Introduction

.“What, that one?” I asked leaning down to get a closer look.

“Yes,” Ibrahim replied.

“The Hublot?”

“Yes”

I straightened up to take in the store. We were standing in the high-end watch outlet tucked away behind the security gates, passports controls and baguette shops of Heathrow. This outlet often grabbed my attention when I passed through UK airports on my way to a business meeting somewhere and on this occasion we had been drawn by the bright open door. While perusing Ibrahim had offered to show me his “grail” watch. A grail watch is the name for the one watch you would buy if money was no object. His choice was a mind-meltingly expensive Hublot. It sat proudly in a clear glass case near the back of the store.

“It’s titanium,” Ibrahim said.

“And yet is shines in the light,” I remarked.

Indeed it did though some alchemical flooding of light into the case from an unseen source. The almost black grey of the strap led up to a case of dark angles where the light was somehow simultaneously absorbed and reflected. Only once one reached the face did the effect hit you properly; the skeletal structure, a common feature on Hublot watches, pulled the focus of the eyes into the dial, searching through it for the bottom and the movement. This created an optical effect where the hands seemed to float on top. Combined with the eye’s journey up the strap and body, the effect of the face was to dazzle where it should repulse. It was, after all, a mishmash of a layout. A photo of the watch would be easy to dismiss as foppish and crass, but in person it was dominating and on the wrist would lurk in the shadows of the shirt sleeves, pulling the gaze of onlookers like the galactic black hole it resembled. It was the sort of watch Batman would wear.

“It’s incredible,” I assured Ibrahim, “but… do you think you could pull it off?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’d have to upgrade everything else to fit it. You couldn’t wear it with anything but a handmade suit”.

“This is a hand made suit,” he said making a gesture with his arms and a little annoyed.

I smiled conciliatorily by way of apology. Well, that just goes to show, I thought, if someone who loves men’s business fashion couldn’t tell a handmade suit when they saw one then perhaps the watch is all that is left to signify a man of taste these days? Or perhaps I needed more coffee.

Ibrahim continued, “I want to buy it with my first bonus cheque, to represent myself as a salesman.”

“Why not get a Rolex?” I asked, nodding at a nearby glass case, “that’s the traditional watch of sales success”

“Bah, everyone has a Rolex,” he said with a dismissive hand gesture, “but this,” and his eyes glinted brightly as he peered into the case and the magical lighting caught them, “this is unique and different. No one will have one of these”. And then he smiled like Thorin beholding the Arkenstone.

It got me thinking, I must admit. I love the cases of these super high-end watches: all boxy and angles where they traditionally would be smooth, all smooth where they traditionally would be hard edged, but if I was to splash out and buy one what on Earth would I do if I grew bored of it? What if it didn’t suit me or raised the same question of my couture as I had of Ibrahim’s? What would my wife say?

In the many times since, when I have been in the same store or similar stores in various airports around the world, I have occasionally spotted the Batwatch again. Darkly shining out in Dubai or pulsating from a cold lit case in Amsterdam.

Tempting me.

Could there be an angular cased and skeletal dialled watch for the “normal” man? Someone without neither the reserves (or indeed the reserve) of Keith Richards? Something coming in under £1000, a brazen 14th of the Hublot’s cost, and yet retaining that unique and alluring pull on one’s wrist? Can the insanity of high-end watch prices be defeated by some new manufacturer, some mad, punk, startup outfit – who I imagined must be out there – all design-degreed-up and well in the know, and just as appalled by the wreckage left of the Golden Mean by makers like Hublot?

A humble-priced Batwatch that still “evoked”?

For a long time I believed that such an item would only be found in the true startup world of crowdfunding, where insanity is no barrier to flights of invention. I would often peruse Kickstarter and watched for the angles and edges of the Bvlgari Octo’s and Richard Mille’s; but, I didn’t find them, or I did and would not trust that the project would ever get off the drawing board.

It never occurred to me that a mainstream watchmaker would create a Batwatch.

I had been looking at the Bulova moon watch replica and making my mind up on purchasing one when I saw it. There in an advert at the top of the screen, barely lit, and yet glowing, was a side shot of a curved case in bead blasted grey titanium.

My aesthetic senses immediately noticed the lines that made up the shapes and came to the conclusion: someone had done it. Someone had made a watch to compete with the high-end marks and it was, unexpectedly, Bulova who had stood out. Leaving the moon watch for another day I started on a journey through the web and falling in love with the Curv.

The Curv is sold as the world’s first curved quartz movement, and indeed this claim is very specifically true, catching all the blog headlines at Baselworld, and being widely reported by top sites like Worn & Wound and Hodinkee. I even found a positive comment from the Watch Snob himself, and if those august – if legendarily snobbish mansplainers – were entranced then I knew that pictures, like with the Hublot, would not do the watch justice and this would be a watch best seen in person.

From the new CURV Collection. The world’s first curved chronograph movement features high-performance quartz technology with 262 kHz vibrational frequency for precise accuracy. Five-hand chronograph in titanium and stainless steel case with black bezel, dark grey exhibition dial with rose gold-tone accents, exhibition screw-back case, curved sapphire glass, black rubber 3-piece buckle closure, and water resistance to 30 meters.

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What everyone seems to have missed is that Bulova has brought out the first curved quartz movement watch; but, they are about 50 years too late for the title of the first curved watch in general. In the 1930’s venerable watch company Gruen brought out the world first curved automatic movement known as the Curvex.

These lovely and elegant “strap” watches hugged the wrist and were marketed based on movie star endorsements, and the – somewhat shaky claim – that one could read the time while driving and without taking hands off the steering wheel. Guren has, of course, gone the way of the Dodo, and it is left to another classic pre-war make to take the stage; Bulova.

Like many classic American makes, Bulova has a history going back to time keeping on the railways and through the World Wars. A time when wrist watches were essential tools. After achieving many “firsts” they were eventually sold to the Japanese giant Citizen. There something comforting and symbolic in the marriage of Japanese and American technology; that two very different cultures can war on one another so hard and yet be irresistibly drawn to each other. Truly opposites attract, and while high-quality Quartz movements can’t stand as the greatest of America’s many innovations (surely that honour goes to flight?), it has benefitted from the Japanese love of time keeping accuracy and their indelible sense of style. And we are very much in the high-style section of the watch shop with this latest collection, particularly the two high-end models.