As Father’s Day approaches, many dutiful sons (and daughters, and grandsons) will want to present a timepiece as a gift, and many of them will want their gift to be unique and personal. Several watch brands, from mass-market to ultra-exclusive, offer some type of personalization, most often the option of an engraving on the caseback. But what if you want to take it even further, like choosing your own combination of case materials, dial layout, or even the color of the hands? Here are three watch brands — representing three distinct styles and price ranges — that go the extra bespoke mile.
Vortic Watch Company, founded in Fort Collins, Colorado in 2013, is a young, innovative company that uses cutting-edge 3D printing technology to build new, vintage-influenced wristwatches with movements sourced from antique American pocketwatches. The three families in the company’s American Artisan series are Chicago (based on vintage Elgin movements), Boston (vintage Waltham movements) and Springfield (vintage Hamilton movements). This year, the company has introduced on its website (www.vorticwatches.com) its “Bespoke Gift Experience,” which enables customers to create a personalized watch in one of these collections, with a number of design options. The online “Watch Builder” allows users to choose the case size and material, crown orientation, dial layout (including numeral fonts), strap color, even the number of jewels in the movement. In keeping with the classic Americana theme, each custom-built watch is delivered in a wrapped walnut and leather gift box and accompanied by a personalized note on parchment from an antique typewriter. Prices for the Watch Builder begin at $795.
If Dad is an automobile or auto racing buff, you may want to consider BRM (Bernard Richards Manufacture), a French company that produces sporty timepieces heavily influenced by motorsports and automotive design, which has for the last several years offered a Watch Configurator on its website (www.brm-manufacture.com). BRM features four models from its collection, each with engine-inspired nicknames, that can be configured into various styles by the consumer: the V6-44 Automatic and v12-44 Automatic Chronograph (both in steel cases) and the BT-6 Automatic and BT-12 Automatic Chronograph, (both in titanium cases). Beyond the case materials, the sky is the limit: visitors to the site can choose from various styles and colors for the dial, lugs, hands, tachymeter scale, crown and crown protector, even the strap and buckle. All told, there are 12,000 variations available among the four base models. The base price of a BRM V6-44 is around $5,000.
On the high-luxury end of the scale is a historic Swiss brand with which most of use are familiar: Vacheron Constantin. In 2008, Vacheron introduced its Quai de l’Ile collection, which represented a groundbreaking concept at the time in the haute horlogerie world: the watches in the collection could be personalized in various aspects using an online Configurator on the brand’s website, www.vacheronconstantin.com. The standard Quai de l’Ile collection is offered in a rose gold, white gold, or two-tone rose-and-white-gold case, but due to the model’s complex seven-part case middle, along with separate lugs, bezel, caseback, crown, and various dial elements, more than 700 variations are available within the collection as the customer begins picking and choosing the material combinations and visual elements that will make the watch his or her own. (One can even choose a solid or clear sapphire dial, along with either a rubber or leather strap.) Currently, the Vacheron Constantin Quai de l’Ile is available in three versions, the standard three-hand Quai de l’Ile (beginning at $39,900), a day-date model with power reserve (starting at $52,500), and a retrograde perpetual calendar (starting at $65,000). The final step in the customization process is a personalized engraving.
You’ve still got a few days until Father’s Day. If you fancy yourself an amateur watch designer and are confident you know what your is looking for in a timepiece, visit the sites above and start putting together a personalized gift he’s unlikely to forget. Or just send Dad the links and let him have some fun building his own watch.