Collector’s commissions: two watches from the independent Torsti Laine for the 49 crowns of San Francisco

The history of commissioned watches is long and colorful; at some point I may do a thorough study. But as I sit here typing, I can immediately conjure up bits of the Breguet Marie Antoinette to Henry Graves’ series of Patek Philippes to various more recent royal commissions ranging from unique minute repeaters of the Vacheron Constantin calendar to Rolexes with imperial seals imprinted on the dials.

Group orders may be a more recent phenomenon, but go back at least as far as the set of six unique Voutilainen Masterpiece Chronograph IIs ordered by our NorCal Gang in 2010 and the special edition club watches produced for the PuristS 10e Anniversary Convention in 2011. These days the big brands and independents release a steady stream of small editions for groups, with the ability for independent manufacturers to order very small batch sizes of items such as dials, needles and cases as a major catalyst. .

Special Edition: GG3 wool for 49 crowns

I recently met Adam Eisendrath, founder and president of the San Francisco-based Collectors Club 49 crownsto learn more about the group and to discover two custom watches they commissioned from a Finnish independent based in Switzerland Torsti Wool: a 38 mm Laine V38 and a larger 40.5 mm Laine GG3.

If you’re not following Torsti Laine yet, you should: he’s a talented young watchmaker who is currently focusing on three highly customizable references at affordable prices. Among other accolades, his resume includes a degree from the Finnish School of Watchmaking, winning the 2014 A. Lange & Söhne Watchmaking Excellence Award, and work experience with A. Lange & Söhne and Kari Voutilainen.

Smaller version: 38 mm diameter V38 wool customized for 49 crowns

When I asked Eisendrath about the choice of Laine and the design details of the club’s inaugural watch, he replied, “Why Torsti? We have many fans of Laine and its quality of workmanship and price. A few of the members are particular fans of boutique brands and bespoke watches and have turned some of the other members towards the Laine brand.

When the idea of ​​a club watch was first floated, many members liked the idea of ​​a totally bespoke piece, doing something you wouldn’t normally see for a club watch. In collaboration with our 49 Crowns designer, Pao Chiu, we created the “Fog Dial”, a smoky gray dial with Breguet hands and a subtle nod to the Golden Gate Bridge that crosses the 15 and 45 second markers in the seconds sub-dial. The watch also includes custom, hand-printed hands in the same international orange color as the paint used on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Genuine San Francisco: fog-inspired dial, International Orange hands and Golden Gate engraving on Laine GG3 for 49 crowns

And the club itself? Eisendrath continued, “49 Crowns is the largest unaffiliated watch club in the United States. Our membership includes over 400 collectors and enthusiasts. Our demographics are diverse and we count as many executives and CxOs from Facebook, Google, Apple and other large local companies among our members as we do diesel mechanics, pilots and medical, financial and legal professionals.

“The community started in May 2020 when the pandemic began shutting down meetings and in-person locations. I wanted to create a place where the community could thrive virtually during the pandemic, and a WhatsApp group was the perfect solution. This helped keep the community together and even grow so that when in-person meetings became possible again, we already had a tight-knit, familiar group arriving and feeling comfortable.

Detail of the dial, Laine GG3 for 49 crowns with Golden Gate and International Orange hand

“The name 49 Crowns refers to where the group was founded, San Francisco, which has dimensions of 7×7 miles, or 49 square miles. Although we are based in the San Francisco Bay Area , we have active members around the world, including New York, Boston, Paris and Tokyo.The club has over 400 members on the mailing list, including over 200 active in WhatsApp chat and subchats and a growing number of female collectors.

“The goal was to create a community with the concept, ‘We’re all pilgrims in the same boat, some people just have nicer watches.’ And of course, the first most important rule: no assholes!”

Nice watch for nice people: Wool V38 tailor-made for 49 crowns

Armed with the background on the club and the watch, I set about the pleasant task of capturing the two limited edition pieces in photos.

Due to its larger size, the GG3 made a more substantial first impression on me. Like on its V38 sibling, the deeply sandblasted smoky gray dial with its exposed Breguet numerals draws attention, and those orange hands really pop in any lighting condition. I also really liked the texture and matching colors of the bracelet; I can imagine installing other straps, but personally I’d probably still come back to this one pretty soon considering how consistent it is with the rest of the design.

Immediate printing: 49 GG3 crowns of Torsti Laine

The movement side of the GG3 is also quite spectacular. Laine offers three options for finishing the movement on the GG3: a classic frosted finish (Classic), an engraved calligraphy pattern (Calligraphy) and the engraved style of the 49 Crowns piece as seen in the photo below called Signature .

Rear view of the Laine GG3 showing the Unitas-based LA18.1 caliber

The Unitas-based LA18.1 has real presence and completely fills the case. And I really liked the designer’s choice of 49 crown polished exhaust bridges rather than the brushed ones that appear on the stock GG3. As for the deeply etched pattern on the main deck, it brightens up the look, but out of personal taste, given the choice, I would probably have opted for the frosted finish. But after all, these differences in preference are one of the reasons why our hobby is so much fun!

I’ll get to a side-by-side comparison of the two watches shortly, but even in isolation the smaller V38 version of these watches succeeds on its own merits. The dial remains proportional; although, due to the use of a smaller movement, the seconds sub-dial is somewhat closer to the center of the dial than on the GG3, it is not jarring and the outer chapter ring slightly wider with larger stitches than on the GG3 keeps the whole looking balanced.

Smaller but still balanced: dial side view, Laine V38 for 49 crowns

The Vaucher Caliber 5401 movement used for the V38 has the clean look and attractive finish we’ve come to expect from Vaucher, and Laine adds some flair with the etched tungsten micro-rotor bearing the 49 Crowns logo and accompanying scrollwork. .

Personalized movement Vaucher Caliber 5401, Laine V38 for 49 crowns

Side by side with 49 Crowns Laine watches

Seen from the front, the family resemblance of the two watches is obvious; this view helps to show how much smaller the V38 appears in person than the GG3 as well as the latter’s more open look with its generous element spacing.

Side by side: GG3 wool (left) and V38 for the 49 Crowns collector group

The rear view is considerably more differentiated, with clear distinctions in movement architecture and finishing as well as an obvious difference in movement diameters and corresponding bezel widths. And of course, the 5401 is an automatic movement while the LA18.1 is hand-wound.

Side views of Laine V38 movement (left) and GG3

One of the weaknesses of using blanks from different vendors for different SKUs within the same brand is that it is difficult to establish a characteristic look or personality when the base architectures vary so widely. I would be hard pressed to tell you what the “Laine movement look” is based on seeing these two watches side by side; perhaps in the future, Laine would do well to think about how to establish a unique characteristic style, even under the constraint of using different suppliers for his basic movements.

Laine watches for 49 crowns on the wrist

It was great fun photographing these two watches in the light tent, but they looked just as good on the wrist in natural light. I suspected the 38mm V38 might feel a bit small on the arm, but after a few seconds of wearing it felt quite natural on my fairly wide wrist.

Individual wrist shots, Laine GG3 (left) and V38 for 49 crowns

When I (very carefully) attached both watches at the same time, I had a hard time choosing one over the other. I envy the 20 owners of these pieces and hope they find them as satisfying to own as I did to handle and photograph.

Group shot: GG3 wool (left) and V38 for 49 crowns on the wrist

I welcome your opinions on these two coins and group commissions in general, including your own experiences, in the comments below. In the meantime, good luck!

For more information about Torsti Laine, please visit

Quick facts GG3 wool for 49 crowns
Case: stainless steel 40.5 x 11.3mm; domed front glass and transparent back with sapphire crystals; anti-reflective treatment on both sides of the front glass and inside the rear glass
Dial and Hands: Dark gray “Fog” fumé dial engraved with raised Breguet numerals and Golden Gate theme in the sub-dial; steel needles hand painted in international orange
Movement: hand-wound LA18.1 movement (Unitas base); frequency 18,000vph/2.5Hz; Signature engraving engraved on the plate and polished exhaust bridges
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds
Price: CHF 9,300, with adjustments for additional customizations requested by individuals
Limitation: subscription standby for club members; 20 subscriptions in total on the V38 and GG3 references
Year of manufacture: 2022

Quick Facts Yarn V38 for 39 crowns
Case: 38 x 9mm stainless steel case; domed front glass and transparent back with sapphire crystals; anti-reflective treatment on both sides of the crystals
Dial and Hands: Dark gray “Fog” fumé dial engraved with raised Breguet numerals and Golden Gate theme in the sub-dial; steel needles hand painted in international orange
Movement: Automatic Vaucher Caliber 5401; frequency 21,600vph/3Hz; 48-hour power reserve; Engraved signature and 49 Crowns logo engraving on the tungsten micro-rotor
Functions: hours, minutes and subsidiary seconds
Price: CHF 10,900, with adjustments for additional customizations requested by individuals
Limitation: subscription standby for club members; 20 subscriptions in total on the V38 and GG3 references
Year of manufacture: 2022

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