Watches need a vibe shift
The secret Massena LAB release; when the F word makes for a great f*ing watch; George Daniels' personal FP Journe
This week’s newsletter is Presented By Subdial, the ultimate trading platform for true watch enthusiasts and collectors. Subdial is a real day one supporter of Rescapement, so I’m excited to be partnering more closely with them this year. Not only do they curate an amazing weekly selection of neo-vintage, independent, and pre-owned watches, they’re also heavily invested in the community and supporting quality content (if I do say so myself). Below, we’ll highlight a favorite watch from their weekly drop.
In today’s newsletter: Why watches need a vibe shift; the secret Massena LAB release; 3 times using the F word made for a great f***ing watch; and how did I miss that the Chronometre Souverain that FP Journe gifted to George Daniels sold at auction last year?
The vibe shift is here, let’s get weird
Watches have felt exhausting the last few years. Many people point to the $17m sale of Paul Newman’s Paul Newman Daytona in 2017 as a turning point, when people realized hey, there’s (a lot of) money in these things.
Nowadays, watch stories seem to move at the rate of a TMZ news ticker, with press releases flying around at the speed of 5G. It’s impossible to keep up with it all. Think about 2021 in watches: We got mad at so many (stupid) things! Mis-aligned hands, a watch with a light-blue dial, Rolex, Rolex, and Rolex.
A vibe shift is a too-cool, anxiety-riddled millennial way of saying that «things change» (obviously!). From humans inventing fire to the most recent hypebeast era, humans have been shifting the vibes. If you open your Farmer’s Almanac, you’ll see it has portended 2022 as a year of exceptionally shifty vibes. The pandemic, the rise of 90s/00s nostalgia, and TikTok seem to be converging into an imminent vibe shift.
Out with the hypebeasting, sneaker flipping, and Drizzy Drake, and in with indie sleaze, the Tumblr aesthetic, and polaroids.
Okay sure, but what’s this have to do with watches?
Over the last few years, it feels like watches have become a part of the culture in a way they never have before. Watch trends are firmly drafting off of hypebeast culture: refer to “hype watches” and everyone nods along knowing the 3-4 watches you’re referring to.2 Sold out stores, sky-high secondary market prices, The Timepiece Gentleman — you know the story, and it’s not one that’s limited to watches.
And honestly, we’re kind of tired of it all, right? The Cut says the next decade of culture might mark a return to early 2000s “indie sleaze.” And people will go off in a lot of different directions because it won't feel like there’s a coherent or singular taste. More irony. Micro-cultures will pop up, with people following their favorite podcasts or Substacks (👋) more than social media (Instagram = soo 2010s).
I don’t know what the next vibe in watches might be, but I hope it’s more weird, quirky, and offbeat (and less driven by the algorithm) than the trends of the last few years. There are so many interesting niches of watch collecting, I’m guessing some of those who are new to watches continue to discover them. Come for the hype, stay for the detente escapements, or something like that.
For much of the early 2010s, watches felt a little weird, vibing off the fundamental nerdiness of Tumblr (e.g., early Hodinkee Tumblr vibes) and forums.
Well kids, now we’re living in a brave, new post-Nautilus (or at least, post-5711) world. So let’s get weird.
This week’s newsletter is Presented by Subdial, the ultimate trading platform for true watch enthusiasts and collectors. Every week, we’ll feature one of the watches from their weekly drop.
Remember this watch from 2021? Last year, Cartier quietly dropped the Tank Cintrée 100th Anniversary limited edition to celebrate the centennial of the iconic, curved Tank. The anniversary Tank Cintrée faithfully captures the elegance and aesthetic of the vintage Cintrée in a modern package. These vintage touches — including Breguet hands and a warm, champagne dial — set this model apart from the “stock” Cintrée. Limited to 150 pieces, it was essentially sold out upon announcement, allocated to collectors in the Cartier community. Well, now’s your chance to pick one up — new and unworn, no less.
I wanted to take a brief moment to explain something about Rescapement. Yes, it’s a newsletter with dozens of loyal subscribers. But we also publish articles on a regular basis on our website. The same articles are published on the Substack version of our site, sub.rescapement.com, and the Squarespace version, rescapement.com. Substack is the platform we use to send out the weekly newsletter, and Squarespace is the website builder that also sponsors your favorite podcast. If you use Watchville, you might also see our articles pop up there. I’ve been told it’s confusing that we have “two websites,” and I agree! But here’s the thing: Substack is great for building an email list, but terrible at SEO. Meanwhile, Squarespace is terrible for email newsletters, and mediocre for SEO. Should we consolidate into one cohesive experience? Probably! But that takes time and I’m not a developer. So until then, this weekly 'sletter is the best way to stay up-to-date on all things Rescapement.
All that said, here are the articles we published on the site this week.
The secret Massena LAB release that already sold out is an homage to an enigmatic vintage chronograph
Last Wednesday, “friends and family” of Massena LAB got a mysterious little email. It was the (covert) announcement of the brand’s latest release: the Massena LAB Geometer.
The release pays homage to a notoriously enigmatic vintage chronograph, the Rodania Geometer. The original Geometer bears a striking resemblance to the early Omega Speedmaster, but with one curious fact: It was actually released in 1954, three years before Omega released its first Speedmaster.
The Massena LAB Geometer bears a strong resemblance to the 1950s Geometer: It’s a modern 39mm chronograph with a tropical dial, sword hands, and creamy lume.
Here’s how the release went down. Well, there was no real “release.” Massena didn’t send a press release, no articles were written, no social media posts were made. Instead, only an email was sent, telling those who received it that pre-orders for the Geometer would be opened on a time-limited basis until the end of March, but capping total orders at 99 pieces.
Well, it didn’t take until the end of March. According to Massena, they’d sold through the 99 pieces just a couple of days after the release.
🚀 Read more about the ‘secret’ Massena LAB release
Usually, I don’t type out profanity in this publication — we’re too tasteful for that. But for the sake of this post, we’ll have to once: Fuck.
Watches are typically much too tasteful or conservative to use one of George Carlin’s seven words you can’t say on TV, which makes it all the more exciting when they do. Here are a few examples of watches that have been modified — subtly or not — in ways that say “f**k it.”
I love watches that make an edgy statement, making much of the (conservative) industry throw up their hands and say “that’s not real watchmaking!” Watches need to be more fun, younger, and edgier. F*ck it!
First up, perhaps the classiest of the bunch (photo above). On the front, this is just a normal Cartier Tank. Nothing special: yellow gold, Roman numeral dial, you know the icon I’m talking about.
But flip it over and you’ll see perhaps the most bad*ss engraving of all time: F*ck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.
This particular Tank was gifted by filmmaker John Landis to the producer for one of his films. Landis is famous for, among other works, Animal House, Blues Brothers, and apparently, the “Thriller” music video. It’s quite the varied filmography, and obviously the man also knew how to gift a watch.
I say this Tank might be the most classy of the bunch for a couple reasons. First, I love a good caseback engraving. A good engraving tells a story. Second, it leaves the watches itself all original. It’s not swapping in a f**k em dial or other aftermarket parts. Sure, I love a good bussdown watch, but sometimes an original Cartier Tank with a subtle engraving will do just fine.
🙅♀️ Check the full article for two other watches that don’t give a f***!
How did I miss that the Chronometre Souverain FP Journe gifted to George Daniels sold at auction last year?
Somehow, I missed that the Chronometre Souverain FP Journe himself gifted to his mentor George Daniels sold at auction last year, appearing for the first time since it was sold as part of Daniels’ estate sale in 2012.
It appeared at Christie’s Exceptional Season of Watches sale back in May, where it sold for HKD 3.25m (~$416k), towards the bottom half of its HKD 2-6m estimate. Among a sale of complicated Rolexes and Pateks, the Daniels-gifted Chronometre Souverain feels like it slipped through the cracks. So here I am, months later, highlighting a beautiful, sentimental piece of horological history.
On the balance bridge, the movement is inscribed FP to George Daniels my Mentor 2010. It was also accompanied by a heartfelt letter in which Journe expressed his gratitude to Daniels for showing how to make watches of artistic rather than utilitarian merit. He writes that upon seeing a Daniels watch, “without knowing it my path in life was determined and I decided in 1997 to make a watch for myself. Thanks to your books such as The Art of Breguet and Watchmaking, I learned patiently on my workbench how to make my first watch.”
🧑🏫 See the full story on the Chronometre Souverain gifted to George Daniels by his pupil, FP Journe.
Yes, I read The Cut!