On Saturday May 10th, the Eurovision Song contest was aired throughout Europe. It is without doubt one of the most eccentric televisual feasts of the year. It manages to get more wacky and flamboyant with every passing contest, so much so that it’s reached the point where it’s anyone’s guess what will work and most importantly, what will win.
In the modern era of the contest it seems the only rules are that there are no rules. Where once you could not dance or sing in any other language other than your own, the United Kingdom had a unique advantage with the versatility of the English language. But all that has gone by the wayside. Partly through the wrong choice of song, or singer, or through political unpopularity, a win foiled the United Kingdom for more than 15 years. Indeed the UK has had two bottom of the pile placings, including one ignominious occasion when it received the dreaded ‘null points’.
This year the winner was a man dressed as a woman, complete with a golden ball gown and a full beard. To rapturous applause, Conchita, aka Tom Neuwirth, from Austria, scooped the top prize with Rise Like A Phoenix. Fantastic and highly unusual, but what in the world has it got to do with watches?
Well, if we take the top 5 entrants of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, namely Austria, The Netherlands, Sweden, Armenia and Hungary, it’s interesting to note that each of these countries can not only create catchy songs, but also produce some excellent watchmakers. Is local talent in watchmaking a possible formula for Eurovision success? We don’t know, but it’s as good a theory as any. Let’s examine the theory more closely.
There is one common denominator. Let’s face it, no one outside of the competing nation has ever heard of the artistes participating in Eurovision. In the same way, while there are watchmakers making beautiful watches in each of these countries, only the most avid watch collector will know about them. For my money, the quality of the watches shown here are vastly superior to the quality of the songs that dominated this year’s contest.
The Eurovision Watch Contest – Austria
Performer: Conchita Wurst – Song: Rise Like A Phoenix
Austrian Watchmaker: Habring²
Austrian brand Habring’s tagline ‘The unusual in the known’ seems to perfectly express the Eurovision Song Contest’s philosophy. Habring² is run by Richard and Maria Habring.
Just as 2014 Eurovision winner Conchita is anything other than a run of the mill manufactured pop star, Habring² produce no mass manufactured product at all, even though their approach demands a much higher quality approach than a more traditional watch brand. Limited capacity and a variety of possible variations mean that many of Habring’s watches are unique timepieces. Despite their exclusivity, every Habring² is a reliable companion for every day wear and comes with a three-year guarantee on possible manufacturing defects conditional on an annual inspection for water-tightness. Founded just over ten years ago Habring has produced a range of quality watches including the Jumping Second, the Doppel 3 and even a Tourbillon watch. Will newly crowned Conchita become a brand ambassador? Probably not. (habring2.com)
The Eurovision Watch Contest – The Netherlands
Performer: The Common Linnets – Song: Calm After The Storm
Watchmaker: Van der Gang
The Common Linnets stormed to second place in Eurovision 2014. Band members DeLange and Waylon are both from the eastern part of the Netherlands. In Dutch people from this region are sometimes called heikneuters, referring to the songbird kneu. In English this bird is called a common linnet. So in fact DeLange and Waylon are both singing birds from the eastern Netherlands.
Just as the Common Linnets are not commonly known outside of the Netherlands, Dutch watchmaker Van der Gang is virtually unknown outside of elite watchmaking circles. Owner Wieb Van de Gang has an obsession for creating highly precise watches, created with manufacturing techniques which are too intricate and costly for large scale production. As an example of this, for every 1000 grams of material used in the making of a watch, only 18% will ultimately be used. Each watch is produced as a limited edition, and while they are not quite as costly as staging the Eurovision Song Contest, they are definitely not going for a song. (vandergangwatches.nl)
The Eurovision Watch Contest – Sweden
Performer: Sanna Nielsen – Song: Undo
Watchmaker: Gustafsson & Sjögren
Famous for producing the best known Eurovision entrants of all, ABBA, this year’s entry from Sweden was a strong contender with a song called Undo sung by Sanna Nielsen.
It’s not known if Bladesmith Johan Gustafsson and watchmaker Patrik Sjögren can sing, but they can definitely make some stunning strongly Swedish influenced watches, expertly hand crafted from Damascus steel. Much of their inspiration is from Scandinavian history and nature, and one of their most stunning series to date is the Seasons series of watches, the dials of which have intricate colours and patterns created from the intricately pattern weleded steel. Made in limited editions, GoS watches are quite unlike anything else out there. The concept is unique and given the nature of the damascus steel itself, it is not possible to create two identical GoS watches. (goswatches.com)
The Eurovision Watch Contest – Armenia
Performer: Aram MP3 – Song: Not Alone
Watchmaker: AWI International
Armenia surprised everybody, including no doubt itself by coming fourth in Eurovision with a song by singer and comedian Aram MP3. What may be even more surprising is the fact that Armenia has a watch industry, albeit a fledgling one.
AWI International was established in 2001, their mission is to make high quality watches suitable for every occasion. Their offering is not like the high end high price tag products of Habring, Van der Gang and GoS, it is more for the mainstream watch buyer, which makes perfect sense seeing as the average wage in Armenia is around $350 a month. The collection is broad and diverse, including more than 500 models for men and women. AWI annually produces new models that are made to high quality design specifications by Swiss and French designers. The brand offers watches with both quartz and automatic movements, and there is certainly no shortage of choice. (awi-watches.com)
The Eurovision Watch Contest – Hungary
Performer: Andras Kallay-Saunders – Song: Running
Hungary sought out the talents of American born Hungarian singer Andras Kallay-Saunders, and he romped home in a respectaple 5th place with a song called Running. Not to be outshone by any of the top five nations in Eurovision, Hungarian watchmaker Bexei is creating some extraordinarily beautiful and complex watches and clocks equal to Swiss quality horology at its best.
For example, following traditional watchmaking techniques, in 2007 Aaron Becsei invented his first timepiece, the Primus Tourbillon, a three-axis tourbillon device, wherein the outer rotating frame allows all the precious bearings to function with jewel bearings instead of ball bearings. This watch, limited to just 9 pieces, was, like all BEXEI pieces, entirely self-designed and manufactured. All parts of the watch gears, shafts, bolts, are hand-made one by one manually refined, as are the crown, buckle, dial and hands.
Born and raised in Budapest, Watchmaker Aaron Becsei is a third generation watchmaker . His Tourbillon No. 1 watch was awarded the Hungarian Masterpiece of Craft Award for 2012, so in Bexei Hungary have plenty to sing about in terms of horology. (bexei.hu)