If you want to always wear the right watch for each occasion, you need a solid basic collection. But what should this collection include? Our watch expert Jörn Kengelbach was inspired by none other than Bond… James Bond.
Because of my profession, it goes without saying that at receptions, dinners, or simply at a bar I’m often asked to recommend watch models that would be worth buying. This question is not easy to answer, but because I don’t want to disappoint people by telling them that, I like to recommend what I call the “secret agent solution.”
To gain a better understanding, we need to make a short detour through the history of watches and the era when Ian Fleming wrote his James Bond novels. Many connoisseurs of fine time pieces connect the name of James Bond with a particular Geneva manufacture (and recently with a brand from Biel). But Ian Fleming is really the one who should be honored for having invented the modern watch for every occasion.
We are also committed to the secret agent solution at Wempe Glashütte and have therefore designed and handcrafted the appropriate watch for every occasion and every adventure. But why not read on and see for yourself?
1. The universal watch
The perfect basic watch collection looks something like this: First of all, you need an absolutely dependable watch that prepares you for every contingency. This watch should be able to do its job in every situation, and it should be possible to repair it practically anywhere in the world. Select robust stainless steel as the material of the wristband and the case, and a tried and tested selfwinding movement from ETA or a manufacture movement with a power reserve of at least two days — or preferably three days. You can rely on water resistance to a depth of at least 100 meters if it has a screwin crown. A scratchproof sapphire crystal is standard nowadays. Make sure you get the antireflective kind, because there are big differences in this respect. The hour markers on the dial must be treated with lots of luminous mass.
Let’s move on to your special missions after the business day is done. There are three basic fields of action for sport watches: the underwater world, airspace, and the racetrack. I think the key prerequisite in the choice of a leisure watch is that the buyer should find out about the model’s origins and its history. Almost every watch brand from Germany and Switzerland owes its popularity to a special field in which it has rendered exceptional service. Nowadays even people who aren’t aviation fans sometimes fly more often than the secret agents of the 1960s did in their best years. As a result, today’s aviator watches are twice as popular as they were back then. Especially if you’re a pilot yourself, you’ll enjoy taking a Breitling Navitimer with you into the cockpit. Its name has nothing to do with the Navy — it refers to flight navigation. This model, which was launched in 1952, was the first one that enabled pilots to perform slide rule functions with the rotatable bezel in order to calculate their rates of ascent and descent and their fuel consumption.
An especially convenient feature is the fact that all of these functions are still there today, and pilots like to have them on their wrists as an analog backup in case of an emergency.
If you still feel that something’s missing, you’re quite right. Of course the most important field of action of the movies’ famous secret agent was always the cocktail bar or the casino. James Bond liked to wear his workday watches even during his glamorous evening forays. Through his escapades, Sean Connery made stainless steel watches socially acceptable for the first time in the 1960s. Previously, nobody would have thought of wearing a stainless steel watch for an evening at the opera. This too distinguishes the James Bond of the movies from the same figure in the Bond novels, who would never have done such a thing. In 1950 this would have been a faux pas similar to bringing a radio transmitter with you to the opera.
If you decide on an elegant dress watch, perhaps even a gold model, at the end of your search, you’ll be demonstrating your keen sense of occasion. What’s more, a gold watch has additional advantages (and I’m not talking about the often invoked last financial reserve on your wrist — may you never need to use it). A flat, simple watch with not much more than two or three hands for the hours, minutes, and seconds is equally appropriate for evening wear and for the office. And as a timeless piece of jewelry, it’s more suitable for being handed down to the next generation. Especially in Germany, in this connection I always like to remind customers that in this country we also build outstanding watches — for example, in Glashütte in Saxony.
As with everything in life, of course there’s always a cap tivating third alternative: watches that are not too sporty and extroverted, but also not too inconspicuous and discreet. Wempe made the leap from being a dealer to being a producer in 2006, and for over a decade it has created its own wrist watches at the observatory in Glashütte. Incidentally, shortly before the outbreak of World War II Wempe already wanted to operate the observatory together with the A. Lange & Söhne manufacture, which I’ve already mentioned. Today, very special watches are created there and in the annexes that were built in 2010. All of these models are certified with a German Chronometer Certificate, which testifies to their accuracy. This is the only certificate of its kind in Germany. One of the most successful models in this line was honored with the Goldene Unruh watch award in 2009. The Wempe Zeitmeister Full Calendar Moon Phase has a balance cock designed by Wempe that makes even finer adjustment possible. In addition to a full calendar, the watch has a moon-phase display. Watches of this kind, worn with an elegant full cut crocodile-skin band, celebrated their first boom in the 1920s. The second boom was in full swing when Ian Fleming was writing Casino Royale. The third comeback of the moon-phase display has probably been the most important trend of the past five years. And that brings us to the core element of the James Bond novels and films, whether you like secret agents or not: Good style never dies.