A watch that was meant to be

A series of coincidences have resulted in a revolutionary watch dreamed up by a rock star, designed by a watchmaker and made by a heavyweight of horology. The result is Track 1, the first watch by Singer Reimagined.

It’s a long old road from California to Geneva – not least if you’re trying to make the leap from restoring Porsche 911s in the sunshine to entering the conservative, tradition-drenched world of Swiss watchmaking. What helped this ambitious pursuit, fuelled by an unerring instinct for beauty and a passion for excellence in design, was a series of beautiful coincidences that many might regard as fate.

A sketch of the watch and, from left to right: Jean-Marc Wiederrecht , Rob Dickinson and Marco Borraccino.

Singer Reimagined came about as the result of a chance encounter – Italian watch designer Marco Borraccino acted on impulse and sent an email to Rob Dickinson, former frontman of Indie rock band Catherine Wheel and President and Creative Director of Singer Vehicle Design, expressing his personal admiration for the Porsche 911s that Dickinson’s company was upgrading.

“His work was so inspiring to me, and after a few years staring at photos of his cars, I had to email him and introduce myself. And out of the blue he replied to me straight away and we started to talk, and I told him about what I did and I said whenever Singer would like to make a watch, let me know. And he loved the idea, but said ‘I don’t have the skills here in California, and a Singer watch would have to be as exceptional as the cars.’ He didn’t want to ‘co-brand’ with anyone else, so I started thinking.”

Dickinson and his team take the underpinnings of a 964-era 911, strip it right back to its bones and meticulously restore it to include a completely rebuilt engine and state-of-the-art componentry.  Every inch of the car is optimised and updated in a completely bespoke process that, says Dickinson “involves a special partnership between the owner and Singer, focused on renewal, restoration, re-engineering and re-invention to make the owner’s dream a reality.” Refining the existing architecture of a Porsche 911 might seem like a fool’s proposition at first, not to mention an audacious one – the car is a classic of automotive design, its aesthetic an icon of classic car manufacturing. And yet Singer has become one of the most admired companies specialising in vehicle restoration, having carved out a niche restoring only one type of car 911s from the late 1890s to early 1990s.

Taking this approach and applying it to watches – “a somewhat predictable bedfellow to cars in our shared universe” became a “nagging obsession” for Dickinson, who first began thinking about how he could apply his vision to watches a couple of years ago.

Dickinson eventually met his watchmaking fan in 2014 and the connection over engineering and design was instant.

Borraccino’s background as a designer and consultant spans two decades and his personal passion for cars ignited a dialogue with Dickinson. From subsequent communication, an idea was born, to design a watch that would riff on the idea of 1970s design, but bring something contemporary to high-end watchmaking, which respected the existing DNA of Singer.

“I thought to myself, what is the most iconic thing in watchmaking during this time? And I thought of the chronograph,” recalls Borraccino, and he turned his attentions to reimagining this horological stalwart – a proposition as seemingly audacious as Dickinson’s own re-evaluation of the possibilities of the 911. “I designed the chronograph without counters, I showed it to Rob and he loved it. However, the complexity demanded a partner who was a leader in his field.”

The harmonious synchronicities and fortuitous coincidences continued apace. Having sketched out his idea of a completely ‘reimagined’ chronograph, with the hours, minutes and seconds mounted in the centre of the dial, Borraccino turned to a doyenne of watch movements, Jean-Marc Wiederrecht to bring his design to reality. Wiederrecht is the founder of Agenhor, a titan of watch movement design. His CV reads like a Who’s Who of brands and he has designed movements for Hermes, Faberge, Van Cleef & Arpels,Harry Winston amongst others.

singer_track1_beautyTrack1 is a radical re-engineering of the chronograph. Its sleek lines frame a highly innovative and complex design with an unprecedented display made possible by the revolutionary AgenGraphe movement.

When he first mentioned the idea of a man from California making watches, Wiederrecht was sceptical that a car restorer could bring anything convincing to the conversation as far as Swiss high-end watches were concerned. But that’s when an astonishing moment of synchronicity took place. When Borraccino showed Wiederrecht his renderings of the central dial chronograph, the reaction was outright disbelief. He recalls that Wiederrecht firstly said ‘What the hell is this? Who made the movement in your watch?’ and finally… ‘And how do you know about it?’ It transpired that Wiederrecht had been working on an eerily similar design for over seven years.

“When he showed me his drawings, with the chronograph at the centre, I said: ‘How did you know?’” Wiederrecht confirmed to me when we met at Dubai Watch Week in 2017 (where the Track 1 by Singer Reimagined was a star attraction).  “Marco didn’t understand what I was asking and said ‘what do you mean?’ and then I showed him the sketches and drawings and technical plans for my own project, which mirrored his design so closely. There was no doubt after this that we would work together.”

Wiederrecht’s AgenGraphe is the result of a decade of development and completely redefines fundamental principles that have remained unchanged for decades, namely by enabling a centralised indication of the chronograph functions.

The Track 1 Geneva edition is now also available.

Agenhor’s movement was applied to the Faberge Visionnaire and Singer’s Track 1 and Track 1 Geneva Edition, which was revealed at the beginning of January.  Ten years in the making, this ground-breaking automatic calibre goes beyond the limitations imposed by preceding mechanisms, enabling a centralized indication of the chronograph functions, thus enabling a radical focus on legibility and performance. The time of day is presented in striking relief around the periphery of the dial by the small pointer at 6 o’clock, floating just above 2 rotating discs. It takes its design cues from the 1960s and 1970s, with a jumping hours and minutes enhancing its innate legibility and is an instantly covetable modern classic. “We love the sport classic watches of the 1970s, the engineering complexity of the automatic chronograph,” says Dickinson.

It seems that while watchmaking and cars are ‘predictable’ bedfellows, the route from California to Geneva, and all its inherent coincidences, was something a lot more unexpected.

“Being part of the Singer Reimagined adventure is about authentic collaboration. Nothing would have been possible without this team of industry experts, who bring together an unparalleled depth and breadth of skill and experience. Just as Agenhor has played a pivotal role in the development of this revolutionary chronograph, so too has every manufacturing partner made an invaluable contribution,” he adds, concluding: “The universe looked kindly on this obsession.”

 

 

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