The idea of the Germans celebrating the British monarchy might seem a bit rum, but that’s exactly the case with this watch, unveiled at BaselWorld by the single-hand specialist MeisterSinger. Its unusual look is a far cry from the normal minimalism favoured by MeisterSinger founder Manfred Brassler, and is in fact a very faithful recreation of the design for the clock tower of Westminster Abbey in London.
Like many clocks of its era – and most historical examples previously – the Abbey’s features only an hour hand. Such ancient church clocks, made before breaking time down into exact minutes was found to be necessary – time was simply estimated to the nearest quarter-hour – were the original inspiration for Brassler’s stripped back approach to watch design. (We looked at the MeisterSinger concept in 2011, in this edition of Talking Hands.) Though the Abbey was built in 1245, the clock was installed in the North West Tower in 1738, by the clockmaker John Seddon.
MeisterSinger’s version recreates that dial exactly, with gold roman numerals surrounding a purple flower pattern, and a single gold hand with a long counterweight finishing in a crescent moon shape.
What has it to do with royalty? Well, this being the sixtieth anniversary of the Queen’s 1953 coronation, the watch is being made to honour that, in a limited edition of 60 pieces priced at £1,953. The watch is a version of MeisterSinger’s No 2 watch, 43mm across and containing the famous Unitas 6498-1 hand-wound movement, which is shown handsomely in the large window of the exhibition caseback.
Each of the 60 watches will have its own unique number, and come with a certificate hand-signed by Manfred Brassler, with a text prepared in collaboration with Westminster Abbey’s archivist. Packaging will also be specially designed. What’s more, I’m told the watch will be exhibited and available to purchase (besides normal retailers) in the Abbey’s gift shop. Certainly beats picking up a key ring.
We rather like this piece. It’s undoubtedly an acquired taste both in aesthetics and functionality, but it’s easy to see how the crisp geometry of Seddon’s design appealed to Brassler, even if it’s a long way from his normal Bauhaus template. As it happens, the fact that the original design still exists at all is something of a fluke. By 1861 the clock had worn out and the movement was replaced, with a new clock made and installed by Thwaites and Reed of Clerkenwell, at a cost of £257. Not only was Seddon’s dial retained, but so was the single hour hand, even though by this time single-hand clocks had been long relegated to history. According to the consultant archaeologist to Westminster Abbey, it may well be for cost reasons that the 12:1 gearing required to drive a minute hand was not installed.
For more information on MeisterSinger go here
For more information on Westminster Abbey go here
MeisterSinger’s limited edition: the Westminster Abbey watch
The minimalist watch house recreates the Abbey’s single-hand clock for the Coronation anniversary.
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