Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Waltham: Contemporary Meets Classic

Waltham AN-01

By Adam Craniotes

Waltham takes flight in a new era with a collection worthy of its storied heritage.

When collectors hear the name Waltham, they immediately think of pocket watches, and for good reason. In its heyday, the 150-year old Massachusetts-based manufacturer produced more than one million timepieces a year, most of which were worn on the end of a chain, and not on the wrist. Notable owners include the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Nikola Tesla and Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton, all of whom one could easily envision casually pulling out their Waltham pocket watch from their vest pocket to check the time. Waltham was also the main supplier of Railroad Chronometers to the North American railroad industry — no mean feat, given that transportation and trade in turn-of-the-century America depended on the trains running on time.

A few standouts from the new AN-01 collection.

Of course, Waltham didn’t only make pocket watches; marine chronometers and cockpit instruments were also on the menu. And as times changed and wristwatches became the norm, Waltham was there, too. The “Trench Watch,” which was manufactured for U.S. soldiers fighting in World War I, was one of the first mass-produced wristwatches, and would later evolve into the legendary Type A-11, which was used during WWII by American pilots, as well as the British RAF.

Inspirational Past
Today’s Waltham draws its inspiration from the cockpit clocks used in such legendary aircraft as Charles Lindbergh’s record-setting Spirit of St. Louis and the vaunted F-4 Phantom fighter jet. Side-by-side, the heritage is clear, with the dial layouts hewing to the clean legibility of their forebears, which enabled at-a-glance readouts of mission-critical information.

In a bit of a twist, however, the cases adopt a far more contemporary, angular form, which creates an interesting contrast between the old and the new. Dubbed the AeroNaval, this new collection debuted with three models: the time-only XA, the dual time CDI and the ETC central chronograph. All three are rendered in titanium and ceramic, with a bold 47mm diameter.

The layered design gives the dial depth. 

Size Matters
Waltham refined and streamlined the AeroNaval aesthetic to create the AN-01, a new model that debuted this year with a more compact (43mm) stainless steel case and a more conventional dial layout. What remains intact, however, is pure contemporary Waltham with the trademark dodecagonal case, integrated Nomex-reinforced rubber strap and unique hands.

There are three different dials to choose from, including silver, which manages to dress the AN-01 up, though truth be told, these pieces are unapologetically sporty. As with the XA and its stable mates, the CDI and ETC, the textured aluminum dial remains, which adds a bit of drama to the proceedings with its clever tessellated “W” motif.

Another feature that differentiates it from the debut collection is the inset sapphire window on the caseback, which affords the owner a peek under the hood. In the case of the AN-01, we’re talking about an ETA 2824-2 automatic movement, which sports perlage on the mainplate and côtes de Genève on the engraved rotor.

The sporty, almost aggressive aesthetic is backed up by an ample 100 meters of water-resistance, which makes the AN-01 an excellent companion for an active lifestyle, both in the clouds, and closer to Earth.

XA Pure with a touch of blue.

Colorful Personality
Everybody knows about Charles Lindbergh and his legendary plane, the Spirit of St. Louis. Together they completed the first manned crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, and in doing so, went down in the record books. But what most people don’t know is that Lindbergh wasn’t alone on his flight. Prior to taking off, he replaced the standard dashboard clock with a Waltham XA-Type 37, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Fast forward to today, and the XA carries the torch of its predecessor, but with a modern touch. The intricately detailed case — water-resistant to 300 meters — is hewn from grade-5 titanium and the bezel is crafted from scratch-resistant zirconium dioxide. The dial, however, carries over almost exactly from the Type 37, with the running seconds subdial positioned above the center pinion at 12 o’clock. For power, the XA uses an automatic movement derived from the Dubois-Depraz 14060.

Bridge to the Future
This year also sees the introduction of three new dial configurations, including blue, red and yellow highlights, as well as a silver-dialed version.

The CDI has the modern traveler covered with true GMT functionality. As with the XA, the CDI was likewise inspired by a cockpit clock. It takes its design cues from the CDIA — Civil Date Indicator Aeronaval — that was mounted onboard the WWII-era B24 Liberator and F6F Hellcat. Indeed, in the clearest example of shared heritage, it is from this instrument that Waltham adapted their dodecagonal case design. Push buttons on the side of the case allow the user to advance or move back the hour hand on-the-fly, while a third button sets the novel center date indicator.

ETC Eclipse

Rounding out the collection is the ETC, which is based on the F-4 Phantom’s on-board chronometer, the A13a ETC. In a fresh twist, the chronograph’s minute and second counter are both centrally mounted — just as they were on the original — which makes reading elapsed time a breeze.

Ultimately, the new AN-01 forwards the mission established by the first wave of the AeroNaval collection. It brings Waltham confidently into the 21st century by way of a knowing nod to its past. As for what the future may bring, there’s still plenty of history for the reborn Waltham to draw inspiration from. What form that inspiration will take; only time will tell.

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