REC's latest project involves reclaiming the land (rover)...
I’ve always been a fan of REC: the Danish watch company that certainly captures the zeitgeist through having as its mission to ‘reclaim’, ‘recover’, and ‘recycle’, by creating unique pieces using parts of classic cars. In the past, we reviewed the REC ‘Stella’ and ‘Rotana’ watches, made from parts of a classic Porsche. Not just any Porsche though, as these watches were produced in collaboration with a well-known Japanese car tuner: part of the country’s well-known drifting community. Now REC has done it again – and this time they’ve turned their attention to the classic Land Rover, launching two new watches called the RNR Rockfighter and Beachrunner.
‘RNR’ stands for ‘Road Not Required’, which neatly explains what the iconic Land Rover is all about. And once more, REC has chosen two idiosyncratic vehicles with a distinct story behind them to donate the metal for the two watches. The Rockfighter is made from the door of a 2003 Land Rover Defender owned by a German adventurer, while the Beachfighter is crafted from the roof of a 1981 Series III owned by a Portuguese photographer and film-maker.
Paying homage to an off-road tradition
The Land Rover Defender was launched in 1948 (as the Series I) and continued in production until 2016, with more than two million units sold. That alone probably tells you all you need to know about the enduring appeal of this British legend. The story goes that Land Rover’s chief designer had the idea of producing a light and compact vehicle that would go anywhere while he was on holiday in Wales in 1947, as he contemplated some of the rugged landscapes there. Since his idea became reality, the Land Rover has come to be known as the ultimate utilitarian off-road vehicle.
Both new watches from REC mirror its design and traditional colours faithfully: featuring boxy right angles with shades of green, beige and bare metal, which are all well-known Land Rover hallmarks. Those motifs are combined with circles, with the dial of the watch on the square case representing the way that the spare wheel sits on the bonnet when viewed from above; an amazing detail that’s set off by the rubber bezel in the form of a Land Rover tyre. Best of all, both watches look as solid and go-anywhere as a Land Rover itself. Knowing that there’s plenty of road trip history behind each model adds to the appeal.
Exclusive limited editions
REC has specialised in exclusive limited editions, especially because the metal from the donor cars is by definition a finite resource. Just 463 pieces of the RNR Rockfighter will be made, priced at $1795, with the dial coming from the door of the German Land Rover. The RNR Beachrunner – which is priced identically – additionally features a seconds subdial at 9 o’clock and is limited to 552 pieces (a roof is bigger than a door, after all). In either case, you’re unlikely to see another unless you spend a lot of time hanging out in the extensive Land Rover community, where we imagine that these will be quite popular. It’s a very reasonable price to ask for a genuine piece of British exclusivity.
The Rockfighter was born when German mountaineer (and owner of the 4x4 Experience expedition company) Michael Ortner needed to replace the aluminium door of his Defender. Rather than throw it away, he gave the door – which has visited more countries than most people will in a lifetime – to REC in order to create a special tribute to Land Rover. The door was punched into 463 watch dials and given a clear lacquer, to show off the patina perfectly. As a result, no two watches are completely alike. The case is made of 316L stainless steel, with a Sellita mechanical self-winding SW200-1 movement beating inside. It’s a three-hand watch with distinctive hands (different to the Beachrunner) and comes with a quick-set date window as well. The hour hand is particularly distinctive and one of the best features. It comes in at 48.20mm lug to lug, so seems set to be a distinctive piece that nonetheless shouldn’t be over the top. Strap-wise, you have a choice of desert canvas (which to my mind suits it best) or black leather. You’re unlikely to uncover much water in the desert, but it’s still water resistant to 50 metres. In any case, the environment of this watch is very much land and air, rather than sea.
The Beachrunner appears quite similar to the Rockfighter at first glance, but there are some important differences. The story behind it is a romantic one, with the 1981 Defender that was its donor belonging to Portuguese photographer and film-maker Daniel Espirito Santo (which translates into English as ‘Daniel Holy Ghost’). Living by the coast as an avid surfer, the salty air had eaten away at his Land Rover’s metal roof, which is how it came to be in the hands of REC. That roof now lives on in the face of the Beachrunner watch. And happily, the Portuguese Land Rover lives on with a new roof.
The overall look is distinct from the Rockfighter, with the green dial, slimmer hands, and particularly the rubber strap being an important nod to its aquatic heritage. The biggest difference though is that subdial for the seconds, with its accompanying Sellita SW290-1 movement. Apart from that, the specification is pretty much identical to the Rockfighter – and in both cases you can choose your preferred limited edition serial number.
There’s a lot of thought gone into both these watches, with the little details that really make them stand out: I love the rubber bezel in the shape of a tyre, for example. For many people, Land Rover is the epitome of off-road indestructibility, so these two watches certainly have a big reputation to live up to. What makes the, special though are the personal stories behind each one. To my view, the Rockfighter is the more distinctive – especially on the desert canvas strap ¬– but both are set for a big following among Land Rover aficionados.