Since our launch in July 2015, we have received countless comments and questions in regards to the specifics of our models. Starting with our flagship 216A, people were excited by the release and wanted to know more about the details.
The market for watches is a very wide one, from the average consumer to the educated collector, and everyone in between. Most of the collectors understand what we were doing at TM, and not much needed to be explained as they understand the history of the brand, and the specific details included in our timepieces that embrace that history. On the other side of the scale we have the average watch consumer who just think these are beautiful watches, but don't understand what differentiates them from the run of the mill Rolex that you can buy in any airport in America.
When we formed Tempus Machina in late 2014, we had - and continue to have - a very precise and clear vision: The Perfect Fusion of Vintage and Modern. Our goal is to fuse the historic timepieces that put Rolex on the map, with the current materials used today to create their modern collection. We have read so many articles where people are always wanting to see a modern heritage model from Rolex. As we all know, they gave that duty to Tudor with their Heritage line and the Black Bay models. For the average consumer, the BB (Black Bay) is a great option featuring minimal aesthetics mirroring their vintage counterparts, with a very affordable price tag. But the watches are not without their setbacks. In comparison to their predecessors, the cases are quite large, the dials are pad printed, and the movement is not an in-house Tudor movement, but a Swiss ETA. We wanted to offer something special. A daily wearer that looks and feels like their historic inspirations, at a fraction of the price, with 100% wearability.
We started with the most iconic of watches, the 6538 Big Crown Submariner. With it’s sleek and minimal design and its oversized crown, the 6538 can easily be considered the watch that put Rolex on the map for good. Made famous by James bond in Goldfinger the 6538 became a cult icon, and prices have soared into the quarter million dollar range over the past few years as good examples become more scarce. We wont get into the specifics as this has been covered in depth in many published books and articles online such as here and here. We knew this was the watch to make, and we knew we had to do it right.
"We decided to go all the way, or not to do it at all."
There are many custom watch brands out there that offer excellent modifications, and some not so excellent. There certainly have been other efforts at capturing the mystic and perfection of the 6538, but none have done so with much success. Not to say they have not sold quite well. Certain names attached to specific releases have given them quite the market boost, while falling short in the details and execution department. We decided to go all the way, or not to do it at all. Well, what did we mean by that?
We had to capture most, if not all, of the elements that made these watches so special and unique. Now there have been many variations of the 6538, from red-depth to silver-depth, 2-lines to 4-lines, and red-triangle to gray-triangle. We decided to go with the red-depth and red-triangle version with 2-lines. Next we HAD to have lug holes. Rolex stopped producing watches with lug holes in the early 2000’s, and it has been a feature greatly missed not only for aesthetic reasons, but because it makes changing the bracelet to a band or nato strap so easy. Anyone who is not a watchmaker or service/repair person knows how much of a daunting task it is changing the bracelet on a modern Rolex. Not fun, and can lead to many scratches on the case if you don’t have the right tools and don’t know what you’re doing. We had to have a sapphire dome crystal. All of the modern Rolex watches, outside of the Deep Sea Sea Dweller, have flat crystals. In their own right, they’re quite beautiful. But the 6538 had a acrylic dome, and we had to match the look to a t. The 6538 and many of the early submariners, as well as the early GMT had a coin edge bezel. The predecessor to the scalloped bezel, the coin edge was a simpler design with a refined profile that gave the earlier watches a more elegant look despite their purpose which was for diving. Other details like the hand cut bevels on the lugs which are no longer a staple of the Rolex case, and of course, the NOS (new old stock) 8mm Brevet crown and tube were a must as well. But most important was the dial.
The modern rolex dials are simple, elegant, mass produced, and perfect. The Submariner in particular is a glossy black, with pad printed fonts and markers. The luminous material is encased with white gold surroundings. They are perfect in every way, and allow Rolex to replicate and produce high quantities of such dials with little to no error. In the late 50’s and early 60’s, the Gilt Submariner dials were created with a process called galvanization. This process was long, imperfect, and created dials that became tropical (faded from a black to brown) as they aged and were exposed to the elements of life. The reason for this is that the black was adhered to the brass dial plate via the galvanic process. The fonts and indexes (some of the earlier models had a track ring as well, the outer line connecting the markers) were not printed, but actually the brass plate that was protected by a clear film that when washed away, created a negative relief of those elements. The only printed detail on the dial was the depth rating, either in silver or red, and this was the only option for our watches.
It took a few designs to get the look right. We wanted to have all of the vintage elements, including a vintage style lume, fused with some modern elements as well. We decided to keep the actual fonts and coronet (the Rolex crown) in the same style as the modern dials, but done with the layout and process as the vintage. Again, our goal was and remains the fusion of vintage and modern. We couldn’t just recreate a vintage dial and slap it into a modern watch. That would not achieve our goal. Once all the pieces were in place, and the case had refined and hand finished/polished, we assembled our first 216A, which I personally wear to this day.
There are many man hours spent creating each of our timepieces. Passion, vision, and a pursuit of excellence is the backbone of our company, products, and collection. In July of 2016, almost 1 year to the day after the launch of our first model the 216A, we released the 809H. The 809H embodies all of the above, but was fashioned after the iconic pointed crown guard Submariner with the rare 3,6,9 explorer dial. Even more ambitious than the 216A, the 809H features pointed crown guards which alone take a minimum of 3 days to finish.
There is nothing wrong with owning the production Submariner, or any other Rolex to be honest. They are phenomenal timepieces, proven with an outstanding history that has only grown with time. But if you want something special, something that only a few people will ever own, something outside of the typical watch you see on every semi-successful man and woman, something beyond the black coated Rolex, then what we create is for you. This is only the beginning for Tempus Machina. With time will come innovation and excitement. We look forward to sharing our passion with the world.