The Affordable Custom Watchmaking of Maxim Sushkov

Hand made in Russia.

Russian independent watchmaker Maxim Sushkov specialises in affordable custom timepieces, and has just unveiled his latest. Created for an Austrian client, the Watch Creative is a dress watch with classical elements like teardrop lugs and Breguet numerals, as well as a few striking, original details, such as the unusual, droplet-shaped hands.

Initial thoughts

While still niche, independent watchmaking has gained increasing traction in recent years. Its rising popularity has been accompanied with rising prices, both in the secondary market and at retail.

A few watchmakers, however, continue to offer accessibly priced, original work. One such example is Mr Sushkov, who provides a channel for enthusiasts to commission one-off timepieces, appealing to collectors who fancy something unique but affordable.

The Watch Creative illustrates Mr Sushkov’s work well. From the case with soldered lugs to the guilloche dial, it’s made up of a mix of stock and custom parts – with a good deal of work done by hand – resulting in a simple watch with interesting details.

In fact, the custom execution make it a good value proposition at around US$4,200. This has little competition at the US$4,000 mark in a similar vein of customised watches, except for fellow Russian watchmakers like HoD (though it occasionally works with Mr Sushkov).

An alternative similar priced but the complete opposite in concept is the Ophion Velos, a watch that is more polished and refined, but made by machine in larger quantities.

The skeletonised Unitas movement of the Watch Creative

Custom production

The Watch Creative was envisioned by an Austrian client and realised by Mr Sushkov, who produced some parts, modified others, and then put together the watch.

A two-piece affair comprising middle and back, the case is rather simple save for the lugs, which are tear-drop shaped and individually soldered onto the case.

Like the lugs, the dial evokes vintage watches, having a chapter ring for the hours decorated with guilloche engraved with a CNC machine.

But particularly attractive are the steel hands, which are hand made. Dramatically curvaceous, the hands echo the tear-drop lugs. They are entirely polished, allowing them to catch the light.

Compared to its peers in the same price range, the Watch Creative by way of its skeletonised movement, a heavily modified ETA Unitas 6498. It will no doubt appeal to geeks, since the gear train entirely visible, illustrating the energy flow from mainspring to escapement.

Originally a pocket watch movement that originated in the 1950s, explaining its large size, the movement has been gilded and then substantially open worked.

The skeletonisation was done the old-fashioned way, a laborious process that easily justifies the price. Mr Sushkov cut away the excess material of each bridge by hand with a small saw, and then chamfered all the edges to give them a mirrored finish.


Key specs and price

Watch Creative

Case diameter: 42 mm
Height: 11 mm
Material: Steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 30 m

Dial: Eilat stone

Movement: ETA 6498-2
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Frequency
: 18,00 beats per hour (2.5 Hz)
Winding: Hand-wind
Power reserve: 46 hours

Strap: Sheep leather

Limited edition: Piece unique but similar custom work available on request
Availability:
 Direct from Maxim Sushkov
Price: €3,500 (excluding tax and shipping)

For more, contact Maxim Sushkov.


 

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Highlights: Sotheby’s ‘Fine Watches and Rare Sneakers’ Online Auction

The great and the overlooked.

Sotheby’s latest online sale is in a quirky combination of luxury watches and high-end sneakers – some of which cost more than the watches. Fortunately the large majority of the 164 lots are horological, with a selection of watches that’s diverse and interesting, led by a couple of heavyweight top lots.

The heavyweights are quite literal, both complicated watches in platinum from brands widely regarded as benchmarks in contemporary watchmaking: an F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain with a platinum case and bracelet, along with the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Luminous “Phantom”.

The sale also includes more esoteric watches that might be overlooked, including as a retailer-edition Patek Philippe Calatrava with ruby markers, and a Grand Seiko “First” remake in platinum.

The Fine Watches and Rare Sneakers auction is live online from now until June 8, 2021. The full catalogue and registration for bidding are available here.


Lot 8201 – F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Platinum

Introduced in 2004, the F. P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain was the successor to the original Tourbillon Remontoir d’Egalite. Like the original, the Tourbillon Souverain combined both a tourbillon regulator and constant force mechanism in a quest for accuracy. Its most obvious distinction against its predecessor was the small seconds at six linked to the remontoir mechanism. The Tourbillon Souverain itself was replaced in 2019 by something bigger and vertical, making it increasingly uncommon.

This particular example of the Tourbillon Souverain is rare and unusual in several respects. Most obvious is the platinum bracelet, which is rare because it was an extremely expensive option when the watch was new.

Less apparent but more important is the 38 mm case. It was again an option but one that few opted for, since the 40 mm case was the default and accounts for the vast majority of the Tourbillon Souverain.

The clasp is made of uncoated 18k white gold, explaining its colour

Most intriguing are the hands. Instead of the usual pair of blued steel hour and minute hands, this example has a rose gold minute hand, presumably customisation specified by the client to aid legibility because both the hands are similar in length and shape.

The present example was made in around 2006, or two years after the launch of the model. Presented with its original box and warranty card, it has an estimate of HK$1.6-2.0 million, or approximately uS$206,000-258,000. Full lot details here.


Lot 8202 – A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Luminous “Phantom”

The second heavy-hitter in the sale is from A. Lange & Söhne, a brand whose complicated wristwatches are now increasingly desirable.

While Lange is perhaps best known for its fine chronograph movements, its signature digital watch – with jumping hours and minutes – is more inventive and arguably more impressive. And amongst the several Zeitwerk iterations to date, the “Phantom” is no doubt the most striking. While the in-line digital display was contemporary from its launch, the Zeitwerk was perhaps truly perfected with the translucent sapphire dial revealing the glow-in-the-dark discs underneath.

But despite its simple digital display, the Zeitwerk is complex and eminently traditional. In fact, it’s more elaborate than its digital peers, as we detailed recently. And its movement finishing is peerless, done to a level that surpasses many rivals, illustrated by details such as black polishing and hand engraving.

Importantly, the “Phantom” was limited to just 100 pieces that sold briskly after its 2009 launch. Subsequently Lange luminous editions were limited to 200 watches, presumably as a result of its success.

The “Phantom” rarely resurfaces on auction, explaining its higher-than-retail estimate of HK$600,000-800,000, or approximately US$77,300-103,000.

It’s worth noting this example is accompanied by a mismatched box (that’s instead for the Datograph Perpetual), but given that the watch did not have a special box to begin with, obtaining a replacement should not be too difficult.

Full lot details here.


Lot 8215 – Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 3923 “Wu Shang”

In contrast to the two previous lots that appeal for their tangible complexity, the Patek Philippe Calatrava ref. 3923 is a simple wristwatch executed gracefully.

Its most attractive detail are the ruby hour markers, perhaps a textbook example of discreet, elegant gem setting. Small but apparent, the rubies just enough flair to make the watch interesting, while preserving the classically clean Calatrava look.

The ruby hour markers give away the fact that this ref. 3923 isn’t just a regular Calatrava. It is instead a little-known special edition that was made in 1995 for the 25th anniversary of Wu Shang Trading, Patek Philippe’s distributor in Taiwan. Twenty were made in each colour of gold, and this example is in yellow gold.

The ref. 3923 is small at 32 mm in diameter, but the ruby dial certainly helps increase its presence. The upside of the case size is that the cal. 215 inside is a perfect fit, resulting in a beautifully proportioned dial with the small seconds sitting midway between the hands and edge.

The ref. 3923 has an estimate HK$120,000-180,000, or approximately US$15,500-23,200. Full lot details here.


Lot 8268 – Grand Seiko “First” in platinum ref. SBGW039

Another elegant dress watch in the sale is appealing for different reasons. While the rubies give the ref. 3923 a touch of extravagance, the Grand Seiko ref. SBGW239 is pure in colour and style. It beauty comes from the sharply executed details and distinctive design of the Grand Seiko “First”.

Long an insider’s brand – having tapped the international market starting a decade ago – Grand Seiko watches is not commonly seen at auction, though that’s changing with growing demand. This example is a remake of the brand’s very first wristwatch, the ref. 3180 that debuted in 1960, often known as the “First”.

While the “First” has been reissued on a handful of occasions, the SBGW039 was the first remake in platinum, having been introduced in 2011 for the 130th anniversary of Seiko. Limited to just 130 pieces, it echoes the vintage original ref. 3180, which was also made in platinum, but in similarly tiny numbers.

Aside from its obvious weight, the SBGW039 is subtly different – its seconds hand is in polished steel, instead of the blued steel found on the steel version.

The ref. SBGW039 has an estimate HK$70,000-95,000, or approximately US$9,000-12,200. Full lot details here.


Lot 8284 – Gérald Genta Perpetual Calendar Desk Clock 

Next up is an extravagant Gérald Genta desk clock. No doubt the most lavish timepiece in the sale, the clock is made of rock crystal and solid gold, with an over-the-top style that evokes a bygone era of contemporary watchmaking.

But more than the precious materials, the clock is impressively executed a technical sense. An ultra-thin Frederic Piguet pocket watch calibre, the movement within has been has been skeletonised front and back in the traditional manner, with the bridges manually cut and filed by hand before being engraved with floral patterns.

And it’s a perpetual calendar, perhaps the complication that’s most practical on a desk clock, since the calendar display can be larger than on a wristwatch.

An uncommon detail made possible by the larger dial is the month indicator at three o’clock, which comprises 48 months, meaning the months hand completes one revolution every four years.

The desk clock has an estimate HK$20,000-30,000, or approximately US$2,600-3,900, which is certainly a tiny fraction of what this cost new in the early 1990s. Full lot details here.


Lot 8334 – Daniel Roth Le Sentier

Last but not least is a Daniel Roth Le Sentier automatic with an uncommon and popular “salmon” dial. The Le Sentier was one of the simplest models offered by Daniel Roth – a brand and watchmaker now enjoying a resurgent interest – but still instantly recognisable thanks to the signature double-ellipse case.

In Daniel Roth’s typical style, the dial is classical and obviously Breguet inspired – explained by the fact that Mr Roth helped established the modern-day Breguet firm before setting up his eponymous brand.

The dial is notable for its rich texture: pinstripe guilloche and a chapter ring for the Roman numerals, along with tiny, applied luminous markers on the minute track matched with lumed tips on the blued steel hands.

Note the screw-down crown – an uncommon feature for an elegant timepiece

Daniel Roth relied on leading movement makers for most of its movements, and this watch is powered by a compact Frederic Piguet calibre that’s visible through the display back.

Estimated at HK$30,000-50,000, or about US$3,900-6,500, the Le Sentier is an affordable and compelling example of work by a pioneering independent watchmaker. Full lot details here.


 

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