What I concentrated on in that piece was the doing. The steps it took to create the watch. So much of the fun of this process was the afternoon I spent with a friend designing it. It was reasonably straightforward. In a nutshell, Undone allows you to choose the main parts of your watch – case, dial, hands and strap. And then they put it together for you.
As for the finished watch, this was my creation. A watch that closely resembles the vintage chronographs that I like so much.
There’s that slightly busy dial, with a cream background and the almost faded blues and reds. It hints at age, without any actual wear. After a little experimentation, I chose simple blue hands and a perlon strap.
Avi-8 is a relatively young watch brand owned by Hong Kong-based manufacturer Dartmouth. Their stable includes Ballast, Dufa and Spinnaker. They’re affordable brands, produced in Hong Kong and readily available in the UK and US.
Where Spinnaker focused on the sea, Avi-8 unsurprisingly focused on the air. Specifically, the design of aviation replica luxury watches. Their range includes a series of watches inspired by specific planes or aviation eras’ There are Hawker, Mustang and Spitfire collections.
This watch was inspired by the Lafayette Escadrilles. American pilots who in 1916 flew with the French before the US had entered World War I. It’s a nice historical reference for a watch that is unashamedly vintage.
What I enjoy about this style of watch, what links a Strela, the Undone and the Avi-8, is that nothing is lost on such a busy dial. Here again, we have blue, cream, black and red, all on a dial, with sub-dials and text. Yet it isn’t overwhelming. In fact, it is almost the opposite. It’s quite simple and old fashioned.
There are touches of the modern though. It’s 43mm in diameter and has a battery-powered quartz movement. But still, when it is on your wrist an observer would have to look closely to note that it wasn’t a vintage piece.
I know what I like in a watch. Until I become unsure. My clothing is casual, so I tend to prefer casual watches. But stick several grand in my hand and send me off shopping for a Swiss luxury watch and I’d probably come back with a Rolex Explorer I. Not particularly casual looking.
Unless I didn’t buy the Explorer. Maybe I’d get a Seamaster Aqua Terra and use the change to buy a second watch.
I’d probably split that change in half and buy another two watches.
That’s because we all have our own personal tastes when it comes to watches. And I can’t quite pin mine down. Certainly not enough to stick to just one watch.
There are some elements that I do know I like. Tastes that have been consistent for years. I love chronographs. They seem to have the ideal blend of watchmaking complications and stylistic simplicity.
Power reserve indicators and moon phase complications are just that. A little too complicated for me. Sometimes a design is too simple. Other than Bauhaus, I’m not taken with minimalist breitling replica watches.
Chronographs are somewhere in the middle. They do more than just tell the time of the day, but the additional functionality feels like something I’d use. Like my chances of using three-hundred-metre water resistance, I may be lying to myself when I say that I need it.
But Chronographs are practical. They measure actual time. Not the life left in a spring or the cycle of the moon. I could time something happening now. Something real.
And when I look at Chronographs, I’m repeatedly drawn to vintage pieces. Very often when there’s a choice I want the cream or white version. Combine that with my interest in Russian watches and you can see why the Strela above is a favourite of mine.
So pulling this all together. When I look for watches, for the most part, I want something reasonably simple and functional. And I don’t want it once. I might want a few variations. If I shop at the affordable end of the market this is realistic.
And if it’s not for me? Flip it and buy another.
Here is my current wish list of affordable chronographs that embody the vintage aesthetic I enjoy so much.
They believe that customisation – the production of bespoke products – is the sign of luxury. Not price or brand name. Luxury is the process of having a product personalised.