Icon’s Duesey Brings the Glamour of a Deco Duesenberg To Your Wrist
- December 7, 2017 |
- By Laurie Kahle
Decades ago, when automotive designer and vintage watch collector Jonathan Ward, founder and lead designer of Icon 4x4 in Los Angeles, first spotted a drum gauge tachometer on an early Duesenberg, he envisioned the unique gauge as a jump hour watch.
Ward’s car company, which grew out of his passion for restoring old cars, offers both production vehicles and bespoke retrofits of vintage cars that are updated with custom interiors and state of the art mechanics and technology to make them more viable for everyday driving, while preserving their retro allure. He sought to bring that same spirit to Icon watches, blending classic styling with modern mechanics.
His debut Duesey ($11,500) takes its name from the über-luxurious Duesenberg, hand-built American cars that embodied Art Deco extravagance with mechanical advancements. The Duesenberg Motors Company in Indianapolis produced just over 1,100 cars between 1921 and 1937, when the company folded, making them exceedingly rare and valuable on the vintage car market today. In 2013, a 1935 Duesenberg Model SJ Walker-LaGrande Convertible Coupe sold at auction for $4,510,000.
“To me, Duesenberg was the highpoint of American-designed and manufactured vehicles,” says Ward. “They set out to be the Rolls Royce of America, and then some.”
The gauge that inspired the Duesey watch was fitted on only the first few hundred cars produced, after which it was discontinued and replaced with a more conventional design. “It was like a jump hour except the drum mechanism that turned was perpendicular to the face of the gauge,” explains Ward. “It was incredibly simple, and gave an immediate read of your engine speed or your vehicle speed. It was the purest expression that the original designer intended.”
Ward’s vision for a watch based on the design led him to partner with a Swiss company that is manufacturing the watches for delivery next spring. The 42-mm titanium jump hour displays the time with discs rather than hands. As a designer, Ward says he has always loved the jump hour for its pure devotion to time telling.
“When it comes to designing watches, I love the rules of legibility, the confines of immediate time read,” he says. “There’s nothing superfluous, nothing that takes away from the ability of what a watch is supposed to do for you, which is tell you the darned time.”
Ward modeled and designed the watch himself, making tweaks along the way. He even went so far as to design the stylized Deco typeface that appears on the discs through apertures in the black onyx dial. The squashed onion crown was another detail he obsessed over. The Duesey is powered by a reliable Dubois-Depraz automatic 14400 module paired with an ETA base movement with perlage and snail finishing on the rhodium-plated bridges.
Ward reports that he has already pre-sold half the production run, and once the Duesey sells out, he will look to produce other designs he has been developing.
“To me, the automotive watch brand pairings seen thus far have been more of a co-branding marketing effort than a direct design exploration,” says Ward, who has amassed a collection of about 120 watches, mostly vintage. “My automotive brand grew out of a hobby and that same purity is happening with the watches. I just had ideas for designs, and I was just dying inside until I could create them.”