J.N. Shapiro Produces Astounding Engine-Turned Metorite Dial From the hands of a true artisan comes another show stopper by Rob Nudds May 21, 2020 MIN READJ.N. Shapiro Produces Astounding Engine-Turned Metorite Dial
The longer you stay in this game, the more you come to realize one thing. There is watchmaking, and then there is watchmaking. A huge amount of modern watches fall under the first intonation. Many stand with one foot in either camp. But those from brands like J.N. Shapiro are comfortably within the bold category. And with his latest, engine-turned meteorite dial, he’s clearly keen to remind us why he deserves to be there.
According to an encyclopedia of Arts and Sciences from 1819, one must master 34 separate crafts to make a watch entirely from scratch. Reputedly, legendary British watchmaker George Daniels came close, mastering 32 of the 34. Daniels did not make his own crystals or springs, but other than that he was in command of the entire process.
He is perhaps best known — fairly or otherwise — for his beautiful engine-turned dials. Engine turning is a rare skill. It takes a long time to become proficient at it, a huge amount of patience to get good at it, and access to hard-to-find (and, in some cases, almost extinct) equipment. After becoming obsessed with watchmaking around 2013 (thanks to reading George Daniels’ famous book, Watchmaking) Joshua Shapiro began engine turning. And by the looks of his latest creation, he’s barely stopped since.
A breath of fresh air
Talents like Joshua Shapiro are a breath of fresh air. In an industry evermore dominated by microbrands purporting to be turning the established order on its head by cutting out physical retailers (along with quality and originality), Shapiro has taken the long way round. His pursuit of excellence has been a lonely and trying experience. The result? Dials that really — really — stand out from the crowd. If you’ve never before seen his wares, check out his official website here and then check back in with us to see what he’s dropping today…
A collective collaboration
We live in an era when personalized luxury is becoming more de rigueur. High net-worth customers (that’s what the industry calls them, not me) are increasingly desirous of individual, or extremely limited products. The name of the game is exclusivity. But that doesn’t preclude the possibility of communities being built around that idea of exclusivity. In fact, occasionally, it is the basis of a community itself.
Collective is one such community of like-minded watch lovers. Collective was founded by two Bay Area tech execs, but the membership is global and pretty diverse. Given the founders’ background, it is perhaps unsurprising that Collective has chosen to focus on watches with an excellent mechanical or aesthetic credo for its initial collaborations.
That relationship bore some tasty fruit.
The first such project was conducted with Zenith last fall, via the effervescent Caplan brothers of Topper Fine Jewelers in Burlingame. That relationship bore some tasty fruit. The pared-back, dateless Zenith Chronomaster El Primero C.01 is an icy cool iteration of a classic. The star of the show is (always going to be) the El Primero movement. It is an industry icon and one of the most famous movements ever to tick.
For its second collaboration, Collective wanted something similar but entirely different. The project with J.N. Shapiro is similar in that the same attention to detail and passion has been poured into the creation of the infinity weave pattern that decorates the dials as designers and engineers also poured into the creation of the El Primero, which first hit our shelves back in 1969.
…Shapiro has used meteorite as the base material.
Different, however, in the sense that this time, that passion and skill is entirely visible. The details of this watch are truly stunning (just check out the crisp counterpoise on the seconds hand for an example). And to make the painstakingly created display even more arresting, Shapiro has used meteorite as the base material. That decision is, quite frankly, out of this world.
A dream come true
I have often wonder what an engine-turned meteorite dial might look like. Actually, that’s not entirely true. My musings actually centered on the idea’s feasibility. Would it work? Can meteorite, which is, by its nature, an unpredictably formed and entirely unique material, be machined in that way? What would the failure rate be? Would it be impossibly high? I had, to be quite honest, assumed it would. But Shapiro, through persistence and flair, has found a way to make it work. Better still, from my perspective, he’s chosen to outfit the 40mm × 9.75mm case with a movement made a few blocks away from where I live…
UWD finally gets its due
Regular readers of Fratello might have picked up on the fact I live in Dresden, Germany. While Dresden is probably best known in watchmaking circles for its proximity to Glashütte, there are actually a few decent watchmakers in the city itself.
…it just looks really, really good.
One of which doesn’t get the international recognition I believe it deserves. That’s UWD (or Uhren Werke Dresden). This small factory doesn’t make a huge range of calibers. Far from it. In fact, the company focuses on just one base caliber available in a variety of finishes. The UWD 33.1 is a gorgeous, hand-wound movement with a going seconds sub-dial at 6 o’clock, an operating frequency of 21,600vph, hacking seconds, and a robust 53-hour power reserve. And it just looks really, really good. If you want an idea of how to design an exquisitely laid-out movement without over complicating things, I think this is a pretty good reference point.
Shapiro’s Infinity Collection watches start at around $21,000 in steel cases with the “regular” dials. Unsurprisingly, this limited will carry a bit of a premium. Surprisingly, however, that premium will be a paltry 500 bucks. If you want a case in rose gold or white that is also possible but expect to pay around 30k for the privilege.
That may not seem like a huge price jump from steel to gold to you. I would agree. That’s because the real value of a piece like this is in the dial (and, for once, the movement — those UWD modules do not come cheaply). And if you were wondering exactly why a dial like this costs a lot to make, it is because each one takes around 150 hours to complete. That’s six and a quarter full days. Almost an entire week. When you break that down to working hours and exclude weekends, you’re looking at the best part of a month (assuming nothing goes wrong and you can remain focused for eight hours per day).
…a piece of future history…
Consequently, Shapiro only plans to make ten pieces of the Infinity Series P.01 from Josh Shapiro for Collective, to give the watch its full name. That’s handy as it will give him a chance to finish this project and possibly squeeze in a cup of tea before he retires. If you’d like to own a piece of future history, then you first need to become a member of Collective, as pieces made for the North Cali group’s portfolio collection are only available to members. To learn more about the group, visit its official website here.
Brand J.N. Shapiro ModelInfinity Series P.01 from Josh Shapiro for CollectiveDialEngine-turned meteoriteCase MaterialStainless steel, or rose or white goldCase Dimensions40mm wide, 9.75mm tallCrystalSapphire crystalCase BackSapphire crystal display backMovementHand-wound UWD 33.1Water Resistance30 metersStrapLeatherFunctionsTime only, sub-seconds dial at 6 o'clockPriceStarts at $21,500Special Note(s)Each dial takes over 150 hours to produce Watch of the Week
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About the author
Rob’s first exposure to the watch industry was a part-time retail role for the Signet Group at the age of 17. An obsession with watches soon developed. Following an ill-advised BSc in Archaeological Science, he applied for sponsorship to undertake… read more
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