The Hour Glass Puts Artisanal Watchmaking Of The Last 50 Years In The Spotlight

The Hour Glass Puts Artisanal Watchmaking Of The Last 50 Years In The Spotlight

A new online exhibition features creators and timepieces that have shaped contemporary independent watchmaking.

By Steven Rogers

Asia-Pacific retailer The Hour Glass has long been a champion of independent, artisanal watchmaking.

As a point of sale, it represents many of contemporary indie watchmaking’s leading lights – Akrivia, MB&F, and Kari Voutilainen, for example – while as an investor, it has owned the likes of Daniel Roth as well as financed work by Philippe Dufour.

Commitment to Finished Perfection

In keeping with that ethos, The Hour Glass is launching an online exhibition showcasing key creations by some of the best artisanal watchmakers of the last 50 years.

On display in the form of beautifully shot photos will be 150 timepieces created by watchmakers that have, according to The Hour Glass, helped shape the contemporary independent watchmaking landscape thanks to their “non-utilitarian horological attitude” and “pursuit of horological advancement or commitment to finished perfection.”

Entitled The Persistence of Memory – a reference to Salvador Dalí’s iconic artwork featuring melting timepieces – and described as a “survey of artisanal watchmaking,” the show will be hosted virtually on The Hour Glass’ bespoke online viewing room (OVR).

Understandably, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means that hosting a physical show is not viable.

Torchbearers of Horological Craftsmanship

Visitors to the OVR will be able to admire seminal work by George Daniels, including his Space Traveller and Grand Complication, as well as creations by those he immediately inspired like Dufour, Roth, and François-Paul Journe.

Superlative pieces by the contemporary torchbearers of horological craftsmanship – such as Roger Smith, Kari Voutilainen, Maximilian Büsser (MB&F), Felix Baumgartner (Urwerk), and Denis Flageollet (De Bethune) – are also included.

And to represent the promising next generation of independent watchmaking artisans, there will be stunning timepieces by Rexhep Rexhepi (Akrivia) and Remy Cools, as well as Gaël Petermann and Florian Bédat (Petermann Bédat).

Many of the showcased timepieces were loaned from either private collections or the watchmakers themselves, and a number of unique pieces and special editions are featured. Among them are Journe’s Chronomètre à Résonance, Dufour’s Duality, and the Rexhepi’s Chronomètre Contemporain.

Equivalent to Using a 10x Loupe

Within the OVR, there will be 17 different “rooms,” each one dedicated to one watchmaker and featuring storytelling elements such as videos and images.

The images will be downloadable and include several macro shots of the timepieces so that dial and movement details can be appreciated under magnification equivalent to using a 10x loupe.

The Hour Glass has also put forward its own thesis on the origins and developmental timeline of this contemporary artisanal watchmaking movement, encapsulated in an essay to be published in the OVR.

In its eyes, 1970 marks the logical start of the movement because Daniels was fresh from completing by hand – and ready to start building on – his first pocket watch, while the rest of the mechanical watch industry was struggling to come to terms with the quartz revolution.

On top of all that, The Hour Glass has created some cool gift items – a jigsaw puzzle, coasters, magnets, a T-shirt, and a shoulder bag – to accompany the exhibition.

Historical Context

Michael Tay, Group Managing Director of The Hour Glass, is delighted with the overall result.

In a recent press release about the exhibition, Tay said: “This survey has been a project that has been fermenting for several years, and I couldn’t have been happier with its outcome.

“This OVR platform is highly immersive in that it allows for thorough storytelling accompanied by precise macro photographs of the watches, something I’m certain the global enthusiast community will appreciate.”

Tay and his team went on to tell Watchonista: “In an increasingly transactional world where hype and fancy rule the tastes and desires of a new generation of watch buyers, we felt it was an important exercise to provide historical context.

“This is especially important because watchmaking does follow a linear development, and as is my understanding, one can only conquer the future if one has an appreciation of the past.”

The Persistence of Memory: A Survey of Artisanal Watchmaking 1970 - 2020 exhibition runs online from March 11 (8 pm SGT / 1 pm CET / 7 am EST). You can check it out at

(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)

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