Category Archives: Blog

Our random musings: taking in the pantechnicon of Black Bough interests; watches, art, food…

Our newest stationery supplier is Pressed & Folded – the joint creative project of James & Malissa Brown. We’ve had a couple of James’s own card designs in the shop previously via the publisher Art Angels but these new ones are the fruit of their own endeavours.

We’ve split the selection of cards in to two separate listings on our website – ‘patterns‘ and ‘message‘. Both classifications are blank inside for your own message so you can either carry along the heartfelt ‘Congratulations’ as stated on the front of the card or undermine the basis of that with some other message of your choosing.

The ‘pattern’ selection houses everything from repeat brush marks to designs that seem to have their roots in fabric.

I’ve known James for a while as he worked alongside my friend Kate Gibb on a couple of exhibitions in London. Kate has a new collaborator, William Edmonds . . . . which suggests that she has ditched James . . . . I don’t think this is the case. Kate and William are working on collaborative pieces together under the moniker Touching Elbows. The name partly relates to the practice of working alongside each other, on the same side of a screenprinting table, within elbows touching distance but, according to Kate also refers to the period when they first met up which was at the height of Ebola scares and that ‘touching elbows’ was their safe form of a hug/handshake. Together they have designed fabrics for Flock and and are also exhibiting this weekend at The Hepworth Wakefield Print Fair  – you can see some of their prints on William’s website or on their Instagram feed.

Clive’s Omega Speedmaster Mark II from 1969

What makes a watch enthusiast? Like many others I suspect it starts early and for me with one significant event triggering the compulsion. The catalyst appeared on my tenth birthday over sixty years ago but is still fresh in my mind.

The unwrapping of a small square box revealed, quite unexpectedly, a pocket watch, but not just any pocket watch, no Roman Numerals or engine turned registers on this timepiece but the most wonderful and highly coloured scene on some distant planet showing Dan Dare “Pilot of the Future” confronting a writhing space creature armed only with his trusty ray-gun which he waved with regular precision! On the back of the watch was an engraving of a large raptor and the word “Eagle”.

Dan Dare was the leading character in that famous comic of the time “The Eagle” whose adventures along with his trusty sidekick Digby and often involving his arch enemy and evil genius The Mekon were eagerly awaited weekly by children everywhere.

Fifteen years later in 1969 the real adventures into space began with Apollo 11and the first moon landing. The three astronauts however did not carry ray guns or Dan Dare pocket watches but they did wear mechanical watches in fact Omega “Speedmasters”. During the actual moonwalk I understand only Buzz Aldrin wore his watch, Neil Armstrong left his in the space capsule as a backup in case the official timing mechanism for the crucial rocket burn failed.

NASA had selected the Speedmaster Chronograph for the mission after extensive testing of many of the top brands of the day including Rolex. Originally designed as a sports watch for car enthusiasts, its origins go back into the 1950’s.

My particular example of this model sourced from Black Bough is dated as Circa 1969 and, unlike the originals, features a chunky 42mm wide tonneau-form case which is impressively large even by current standards. Its matte deep space black dial with luminescent hands and numerals features three subsidiary dials and is surrounded by a bezel calibrated for tachymeter and chronograph pushers to ensure precise timing for those critical rocket burns. The screw down back shows not an eagle, but the Omega seahorse emblem. Manually fully wound, the calibre 861 movement will easily run for two days and, even after 47 years, keeps excellent time within a couple of minutes a week.

Rather sadly after his return to earth Buzz Aldrin sent his watch to the Smithsonian museum in Washington DC by special courier but it never arrived and is missing to this day – as is my Ingersoll Dan Dare pocket watch.

This is the fourth in a new series of posts where our customers write about a favourite piece they have bought from Black Bough. 

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Nick’s Omega Chronostop

“My interest in watches and, in particular, the Omega brand stemmed from a beautiful silver 1970’s automatic Omega that I was left by by grandfather in his will. It needed some love and attention and I had the watch serviced and the glass replaced but once restored it was a classic, reliable and stylish timepiece. As a 20 year old young man the Omega consigned my incumbent Swatch to the bedside cabinet never to be seen again.

As a young lawyer I blew my Christmas bonus on a Seamaster diver’s watch – the ubiquitous James Bond watch, very effectively marketed by Pierce Brosnan. My love of the Omega brand was sealed.

I stumbled across Black Bough on a visit to see an old school friend in Ludlow. The vintage watches on sale resonated with me as they are expertly hand picked, lovingly restored and represent the antithesis of some of the modern marque watches that I find largely gaudy and bling. Instead, these watches are understated, chic and undeniably cool.

I don’t consider myself a collector but I have 4 young sons and decided that each should inherit a quality watch. I have therefore bought 4 watches from Black Bough. Each have charm and style in abundance but my favourite is an Omega Chronostop that dates from 1969 (around the time I was born). It has an unusual Chronograph movement that allows the orange hand to time events or simply be used as a seconds hand. It has a grey dial and elegant yet sporty look. It has received a number of admiring glances, especially from one of my Parisienne Partners who has remarked on it a number of times (which I view as a hallmark of good taste!). As well as being aesthetically pleasing it keeps perfect time.

I rotate my watches regularly as each deserves a regular airing and I adore the variety and unique style of each.”

This is the third in a new series of posts where our customers write about a favourite piece they have bought from Black Bough. You’ll find the original listing for this watch on our website here: https://www.blackbough.co.uk/product/omega-chronostop-ref-145-009-steel-vintage-wristwatch-circa-1969-wwocgd1/

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Ritchie’s Movado Ermeto with original presentation case from 1935

“The reason I bought this particular travelling watch is because I appreciate the level of engineering and craftsmanship that went into its making. I’d been looking for something like it for a few years, but they’re often very tatty or have been neglected in the back of a drawer for 50 years. This one is made with steel and chrome, and has an uncommon grey dial with a style of numbers and hands that typifies the 30’s; as an aside, I like looking at items and buildings produced during the art deco period.

I haven’t yet taken this watch when I travel – it gets wound every night and sits on my bedside table. Given appropriate circumstances I would have no problem taking it with me, something like a journey on the Orient Express where you aren’t getting rushed around, or dumping belongings in and out of airport security trays.

It ticks away and is accurate to a couple of seconds per day which is great testament to its quality. It was made in the 1930s and is in stunning condition. To give you an idea of its size when closed, it would easily fit in the coin pocket of a pair of jeans.

I’m not really a watch collector, but I do have more than one watch. I’ve been fascinated by them since I received my first one as a gift on my 8th birthday (in 1979) – it was a manual wind boys’ Timex – black strap, white dial. I wore that watch until I got a Swatch as a teenager.

I wear a watch every day – I couldn’t be bothered with pulling out my mobile, unlocking it and then have to press some buttons to know the time or date. I wear the same 3 or 4 watches all year round, and it usually works out that I’m wearing the same one for about 6 weeks before I put on another another one, just for a change. I tend to favour classic designs, and nothing too ostentatious or large. Again, it’s the engineering and design of them that I appreciate.

I work in the IT industry as a Product Manager – a role I’ve enjoyed for many years. And no, I’d never wear a “smart watch”….. For me, it’s all about the physical object, and the craftsmanship and engineering chops that went into making it. This traveling watch is working perfectly, 80 years after it was made. I doubt there will be many Apple watches around at the end of this century, unless they’re in a museum of curiosities.

This is the second in a new series of posts where our customers write about a favourite piece they have bought from Black Bough. You’ll find the original listing for this watch on our website here: https://www.blackbough.co.uk/product/movado-ermeto-chronometre-steel-chrome-vintage-travelling-watch-circa-1935-wwmegb/

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Ian’s Rolex Air-King Ref. 5500 first sold in 1965

As an Electronics Engineer I spend a lot of my time working on the next ‘thing’.  In contrast, vintage watches have been performing their original function over 50 years, and in my opinion have yet to be bettered as a way of telling the time.

These days there is a lot of talk about energy harvesting but automatic wrist watches have been doing this for years with a mechanical mechanism and a very elegant design. This is what fascinates me and of course you don’t need to charge it daily.

I had been looking for a Rolex Air King for some time as I like the aeronautical connection and echoes of a time when air travel was a more positive experience. The attraction of this watch was its unusual design with full Arabic numerals. When I found out that it had its original 1960’s guarantee and service book its fate was sealed. Even the book is interesting with pictures of the hairspring being checked and the movement oiled.

I would not describe myself as a serious collector but I enjoy choosing which watch to wear in the morning to suit my mood and what I have planned for the day. It never fails to start and continues performing its task of simply telling the time accurately and stylishly.

This is the first in a new series of posts where our customers write about a favourite piece they have bought from Black Bough. You’ll find the original listing for this watch on our website here: https://www.blackbough.co.uk/product/rolex-oyster-perpetual-air-king-precision-ref-5500-steel-vintage-wristwatch-sold-1965-wwrakss/

I’m always slightly dubious as to the commercial worth of social media until I realise that I have used it myself for that very purpose. I’ve followed Jack Havelock on Instagram for a while and have just ordered 3 of these concrete origami paperweights from him . . . I’m just waiting for his brass plugged ash chopping board to migrate from Instagram to his online store.

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darren-almond-roche-court-08A rare mid week trip away from Shropshire last week gave Alex and I the opportunity to visit Roche Court and see Darren Almond’s exhibition of new work. It may have been half term but the galleries were quiet and we had a tour of Roche Court’s Artists House to ourselves. In the domestic space of those rooms were some of Darren’s work that I was familiar with: photographs taken at Giverny in the time just before day break known as civil dawn, a sideways continuation of his Full Moon works. In the Orangery galleries and the outside space were paintings, painted mirror pieces and train plates.

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If I say that the works continue the themes of his earlier sculptures, photographs and video works then it sounds like I’m suggesting he has been standing still – he hasn’t, it’s just that these are the huge subjects of time and space, our position within these and our understanding of them. The combination of mediums and playfulness – the mirrored works may make good Instagram fodder (particularly for those of us who shy away from selfies) – all work side by side, the reflection of the viewer in the mirrored works with the codified broken zeros makes the viewer aware of the relationship between themselves and both binary structures and the base point of zero from which everything else is objectified.

His Timespace paintings are shown in the same Orangery gallery as the mirrored works. Painted on aluminium their depth is encompassing – dwarfing the viewer not in physical scale but just in the manner in which you can grasp an understanding of them as being depictions of deep space, and thus opening that can of worms that is trying to get a handle on distance, scale and time of space.

The exhibition continues to November 11th. If you can’t make it then Roche Court is worth a visit anyway – there’s no café and no gift shop but there is great art work and lovely grounds . . . and you can get a cup of tea and and souvenir eraser elsewhere!

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Photo © Sotheby’s

What at first may appear to be simply a handsome late 17th century pocket watch is in fact an incredible piece of English horology. Bearing in mind that the balance spring had only just been applied to watches, thereby dramatically improving portable timekeeping, very few watches had yet been made with minute hands, let alone a seconds hand. Here we find not only a seconds hand but also a lever to the bezel which allows you to stop and start the movement – in practise this allowed you to use the watch as a seconds timer. This is quite extraordinary and unprecedented for the period of its production. Engraved around the edge of the dial is the original owner’s name and address, “Richard Dashwood Esq. of Dearham Grange”. Dashwood’s seals are formed as bosses to the case back at the positions of 3, 6 and 9 o’clock and having tried this myself, I can vouch for the fact that these provide the perfect grip for your hand, whilst you’re holding the watch with the bezel open so that you can activate the slide which starts and stops the movement. Racing a horse along a Chase, usually a measured mile, was a popular pastime amongst the gentry in the late 17th and 18th centuries – this watch was not a bad chattel, therefore, for Mr Dashwood to have for timing his horses with the distinct advantage of being able to flash his latest gadgetry amongst his friends.

This watch was sold for £22,500 at Sotheby’s London, ‘The Celebration of the English Watch Part I‘ 15th December 2015. A full description of the watch and an explanation of the unusual 6 hour dial can be found here: http://www.sothebys.com Part III of the collection will be offered at Sotheby’s this coming December.

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Photo © Sotheby’s

There comes a moment (the end of September/beginning of October) when there seems to be a concerted effort for publishers to release all of their top new titles . . . and before you know it, like daddy long legs entering the house en masse, there are books everywhere.

The job of the bookseller is obviously to try and calculate which titles are the ones that will be in great demand and which are obscure but hugely interesting and those which may be all of the above but that do not fit in with the rest of a shop’s stock or with their customer base.

So the latest batch of new titles from Thames and Hudson, Ryland Peters Small and Prestel have just made their way on to our website . . . and there’ll be more to follow.

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Among the highlights in my opinion are the new Ben Pentreath book, English Houses. It’s a very definitive style but oh so alluring.

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There are great new cook books from Diana Henry and Shaun Hill – the latter is particularly well written, both the recipes themselves and his chat around food culture.

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A glorious book about jewellery by two of Alex’s ex-colleagues at Sothebys.

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And in the children’s book section great interactive pop up/out books from Thames & Hudson and a new Britta Teckentrup title, Oskar, from Prestel.

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