A Rosh Hashanah Article: Judaism In Modern Watchmaking

I started writing this all the way back in 2021 before Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Jews around the world. I set things aside for a while and, after almost two years now, finally came back to complete this article where I take a look at some modern watches with Jewish themes. What initially came to mind as the goal here was that I wanted to highlight three examples of watches that were all produced within the last decade, but as time has passed, I’ve now decided to include a few more examples as honorary mentions at the end. One of the few chosen is even a watch, technically a pocket watch, that already has an entire article dedicated to it on WatchMeWatchBlog, and has set a record in the industry due to its number of complications.

The three examples I’ve selected, honorary mentions aside, are pieces made by Konstantin Chaykin, Itay Noy, and Vacheron Constantin.

Konstantin Chaykin’s Decalogue Models:

The Decalogue is a very special watch created by Russian independent watchmaker, Konstantin Chaykin. Serving as his inspiration for the collection was the clock tower at the Jewish Town Hall in Prague. A clock tower that has stood since 1764, the clock features two dials: one with Roman numerals and one using Hebrew numerals. For the Hebrew dial, Hebrew letters (יב-א) are used to denote the numbers one through twelve and, as Hebrew is read from right to left, the numerals are written in a counter-clockwise fashion, with the inner workings also operating in a counter-clockwise direction to denote the time. Chaykin incorporated the counter-clockwise time display into a number of his Decalogue models. Over the years, this collection has grown to possibly be the best example of Jewish watches in independent watchmaking.

“’When God stopped speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him two table[t]s of revelation, stone table[t]s, on which it was written with the finger of God.’ This is how … God gave his Ten Commandments or the Decalogue to Moses, who brought the Jews out of Egypt. Today these divine prescriptions are inscribed on the dial of the eponymous watch, created at the Konstantin Chaykin manufactory.”
-Konstantin Chaykin

Some of the dials in this collection feature silver plating, upon which are ancient Aramaic letters which form a portion of the Ten Commandments. Aramaic is now mostly a dead language, but it served as the precursor to Hebrew and is the language that a number of Jewish prayers and declarations are still recited in, such as Kaddish and Kol Nidre. Some of the watches feature a subsidiary hand in the shape of a Star of David, but in any case, there is at least a Star of David visible through the sapphire case back as one is engraved on the barrel wheel of all Decalogue models. Some variations of the Decalogue have even featured a Lion of Judah depiction affixed to the movement of the watch, again visible via the sapphire case back.

Konstantin also made a version of his watch, called the “Luah Shana”, with a completely different look, and it might be the star of the entire collection. This version, made in 18kt white gold, replaces the standard Decalogue dial with a depiction of the First Temple in Jerusalem, otherwise known as King Solomon’s Temple. The First and Second Temples, which were subsequently destroyed by the Babylonians and Romans, respectively, stood as the holiest sites for Jews in the world. The site that once housed these temples still remains the holiest site in the world for Jews, even if all that currently still stands is the Western Wall of the Second Temple, a sacred site where Jews worldwide come to pray. Additionally, in place of having a dial with the Ten Commandments written in Aramaic, the covering for the moon phase is the perfect shape to house two tablets with the Ten Commandments numbered in Hebrew, as the Hebrew alphabet serves not only as standard letters, but as a numbering system as well. Surrounding the moon phase is a date display and indicator. What makes this date display different from all other date displays (get it?) is the fact that instead of going to 31 days, the indicator stops at 30 days, as months in the Hebrew calendar are either 29 or 30 days in length.

I could keep going on for a while about Konstantin Chaykin’s attention to detail concerning this line of watches, but that would probably amount to a small book by the end of things. What I haven’t even began to talk about are his line of Shabbat table clocks: creations that are equally special, but that are deserving of their own article in the future. One thing for sure is that Konstantin Chaykin, who has had success after success with his Wristmons collection and has deservedly gained a loyal following of collectors, has created some beautiful watches with Jewish ties along the way, something that I’m sure Jewish watch collectors worldwide appreciate.

Itay Noy’s Seven-Day Cycle:

The seven-day cycle is at the heart of this collection. While most watches mainly present a daily cycle this series wishes to reframe our perception of time by focusing on a weekly cycle.”
-Itay Noy

Itay Noy is easily the most well-known independent watchmaker that is actually based in Israel. From his studio located in Jaffa (southern Tel Aviv), Noy has quietly built a relatively large catalog of watches since starting his namesake company in 2002. Like Grönefeld of the Netherlands, Konstantin Chaykin of Russia, or JS Watch Co. of Iceland, Itay Noy has become the go-to name when you think of his country’s watchmaking. Out of the approximately 120 watches he makes each year, a number of current and previously available models incorporate Judaism and Israel, although a large portion of the watches he makes also tend towards the secular to appeal to a larger market. One of my personal favorites of Noy’s was the watch shown below, the Jerusalem edition in his Night Flight collection, a model with a lacquer dial showing the lights of Jerusalem from above.

Last month, Itay Noy released a new collection, known as the Seven-Day Cycle, comprised of five new watches. One of the five is known as the Shabbat watch. The watch comes in at 40mm in diameter, 8.4mm in thickness (10.4 when including the crystal), and has a water resistance of 10 atm. Visible through the sapphire screw-down case back is the Cal. IN.S200, a modified Sellita SW240 movement that beats at 4Hz and has a power reserve of 38 hours. The watch is limited to 77 pieces in total. The watch also allows for a quickset day and date feature, but that’s where this watch gets interesting.

The day feature of this watch utilizes a circular indicator to show the day of the week in Hebrew, where each day will be highlighted in turn, with the day of rest, Shabbat (שבת), at the top of the dial. Additionally, where the date would normally be, a new Hebrew letter appears each day in the window at 6 o’clock. When the cycle is completed, Noy says that the following line from Genesis 2:2 will have been created:

“וַיִּשְׁבֹּת֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י מִכָּל־מְלַאכְתּ֖וֹ אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשָֽׂה”.
In English: “God finished the work he has done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done”.`

This turns out to be a pretty unique and neat way to utilize a date wheel to make it fit into the Shabbat theme. Of course, also tying into the Jewish theme is the dial background comprised of Stars of David. At the bottom of the dial, you will also find the individual numbering of this limited edition as this line of watches will be limited to 77 pieces. Being Israel’s premier watchmaker, It’ll be interesting to see what Itay Noy continues to release in the coming years. This Shabbat and Jerusalem Night Flight watches make me excited for the future possibilities of how he could make use of different traditional complications to incorporate Jewish and Israeli themes into his future watches.

Vacheron Constantin’s 57260:

The Vacheron 57260 is a dual-sided pocket watch that was made as a unique piece for a special collector in 2015. It has never been disclosed who it was made for, although there have been some pretty good guesses, and the price has also never been disclosed, although the general guess is that it cost around 10,000,000 USD to manufacture. Not only is this the most complicated horological piece of all time, it features many new and unique complications, the majority of which relate to the Hebrew calendar. Some of the most notable are a full Hebrew perpetual calendar and a special indicator to denote when Yom Kippur is each year. Combine that with a Westminster chiming feature, a night silence feature, an alarm, an equation of time display, a dual-retrograde rattrapante chronograph, a star constellation display, and many other complications (plus an armillary sphere tourbillon for good measure), this pocket watch is about as special as it gets.

For further reading on the Ref. 57260, please click here to read our full WMWB article on it.

Honorable Mentions

Elka’s Ace x Elka Watch Company ELKA X14-0804

According to the brand, this watch, one model out of four varieties made in this collection, is the result of the friendship between Alon Ben Joseph of Ace Jewelers of Amsterdam and Hakim El Kadiri of ELKA Watch Company. Like the Abraham Accords that have helped to bring Israel and a number of Arab countries closer together, this collection too is a wonderful display of two people of different faiths coming together to create something great. The watch houses a La Joux-Perret G100 self-winding movement, which has a power reserve of 68 hours. For those unfamiliar with La Joux-Perret, it is a movement manufacturer part of the Citizen Watch group of companies and makes movements for La Joux-Perret’s sister brand, Arnold & Son, in addition to becoming the recent owner of Angelus. Coming back to this watch, available in four different dial options (Hebrew, Arabic, Eastern Arabic, or Chinese), this Hebrew dial version is limited to 25 pieces. With each variant being made in 25 examples, the collection as a whole totals 100 pieces.

Hublot’s Israel Editions

Hublot has released a number of watches over the years in both titanium and black ceramic to commemorate the State of Israel. My favorite is the 70th Anniversary model that depicts the Western Wall on the case back, as well as a Star of David on top of a 70, and “עם ישראל חי” or “Am Yisrael Chai” written at the bottom, meaning “The People of Israel Live”, a common saying among Jews referencing that they continue to live and flourish despite all they’ve faced. In the last couple of years, the Israel edition Hublot models have seemingly skyrocketed with resale prices now being multiple times what the retail originally was. Clearly, there is a considerable market for these and we may see Hublot release new versions of the Classic Fusion Israel in the future.

Message From The Editor:

Overall, there may not be too many Judaism-themed watches out there, but the few that are available have been pretty incredible. While it’s not something really expected, it’s always nice to see a watchmaker that tries to create something special for their Jewish collectors. As we are about to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, I want to wish everyone that celebrates a happy and healthy new year as we go into 5784. The last few years have been difficult for most, and hopefully the year ahead has a lot better things in store for everyone. On a less serious note on the watch side of things, let’s hope the next year brings lots of great new watches too! Thank you all for your continued support of WMWB.
Wishing you all the best,
Robert Shapiro

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