ‘everything for nobody’. That has to be changed.”
Virgil Abloh’s attachment to watches — and his impact — was undeniable. But this obituary for the late designer captured how his impact extended well beyond fashion. I remember live-streaming his first Louis Vuitton runway show back in 2018 (can you imagine? Someone’s impact so big that there I was, live-streaming a fashion show?). Models walked down a rainbow road runway. Kanye and Virgil exchanged a hug at the end, a long way from that famous 2009 photo (above) when their crew crashed Paris Fashion Week. Here’s how Vogue described that moment, also managing to summarize Abloh’s impact: “The last look was a metallic silver poncho with ‘Follow the Yellow Brick’ written on a breast patch. When he posted a picture of that moment on his Instagram, the caption read, ‘You can do it too.’”
A book recommendation? And it’s not even about watches? Yep, that’s how much I enjoyed this book. Nowadays, Instagram is the main place watch collectors congregate. And still, there isn’t enough critical thought put into how the platform itself impacts everything about watches, beyond the lamenting of the “hype” the app creates. This tells the personal, inside story of the growth of Instagram, its acquisition by Facebook, and how the decisions of people can impact the world.
By the way, some of the annoying changes Instagram has introduced recently (suggesting posts from accounts you don’t follow; sending a DM whenever someone tags you in a post) become easier to understand when you read the story of Instagram and Facebook.
Thanks to Charlie for helping with the compilation of these articles. Don’t worry, we’ll have an entirely self-serving “best articles of the year from Rescapement” soon enough. In the meantime, breathe in the superlative writing from other publications that aren’t this Fine and Rare Newsletter.
Did I miss your favorite article from the year? Let me know in the comments.
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