From the POCKET to the WRIST
In the automotive world it is not unusual to give an existing chassis with engine a completely new body. However, using the mechanical movement from a pocket watch to create an exclusive wristwatch is extremely rare. The Alexander Phillip Watch Company is an exception.
The most recent example of a new body on an existing chassis is the Speedback GT. British businessman David Brown revealed the creation, which strongly resembles a classic Aston Martin, this year: a beautiful retro car with a hand-shaped aluminium body mounted on the chassis of the Jaguar XKR; the engine comes from that same sports coupe. The price? 495,000 pounds sterling. The Alexander Phillip Watch Company takes the same principle to the world of watchmaking; however, the big difference compared to the automotive conversion is that in the case of the watch it is not an updated mechanical heart that is used, but a classic movement.
Pocket watch movements tend to be relatively big, but they are quite plentiful and therefore not very expensive. Watchmaking studios, like the Jochen Benzinger studio in Pforzheim, often use the renowned Unitas 6498/6497 pocket watch calibre from the 1950s, which is still being produced as the ETA 6498-1. This movement is not excessively big (36.6mm diameter) and not very thick thanks to the hand winding, and various big brands (Officine Panerai, Alpina) use it in wristwatches as well. But what the Alexander Phillip Watch Company has done takes things to an entirely different level, because using precious and expensive pocket Patek Philippe watch movements to create exclusive wristwatches, that is something few others will be able to emulate. In close collaboration with a Geneva goldsmith AWC has so far created three watches that proudly bear the name Alexander Phillip Watch Companyand that of movement maker Patek Philippe.
“We had a number of pocket watches and we didn’t really know what to do with them”, a spokesperson for the Alexander Phillip Watch Company explains. “No one really uses pocket watches any more. So then we came up with the idea of turning them into wristwatches. That is definitely easier said than done: it is a huge job! First a case has to be made, of gold. That case has to be somewhat water resistant as well. The movement was cleaned up but not changed in any way. It was fitted in the case so it would be shockproof. And of course we saved everything we didn’t use, like the original case and crown, so you could recreate the pocket watch if you wanted to.” The favourite is a relatively big but thin watch containing a Patek Philippe grande complication movement. “It is an extremely rare pocket watch from 1937 that was purchased via Antiquorum for around 155,000 Swiss francs. The conversion cost a lot of money, but nowhere near the 200,000 francs Patek Philippe would charge for that kind of project. We don’t know what the value is in its current form. But just adding up the cost tells you it is not a bargain.”
“The project started as a hobby, but already we are getting fantastic reactions. It is quite possible that we will be making more of these watches. You know, we always enjoyed finding out if it is possible to make a very good watch relatively cheaply. That is also the concept behind Alexander Phillip Watch Company. The next project? Under the brand name AWC Swiss the Alexander Phillip Watch Company was able to buy 200 Valjoux 7750 movements, in parts. These have now been assembled here in Switzerland. AWC will be turning them into a top level chronograph, with a titanium case and bracelet. That kind of watch would normally cost between 4,800 and 6,500 pound, but AWC will be able to sell it at a price of around 1,600 pound. They will be sold exclusively on the Internet, from www.awc.ch.” That last promise makes it clear what the big difference is compared to the automotive world. The ‘specials’ that are developed there are always significantly more expensive than the original, while the Alexander Phillip Watch Company manages to combine exclusivity with prices that bring something very special within the reach of many. What’s more, beautiful movements are given a second chance at life.