Thursday, March 25, 2021

Not So Much A Review - A Meditation on the Corum Bubble and Severin Wunderman

So this review marks a bit of an ending, but also a beginning of sorts. And it has raised one crucial question - either I've been doing this too long, or I have finally gotten to the place that I wanted to be.

So here it is, the last review at Tempus Fugit -
The Bubble is a watch that has, in truth, haunted me for YEARS. And to that extent, this VERY long review has actually been more of a meditation on the Bubble and what it meant and what it still means.

It is safe to say that without Severin Wunderman there would be no Bubble. But that is short sighted, because in truth? Without Severin Wunderman there would likely not be a Corum today. And to put it more plainly, I still find it funny that when the "noted watch journalists" roll out their lists of innovators who changed the watch business with their designs, or their business acumen, Severin Wunderman is really almost an after thought, and that is simply nuts. 

At the time he took over Corum, he took over what was, if we are all honest about it, a shell of what it had been. And prevailing wisdom would have held that you simply air out and play your greatest hits. But Mr. Wunderman had a different idea. And when the Bubble hit, it came out around the same time as the Trapeze and a few other ideas that are maybe best left in the past. But the Bubble, though maligned by some as sacrilegious, planted the flag for what Corum would become.

And then just as suddenly as it arrived, it disappeared. Corum had shifted again, and all thoughts of the Bubble appeared to have been effectively banished. 

I started Tempus Fugit going on 11 years ago, and at that time the Bubble had, well, burst. Mr. Wunderman passed away in 2008, 2 years before Tempus Fugit began so I never had the opportunity to meet him. But the thing about icons, is that they are, well, iconic. There are a lot of cool designs out there, but a cool design, on its own, is like an orphan.  It needs a champion to introduce it to the world and help it reach its potential. 

Then BaselWorld 2015 rolled around. I remember seeing 3 Bubbles lurking under a small drop cloth in the booth during a group presentation. And my hunch about the identity of the shrouded Corum proved to be correct, the Bubble had come back again. Which nearly brings us up to today.

I have seen a lot happen in the world of watches over the past 10 (PLUS) years. I have reviewed a fair amount of timekeepers, and through that process I have come to realize that ultimately there is really no such thing as a truly objective review, and more often than not, a review isn't really even that. Titles like "Hands On" only really tell you that the "reviewer" has seen and held a given watch, but most likely not worn it beyond the "showroom". Add to that the money changing hands (sometimes subtly, sometimes not so much), and it occurs to me that the watch review has grown into more of a marketing effort than an attempt to gain much factual insight.
As I said at the beginning of this post, I have either been doing this too long, or I have finally arrived at the place I want to be.
I once went on a job interview where I was asked -
"What's your favorite ice cream flavor?"
For the record - it's pistachio. And in many ways I would say that if TODAY'S Corum Bubble had a demographic of sorts, it would be the pistachio crowd.  If you think about it, pistachio is a bit broader in scope than the big three - chocolate, vanilla or strawberry (Rolex, Patek and Omega). But it is also not so "off the rails" and pleading for attention and shock value like Rocky Road, or Bubblegum (HYT). It's a (now) standard size and shape (albeit its own unique one), and can now act as a canvas that can be used to paint a lot of different stories. My all-time favorite Bubble illustrates the Ying and Yang or duality of the Bubble -
Courtesy of Prestige Time
Truly the world on your wrist, with the (very) domed sapphire crystal emphasizing that the world is, indeed, round.

All good things inevitably must come to an end, and my time with this particular Bubble is now up.

So for those tuning in late, this is the Bubble Baron Samedi/Voodoo 47MM. The Baron Samedi has come in a few iterations, and if my sources are correct, this was part of a later series (2016) with the original debuting in 2006 (if memory serves).

So let's talk about size. The current Bubble collection has definitely increased in size. But curious to relate, what would normally be oppressively huge on my wrist was actually not so bad -

In large part, this is due to a lovely curving of the lugs. They almost hug the wearer's wrist.
The movement is self-winding (Automatic)-
The strap is rubber and very, very comfortable.

The case is of stainless steel, and even with a non-screw down crown the watch is rated to 100 meters of water resistance.

The timekeeping was beyond reproach, and I have to admit, I truly enjoyed the double takes that my companion, the Baron Samedi drew from passers by, even during these days of COVID thinned crowds.

So is the Corum Bubble for you? If it were 2000 - 2003 I think the answer would be a resounding "Hells Yeah!".  That's the thing about being an "it" watch. At that time it was a pretty easy sell, and when I was working at Tourneau I was frustrated that we didn't have the Bubble (they were reserved for Neiman Marcus, just down the street from us), because I could have sold the heck out of them.

But the beauty of the Bubble today is that in many ways, it has now transcended that time and place - the turn of the century. It is not trying to please everyone, and like pistachio ice cream is not going to  be such an obvious choice. 

But then again, if you are reading Tempus Fugit, chances are that you don't necessarily bob along in the water with all the other floaters, drifting from trend to trend ; )

As for me? Well, if these past months have done anything, they have confirmed my love for the Bubble. And for me, that love is not a really something that can be proven empirically. To a large extent, you either get today's Bubble, or you don't. And I get it.  Or to quote that other great commentator on watches - Chaka Khan:
"I feel for you."

So from the review bureau at Tempus Fugit, this is your old pal Henki signing off.

Enjoy your watches!

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