By TONY EVANS
For the Express
At the turn of the 20th century people still carried their watches in their pockets. But even by then the watch had become more than just a timepiece.
Custom engraving made the watch a form of personal expression. The Montana Watch Company, out of Livingston, Mont., is reviving the great tradition of American watch manufacture and design, recreating the heyday of the first wristwatches with vintage styles and superior craftsmanship. Many of the 300 watches The Montana Watch Company produces each year are customized with expert engraving, gem-setting and guaranteed for the life of the watch. And, yes, they are water-resistant.
Jeffrey Nashan founded the Montana Watch Company in 1998, after working in the field of vintage restoration and repair in Montana, rebuilding antique clocks and, eventually, watches before founding Montana Watch Company.
"I was already working with clocks and watches," he said. "I knew a guy with a machine shop, and that's how it all started." Nashan now employs five master engravers as well as four shop workers in his Livingston studio, creating one-of-kind timepieces that sell for between $2,600 and $30,000.
"We are the only watch company in the United State which actually machines the watch casings and assembles them by hand," said Nashan.
But they are the finishing touches on his watches that make them really stand out. "Engraving was on it's way to being a lost art a short while ago, except for the work on custom firearms" said Nashan. "It was once used on everything from silverware and watches right down to the hobo nickel. Nowadays it is coming back."
Joining Nashan at the third annual Boots and Buckles Show will be Montana Watch Company engravers Ernie Lytle and Hugh Weaver. Lytle worked as a cutting horse trainer from Wyoming to California, fashioning engraved spurs before working with a master engraver at Winchester Arms. He is an expert in the Western single-point method.
Hugh Weaver was named master engraver of the year in 2000. He has lived the life of a cowboy and hunting guide, learning the art of metal smithing along the way. He is also a master of the Western single-point and bright cut engraving methods. Nashan's Montana Watches wouldn't be what they are without the artistry of men such as these.
"At the Boots and Buckles Show people will be able to see a good example of what an engraver does," said Nashan. "I think they will gain a real appreciation for how it is done."
Boots & Buckles
The third annual Boots and Buckles showcase, presented by Silver Creek Outfitters, will take place Friday and Saturday.
Featured Artists will include: Clint Orms' Engravers and Silversmiths (custom belt buckles), Montana Watch Company (one-of-a-kind timepieces), Lucchese Boot Company (cowboy boots since 1880), Don Lucas Fine Silver Jewelry (Southwest jewelry designs), Lone Pine Leathers (leather clothing), Rand's Custom Hats (cowboy hatter extraordinaire).
All events at Silver Creek Outfitters, Main Street, Ketchum, are free and open to the public:
Friday, Aug. 11 5-8 p.m.: Opening reception and cocktail party with cowboy food and drink, live music and artist's demonstrations.
Saturday, Aug. 12 10 a.m.-5 p.m.: Trunk Show, personal fittings and artist's demonstrations