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Friday, June 13, 2014

Vintage VDB - INTERVIEW

One of the most exciting new companies that has emerged over the last decade has to be Vintage VDB. Polarizing as some of their models may be, they are arguably some of the most unique and creative watches on the market today. With a distinct balance of vintage flair, with modern materials and at times utilizing NOS (New Old Stock) classic movements from yesteryear; there simply is none other like them.

I recently  had the tremendous privilege of interviewing the 3 founding partners of Vintage VDB. Not only are they passionate about their brand and products, they are super cool guys you would just want to hang out with!

I hope you enjoy the following as much as I enjoyed putting it together:


T2W: I understand there are three partners at Vintage VDB, can you tell me how the three of you came together.

From left to right: Helmut Lamberty, Stephan Obst & Christian Seidel

Stephan: I have known Christian for more than 10 years and we met through our love for cycling. I met Helmut, alias ‘the Rocket’, at a watch forum and it didn't take long for us to recognize that, because we are so different, something could develop! And today, even after 6 years, we are still totally different. That is what I believe makes VDB’s special mix – a good product has good ingredients but the most important are the people, who live daily for such a product. That is what we three do, despite our differences!

T2W: Have you always been into watches and if so, what watches do you collect?

Stephan: I have been interested in the tick-tock mechanism since my early youth and I really couldn’t identify with a quartz movement. The passion really started in earnest when I was 16. I received my first Glashütte and was bitten and, since then, my obsession has not let up – it became even stronger with the result that I wanted really to develop and build my own watch. In 2008, my dream was realised and the VDB I was born; naturally with a Glashütte Spezimatik movement. From this point on, nothing could stop me and I revel every day in my decision to make my pleasure into my job. When I manage to find the time for pure collecting, I concentrate on really old pieces from Ruhla, Glashütte or also from Panerai.

Helmut: I received my first mechanical watch from my grandfather, which, of course, I still possess today and wear it on special occasions. Since then, I have been fascinated by the small mechanical ‘rhythm makers’. Through working with Stephan, it has finally happened that the charm of these watches has overtaken me and it is more than a pleasure to be able to be involved in the manufacture of individual pieces.

Christian: My first watch was also a present which I received having passed my A levels and my second after finishing my tertiary studies. For me, a watch is a character statement: “Wear what you are!” Unfortunately, as yet, I don’t have the time to collect but I am sure that that phase is still to come. Stephan: I was an active competitive cyclist for many years and my idol was Frank van den Broucke - a real individual as well as a passionate fighter and from the beginning, that was my aspiration for VDB and hence the abbreviation VDB. As a matter of course, vintage stands for the style direction and today we define Vintage VDB as your daily rhythm beater.

T2W: When we first exchanged emails, you mentioned how your brand is to watches like Rock n' Roll is to music. Could you elaborate on this sentiment?


Stephan: (he laughs) As I have already said, Vintage VDB is real Rock ‘n’ Roll for the wrist, and I mean it! We concentrate specifically on the simple but necessary ‘ingredients’: innovative technology, functional design and no fancy frills decoration. That is real Rock ‘n’ Roll – outside the mainstream.

Christian: A VDB is like a ACDC’ song; it needs very few ingredients but must have the correct mix. A song from the Fab Four is timeless and so is VDB, and I am convinced that that will still be the case in 30 or 40 years.

T2W: What difficulties have you come up against in the production of your limited watches? Sourcing components perhaps?

Stephan: We have an expectation to make something that extra bit special, which makes it sometimes difficult to source the right materials and components. They have become like hens’ teeth, as well as expensive (he laughs).

Helmut: The use of materials other than stainless steel needs much time in order to find the most efficient working methods within the constraints of what we have at hand. There is a certain pride when everything works out as planned, and the result is satisfying.

T2W: Speaking of components, I have notices you like to use vintage calibers in some of your low production pieces. How has this been received by your clients? How do you go about sourcing these wonderful and interesting movements?


Stephan: Right. Both the individual and the limited series watches are all driven by vintage calibers, which is unique. The new watch is given an old heart, which makes it so individual and special.

Helmut: This procedure underlines the VDB philosophy. Where there is no philosophy, there is no good or reliable product.

Stephan: The supply of these parts is becoming more and more difficult and, unfortunately, there are also a large number of black sheep in the market. Currently, we only purchase from selected, reputable auction houses and partners, where we can rely on the quality. There is definitely no compromise in this area! 

T2W: Can you tell me the origins of the Vintage VDB 2014 models?


Stephan: The VDB 2014 project combines the historical shape with today’s expectation of form and design and that is what makes our watches so special.

Helmut: Traditional technology in current designs often inspires us by means of watch designs from the 60s and 70s.

T2W: And how about your military inspired hand-made watches, such as the Troop?


Stephan: A good watch has its genesis in the military and we have accommodated this tradition with the development of the VDB Troop – a straight lined, functional and smart watch.

Helmut: With this development, we were really mindful of the following points: Form follows function, the premise of every single watch to fulfill military purposes. Camouflage, easy to read, no frills, while still comfortable to wear.

T2W: If I understand correctly, you also provide the service of "custom made" watches. Could you take me through this process? What options to your customers have? Is it simply a choice of base cases / dials / hands / movements or is it even more complex?

 

Christian: Basically, we have three offers: A) the annual series model, B) our hand-made series, and C) the custom made models. In this, our customers have the opportunity to acquire an individually designed and built watch. Nevertheless, and most importantly, a VDB is a VDB, which means that the genes are not altered! This feature has become well accepted by our customers, and due to the selection and varied wishes of the individual customer, we can only manage 5-10 models of this type per year.

Christian: Essentially, the customer always has the choice – the material, the colour of the face and the assembly are all his/her choice. As one can see, almost anything is possible with the exception that we will neither copy another model nor change the VDB genes! That would contradict our philosophy.

T2W: I have also seen a wide range of materials used for your cases; from titanium to steel to carbon fiber. Could you tell us which are your favorite to work with and what can we expect to see next?


Stephan: We have tried many things in the past, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t further experiment in the future.

Helmut: Every material behaves differently while being worked, which is interesting. Of course, every material appears to be a little different on every customer’s arm, particularly bronze – it is alive!

T2W: What is your favorite model in your line-up? Do you even have a favorite?

Stephan: VDB II Helmut: VDB Troop

Christian: VDB GMT – polished

T2W: Seeing as ETA is limiting its outsourced movement, are there any plans to create an in-house Vintage VDB movement? Or perhaps source movements from another supplier?

Stephan: There are such plans in place but now is not the time to discuss them.

T2W: Where do you see Vintage VDB in 5 years? 10 Years? 20 Years?

Christian: As I said before, I would be more than happy that when in 20 years, VDB is like a good song of the Beatles, knowing where we belong and feeling well there. That is the future niche, which we wish to fill and enhance – that is our aspiration.

T2W: Are there any new models in the works that you could introduce to our readers? 

Stephan: Our drawers are full of plans, which we will reveal piece by piece. Please have a little patience. 

T2W: Are there any plans to introduce a steel bracelet for any of your models, as to date they have all been on straps? Very fine / beautiful straps, if I may add.

Stephan: We know that many watch collectors love steel bands, but even in the future, there will be no VDB steel band.

T2W: Are there any plans to produce other style of watches, such as Pilot, Dress or Sport Chronographs?

Stephan: No, there aren’t.

T2W: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about Vintage VDB? Your watches? Its owners?


Christian: I believe that we have said a lot and we look forward to your reactions. The readers should know that VDB is a small but keen team full of contrasts and that is what makes us VDB. Should a piece disappear, we would no longer be VDB!

END OF INTERVIEW

Thank you gentlemen for taking the time to answer my questions. It was a true honor and pleasure to have conversed with you. I must say that now that I have gotten to know you and your brand better, I am very excited to see what the future may hold for you my friends.

KEEP ON ROCK 'N ROLLIN' BOYS!!! 

Vintage VDB

* All pictures used with permission

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