The Pride of Baltimore

In 2010, we introduced a new wristwatch model created for him and her - the Pride II. In this journal, we discuss the development of a signature TWC timepiece that is just as unusual as it is beautiful.

While the appearance of the Pride of Baltimore Schooner has never quite been equaled on the water, there is a timepiece on the wrist that shares the same language - the Pride II. A special edition that symbolizes the industrial innovation that has occurred in our distinctive region. It pays tribute to the Pride of Baltimore II, the official sailing ambassador for Maryland to the rest of the world, and the infamous Baltimore Clippers she recalls.

Featuring a clean and tasteful black or silver dial, the Pride II is powered by the reliable ETA 2892 automatic movement. It is enclosed by a solid case back featuring a plush engraving of the iconic sailing yacht that inspired it's making. It was fittingly conceived and still today produced right in the ports of Baltimore at our workshop in the city, right near the shipyard where the Pride II of Baltimore was built.

TWC founders, Hartwig Balke and George Thomas, weren’t looking to create a new model when they contacted French Canadian industrial designer, Patrick Ayoub. Co-founder of another American brand, Detroit Watch Company, Ayoub’s background is diverse, including stints in automotive design at Volkswagen, BMW, and Daimler-Chrysler. TWC had turned to Ayoub for a fresh look for the brand’s emblem. “George and I often say that we collect artists,” says Hartwig Balke. “We met Patrick three years ago. He had done watch design before and our Towson Watch logo needed to be made more distinctive. I asked him if he would do me the favor of cleaning up the logo and he said, ‘No problem.’ When I saw the logo shape he came up with I thought to myself, ‘That’s a nice shape. That could be a watch case.’ I drew up a few lines on the shape and asked Patrick what he thought about it.”

The next day Ayoub called Balke and told him he had something special. “He said, ‘I have a present for you. Go to your computer and see,”” Balke recalls. “It was the first layout of the watch. I said ‘Wow! We have to make this.’ That was the beginning of the project." Now all that TWC’s leaders needed was a theme in keeping with the rest of their line. Inspiration didn’t strike immediately. But in fact it could be said that the genesis of Balke’s idea for the new watch was more than three decades in the making. 

As a Baltimorean and avid sailor himself, Hartwig Balke had followed the exploits of the City’s prized ambassador. In search of an appropriate logical icon upon which to theme TWC’s new watch, Balke had a brainwave. 

“We have our Skipjack, Bay Pilot, Choptank, Potomac models,” Balke affirms. So we were looking for a Chesapeake Bay theme. I had the Constellation (USS Constellation, the famed 1854 Baltimore Sloop-of-war war which would be the last sail-only warship designed for the US Navy) in my mind and Thomas Point (a renowned 1875 Chesapeake Bay Shoal Lighthouse) and other things. Then all of a sudden because I’m a sailor and I like ships, I thought of the Pride of Baltimore. It’s absolutely beautiful!”

After agreeing on the name we arranged a meeting with the Pride of Baltimore organization and discussed the idea to name this model after the Pride of Baltimore II. Janet Cadlo, director of development for Pride of Baltimore Inc., the non-profit organization that operates Pride II, recalls Balke walking into her office in 2008 with the idea for the watch.” “I was floored! He sat down and we talked for quite a while and he said he needed a photo of the Pride II so that we can put an image of it on the watch.”

First sketches were made and the idea of a watch with this shape was worth further discussion and additional sketching. Crown design became an issue with the odd case shape. Hartwig and Patrick found a fitting solution that would further commemorate the timepiece’s maritime heritage, inputting a crown with the shape of a winch found on the sailboat.
Dial design and layout was a high priority for the watchmakers. Size, shape and location of the numerals in relation to the bezel and indices needed to be perfect. In order to continue the process, specifications needed to be written to lay down all elements for the production. An 11 page specification (Lastenheft) describes in detail product use, layout, function, technical details of all watch components and volume.

This drawing illustrates which complicated steps are involved to produce a case of this shape. Four radii and coordinates are required to match a line in order to produce a smooth curve. The dial also was a complicated piece.The same geometric process was involved to manufacture it in a way to fit the case and bezel.  
This is a drawing of the dial already prepared for CNC machinery with a table of x and y coordinates and starting points. X is the bottom of the dial, Y the centerline.
Cross section drawing of the case. It shows the bezel with crystal, mid section with movement and dial and the back.
This drawing shows all relevant dimensions and radii of the case mid- section. The mid section holds the dial and movement. The crown also shown is a separate item.

A plastic model was created as a prototype in order to check the dimensions. It was important to get a feeling for the size and the three dimensions of the case.   
The movement for this model is an ETA 2829A2, an automatic (self winding) movement with sweep second, minute, hour indication and date.
This drawing shows the overall dimensions of the movement in order to generate the right space in the case mid section.

Balke was quick to make another creative request. He wanted an image of Pride II to use as the basis for an engraving on the watch’s caseback. Caslo suggested the work of commercial photographer and longtime Pride of Baltimore II chronicler Bill McAllen. It’s one of the many touches that make TWC’s Pride II watch stand out. It is etched into a screwed down stainless steel back made from an anti allergic material. Longitude and latitude indicates the location of Towson Watch Company. 

Engraving on the Pride II caseback

“It’s a very generous gesture” says Caslo enthusiastically. Captain Jan Miles is equally enthusiastic about the connection of the sailing machine and time machine. “Id there one vanity that I have it’s that I admire the heck out of watches,” he admits. “And I suppose that the same kind of passion that has helped us keep alive the tradition of tall ships sailing and Baltimore Clippers in particular must have played a dominant role in how a lot of the traditional watchmaking processes and concepts have been preserved.”

Pride II and papers - Chesapeake Collection

Aye’ Aye’ Captain. And through TWC’s efforts there’s now an American watch that unites the iconic profile of the Pride of Baltimore II with a distinctive new timepiece, bringing together the traditions of historic sailing and watchmaking. 

Crafting the Art of Time - Pride II

As the final decade of the 18th century dawned, men of means seeking timepieces had two choices. They could opt for a high quality, accurate pocket watch from Britain or choose a more fashionable, more readily available example produced by the Swiss watch industry. By 1790, Geneva was already exporting more than 60,000 watches annually. At the same time, Maryland led a still nascent America in shipbuilding. The heart of the industry was in Baltimore where a class of vessels knows as “Baltimore Clippers” were built to meet the need for fast ships capable of eluding the brawny but lumbering British naval vessels which were devastating American shipping on the Chesapeake Bay and beyond as the British sought domination of maritime commerce in continental Europe and Yankee waters.

The increasingly frequent illegal impressments of American sailors into the Royal Navy as the British and French vied for control of the sea during the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1802) and later Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) of the period fanned the flames of war stateside. Conditions were ripe for the war of 1812, a conflict in which Baltimore Clippers were to play a seminal and unforgettable role. That notoriety and proud heritage is carried on today in Baltimore by a reproduction Baltimore Clipper known as the Pride of Baltimore II. The successor to the original Pride of Baltimore, launched in 1977, Pride II is a living monument to the fears of the Baltimore Clipper fleet and a powerful sight for all who see her. 

“Baltimore Clippers were a surprise to the world at large,” Jan Miles, Pride II’s captain, explains. “Fast and capable, they sailed boldly. American seamanship was not hampered by traditionalism. The ability of the Baltimore Clippers to frustrate the British Navy during the War of 1812 was widely respected. Their power as a symbol stems from the very iconic American profile that the Pride II presents today.”


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