With time told through two discs—one for hours and another for minutes—visible behind two windows, the Duesey immediately declares it’s not like the majority of other wristwatches. This automatic, Swiss-made piece is designed by Jonathan Ward, the man behind Icon4x4 and his inspiration, naturally, is an automobile first and foremost. The Dusenberg triggered much of the visual language Ward would employ but there’s nuance worth exploring in greater detail, as Ward clearly took great care with every decision made. Whether it’s the black onyx dial, the titanium case, true jumping hour complication or the Swiss Dubois Depraz movement (visible through an exposed case-back) and more, Icon’s The Duesey—limited to 50 pieces—represents an extraordinary transition for a watch collector turned designer.
Inspired by the Dusenberg, Ward mentions along the way he considered making just one piece. (He even got quotes for a one-off.) This idea sank but training in watch-design ensued, and as a passion project faded, a brand was born. As he mentions in the exclusive video above, subtle details are his focus—so it makes sense that he spent three years designing this timepiece. “After training, the idea stayed in my head for about a year,” Ward explains to CH. “I started modeling. I took multiple trips to Switzerland, trying to find the right partners.”
The case body is clearly inspired by the radiator cap of the earliest Dusenbergs—and the same can be said of the bezel. To round out inspiration, Ward looked into his photo file of automotive inspiration, carefully observing the details on gages and clocks. “I was obsessing on it all for a long time,” he continues. Every component required reinforced design value. “I dig onion crowns but fully squashed onions suck. I’m a big ergonomic goober. Instead, here I looked at my early turn of the century through ’30s watches.” Ward geeked out on which crown had the best feel, and how it would impact the overall design.
Ward also designed the numerals on the discs, he says, “I have a couple great vintage books on typeface and font that helped me get started.” It was a reaction, in fact. “All designers worth their shit are reacting and responding to things we love and we hate and we experience.” This is why the Duesey manages to feel familiar and distinct all at once.
Another signature element of the watch warrants discussion, the lizard on the movement’s custom rotor. “It’s a California Blue Belly Lizard,” he says. “There’s a bullshit answer I give 99% of the time and the real story that’s not as interesting. I was buying a piece of shit Land Cruiser out of the local Thrifty Nickel like in Los Angeles, down in Reseda. A guy was cleaning out the garage, hence the Land Cruiser being for sale. He had a lot of shit on the curb waiting for the trash man to pick up. One was a fairly cool vintage fireplace screen that had a gecko on it, in cast brass. I asked if he was throwing it out and he said yeah so I took it.” It’s made appearances ever since.
Of the design language behind the entire brand, “I was trying to set the stage to have wider inspiration and not get stuck. Honestly, it’s just me trying to create an aesthetic that I love. In one case it could be referencing the design of 1937 in New York and Chicago. There are so many things I love in design from that year alone. Or even vintage marinas and yachts, looking at a porthole and the texture on a deck. Some of it is very specific.”
What began as one design will not end there, as Ward considers other pieces down the line. Automotive inspiration struck first, understandably, and it would be no surprise if Ward returned there, but he won’t be beholden to it. As he says, “I’m excited as all hell for the adventure.”
The Duesey can be preordered directly through Icon for $11,500 each. Delivery is expected in the first quarter of 2018.
Images courtesy of Icon4x4