“For the artist, beauty and relevance go hand in hand. Relevance is that embodied beauty – it is the only reservoir of permanent value. Today’s society has lost the ability to perceive value,” says Conrad Hicks, whose solo show titled Implement opened at Southern Guild in Cape Town recently.
The show presents a powerful new collection by the talented artist-blacksmith of hand-forged metal furniture and sculpture reminiscent of ancient relics and prehistoric creatures.
Accompanying the beaten and patinaed functional works and objets are the impressive tools of Hicks’ trade, which he wields so adeptly to forge each mass of metal into submission and ultimately the hugely expressive, covetable forms. His studio at The Bijou, an old art deco cinema in Observatory, is full of these tools, many made by himself but also including a vast collection of historic implements such as the 400-year-old anvil that takes centre stage at the show.
“As soon as we [Homo sapiens] started making them [tools], we began changing existentially. We attributed value to the tools we made; we embellished and refined them. We made all these intuitive decisions around function, and this knowledge passed from one generation to the next. The result, over time, is that our desire to make beautiful things has become innate,” says Hicks, reflecting on his creative process and deep-rooted relationship with his tools.
My well-established connection with tools and old machines feels more meaningful than the obsession people seem to have with new ones. The experience at the wheel of a classic car is – maybe irresponsibly so – far more exhilarating than in a new one with all its dynamic whatnots. The heartbeat of mechanical timepieces is my gentle symbolic reminder to stay true to what makes me tick. Here are a few of my favourite, accessibly priced, beautiful tools this year for everyday wear: valuable and dependable watches that speak to some old-school values.
1. SEIKO PROSPEX LX
The Seiko Prospex LX range designed by star industrial designer Ken Okuyama, who has also penned the Pininfarina Enzo Ferrari, Porsche 996, Shinkansenhigh-speed train and the Maserati Quattroporte V, to name a few. He was commissioned by Seiko to develop its new Prospex LX line with its Zaratsu-polished surfaces. This divers’ range features the 5R Spring Drive caliber, which is precise to one second a day and is resistant to high levels of shock and temperature. Priced from about R73,000, these evolutionary new LX pieces are at the high end of the Prospex line but with the added design cred of Okuyama are well worth the splurge.
2. TUDOR BLACK BAY BRONZE
The Tudor Black Bay Bronze, R68,000, is not only one of Tudor’s most gorgeous pieces – my other favourite being the GMT Pepsi bezel released last year – but bronze is the perfect alloy for a diver’s watch case as it does not rust. It also presents a rich but less conspicuous option to gold that will mark your passage of time by developing a rich patina the more the watch is worn.
This striking 43mm diver with its slate-grey bezel and dial is inspired by the Tudor divers’ watches from the 1950s and, along with the 50th anniversary this year of its characteristic “snowflake” hands, add to its vintage appeal. It is powered by the manufacture Calibre MT5601 movement.
3. JAEGER-LECOULTRE MEMOVOX "BZZZZZZZ" FROM SECONDE/SECONDE/
The vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox “Bzzzzzzz” from Seconde/Seconde/, the new French firm giving old timepieces some cool updates, is the perfect piece to keep you on schedule without having to look at your smartphone.
4. BREITLING SUPEROCEAN AUTO 36
We love a brand with a conscience and featured the Breitling SuperOcean Heritage Ocean Conservancy Limited Edition a few weeks back. By now, I’m sure, it has sold out at just under R100,000 a piece. However, the SuperOcean line-up includes some more accessibly priced pieces, among which is the lovely stainless steel Automatic 36, at R52,500, featuring the Breitling Calibre 17 self-winding movement. Although designed for women, I prefer a classically sized diver’s watch and the pale blue dial and navy bezel combo on the Diver Pro II rubber strap gets my nod.
5. NOMOS GLASHÜTTE NEOMATIK CLUB CAMPUS 39
Nomos Glashütte won the 2018 Challenge Watch Prize (for watches that retail under 4,000 Swiss franc) at the prestigious Fondation du Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève for its Tangente Neomatik 41 Update. The relatively young manufacturer is well known for its affordable, well-made mechanical watches with their clean, modernist aesthetic. Its Club Campus series gets three new additions this year with neomatik calibres joining the three earlier hand-wound models with an optional personalised engraving. The in-house neomatik (new automatic) calibre DUW 3001 is incredibly accurate and slender with the result that Nomos watches wear extremely comfortably and elegantly on the wrist. My choice is the Club Campus 39 Midnight Blue with its unique combination of Roman and Arabic numerals and rose gold hands. With Superluminova coating on the hands and numerals, these watches are also very legible in dark nightclubs or at an ocean depth of 200m. Available locally at Bellagio Jewellersat around R45,000. Call 011-784-0206.
The legendary Ikepod is back. Although only offering two models with Miyota quartz movements for now, at least these groundbreaking collectors’ designer watches are now accessibly priced. The rounded pebble shapes of the originals conceived by rock-star industrial and furniture designer Marc Newson in the 1990s have been retained, but they have been updated as part of the necessary evolution of this disruptive brand. There is a 42mm Duopod two-hand model at €480 (about R8,000) or the 44mm Chronopod at €575 (about R9,400) with the unique patterned rose gold-coloured dials a favourite among the options.
7. ZODIA AEROSPACE GMT LIMITED EDITION
Although the Zodiac Aerospace GMT Limited Edition, R25,000, sold out faster than a shooting star crossing the heavens, I pray that one hits eBay or Watch Finder & Co soon. The company designs reliable, stylish watches based on their vintage models from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s with contemporary updates and improved functionality while maintaining the historical authenticity.