The great people of the Swedish watch magazine Eqotime invited me for an interview to talk about the Enicar book and my quest to document the brand history. I talked to writer Erik Denke-Winberg (@denke on Instagram) about a number of topics and the final article can be found here.
For you non-Swedish speaking Enicar fans, you can read the original interview in English below. Thanks again Eqotime for having me!
Tell us about your interest in wristwatches. How did you get into Enicar watches?
To be honest, I was never a watch fan. I did wear some Swatches, Casio’s and Diesels in the past, but nothing fancy. In 2013, I was on the hunt for a nice looking vintage watch to go with a suit, for a business presentation. I spend a few hours on eBay and stumbled upon Enicar. I immediately loved the brand name, logo and awesome dial and case designs. That’s when my interested in the brand was sparked. The next few years, I fanatically collected the best Sherpa models and started to fill an archive with information, brochures, catalogs and basically everything I could find. I was working in advertising at the time and I had always been interested in brand stories, marketing strategies and high quality products. Enicar just ticked all these boxes.
Do you prefer vintage or new watches, and why?
Vintage all the way. I love authenticity and originality. A vintage watch has stories to tell. I like to imagine what kinda action it has seen. For me, the Enicar Sherpa models from the mid 50s – mid 70s are genius designs, because if you would put these in the window of a jewelry shop, they would still look fresh today. Enicar has created timeless designs. Besides, vintage is also sustainable. Why buy a new watch when you can have a vintage watch with still a 100 years of life left in it?
What’s in the Enicar brand that inspired you to write a book?
As said earlier, I love the brand name (Enicar = Racine spelled backwards), the Saturn logo, the amazing designs and the braveness of the brand. Enicar tried harder, being a bit of an underdog compared to the known A-brands in the business. Because of the fact they exported approximately 300.000 watches a year to Asia (China being their main market), I have the feeling their heritage was not taking very seriously by the watch community for a long time. Their brand history was also very poorly documented, since archives were destroyed back in 1987 when the brand went out of business. So that is why I started the book project. I was aware that the best sources were probably the people who actually worked in the Enicar factory back in Lengnau, Switzerland. I went there in 2018 and 2019 to interview several of the former-employees (most of them almost 80 years old and over; I’m convinced if I would have taken on the project 5 years later, it perhaps would have been too late) and even managed to trace Mister Ariste Racine III, grandson of the Enicar founder. Mister Ariste Racine worked in the management for 12 years (his father being the CEO), so he had a lot of insights. I think the timing for creating this book was perfect. I had just quit my advertising agency and started as a freelance writer/interviewer and the book was the perfect ‘kick-off project’ for me. The challenge of doing a research project, with interviews, brand history, in English and German was something that I was ready to take on. My book is self published, to ensure my creative choices wouldn’t be sabotaged by a commercial party.
How long did it take to produce the book? Any highlights from the production?
I officially started the project in September 2018. But the plan to take on the book must have been born around 2015. My Instagram account and website helped me to decide to go ahead with the book. I felt there was a lot of interest in the brand and a vast potential among vintage watch enthousiasts.
The production has been a real team effort. I worked with two incredible photographers to create the ‘re-makes’ of five very interesting models and the portraits of the people I interviewed. My graphic designer (who has also a degree in engineering!) did a fantastic job, because the lay-out and cover design make the book feel like it was actually made in the 60s. My editor helped me to find the balance between brand history, storytelling and the personal experiences I wanted to share. I think the highlight must have been getting the funds together to make the project happening. I used Kickstarter to find enough backers and it was a nerve-racking experience. Getting the project across the finish line was a relief and a boost!
Tell us a little about your own Enicar collection?
A fellow-collector once said: “You simply cannot own enough Enicars”. He is so right! Collecting Enicars is fun, because there is an Enicar for every budget. I have around 40 – 50 Enicars in the current collection, but I have probably owned over 250. I swapped, bought and sold for at least 6 years now and still manage to find Enicar models I never seen before. My best 15 Enicars (mostly Sherpa divers, GMT watches and chrono) will stay in my collection, probably as a form of retirement / heritage for my kids.
Which Enicar is your favourite?
I love my Sherpa World Time from 1967, aka Kaleidoscope, because it is a prototype. It was created to be presented at the Basel Watch Fair. It’s an incredibly interesting watch because of the complications (7 dials!). Between 5 and 10 of these prototypes were made. It is the only Enicar that is part of the collection in the Musée internationale d’horology in La-Chaux-de-Fonds. Another personal favorite is the Sherpa Super-Jet. It was I introduced around 1964 and boosts a 40mm EPSA supercompressor case. The GMT hand, rotating inner bezel, double crowns and domed crystal are simply stunning. Other Enicars to look out for: Sherpa Graph (duh!), Sherpa Star Diver, Sherpa Electric.
What’s your best advice to anyone who’s about to buy their first Enicar?
Buy my book, haha. But seriously, collecting Enicar can be a mine field. I have made my share of mistakes too. There is a lot of information out there, like the Enicar Forums, www.enicar101.com, www.vintageenicar.com, the immense discussion on “The joy of collecting Enicar watches” (watchuseek.com), Instagram and of course www.enicar.org.
Do you have the same interest in any other brand and do you have any plans to write a book about it?
I do like the late 60s and 70s chronographs and divers from Fortis. LIP is also a brand that created some unique timepieces in the past. I also love the early LED (drivers) watches by Bulova and Girard Perregaux. But I don’t feel the same passion for these brands to justify another book adventure.