As is often the case, the best stories begin with an encounter. And so it is with Singer, a watch brand making its debut in the weeks before summer 2017. The two men behind this bold move, Rob Dickinson and Marco Borraccino, were quickly joined by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, founder of Agenhor. Dickinson probably isn’t a familiar name in watch circles, but in the world of high performance cars he’s a hero. As the founder of Singer Vehicle Design in Los Angeles, he is renowned as a restorer (an understatement) of the ultimate vintage car, the Porsche 911 – the epitome of power and design, introduced in 1963 and every petrolhead’s dream. He got to know Marco Borraccino, head of design at Panerai prior to setting up his own studio consulting for the big watch brands, and incumbent of the first Watch Design Chair at Geneva University. Both were mad about mechanics, and one had the means to give shape to the other’s dream to create a watch. And when it came to building that watch, there was only one port of call in Geneva: Agenhor and its founder Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, inventor of “engines” for Hermès, Van Cleef & Arpels and Fabergé.
A common philosophy
The next stage was the launch, in Geneva, of Singer Reimagined with the aim of channelling the Singer philosophy into watchmaking. A philosophy that had to reference the golden age of industrial design – an era that produced the Porsche 911 as well as the Omega Speedmaster (1957) and the TAG Heuer Monaco (1969) – but also focus on the most important function for any motor-racing fan: the chronograph. Accordingly, the first Singer watch would be a sport chronograph with vintage accents that hark back to iconic 1960s and 70s designs.
The one thing it wasn’t going to be was yet another “novelty” that would stick around for less time than its power reserve. Like the Porsches that Singer Vehicle Design equips with the very latest technologies, without innovation this future chronograph had no reason to be. “When Marco Borraccino asked if I’d ever thought about making a watch, he knocked on the right door,” joked Rob Dickinson at the recent unveiling of the Track 1 at Agenhor in Geneva. “This was something I’d been dreaming of for a long time. As it turned out, it wasn’t an entirely innocent question as Marco already had a pretty clear idea for a completely new type of chronograph with central hands.”
Vintage good looks
Which is where Jean-Marc Wiederrecht came in… and serendipity struck. Wiederrecht had been working along those lines for eight years already. The movement he had in mind would be circular, with sufficient empty space in its centre to accommodate all manner of complications, including a chronograph. From this point on, Singer’s concept began to take shape. To be wholly successful, the design had to allow unprecedented legibility thanks to an intuitive readoff of the chronograph indications by means of three central hands. A tachymeter scale around the flange completes the sporting look, while two rotating peripheral discs align opposite a marker at 6 o’clock to show “regular” hours and minutes.
The tonneau case and “mushroom” pushers for the chronograph – which are unusually positioned at 10 and 2 o’clock while the crown sits in the case middle – accentuate the neo-vintage styling. Movement-wise, the AgenGraphe calibre also has plenty to say for itself, not least the horizontal AgenClutch which engages the chronograph mechanism by friction between two tooth-free wheels that are coated with Dianip, a composite of diamond dust and nickel. One advantage of this clutch is to eliminate the vibrations which are detrimental to timing. Two years went by between the moment the three partners first sat down together and the unveiling of the Singer Track 1 – the time required to fine-tune this radically different chrono, a concept already contained in Fabergé’s Visionnaire Chronograph which runs on a similarly designed Agenhor movement.