Corum Hobo Coin Watch: Gothic Rock And Roll
The Corum Coin Watch made its debut in 1964, with the first 12 examples sold out before they could even reach 1965’s Basel Fair.
These were the world’s first wristwatches made using a coin to house a mechanical movement; previous to Corum’s experimentation the style had only been used for pocket watches.
Corum, who was a master of funky advertising in the brand’s early days, first cleverly advertised these innovative timepieces with the tagline “time is money,” later changing it to “time in money.”
And it’s easy to see why this slogan was so apt: Corum founder René Bannwart and his team used one-half of an authentic, very carefully cut gold coin as a watch dial, placed an ultra-thin movement underneath it, and then closed it up with the other half of the coin.
In so doing, they made something akin to a movement sandwich, with the bread slices replaced by coin halves. Once assembled, the two halves of the coin were joined by an 18-karat gold case band that was carefully grooved to replicate the fluted edge of the original coin.
The resulting watch was almost as thin as the original $20 gold coin, an amazing feat.
The early Coin Watches were made using the $20 American Double Eagle first minted in 1849. These were particularly popular on the American market, becoming a symbol of both lasting value and a keepsake of the nation’s pioneering spirit (the eagle, the money, the freedom of enterprise, the gold rush).
As of Baselworld 2018, Corum’s Gold Coin becomes something . . . else.
21st century Corum Coin Watch: transforming an eagle into a hobo
Now Corum re-introduces its classic Coin Watch with a twist: the Hobo Coin.
“Hobo” is a bit of an unusual name, and it does need some explanation. Most people likely know that the word hobo is another word for a vagrant, with the most classic image of a hobo riding freight cars and making a living (and a life) on the tracks instead of settling down.
The word “hobo” was coined (see what I did there?) in the 1800s, rising along with the miles of railroad track being laid down across the United States of America.
The hobo coin, also known as the hobo nickel, is an art form that was indeed developed by hobos. It involved altering low-denomination coins as early as the 1850s, basically making them into small bas-relief sculptures to be sold as part of earning a meager living.
Apparently, the American nickel (five-cent coin) was used most frequently due to its relative thickness and relative softness (75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel).
Making coins into art or jewelry is not new; this is something that Ian and I learned when we traveled to the Museu do Ouro in Travassos, Portugal in 2017 to learn about the art of filigree (see The History Of Portuguese Filigree Reinterpreted In A Single Luxury Jewelry Brand: Eleuterio). At that time, we toured the small by-appointment museum and learned that the earliest jewelry pieces in Portugal were made of coins so that they could be worn (instead of lost or stolen).
According to Wikipedia, modern artists (and not hobos!) continue to create altered nickels in quantities, docking into this historical theme but creating something quite new. And, interestingly, I’ve learned that old hobo coins are now quite sought after by collectors, commanding high prices.
Preserving the art form of the original hobo with Aleksey Saburov
Master engraver Aleksey Saburov specializes in the art of making new hobo coins. A Russian living in New York, he creates twenty-first-century hobo coins by utilizing popular imagery, legends, demons, beliefs, and individual commissions to make unique works of micro art engraved on genuine early twentieth-century five-cent pieces.
Corum now utilizes Saburov’s unique talents and the interesting history of hobo nickels to co-create a limited edition of Coin Watches.
As they are hand engraved, each one is unique by definition. But they are also unique by motif, as Saburov, who has already produced a number of drawings for this purpose, will turn each one into one new Coin Watch.
And these will primarily be gothic, rock and roll, and disruptive in nature.
Making a Corum Coin Watch
The criteria for choosing a coin to use is relatively strict: each coin chosen must be in mint condition without a scratch, a dent, or even sign of use. This is naturally a tall order when talking about vintage collector’s pieces such as early twentieth-century five-cent pieces. These watches utilize silver $1 coins as their bases.
While back in the 1970s Corum was using ultra-thin Caliber P70 by Frédéric Piguet, today the brand utilizes an ultra-reliable ETA 2892 base for its unique Coin Watch’s movement.
And for the very first time in Corum’s history, the coin watch will be available on a denim strap, the jeans color perfectly matching the silver case, blue sapphire in the crown, and silvery luster of the vintage coin.
For more information, please visit www.corum-watches.com/en/corum-heritage/coin-watch.
Quick Facts Corum Hobo Coin Watch
Case: 43 x 7.6 mm, silver with sapphire set into crown
Movement: automatic Caliber CO 082 (base ETA 2892), 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: each motif is unique
Also published on Medium.