Wearing a Famous Chess Match on Your Wrist


Oyvind Von Doren Asbjornsen wasn’t content with slapping a rook or a bishop on a watch and calling it a chess-themed timepiece. A watchmaker who also is an avid player, he wanted a sophisticated design, yet one that resonated with aficionados of the game.

So in 2019, his brand, Von Doren, based in Oslo, released a collection of two quartz watches in brushed steel, called the Reti.

The Reti collection was named for Richard Reti, an Austro-Hungarian chess master who in 1910 won a well-known match in just 11 moves. (An average game usually involves about 40 moves.) And rather than using conventional hour markers on the dials, Mr. Asbjornsen used the chess notations for the 11 moves.

What felt like a risky design decision at the time, he said, paid off. The 225-piece limited edition sold out quickly — so this fall, he intends to release a 42-millimeter mechanical chronometer version of the Reti, with a movement made by the Swiss manufacturer ETA. (A chronometer is a term for a highly accurate timepiece, initially used in marine navigation.)

The price has not been finalized, but Mr. Asbjornsen said it was most likely to be about 1,500 euros ($1,614). Von Doren watches are sold in the brand’s store in Oslo and through its website.

Like the earlier models, the new Reti’s dial is to have the notations from the 1910 game and the case back is to be engraved with a numbered list of the moves, too. “So that,” he said, “you can actually take off the watch, sit down and replay that beautiful game.”

He said that the watch was also to include “one other fun design element I would like to keep as a secret for now.”

Mr. Asbjornsen, who also is a filmmaker and television producer, initially expressed his love of chess as the director of the 2005 documentary “The Prince of Chess” and the co-producer of the 2016 documentary “Magnus.” Both focused on Magnus Carlsen, the Norwegian grandmaster now ranked the world’s top player by the International Chess Federation and widely considered among the best players of all time.

The Reti originally was created as the official watch of Norway Chess, an annual tournament where Von Doren has been the official timekeeper since 2017. (The brand also released a third watch at the time, identical to one of the two Retis but without the chess notations, called Von Doren Norway Chess.)

“From numerous interactions with Oyvind, I believe he’s very measured in his decision-making,” Steve Huyton, the author of the book “Independent Watchmakers,” wrote in an email. “Therefore, I believe there was minimal risk if any in releasing this limited edition.”

He added that the watch “subtly integrates chess symbols,” on its dial “whilst maintaining a traditional aesthetic.

“Ultimately this delicate balance is integral to the success of the watch.”



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