Monday, April 21, 2014

Timex: Time Spent on Durability

A week ago, I ran across a Timex watch which my father wore for many years.  It brought back memories for me from the 1950’s and 1960’s — its dial peeking out from under his starched dress shirt cuff during the work week and of it being worn on his bare arm when he was mowing the lawn on Saturdays. This got me to thinking about why he may have chosen Timex as his seven-day a week time minder.
My father:  W. Lyle Willhite's Timex

Matt Haig in his excellent book Brand Success:  How the World’s Top 100 Brands Thrive and Survive (Kogan Page, 2011) has given me some insights into why Timex is an ubiquitous wristwatch standard.  Surprisingly, Haig categorizes Timex as a “Distinction Brand.”* His definition of distinction brands are ones that take an already established, recognizable product and market it in an entirely different way.  Typically, these brands work through contrast, the contrast being with a brand that is considered first in its product category.

Enter Timex which is the “affordable brand” compared to Rolex, one of the” luxury leaders.”  Haig goes on to observe that the secret to a second place brand’s success can be to “unite around a clear message or word” and as often the case, repetition leads to a “distinct singular identity.” And so he labels Timex “the durability brand” as its mark of distinction. 
Although Timex’s manufacturer has a very long and fascinating history starting around the 1850’s with the Waterbury Clock Company based in Waterbury ,Connecticut. The modern day mechanical Timex was manufactured by the Waterbury Clock Company’s successor, United States Time Corporation (1944-1969) and was first publicly marketed in 1950. 
Timex’s early popularity came from two clever marketing strategies:  a memorable slogan, “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking” demonstrated by subjecting the watch to controlled “torture tests” AND the use of TV commercials hosted by an authoritative celebrity, John Cameron Swayze.  Luckily, we still can see the power of these commercials on YouTube.  For men, we can relive the tortuous outboard motor rudder subjugation; and for women the watch thrashing of an automatic dish washing machine. Both are a retro take on what we now might call “product water boarding” and worth a look in our current Mad Men crazed TV series society.
By 1960, one out of three US watches was a Timex and by 1975, Timex had 50% of the US market having sold 500 million watches!
Send me your favorite Timex memory and/or picture of a Timex in your household as a comment for posting.  Timex’s durability seems a fitting tribute to smart, economical choices by our mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers -- all of us who are part of an ongoing Timex generation.
Other Matt Haig “Distinction Brands” alongside Timex are Pepsi, Hush Puppies, Evian, Duracell, Danone, and Heineken.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Art Sourcing Time: Five Top Wrist Watch Museum Shop Picks

For me, spring brings museum catalogs and online searching for a wrist watch that reflects the new year.  If you like art, you know that an object's provenance is part of its appeal. This can transfer to museum retailing as well.

I especially like the way art museums'  digitally merchandise their jewelry.  The "SHOP" factor is an immediate draw on their websites.  My response comes from an interest in art history, fashion, finding new interpretations of classic or modern art motifs and  personal time spent in Los Angeles at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.

The following are my TOP FIVE  2014 Spring Museum Shop "Le Must"selections (apologizes to Cartier) for the wrist, US East Coast to West:

1. Whitney Museum, New York City:  Forget traditional watch complications.  Think algorithms! This watch was conceived by Mark von Schlegell, science fiction writier and is based on his story, "Fainnie Azul" which is  available as one of the 2014 Whitney Biennial Semiotext(e)'s pamphlets.

 According to its online product description, "the timekeeper features a cosmological odometer, indexing in km/second as the Earth speeds through the cosmic background radiation: the one universal reference in a space-time defined by relativity."   And the watch has a color dimension   too! "The watch face is temperature sensitive and will turn to a deep red when the temperature drops below aprox 80 degrees or so. When it warms up it will turn to grey."

Kudo's to the Whitney for its product description and Biennial tie-in. The Biennial runs from March 7- May 25, so there's still time to catch it.
Fainnie Azul Holologe

2.  Museum of Fine Arts, Boston:  Looking for a fashionable combination of color choices and organic materials?  The Blue Dial Cork Watch has a large (1.5"diameter) corn resin case and natural cork strap with organic cotton backing.  The dial offers a color choice in blue (shown) as well as pink, yellow and green which  is complemented by a skeleton hour/minute and stick sweep second hand in the  same color as the dial. Inside, the watch is powered by a mercury-free battery.

Kudo's to the MFA Boston for offering us a bold time piece that makes an ecological statement inside and out.  
Blue Dial Cork Watch

3.  Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago:  Leave it to the Midwest to highlight the "Past Present and Future Watch, a unisex reminder that THE NOW can always be boldly with us.  The word, "PRESENT" is highlighted at six o'clock in bright red  The watch is designed by Daniel Will-Harris and is made of solid stainless steel. Mr. Will-Harris is best known for his connection with the Museum of Modern Art in New York City which describes him as "a computer graphics pioneer."  If you like his particular riff on time, he's got other time self-referenced models as well aptly named, "Foretell" and 'Till.'"

Kudo's to MCA Chicago for giving us a sporty play on time itself to wear as a reminder that the present is always with us, but that the past and future always surround it.

Past Present Future Watch

Edward Hopper Women's Watch
Perkins Youngboy Dos Passos Watch

4.  Dallas Museum of Art:  True to Texas life, all things are just bigger in the Lone Star State. So I've enlarged the  Edward Hopper Women's Watch to show the the image on the dial -- that of  a detail from Hopper's Perkins Youngboy Dos Passos, (1941), one of Hopper's drawings held by the Whitney Museum and exhibited in its 2013, Hopper Drawings show.  This is a dial with a cat with a great name!John Dos Passos was Hopper's neighbor and friend on Cape Cod.  Now we can share that friendship as well all the time.

Kudo's to the DMA for giving us a  licensed image from an iconic American painter who captured repose so artfully, something all of us need to be reminded of from time to time.

5.  San Francisco Museum of Modern Art : Far from 50 Shades of Grey, this  unisex watch has a vibrant color palate dial and comes with either a black or grey band.  It's watch face is 1.5" in diameter.    

Color Wheel Watch: Grey
Color Wheel Watch: Grey
West Coast fun at its best.  Enough said. Time to play!

Send me your own top art museum shop watch picks--the more time zones we can cover the better! 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Will 3D Printing Usurp the Human Hands of Time?

It's ironic that on the last day of Baselworld 2014, I find in my inbox a shared post from Sandra Ley ("Sley"), the author/moderator of a blog for the Fashion, Textile & Costume Librarians Special Interest Group of ARLIS/NA. Her pass-through post may describe one of the most disruptive technologies for the watch manufacturing industry in the first half of the 21st Century akin to the quartz movement revolution in the last half of the last century.

Written by Rebecca Hiscott, it gives us a preview of the way the 3D (i.e. additive manufacturing process) can be used to design and produce fashionable items, clothing and accessories. It also includes a terrific video illustrating the process for creating a designer gown. 

Chanel is mentioned throughout as an example of a targeted luxury line that could face even more legal challenges as a copyright holder  if 3D product source codes are developed outside of its auspices and become freely exchanged and executed.

I did discover one example from last year of a high-end watchmaker, Hoptroff London that used 3D printing to produce an 18 carat gold watch case intended for commercial purposes!

I’d love to get your reaction to this technology and its impact on horology.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Coco’s Camellia: A Floral Tourbillon that Needs No Fragrance

Each March, thousands descend on Basel, Switzerland to see the latest in wristwatch luxurity and technical masterpieces with opulent complications.  This year, Baselworld 2014 with its Brand Book focusing on the  theme of  “Brilliance” opened on March 27.  It closes on April 3.

For me, one of the most dazzling and fashion-evocative women’s wristwatches is the House of Chanel’s 2014 Première Flying Tourbillon  which I found covered by jewelry superstar media commentator  Maria Doulton in her Jewellery Editor  newsletter.   There will be only 20 pieces in this limited edition which has 169 diamonds and 63 baguette-cut pink sapphires.  These gems are beautifully set around a white gold case and crown. 

As for technical brilliance the watch has a 225-part flying tourbillion movement in the shape of Gabrielle Chanel’s favorite flower, the camellia which offers its geometrical petal shape as the design basis of the tourbillion. There’s no concise explanation of a “tourbillion” so for blog purposes, I’ll give you Donald de Carle’s definition from his Watch and Clock Encyclopedia, 3rd edition, 1983:  “A watch in which the entire escapement is fitted into a cage or carriage and the complete assembly then revolves.”

The Chanel flower tourbillion  keeps its own botanical-inspired time performing one rotation each minute with the flying tourbillion’s petals indicating each passing second — horticulture and horology perfectly in time with each other.  

Main Image

Just a word on Chanel and her affection for camellias.  Lisa Chaney in her book, Coco Chanel:  An Intimate Life, (Penguin Group, 2011) writes that Chanel probably first used the floral motif embroidered on a blouse in 1922, and by 1924 material renderings of it were added to her clothes.  Since the camellia  does not have a fragrance, wearing it does not compete with any perfume one also is  wearing.  The 2014 Première Flying Tourbillon is said to visually reference this unique  floral feature with its crown in the shape of Chanel’s No. 5 perfume bottle stopper.  I’d call that a semiotic show stopper which this time piece certainly is!