Wild Horologists & Team LCF888/01 — 52Mondayz, Week #17-2020 A remarkable project results in a pretty remarkable product by Rob Nudds April 20, 2020 MIN READWild Horologists & Team LCF888/01 — 52Mondayz, Week #17-2020
I’ve had the Wild Horologists & Team LCF888/01 on my wrist for a while, and I must say, I’m not bored of it yet…
These days, in the age of crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter, new brands are ten a penny. And although many of the old guard — those who position themselves as protecting the old ways of watchmaking, emphasizing inimitable heritage and traditional artisanal skill — balk at this sudden rash of newcomers, threatening to overturn the industry, their existence is, in my opinion at least, a very good thing. While very few (if any) of said upstarts succeed in making good on their “threats”, what they have achieved in their droves is engagement with a young and hungry audience.
It seems likely that the next generation of those who will come to extol the old guard’s principles will emerge from this pack. By offering a young and expressive consumer base with a gateway to the craft is an exercise that should be lauded. What the Wild Horologists & Team are attempting to do, however, efficaciously covers both bases and does so with a result (and an eye on the future) that is really rather special indeed.
You may have noticed that I referred to the Wild Horologists & Team as a collective, rather than treating this “brand” as singular as we would normally on Fratello. This kind of wording may seem inconsequential, but I chose it for a reason. And it’s a reason that the “brand” is very vocal in explaining.
Simply put, this is not a brand. At least the collective responsible for this project do not see themselves as such. Yes, there is a logo. Yes, there is a name on the dial. But this is not an exercise designed to send you on some over-inflated emotional romp through your senses with partnerships, ambassadors, or tantalizing tales. This watch is the brainchild of a group of watchmaking students, based in La Chaux-de-Fonds. And the LCF888 is effectively the most stunning piece of coursework ever submitted.
I was first switched on to the Wild Horologists & Team courtesy of a mail blast that ended up in my inbox. However, my initial scan of the product didn’t immediately reveal the fascinating project behind it. I was first enticed by what I saw as a derivative, but highly desirable timepiece. Based on aesthetics alone, I was interested. I could see myself adding this to my collection. And so I dived in a little deeper. What I found was not what I had expected. And certainly not in regards to pricing…
An educational facility
When I learned that this was an experiment conducted by the tutors of an educational facility to give their students (who I would tip to go on to play a big role in watchmaking for the next four or five decades) the chance to design, source, build, and market a watch from concept to completion I felt myself getting excited. When I saw the price I almost fell off my chair. It couldn’t possibly live up to expectations, could it? There was only one way to find out. I had to see it for myself.
Why I care and why you should too
For anyone who’s managed to miss me banging on about it for the past few years, I am a WOSTEP qualified watchmaker. I did my apprenticeship, funded by the Swatch Group, at the British School of Watchmaking near Manchester. I was never the most gifted manual watchmaker, but I had a talent for the theory side of things. Consequently, I became heavily interested in the educational opportunities open to my generation and those that would (hopefully) follow.
The 3,000-hour WOSTEP course can be quite a slog at times. Many weeks are spent refining incredibly important but basic skills until they become second nature. At times it was easy to lose focus (especially for me). In my earlier schooldays, my head was lost in the clouds. However, there was always a welcome distraction when filing a lump of mild steel into a perfect cube became too mind-numbing to take.
A side project
As a side project to our exams, the six students in my year at the BSOW were given the chance to make their own watches. We were given ébauche kits, based on the ETA 6498. We had to cut and finish the plates and bridges, decorate whatever components we deemed necessary, and make the pieces our facility’s tooling allowed (such as stems and balance staffs) from scratch. It was a joy. It was easily the part of the course I relished most (with the possible exception of the theory exam itself). As such, I finished what could have taken me two years in a little over three months.
…few watchmakers are compelled to look up from their bench and see the industry for what it is, warts and all.
Beg as I did, I wasn’t allowed a second kit. That meant my wandering mind turned to brand building and how to design watches in both directions (from concept to consumer, or in reverse). This element of the industry is not something often taught in schools. But it was exactly the area in which I found my greatest interest over time. What I went on to discover, however, was how few watchmakers are compelled to look up from their bench and see the industry for what it is, warts and all. This project run by the Wild Horologists & Team doesn’t just do that in theory, it forces the students to experience it in practice.
There are many directions in which a trained watchmaker can go should they choose to down tools and step out of the workshop. Understanding the inner workings of a mechanical timepiece that intimately gives trained craftsmen and women an insight that few others possess. And it occasionally seems a travesty that those who care enough about this craft to bring these mechanical marvels to life are not placed front and center in their push to market.
…they have succeeded in creating a handsome sports chronograph that would look quite at home in Audemars Piguet’s concept collection…
Well, in this instance, they are. The LCF888 is the result of 14 months of labor, the assistance of 15 partner companies, the refinement of 245 separate components, and the creative force of a group still completing their studies. While we do not know the names or faces of the Wild Horologists’ Team, we know one thing. Between them, they have succeeded in creating a handsome sports chronograph that would look quite at home in Audemars Piguet’s concept collection in all ways but one — the price.
Until I saw the watch in person I didn’t want to make too many “wild” statements about value. In my mind, value is largely dependent on the intrinsic quality of the watch. Having seen it, having worn it, having found myself wowed by its appearance and build quality day in, day out, I can say that CHF 3,499 for the LCF888/01 in blue (as pictured on my wrist), is fair. The pricing offered during the Kickstarter campaign was, however, entirely insane. Originally, the blue model pictured here was available for CHF 1,399. That was just about the craziest ticket I’d seen since I traveled back in time ten years and went shopping for a Rolex Submariner “Hulk”.
The LCF888 was made available in limited quantities across six colorways. The project, although already completed, took to Kickstarted last October. Oddly, the project was already completed. The crowd-funding avenue was explored to recoup some of the costs associated with it. Unfortunately, the project (with an ambitious completion target) fell short. But fear not. The watches are still available. Should they meet with a positive reception, the project may well be repeated next year, and the year after, and the year after that…
And who knows what kind of talent this project is inspiring within the class? Might we find in ten years that the LCF888 was responsible for giving us the next Philippe Dufour? The next Roger W. Smith? The next Konstantin Chaykin, maybe? While the watch itself is worth CHF 3,499 (and more) of any collector’s money regardless of the good it is doing for the future of our industry, we should not lose sight of the fact that this project goes way beyond giving us a great product today. It goes a long way to ensuring great products will keep coming our way. Not just from the Wild Horologists & Team, but from all those they inspire to follow in their path.
On my wrist
So how did it perform on my wrist? I’m a slim-wristed chap, but the hulking chronograph sits just fine on my 16.5cm wrist. The measurements listed on the official WH&T website are misleading, though. The diameter is listed as 40mm. In reality, this is the width of the bezel. The case including the crown guards is more like 45mm. Additionally, the crown protrudes another couple of mill, so that needs to be taken into consideration. A flat sapphire reduces a considerable thickness, but it is still around 16mm tall.
…it’s pretty easy to get used to the weight.
The proprietary rubber strap is a joy to wear, although it is a mega dust magnet. While a bracelet might have reduced the top-heavy sensation of strapping it on for the first time, it’s pretty easy to get used to the weight. The movement has a familiar look to it. The 7753 caliber serves as inspiration. That means that should servicing should be simple enough when necessary. The components are, pleasingly, compatible for the most part. Nice, value-adding touches like the skeletonized date wheel and the plated wheels that make up the dial side look great. There are very few watches in this price bracket that have this kind of visual depth.
This is thanks to movement manufacturer Concepto. It developed the C3057 automatic chronograph movement exclusively for WH&T. The result is something I’m still slightly in awe of. I would encourage anyone who likes big, sporty chronographs to get one of these in their hands. It’s certainly helped quell my burning desire for a six-figure concept creation from AP. I still wouldn’t say no if anyone is offering. But, for now, I can’t see that desire returning in the same way. To learn more, visit the cleverly named WH&T website at what.ch.
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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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