Corum revealed its new Heritage Artisan Coin Watch at Baselworld this year, featuring the coin engraving work of New York-based artist Aleksey Saburov. The Russian engraver has been an avid promoter for the early 20th-century American art form known as “hobo coins” or “hobo nickels” — in which a coin, often an old buffalo nickel, is carved, chiseled, and reworked into a new artistic form. It emerged before World War I with migrant workers, soldiers, and fledgling artists taking up the craft on the nickel, or the “poor man’s coin,” and took off during the Depression era as a popular art through that dark time.
Today, groups like the 1992-founded Original Hobo Nickel Society have began to help preserve and promote this traditional form of American art, with artists like Saburov developing — and watch brands like Corum featuring — the work. This kind of support is nothing new to Corum, as the Swiss brand has a history of coin-dial watches since being established in 1955, first catching wide attention in the luxury market by producing the $20 Gold Double Eagle watch (modern iteration below).
Each of the new “Hobo Coins,” as the brand has dubbed the watches, will be a unique piece, with the artist producing an undisclosed number of motifs for dials. The work will be micro-engraved on U.S .silver dollars, but just as Saburov’s previous work on 5-cent coins, it will still have been influenced by his own style of “subverting popular imagery and its legends, demons, and beliefs,” (some examples below). The watch itself will use a 43-mm silver case with a sapphire-tipped crown and (of course!) a coin-edged bezel. It will come on a denim strap — no doubt a nod to the blue jeans of American working people– equipped with a Corum signed buckle. The hour and minute hands of the watch will be a simple baton design as not to interfere with the underlying art, both of which are powered by the automatic CO 082 caliber, capable of a 42-hour reserve, which is based on the Soprad A10. Another silver dollar protects this movement as the piece’s adapted case back.
Pricing is still unavailable for the new watch, but Saburov himself joined Corum during Baselworld 2018 to showcase his engraving work and to display some of the effort that goes into each dial.