It is a testament to the characters involved that the crashing sound and sight of watches falling off their displays at a watch fair can result in a relationship resulting in a collaboration. The scene was the WindUp Watch Fair in San Francisco of last year, and Matt Smith-Johnson made his way downstairs to greet Emmanuel Dietrich. Mr. Smith-Johnson was there promoting the Seals A.5 that he had worked on, and meeting Mr. Dietrich in person was too good an opportunity to pass up.
In his excitement, he knocked over the top-heavy and awkwardly small display provided for Dietrich by the event organisers, resulting in a thundering crash of watches onto the display table. Realising that the accident was inevitable due to the display’s design, the conversation quickly turned to Mr. Johnson’s own work in product and graphic design, resulting in a new design of the watch display in Mr. Dietrich’s inbox the following day. Thus, the friendship between a modern legendary watch designer and a quirky talented designer from Toronto was born.
Gaining the reputation as a mercenary skunkworks workhorse with the backing of the watch industry’s acclaimed A Blog to Watch, Matt Smith-Johnson of Sentient Creative has built a reputation for excelling in all fields of design. At WindUp NYC in October 2019, the two met again. Mr. Johnson was there to promote the release of the Laco RAD-Aux (a review of this historic watch can be found here which he painstakingly designed). The decision to collaborate on a watch was born and the two never looked back. What resulted was a journey that would make any watch enthusiast or designer smile as the two stalwarts worked together in a very endearing manner to produce two works of art: the Limited Edition Pure Time Companions in Stainless Steel and PVD.
Seeing the Pure Time Companions from Dietrich for the first time brings forth notions of the masterful steel sport watches designed by the revered Gerald Genta. Dietrich approached this timepiece by treating the bracelet as an essential part of the design. The intense focus on all aspects of the watch including the bracelet culminated in a complete and cohesive work of genius that needs to be worn in person to truly appreciate. The original Time Companions were an exercise in modern art playfully reflecting the environment’s light in unexpected ways from every component of the timepiece. The consequence of such attention to detail is a torturously beautiful wearing experience, especially if you have to give the watches back after reviewing them.
On the Wrist
Watches such as the Patek Philippe Nautilus and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak embody the modern responsible working professional and all that they will encounter throughout their normal routines. These designs, which have endured for over 40 years, represent the potential for adventure that underlies the hard-working exterior of those who work in demanding careers in which faltering in any decision could have damning consequences. The Pure Time Companions, like these venerable pieces, use a porthole design to convey this. Emmanuel Dietrich’s designs are more bold and undaunted in their execution than these earlier designs.
As a result, the Pure Time Companions wear like a single piece of armour on wrist. This was amplified when Matt Smith-Johnson was told by Mr. Dietrich to design the dial that he would like without being hindered by any external influences. What resulted was a watch that took influence from historic designer Peter Salville.
After seeing a couple of design sketches from him, Mr. Dietrich pointed to the varied works from Sentient Creative (Mr. Smith-Johnson’s company) such as a logo designed for a cannabis company and his beautiful redesign of The Grand Prix D’Horlogerie. You can read about this redesign here and get additional insight to Mr. Smith-Johnson’s design process. Without being simple, with the pure distillation of design into its most streamlined and elegant essence, Mr. Smith-Johnson was set loose to design his ultimate Time Companion, and it all has to do with the brilliantly executed dials.
The reasonably sized 42mm case and weight of 166 grams makes these watches something you can wear every single day in comfort.
The decision to make the dials of the limited-to-25-pieces-each Pure Time Companions sterile gives the watches distinct characters when compared to each other and their regularly available siblings. Mr. Smith-Johnson’s favourite watch, the Rodania Single Pusher made for the Royal Canadian Air Force, inspired this commitment. Without the logo, there was nothing interrupting the wearer’s telling the time, and this principle is masterfully implemented here.
The lack of clutter and the continuation of the brushing from the cases onto the two dials further gives the impression that the individual watches are one “thing” and made of one mind. The aforementioned works of Peter Saville accomplished this where his album cover designs were extensions of the music that laid within their carefully curated sleeves.
The stainless steel variant gives the impression of a severe and brutally unostentatious character that elevates a formal suit and tie into the realm of grand masculinity that a classic dress watch simply cannot.
The PVD variant has an altogether different character. Unlike its limited edition sibling, the dial is not made from the same material as the rest of the watch. Both designers thought it would be best to use anthracite so the dial would not fade into the background. The utterly sublime repercussion of this is a striking character that makes one gaze at it for much longer than needed. The PVD’s anthracite dial, when married to the rest of the watch is like a panther stalking its prey at night. With only the full moon occasionally giving hints to its existence by occasional glimmers off its silky black coat, the last thing the prey sees is the intense and unforgiving eyes with its last breath.
This is intensified with the hour makers and how they are beautifully lumed. Even on the stainless steel model, at no point was legibility an issue. Unlike the Nautilus and Royal Oak, the dial contours and markings on the Time Companions aid legibility by pointing to the five-minute markers. The dial is surrounded by individual circular indicators which are raised from the dial which seamlessly bring the dial to the rest of the watch. It is in this attention to detail that accentuates the organic hands of the Time Companion. Reminiscent of the designs of H.R, Giger and his work on the Alien movie franchise, the hands of this watch relentlessly hunt and chase down time with the uncluttered backdrop of this sterile dial.
The dials of both variants cohesively work with the case and bracelet to create a single uniform entity.
Case and Bracelet
From the pictures, or from not having one sized properly, it is easy to dismiss such a bracelet as being overly stiff. Making such judgements and assumptions are something that enthusiast communities love to make and the psychology of doing so can have unfortunate ramifications. Hold on to that thought until the closing of this review. When sized properly, the watch has the reassuring presence of a bank vault door securely coming to a close at the end of the night.
This is where the CHF 2000 price truly differentiates itself from anything close to its price range. The overall build quality and manner in which the timepiece comes together instantly took me back to wearing the modern Sea-Dweller by Rolex and the Patek Phillipe 5712 Moon Phase Nautilus. Like the Nautilus and the Royal Oak, the bezel of the Time Companion begs to be worn and scuffed by the owner daily. These classic stainless steel sports watches all share this quality. The exposed bezels of these timepieces tell the stories of watches well worn and loved through the owner’s demanding schedule and make no excuses or attempts to hide the difficulties of shouldering such burdens.
The exemplary finishing of the bracelet, being brushed on top and polished on the sides and underneath, further instructs one’s eye by framing the watch and its purpose. The hexagonal pattern is easily identifiable as the design language of any Dietrich watch. Its top integrated hexagonal link effortlessly blends the dial and case into the bracelet.
The crown and caseback both feature the Dietrich logo. The caseback itself is a work of art as it is beautifully polished and laser-etched. The crown makes for easy operation and never draws any unnecessary attention due to its perfect proportions.
The Pure Time Companions were born from an uncontaminated creative process by two resolute designers. This process was so undiluted with other concerns that even after the dials had shipped, Mr. Dietrich and Mr. Smith-Johnson then decided to sell the two watches. A Blog to Watch once again shows that it knows how to approach such design projects: recognising when a great thing is happening and letting the momentum of the process progress to its stunning conclusion.
The result is the perfection of the modern stainless steel sports watch which ascends past its temporal zeitgeist to offer a truly timeless design that will never look dated. By using the ETA 2824-2 movement, the Time Companion solves an issue that those of us who wear one watch every day face. This is the increased stumbling blocks that one faces when having to service a movement that is either overly complicated, or one for which parts are extremely rare. Having to let go of the watch that you wear every day for many months when it needs servicing is a painful experience for some, but since the Pure Time Companions use such a reliable movement for which parts are plentiful, that is not an issue.
You may have noticed the mentioning of the typical people who wear these types of watches and how their demanding schedules makes their free time even more valuable. When you can count every moment that someone is wasting your time down to every five billable minutes, having your watch serviced in a reasonable time frame is appreciated.
This brings us to how the Time Companion had been perceived in the past by a very small but loud minority of watch enthusiasts. By pointing to the integrated bracelet and the movement used, some say that this watch is overpriced. This is extremely shortsighted and symptomatic of the less desirable side of enthusiast communities who spend their time scouring the Internet for information later portrayed mindlessly as their own opinion, such as desirable lug-to-lug dimensions to placement of crowns or date windows. For example, at a watch fair a brand owner and designer was approached by a potential consumer and self-proclaimed WIS – watch idiot savant. After handling the watch on display, this enthusiast went on a tirade as to how he despised all watches with the crown positioned at 4 o’clock and how they are terrible for a number of reasons. As he went on his rant, the man behind the display hid his smile as the rambling enthusiast was wearing a Seiko SKX . For those not aware of this watch (read my review of it under a diving environment here), its crown is at 4 o’clock.
Watches such as the Time Companion, or any other watch that breaks with traditional watch design, need to be worn in person to appreciate. The Internet and those who form their opinions from it and not actual experience do not fare too well with nuance. Designs of such timepieces as these two defy normal conventions and intentionally break these rules for dramatic effect. My time with these two left a deepening impression that only intensifies with time. Recalling catching a glimpse of the watch in the mirror while I was putting on my tie still resonates with me and makes me regret not purchasing one of these exemplary works of mechanical art. As the world is ravaged with uncertainty in 2020, the purchase of a mechanical watch for some, including me, is an exercise that we cannot justify as we see many around us struggle to make ends meet.
It is without a shred of doubt that the Limited Edition Pure Time Companions in Stainless Steel and PVD will become timeless classics and remembered as designs that, when considering their intended purpose and ideals, are perfect in every facet of their execution.
Check out more reviews at The Watch Clicker
Check out the Dietrich website
|Crystal||Sapphire||Strap||Custom hexagonal bracelet|
|Water Resistance||50 meters||Lume||Super-LumiNova®|