Arnold & Son is a brand you’ve no doubt been seeing more and more of in the past year or so, and with good reason. Not only is it one of the only Swiss watch brands to draw inspiration from the rich tradition of English watchmaking, it’s also a brand that has reinterpreted many classical designs and complications in totally unique applications. This of course could have only been possible with the technical prowess that comes from being a fully integrated haute horlogerie manufacture.
One of the pieces from the brand’s Instrument Collection, which are inspired by the more complicated pieces from John Arnold’s illustrious watchmaking career (which you can read all about on this post by Michael Weare) deserving a closer look at is the DBG, one of the most original dual-time/ GMT watches on the market right now.
The large majority of mid and high-end watch brands offer some sort of “travel” complication such as a GMT, dual-time or world-time. But most of these come with one major limitation, and that’s the fact that you can only set the second time zone or home time in one-hour increments. This might not sound like a bid deal, but when you take into account the fact that certain time zones such as Tehran and Mumbai are ahead or behind by fractions of an hour, it is definitely a setback. So from a purely functional point of view, that is precisely where Arnold & Son’s DBG has a clear advantage over other watches with a similar complication.
Like many of Arnold & Son’s pieces, you immediately get a sense of balance and symmetry upon the first glance. What you have here is a watch with two hearts and two dials, coexisting harmoniously. But don’t let appearances fool you; this isn’t a watch with two entirely separate movements. Rather, you have two separate balances, escapements, gear trains and barrels running two independent dials from a single movement, the in-house conceived and manufactured A&S1209 caliber.
The case, in either rose gold or stainless steel (with a different dial), measures 44mm-wide, which I know the more traditionally-inclined buyers will probably find too big, but bear in mind that the case tapers down considerably towards the wrist, making it feel more like a 42mm watch on the wrist. The case is entirely polished for a more classical look, and is fit with a double AR-coated and slightly domed sapphire crystal. The DBG is fitted with two crowns, with the right crown used for setting the right dial as well as winding the two barrels (which deliver a power reserve of 40 hours) while the left crown is solely used for setting the time on the left dial.
The dial is undoubtedly the highlight of the watch. On the upper half you have the main dial done in frosted silvery-white, with two recessed dials done in a more opaline tone. The two hours and minutes dials are actually multi-leveled, with a “stepped” look from the center to the hour chapter and minutes chapter. It’s incredible how such a small off-centered dial can give so much depth.
The right dial is painted with black Arabic numerals, the left with Roman. The polished gold hands are also slightly different on each dial, with the right side being filled with a tone-on-tone paint and the left fitted with skeleton hands. The central seconds hand also has a filled-in counterweight, which leaves me to believe it is driven by the right dial’s gear train. Above the two dials sits the equation of time, with miniature hands mimicking those of the two dials and a striped texture between 18 and 06 providing a day/night indicator.
On the lower half of the dial sits the two balance wheels with their reversed balanced cocks, allowing the wearer to admire the twin beating hearts of the watch. You also get a glimpse of the beautiful finishing on the movement with blued screws, beveled and polished edges and côte-de-Genève stripes. Overall the entire dial delivers a kind of balance and symmetry you wouldn’t expect with so much going on. There’s an almost hypnotic effect in watching the two balance wheels oscillate simultaneously.
This harmonic symmetry follows through to the exhibition case-back of the DBG, revealing the spectacular in-house movement. It’s unique bridges shape and mirrored alignment and gear trains further highlight this sense of duality, and upon a closer look you get to appreciate the finer details that mark the DBG as a true haute horlogerie timekeeper with all the accouterments you’d expect: hand-chamfered and polished edges, flame-blued screws, fine perlage on the plate (even the side only a watchmaker will ever see) and carefully applied côte-de-Genève stripes. Oh and did I mention the plates and bridges are made of nickel- silver instead of brass?
With a price tag of $39,800 for the rose gold version reviewed here And $26,050 for the steel version, the Arnold & Son DBG is anything but affordable, though to be perfectly fair its unique design and movement as well as its top-notch finish make it a relatively good deal; especially when you consider what other brands would charge you for such a piece.