There are many bells and whistles in men’s wristwatches today: ceramic balance springs, 1/1000th-of-a-second chronographs, light-powered minute repeaters and most of all, tourbillons. But beyond the technical prowess and occasional design flair, there is little imagination in men’s watch design. And then there is Dunhill. Who but the eccentric Tom Bolt, antique watch dealer and recent re-inventor of Dunhill’s notorious Motorities collection, could have come up with the Parody Stone, a tribute to, among other Medieval legends, King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table?
The Parody Stone is rich in symbolism. The dial is obsidian, a hardy stone once used to make spearheads, and representative here of the mythical stone in which King Arthur’s famous sword, Excalibur, was embedded. It is decorated with England/s heraldic symbol of three lions, which represents dauntless courage. The date window, with Gothic font numerals, is framed by a shield bearing the red cross symbol of St. George, who famously battled dragons and other mythical beasts. The minute hand, naturally, takes the shape of a sword. The lugs are extravagantly decorated with Medieval scroll work, and the caseback is engraved with the Dunhill signature English Bulldog, which, in this edition, sports a Medieval court jester’s hat (which, fittingly, makes him look a bit drunk). The piece de resistance, however, is the protective visor, inspired by a knight’s helmet. The visor is hinged to the 18k white gold case and, in the closed position, reveals the date window and surrounding shield.
“So, basically, if you’re anti-English, you’re not going to buy the watch,” jokes Bolt. But seriously (or as serious as it gets), his line of thinking was: “Modern life can be tough, and to help us battle our way through the rigours of an average day, we sometimes need protection.” Right. Or a good imagination. The connection to the brand itself is that Alfred Dunhill began his career as a horsemaker and saddler, and the Arthurian knights, of course, depended upon horsepower to carry them into battle.
But above all, it’s the Englishness of the theme that inspired Bolt. “While the world becomes a smaller place, we gain a lot, but what dissipates is our national identity, and I think it’s okay to reconnect with our heritage,” he says. “It’s fun to bring some of our legends back to life again, and it’s a positive message – the knights of the Round Table were about honour and valour. They represented the first democratic system in England – that’s why the table was round.”
The Parody Stone will also be made in a platinum limited-edition series of 12 – one for each of the original 12 knights of the Round Table: Lancelot, Gawaine, Geraint, Gareth, Galahad, Bors, Kay, Gaheris, Bedivere, Lamorak, Percivale and Tristan. Each of the 12 limited editions will be engraved on the caseback with the name of a different knight. The hands will be designed to resemble the blade of King Arthur’s mythical sword, Excalibur, and the dial will be made of jasper, engraved with the three lion motif. The hour markers will represent the individual shields of the 12 knights. Each comes with a parchment on an engraved scroll, declaring the specifications and edition number. Dunhill hasn’t forgotten the Guinevere factor in this year’s introductions. The brand introduced a ladies’ version of its bestseller, they Citytamer, at this year’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie. The watch incorporates features of the men’s original, such as the unique split case, visible gasket construction, visible case screws and faceted crystal glass, but the ladies’ version has a quartz movement and is uniquely two-toned. The 18k white gold links in the otherwise 18k pink gold bracelet are placed randomly. There are three reasons for this, according to Bolt. “It adds a realistic looking sparkle, avoids a too-uniform design, and prevents a steel-and-gold look. We didn’t want it to look like a fashion watch,” explains Bolt. The watch is available on alligator strap (300 pieces), or with an 18k gold bracelet (200 pieces). The top case on both is pink gold, with an under case and crown of white gold. The caseback features a lacquer-filled engraving of the Dunhill City Bulldog.
Another example of Bolt’s eccentricity this year is the A-Centric Pentagraph. The dial contains no less than five separate hands, all driven from the centre of the main dial. In order to achieve this, Dunhill commissioned an exclusive movement from Swiss manufacturer Dubois-Depraz. In order to avoid confusion, the five bezel rings that correspond to each hand are colour-coordinated on a large (42mm) dial. The outer, blued track is a 24-hour, dual time-zone indicator. The second, red ring marks the date. The third, white ring shows the seconds and the main, yellow numerals of the inner ring represent local time. The A-Centric is part of the Motorities collection, and the engraved line on the bezel represents the piston ring on a car engine. Dunhill will produce 1,000 pieces in steel and 300 pieces in an 18k yellow gold case with alligator strap.
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Like the reintroduction of the Mini motorcar over a decade ago, this reinterpretation of Big Pilot by IWC is better than the original. This 1st series Platinum example is of course the top of the top.