The American graphic artist Saul Bass once claimed that: “Design is thinking made visual.” In the case of the Fiat 500 ‘Nuova’, and the Patek Phillipe Aquanaut, it would have been one of those once-in-a-lifetime thoughts; the ones that arrive in a miracle second, somewhere between the refreshing and the painfully obvious.
These days, you probably can’t imagine a world without either. But at their unveiling, both watch and car heralded a new icon, sparking a devotion from people around the world that persists today; even though they were originally pitched as a radical upgrade on another classic. Take the ‘Topolino’ Fiat 500. As interesting as the war-time mini-mouse is, it could appear unremarkable now, overshadowed by its beloved younger sibling the Nuova (meaning, ‘new’). The Patek Phillipe Nautilus is itself a legendary watch, but the Aquanaut created a sensation on its release, thanks to a sportier reimagining of the oval design and the tropical rubber strap. Neither are typically associated with one-another, thanks to the vast gap in cost. But we want to explore how, for the modern collector, it’s not the money that actually matters. It’s something much deeper.
For our latest shoot, we paired both pieces of design at the new Clubhouse at Harry’s Car Barn in picturesque Warwickshire. Why Henry’s Car Barn? For over 35 years, the team have been entrusted with storing some of the most desired motors in the world. You name it, it’s likely been here. As modern collectors, we often get the desire to talk and share our passions, and so the new Clubhouse was conceived as a home-from-home; and will begin hosting a series of exclusive launch moments and events. Using their similar aesthetic, the principles of simplicity, and a convergence of modern and classic styling, the Clubhouse was the perfect place to show off the Fiat 500 ‘Nuova’ and the Aquanaut together. The original pairing was conceived thanks to a subtle closeness in the design language. The question, as we hope you might be pondering while flicking through these images, could be: is there an objective beauty behind the things we love? Are the shiny toys we gather under our wings (those that outlast trends) so attractive because there’s something plainly desirable about them, encoded in the design?
Or perhaps they embody our shared values. Being a modern collector means admiring something for what it stands for, too. The sight of a parked blue 1968 Fiat 500 ‘Nuova’ is always a pleasant one, whether it’s on a quaint side-street in Rome or in a stranger’s garage. But the design is only the start. The car evokes that golden age of Italian engineering: far from the modern driving experience, and more of a bygone cult treat. There’s a feeling, as you pull out into the road, that you’re immersed in a very specific kind of Italian spirit. You’ll know it immediately: the Martini sipping, soft-shouldered, Sophia Loren sort that many of us attempt to replicate on holiday in Sorrento. La Dolce Vita in Warwickshire; the voice of Peppino Gagliardi crooning in your ears as the make-do sun-roof wobbles on each bend.
This is a far cry from the Aquanaut. The watch imposes a sense of refined occasion on whatever you do: it’s tidy, comfortable on the wrist, and clever; more likely to sparkle than to sing. But as with the Fiat, there is more to the watch than the sum-of-its-meticulously-crafted-parts — an escapist (maybe even spiritual?) connection that drives our appetites as collectors. The project at the Clubhouse aims to address these shared sentiments: It’s not the price-tag that matters, but the irrational joy of owning, or being near, something that endures and commands our appreciation. And it’s even better when there are two of these enduring icons sitting under the same roof.
With thanks to Henry’s Car Barn.
Report by Chris Cotonou for hoodpin.co
Photographer: Jake Boreham