Thursday, 24 May 2012

Archive Design Watch - Old England Steering Wheel watch

We have an archive of watches here at the office. Archive is of course a grand word to describe a quantity of watches way beyond what one person would ever need. The majority of the watches that we have here are of little monetary value. However, they are interesting pieces either because of their design, or because of the insight they give into the time when they were made. I think the guiding rule when buying anything old (watch or otherwise) is that it should be of it's time and give some insight into the culture and values of that era.

This wheel watch is a good example of this (and is a great, bizarre design). The watch is a brash expression of male machismo from the 1970s. I think it's interesting to read the watch in terms of general car ownership in the UK: cars was the preserve of the wealthy before the second world war. Post-war austerity meant that it took until the 50s and 60s for the car to become widely affordable in the UK and initially it was seen a form of practical family transport, an alternative to the railways.


This watch is part of the second wave of car ownership: the car isn't just a means of transporting a family around, but has become something for young men to aspire to. And to show off in.

This watch is branded IAM, for Institute of Advanced Motorists. The IAM is open to all drivers who have passed an advanced driving test, this in turn entitles the driver to a lower insurance premium (I believe, as a life-long non-driver I'm somewhat vague on the details here...)

Of course one imagines the true appeal of the IAM is for members to be able to bask in the satisfaction of their membership and the proof it gives of their status as an advanced driver (not like all the other idiots on the roads!) The watch is a great way of displaying membership of this association. One can imagine the conversations, "oh, my watch? Yes I am a member as it happens…"

The wheel watch was made by Old England, who were a subsidiary of Accurist (recently relaunched) Old England created fashion watches in the late 60s and they produced a large range of these wheel watches, some of which you can see here.

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