An interview with Tom Ashton, whose watchmaking ‘blog is currently following the development of Tom’s second watch – the Ashton A2 – using a re-worked Unitas movement.
|The Ashton Watch A1 (right) and A2|
The A2 is the result of over seven years of design, though the original design was for a barrel/tonneau shaped case, this proved unfeasible at the time I started working on a physical watch and making a complete watch from scratch wheels and all was going to be very expensive to do. The A1 was the first incarnation of this watch, but apart from being just a little large (based on a Unitas 6497) the case design had a few issues also, so instead of trying to improve the design I decided to start from the beginning with a smaller movement and case. (The A in A1 & A2 is from Ashton, I had originally thought of using T for Tom, but the font I had used to engrave the dial on the A1 looked too much like an existing companies previous logo).
|Render of the A1 movement|
The original design for my watch was that all I wanted people to see was the barrel and balance of the movement, to add mystery to the mechanism, definitely with some inspiration from Girard Perregaux’s Three Bridges Tourbillon. The bridge design is shaped to maximise the view of the barrel and balance, while allowing support for the centre wheel and rest of the wheels in the watch, though not the most effective use of the space, it has a great visual impact, and by complimenting the curves of the main bridge with similarly shaped barrel and balance bridges, it does become very distinctive. It does create some interesting problems though and when I started to use the Unitas movements for parts rather than trying to machine all of the wheels etc to start with, I also had to include the centre wheel in the visuals, as remaking the pinion is not feasible at the moment.. while this isn’t as clean as the original design, it still has some of the mystery about the workings.
|Omega Dynamic Chrono|
TA: I’m a collector when my budget allows, though recently any money I’d like to spend on watches gets spent on tools or parts for prototypes of my watches, so my watch collection mainly consists of watches I’ve been able to buy cheap and restore, or that I haven’t been able to pass up. I have two favourites, both Omegas (apart from my A2 of course). One is a c.2000 Omega Dynamic chronograph, it is just a clean looking, yet still very effective and highly undervalued watch. My other favourite is an Omega steel manual wind watch, containing their stunning 30mm movement, regarded by some (including me) as possibly the best mass produced manual wind movement ever made.. again, a very clean looking watch, with no frills (also no water resistance) though this doesn’t get half the wrist time it deserves, my brother had worn it for almost 3 years solid with no ill effects, including doing handyman work.
TA: Watch-wise I’m currently looking at a vintage Tudor Submariner, to restore and probably wear. I have my eye on another watch as well, but that may not happen. Otherwise I am looking to upgrade some of my workshop to make producing multiples of the A2 parts a little less convoluted.
the #Watchnerd: What’s next for the A2?
TA: I have a 2nd model A2 that I am working on, with a bronze case and sterling silver back that I’ll be putting a hand-skeletonised Unitas movement in. Ideally in the near future I’d like to pre-sell some of the A2’s, though my initial run will have automatic Soprod A10 movements (as used by Stepan Sarpaneva), this initial run will hopefully pay for the equipment that I need to purchase to finish the “proper” A2, with the re-worked Unitas movement. I plan to do a series of 10 with the 30mm Unitas 6310 I have, and once I run out of those, will see what happens.
|Casing up an A2|
Definitely! I own three digital watches, though I have bought only one of them. A Breitling B-1 which is the most accurate watch I own, an IO binary watch (more for the gimmick than anything else) I also own a Ripcurl tide watch. I think that digital watches definitely have their place, and have no issue recommending digital watches if the circumstances warrant it, I still think Casio G-shocks are one of the best watches out there for durability and reliability,
I think the movement really is the watch: the case can be worn out and be replaced; the dial can be damaged and re-finished; but the movement (unless something really bad happens) can stay the same. I have been guilty of opening a watch, taking pictures of the movement and completely forgetting to make a record of the dial side of the watch. It should be noted however that without a decent designed case and dial the movement will never be distributed enough for people to ever see.
the #Watchnerd: And finally, #watchnerd or WIS?