Into vintage cars? You’ll like Jonathan Ward (that is, if you didn’t drool over his work already).
At ICON 4×4, the boutique automaker Ward runs with his wife, they reinvent classic cars with modern tech. And by classic cars, we’re talking the real workhorses of the 60s and 70s—MPVs like the Land Cruiser or the Bronco or even the CJ. Before starting ICON, he ran TLC, which restored and modified old Land Cruisers. He even built the prototype that would eventually become the Toyota FJ Cruiser. In short, Jonathan Ward is a badass.
His work is clearly a labor of love. Jonathan’s always been a vintage nut, a sucker for the story behind an old car or an old watch. As a self-described “watch addict,” he clearly has an appreciation for these kin machines. We could tell as much from our visit to his shop and our look into his impressive watch collection.
So in a collection full of gems, what sort of watches stand out? For Jonathan, it’s a Heuer from World War II, an Urwerk 101 jump hour watch, and an anonymous monopusher once owned by Jacques Cousteau. And while the watches themselves are incredibly interesting, what Jonathan focused on during our chat was the story of how he came by the watches and the history and mystery behind them.
The Heuer is a more recent addition to the collection, bought from a German antique dealer at a car show. And while the watch already had utilitarian appeal, it’s the inscription on the back that makes it really something. The story goes that the original owner was on his first mission in Africa during WWII. To commemorate the time, he scratched his name and the date on the watch’s caseback. What’s more, the seller also provided Jonathan some photos of the original owner during his tour of duty that provides fascinating context to the piece. Jonathan admits that while the watch probably isn’t worth all that much, it’s the story that makes it a keeper.
So here’s the mystery: nobody can seem to figure out who made this particular watch. It’s a monopusher chronograph that Jacques Cousteau once owned, with a nautical snail trail for mapping. Jonathan got it at a swap meet some twenty years ago, and it’s a pretty interesting watch with a lot of good patina. But of all the watch geeks out there who’ve examined the inside and given it a look-over, not a single one can definitively name the manufacturer. It seems that for now, this watch will remain a cool mystery.
So why watches?
“To me, it’s story, it’s antiques, it’s font, it’s texture, and mechanical processes” that make Jonathan so obsessed. “There’s something romantic about [an old watch], where it makes you wonder about where has it been and what has it seen.”
Interested in the full story on Jonathan Ward’s business and his watches? Watch the video on Youtube here, or check it out above.