MadeWorn is a still pretty new company (founded in 2013) which is the latest project by the well-respected and successful Mr. Blaine Halvorson. Blaine also happens to be a watch guy and recently began an interesting journey that others just like him have taken in the past – to include timepieces in his lifestyle concept in a way that works for his particular tastes and aesthetic. How people like Mr. Halvorson do this really depends on the individual, their connections, and how insanely deep they want to go into the mire which is trying to produce products in the world of watches.
Blaine decided on an interesting angle that combines some unique elements as well as those greatly admired by many collectors in the watch industry – to take Rolex watches and use legendary American gun engravers to embellish the core look of a Rolex with incredible surface decoration. Blaine’s challenge, in my opinion, is properly including these one-of-a-kind timepiece creations within his MadeWorn brand, and deciding how to create an image for his watches that consumers understand.
Meeting Halverson at his private, appointment-only retail and workshop space in Los Angeles, we sat down to talk watches, art, and brand building. Halvorson, like many of his contemporaries, is both a craftsman and an artist – who himself is a walking manifestation of his aesthetic, decorated with carefully curated clothing and tattoos. MadeWorn is really the dream project he wanted to do since the start, and was able to do after the sale of his successful business Junkfood Clothing in 2005. Today Halvorson collects stuff, build clothing and accessories, and hangs out in what I can easily describe is one of the most interesting retail spaces in all of Los Angeles.
The story of Halvorson runs a lot deeper than these watches and my brief description of him. Once I get to know him better, I can share his tale with you. I mention this because stepping into his world and seeing what means a lot to him is enough to have you asking questions, because not everyone likes – for example – taxidermy as much as him.
Part of the MadeWorn aesthetic can be understood by knowing that Blaine Halvorson grew up in Bozeman, Montana and enjoyed a very outdoorsy life from the time he was a small boy. His rustic, Americana sense of art is about discovering what was once lost, nature, and producing things by hand. Halvorson is very much a creative director, but he is also a craftsman who does things like cobble shoes, which he sells to clients for between about $900 and $3,000 per pair.
One thing Halvorson can’t do is hand-engrave timepieces. Inspired by decoratively engraved guns, Halvorson found some of his favorite American gun engravers, and ask them to do some watch projects for him. Blaine isn’t the first person to think of this, and in fact, watch making is something that still has a home nearby where he grew up. Bozeman has the Bozeman Watch Company, and nearby is also the Montana Watch Company that also has timepieces with engraved cases inspired by gun engravings. Several yeas ago, I reviewed the Montana Watch Company 1930 hand-engraved watch here.
MadeWorn’s approach is more like that of Bamford Watch Department – a company who has some parallels to what MadeWorn is doing. Bamford is a Rolex watch modifier who takes new Rolex watches and changes their textures and colors. MadeWorn, with its still very new collection of watches, takes new or vintage Rolex watches and customizes them with engravings or special bracelets. In fact, Halvorson likes the term “carvings” more than engravings, as it implies more manual labor.
Speaking of manual labor, I had to ask Halvorson if the engravers ran into problems while decorating the cases and bracelets of these Rolex watches. Modern Rolex timepieces use a very hard form of steel which is an alloy called 904L. In addition to being very corrosion resistant 904L steel is very difficult to machine. Engravers typically like working with softer metals such as gold, silver, or brass. While I didn’t have a chance to discuss it with the engravers, Blaine did respond that the engravers offered a lot of complaints about the difficulty of engraving each watch.