WE ENTHUSIASTS ARE CURRENTLY EXPERIENCING A MOMENT IN watchmaking culture that has rabidly embraced the past. What was old is new again with the next nod to an historical archetype only a microbrand’s crowdfunding success away.
Case designs from iconic types are “emulated,” hands circling over dials are cloned, and even the dials themselves are blatant and unrepentant copies of previous types by established brands. In some instances these “homage” types don’t even wait for the passage of time and blatantly copy current Tudor, Rolex, Omega, or even Seiko models. Often, the major brands themselves are dipping into the past and revisiting previous incarnations in a somewhat more palatable redux of their own precedents, finding kitsch value in what might otherwise be deemed an outdated look.
Don’t get me wrong, some of these are great entrees into a style or a type at a fraction of the price of the authentic original. However, if mimetic mementos are your taste in timepieces, you may want to go ahead and skip to the next post.
This attitude is at the very core of the new Wilbur watches.
You may have seen his previous work as his horological muse first came to life in partnership when Devon Motorworks launched the futuristic Tread 1. At the time, not only was Wilbur ahead of the curve with regard to the bold façade, the Tread 1 also incorporated technology that was new to watchmaking for tracking and displaying the time, as well as being almost entirely made in the U.S.
That said, the Tread 1’s micro-motor powered, belt-driven and technically amazing wrist wear catered to a very limited audience, and at over $18,000 retail it was as rare as it was ground breaking.
A few years down the road and in a prescient moment of clarity, Wilbur declared at one point “I want to make a watch that more than two guys in Dubai can afford.”
After several other design projects, Wilbur has now developed the first release of his eponymous Wilbur watch collection.
Shedding the cocoon of co-branding, Jason Wilbur has let his creative juices run wild and has taken the modular steel frame only hinted at in the Tread 1 and Tread 2 designs to new heights.
Seasoned with the lessons learned from previous experiences in the industry, the new Wilbur 2020 Automatic Launch Edition embodies a stunning scaffold of trestle-like design paired with construction and components that place it squarely at the opposite end of the spectrum from the next $600 Chinese-built copy of a Tudor Pelagos.
The expected $2,500 – $2,700 price range, when they become available this summer, is definitely fair and justified by the complex construction and CNC machining without and within.
Launching with three references, each limited to 250 pieces, the nine-piece modular case measures at a robust 44mm by 46mm by 16mm and is CNC machined and hand finished in 316L steel. Inside beats the workhorse Seiko NH35 automatic winding mechanical movement with a customized rotor.
Sporting one of the more complex cases currently being made in watchmaking, the Wilbur is built to tight tolerances and even with the nine-piece case is made water resistant to 100 meters. Custom bevelled sapphire crystals ensconce the patent-pending suspended dial structure with a glass chapter ring surrounding the dial.
Bolts replace spring bars and hold your choice of a silicone or ballistic nylon strap securely in place as well as securing the steel clasp, while an over-size and over-engineered crown is protected by a machined girder of steel.
When you’ve sated your appetite for homage types and are ready for a breath of horological fresh air, Jason Wilbur may have just what you’re looking for. More info: www.wilburco.com
Specifications: Wilbur 2020 Automatic Launch Edition
Modular-Frame Case: 44m X 46mm X 16mm, 9-part full modular design, CNC-machined, hand-finished 316 Steel
100-meter water resistance, front & rear sapphire crystal with anti reflective coating, patent-pending suspended dial & movement structure, DLC Coatings (on spec’d models)
Movement & Dial: 3D hand-finished dial, suspended outer dial-in glass. Time and date function, custom movement “Launch” rotor, luminescent hands and hour indices. Custom Japan Seiko NH35 movement.
Silicone bolt-on or ballistic nylon with contrast stitching. Bolt-on 316 steel clasp with DLC coating (On spec’d models).