I’ll start this post with a disclaimer: by the time I had a chance to write about the watch that inspired this post, it was sold out. I decided it was worth writing about anyway, since it is a beautiful watch by an interesting brand, being sold at a fantastic store. That watch, of course, is the MKII Vantage for Epaulet. The now discontinued and sold out MKII Vantage is an homage to the timeless Rolex Explorer. There is a fairly thorough history of the Rolex here, but to briefly summarize the Explorer was designed to commemorate the Everest expedition by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. It was designed to be highly legible, extra durable and function in wide range of temperatures … That is to say, be ready for adventure. The look of the watch just exudes purpose and elegance. It is the kind of watch that can be worn in any circumstance and with probably any piece of attire.
The Vantage keeps the Explorer dial, but is quite different in some other ways. Here is a side-by-side comparison where you can clearly see the size difference between the Rolex and the MKII as well as the difference in the lug shape. For Epaulet, there is one small twist made to watch; a red seconds hand. Though this modification is slight, and departs from the Explorer, it happens to be that type of little detail that makes this great watch amazing. Sure, that might not be true for everyone, but to my eye, a little unexpected disturbance to an otherwise very subtle terrain is what gives something unique personality…it’s an idiosyncrasy; it’s what will distinguish this model from the herd. The 39mm Vantage for Epaulet is powered by an ETA 2824-2, is water resistant to 200m, has a domed sapphire crystal and was available, briefly, for $695.
Part of what makes this edition so interesting though is that is was a collaboration between MKII and Epaulet. MKII is a very interesting US based brand started in 2002 by Bill Yao. Initially, Yao made watch parts and did custom modifications to existing brands. Here is a gallery on WatchuSeek of mods people got using MKII parts. Since then, though, MKII has developed into a full-scale watch brand specializing in “custom tool watches”, to use their language. The watches are all based on historically significant designs, such as the fifty-fathoms or, as is the case on their newest watch, Project Kingston, the Rolex Submariner Ref. 6538 worn by James Bond. They make their watches in very limited quantities, have a strong cult following and are instantly collectible.
Needless to say, MKII is a brand whose wares I try to stay on top of. When I saw that the Vantage was available at Epaulet, a NYC based clothing store, I was very excited. Epaulet, who just received Racked’s “Best Men’s Store 2011” award, is a go-to for exceptionally well-curated clothing. As they put it “our focus is to deliver classic American style (with a heavy touch of British influence), razor-sharp tailoring, consistent sizing, unique fabrics, and phenomenal quality at a fair price.” It is great to see that they extend that philosophy into watches as well. In a day where so many stores and sites are pushing vintage watches that cost several grand as trendy, it is very refreshing to see a store, whose sense of style is exalted, is selling something that is both achievable and supports the independent watch movement. Hopefully the two brands will continue to collaborate in the future. And, moreover, I will be able to inform you of this before they are sold out. That being said, if you are looking for a Vantage (which I’m definitely lusting over now) they occasionally show up on watchrecon, so keep and eye out.
images from Epaulet and Gnomon