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Michael Thompson

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By Laurent Martinez

We all know that the exciting world of watch collecting has witnessed tremendous growth in recent years, with plenty of hype watches and big watchmaking brands fueling more interest. However, I’ve also noticed more collectors (especially newer ones) buying watch-branded accessories and memorabilia. Items with Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet logos are especially popular, and ones with Vacheron Constantin are rapidly rising in demand too.

A generation or two ago, it wasn’t that common for watch buyers to keep the accompanying boxes and papers. Yet, these days, some people like to collect tags, boxes, catalogs, brochures, displays, posters, sketches, ashtrays, vintage books, and any other merchandise associated with watches and watch brands.

One of my clients recently told me that when he buys a vintage watch, he is passionate about recreating the complete set — as it would have been originally sold at the store.

I once met a person whose father was the maintenance director of a famous watch brand in the 1950s. As a result of his dad’s job, this person had a large inventory of boxes, tools, calendars, commercial displays, and catalogs. The design and aesthetics of this era were fantastic and I felt like a kid in a candy store rummaging through all these horology ephemera.

I couldn’t help but imagine this gentleman, dressed in a sharp suit and working in New York City, working at his desk buying parts, fixing watches on his bench, leaving his cigarette in the ashtray, glancing at his calendar.

Conditions and provenance

As with any collector’s items, you must be careful when buying vintage watch merchandise, packaging, and accessories—even though you hardly ever come across fake items.

What you do have to watch out for is the condition of the items, which is the first parameter that will affect the value. Like other kinds of ephemera and accessories, they were not necessarily made to last over long periods or to be preserved throughout the years. Other considerations to keep in mind are the rarity, style, colors, and if any, the provenance of the items at hand.

I recently purchased a vintage rubber dust blower (below) with provenance to remove the dust on watches. It was old, used, and dirty but I was so excited.

A vintage rubber dust blower.

I had in my hands a tool that has been around for over seventy years, passed on through several generations of watchmakers. Using it gives me great joy; there’s something to be said about using something today that has been used over 100,000 times to do the same job – removing dust from watches.

Where to look

To find these treasures, you can scour tag sales, local flea markets, and of course, eBay. More and more famous auction houses are offering watch memorabilia too, typically towards the end of an auction.

For example, these two Rolex retailer’s window displays (below) sold for over $3,000 each.

If you can’t afford expensive watch brands, collecting memorabilia instead is a great way to be part of the community. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn, meet like-minded people, and own a little piece of horological history. For me, these types of collectors are purists because they buy for the love of the item, and not for the potential to flip it and make money.

I get immense pleasure from looking at vintage watch merchandise and accessories. Not only are they beautiful but they also give me pause and make me reflect on what it must have been like to design, make, fix, sell, and buy watches a long time ago.

Laurent Martinez is the proprietor of Laurent Fine Watches, Greenwich, Connecticut. Read more by him at blog.laurentfinewatches.com or visit his website at www.laurentfinewatches.com.

 

Ulysse Nardin this week debuts the Ocean Race Diver, a commercial version of its environmentally friendly Diver Net concept watch launched in 2020.

The new Ulysse Nardin Ocean Race Diver might be the greenest luxury watch available.

With a strap created entirely from recycled fishing nets and a case and caseback made using recycled steel, a carbon composite called Carbonium and more recycled fishing nets, the new Ulysse Nardin Ocean Race Diver might be the greenest luxury watch available. Ulysse Nardin teamed with French recycling experts Fil&Fab to source and develop the recycled material for the new collection.

Ulysse Nardin wants to raise awareness to protect the oceans by creating “new from old and regenerating materials, especially plastic.” The watchmaker co-branded the watch with its partner, the around-the-globe Ocean Race, for which Ulysse Nardin is official timer.

On the case back, the sapphire crystal is embellished with a white transfer of the logo of the brand’s partner, The Ocean Race.

As a 44mm dive watch, the Ocean Race Diver is water-resistant to 300 meters and features a high-visibility, green-accented unidirectional bezel made using Carbonium, the same fibers that are used for the fuselage and wings of the latest-generation aircrafts. The manufacture of Carbonium has a 40% lower environmental impact than other carbon composites, since it makes use of the offcuts of aircraft parts, according to Ulysse Nardin.

Ulysse Nardin taps an automotive industry steel recycling channel for the 44mm case, which is 80% to 85% recycled.

Ulysse Nardin teamed with Fil & Fab to make the strap and other components using recycled fishing nets.

Diver X

The watch’s dial echoes the watchmaker’s Diver X series with a double X signature on the dial, a power reserve indicator at the top and a small seconds hand at 6 o’clock. The dial, toned down when compared to the concept version, is composed of neutral textured anthracite (ruthenium) surface treatment.

Like the brand’s X-Skeleton series, you’ll also find the Ulysse Nardin logo etched into the crown and a visible crown protector.

Ulysse Nardin’s own dial maker stamps its double X on the dial with its half-matte, half-satin finish.

Even the movement, Ulysse Nardin’s own UN-118, is made with materials 95% sourced within a 30 km radius of the Manufacture, half of them coming from recycling channels (recycled steel and brass). All Ulysse Nardin movements utilize recycled brass.

The watch will be sold in a water-resistant pouch slipped into a dry bag recycled from the sea by Helly Hansen, a brand that is also a partner of the round-the-world Ocean Race.

Ulysse Nardin will offer the watch as a limited edition of 200 pieces starting in June. Price: $11,500.

 

Specifications: Ulysse Nardin Ocean Race Diver

Reference: (1183-170LE-1A-TOR/0A
UN-118)

Movement: Caliber UN 118 manufacture, 
Silicium & DiamonSil escapement technology. Power reserve is 60 hours.

Case: 
44mm steel with unidirectional concave rotating bezel, bezel decoration 100% Carbonium, sapphire crystal, 300 meters of water resistance.

  • Side-case and case-back 40% Carbonium and 60% recycled fishing nets.
  • Stainless steel case at least 80% recycled from automotive industry.

Dial: 
Green Super-LumiNova markers, 
 anthracite (ruthenium) surface treatment 
Double X
, The Ocean Race logo (white transfer), power reserve indicator.

Strap: Recycled from fishing nets, gray with green and white stitches, scratch closing.

Price: $11,500.

Corum broadens its nautically themed Admiral collection with the watchmaker’s new three-dimensional patterned dial, previously found only on the collection’s 38mm and 45mm cases. Corum now places its Grenadier fendu dial, designed in house in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 2019, on new models within the Admiral 42 Automatic collection.

A new blue-dialed example of the Corum Admiral 42 Automatic.

The twelve-sided (dodecagonal) Admiral, with its colorful sailing flags, was first seen in 1980. Originally a square-cased watch when it debuted in 1960, Admiral has since 1980 been offered in myriad versions, including those displaying time-only, as a chronograph and even hosting complications.

Most recently, Corum has launched numerous contemporary iterations of the Admiral with monochrome dials and sailing pennants.

The six new Admiral 42 watches boast two dial colors (blue and black), with each dial color offered in three models: stainless steel case and bracelet, a stainless steel case with matching alligator leather strap and a stainless steel case with a rose gold bezel and crown, matching alligator leather strap with triple folding clasp.

The Admiral’s signature pennants line the outer chapter flange in minimalist outline form alongside minute indexes. Corum finishes the dial with applied hour markers and white SuperLuminova-coated Dauphine skeletonized hands, a date window and a small seconds subdial.

And finally, Corum powers the Admiral 42 Automatic with the CO 395 caliber, visible through a sapphire screwed-in caseback. Prices: $4,600 (steel) and $7,600 (with rose gold bezel).

 

Nomos launches four square-cased Tetra watches with automatic calibers and shiny, enamel-like dials.

The new Nomos Tetra Neomatik – 175 Years Watchmaking Glashütte Blue.

The new watches, called Tetra Neomatik – 175 Years Watchmaking Glashütte, retain Tetra’s well-known shape and the Tetra Neomatik’s existing 39mm diameter and automatic DUW 3001 caliber, but reveal four crisp dial colors.

Nomos explains that the red, blue, black and off-white dial colors here are lacquer-coated using a technique similar to that used when making enamel dials. Incoming light is not absorbed by the opaque surfaces but instead reflected, creating depth, according to the watchmaker.

Incoming light is not absorbed by the opaque surface but instead reflected. Pictured is the new Nomos Tetra Neomatik red.

Recognizing the decidedly unsubtle dial hues, Nomos says the new watches “are not for everyone.” The few Existing Tetra Neomatik watches are available in more subdued silver, blue or white dials.

The Tetra is a signature Nomos collection primarily offered only with a manual-wind caliber.

“The watches are bolder than sneakers with a jacket,” according to Nomos product manager Heike Ahrendt.

The automatic DUW 3001 caliber, visible through the sapphire crystal glass back, is regulated according to chronometer values.

The chronometer-adjusted Nomos DUW 3001 automatic caliber is visible through a sapphire caseback on each watch, framed by an engraving noting the limited nature of the Tetra Neomatik – 175 Years Watchmaking Glashütte collection. The new series is limited to 175 units of each color.

Nomos attaches each case to a remborde strap made of Horween Genuine Shell Cordovan, oiled by hand and struck with glass balls to create a shiny finish. Price: $3,860.

With the new Aluminum Chronograph Ducati Special Edition, Bulgari combines its sporty aluminum-cased chronograph design with Ducati’s racing-infused motorbike colors and typography. The watch’s conspicuous use of materials such as titanium (caseback, crown and pushers) and rubber (bezel) also match Ducati’s high-performance image in this colorful iteration of the original Bulgari Aluminum watch first seen in 1998.

Bulgari Aluminum Chronograph Ducati Special Edition.

In its premiere co-design with Ducati, Bulgari’s new 40mm, 1,000-piece limited edition features three dark subdials set within a dial colored with the same deep red hue used throughout historic Bologna-based factories. And more specific to Ducati, the dial’s 10, 11 and 12 o’clock numerals echo the same layout found on the dashboards of famed Italian motorbikes.

As Bulgari’s sportiest design, the Bvlgari Aluminum series has long been one of the Italian-Swiss watchmaker and jeweler’s most successful collections, with its lightweight case and bold Bvlgari Bvlgari-branded black (and sometimes blue) rubber bezel.

Bulgari originally fit its Aluminum series with a mechatronic-quartz movement but updated the collection in 2020. Here, Bulgari fits the latest in the series with its automatic BVL 130 caliber.

Bulgari offers the watch with its own aluminum and rubber presentation box bearing the logos of both the Italian brands. Price: $5,000.

Specifications: Bulgari Aluminum Chronograph Ducati Special Edition

(1,000-piece limited edition)

Movement: Automatic Caliber BVL 130 with chronograph and date, 42-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph (4 Hz) frequency.

Case: 40mm aluminum, titanium caseback with DLC coating and engraved Ducati logo; rubber bezel, crown and pushers in DLC-coated titanium. Water-resistant to 100 meters.

Dial: Red Ducati-color, hour-markers and hours and minutes hands filled with SuperLuminova, three black counters with red hands; date window.

Bracelet: Rubber strap with aluminum links, aluminum pin buckle.

Price: $5,000.