Watch This Space...
Journalist and watch enthusiast Patrick Mascall speaks to Kindler & Thorpe's Paul Thorpe about his company's new contribution to the world of horology, which puts a whole new spin on the "art" of timekeeping...
So, Paul, tell us a little about the background behind Kindler & Thorpe?
I've always been fascinated by history and had the greatest admiration for quality, and Iām particularly fascinated when the two collide. I'm a great lover of classical architecture, for example.
The skill and craft that went into just one gable on a Georgian building is unprecedented in today's world. But as a result, as well as being functional buildings, these structures ended up becoming works of art.
Today we live in an age where time seems to be one of the most precious commodities. We just don't seem to have the time to spend on making things as beautiful, intricate and ornate as they did in the past.
These days it's all about speed and quantity of output and I think it shows. So we decided to re-adopt that pursuit of absolute quality and craftsmanship in which the English excelled in previous centuries and apply it to the world of high-end watches, a business I have been involved in for over thirty years now.
Our goal is to take the world's finest watches and turn them into individual works of art in themselves. It's taking a step back in time and producing something truly exclusive and beautiful, with all the care, skill and time that requires.
Can you explain how you go about providing this unique service?
We take some of the world's most high-end watches, made by the likes of Rolex, Patek Philippe, Panerai, Audemars Piguet and IWC and turn them into works of art with our unique engravings.
The idea is that we are putting two incredibly high-end elements together to create a unique and very exclusive critical mass where the whole is even greater than the sum of its parts.
Can you describe the style of the engraving?
A major inspiration is the finest ornate engraving that was often seen on the metal work of the world's most expensive guns from the 18th and 19th centuries.
But each individual engraving could be inspired by anything from a piece of beautiful architecture, a painting, or even a person or place. But it will always be in a classical style.
Watch engraving was a popular trend in the Edwardian era and moving into the Art Deco period but we've resurrected that tradition and we're applying it to the premier watch brands of today.
Exclusivity and quality seem to be the cornerstones of the Kindler & Thorpe brand...
Absolutely. These watches are consciously rare. A significant part of the appeal of a Kindler & Thorpe watch is that you will probably never see another person wearing one and even if you do, no two watches will ever be the same.
That's what gives them their kudos. We want the owners to feel that special sense of exclusivity. But part of that is a consequence of the time involved in finishing a Kindler & Thorpe timepiece.
Can you tell us a bit more about how the process works?
To start with we have to source the watch, which is not as easy as it might sound as it needs to be compatible with what we want to do with it in terms of engraving and design.
From there the watch goes to the engraver, and any engraver of note will undoubtedly have a waiting list given the painstaking nature of the work they do.
The techniques and tools are still very traditional and really haven't changed over the centuries. Some of our watches can take up to 100 man-hours to complete, and given the intense nature of an engravers job at this level, they can often only work for two or three hours at a time.
So when you start to work that out in terms of days, it's possible to get a picture of just how long this takes. But the reason that objects of this kind of stunning beauty are so rare today is because so few people are willing to invest the time. But we are, and that's what sets us apart.
We take the time and our clients reap the benefits by owning a truly unique and beautiful work of art as a result.
Who undertakes the engraving work for Kindler & Thorpe?
My chief engraver is an Englishman called Marcus Hunt. Marcus is the son of a world famous engraver and has since become world renowned in his own right.
Engraving watches is something he had never really done before and while we are picking up on a tradition from a previous era, as far as I'm aware we are the only people in the world undertaking this kind of work right now.
There are other companies that engrave watches, but certainly not to the style and detail we work to, and also not with the exclusive watch brands we use.
A Rolex watch is undoubtedly a beautiful thing in itself, but even those are mass-produced. But once we have worked on one of these watches they become a truly unique and incredibly rare piece. They are all total one-offs.
Do you work on already-owned watches or do you always supply the watch?
It's possible but quite rare. We really prefer to work on brand new watches and offer an unprecedented five-year guarantee on each one.
With the help of our design team, the only real limit to what you can do is in your own imagination. If you can afford it you can pretty much do what you like, provided it fits in with the overall standards of taste, history and quality that we hold so dear.
Of course, we also have a production range as well, which is a series of non-commissioned watches that have already been designed and which are available for clients to buy from us.
The production range is actually very popular because most people don't feel the need to commission their own design once they see the work we have on offer.
Can Kindler & Thorpe watches be viewed as investment or are they solely a luxury item?
Without doubt. We want to offer our customers an heirloom that could significantly increase in value over a reasonably short period of time.
The history of horology shows that limited edition watches will always be sought-after. They never become a throwaway item. If you look at some of the vintage Rolex Submariners, they might have been worth just £600 in 1975 but can go for up to £100,000 now.
Is your client base international?
I'd say that approximately 60 per cent of our watches go to the USA. We're also starting to work in the Middle East, and Dubai in particular, and if things go the way we think they will in that part of the world, it will be great news for our existing European buyers as they could see their investment go through the roof.
Can you boast any high profile clients?
I wouldn't be as crass as to name names, suffice to say that the very nature of the pieces we have on offer naturally means that, yes, we do attract individuals of note.
What do you hope to achieve through Kindler & Thorpe going forward?
Watches and history have always been my two loves and I am trying to merge those things to create my own history if you like.
We want to leave a legacy with these incredibly beautiful watches. Fine objects are never really owned. Unlike us they are immortal.
We are really only the keepers for a finite period of time and I truly hope that Kindler & Thorpe watches will be handed down through generations to come and cherished along the way, just as we today cherish beautiful works of art made by people from bygone eras who have long since departed this world. It's about leaving a legacy and that is our aim.
Patrick Mascall is a freelance journalist who has written for a number major newspapers, including The Times, as well as a host of international magazine titles.