The story of Waldan Watches is an inspiring one. I’ve followed the progress of the company since the early days of International Watch way back in 1990, and with the re-birth of the brand led by the next generation of Waldans, it’s time to revisit the story and introduce its latest collection.
The groundwork that laid the foundation for the Waldan International watch brand goes back to the late 1970s during a period when founder Oscar Waldan supplied retailers in the United States with in-house-branded timepieces.
A polish immigrant, Waldan arrived in the U.S. in 1946 as a rare survivor of not one, but two separate German concentration camps – thanks in large part to his ability to service and repair wristwatches. The decades between Oscar’s arrival in the U.S. in 1946 and the launch of his own brand in 1979 saw Oscar working in various watch industry professions in the U.S. offices of Tissot, Universal Genève, Van Cleef & Arpels, and others.
A little more than three decades after his arrival in the U.S., Oscar took his experience gleaned at the various watch houses with which he had worked and decided it was time to start his own brand. In 1979 the eponymous Waldan brand of watches was born. He designed his own series of mechanical watches around the movements within and built his cases and dials to embrace the innate nature of these fine engines.
His Own Vision
At one point I mentioned that he might consider adding a few millimeters to his case size and I can still hear his vocal depredations as he decried the over-sized watch an abomination and anathema to real watchmakers and watchmaking. In his own vision of the timepiece Oscar Waldan designed exquisite dials that incorporated chronographs, calendars, world timers, alarms, and more into their displays in sizes that embraced ergonomics not egomania. These were always mechanical, often chronometers, and the first generation of wristwatches that would carry the Waldan trademark on the dial.
Bear in-mind that this was in an era long before today when easy access to suppliers from Europe and the Far East has made it all too simple for almost anyone to propose an off-the-shelf watch, crowd funded by micro-investors. Back then, you really had to know what you were doing, have the industrial connections to craft each disparate component, and muster the courage and cash to bring a watch to life.
It’s also worth noting that when Oscar started the Waldan brand, he was one of the only members of the industry at the time that still believed the mechanical watch had a future in the newly minted quartz pantheon. While others were selling mechanical movements in buckets by weight, Oscar was hoarding the precious engines that he still believed had a future. These early Waldan watches remain collector’s favorites and embody what a fine luxury wristwatch should be; mechanical complications with top-quality components inside and out and a design that will never go out of style. Even today these early Waldans retain a very strong value in the secondary market.
The first generation Waldans were and are superb timepieces, but the fact is they were well out of the reach of the vast majority of consumers. While Oscar’s early offerings were always worth far more than he actually charged, they still called for a substantial investment near $10,000 to acquire. They were crafted exclusively in precious gold and platinum with top-grade mechanical Swiss chronographs and other complicated movements within, and their prices reflected the upscale nature of these components.
It’s no surprise that the founding father of Waldan Watches would bring his son (Andrew) into the family business. At a very young age, Andrew could often be found at the New York headquarters of Waldan International. When visiting Oscar’s offices, I’d see Andrew there along with his father, the staff, and the watchmakers as he grew into a young man surrounded by all things watches. During this early apprenticeship (when he wasn’t studying French or practicing the violin – his dad always pushed him to learn & do more) Andrew was developing an insider’s perspective on an industry about to experience a renaissance; an industry that his father had never actually abandoned like so many of his contemporaries had.
Guided by his father’s indelible principles of quality and style, Andrew combined his own appreciation and understanding of modern market trends when he was called on to lead the Waldan Company due to his father’s failing health in 2017. Having actively worked with his father at Waldan Intl. since 2013, Andrew was remarkably young, but very well groomed to take the full control as the CEO of Waldan Watches when his father finally passed away after a full life of 95 years in January 2018.
Andrew had decided it was time to evolve and add a new branch to the company tree his father had planted and nurtured. During this process he came to the conclusion that he would make the classic Waldan design available to a much wider audience.
Seeing the potential in bringing the classical lines of the Waldan cases to a wider audience made sense, so in a daring departure from the established path he decided to build a more affordable iteration of the classic Waldan design. In another bold move he also decided to eschew the ubiquitous “Swiss Made” label and decided to build his watches in the United States.
“Drawing from our past, present and combining that with my analysis of the market as a modern consumer, I decided to evolve the brand and try a new concept - taking a boutique brand with a reputation for creating luxurious, quality watches and a great brand story out of the high end sector where it struggled to compete and retailoring it for a more value fixed and priced market, without sacrificing the integrity in manufacturing and ensuring that the watch itself is mechanically superior to its competitors and retains the design DNA that it traces its lineage from.
The ethos of what makes a watch a Waldan has always been a “great watch for the money” with a soul and historically significant brand history about how it all came to be. My new collection packages all of that up in a modern, well made and accessible watch, made with innovative new all-metal American Made movements in a nod to my father’s life and “American Dream”. It’s with that purpose that I have decided to shift Waldan from being a Swiss watch company to an American watch company and participate in the effort to rebirth the great American Watch Industry and carry out my father’s dream of building a watch brand in the U.S. While our new collection has departed from our traditional proclivity to make mechanical watches, this is not permanent as our watches and collections will evolve over time with an ultimate return to producing quality mechanical watches in the coming years, but in different fashion.”
Crafted in steel, the new arm of Waldan’s watches embraces a retail price segment under $500, with a goal of expanding the potential reach of his father’s design(s) by several orders of magnitude. Working with his team, Andrew has now brought a watch to life that cultivates the original design cues of a Waldan; the font, hands, color palette, fine leather straps, and most critically the iconic curves of the stepped case and lugs. All this using superb quality components with a very accessible retail price of $299.99. A price that almost anyone can afford.
More Bang For The Buck
In making watches, the devil really is in the details. It’s easy to make a cheap handsome (or pretty) watch that won’t last until the first battery dies. Making one that will last a lifetime and beyond calls for a different approach.
Here’s where Andrew, along with his team and chief technical advisor came together over the course of more than a year to examine and approve every component and every detail to put together a watch that passed muster for both esthetics and durability and will exceed his customer’s expectations.
As mentioned before, Andrew also chose the path less travelled with regard to where Waldan Watches would be built. He looked to source American suppliers where possible, and has partnered with the Fountain Hills, Arizona, -based Fine Timepiece Solutions to develop and build this next generation Waldan.
Based on his early adoption of the Ameriquartz movement and his commitment and partnership with FTS, Waldan is the first and currently the only brand authorized to use the Ameriquartz® trademark on the dial of its watches.
Those unfamiliar with Ameriquartz movements should note that they are jeweled, accurate and robust movements built to standards when quartz movements were designed to last, not to be the least expensive mass-produced option.
As both a founding advisor to the company and as its sales manager, I can tell you that each movement is built using a combination of modern and traditional engineering to bring the quartz movement to its zenith with regards to accuracy and reliability, and each one is individually tested and certified when manufactured. Each movement also carries a manufacturer’s five-year warranty against manufacturing defects.
Waldan’s new collection is presented in an easy-to-wear 40mm diameter case with a slim 8.6mm profile. Crafted in 316L stainless steel, each is rated water resistant to 50 meters with a flat anti-reflective (underside only – as preferred) sapphire crystal over the dial. At 3’oclock, a multi-gasket system is integrated into the crown ensuring the water resistance is more than just a claim. Six dial variations are held on your wrist with a fine leather strap while the overall fit and finish stands up to the loupe – Andrew would not have it any other way.
Waldan is launching the Heritage Professional series with dials in four colors, including black, white, off-white and green. Rounding out the initial launch are two Heritage Sportline versions with oil-pressed linear-patterned dials in black and silver that add a bit of dimension to the dials. Fine details, including SuperLuminova plots on the outer tracks, applied markers and luminous hands on the sports models, attest to Waldan’s high specification levels.
Although not limited to a specific numbered series, each Waldan Heritage is hand built in the U.S. using a proprietary ATAC (assess, test, assemble, certify) Zero-Defect protocol and will be limited only by production capacity and likely to be a hot commodity when it releases this Fall.
To stay up to speed with Waldan you can explore the web-site www.waldanwatches.com or watch for them on social media.
Disclaimer: I have a vested interest in building watches in the United States as a founding member of Fine Timepiece Solutions. I also have a personal relationship with Andrew Waldan. Having said this, everything you read above is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge.