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Rescued From the RECage
Rescued From the RECage
Words Thomas Billinghurst
April 1. 2018

REC Watches have built a luxury watch brand from the discarded scraps of classic cars.

Words Thomas Billinghurst
April 1, 2018

Where most would see an abandoned hunk of junk, a broken collection of cogs and pistons, condemned to the scrapheap of memory, the founders of REC Watches delight in the sight of an abandoned classic car. Instead of a derelict machine, they see a timeless class that can be worn on the wrist.

The high-end Danish manufacturers have been rescuing and restoring classic cars into bespoke timepieces since 2014. And their journey into the luxury watch industry is gaining speed and momentum. 

What defines them above other car-inspired brands is their affinity with the cars and not the watches, Jonathan Kamstrup — one half of the founding duo, along with Christian Mygh — tells 1010.

“I think one of our strongest assets is that Christian and myself are not watchmakers. Although that definitely has its benefits, we like to think that it gives us an advantage of seeing our products from a customer-centric perspective. Our first and most important question is always: As a classic car-lover, would I want to buy this for myself?”

Rescued From the RECage

Sparks fly during the creative process of these sector-defining artisanal pieces. Literally.

Armed with an electric metal-cutting saw, Kamstrup and Mygh scour scrapyards across the globe in search of their next unique timepiece. When they find one that lends itself to the concept of a timepiece, they slice into the bodywork, the blade screeching, fluorescent sparks spraying in all directions like fireworks, and cut away a hunk of metal that will form the base aesthetic of a watch frame. 

To some this is sacrilege. For Kamstrup and Mygh this is salvation. Essentially, this is what they do: salvage the components of classic cars from the wrecks they become. Cut them up. Transform and refashion them into high-end luxury watches to continue the narratives of ongoing stories of man
and machine. 

The results are stunning. The iconic dash displays of classic Ford Mustangs, Porsche 901s and Mini Coopers are replicated on the wrist in a way that connects the consumer with a vintage motoring product across time, from the 1960s era of inception to today and beyond.

Passion and dissatisfaction: such was the motivating behind the REC concept. A passion for classic cars and dissatisfaction with what the classic car-inspired watch market was offering, Kamstrup tells 1010. “Too many high-end watch brands simply include a car manufacturer’s logo in a generic watch design. We consider this link between icons to be the very essence of creating a timeless timepiece.

“Too many watch brands simply include a car manufacturer’s logo in a generic watch design. We consider this link between icons to be the very essence of creating a timeless timepiece.”
Jonathan Kamstrup

“Our concept is all about passion. Both Christian and myself have always had an affinity for classic cars, their importance for and influence on the vehicles we see around us today, and their way of transporting us back to other eras,” he says.

Since forming four years ago, REC has released four collections. The 901 range, made from recycled Porsche 911s, The Mark I and The Cooper Collection, both assembled from old Mini Cooper parts and the main event — the P-51, made from recycled Ford Mustangs. Each face captures the distinctive dash and speedo seen in each of the classic cars.

Once complete, each timepiece integrates the rescue vehicle’s identification plates, design cues and year of production into its design. Hands and apertures resemble fuel gauges and speedometers, so each dial resembles a mini, wrist-sized version of the cars’ inimitable fascias.

Eco-awareness is an inescapably important part of any product today — high-end or otherwise. The recycling aspect of REC’s timepieces, though not a deliberate choice, caters to the environmentally friendly customer base. Which, for heavily fuel-reliant petrol heads — REC’s most frequent target market — can never be a bad thing.

Each of REC's timepieces integrates the rescued vehicle’s original identification plates and the year of the car's production
Each of REC's timepieces integrates the rescued vehicle’s original identification plates and the year of the car's production

“It’s definitely aesthetic,” Kamstrup responds to the question about the company’s motivations behind recycling scrap. “For us, it’s about aesthetics combined with the idea of storytelling. 

“To be frank, the ‘eco-friendliness’ of REC Watches is more of a by-product of wanting to repurpose and incorporate the materials of these classic icons, while at the same time adding a very visible design cue. 

“In addition, it allows us to guarantee that each and every timepiece is visually unique, due to the variations of leftover patina found on the recycled components,” he explains.

Finding and selecting which car to revive and restore to its former roaring glory is a meticulous process that takes the REC founders across continents.

Rescued From the RECage

At the beginning of their journey they would rely on alighting on a rare find at scrapyards, “barn finds and the like”. But now the scrapyards come to REC. Now the brand is a recognised one, with a growing client base, emails come directly to them letting them know if a particular vintage of classic has been spotted somewhere. 

Given the size of the worldwide Mustang fan base, it is no surprise the P-51 collection has, to date, been the most popular and successful of their timepieces. But they’re always on the lookout for the next piece of classic car metal to transform into a unique watch. And the process of selecting the next model stems from client demand. 

“Through the last three years, we have run an online poll with a shortlist of different iconic objects — most of which are classic cars — meaning that while we pick the handful of realistic candidates, it’s up to our customers and supporters to choose which of these they would like to see become foundation of the next REC Collection.”

This democratic ethos is what yielded both the ’60s’ Mustang P51 and ’70s’ Porsche 901 collections. And it’s the same for the next anticipated collection. Under the “next project” tab on the REC homepage, anyone and everyone can vote for which classic item will be sourced, recycled and incorporated into the next timepiece’s design. 

Whichever design wins , REC guarantees to mileage clocks of classics will keep ticking and the engines will keep running as they restore scraps to contemporary horology luxury.  

Thomas Billinghurst
29 Articles | View All


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