There are plenty of watches with a story behind them. Sometimes it’s a simple association – Breitling’s link with aviation, for example. Sometimes it’s rather more involved – Bremont taking original punch cards from the UK’s WWII secret codebreaking HQ, Bletchley Park, and working them into a watch case. REC doesn’t have Breitling’s history or Bremont’s rarity, but it certainly has its own distinct story.
The Denmark-based brand is run by Christian Mygh and Jonathan Kamstrup. Both men share a love for watches but, crucially for their story, cars too. And that’s what marks the brand out as different. Jonathan is a huge enthusiast for classic Minis (known as Mascots in his native Denmark) and so he’s integrated a little of his petrolheady enthusiasm in each watch. In fact, he’s gone further and integrated a little bit of real classic Mini into each watch.
Each REC watch’s dial doesn’t just take design cues from the dashboard of the classic Mini, it’s made from reclaimed classic Mini bodywork. Co-founder Jonathan explains more, “A-lot of research and leg-work goes into finding donor cars. We contact car clubs, previous owners and more in order to find just the right vehicle. Oftentimes these people will not have a website or anything like that, so we sometimes end up in remote locations looking at barn-finds or wrecks that would (sadly) never be resold or restored.” That means each REC Mk I has a dial that’s unique to the watch. A little bit of automotive history that’s seen action on the roads of Scandanavia.
Jonathan estimates each otherwise unsalvageable Mini will yield anywhere between 600 and 1,100 dials. And this isn’t puff and marketing either – it’s for real. Just to prove it, your REC MkI will come with not just a certificate of authenticity but the story of the car from which it was made. Neat. And you can even see the movie of the car that made the watch:
As you can see from the video, there’s no remote, perfumed ivory brand tower for Jonathan and Christian. They get their hands dirty. And willingly. Jonathan again, “We simply do it ourselves, and always try to recycle as much material as possible. However, one should keep in mind that, and especially for classic cars, many of the original parts can have a restoration value. We never transform these parts, as they can (and will) be re-used for other purposes.”
But what do you get with a REC MkI M? For a start, you get a seriously chunky watch. The MkI is 44.3mm and 13mm deep. It weighs in at 66gms. You’d think with those dimensions it’d wear like an eighteenth century marine chronometer. But it doesn’t. Sure, it’s a big watch but it snugs down on the wrist, helped by the rounded bezel and the simplicity of the brushed and polished stainless steel case design. Screw down back, two pushers, one crown.
Inside, doing the hard work is a robust OS21 Miyota quartz movement. Battery life is quoted at 3 years, so you shouldn’t have to open the 5ATM, water-resistant back too often. Miyota are part of Citizen and have been going since the 1950s, so it’s a movement you needn’t worry about. There’s a gorgeous detail with the donor Mini’s (vehicle identification number) VIN being stamped on the caseback too.
The movement powers the hands running over the reclaimed Mini dial with 24 hour indicator, 60-minute chronograph and date. You’ll instantly recognise the Mini design theme with the oval dial centre echoing the dashboard instrument pod. The 24 hour indicator sits where the original Mini’s oil pressure gauge would be, and the engine temperature gauge’s place is taken by the chrono’s minute totaliser.
Christian and Jonathan are clearly dedicated to what they do. A good guide to how much a maker gives a damn is the care they invest in their packaging. With a REC watch you get a recycled card outer box labelled with the model number, the REC logo and the VIN of the Mini that donated a panel to make your watch. The typography is rather splendidly 1950s too – very classic Mini. But you get more than that. You get a potted history of the car and a certificate of authenticity. And, if it’s like this one, your watch might even arrive set to 1010 – the best time for an analogue watch to show off its face. There’s some lovely care and detail to REC.
Inside, there’s your choice of REC MkI watch, a NATO strap and also a leather strap. The springbars REC uses are neat too – no need for a special tool, just push the tang with your fingernail and out pops the bar. The REC website is NATO heaven too, with nine different straps to pick ranging from the bright to the sombre.
Clearly, there’s a classic car market for the REC MkI because of the direct link to Mini. But what’s the watch enthusiast market for the brand? You’ll not find a tourbillon or a swan neck regulator behind the case back – and the case itself, although superbly solid and well-designed, is no Oyster or Reverso. But those are utterly unreasonable demands in a watch that costs just $465. And they’re not what the REC Mk I M are about. This is about having a bit of history on your wrist, something with a story and interest behind it.
I think there is definitely a watch enthusiast piece here, simply because the whole thing just works so well together. And actually, because of Christian and Jonathan’s sheer love for what they do. Despite the quality of the watches, it’s not a po-faced brand that takes itself too seriously. There’s a rather wonderful, understated humour to the whole thing.
So what’s next for the two business partners? Jonathan says, “Short-term we’re introducing the third and last series of Mini watches, called the Minimalist, a very simple and dressy watch. Further, it’s no secret that our first collections were exclusively quartz-driven watches, and we’d really like to try ourselves at some automatic pieces in the future.”
The two men are also running a website poll where customers can vote for the object they should recycle and reclaim next – from a 911 to a Routemaster London bus. Should be interesting no matter what they choose.
by Mark McArthur-Christie