The Conversation: Cracking The Code 11.59 And Other Watch-Related Mysteries

, The Conversation: Cracking The Code 11.59 And Other Watch-Related Mysteries

We’re back with another edition of the hottest Q&A in town, The Conversation. This week some of HODINKEE’s finest editors (just kidding, they’re all fine) answer some of the stand-out comments of the past two weeks. So buckle up and prepare to enter whatever you call an extremely polite version of the Thunderdome. 

Cartier Says ‘Screw This’

The story: One minute of pure video bliss with the Cartier Santos. 

a cartier santos

The comment: “Wanted to ask the experts a question about the screws on the bracelet and face of the watch. What is the experience with these? Any report of them coming loose and falling out? Are any of them functional?” – unce_turbo_997

The response: The screws on the bezel are completely functional. Besides keeping the bezel in place, they put pressure on the crystal and gasket below, adding to the water-resistance of the Santos. The bracelet screws are purely ornamental and, in my humble opinion, the perfect touch on the two-tone models. I have seen a watch lose a bezel screw, but it wasn’t a Santos. Cartier uses blue 243 Loctite to keep both sets of screws in place, so those suckers aren’t going anywhere. –Mark Hackman 

White Out

The story: James welcomes a new white dial watch into his heart. 

two bell and ross watches

The comment: “Great article, James. How does the Bracelet wear compared to other metal bracelets? It begs the question about which four watches would you put on the Mt. Rushmore of Polar Watches. I’d start with the Explorer II 216570 as the George Washington of Polars – it is the most distinctive of the Explorers with the orange accent over white. It’s also on the Mt Rushmore of legibility.” – wildblue94

The response: While I can’t speak to the B&R’s bracelet, as I have yet to be hands-on with the watch (this was just an introduction), I do enjoy the idea of a Mt. Rushmore of polar (white-dialed) watches.

My lineup would likely include the 16570 Explorer II (which I’m fortunate to own), plus the Speedmaster Alaska Project, the first-gen Patek Philippe 5270g with the silver/white opaline dial and black accents, and the short-lived Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 25554BA with a white dial. Talk about a four-watch collection… only three to go. –James Stacey 

Code Breakers

The story: Logan went to town (Les Brassus, to be specific) in this new Code 11.59 Intro

audemars piguet watch

The comment: “I was really pleased that AP produced a watch without exposed screws… until I saw the obverse. They just can’t resist steampunk. The AP craftsmanship shows through (yes, intentional pun) and as usual, detail, detail and detail. I again, raise my weariness with skeleton dials. As one of long tooth and poor eyes, these designs, while showing off the workings, make the hands and functions indecipherable. I thought that was why open casebooks were so popular.” –OldCossack

The response: There’s a time and a place for refined elegance, but not every watch is meant to be a traditional three-handed dress watch. You can buy a Calatrava for that. A Royal Oak was also meant to be sport watch, and the Code 11.59 is a bit of a hybrid. I think one disservice AP did in the original Code 11.59 launch was including the time-and-date with the other more complicated watches – if they’d focused solely on the chronograph, tourbillon, and chiming models, it would have indicated a collection focused on haute horlogerie and complicated watchmaking rather than the confusing mixed bag that the collection started its life as. That said, if we consider the Code 11.59 to be a platform for AP’s most progressive designs and complications, then I welcome all the bright-blue bridges and flying tourbillons we can get. –Logan Baker 

It’s Time To Put Some Respect On The Laureato’s Name

The story: A disco diva boogies down with the deep cut b-side of ’70s sport watches.

a green dial watch

The comment: “I try to understand why Laureato failed while the Nautilus and the RO are a great success. Is it in the name? Girard Perregaux is no more awkward as a name than Patek Phillipe or Audemar Piguet. Perhaps Laureato is not as good a name as Nautilus or Royal Oak. Why call your watch a student? Who wants a student watch? It is far more inspiring to be associated with something majestic like the ocean. Being sold to Kering didn’t help either. These people have no appreciation of horology. The moment GP and UN underperformed, they dumped them. The green dial Laureato is a great watch. I hope it will be fully appreciated one day.” – yesman

The response: Ultimately this comes down to brand recognition. Audemars Piguet and Patek Phillipe are both brands with mass market appeal, while Girard-Perregaux exists, for the most part, in the watch enthusiast space. My friend and founder of RollieFest, Geoff Hess, recently explained to me that certain criteria must be checked in order for a watch to endure a lasting legacy: It must be widely known and instantly recognizable by a critical mass of collectors, there must be a memorable and easy to understand story which compliments the design, and the watch must be copied by other brands. I think what the Laureato misses here is a widely known story and design. I also firmly believe that watch brands who run independently of a holding group have more power and control over the story they want to tell. It can also feel more authentic if the story is coming straight from the source. I very much enjoy your Laureato hypothesis. Some even speculate that the watch was named after the 1967 film starring Dustin Hoffman. And I agree that the green dial Laureato is a sleeper hit. Hopefully, we can help to spread the word! –Malaika Crawford. 

To Customize Or Not To Customize

The story: In a Second Opinions essay, Nick Marino argues that custom watches are awesome and should no longer be taboo. The story is a precursor to his Talking Watches episode with Cooper Zelnick, whose company Cloister Watch Co. lovingly modifies vintage pieces.

brown dial customized watch

The comment: “I just read your editorial today and I might be late to the party (over 100 comments), but I would like to make some comments that I think you seriously missed in this piece. 

First, and most importantly, a watch is not a pair of jeans or an Apple gadget (one could argue that Apple does not allow customizations either with their software but that is for another conversation), there is a reasoning, a tradition, a history that comes with a watch. Things are made this way because they have always been made this way. There are no rational explanations in the 21st century as to why things should remain the same, but these values and methods are deeply anchored into the European psyche. From the color of an umbrella, to the recipe of a macaron, or the numerals on a dial, tradition and history have a huge and heavy influence on why these products (and the companies that make them) have survived for centuries. I do realize, having lived for thirty years in the United States, a country where where individuality and consumption are king, that it is difficult to accept that a watch was not made for you specifically, but was, instead made to outlast you. The design of a timepiece is not up to the individual imagination of the consumer. It is, instead, the product of a long tradition belonging to watchmaking. 

Authenticity is another important reason why watchmakers will not allow personalization. If, instead, everyone was modifying everything to their liking, it would become nearly impossible to verify that a product was indeed produced by the original maker. Any auction house expert will tell you how frustrating it is to establish that a unique watch truly originated from the manufacture and was not instead modified along the way by its purchaser. Allowing personalization would make it much easier for counterfeit goods to pass as authentic. If anything goes for a Royal Oak, then what is a Royal Oak? 

Watchmaking has nothing to do with fashion and have never been part of that dialogue. Watches are, instead, scientific objects, tools, art and a heritage that we try to preserve.” – WilliamMassena

The response: To begin, I should say that it’s wonderful to have an eminent watchmaker like William Massena engaging with our stories. Even though we disagree, William, I appreciate you weighing in. Another commenter, 8ball, capably addressed your thoughts on tradition and authenticity, so I’ll focus on your last point – the assertion that watchmaking has nothing to do with fashion.

With all due respect (and trust me, the respect is very real), I’m afraid the evidence is stacked against you here. Watches are, in fact, inextricably tied to fashion – and have been for ages, perhaps even since their invention. They are, at a basic level, beautiful objects worn on the body as functional adornment. They come in and out of style, just like clothes. They are produced by fashion houses from Chanel to Gucci.

Watchmakers themselves have long promoted their own fashionability. Check out these vintage advertisements, courtesy of Nick Federowicz, aka the archival Instagrammer @adpatina.

, The Conversation: Cracking The Code 11.59 And Other Watch-Related Mysteries
, The Conversation: Cracking The Code 11.59 And Other Watch-Related Mysteries
, The Conversation: Cracking The Code 11.59 And Other Watch-Related Mysteries

The folks at Omega wouldn’t have picked Cindy Crawford as a brand ambassador in 1995 if they weren’t interested in fashion. Rolex wouldn’t have aligned with Gernreich if it didn’t care about style. The AP advertisement sums the whole thing up: Watches perform “the art of self expression.” If that ain’t a succinct definition for the role of fashion in our culture, I’m not sure what is.

Nevertheless, I appreciate all the conversation around my essay and subsequent video. Starting a conversation was the whole point – and continuing it is the point of this follow-up post. I totally understand why purists can’t stomach the idea of altering a factory original watch. But that shouldn’t stop the rest of us. 

This hobby is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be about, as Audemars Piguet might say, the art of self expression. Nobody ought to dictate what you can and can’t do with your watch (or your clothes, for that matter). Taste is personal. Wear what you like – even if that means you have to design it yourself. –Nick Marino

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