One man’s trash is indeed another man’s treasure. And one industrial by-product – applied to the dial of a limited-edition Tag Heuer Calibre 5 at the request of London’s Bamford Watch Department – transforms an already handsome watch into a piece of art.
Described as an “accidental industrial gem”, Fordite was for years merely a waste product of the automotive industry, cast aside as worthless before an inquisitive eye discovered its singular inner beauty. Also called “Detroit agate”, Fordite is the build-up of spray paint in car factories. As the car parts pass through the sprayers, paint accumulates on the jigs used to hold the pieces in place.
As the lacquered paint builds up, often into hundreds of layers, it hardens before eventually being scraped off and thrown away. But then somebody found that by hacking into these globular, misshapen lumps of dried waste paint, you find multi-coloured layers that form into beautiful, swirling patterns, not one the same as the last. This transformed it into a valuable resource ripe for use by creative types.
A pioneer with this accidental artwork is the Canadian designer James Thompson, whose Sweden-based company Black Badger makes rings designed and coloured like you have never seen. They look like something from the trippy 1982 film Tron, and blend a whole load of exotic composite materials, many with a swirling finish of rainbow-coloured Fordite.
George Bamford discovered Black Badger on social media and decided he wanted in on the action. Bamford, who spent years operating Bamford Watch Department from the shadows before being welcomed in by LVMH as watch-customiser-in-chief, called in Thompson to bring his Fordite-rendering skills to the dial of the Tag Heuer Calibre 5.
“What I really find fascinating about working with Fordite is that it is very close to actually being able to create 4D art,” Thompson said.
He added: “As well as the normal 3D aspects, you are actually incorporating time as an additional element. You are moving through layers of time, of human endeavour. Each layer you uncover represents someone painting a car, and then that car went out somewhere into the world. It’s a very fun concept to have kicking around in the back of your head.”
Bamford said: “Thank you to Instagram for helping me to discover the wonderful world of @blackbadger. A fantastic guy, I am so happy and proud we are working together on our first project, of hopefully many.”
There are ten pieces of the Fordite TAG Heuer Carrera, available from Bamford Watch Department at £5,500. And naturally because of the way it forms, the dial designs are all different. The Fordite for these watches came from the Ford factories in Michigan, USA, during the 1970s and 1990s. That means one of these watches could contain white paint from the very same spray used to paint Vanilla Ice’s Rollin in My 5.0 Ford Mustang, or even the Ford Bronco from OJ Simpson’s infamous police chase. You just never know.