This imposing, man eating 50mm watch was released to several howls of outrage and even downright anger when it was released in 2012, but Romain Jerome is not one to be silenced or stopped in his tracks by the merciless onslaught of the mainstream. This watch, by the way, is not to be confused with the Titanic-DNA Tourbillon I wrote about last year.
Let’s face it, RJ’s watches are not the dreams of the everyday housewife. His pieces are designed to delight and infuriate all at the same time. If the reaction to his work was anything less than thoroughly controversial, Romain Jerome would no doubt feel that he had somehow failed.
A Romain Jerome watch is always going to be an acquired taste, and those who prefer the logical, easy to appreciate products of a Rolex or a TAG Heuer may find it hard to come to terms with an RJ at its most outlandish.
The Romain Jerome Titanic-DNA Steampunk Chrono, which does for all the world look as if it were forged and engineered in a Victorian steam driven factory by men in flat caps and thick leather belts, comes with an outer bezel of deliberately oxidised and rusted metal. This is no ordinary metal, it was actually taken from the wreck of the mighty Titanic, lying 3,840 metres beneath the ocean, hence the Titanic DNA that RJ likes to talk about. This un-missable adornment to the watch was described as looking like the colour and consistency of dog shit by one disapproving observer.
Despite the bounteous proportions of the watch, there is so much to catch the eye, that the size of it is somehow reduced as a result. The Steampunk Chrono has no dial, it’s designed so that the rough and raw industrial finishes can be openly admired as well as the rigorous hob-nail boot sturdiness of its movement. This mechanical self-winding RJ001-CS automatic chronograph movement, specially developed by Concepto on behalf of RJ, is made up of over 330 parts and is held by four large screwed pistons. It has a 42-hour power reserve.
The watch face is enlivened at 6 o’clock by a propeller, not actually taken from the Titanic, but certainly made to resemble the look of the majestic propellers forged over one hundred years ago by Belfast shipmakers Harland & Wolff. The 30 minute chronograph and seconds counters at 3 and 9 o’clock evoke the design of the ship’s manometers, they have the full steam ahead look of Victorian gauges, and one can almost smell the sweat of the hard-pressed boilermen hefting the coal to make the Titianic go faster. The steel pistons are held in place by polished bolts to add to the Steampunk allure. Probably the most striking element of the watch is the oversized time mottled XII in the 12 o’clock position. It’s almost big enough to be erected over the entrance to Harland & Wolff itself. As for the case, RJ sensibly chose 18k red gold, titanium, and PVD black steel.
Perhaps the one incongruity which may make true steampunks a little sniffy is the use of a contemporary rubber strap rather than a chunky old leather one.
Of course the reason for the creation of this inimitable watch was to mark the 100th anniversary of the ship and its infamous maiden voyage on April 15th 1912. Just to make sure you understand this, the case back bears the legend, ‘Made with parts of the Titanic’. 2,012 of these mighty timepieces were forged at the steelworks and the watch is priced at a well to do steampunk price of $32,400. If you feel you owe yourself a slice of high-end Titanic memorabilia, RJ will no doubt be happy to locate one of the watches for you. Wear it with belt and braces, wide wale corduroys, Harris tweed jacket and your best brown derby’s.