Old friends Hakim El Kadiri of Elka Watch Company and Alon Ben Joseph of Ace Jewelers reconnected over shared ties via the now-defunct ELKA of Amsterdam. Fast forward several months, and they’re proud to present the Ace x Elka Watch Company Diversity Series, a set of four limited-edition watches each using a different numeric script on their gradient blue dials: Western Arabic, Eastern Arabic /Hindi, Chinese, and Hebrew. The project unfolded in three acts.
Act 1: Hakim El Kadiri & Elka Watch Company
After a long and distinguished career developing watches for several leading Swiss watch brands, Hakim El Kadiri decided to pursue his long-time dream of creating his own brand. Nicknamed ElKa since his early childhood (short for El Kadiri), a name for this exciting new venture was quickly found. He was a child of the 1960s, and the products and aesthetics of that era would serve as the main sources of inspiration for his newly formed brand.
“I dreamt of developing my own brand, but above all, I wanted a brand with a story, truth, and credibility. I chose to call it by my nickname, ELKA. Since I love the 60s, the products, and the aesthetics of that era, I have decided to make it my design line for this and future collections,” says El Kadiri.
Whilst researching the name, Hakim discovered that a watch brand named ELKA had previously existed. In 1913, Louis Eduard Kiek took over his father’s watch and watchmaking company, renaming it ELKA. The name was an acronym of Ernst Louis Kiek plus the name of his son, Amsterdam. The family-owned company operated several Kiek boutiques in Amsterdam, which carried prestigious brands such as Rolex, Ulysse Nardin, Vulcain, Breitling, Universal, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and Blancpain. The watches were often proudly co-branded with the ELKA signature on their dials. In addition, they also exploited their own ELKA brand, which sold wrist and pocket watches but was particularly famous for stopwatches, timers, and chess clocks. Sadly, the ELKA brand quietly disappeared somewhere in the 1970s, as a result of the rise of quartz-controlled timepieces. The Kiek boutiques continued to operate until the year 2000, after which the company was dissolved.
Act 2: Alon Ben Joseph & Ace Jewelers
The Dutch Ace Jewelers has been owned and run by the Ben Joseph Family since its foundation in 1975. Today, it consists of a luxury boutique and an international eBoutique. Located in the Museum Quarter of Amsterdam in The Netherlands, the Ace & Dik boutique is an authorized dealer for an extensive collection of high-end fine jewelry and watch brands, including Tudor, Zenith, Bulgari, Christiaan van der Klaauw, Nomos, Nanis, and many more. Over the past decade, Ace Jewelers has collaborated with many such names on limited-edition items, all of which were received with critical acclaim. Since its foundation in 1975, Ace Jewelers also carries an extensive selection of high-end, certified pre-owned watches.
But where does the ELKA brand fit into this story? Well, in the year 2000, the Kiek family had decided to shut down the business, with the remaining stock and locations sold to the highest bidders. One of the boutiques, at Leidsestraat 21, landed in the hands of the Ben Joseph family. Whilst the store was rebranded to Ace per the wishes of the Kiek family, for Alon, it sparked an obsession with the ELKA brand. Over the next two decades, he’d always keep an eye out for ELKA-branded pocket, wrist, and stopwatches. One became a few, and a few slowly but steadily grew into a sizeable lot. One of the most prized items in this little collection? A rare ELKA watch dial with Hebrew numerals replacing the conventional Arabic numerals as hour markers.
Act 3: The Diversity Series
Both industry veterans with decades of experience, Hakim and Alon’s paths crossed more than once over the years. The first time the gentlemen met was at the Hamilton manufacture in Biel back in 2008. Hakim was Head of Product Management at Hamilton Watch Company and Ace Jewelers was an authorized Hamilton dealer. “Hakim and I immediately clicked, as we both had a deep passion for both design and watchmaking. Ever since we’ve stayed in touch,” says Alon Ben Joseph. After a decade at Swiss watch brand Rado, Hakim finally took the leap to become an entrepreneur.
Hakim explains how he came to reconnect with Alon: “The moment I realized that there once was a Dutch ELKA company, I immediately thought of Alon, as in my mind, he is synonymous with Amsterdam. We immediately started bouncing ideas off each other and have had many great brainstorming sessions. After many sessions thinking about how to work together, the idea of the Diversity Series was born.”
When Hakim designed the watches for his Elka Watch Company, one of the collections — the X-Series — was inspired by an aviation instrument created by Heuer for ELKA, which featured oversized Arabic numerals from 00 to 55. Whilst discussing ideas for their future collaboration, Alon pitched the idea to create a set of four watches based on this design but using different numerical scripts. Indeed, just like the ELKA of old did with Alon’s highly-coveted Hebrew script dial. The result is the Diversity Series of watches.
The collection consists of four watches, each with a gradient blue dial but featuring different scripts for the numerals: Eastern Arabic/Hindi, Chinese, and Hebrew, complemented by one using classical Western Arabic numerals. And purists rejoice: Unlike the standard production X-Series, there’s no date window on the Diversity Series watches. Of these four types of numbering, three use the double 0 at 12 o’clock, like the standard production X-Series. Only the Hebrew version has the number 60 instead of the double 0, as in the numeric system of the Hebrew alphabet, there is no zero.
Alon adds, “Collecting watches is a passion that transcends borders, languages, and cultures. The source of inspiration for the Diversity Series may have been a Hebrew script Elka watch from my personal collection, but we expanded this concept to celebrate diversity on a global scale, as well as the friendships that form over shared hobbies and pastimes. I trust these watches will find proud homes with collectors all over the world — and I’m particularly excited to see where the different dial variations will end up.”
The Ace x Elka Diversity Series watches are all 40.8mm wide, 10.8mm thick, and measure 46.50mm lug-to-lug. They are powered by the G100 caliber, a thoroughly modern caliber produced by the highly regarded watch movement manufacturer La Joux-Perret. The G100 is a self-winding movement that operates at a modern 4Hz frequency and combines that with an extended, weekend-lasting 68-hour power reserve. The stainless steel case is covered by a “chevé box” sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating and is matched to a beige nubuck strap with a micro-fiber back.
Production of the Ace x Elka Diversity Series is limited to 25 individually numbered pieces per variation. The first seven of each are bundled in special collectors’ sets with matching numbers. The Ace x Elka Diversity Series is available as of now via AceJewelers.com, ElkaWatch.ch, and in the Ace & Dik boutique in Amsterdam, at a recommended retail price of CHF 1,625, EUR 1,625 or USD 1,820 excluding taxes. They will be shipped worldwide free of charge.
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