April 18, 2009
by Ariel Adams
You’ve just stepped into a fine watch boutique – and after some time have decided on a new watch to buy. The sales person goes into the back for a moment and returns with a little kit. They open up a small vial to remove a large cotton swab. At this point you are starting to wonder if this is to clean something or to perform some type of twisted “white glove test” on your person to make sure you are worthy of a luxury watch purchase. No, you’ve made the decision to buy yourself a Van Ree Personal DNA watch, and all that comes with it. The “Personal DNA” component of the watch name is quite literal. Each watch will contain the personal DNA of the buyer.
Why? Really no reason other than to be different and unique. Van Ree describes it as a way of having a very personal fingerprint ( er… I mean genetic imprint) of yourself on your new timepiece. That cotton swab I was talking about will be used to scrape your tongue for a bit of your DNA. The salesperson then puts the swabbed swab into a vial and sends it off to “the lab.” The process there takes your DNA, mixes it with some gel to create what is essentially Deoxyribonucelic Acid goop. During this process the lab extracts a visual signature for your DNA – resulting in basically what they use in criminal trials as forensic evidence to link the suspect at the crime. Only here it is used to identify you! Careful of the lessons learned in the 1997 film Gattaca, Van Ree reminds us that “no medical information can be determined from the information.” It just allows the trained expert to link your watch to you. Good for theft prevention right? Or perhaps Van Ree is simply trying to prevent and aftermarket resale – who wants an ultra-personalized watch, personalized to someone else?
One your personal DNA (goop) is done two things are done with it. First you actually get the stuff stored in the watch. Second the imprint of your DNA signature is actually printed on the back of the sapphire crystal on the rear of the watch. This is a bit hard to tell in the photos, but you’ll see it if you are looking. The image looks a lot like what forensics labs use to make a visual representation of someone’s DNA signature. There is a capsule located in a storage compartment located at 4 o’clock on the case of the Personal DNA watch. It looks like a crown, but you can see your personal DNA gel through the little window. This is about as interesting as the watch gets.
Aside from the odd genetics angle, you have just a classic looking watch with an Van Ree VRW 001 automatic mechanical movement and a sensible look to it. Complications include a retrograde date and power reserve indicator in addition to the time and an open view into the movement where the balance wheel is. I don’t particularly care for the retrograde date as it looks difficult to read. I do like the high level of perlage decoration on the movement though, and the thin, highly contrasting hands ought to make the watch very easy to read. The case itself is available in stainless steel or gold, with the light colored or metallic blue dial options.
Going back to the rear of the watch, you can see information about the watch located on a chapter ring around the movement. There you will also find a strip of random DNA code (I presume random as it is to short to be a gene), with our favorite set of biochemical letter, G, T, A, and C. This is one of the first times I have seen DNA so integrated into a watch, but I imagine it won’t be the last time. I mean no mention or visualization of a double helix? Come on Van Ree? Are you waiting for the Personal DNA watch model’s follow up timepiece to get more visual with the DNA theme? No word on pricing yet, but I presume it will be $15,000 – $25,000, plus.