What Happens When a Car Whisperer Makes a Watch

ICON 4x4's Duesey revives a retro and under-appreciated style

August 25, 2017 9:00 am

Sometimes companies will make a commemorative watch with their logo or brand’s design motifs baked in elsewhere.

And that’s cool. We wouldn’t say that Stampd’s Rolex wasn’t kickass because it failed to reimagine a timepiece.

But for Jonathan Ward, the owner and lead designer of ICON 4X4, that’s still a step too short. The man loves watches almost as much as he loves cars — and loves to nerd out over details that most folks gloss over.

Look inside his Broncos and Land Cruisers and you’ll notice that the gages have been restored to perfection but with subtle modernizations that elevate the car without compromising its original conceit. The seats might be ballistic nylon, but the weave is the true pattern.

“I’ve got a stupid-large photo file of cars and of gages,” he tells us. “And I have a big b*ner for jump dials. First time I saw one I knew I wanted to make a watch with it. When I decided to make a go of it (nearly three years ago) that was the first one.”

ICON’s first watch — more are planned — was designed after the jump dial tachometer in a SJ Duesenberg, aka the Duesey, and made in Switzerland. “Jump dials are under-loved,” he says. “They were commoditized in the ’60s, but no one has been doing for a while so I thought, perfect, I want to do one.”

The jump dials in the Duesenberg’s actually didn’t work, and a lot of customers had to have them replaced.

The jet-black face has a jump hour – wandering minute display that’s so elegant customers have thought the timepiece was only meant to be worn with a tux, but Jonathan says, and we agree, that it’d look great with jeans and button-down.

The case is smooth, sandblasted titanium, and the bezel is double domed sapphire crystal with antireflective coating on both sides (you can nerd out on the specs here).

He was plans for more: “With ICON I’ve been fortunate that the demand outstrips the supply. I have stuff on the shelf ready to rock, and still there’s never enough to go around. But with the watches I want to keep them special with short runs. I’ll be pumping them out one special edition a year.”

With some 15 detailed renderings for future watches, he hopes to make some more affordable, and even some inline with his Derelict-style cars. “Wish me luck getting Swiss watchmakers’ heads around that,” he says, as he verbalizes the Swiss maker’s confoundment: “You want an imperfect dial?

There are only 50 made, and so far 17 have sold. You know what to do.

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