Schwarz-Etienne’s Ode to the 70s
Disco, psychedelia and far too much tie-dye: the 70s was a glorious decade. Apparently. I’m far, far too young to have experienced it first-hand. Still, from what I gather from the LSD stories and hippie reminiscences, it seems a damn sight better than my very own 90s. At the very least I can excuse a few people looking nostalgically back – much like Schwarz-Etienne.
The watchmaker had a few things to show off this Baselworld but none were quite as memorable as their eloquent Ode to the 70s. Look at the watch and you don’t need me to tell you just why it’s so eye-catching. Hint: it’s not the case.
If the hippie paradigms of peace and love were distilled into a single work of craftsmanship it would be this dial. The psychedelic swirls and flower power colours are taken direct from the Austin Powers set, all rendered in a very specific form of enamelling.
Rather than enamel being painted directly onto the dial a la Jaquet Droz and a host of other old maisons, this version uses gold cloisonné wires to sketch out the skeleton. This framework is then filled in with the various colours, each shade of which needs to be filled and fired separately. Needless to say it takes a fair amount of time.
The flipside however is that, not only is the dial god-damned amazing to look at, it can be easily customised. Let’s say you have some strange aversion to that much orange. All you need to do is ask for a touch more green or blue. Up the red, lower the yellow, go to town like a photoshop colour slider, it doesn’t matter. You need to stick to those colours (as far as I’ve been told) but still, it’s a cool little touch.
Mechanically the watch is equally eye-catching. The front-mounted microtor dressed as a lacquer-filled peace symbol at 9 o’clock adds a dash of movement while the cut-outs at 4-5 o’clock show the main barrel’s teeth. Finally, there’s the flying tourbillon at 12 o’clock, the only mechanical alleviation of all that psychedelia.
It’s a good thing too, as the caseback is closed. This is one of the few times where Schwarz-Etienne let the design take over from the mechanics and I’m not complaining about it.
Because so far it’s simply not quirky enough, the Ode to the 70s also includes a unique strap and, while it’s my least favourite part of the watch, I can at least appreciate the thematic relevance. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen pictures of my dad wearing paint-splattered denim with an afro/beard combo to make the Bee Gees break out in a Night Fever. If you want to see it, just ask. It’s worth it.
The final flourish is the case. Schwarz-Etienne love novel watch boxes. Well, boxes is perhaps the wrong word; their ladies pieces come in genuine handbags and this… well, the Ode to the 70s comes in a miniature guitar case. At the very least, the watch is a better surprise than Desperado and far cooler than a ukulele.
If you want to see this beauty in the flesh then look no further than the Watchmakers Club event on the 5th June in London. See you there!