There is no denying mid-century design was particularly special for art, cars & furniture but also true for a variety of watch designs. It was a period of experimentation with minimalism, asymmetry and new materials which opened the door for the use of wood in timepieces. Introduced in the late fifties and early sixties, Hamilton produced some extremely rare prototypes of their Flight II & Pacer Electric but also morphed into the Sherwood Automatic collection produced later in the sixties. (all shown above).
A variety of rare vintage 1960s timepieces with wood dials, wood cases, inlaid wood straps by Universal Geneve, LIP France, Raketa (Paкéтa) and Swank (above).
Cut to the early 1970s and wood panelling is all the rage – Bulova introduces an Accutron in 1973 nicknamed the ‘Woody’ (above) featuring inlaid wood on the bezel and metal bracelet.
Moving up a bit in collectibility, Movado/Zenith releases a scarce vintage 70s automatic with wood dial.
Not to be left out, Rolex featured many traditional collections with heavily grained dials like the Day/Date President and Cellini featuring burled mahogany wood.
Jumping back in time to the mid-1800s, Russian pocket watches (above) by the Bronnikov watchmaking family are made almost entirely out of wood. A few materials for contrast included bone/ivory.
More than a few centuries later, with no training as a watchmaker, Valerii Danevych now produces extremely complex wooden watches in his workshop in Kiev Ukraine. Made entirely from wood except for the metal hairspring, Valerii has also mastered a wooden flying tourbillon in his latest movement that also features a retrograde indication and took seven months to create (above left).
Perhaps the pinnacle of modern haute horology, Swiss watchmaker, Urwerk introduced the exquisite Eastwood UR-110 Collection a few years ago with bezels made of Macassar & red ebony. “The UR-110 continues URWERK’s radical tradition of telling the time using orbiting satellite complications. In the UR-110, the time is always shown on the right side of the watch. The satellites follow a vertical line, graded from 0 to 60 minutes, in a downward motion.”
Very unique limited editions from Ulysse Nardin Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon & the Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde featuring exotic wood in the dials. “Reflecting Ulysse Nardin’s rich roots in marine chronometers, the new Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon limited-edition watch (above left) is not only a nautically inspired timepiece with a hand-crafted wood marquetry dial, but also it is the first watch in history to utilize fiber Nano-threads (thinner than a strand of hair and borrowed from the ship-rigging industry) on the dial to resemble a ship’s rigging and to play an integral role in displaying the time.”
Most recently released, the Bell & Ross Instrument De Marine Collection (above) – is taking the essence of the legendary 18th century clock invented by John Harrison and scaling it down to wristwatch size.
A relative newcomer to high end watchmaking, Ralph Lauren makes a powerful statement with his Automotive Collection (above). “Inspired by his award-winning 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe, the Ralph Lauren Skeleton Automotive Watch (above left) blends the designer’s love of classic automobiles with horology. Like a car with its hood opened, the timepiece encourages you to view its inner workings thanks to the visible, manually wound RL1967 caliber movement. Complimenting the steel and brass gear elements are black oxidized hands, a large balance, a black shot-blasted stainless steel case, and a varnished bezel made from Amboyna burl, a wood widely known for its use in car interiors.” Others in the collection are inspired by Lauren’s extensive car collection
Marquetry work featuring a wide variety of inlaid woods has been featured in some very special collections including the Rotonde de Cartier Métiers d’Art Watch Collection (upper left).
The Svend Anderson Eros “Navigation Pleasure” model (upper middle). The one-of-a-kind Eros has marquetry work with four types of wood and a secret 10 moving part erotic automaton on the back of the watch.
Patek Philippe has also created some rare marquetry dials for collections commemorating animals of the Chinese Zodiac to tranquil scenes like the sailboat on Lake Geneva (upper right).
Newcomer to the haute end of affordable watch collecting is SevenFriday and their first of two limited edition ‘Woody’ timepieces featuring wood cases.
The MARCH LA.B SHELBY Limited Edition Automatic celebrates one the rarest Shelby automobile prototypes of all time: the Shelby EXP 500 known as the “Green Hornet”. Encased in a black chassis set against a wood dial replicating the original dashboard. Produced in 1968 by the legendary American automotive designer and race driver Carroll Shelby, the Mustang hardtop double prototype is an icon for car enthusiasts worldwide.
Nixon, a California watch company specializes in watches for the Action Sports crowd but in recent years, the level of watchmaking has extended to Swiss made, mechanical movements and unusual materials like the wood dials of the Rotolog (above) and the wood dial collection most recently launched (below).
What better material to express the span of time other than wood? You count the rings of a tree to determine the age, now you can get a variety of Nixon watches to determine the age of your days. The Nixon Wood Collection now features the Ragnar, Rollo, 51-30 Chrono, Time Teller SS & Sentry SS Chrono.
Handcrafted out of wood, Analog Watch Co aims to remind the wearer of nature. Their innovative design features the first ever soft and flexible wooden strap. They spent months researching, prototyping, and sourcing materials. Countless caffeine-fueled hours experimenting, testing, and creating. Aspiring to transform and re-imagine unique and beautiful materials.
Grovemade creates wood watches as a modern update to the classic analog interface. Designed in collaboration with Stefan Andrén and hand-assembled in their woodshop in Portland, Oregon, the Grovemade wood watch features a hand sanded hardwood face, spherical hour markers, a precision calibrated stainless steel module, and a vegetable-tanned leather strap. It’s an understated yet sophisticated method of keeping the time.
That’s it for now, we’re always collecting ideas for the next chapter in wood watches so if you think we missed a good one, email us and we’ll include it in part 2.
See all other wood watches available at Watches.com