I began writing this article over a month ago in my mind, but haven’t begun reducing it to writing until now. It’s not that I struggle to find words suitable for this watch, rather, its a watch that inspires me to say so much. In fact, calling it a watch is almost a misnomer, because it is something else entirely. Yes it does fit on your wrist, and it does tell the time, but its really not meant for that. What I’d like to do is consider how some people might approach seeing this watch, and then present my articulated perception of what the DeWitt WX-1 Concept may really be.
“You see this watch? This watch costs more than your car.” Alec Baldwin proclaims this confidently in the movie version of Glengarry Glen Ross (see clip here on YouTube; excellent performance). It’s a powerful line. If you wear a DeWitt WX-1, you can similarly proclaim to most of America, a related yet enhanced version of this statement. “You see this watch? This watch costs more than your house.” Thats right, the 33 WX-1 watches made are priced at 400,000 Euros each, which is about $650,000. A price far above the average home value in America. Which goes to a question that many have asked me, “why is the watch so expensive?” Or better stated “what makes the watch worth so much money.” It is a price meant for an audience. It is unclear who is paying this price, but I am sure some do. The watch has no precious gems, and while it does contain some gold, thats not really were the value is. I explain the number of skilled hours of labor put in to both developing and constructing the watch as a hint to its value. I explain the uniqueness of the design, and undecipherable (for most) complication of the internal components. People are swayed. They just didn’t get it, yet somehow I did, though it was difficult to explain.
I flashback in my mind to the moment I was handed the watch. It was contained in a cardboard box carefully wrapped in “luxury watch grade” plastic saran wrap. I handled it with great care knowing what it was, but feeling unworthy of fully appreciating all that it represented and the craftsmanship gifted by DeWitt into its design. You’ll notice how big the watch is, a beast by any accord, but this is no wild animal. It was remarkably light and solid feeling. The materials in the 191 gram weighing watch range from an aluminum-lithium alloy (among other types of aluminum), grade 5 titanium, gold, steel, sapphire crystal and rubber. Despite the many moving parts and moving case, it did not rattle, and seemed to be make from a single block with two straps attached to it. I immediately noticed the larger than life deployment shaped as a large DeWitt logo. There was something all too appropriate about it. No matter how strange the watch was in comparison to everything else out there, it felt comfortable in its own skin. As though it enjoyed an unstated sense of refinement. I continued to ponder the innate appeal the WX-1 held.
The shape of the case has little to do with traditional watches. The look differs based on the position you place it in. From one angle it looks like an early science fiction space craft, from another angle it looks like a fancy fire hydrant. These associations are a good thing in my opinion. Too abstract a shape and the eye is dissuaded from its fashion, searching for meaning. It is a benefit to any design when a mere glance alludes to shapes of familiar things; my compliments to a truly organic schematic, with varied origins.
It was not until I was able to remove the plastic wrap that I began to see what this watch could do. The entire case pulls open to reveal a view of the movement. A complex flying tourbillon with a 21 power reserve due to the five barrels. The tourbillon movement is placed in a vertical position near a small porthole on the side of the case, for constant viewing. Aside from viewing the columns of gears inside the case, you have a view of a dedicated power reserve indicator, which is a necessary element when you only need to wind the watch once or twice a month.
As an unexpected modern twist, DeWitt provides a USB powered watch winder for the WX-1. I have to say that I was amazed to hear this. Why? Well first of all watch companies are notoriously slated in the past. I mean we are talking the dedicated production of mechanical watches, that from a pure efficiency standpoint more or less seceded from being practical once the quartz watch movement proved to be infinitely cheaper and more accurate. Ah, but the mechanical watch is so much more sexy. Why do we prefer a fine vintage wine, when Pabst Blue Ribbon beer will do the trick? It is because mechanical watches are seeped in tradition, romance, and the most important element of all to a coveting collector; they are extremely difficult to design and manufacture. So when DeWitt coupled the WX-1 with a USB charger, I was impressed and intrigued. The USB charging unit functions like a little stand for the watch. You deploy the dedicated winding stem from the watch with a small lever (the winding stem is located in the side porthole next to the tourbillon window). Once the stem is extended, it connects with the charger that turns it intermittently. It’s amusing that you can connect this triumph of mechanical nostalgia to a computer for power purposes. I find this fact charming, and perhaps highly telling of watch the luxury watch industry is all about; producing creations of art and excess that must still conform to lifestyle and practical considerations.
Having said that, you probably cannot be expected to wear the DeWitt WX-1 too often. It is frankly too big to even fit under a shirt sleeve, and you’d be mortified to ding it. On the same note, it is interesting that DeWitt probably spent the least amount of effort on the aspect of this watch that tells the time. The clock portion of the watch sticks out like a node from the mothership. Unlike traditional watches that use hands, the WX-1 has three two rotating discs. Line them up with the small arrow at the top of the dial, and you have the time. First appearance tells me that the discs are some manner of compass or instrument too complicated for my cognition. Closer inspection however reveals numbers commonly found on a watch face, this must surely be where I tell the time, and it is. This isn’t DeWitt trying to confuse anyone, but rather to ensure the effect of the watch is not last. The vision of a grand complications, whose read out of information has been as beautifully conceived as the body that holds it.
Smooth pushing the WX-1 case back together I realize that the windows all over the watch are all what appear to be sapphire crystals, extremely hard to fabricate in these shapes. I am thoroughly impressed by this watch, and relish in seeing it in the hands of others. What’s to say about the design? I submitted to the fact that to each their own. I like it its looks (even though the WX-1 does not appear to care what I think), I see it as Jules Verne-esque. Like an Victorian era spaceship. Some would define the look as “steampunk,” and I would not disagree. Vianney Halter has successfully created his entire brand of high-end watches around the steampunk aesthetic, and the concept is masterful. The WX-1 fits all these labels, and yet it emulates nothing specifically. The detailed rivets around the cases are meant to signify the labor put into the watch. That hands put this masterpiece together, rivet by rivet, not machine. A true creation of manual labor in its most refined form, a combination of engineering and art that only the watch industry can convey, and value clear as day in this DeWitt.
I spent my time with the DeWitt WX-1 a few weeks, but continue to ponder its implications. It occurred to me while strolling in San Francisco past art galleries, only blocks from Shapur where I viewed the watch that this was no mere accessory. You can hang a poster in your home, or priceless art. Both serve the same purpose in the most basic of definitions, but clearly they are not the same. The same logic applies here and translates to suggest that the DeWitt, while representing itself as a fully functioning wrist watch, is rather a masterpiece of art. It passes several tests to this degree. There are limited numbers, they are not easily reproduced, and the design and manufacture are accomplished by recognized masters.
Years from now I’ll see a DeWitt WX-1 in a museum, as it is of that quality. I’ll think to myself lucky as having had the time to experience it when it was new, a product available for purchase, even if only for the super rich. Leonardo DaVinci, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent Van Gogh were all artists with work for sale at some point. The DeWitt WX-1 watches may be a creation of several artists, not just one; but like works by these other masters, the few examples will one day reach a place when they too will seem like absolute bargains at their original prices.
And now, some words from our friends at DeWitt (in my words):
DeWitt appreciates interest in their watches, and wants to work with potential buyers closely. DeWitt does not allow its authorized retailers to sell over the internet. Further, DeWitt wants to remind you that pre-owned watches not purchased from an authorized dealer will certainly not carry any warranty coverage (so repairs and service will be costly). Their position is that if you don’t purchase a watch from an authorized dealer they cannot guarantee a watch’s authenticity and conformity to their high quality standards. If you want to purchase a DeWitt watch from an authorized dealer, then please visit their website, DeWitt.ch, and follow these steps:
1. After the page has loaded after the intro, click on the “Network” tab to access a map of the world.
2. Find your region or country and then scroll through the list of authorized dealers and find one that is closest to you, and then contact them. If you don’t live nearby and still want to consummate a sale, delivery options are available I am sure.
3. If you’d like to know more about the product line or to contact DeWitt directly, then you can click on the “Contact” tab at the bottom of the page. I’ve been assured that someone will get back to you with haste.
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