A mythical approach for a mythical watch – The Uncatchable from Artisans de Geneve
There are watches that are consider unicorns, to me the Rolex Explorer 1655 is that watch, it doesn’t matter if Steve McQueen wore one or not, to me it was the first watch that caught my eye, it wasn’t the influencers or history, it was the design that I liked but (there is always one) the watch at that time was extremely expensive ( if I only knew how much was going to increase..) and rare, not for me. I’ve tried to find consolation on homages, newer versions of the Explorer II but that itch never went out until now that I got my Rolex 216570, might not be the same size and different design cues but I am a happy man. Why am I sharing this obsession? Well, if this watch was a unicorn (for me) then imagine what the GMT Master 6542 with white dial could be? This is another level, is a myth, a watch that is surrounded by mystery, is it real, did it ever exist? Sure, we have the black dial Bakelite version 6542 which is already a legend on its own, appearing on the big screen multiple times and very sough after by collectors around the world, but the white dial, if is real, is the one to have. There have been many attempts at several price levels to reproduce this hallmark of aviation, Lorier watches has a very pleasant offer, Rolex did a similar configuration with a meteorite dial (unobtainable) and now Tudor just releases their Black Bay GMT with a white dial configuration, looks great but apart from the Rolex 126719BLRO we never got that real vintage feeling that the original 6542 gave us in pictures, until now.
Artisan de Geneve is an ‘atelier’ that specializes in bespoke customizations, and we are not talking about doing a PVD treatment on a watch, we are talking about a service that includes discussions with the owner of the timepiece and then create a story around it, something special, something unique. Artisan de Geneve is known for their skeletonized workmanship and attention to detail when it comes to finishing, the first time I say the Uncatchable pictures, I couldn’t believe that it was a work from them, I had to look further, it felt like your favorite heavy metal band decided to do a ballad, but boy can you dance to this tune.
The Uncatchable is a vintage recreation of that beautiful 6542 with a white dial, but as I mentioned Artisan de Geneve is a workshop that modifies owned pieces, and here comes my second question, who has commissioned this project? No other one than Frank Abagnale Jr. yes, is the main character from the 2002 film from Steven Spielberg ‘‘Catch e if you can’’ is based on.
If you recall the movie, one of the best parts it is when he becomes a pilot for PanAm airlines, and as a Rolex fanboy, when you hear that airline name, the image of the pilot sleeves wearing a GMT Master comes to your head. Let’s see the project in detail to understand better the becoming of a new legend.
How the watch started and evolved
The project started with Frank’s GMT Master II 116710, it was worn and needed some restauration, and did it get one, the case lugs are now refined to give that vintage aesthetic that the 6-digit Rolex are missing. The black ceramic bezel was replaced by a Bakelite one with aged numerals and luminescence material, it is very odd to look a working lumed bezel that is aged to perfection, but it does look great.
The dial that took all the praises
As soon as I saw the press release for the Uncatchable, I was keen to see a non-age dial version but then I remember that this is a project that is made with passion as the main element, and then the aged dial made sense. The look is beautiful and because the is made this way rather that decaying over time, it gives me that real pleasure to admire it and not to think that I need to take it to a watchmaker before stops working. This is a piece that can take a beating, I wouldn’t necessarily have it as my daily (too precious for it) but it can certainly be that. Going back to the dial, we can see at the center an orange pattern that continues trough the date disc, everything has a great attention to detail. The numerals of the bezel and the lume plots are also treated the same way. Another small but powerful detail that I’ve come to enjoy are the hands which are all blued except for the GMT hand (which is red and thinned out for a more accurate vintage look) which match the bezel colors to perfection, it does a great job to look interesting and does not overpower the watch, it’s a bit of an easter egg.
The beating heart
At this point with all the refinements that the GMT Master II 11670 received, Artisans of Geneve could have cleaned the 3186 movement, case it and call it a day but the work just started for the ‘Atelier’. The Rolex Movement has been re-decorated and each component which can be see through the sapphire case back have been hand beveled. Other decorations include circular graining and as a finishing touch, a 21 carats gold rotor, just to give that air of prestige from the 60s.
Some finishing touches
They say that the bracelet is one of the most important components of a watch and the Uncatchable has a bracelet that matches the occasion, the workshop developed specially for this model, their first rivet style bracelet, very solid and matching the whole look, another detail of this bracelet is that it manages to use the original Rolex clasp which is an industry standard, I really appreciate that touch.
As mentioned above there are small intricacies that when you add them up, they make this project one of a kind, the flat teeth on the Bakelite bezel or the roulette wheel disc with those vintage open numerals, everything is where it should be.
If it was a pleasure for me to write about this project, I cannot imagine how much fun it was for the people at Artisans de Geneve, I am sure it wasn’t easy, but I think the result paid off. The watch community seems to be very negative sometimes and people are taking this hobby too serious so when I see something as refreshing and passionate driven like the Uncatchable project, it really reminds me why I love watches, I don’t need to get my hands on this watch (I don’t think I will ever get a chance either) just like the original GMT Master 6542 white dial to fall in love with it, it really makes me happy that this watch exist because this is what dreams are made off.
More information at https://www.artisansdegeneve.com/
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My articles at Scottish Watches http://www.scottishwatches.co.uk/author/robbie/
Base: 116710 Rolex®
Case: Refined, crown-guard machining, polished facets
Bezel: Vintage, flat tooth
Insert: Bakelite, blue and red, aged font.
Movement: 3186 Rolex movement, re-decorated, circular-graining, hand-beveling of all components. Balance bridge, mirror-polish
Dial: Two shades of aged creme, green SLN
Date disc: Creme, aged, 60s red font
Hands: Second hand blued, GMT hand with fine arrow, aged SLN
Rotor: Gold rotor 21 carats, Geneva stripes.
Back: Transparent, waterproof up to 100M