This is how Wei Rolls: Bennett Winch's Ultimate Watch Rolls

Not content with the classic watch roll, Wei Koh met with Bennett Winch to design the ultimate watch transporter, now available on The Rake.
This is how Wei Rolls: Bennett Winch's Ultimate Watch Rolls

Does a tree that falls in a forest make a sound if there’s no one there to listen? Such was the now ubiquitously-bandied about query posited by philosopher George Berkley, in A Treatise Concerning The Principles of Human Knowledge. Which has a direct correlation to a far more important question.Is it worth having the world’s greatest collection of horological finery — a steel 1518, one of only two 1591 steel perpetual calendars in existence, Eric Clapton’s Arabic 5004 — if there is no one to revel in their irrefutable unmitigated dopeness? Well unless you are the most anti-social of men; unless you’ve shunned society and replaced television with transcendental meditation and lifting rocks with your gonads to perfect your Chi. You’re going to want to attend one or more of the innumerable “GTGs” or get-togethers with likeminded devotees to that intersection between science and magic known as Swiss watchmaking, so you can be bestowed suitable props for your hard-earned horological swagger. And it is at this point that the watch roll will make its first appearance in your life. Because it is by far the safest, most innocuous and simplest way to transport your collection of Linz-dialed Paul Newman Daytonas, 321 calibered Omega Speedmasters, or Audemars Piguet Royal Oak perpetual calendars from point A to point B. But it is at this point where you will start to become frustrated by their shortcomings.


The Problems with Most Watch Rolls

Ok, the first thing we need to understand is, there are two types of watch rolls. The first is the flat leather or fabric roll that has slots in it (not unlike a travel tool kit for your motorcycle). What you do is slip your watches into these slots and literally roll it, transforming it — for lack of a better description — into a multi-thousand, if not million-dollar, burrito of ticking finery. But this type of roll has two problems. The first is that it is very easy to inadvertently open from the wrong side up, causing your watches to kamikaze-plummet towards the floor with heart stopping alacrity.  The other is that each watch is only separated from the other by a thin layer of fabric and as such have a propensity for banging into each other, which if you think about it, can’t be great for the delicate balance wheels, not to mention the dials and hands on your treasured timepieces. The third issue is that you can’t place integrated bracelet watches like a Nautilus or a Royal Oak into this type of roll, because their bracelets don’t lie flat.

The second type and more luxurious roll looks like a round leather tube. You pop the top open and inside is a carrier, usually with padded dividers. You strap your watches onto this carrier as if it was a wrist, and then close the top. There should be some amount of padding all around your watches to protect them from impact. However, these rolls also have two shortcomings. First, because they are round they tend to flop onto the section where the heads of the watches are, because it’s where all the weight is. I’ve seen collectors place a roll on a table only to have it spin right off because of the momentum generated by this imbalance in weight. I’ve tried to attach the watches to the carrier such that watches alternate back to front for better weight distribution but that tends to add bulk to the roll as they are designed to have the heads facing forwards. Further, the whole point of these rolls is to be able to check your watches in one glance. The other, and to me even greater problem, with these rolls is that for whatever reason they don’t fit in any top loading hotel room safes. Which means you have to take your watches out of the roll in order to place them in the safe. This is really impractical when the whole point is to have a nice, padded, secure storage devise for your watches that you can place in entirety, inside a hotel safe, when you travel.

The Solution: The Bennett Winch Watch Roll

For those driven to near madness, or abject depression, caused by the inadequacies of traditional watch rolls, take heart. Because as Florence and her Machine says “The dog days are o-over”, thanks to Bennett Winch, the world has just been bestowed a new watch roll, in the shape of a hexagon. The Bennett Winch Hexagon shaped watch roll — like a veritable Prometheus — shines a light of enlightenment, banishing despair and darkness from the world of wristwatch transportation. OK, forgive my lapse into hyperbole but I know you’re going to look at the price tag of this watch roll and reply, “Dude really? 550 Sterling for a watch roll? Does it come with a secret compartment for high powered edibles? Is that compartment actually filled with Burning Man whacked out of your gourd and lost on the playa-level edibles?”

No, it doesn’t. Sorry.

But the point is that the good people of Bennett Winch, specifically Robin Bennett, Robin Winch and Rupert Shreeve, and yours truly have come up with the ultimate watch roll that solves all the aforementioned problems. My involvement came about when I was visiting Bennett Winch’s showroom while at Pitti and they told me they wanted to create the best watch roll money could buy. When they asked me to be involved right from the research and development phase, how could I say no?  The happy result of our combined efforts is a watch roll that that genuinely doubles as a display case replete with a cool padded watch staging/prep area, which because of its hexagonal shape always stands upright (even the carriers have hexagonal dividers so when you take your watches out they continue to stand upright), that has been carefully designed to fit into any hotel room safe, including the top loading variety. Plus, it’s made of some of the finest materials in the world, including top grain Italian leather and real Alcantara®, which are wrapped over a Kevlar core.

Designing the Ultimate Watch Roll

Says Rupert Shreeve, Design Director at Bennett Winch, “The key design challenge was to create something that rolled completely flat like a conventional canvas roll but then provided the rigid protection of a conventional watch case when closed. By splitting the outer body into individual reinforced panels stitched over a flexible Kevlar core we could achieve both flexibility and rigidity. The resulting hexagonal form means it won't roll around when closed and minimises the overall cross section - two birds one roll!"

The beauty of focusing on the functional challenges of a new product brief rather than just the visual is that the resulting aesthetic is totally unique. In this case, the leather panelling tells the user exactly how the product operates. Says Robin Bennett, “The great thing about the hexagon shape is that is stands upright. In addition, each side of the hexagon can be rolled and transformed into a unique, totally flat watch ‘staging area’ or ‘preparation deck’.

“The added benefit to this is that you can display a maximum surface area of your favourite watches even without taking them out of the roll. Wei thought for watch collecting get-togethers, this would be really ideal. The idea is that collectors could just place their rolls on a table and display their watches this way.”  Bennett continues, “But the great thing about the roll is that even when you take the watches out of the roll they still stand upright. This is because we carried the theme of the hexagon to the extra thick dividers found on the carrier so that even when you take the carrier out of the roll and place it on a table it still stands upright.”

When queried about the not insubstantial price for the watch roll Winch says, “We were determined to make the ultimate watch roll. Something that was genuinely beautiful and made by hand in London from the very finest materials we could find. “Wei immediately suggested not to make it from metal because it would add weight and might look suspicious going through an airport X-ray, so we looked into carbon fibre but eventually landed on Kevlar.”

Says Rupert Shreeve, “The whole design would have fallen apart if the sides of the roll didn’t sit absolutely flush without even the tiniest margin of a gap. To create something this precise really required investment on our part. And of course, we wanted to use the finest quality leather and hardware. Wei was really adamant about using Alcantara® for the interior surface which is softer, lighter and much more fire resistant than suede. Sure it’s also more expensive, but if modern supercars have it for their interiors, we felt it was the right choice for this product.”

“Does this mean combined with the Kevlar the roll is both 100% fire and bullet proof? Probably not, but it’s cool to think it might be if you do find yourself in a sticky situation on your travels,” Winch laughs. “The point is, it is luxurious from a traditional craft perspective but uses genuinely innovative modern materials that will stand the test of time.”

One final touch about the hexagon shape is that when you have several watch rolls, they stack together perfectly as the shape interlocks with one another. Says Bennett, “We’ve already been approached by serious industry players who were looking to pre-order multiple rolls for their collections. It’s always a good sign when this is happening before the first one has even come off the line.” What is it like to live with the greatest game-changing timepiece transportation device? Stay tuned for my adventures in Texas, Mexico and New York with the Bennett Winch watch roll as my constant companion.