Category Archives: Blog

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

Holding one of the most important watches made in the 20th century is a big deal for a total watch fanatic like me. So just prior to its auction at Sotheby’s London, on 19th September 2017 with an estimate of £1.2 to £1.8 million [it finally sold for £3,196,250], I had a final viewing of George Daniels’ iconic Space Travellers’ watch and took the opportunity to photograph and video the watch in action.


Apart from its immense mechanical complexity, it is quite simply one of the most beautiful and aesthetically pleasing watches ever made. It’s astonishing to remember that George Daniels made his pocket watches entirely by hand, designing his movements and escapements himself and making almost every component, right down to the tiniest screws. To conceive and build a watch such as this is almost unimaginable. Viewing the movement in my hand I tried to put myself in the mind of the master, just to imagine the incredible sense of…let’s face it…brilliance he must have felt, looking down at his own creation.

Made in 1982, the watch has two trains and Daniels’ own independent double wheel escapement. There are two dials to show both mean-solar and sidereal time, there’s also apertures for moon-phases, moon-age, annual calendar and sector for equation of time. In brief, mean solar time is the standard time shown by watches and clocks, sidereal time is that based on the amount of time it takes the Earth to make two consecutive transitions of a meridian by a fixed star. The difference being 3.555 minutes per day. This watch makes the calculations for you. What is particularly amazing is that the chronograph function can also be switched between sidereal or mean solar recording – as George used to say to people:

when you are on your package tour to Mars you need a watch like this, and when using the telephone  for long distance calls, you can switch the chronograph to sidereal time to cut your bills by 3.555 minutes per day. George Daniels

Viewing the watch in action is mesmerising, the two independent subsidiary seconds hands power away and the chronograph seconds hand jumps with a precise staccato motion as soon as the chronograph pusher is activated. Turn it over and the glazed back means you are immediately immersed in horological heaven.

And who would buy a watch like this? Well frankly, with a spare million or so, who wouldn’t?

Alex Barter of Black Bough is a consultant to Sotheby’s watch department and assisted with the research and cataloguing of George Daniels’ Space Travellers’ watch – you’ll find full details of this watch on the Sotheby’s website HERE

 

As with many middle class shoppers over the past few years I have been converted to the benefit of discount supermarkets. The local option for this is Aldi although I should give an honourable mention to our local independent supermarket Harry Tuffins who aren’t positioned as a discount retailer but throw up some great bargains from time to time.

I normally have a very tactical shopping route in Aldi – stick to the edge aisles, avoid the central seasonal offer aisles – but today, on the search for screenwash, I diverted from my path and hit the jackpot with this random product: patterned duct tape.

Seriously . . . patterned duct tape in polka dots, checks and harlequin patterns. Now, I just have to find a practical/ornamental application for it. Look at it though!

If Lidl is your local discount supermarket I can wholeheartedly recommend their individual Pain au Chocolat . . . . but can’t comment on their printed duct tape!

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!