And then there is Tom Bolt. A man whose horological obsession stems from the James Bond movie Live and Live Die, which he saw at the age of five, where the buzz-saw bezel of a Rolex watch is used to fictionally rip through metal, and from that day on he was completely hooked. So by the time he turned 18, Tom lived by the belief that “You are not a man until you own a Rolex watch”. This, of course, turned out to be a crazy mantra for a young man with no money and a big gold watch on his arm, so he sold his first Rolex and made a small profit from a guy who then taught him all about watches and the business. From then on, Bolt became one of the world’s foremost watch dealers and authorities, so it is only natural, then, when Dunhill was looking for somebody to renew the spirit of the brand’s watches, that they would turn to him.
When you are designing a watch, what kind of a person are you designing for? When you set out to design something, I think you have to design for you. I think that watches recently have become so staid and conservative – you think Swiss wrist watches and you think tweed – and so now there has been a bit of a backlash and you have some really funky stuff that is a bit left of centre coming out. Has this involvement with Dunhill changed the way you think? For me, ultimately what I am is a watch dealer. I have been dealing with high-end watches for 17 years. So getting involved with Dunhill, and going through their archives, what I have done is brought a watch person’s point of view to a unique heritage. Previously I was quite ignorant about Dunhill, and was only aware of their great things from the 30s and 40s, like silver belt buckle watches and suspended motorcycle clocks that are quite collectible today. So in talking to them, I though this was an amazing opportunity.
So this is your first design gig? Yes. As far as high end vintage watches I was renowned for being an expert dealer, but not a designer. This came along at the perfect time, just when my interest in dealing was starting to wane. Originally Dunhill approached me because they wanted to sell high-end vintage pieces in their stores first but then it evolved into designing an entire collection. When did all this start happening? Just shy of two years ago. And how do you think your watches compete with the others in the market? In order to elevate yourself through the glut of watches that are released every day, you need to have some sort of DNA and Dunhill gives the watches a slightly nutty, cool toys-for-boys spirit. And the great thing is when you are true to the spirit of something, then you cut down the competition. It becomes truly unique. Also, my watches are for someone who wants to be a little different. Not for sheep! It’s not a fashion watch.
Do you consider yourself to be a bit of an eccentric? Honestly? The Dunhill Citytamer. It’s maybe one of the simpler watches I have designed, but I get more pleasure out of evolving something rather than creating something new from scratch.
And you have designed a women’s line too? Yes. People perceive Dunhill to be more of a man’s brand but that doesn’t bother me. For me, I think there’s room for some cool watches for ladies that are something different. There are about eight designs for ladies, and about 20 for the guys. What should somebody look for when they buy a watch? First of all, you have to ask yourself “does the watch have something about it?” It must have spirit and something special about it. Secondly, how is the watch built? Does it do what it says on the tin? And if you don’t know, get some opinions. And the third is price and value for money.
So is this a long-term deal between you and Dunhill? Absolutely. As long as they’ll have me! I am going to evolve my current designs and add some new ones in the future. You can’t stay still. I get more pleasure out of designing than from making money, and that’s something.
Do you have the same passion for anything other than watches? I have more passion for my son than anything else. How would you feel if you saw one of your watches faked? Elated! It’s so flattering to be imitated. Fantastic!
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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.