Although he often refers to himself as “the world’s biggest watch nerd,” renowned watch collector and dealer Danny Goldsmith, owner of the Delray Beach, Florida watch salon, Goldsmith & Complications, is also a baseball lover whose friend Ian Happ, the record-breaking Chicago Cubs switch hitter, is equally enamoured of watches. The two have collaborated with New York-based sculpture studio Berd Vay’e to produce a museum-quality offering that creatively celebrates their shared personal and professional interests. Entitled America’s PasTIME, their collaboration consists of 30 17-inch Lucite® (plexiglass) baseball bat sculptures that are embedded with free-floating mechanical watch parts plus wooden slivers from Happ’s former bats. “This collection represents the intersection of baseball, horology and applied art”, says Happ. “I am so pleased with how it turned out because it celebrates baseball and the watchmaker’s art in one masterful, collectible art object.”
Focused on those watch manufactures that embody the highest standards of watchmaking, the artisans who pioneer horological design as well as technical innovations, Goldsmith & Complications is differentiated from other watch purveyors by Danny Goldsmith’s connoisseurship and exclusive alliances with brands that are constantly contributing to the narrative of horological history. For example, Goldsmith & Complications is an authorized retailer for such state-of-the-art Swiss independent watch brands as the haute horlogerie leaders Urwerk, Purnell (which only produces tourbillon movements), Angelus, Cyrus Watches and Arnold & Son, founded in 1764 by the British watchmaker John Arnold. Famed for the technical breakthroughs he made in the production of marine chronometers, Arnold, along with Abraham-Louis Breguet, is widely acknowledged by historians as one the progenitors of the modern mechanical watch. (In 1810, Breguet conceived the world’s very first wristwatch for Caroline Murat, the queen of Naples.)
“The reason we collaborated with Berd Vay’e,” Goldsmith explains, “is because they specialize in utilizing increasingly rare components of vintage watches, some 50 to 100 years old, to create one-of-a-kind objets d’art. We carry several of their marvelous designs at Goldsmith & Complications.” Founded and directed by artisans Eduard (Eddie) Kurayev and Albert Akbashev, Berd Vay’e has been sourcing vintage watches and watch components from around the globe since 2014 to design and create its precious art objects.
The watch components and wood chips inside each bat are meticulously positioned at designated locations by hand inside the sculpture, creating the illusion that they are sliding towards the tip, as if the bat is in motion. “When I saw the first America’s PasTIME bat, I was speechless,” Goldsmith recalls fondly. “The blue hands just pop, and the positioning of the balance wheels is absolutely fabulous. It looks like the watch elements floating around in slow motion. The artistic excellence and high production values of Berd Vay’e have created quite a conversation piece.” (Retailing at $4,000, the America’s PasTIME bats are available exclusively on www.goldsmithandcomplications.com
While many of Goldsmith’s clients are serious collectors of limited edition and other important watches, they are also passionate followers of major league baseball. “When Danny mentioned Ian Happ was interested in a collaboration, we immediately thought of creating a mini baseball bat, the souvenir we all used to take home from a game”, says Berd Vay’e President Samir Shah. “As sports fans and watch aficionados infatuated with quality timepieces, we feel the collaboration perfectly represents the melding of watchmaking, baseball, art and design.”
To source materials for their signature designs, Berd Vay’e searches constantly for high-quality vintage watch parts. With a 50-60% rejection rate, this is an ongoing challenge. “We use only the best and most visually interesting components to convey a strong material and visual sense of the intricacies and the work that goes into watchmaking,” says Berd Vay’e co-founder Eddie Kurayev, who compares his process to selecting diamonds in specific colors and clarity grades. Indeed, the shapes and intrinsic value of the components give each bat sculpture an utterly unique character. Each shatter-resistant piece is cast with eight to 10 layers of Lucite ® over a 24-hour period before being baked to achieve a seamless, crystal-clear artwork. Each bat is shaped and polished by hand. The Goldsmith & Complications commission also posed a new challenge, mainly, working with wood. The lacquered and painted chips from Happ’s bats had the irksome habit of expanding and cracking during the baking process. “I like this type of challenging project,” says Kurayev. “Watch collectors and art lovers will appreciate the attention to detail and technical deftness involved in creating each special piece.”
Because some of Goldsmith & Complications clients were already collectors of Berd Vay’e objets d’art, Goldsmith notes that, “We are psyched to share our passion for watchmaking and offer something to the watch community that they’ve never seen. Ian Happ, Goldsmith & Complications and Berd Vay’e have created an art piece that embodies the essence of what we collectively treasure.” As Happ, tells it, Goldsmith’s horological knowledge and creativity invariably spark exciting results. “Danny has been there since the beginning of my watch journey. He has grown my love of independent brands and remains a huge part of everything watch-related for me.”
While the transparent PasTIME bats can rest at ease on a coffee table or be mounted for display, in addition to highlighting the art of watchmaking, the bats are also designed to remind fans of the sheer fun and excitement of attending major league baseball games. “I remember going to Pirates games as a kid and coming home with a bat which I used in my basement to play games with my friends,” Happ recalls fondly. Although the collaboration is named “America’s PasTIME,” it’s amusing to note that the origins of baseball are shrouded in foggy, transatlantic controversy. According to British author Julian Norridge, baseball originated in Britain, and part of his argument rests on the baseball references that pepper the pages of Jane Austen’s novel, Northanger Abbey. Norridge, whose book, Can We Have Our Balls Back, Please? chronicles Britain’s role in establishing the rules and regulations of various sports, notes that Austen mentioned baseball in the opening pages of Northanger Abbey, which was written during 1797-98.
Equally intriguing, Austen mentioned baseball while introducing her tomboy heroine, the baseball-loving Catherine Morland. “It was not very wonderful that Catherine, who had nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, baseball, riding on horseback, and running about the country at the age of 14, to books,” Austen wrote. Norridge posits that Austen’s mention of baseball indicates that British people were familiar with the sport prior to its purported invention much later in the United States.”There’s no doubt [baseball] was being played in Britain in the late 18th century, and equally no doubt that it travelled to America,” Norridge writes in “Can We Have Our Balls Back, Please?”
He also advances the intriguing argument that evidence of the sport’s British origins was hidden by American sports magnate Albert Spalding, who established an investigativ commission to investigate baseball’s origins. Spalding ignored the British baseball connection, Norridge ventures, and declared that the sport had been invented by General Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839. While it’s worth noting that Doubleday never spoke or wrote on the record as having invented baseball, some sports historians have also published their doubts about the Doubleday-baseball origin story. What’s more, Julian Norridge writes that the first written evidence of baseball appears in the diary of William Bray, a teenager from Guildford, Surrey, in 1755. Hmmm.
Regardless of who invented baseball and where, America’s PasTIME is a collector’s item that memorializes horological art and the sport of baseball. What’s more, Goldsmith & Complications communicates a respect and love for horology that’s also evident in its diversely priced inventory of timepieces. “You don’t have to invest tremendous amounts to buy an amazing watch from an independent brand,” Goldsmith observes. “We are just as passionate about the technical and design innovations that power
Oris and G-Shock watches as we are about the vanguard, haute horlogerie timepieces of Urwerk and Purnell. Our mission is to share great watches with everyone from the knowledgeable, established collector to those just beginning to explore the world of fine watches.”
Goldsmith & Complications: 411 East Atlantic Ave, #200-W, Delray Beach, Florida, 33483