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Paolo Mathai (Formerly Phoenix) Polaris

Approximately a year ago I embarked on a very special watch project with Frank Heydrich. In the past I have renovated houses and produced large hyper realistic paintings. However this creative journey was entirely different to anything I have done before and at times a bit nerve racking. Maybe nerve racking is the wrong term but I was certainly anxious about getting a prototype ready in time for Baselworld. Finally on the day I was leaving for Switzerland the timepiece arrived.


Frank Heydrich had informed me that even though he had spent over 200 hours developing the watch he hadn’t tested it properly. Plain and simply he just ran out of time. He suggested that I only wear the watch when absolutely necessary to ensure it kept intact. At the end of the day the watch survived the fair and received a lot of positive comments from watchmakers I greatly admire. I think the lengths that Frank and myself went to, to deliver a fully functioning timepiece, impressed these artisans. Not only did Frank fabricate several bespoke components we also had to source a 42mm sapphire crystal lens and get the titanium case 3D printed. All of this was time consuming and very expensive.


On my long journey back to Australia I decided to wear the Polaris properly for the first time. As fate would have it the crown had locked so I couldn’t adjust the timepiece. As I was inspecting the watch a gentleman sat next to me enquired where I had bought it. I informed him that this was a timepiece that I had designed in collaboration with a renowned jet engineer (and watchmaker) called Frank Heydrich. Genuinely he said he was exceptionally impressed with the design because he thought it was completely unique. Interestingly the man turned out to be an eminent Asian publisher (Chairman of QP Magazine Thailand) and horology expert called Dr. Chettha Songthaveepol.


Once I arrived home in Adelaide and recovered from the epic journey I shipped the Polaris back to Frank Heydrich in Phoenix, Arizona. Unfortunately the watch was held up by US customs for nearly two months because of the South Australian Snapper strap. This was an absolute nuisance and it delayed Frank from making the necessary refinements. Ultimately that meant the article I had written for the printed edition of Esquire Magazine Singapore/Malaysia (called the ‘Malaysian Connection’) could only use old images of the watch. Nevertheless six months after Baselworld the watch has finally arrived home again.


When I published the first article about the Polaris in March the watch was effectively unfinished. Both Frank Heydrich and myself are perfectionists so the outcome was a tiny bit frustrating. Over the last few months Frank has fastidiously skeletonized the three dimensional aluminum hour/minute hands and re-sculpted the oversized crown. I feel these refinements give the watch a whole new dynamic. Even though the Polaris is a massive watch (53mm x 20mm) it does feel very lightweight on the wrist. Maybe it won’t appeal to everyone’s tastes but it will definitely make a bold design statement.


Moving forwards I am now in serious discussions with a prestigious Swiss watch manufacturer. They are supplying me with detailed estimates so I can assess whether it is viable to bring this watch to market. I am also considering developing another completely different prototype version of the Polaris to wear at Baselworld 2016. Watch this space for more news about this exciting project!

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