Hodinkee Skipper – interview with Louis Westphalen to get some more details

The new Skipper Limited Edition from TAG Heuer and Hodinkee – some more informations from an interview with Louis Westphalen from Hodinkee, the project man behind this Skipper.

Story short again:

It was the 21 of June 2017, the message runs through the world like a flash – in the break in the middle of a Christies auction with some nice Heuer watches that many members of the watchfamily followed.

What was it? A new Skipper as hommage of the Heuer Skipper 7754 aka „Skipperera“ was offered for 5.900 US$ from Hodinkee.com.
All the facts about the watch you can download here the original press release.

It was very surprising, especially after the words „We´ve moved away from yachting.“ from the French Headquarter in Paris they said to a friend. And we heard Mr. Biver said after the Hodinkee Skipper launch, that no further plans exists. But ok, if money can be earned, it may turn this.

There are some details that might be interesting for you we found out in a talk with Louis Westphalen, the project leader for the Limited Edition Skipper for Hodinkee.

Ahoy Louis! thanks, that looks great! I need to go to see the Intrepid with my Five-Dot Intrepid some day. Its in the NYYC, right?

The INTREPID lays in the harbour of Rhode island, 3 hours from New york, But beautiful place really worth a visit!

Who had the idea to do the photoshooting on the INTREPID? What a cool moment to find out the source of the color green oft he subdials!

Me and my father sourced the Intrepid because he is a fanatic sailor. And TAG Heuer made it happen. When we were on it, the crew was sailing it, we made a video with a drone:

 

Intrepid under sail in Narragansett Bay
credit: Greyson Korhonen https://www.instagram.com/p/BUu72BVlo1u/

And yes, the original Skipper 7754 is a watch you rarely see. It’s also a watch you won’t easily forget, thanks to its bold use of color: light green, dark blue, and bright orange are all present. These colors weren’t chosen just because they were eye-catching; the color palette was actually taken from the color scheme of Intrepid, as we discovered when we photographed the original Skipper 7754 and the new limited edition together on the deck of this groundbreaking yacht.

Intrepid, winner of the America’s Cup in 1967 and 1970, at dock in Newport, RI. credit: Hodinkee

INTREPID was designed by the renowned Olin Stephens, who was the original designer of an astonishing six out of seven America’s Cup defenders between 1958 and 1980. Stephens incorporated a number of then-revolutionary innovations, including making the rudder separate from the keel and a more efficient sail design. An interesting historical note: the light green of the regatta timer dial matches the deck color of INTREPID, which was chosen after a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology determined this was the the color least likely to produce distracting reflections.

Did TAG Heuer say something about the color? Was the color the same in 1967? I have only seen black and white pictures of this yacht 😉

Yes, same color in 1967! It is well known in the sailing world. They keep the deck color as it was.
As for the link not confirmed by TAG heuer, but you should see the watch on the boat, it cannot be a coincidence. Especially after spending so much time narrowing this damn green on the pantone scale… and we checked and photographed it with a real one because we had one example oft he Skipperera from the TH museum in the office fort he past month.

Haha, you really did? Which pantone is it?

564c for the light green and 7723C for the dark one, me and Walker, our designer, really did!

credit: Hodinkee

Thanks for the info, Louis, thats really great to know!!
Btw is it possible to know more about the process of making the watch? When did you started? How long does it take to fix the layout, production time, first idea etc?

It is very geeky but I loved the process. We worked a lot with TAG on this one.

You get one of the Skippers from TAG Heuer to see in flesh, I think the museum got two or three of them. Did you tried the countdown running on that? Thats an internal question just to be sure, the right countdown wheel is built in, to drive the countdown every half minute. I always ask to be sure 😉

Yes they lent us the better one. The movement from Tag was blocked, so I could not play with the countdown, I tried. How many do you think are still around?

I am nearly sure about 21 pieces till now. There might be +/- 3 depends on deals, because sometimes it is not easy to follow the owners. Some I just heard about and never seems but they seems trustworthy. But most I know with serial number.

Thanks, this is roughly the number I had in mind too. So the modern one is gonna be much less rare!

But what I don´t like is the regatta countdown, why not 5-10-15 min as needed on a regatta? Nobody needs 10-20 min.?!

Apparently the new regatta format is calibrated on 10 min for the start. Depends on the category. (Not a pro on that but I checked when TAG came back to us without the 15 min configuration)

How you prepared the new design of the dial and how was the process to bring it out with the look and the colors?

I knew the original watch from the forums and I wore it for a couple a days 3 years ago. It was Laurent’s watch (Noodia). For the colors we started by compiling every single pictures online. We adjusted for any touch up. Watchonista had the most HD ones, but they were a bit too dark.

prototype
credit: Hodinkee

Ah, yes, they did a photoshooting with one of the Skippereras from the TAG Heuer museum.

So we compared with yours, Noodia and a couple others. Then we got the first dial prototype, the colors were off and the display unbalanced.

The 2nd prototype with only the orange to redo. The 3rd with the regatta delimitation to make tighter. Then the 4th dial was the final one.

prototype counter resize
credit: TAGHeuer

We had not been on the Intrepid but done the same internet hunt. Taken all the HD pics available for the lighter green. The darker one we got from Pantone, just comparing a lot of tints. The blue we took from a Limited Edition Carrera made for the german market that I had seen in Le Bon Marché in Paris, for some strange reason they had one in Paris. It´s interesting because it is roughly the same color than the original Skipper but the modern treatment makes it look darker.

limited edition Carrera for the german market
credit: calibre11.com forums

So the 4th was the right one. Did you work alone on the colors of the dial?

We assumed TAG was comparing with their example on the side.

prototye subdial adjusted
credit: TAGHeuer

How many dials they let produce then? 200? For some service things that may be come in the future?

I don´t know. We have 150 movements, in case they were issues

The small number of limitation is interesting too, why not 250 pieces?

It was our biggest Limited Edition ever!

Whats special on the movements? The only for the date from TH till now?

They took away the gear for the running seconds.

They not plan to make other ones with that layout?

No, it is an intervention on a shelf movement, they don’t like that very much. For us, we really want the LE to feel special for the people who buys them. That is why we prefer to do a lower number and earn less money – but then it is like being part of a cool club. And we like the idea that it is really first come first serve.
Then we have to make sure that the watch is as perfect as possible, that collectors who got excited by it are even more happy when it arrives. It is like impulsion buy but for a great product.

Totally with you and very well done, I like it really and wear it on the beach the whole day! It´s a watch I looked for – a Skipper at first, 39mm AND waterresistant! The perfect summer and vacation watch!

Yes, I am there as well, i wear it a lot. Really happy how wearable the Glassbox is.

And the selling time was perfect set on the point – in the break of Christies 😉

And I reached out to the main media the morning of (EU time)!

Who had the idea first – and when?

I presented two ideas to the Hodinkee team and we went for this one, the other one we might do later. Then we pitched TAG Heuer US and then the HQ.

Whats the other? Not a skipper right?!

Haha no, not even a chronograph!

😉

It is really not what OTD members believe, that TAG gave us the project ready. It was more than a year ago, they had not pushed for the vintage yet.

The Skipper fits perfect in line with the Zenith LE… that was a cool thing too – and might be an opener for Mr. Biver for the Skipper, right?

Yes, the Zenith was really a big hit. And then the Vacheron helped even more but the project was already ongoing. And yes it is funny because it really started as: „can we ask TAG to redo this watch and let’s see what they say?“.

Good that they hear you!

After the go I was mostly working with the with the Carrera product manager, Bastien and it was really technical because we asked for a lot of things.

So, who started with the idea of the dial layout – one subdial and date?

Us, when we settled for the movement inside, because otherwise you had a dead position on the crown – and we love the 3147!

TAG had some recommendations and then you decided: date?

We asked if we could get the Heuer 02 inside the glassbox 39.

Too big!

Yep, and they had not yet worked on it.  

Why not 2 subdials? It would be possible with the calibre too, right? Too much „reissue“ then?

Yes, but if you keep the date it becomes busy. And the subdials are inversed and – I don’t liike the running second on the right.

Without date wasn´t possible?

Yes but dead position on the crown, Where you quick set the date and it is technically too complicated to remove the date complication aka you need to completely disassemble the movement and redo it.

Nobody needs the date on a regatta watch 😉 thats the same on the new Autavia. But it´s too much work to put in to do it without date on this movements, I understand.

A big question that was discussed many times: Are you sure with contracts TAG never will build a second edition of these Skippers?

Yes, we have a gentleman agreement in writing for 1,5 years.

OK, not very long but long enough to let it be special forever 😉 I think the most of the owners will keep it and are happy to wear. The others are just flippers,  want to make a buck on selling it fast – as we already can see.

Yes, I think they want to keep it special as well. And honestly it is more work for them than any of their existing carrera.

TAG said „never do a regatta anymore“ – as heard from TH Headquarter in Paris and Mr. Biver said it in a conversation too from hearsay. But it´s a watch that sells!

Yep, this is why they re did the Zenith. But I think they understand that some watches are highlight projects.

So we started working on the idea on July 13th 2016, I had prepared a bit before. We met TAG on July 20th with the idea and we got the green light on 11th of August for the concept.

That was really fast!

Then there was all the work on the design

But your designer did, not TAG?

It was an exchange of design between our designer and the TAG team, they all did a phenomenal job. We started with the original, they offered something very similar to the existing caliber 18 with new colors and then we pushed. Until end of september. Then we agreed on the layout of the dial and technical implications and we worked on the dial itself. Word placement, spacing of letters, proper colors. And the engravings on the caseback!
First dial prototype in December.

Index Bars are special made?

Only the ones at 3 and 9 as far as I know.

Btw why not white for the inner bezel?

Because we played around with the diameter of the subregister. The rehaut was tailor made, it is thinner than the production one. So that it balances our dial better.
We got the last dial prototype in early May.

Did TAG made a glass caseback before on this caliber?

Yes it is the standard one. I asked for a full case back but it was too complicated logistically because you get 125 unused casebacks out of it and no standard full case back could accommodate the calibre 18.

Understand! Early May 2017 – then they just need 2 month for production?

Of the dial yes – the movements and cases were done before.

All in all a very nice and cool project, you did well, Louis! And good idea with the 2 natos, I personally don’t like the original strap – better said – I don’t like such clasps 😉

Haha I am there as well, I wanted the NATO from Laurent – but we never found it! And our supplier was not sure he could do it as well.

Nato in 19mm are not so common…

So we had them tailor make 2 individual colors, there was a lot of tailor made things in there in the end.

As in all projects 😉 What else was tailor made? Rehault and Straps but nothing else on the watch.. you mean the process till the sale event..?!

Engravings on the caseback were also specific, we changed the font and depth. Hands as well, I think. The Box was generic.

And handwritten printed cards for 125 pieces 😉

Haha yes, that was an intense process for everyone at Hodinkee as all cards were written in the very same day of the launch. We also did quality control on each watch.

But without fails I hope, the quality control of TAG looked not bad as I had seen on the factory tour.

No, it was great! Only minor things but to be expected on 125 pieces.

And It feels very valuable and good too. Any other special things happened around the project?

Well I took a small bit of TAG Heuer booth in my head at Baselworld. But no otherwise it was an amazing collaboration. They were super receptive about our comments and the watch improved itself at every step.

Sounds really good communication and interesting that it was kept secret till the end without any leaks before the launch! Perfect 😉

Last question – who got Number 001?

Me and I am still amazed I did as it was completely unexpected – it was my wedding gift from the Hodinkee team because I had been so involved with the project and obsessed with making a watch that could match the beauty of the original Skipperera 😉

Perfect, wonderful gift and well earned!! Congrats to your wedding and thanks again for this interview, Louis!


Enjoy the gallery. All pics credit Hodinkee.