Roger has recently completed a unique piece which blends his traditional English design approach with Arabic-Hindu aesthetics. In this feature we speak to Roger about the project’s inception and to Hamdan Alhudaidi, the co-founder of the Perpétuel watch gallery in Dubai who commissioned the watch.14 October, 2021
How did this unique watch come about?
Roger - It goes back a few years actually. I have known Hamdan for several years as a collector and indeed, being a direct commission, the project even pre-dates the Perpétuel Gallery which he co-founded (with Melika Yazdjerdi).
Hamdan has really championed independent watchmakers in the UAE and wanted to make this particular Series 5 Open Dial a statement for where the region’s collectors are heading.
Hamdan - Actually, I can clearly see a change in direction for collecting here in the region. This doesn’t change the wider market - demand for ‘hot brands’ continues, but those collectors are slowly being replaced by new connoisseurs, who want to explore more; not only with niche or creative micro-brands but also the high-end and fine independent makers. Internationally, Roger Smith is in a short list of those top independent makers— but has always been very much #1 for me!
Let’s talk about this particular watch
Roger - The Series 5 Open Dial is a very special piece to me. I conceived the original watch in 2008 based, in terms of function, on my first Series 2. My intent was to reveal a stratum of the piece that is not normally seen by anyone apart from the watch maker – the under-dial work.
Following my development of the single-wheel co-axial escapement, I conformed all my watches under my Range, and the Open Dial became my Series 5. It remains a signature piece for me; my whole aesthetic is about celebrating the three-dimensional architecture of my watches.
As ever the cornerstone of the watch is its function and build. It’s a 38mm piece, cased in platinum. Functionally the watch is based on my latest version of the Series 2, with hours, minutes, seconds and up/down indicator.
Where this particular watch is utterly unique is in the design…
Juxtaposing your traditionally English floral design with a distinctive Arabic-Hindu aesthetic must have been a challenge?
Roger - I do have a very specific style based on the English tradition and, clearly, this piece had to look like one of my watches. So that was the main challenge.
Hamdan - The challenge for me was convincing Roger! He insisted the result had to be outstanding… it turned out to be absolutely stunning.
Even in its standard form, Roger’s Series 5 is the most beautiful watch I have ever seen, especially from the mechanical and design aspects. When the time came to discuss the specification, I wondered if it might be possible to have special numerals on the dial and, knowing it would be the first of its kind, this was even more exciting. But of course, the watchmaker has to approve the idea and accept the challenge…
Roger - As my first watch specifically for the UAE, it felt like an exciting opportunity to try something new. There were two unique aspects I felt I could explore in the aesthetics of this particular watch.
First, we agreed that the dial could be designed with floating Arabic-Hindu instead of Roman numerals as Hamdan had proposed. However, in isolation I felt that would not be adequate - the watch needed an additionally distinctive element. For the back of the mechanism I came up with the idea of ‘The Palm Tree’ engraving as symbolic of this desert region to replace my typically English floral design. However, bringing that to three-dimensional life was all about the skill of the engraver. For this I am indebted to Peter Cussack who executed the design brilliantly.
As a collector and gallery owner in the UAE, what are the aspects of British watchmaking that appeal to you, Hamdan?
Hamdan - It’s fascinating how we can see different methods, techniques of watchmaking, many different shapes, types and kinds of watches in the watchmaking industry and yet I can clearly identify British watchmakers, whether high-end fine independent or the micro brands. There is always a touch regardless how small and discreet but very identifiably British at the same time.
Something else that I have witnessed, which is really impressive is that there is a real sense of community among British watchmaking companies. Most of the people and brands seem to know each other and are always happy to advise me to look at other British makers as a collector, even if they might be potential competitors. I have experienced this with most of the British watchmaking companies that I have dealt with, and it shows a unique level support for each other.