As most thoughts were still on Geneva and while the jury was still out deciding the good, the bad and the ugly from SIHH (and thankfully this year there were far more in the first category than the latter two), Hamilton was giving the world a sneaky peek at what it will unveil in Baselworld. This year’s offerings from the brand cash in on all of Hamilton’s historical influences resulting in a headline-grabbing collection ranging from the classic to the totally unusual. And among the 2014 designs are three new calibres, all boasting 80 hours of power reserve.
Perhaps the most interesting watch from a design perspective is a reworking of the 1930s Flintridge. A watch that was originally created as a sports timepiece (and named after a famous golf resort of the time, as were the Piping Rock and Meadowbrook models), the 2014 stainless steel Flintridge comes in a man’s and a woman’s version both in editions of 999 pieces.
The charm of the original watches – and indeed the new ones – lies in the innovative use of shape, something that Hamilton has excelled at since the early-1930s when it employed a Director of Styling whose role was dedicated to developing new cases and dials. One of the first pieces to go into production after this appointment, the Flintridge featured a rectangular case with softly curved sides and a flip-top lid to protect the dial and crystal from spills, scratches and dust.
Made in precious metals, with two different movement options (the 17-jewel 987 or the premium 19-jewel 979) and priced at between $125 and $150, these watches were serious investment pieces – particularly relevant when considering the timeframe. During The Depression years of the early-1930s the luxury market was hit hard and both brands and retailers desperately sought out new marketing initiatives to drive sales. The Flintridge was certainly not an impulse buy and, in order to appeal to the few that could afford such a purchase, it needed to offer something a little extra.
The saying goes that, just like buses, you wait forever for a great idea and then two come along at once and, typically, just as Hamilton was launching its new sporting timepiece, another design for a “wristwatch which can slide on its base and flip over on itself” was being patented. Developed out of a need to preserve a dial and glass while playing polo, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso had similar origins and aims to Hamilton’s Flintridge.
Unsurprisingly, both brands were quick to seize the opportunity to upsell and heavily promoted personalisation – the dial cover in Hamilton’s case, the caseback in JLC’s. Referring to “the final touch”, Hamilton supplied retailers and customers with a letter containing suggested designs for monograms claiming: “No new Hamilton Flintridge is complete without a monogram or insignia – either engraved, enamelled or applied – on its protective cover.”
Unlike the Reverso, which went on to become a signature style and flagship model for its brand (despite some moments floundering in the fickle depths of fashion’s forgotten gems), the lifespan of the Flintridge was short meaning that surviving models are as rare as hen’s teeth. Antiquorum Auctioneers references only one piece coming up at its sales in the past 12 years: a white gold model that went into a Swiss sale in 1992 with an estimate of CHF3,500 (the watch failed to sell).
The 2014 men’s model, which will retail at CHF1,250, has a case measuring 37.2 x 40mm (50mm including the lugs) and bears more than a passing resemblance to the 23rd-century communicator from Star Trek. In a decorative twist on the 1930s model, day of the week is shown on the watch’s cover through a crescent-shaped aperture at 12 o’clock, while the date can be seen in a window at 6 o’clock. With customisation no longer an option, Hamilton has had to find other ways to decorate the cover, which features a central stripe of stippled clou de Paris. Hinged at the top, it lifts up to reveal a surprisingly simple, silver-coloured Jazzmaster–style dial with further clou de Paris patterning and applied nickel indexes. The watch is powered by one of the three new calibres: the H-40.
The folding lid of the simpler ladies version features a sunray pattern with an aperture at 6 o’clock, which gives a glimpse of a small cluster of diamonds set on the round, silvered dial below. An elegant 31 x 36mm (44mm including lugs), this piece houses an ETA 2681 automatic movement and is also priced at CHF1,250.
Whereas other pieces from the brand – such as the gorgeous blue-dialed Pan Europ on NATO-style strap – will no doubt have broader appeal, the Flintridge is sure to be a ‘love it or hate it’ talking point at Baselworld, polarising opinion and doing exactly what boundary-shifting design is supposed to do. And, as history shows, the new watches are sure to peak interest in the long-forgotten art deco original, pushing prices of 1930s examples into the stratosphere.
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