December 6, 2021
by Bilal Khan
My admiration for J.N. Shapiro watches is no secret. Los Angeles-based Josh Shapiro creates some of the most beautiful watch dials I have ever seen, and his Infinity Weave is worthy of being held as a standard to which budding watchmakers should aspire. I recently got to spend some time with his latest creation that is being released today, the J.N. Shapiro Infinity Tantalum Limited Edition. A trio of stunning creations, these are the first watches to be done in a tantalum case outside of Switzerland. Subtle in design but rich with technique, the Infinity Tantalum takes the now-classic Shapiro design and houses it in this novel and rare metal. The result is, once again, a testament to American watchmaking and serves to further proliferate the Infinity Weave among the most discerning collectors.
There are going to be three variants of the J.N. Shapiro Infinity Tantalum: an untreated palladium dial with tantalum chapter rings, blue enamel ink, and blued steel hands; a black ruthenium dial with tantalum hour chapter rings, rose gold hands, seconds ring, and numerals; and a navy blue dial with tantalum chapter rings, blue enamel ink, and polished steel hands. I went hands-on with all three of the variants, and they are each a testament to Shapiro’s emergence as one of the finest dial-makers out there today. Note that these were all prototypes, so they are not quite as pristine as the final production watches will be, so keep that in mind if you notice minor blemishes or imperfections.
Tantalum is a very rare metal that is highly durable with a deep grey color that really comes across fully in person. Not just the first time a tantalum case has been made outside Switzerland, Shapiro also says the use of it on the dials is the first time he’s seen it used beyond just the case. On using tantalum, Shapiro says:
“It’s stealthy. White metals are very popular at the moment, because they’re not as flashy as others. Tantalum also has a beautiful, unique color – dark grey with hints of blue…Tantalum is very gummy, but hard and dense as 18ct gold, which is a funny combination. So it’s like platinum – only worse. Very few brands use tantalum because it’s very difficult to machine and to work with. Until you figure it out, you waste a lot, and tantalum goes through tools very quickly.”
On the dial of the Infinity Tantalum, you can see various patterns done on the palladium dials that show off the guilloché mastery that Shapiro has developed. The outer ring has a barleycorn pattern that frames the dial, while the classic basket-weave adorns the center disc. Of course, the centerpiece of any J.N. Shapiro watch is the magnificent Infinity Weave that’s found on the large seconds subdial. A basket-weave within a basket-weave, the Infinity is Shapiro’s signature calling card and stands as one of the best hand-done guilloché watches currently done.
The tantalum chapter rings feature Shapiro’s custom-made font and have hand-finished ratcheting, as well. Note that the ratcheting on these prototypes is a bit rougher than a final piece would have. Having seen the quality of ratcheting done on several finished Shapiro pieces in the past, I can attest that they are immaculate.
Measuring 39mm-wide, the Infinity Tantalum comes in a case that’s a bit smaller than the previous Infinity Series watches. From the caseback, you can see the manual wind UWD Caliber 33.1 which is made by Uhren Dresden Werke which is also associated with Lang & Heyne. The UWD Caliber 33.1 operates at 21,600 vph and has a 53-hour power reserve. Quite rare itself, the movement is done in nickel silver with excellent finishing. You’ll note that each movement also has a hand-chamfered gold serial plate.
Josh Shapiro is just getting better and better with each new collection, and it’s no surprise that collectors are flocking to the American watchmaker. This trio of Shapiro’s watches is breathtaking, each in its own way, serving as a lovely template for the man’s staggering talent. Limited to 26 pieces in total, the J.N. Shapiro Infinity Tantalum Limited Edition begins at a very fair price of $33,000. You can learn more at jnshapirowatches.com.