The Vertex ExperienceBy Ken Kessler
As concepts go, the “Vertex experience” – for lack of a better description – has precedents not in the watch world but in the automotive. It’s only available by invitation or referral. The parallel with cars? If you wish to own one of the ultra-limited-edition Ferraris or Lamborghinis (and probably a few other hypercars), you have to be asked. Same with the Vertex M100 wristwatch.
I earned my membership into what is one of horology’s few actual clubs by virtue of a mix of circumstances, conditions or qualities: being a watch journalist, writing about the brand and knowing one or two of those on the initial list. This drew me to the attention of Vertex’s Don Cochrane. And I am happy to admit that I have been wearing his reissue of his family’s contribution to the “Dirty Dozen” with an unexpected measure of pride (or even inclusion).
As one who follows Groucho Marx’s adage about clubs, and preferring not to join any that would have me, I credit my affection for the brand and a willingness to become part of its community to one simple fact: my very first military watch purchase, some 30 years ago, was a battered Vertex W.W.W. With that in mind – plus half-a-lifetime of collecting mainly British military watches – I’m the perfect demographic.
But is Vertex’s appeal restricted to British-based enthusiasts and those omnivorous collectors of military watches in Italy and Germany? Apparently not. Our own Sean Li, Revolution‘s Hong Kong-based editor (and French to boot), admits that: “The ‘Dirty Dozen’ really doesn’t mean anything to me – sorry. I probably first learned of those watches on Instagram, but I can’t remember where specifically.
“I didn’t know anything about the ‘Dirty Dozen’ other than a general notion of watches being specifically produced for the various military units during the war effort. That said, I do like the style of military watches, but it’s not a theme in my collection.”
For Sean: “The Vertex experience is about wearing a timepiece that’s not ‘mass luxury’, and which takes a knowing eye to recognize. The first thing that caught my attention was the design, which I thought was a nice reinterpretation of the original Vertex watches. Then I liked that Don Cochrane has a genuine family connection.”
Cochrane’s concept of selling the watch by invitation-only has drawn a mix of responses, ranging from “How cool!” to “Who the f*** does he think he is?” As someone who is fortunate enough to have a lone watch in my collection of which fewer than 25 were produced, I know the frisson of pride that comes from exclusivity. For Sean, the idea of making it available by referral only is something that intrigued him. “Maybe the fact that it’s not easy to acquire made it more attractive,” he says, “but at first, I didn’t actively try to get it as I wanted to see it in person first.
“It was not until a few weeks ago, when I stumbled across someone who had the M100 on the wrist, that I got to handle the watch, which then led me to more actively seek out a referral. I also like to support these kinds of projects (as long as I like the watch). I think it’s important to look outside of the usual suspects, towards the newbies.”
Both of us are enamored enough of the watch to feel a need to display some proactive largesse toward the project. We’re doing this by exploiting one of the few ways that “civilians” not on Cochrane’s radar can acquire a Vertex M100. Part of the ownership package is the authorization to recommend up to five candidates for the purchase of a watch. That said, Sean and I have donated our five invitations apiece to enable 10 Revolution readers to acquire their own Vertex M100s. But with an added bonus.
To make these 10 pieces even more exclusive, Revolution has commissioned DaLuca Straps of San Diego, California, to provide straps unique to the project, in contrast to the fabric over/under strap provided as standard. This adds another layer of chic to a watch that’s already handsome enough to elicit unsolicited compliments.
DaLuca Straps was founded in 2009 by Daniel Luczak, who says it is “a passionate brand that focuses solely on producing the finest handcrafted watch straps for Panerai watches. Since then, we have expanded our in-house manufacturing team to produce watch straps that fit virtually every watch, all the way to the highest-quality accessories such as wallets, belts, key chains, T-shirts and hats, among many other finely made goods.
“Quality and simplicity are always at the forefront as well as providing the absolute best in customer service. We chose a strap for Revolution‘s exclusive Vertex M100 that is made from some of the finest leather out there, to complement the watch perfectly.”
On the Wrist
I confess – as one who detests over/under straps, whatever the fabric or material – that I swiftly found a steel bracelet to fit to mine. It’s a personal fixation. I even did the same to a Seiko diving watch issued only on a rubber strap, with no bracelet option. Once on Instagram, the response was wildly positive, but I’m the first to concur that no W.W.W. should be worn with anything other than a strap.
Reactions to the Vertex M100 have been uniformly, unanimously positive, even from the fussiest purists I know: the members of the Sad Café – a group of dogged old watch collectors who meet up religiously on Saturday mornings and have all owned genuine “Dirty Dozen” watches, including original Vertexes. Just why they are prepared to give it the thumbs-up is complex, but it’s worth knowing if you’re tempted but have any doubts because of cultural appropriation, questions of authenticity or other concerns.
Undoubtedly, the first quality of the Vertex M100 that wins approval from even the most skeptical is the direct connection to the original maker. At least seven of the 12 makers still exist, and could reissue their W.W.W.s if they wished, but only Cochrane actually revived a company for that express purpose. This is an act of horological faith that any watch lover can appreciate.
Virtue No. 2 is one I see in brands like Steinhart and others who do “homage” watches. The virtue is that – quite deliberately – the reissue cannot be passed off as a new-old-stock original because of plainly apparent differences. For Steinhart, for example, their name on the dial is all it takes. This also prevents the original manufacturer that is being flattered by imitation from accusing the company of producing a fake, as it does not pretend to be a genuine original.
Vertex did this with a bigger case and what just may be the best applied luminous numerals on the market. They stand proud of the dial, are cut with precision and glow with magnificent radiance. Put an M100 next to an original and there is no way you’d mistake the former for the latter. At the same time, the respect for the original in this hommage is palpable.
Virtue No. 3 also distances the M100 from an original. By supplying it with an over/under strap, Cochrane has chosen a type that did not exist in 1945. Originals were fitted with conventional straps in cloth or leather, not over/unders. (Note to all, for the hundredth time: over/unders are not “NATO” straps. NATOs, or G10s, are a specific nylon-type material in a specific shade of gray. Period.) The M100 thus sports a strap that renders it contemporary, as over/unders continue to be the hottest strap types in use today. And Revolution‘s M100 has its own unique strap.
Virtue No. 4? It’s simply a terrific watch. The only downside is the actual by-product of its specific form of exclusivity: you can’t simply buy one. Unless, that is, you’re one of 10 lucky Revolution readers.