A category not often touched upon, as eligible entries are few and far between, are driver’s watches. Seasoned watch geeks or serious collectors might recall the Vacheron Constantin Historique American 1921, or even the MB&F HM8 Can-Am. However, we might have a more affordable solution to driving, preferably fast, and not having to take your hand off the steering wheel. Introducing Dutch start-up De Rijke Watches & Co.’s Amalfi Series I.
Straddling his vintage Vespa moped, Laurens de Rijke travelled through eastern Europe right after graduating as an industrial engineer from the Technical University of Delft, the Netherlands, along with some friends. During his adventures, he stumbled upon a local flea market. Meandering through the stalls, he spotted a vintage mechanical Vostok which he bought to keep track of time while riding his Vespa.
This very watch, nothing really special, was pivotal in Laurens’ dream of making a driver’s watch. Being an industrial engineer, he tinkered with mechanics and engineering and even presented a watch of his own as a graduation project. Learning the fine trade of machining through renowned Dutch industrial designer Bruno Ninaber in his Studio Ninaber facility, lathes and CNC machines were used in the production of his final project, which has since been torn to pieces as a source for parts for future projects.
This future project had to be a driver’s watch, at least as a concept. The trick is to produce a watch that can be worn and read in a traditional manner but that can also be read as a driver’s watch, which means creating a legible dial inclined at an angle. Through trial and error, Laurens started work on a case design, material prototyping, and conceptualizing the driver theme by sourcing all the necessary knowledge. And now, after five years of development and on-and-off work on the project, Laurens is about to deliver his very first watch to the lucky new owner.
Note: some of the photos here show a prototype, hence the spots on the dial – which aren’t intended on the final product.
Case and Strap
One of the most important elements of the Amalfi Series I, and the initial idea for the watch that Laurens dreamt of, is versatility. He envisioned a watch that could be worn on the wrist all the time, versatile enough to be used simultaneously as a standard watch and a driver’s watch. No need for case holders, interchangeable modules or other trickery.
Laurens has developed a watch that has a central container and an outer case. The central case, which holds the movement, can be rotated 90 degrees inside the outer case. Rotating the case is easy, and a little spring system between the central case and the outer case ensures a seamless fit and a fixed maximum slide.
The challenge is tolerance, and still being able to use it as what it is intended to be – a watch! So is access to the crown, whether it is positioned “12-at-12” or “12-at-3”. The way Laurens has designed and constructed the case is actually quite brilliant. The crown has moved from the traditional position at 3 o’clock to the side of the top lug allowing for the maximum possible slide. A milled-out slot on the side of the case determines the full range of the slide, moving seamlessly from zero to ninety degrees, at which point the crown is positioned next to the other lug.
The steel case, including the central container with the movement, measures a reasonable, almost vintage 38mm in diameter, with a height of only 9.5mm. Very wearable dimensions coupled with the low weight of the watch makes it comfortable.
The finely milled-out fixed lugs are a nice touch. It adds a cool detail to the watch, and the strap attached to it allows for a quick and easy change. A NATO or Perlon strap is easily installed instead of the fine leather straps with studs delivered as standard with the Amalfi Series I. If you feel really creative, you can even install an extra-long strap and wear it on your leg, with the case fully rotated to have the time available at a simple glance.
Dial and Hands
The dial is another part Laurens has designed through trial and error. A second vital element of a driver’s watch is legibility, preferably at any angle. Although it is virtually impossible to create a watch that is legible under literally all circumstances, a dial placed high under a domed sapphire crystal is one of the options to avoid huge distortions and make it easy to read at most angles.
The black dial is hand-painted by Laurens himself and fitted with laser-cut hands, which taper slightly towards the tips. The silver-plated steel hour markers, equally tapered to match the hands, are applied by hand and filled with black paint. A central red seconds hand adds a touch of sportiness to the dial. The outer flange of the two-part dial has a white minute track. The narrow bezel allows for a full view of the dial, again promoting maximum legibility.
Sourcing a movement with a bit of pedigree that fits the needs for your prototype can be hard. And not to mention costly, due to anticipated low production numbers and an increasingly reduced supply by certain movement manufacturers. Despite these challenges, Laurens ended up with a high-grade Soprod M100 movement for his De Rijke & Co. Amalfi Series I – basically a Swiss-made ETA clone.
The Soprod M100 automatic movement powering this watch is based on the ETA 2892. It measures 25.6mm in diameter and a slim 3.6mm in height. With a frequency of 4Hz, 25 jewels, 42 hours of power reserve and Incabloc shock protection, it is quite a reliable movement. Normally, this movement is capable of indicating a date, but Laurens opted to drop it so as not to clutter the dial. The movement is visible through the sapphire caseback.
It is never easy to start your own watch brand. Funding, technology, know-how, and sourcing of parts and suppliers are difficult. However, if the desire and the concept are strong enough, perseverance can be rewarded, and Laurens soldiered on. Five years in the making, his De Rijke & Co. Amalfi Series I is an intriguing watch, with an unusual but interesting execution of a driver’s watch concept. When exploring the versatility of the Amalfi Series I, by adjusting the angle of the centre case, it becomes more than just a watch.
Considering the product at hand, with the number of handcrafted parts and finishing, the price remains decent. The De Rijke & Co. Amalfi Series I is limited to 99 pieces and priced at EUR 2,495. It is available through the brand’s website here.