Perhaps you have to be of a certain age to really appreciate the richly ironic significance of this limited edition watch from British watchmaker Mr. Jones. It harks back to the psychedelic era of the 60s, when flower power ruled and American students, when they weren’t busy listening to Bob Dylan’s protest songs on scratchy vinyl, were busy out on the streets actually doing some protesting of their own – usually against being sent to fight in Vietnam.
The anti-Vietnam sentiment was neatly summarized in Country Joe McDonald and the Fish’s line “ain’t got time to wonder why, whoopee, we’re all gonna die.” from their song ‘I feel like I’m fixing to die rag’ one of the highlights of the famous Woodstock festival of 1969. Incidentally, ‘Country Joe’ was a euphemism for Joseph Stalin while ‘the fish’ was taken from a quote by Mao Zedong; ‘the true revolutionary moves through the peasantry as the fish does through water.” Heady stuff.
Of many darkly humored watches Mr. Jones likes to release Flower Power is one of the more visually subtle. One of his earliest efforts was a watch known as ‘The Accurate’, whose minute and hour hands bore the phrase ‘Remember you will die’ as it ticked away the hours.
When first you look at the Flower Power watch, it appears as if the hour markers are nothing but the petals of pretty flowers, they appear and disappear, however the flowers perform a choreographed dance and when they switch to their alternative view, upon closer inspection they reveal Kalishnikov assault rifles, the highly effective Russian made rifles often wielded against the American troops to devastating effect by the Vietcong throughout the Vietnam War.
The watch is inspired by the philosophy and imagery of the 1960s peace movement, as well as being a cheeky subversion of the fashion for macho military watches.
Flower Power embraces the ambition that as time passes the gun will be transformed from a tool of war to one of peace. The brand’s owner, Crispin Jones, likens it to the Biblical notion of turning swords into ploughshares, the alternating cycle of war to peace, the balancing of harmony with chaos through history.
The ‘swords into ploughshares’ concept became a visual reality in the October of 1967. During an anti-Vietnam protest at the Pentagon parking lot, students started placing flowers in the barrels of National Guard rifles. The picture shown here, taken by photo journalist Bernie Boston and called simply ‘Flower Power’, became a defining photograph from the era, although when he presented the photograph to his newspaper editor he discarded it, failing to understand its significance. It was only through entering the picture into photography competitions that the picture gained recognition. The bushy haired blonde lad in the picture was later to perish in the AIDS epidemic that ravaged the gay community in 1980s America – fulfilling the grim prophecy of Mr. Jones’ other concept watch ‘Remember you will die.’
Brand founder Crispin Jones firmly believes that a watch should do more than merely tell the time. He believes it should start a conversation or raise a smile. In addition to high-end Swiss made watches, it’s always a good idea to have an affordable, amusingly conceptual conversation starter like a Mr. Jones watch in your collection.
Flower Power is released in a limited edition of 100 pieces, with each watch individually numbered on the case back. The watch comes in a MJW presentation box, with specially commissioned design by artist and illustrator Camilla Meijer. Price £145.00. At the time of writing there are some 35 pieces left.