Waltham is a name well-known to American aficionados of vintage watches and clocks. This fall, the quintessential American watch brand — absent from the United States since the 1980s — returns to that market with new Waltham wristwatches that call to mind the brand’s long and storied history but are also decidedly modern.
The Waltham watch brand traces its origins all the way to 1850, when visionary entrepreneur Aaron Lufkin Dennison founded the first industrialized watch and clock manufacturer in Roxbury, Massachusetts. (Lufkin’s interchangeable parts and assembly-line process would later be adopted by Henry Ford for the fledgling automobile industry.) Four years later, the company moved to the town of Waltham, which gave it its name. Many watch-world milestones followed, including a Waltham pocketwatch famously owned by President Abraham Lincoln, groundbreaking railroad watches, the construction of Waltham’s own astronomical observatory to test its timepieces’ precision, and the first wristwatches used by the American armed forces. Sir Ernest Shackleton and Robert Peary donned Waltham watches in their historic expeditions to the South and North Poles, respectively, in 1909, and a Waltham dashboard clock famously accompanied Charles Lindbergh in the Spirit of St. Louis on the first non-stop transatlantic flight in 1927.
In 2011, the majority shares of Waltham International SA — which moved production from the U.S. to Switzerland in 1954, and since the 1970s has made timepieces chiefly for the Asian market — were purchased by Italian-American entrepreneur Antonio DiBenedetto. Under DiBenedetto’s leadership, the company has this year introduced new, Swiss-made Waltham watches, inspired by vintage Waltham timepieces and by the brand’s pioneering spirit, that will be available to a new generation of American watch enthusiasts. The new Waltham portfolio begins with the Waltham Aeronaval Collection, which consists of two new models, each with three distinct executions. The Waltham XA (Solo Tempo) is a modern-day version of the watch chosen by Lindbergh for his historic Spirit of St. Louis flight. Like its predecessor, the watch has a small-seconds subdial in what is today considered an unconventional position, at 12 o’clock. The other Aeronaval watch, the Waltham CDI (GMT) echoes the design of the Waltham dashboard clocks fitted on board U.S. Naval aircraft flown during World War II; its GMT function is enhanced with a so-called “civil date indicator” in the dial’s center. Each of the collections is available in three decidedly contemporary versions: Pure, with titanium G5 cases; Eclipse, two-tone with titanium/black PVD; and Blackmatter, in all-black PVD-coated titanium.
In addition to the titanium G5 used for the cases, the characteristics common to The Waltham XA and the Waltham CDI watches include the use of ceramic bezels, vulcanized rubber straps and titanium G2 deployant clasps, and the very contemporary, multi-layered dodecagonal case design, with bold and dramatic angles, that makes the watches distinctive from other military-influenced sports watches. The Waltham Aeronaval XA watch, considered the flagship of the new collection, has an immense 47-mm case, which is water-resistant to 300 meters, and contains the Swiss-made mechanical movement Caliber W.DB-001, based on a Dubois-Dépraz 14060. The dial boasts an embossed “W” pattern on different colored backgrounds, which plays off the angular case design The minute hand is angled slightly upward, and the applied indicators and numbers are coated with Super-LumiNova for enhanced legibility. The ceramic bezel is made of zirconium oxide., and the sapphire crystal has a nonreflective treatment. Prices for the Waltham Aeronaval AX are $5,500 for the Pure version, $5,650 for the Eclipse, and $6,000 for the Blackmatter.