Known for customised watches created for celebrity athletes, Artisans de Genève (ADG) has just revealed its latest project, the Armstrong. Based on a Rolex Daytona ref. 116520, the watch was commissioned by former pro cyclist Lance Armstrong.
Though it looks thoroughly contemporary, it is modelled on the vintage Daytona ref. 6239 “Pulsations”, one of which just sold at Phillips for US$693,000. The vintage inspiration is literal, yet reinterpreted creatively. The Armstrong has been skeletonised and heavily modified, with both the hour register and automatic winding mechanism removed, resulting in an unusually minimalist watch.
Leaving aside Mr Armstrong’s chequered past – he was a cancer survivor and then multi-time world champion before getting a lifetime ban for doping – his namesake watch is surprisingly interesting.
Although it is clearly modern in style, the Armstrong is vintage inspired – it is literally a manual-wind, “pulsations” Daytona. In that sense, it is actually a vintage remake with imagination. A significant amount of effort was clearly expended to get there, and the work appears to be of high quality.
Doing away with large chunks of the movements feels drastic, yet the result is intriguing, both conceptually and visually. Or put more simply, it’s weird in a good way.
The customisation is priced at about US$45,000, but that excludes the watch, which the client has to supply. It’s fair enough given the substantial work on the movement, both in terms of modification and decoration.
Commenting in the announcement of the watch, Mr Strong states, “My main inspiration wasn’t sport but retro watches. I liked the idea of counting my heart rate the old-fashioned way — using seconds — and rediscovering what it means to wear and to wind a watch… I loved this sense of opening up my watch and being able to see everything inside it.”
That sums up the essence of the Armstrong. Its key feature is the pulsations scale on the edge of the dial that works with the central, elapsed seconds hand.
The hour counter at nine in a standard Daytona has been removed, not merely in a cosmetic sense, but also mechanically. So not only is the register on the dial eliminated, but also all of the mechanics in the movement relating to the 12-hour register. That leaves a space within the case beside the mainspring that is initially jarring but adds to the airy appearance.
The striking open working is further enhanced by the removal of the automatic winding mechanism, which allows all of the chronograph mechanics to be visible.
The original, 40 mm Daytona case in steel has largely been retained, though several changes were made. The pushers and crown are now black coated and accented in yellow, while the ceramic bezel has been replaced with one of a new design. And the case back was reworked to incorporate a sapphire window and relief lettering on the rim.
The design of the watch is also a nod to Mr Armstrong’s career as a professional cyclist: the pulse rate is an important measurement for athletes, while yellow was the colour of the USPS cycling team when Mr Armstrong was its lead rider.
Key facts and price
Artisans de Genève Lance Armstrong
Diameter: 40 mm
Height: 12 mm
Material: Steel with ceramic bezel
Water resistance: 100 m
Movement: Cal. 4130, refinished and modified
Functions: Hours, minutes, and chronograph with hour and minutes registers
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 72 hours
Strap: Steel bracelet and rubber strap
Limited edition: Unique piece
Availability: Similar customisation available direct from Artisans de Geneve
Price: CHF42,520 for comparable customisation, excluding the price of the base watch
For more information, visit Artisansdegeneve.com.
NB: All Artisans de Genève watches are customised on commission at the request of clients and ADG is not affiliated with Rolex in any way.
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