Long before I established Total Watch Reviews I always dreamed of designing my own wristwatch. Of course there are a lot of very fine Swiss watchmakers like Ochs Und Junior and Maurice De Mauriac who offer a customisation service. For example the consumer is offered different case, dial and strap options. However it is still effectively the brands design and therefore has certain restrictions. What I envisioned was a completely bespoke timepiece that was unlike any other available on the market. Until I actually embarked on this journey I didn’t really appreciate the magnitude of the task that lay ahead. Fortunately I befriended Frank Heydrich, an engineer, who is one of the nicest guys in the world of horology.
From the outset Frank Heydrich and I really hit it off. In fact he very kindly made me a unique meteorite dial watch to review and test on my website. I was amazed that a full time Jet engineer could actually find the time to manufacture his own timepieces. After numerous conversations I told him about my ambitions to create my own watch called the Polaris (named after the brightest star in the Ursa Minor constellation) and he agreed to help. In fact the timing was good because Frank had just booked a few sessions on a CNC (computer numerical control) machine. However due to time constraints we eventually outsourced the production of the case to a specialist laser sintering company (http://www.lasersintering.com).
As I have mentioned many times in previous editorials I absolutely love large watches. The original concept for the Polaris that I presented to Frank (in my mind) was always going to be in excess of 50mm. Ultimately as the design evolved these proportions grew to a formidable 52mm x 22mm (excluding the crown). I can appreciate that a watch of this size will only appeal to a niche market. Although I am noticing that in recent times more and more brands are supersizing their watches. Due to the fact that lightweight materials like titanium and aluminium have been used in production, the timepiece isn’t excessively heavy. Frank has also devised a case and lugs that offers the recipient optimum comfort levels.
When I speak with brands I love to hear what actually inspired them to design their watches. More commonly (nowadays) they have drawn influences from architecture and automobiles. The visual aspect of the Polaris was based on a wonderful wall clock devised by legendary American architect and industrial designer George Nelson. His iconic design has a wonderful retro aesthetic that utilises contemporary materials of the time. However for the sphere markers on the dial of the Polaris, we felt plastic wouldn’t have suited the planetary appearance we were trying to achieve. Therefore we finally decided on semi precious stones for this prototype model. Other distinctive features include industrial style hands, central disc and oversized crown. It is pertinent to mention that even though a lot of the details from the original drawing have remained there are certain refinements that had to be made. Interestingly Frank and I seemed to reach the same conclusions (regarding the overall composition) together.
To power the watch we both decided (early on in the process) that a Unitas 6497-1 would be a viable option. We made this choice based on its size and reliability. Although there are many fine examples of this wonderful calibre available on the market, the best I had personally seen was the hand engraved skeleton Art Deco version. When I sent Frank images he was also completely sold on using this intricately decorated mechanism. Functionally the Polaris features hours, minutes, small seconds and has a power reserve of 38 hours.
For this prototype of the Polaris we designed a green Australian snapper strap with Matt Wallace (email@example.com) and Jeanna McLaughlin (http://www.stonecreekstraps.com). Frank and myself also collaborated with two talented German manufacturers (http://www.maddog-straps.com and http://www.finewatchbuckles.com) to create a bespoke carbon fiber buckle.