If you ask George Bamford why he picks the watches he does for his signature customisation, he is invariably candid in his answer; simply because he finds them cool. Whether the watches have a sentimental place in his memory or it’s a watch that he always wanted when growing up, if it isn’t cool to him, he’s not interested. His taste is both eclectic and eccentric and the execution of his watches is always first rate. His latest offering is a three-way par excellence between himself, renowned artist Daniel Arsham and the king of engraving Johnny Dowell aka King Nerd.
The subject of their shared artistry is the Franck Muller Casablanca. “It’s a seriously cool watch,” extols Bamford with his customary enthusiasm. “The 90s is a period of history that I truly believe is coming of age. Ross, you were listening to my recent Clubhouse chat where we were discussing the most iconic cars and watches of the late 80 and 90s and for me, the Casablanca is one of the most epic watches of that era.”
Franck Muller has certainly had something of a renaissance with collectors in recent months, with the small-run early 90s steel chronographs by the master watchmaker having picked up significant traction thanks to their Borgel-esque aesthetic and tasti-tondi-styling. Is it time for the Casablanca to make a welcome return to the spotlight?
Well, the watch has always been cool to Daniel Arsham. “I’ve always liked the Franck Muller Casablanca and this project actually started when I asked George if he could make one custom for me. As we were talking about all of the different details on it, things got more and more intricate and complex. I started thinking about ideas for engraving onto the case and how we could work with Johnny and integrate the original design ethos of the dial with the Arsham Studio monogram.” And so the project was born.
The watch will be available in five pieces, each one hand-engraved by master engraver King Nerd, who knows a thing or two about engraving having cut his teeth at venerable gunsmith James Purdey and Sons. Each piece is therefore unique and its own work of art. The conversation between the three began a couple of years ago, when they were talking at Selfridges, when Arsham’s Porsche sculpture was on display. Says Dowell, “To work on a project with both parties, one that is not just a watch, but a mix of watchmaking, traditional crafts and art combined, makes this a truly bespoke and unique limited edition.”
Each watch features a multi-textured dial finished in Arsham Green with double-A monogrammed background and the signature exploded Arabic numerals has the ‘4’ replaced with said logo. The dial is double signed Arsham Studio New York and the seconds hand has the double-A as a counter balance. Those familiar with Daniel Arsham’s work will recognise a parallel between his ‘taking away’ from iconic objects, such as the Porsche or Apple computer, and the skeleton hour and minute hands and the fact that the case has metal removed via the engraving tools of King Nerd. Each case has the interwoven as engraved as well as a unique numbered case back, featuring a decayed riff on Arsham’s logo.
“We wrapped the Arsham Studio Monogram all the way around the watch, from the dial to the embossed leather strap, into the case itself, with the engraving all done by hand. It’s a project that we’ve been talking about and working on for probably two years now and it is finally complete to share with the world.” Says Arsham.
What I can reveal is that this is only the beginning of the partnership between Bamford Watch Department and Franck Muller, and what a great way to start it is!
Movement: Swiss Automatic
Case and Dial: 39mm steel case with hand-engraved Arsham Studio monogram and unique caseback; Arsham green dial with Arabic numerals.
Strap: Arsham Studio monogram embossed leather
Availability and Pricing: Limited edition of five pieces; Price:On request from Bamford Watch Department