The ICON The Duesey is a new watch that is part of an emerging new segment of timepieces produced by collector enthusiasts. Designer Jonathan Ward is a famed name in the custom car industry and the man behind Los Angeles-based ICON4X4. I’ve known Jonathan for years now and can say for sure that his reputation for having an obsessive attention to detail in cars rings true in his style of being a watch collector. Ward isn’t just a guy who likes status watches, but is seriously into the world of “obscura” timepieces as much as he is a Patek Philippe. Ward earned his reputation in restoring vintage cars, many of them to “better than original spec.”
ICON4X4 will build you a 1970s Ford Bronco restored like it was produced by Bentley, with a price to match. ICON4X4 represents an elite level of car enthusiasm where collectors bored with everything publicly available have resorted to making their very own creations. Jonathan Ward is the skilled foreman of the operation and makes his living by producing some of the world’s most impressive driving toys. It is thus fitting that Jonathan Ward sojourn into the world of making his own watches. Entirely self-funded, the ICON The Duesey is a Swiss Made elegant watch meant to be worn with a high society driver’s suit in an early America car such a Duesenberg. The long-since defunct classic American car maker is (if it wasn’t clear) the inspiration behind the name of the watch.
Ward’s tale from concept to final product (the photographed watch is a prototype, and a rough one at that) is a warning to those who believe getting a custom-produced Swiss Made watch is either simple or affordable. The emerging collection of watch brands started by watch enthusiast collectors is stymied mostly by the fact that getting a nice watch manufactured is very difficult and often impossible to do remotely. Suppliers need to be constantly hounded to not only get orders filled, but to fill them correctly.
My only personal biggest frustration with the watch is that Ward wasn’t able to make it cheaper than its higher-than-anticipated retail price. Even at $11,500 the price is only double what it costs Ward to manufacture each one. So his profit margin is significantly less than the vast majority of watches out there. It was important to Jonathan that the watch was Swiss Made, which no doubt was largely responsible for the cost.
Design-wise, Ward wasn’t trying to come up with anything totally new. Rather, using the CAD software himself, he wanted to borrow elements from brands and models he admires for the ICON The Duesey. I recognize the case shape and black onyx dial as being inspired by Jaquet Droz – a company whose clients include Jonathan Ward. There is something a bit more wholesome about borrowing design elements of a watch you yourself are an owner of. As a collector, Jonathan Ward isn’t expected to invent new looks, but rather to tastefully merge together what he personally likes.
The Duesey’s case is classic in its proportions with exaggerated lugs and a good amount of personality. It is done in a combination of grade 2 and grade 5 titanium, while also having a look that reminds one of many Jaquet Droz cases, which is not a bad thing. At 42mm wide it is medium-large and a good size because the dial indicators should be as large as possible given their inherently small overall size. What you see is an emulation of a classic look which has a window for the hours and another window for the minutes. Each is indicated using discs rather than hands. It was important for Jonathan to have a true jumping hour complication as opposed to a wandering hour (where it moves more slowly) complication.
The movement inside is from Swiss Dubois Depraz, and is known as their caliber 14400. It is a module built on top of a base ETA 2892-A2 automatic. You can see the movement through the case back sapphire crystal window. The automatic movement operates at 4Hz (28,800 bph) and has a power reserve of about two days.
For the strap we find another Jaquet Droz-inspired element. Both Jonathan and I are fans of the “rolled edge” matte alligator straps which the boutique brand under the Swatch Group often likes to use. Ward liked them so much that he found a strap maker in Italy and decided to get some of his own for the ICON The Duesey.
With a production of just 50 pieces, The Duesey already has a lot of interest from ICON4X4’s esteemed catalog of clients. With that said, watch guys know that it isn’t a bargain in the traditional sense. Supporting watches like the ICON The Duesey, and ones like it is a direct statement that you as a consumer want more and more of these watches to exist. In a very weird way, this might be one of the ways to help reinvigorate the watch industry. Do we want random corporate management guys running big watch brands (and look at the great job they’ve done over the last decade), or guys like Jonathan Ward who have demonstrated they value all the skills necessary to make cool stuff that guys like him also like?
With his own money he went ahead and spent a few years trying to get this watch made. This is extremely uncommon as most people would have gone straight to investors. Another idea is for big name watch brands which lack personality and direction to simply build watches collaboratively with guys like Ward and other “professional watch collector enthusiasts” who are determined to create stuff they want. It seems like a win-win move for the watch industry – but sadly, based on what I’ve learned about their decision making process… such wisdom – due to its novelty – will fall upon deaf ears. This is me merely once again giving the watch industry advice on where they might want to pull talent from.
The final detail in the watch which ties the ICON watch to the ICON4X4 brand is the lizard logo which makes an appearance on the custom rotor on the movement. This (again) is a prototype piece and that part will also look a lot better on the final versions. The ICON The Duesey watch will be limited to 50 pieces and have a price of $11,500. icon4x4.com