I can admire a watch for all manner of reasons, but when it comes to owning a vintage piece, occasionally an item will come into my possession that defines the very concept of what it means to collect in the first place.
I’ll confess, this Asprey oversize 32mm Officers Trench Watch is just such a piece. An exquisite collector’s item that never ceases to enthral and, if I’m honest the very thought of it can leave me misty eyed!
Whenever I hold this watch, I'm transported to the fog bound streets of London, 1915, where the stench of war hangs heavy over a blighted continent.
Already news of unimaginable horrors is beginning to filter back from the battle fields of Europe and the euphoria of 1914 with it’s call to arms and thrill of war is nothing more now than a distant memory. A young army officer, accompanied by his proud wife, stands in Aspreys musing over a selection of wrist watches that 10 years before would have seemed a faddish indulgence, but now form an essential part of an officers kit for the front. A watch with the practicality of being worn on the wrist was still a relative novelty and yet the foundations of what we would call a military watch can be seen even in this early example. A timeless styling that feels a relevant today as it would have seemed revolutionary over 100 years ago.
I can imagine that young officer in the following years, looking at this face time and again, reminded of that day and the memories of home. The condition of this incredible piece with it’s Stockwell & Co casing and swiss 15 jewel movement almost beggars belief and certainly belies the momentous journey it will have taken over the last century.
From the fields of Flanders through the decades that defined a modern age, this beautiful timepiece has tirelessly marked the passing whilst losing none of its charm and intricate beauty. The mechanical condition is, in my view, extraordinary for its age and one can see, from even a cursory view, the care and attention this watch received from its owner. Asprey were, and still are, renowned for supplying the finest quality merchandise to a very select clientele and this piece perfectly reflects this, with its double hinge backed case and superb construction. At the time this watch was sold Asprey’s would have enjoyed perhaps the finest reputation of any Jeweller in the British Empire and quality was the watchword for this brand, something that echoes so vibrantly here.
Yet for me, one of the most beguiling aspects of this timepiece are the tiny marks of age it carries, testament to the journey this timeless classic has taken from the Bond Street of 1915 to the display case that sits on my desk in my study today. Fanciful maybe, although I would argue there is little point in collecting vintage watches without the imagination to wonder at their history. All i know is it would feel sacrilegious to try to eradicate any of those signs of age. if ever a watch earned it stripes in the service of its country it is this perfect example of a bygone age.