One of the best things to happen to the watch industry in the last several years has been the democratization of craft. Traditionally, elements like bespoke Grand Feu enamel dials were the station of high-end brands, with prices to match. Labors of love and skill, they weren’t something you could just ring the local dial maker (if such a thing even existed) to have made. No, they required craftspeople, time, patience, and basically everything that added to both their mystique and their cost. Yet, with a charming brashness that seems reserved for a younger generation of independent brands, anOrdain managed to do just that, create obtainable enamel-dialed watches – and in Glasgow, Scotland, of all places.
Rather than outsourcing, anOrdain went the harder route – they did it themselves. Kilns, training, research, hours upon hours of experimentation, and meticulous design went into creating a line of watches with dials made of pigmented glass fused to metal. Housed in stylish cases and powered by Swiss automatic movements, these time-telling-works-of-art managed to do the impossible – be priced under $2k, yet have all the grace of watches that cost many times. While enamel is never really simple, in the few years since launch anOrdain’s techniques have evolved to include innovative fumé dials that mix depth, texture, and color to an outstanding effect. A skill only they possess. Luxury brands, eat your hearts out.
This brings us to 2020. You see, an essential part of craftspeople is the people, and during the lockdowns of 2020 in the UK, anOrdain couldn’t make dials. Facing a potential existential crisis, brand founder Lewis Heath hatched a plan. Before getting there, it’s worth remembering that the enamel is only part of what makes anOrdain’s watches successful. These aren’t cookie-cutter designs that swap in enamel for some ooh-la-las, they are original concepts from the ground up. A unique vision that is a touch classic, a hint quirky, and pleasantly minimal. It’s ultimately a fresh, and contemporary expression of watch design.
With that in mind, and a forced pause upon them, anOrdain developed a collection of watches based on their Model 1, but in lieu of the enamel dials they temporarily couldn’t create, they worked with a high-end German manufacturer to create dials with precious metal coatings and striking finishing. Bowl-shaped, the center of the dials are sandblasted in such a way that it makes them matte, yet with a subtle sparkle. Meanwhile, deep, curved chapter rings feature detailed brushing, creating contrast in metallic textures. Though still quite sumptuous, they celebrate anOrdain’s signature design elements and aesthetic.
Of particular note is a gorgeous typeface created by their in-house typographer, Imogen Ayres. Though seemingly such an essential part of watch design, few brands have their own typefaces, let alone typographers. Inspired by vintage ordnance survey maps, the hour numerals, set at even intervals, have a character that speaks to hand-drawn type. Broad stems contrast thin bars in a play that will have you searching for your loupe whenever an anOrdain is near. The second numerals are also bespoke, designed to complement the bolder elements. And this is not to forget their lovely skeletonized hands, which are crafted of steel in Switzerland, and then polished with wood, and thermally treated in house.
But then things started to get back to normal, at least enough for enameling to resume, so this project fell to the wayside. That is until we came calling. In a conversation with Lewis, he mentioned this experiment and wondered if we’d have any interest in launching it together. To say we were interested is an understatement. It was an enthusiastic yes, and thus the Model 1 Precious Metal Series was born.
A trio of watches based on the Model 1 design, each features a different precious metal coating on the dial and complementary accents. First up is Black Rhodium. A part of the platinum family, but actually rarer than platinum, it is used here to create a deep, inky black. The sandblasted center has a subtle texture, like a mix between charcoal and heavy toothed paper. At certain angles tiny glints of light sparkle off of the dark surface, adding a dynamic element. The brushed chapter ring appears a touch darker than the center, pulling the eye in. White accents, text and white lacquered hour and minute hands provide contrast for legibility, while the stick seconds is polished for a less aggressive look. Classic and understated, the typography and hand design are brought to the forefront.
Next is the Model 1 White Gold. Darker than silver, but not quite titanium, it’s a neutral gray with a mysterious character. The sandblasting has a pronounced effect on the gold, making the center region shimmer like a hot sidewalk just after the rain. The chapter ring adds a more industrial quality, connecting the white metal to the steel case around it. Black accents and text stand out against the dial for easy reading, while in-house heat-blued hands add a fleck of color at just the right angle. Altogether, it’s strikingly clean with nuanced details.
Last, and impossibly far from least, is the Model 1 Red Gold. A true “salmon” dial, it has a copper tone with a soft pink glow. Since it’s actual gold, however, there is a depth and luster to the metal that has to be seen to be appreciated fully. Like the White Gold, the sandblasted center has a notable sparkle that is ever-changing as the watch moves, while the chapter ring has a more classic, metallic appearance. Black accents and text have ample contrast against the warm surface, while the hands hide something unique. Rather than heat-blued, they are purpled, also in-house. An exacting process, the result is a warm, plum tone that shifts to black, adding an unexpected play of colors.
Housing these decadent dials is anOrdain’s signature 38mm x 46mm x 11mm polished steel case. A distinctive design, uniquely faceted lugs, which were designed to reflect elements from their house-font, add some exciting lines and geometry, while a slightly extended right side gently protects the crown. A domed sapphire crystal with several layers of AR caps it off while providing exceptional clarity across the entire span of the dial. To mark the collaboration, the case-backs feature the Windup Watch Shop logo, as well as the individual number of the watch. Keeping time within the Model 1 Precious Metal Series of watches is an ETA 2824-2 Swiss-made automatic. Each movement is regulated and modified in-house by a team of four watchmakers, who also remove the date as well as the date stop on the crown. anOrdain also provides 5-years of warranty and in-house servicing
It is with the greatest of excitement that we are launching the anOrdain Model 1 Precious Metal series today, available exclusively at Windup Watch Shop. The watches, made in a numbered batch of 50 each, are not necessarily limited but will not return in quite the same way either. Priced at $1,250, the watches come mounted to German-made straps and are protected by gorgeous German-made suede travel cases. Watches will ship by late August.
However, if you happen to be in or around NYC, we have a handful of each version available (as well as a few enamel models) at the Windup Watch Shop Summer Pop-Up at 347 Broome St, ending Aug 1st. This will be a great opportunity to check them out in the metal, and walk away with one on your wrist.
Outfits courtesy of Taylor Stitch