The Bastardo abides: the transgressive tastes of Phil Toledano, and the Toledano & Chan B/1

The Bastardo abides: the transgressive tastes of Phil Toledano, and the Toledano & Chan B/1

D.C. Hannay

If you’re unfamiliar with artist Phil Toledano’s work, he can be tough to pin down, which is a good thing. His multidisciplinary approach is largely based in photography, but where it goes from there is highly unorthodox, utilising video, sculpture, and now, even A.I. in his creative process. The result is wry, subversive, and oddly enough, touching. His extracurricular interests, chiefly vintage automobiles and watches, also display a similarly left-field bent, which you can see for yourself on his Instagram. In conversation with Phil, you can always expect the unexpected.

phil toledano portrait

D.C.H.: Alright Phil, let’s get stuck in. Can you elevator pitch what it is you do for those people who aren’t familiar with your specific brand of villainy? I’d call you a hyphenate, but reducing your output to mere punctuation would be selling it short.

P.T.: First and foremost, I’m an artist, but then it gets a bit complicated. I started a car-oriented clothing brand during the pandemic called Viva Bastardo. I also happen to be a weapons-grade nerd about both watches and cars. Alfred, who’s my partner in crime on this watch madness, started out as a car designer before becoming a watch designer.

rolex chronograph pre daytona

D.C.H.: So, why watches? What planted the demon seed?

P.T.: I blame Ben Clymer. I sold him a vintage car in 2015, we became friends, and before you know it, my bank account was empty and my wrist was crowded.

rolex oyster chronograph pre daytona

D.C.H.: I’m on record as an enjoyer of, shall we say, divisive watch design, from the ‘80s-tastic TAG Heuer S/el, to the rather bonkers original Dior Chiffre Rouge line designed by Hedi Slimane, and even the discontinued ceramic Chanel J12 Marine dive watch. Collecting the same thing as everyone else seems boring. So what does a watch need to do to catch your eye?

P.T.: Hmm…honestly, as an enthusiastically shallow bastard, it’s really entirely about aesthetics: something beautifully balanced, but more importantly, a watch with an audacious, original design. Audacious doesn’t have to mean crazy, it just has to be a thought I’ve not come across before.

gerald genta perpetual calendar minute repeater

D.C.H.: Your collection shows a particular affinity for some of the randier references of the Disco Era: the Piaget Polo, the Patek Ellipse, Rolex’s Midas, Geráld Genta and such. If I had to pigeonhole the style, I might say “late-’70s coke dealer, but with an architect’s eye”. And now it seems like the world is catching up, when a few years back, none of these watches could get arrested. Do you feel like, intentionally or not, you’ve been ahead of the curve?

P.T.: Not to toot my own horn, (have you noticed when people say that, they always toot their own horn?) but yes.

de tomaso guara bmw m1 phil toledano interview

D.C.H.: As they say, I like the cut of your jib. I believe we first bonded over questionable car design, things like the horrendously awesome Aston Martin Lagonda sedan, or any number of similarly ill-conceived monstrosities. In keeping with the theme of “no predictable choices”, your collection has seen some real outliers, from the Lancia 037 rally car, your recently auctioned De Tomaso Guarà, and the brutally angular BMW M1. What attracts you to a particular car’s design? The more outrage the better?

P.T.: It’s really never about outrage, but more about design, history, and equally important, I love discovering things that most people aren’t paying attention to. It’s so exciting to find something and have people say “what the fuck is that?”

D.C.H.: I have to ask: is there an actual grocery getter in the stable? Or do you just cross your fingers and hope you don’t break down?

P.T.: Every vintage car is basically a finger-crossing experience, and sometimes, a trouser-changing experience, but you just have to accept it.

toledano chan b1 box

D.C.H.: So, why co-design a watch? Why this watch, specifically? Is it because the watch you wanted didn’t yet exist? The inspiration for the shapes used in the design was surprising to me, and the lapis stone dial is a great ‘70s callback. And of course, you put it in a concrete box that echoes the case shape. Tell me about the B/1, your new collaboration with designer Alfred Chan.

P.T.: Alfred and I started chatting on Instagram about three years ago, and now, here we are. We didn’t really set out to design a watch at all, we were just interested in the same things: brutalist architecture and integrated bracelet watches. When we looked at the watch space, we felt like either everything was a reissue, or a totally crazy super-complicated indie watch that could play the Godfather theme and tell you the time on Mars. But there was nothing being made that was clean and purely sculptural.

alfred chan portrait

Alfred would send me sketches, and because I can’t draw at all, I bought some clay and would make little sculptures of the watch head, and take photos and send them to Alfred to interpret. Ultimately, we settled on the idea of using the window of the Marcel Breuer-designed Breuer Building (formerly the Whitney Museum, now the headquarters for auction house Sotheby’s) as inspiration for the head of the watch, and carried that thought through the entire design.

toledano chan b1 case profile

D.C.H.: I love how the B/1 takes the graceful lines of the Midas and upends it in the most punk-rock way possible, with its sharply cut-off angles extending from the right side of the case all the way down the bracelet links. That aesthetic even makes an appearance on the hour hand, a tanto blade that says “yeah, I’m fancy, but I’ll cut you if I feel like it”. The left side is pure elegance, but the whole package has the spiritual quality of a mullet hairstyle: business on the left, party on the right.

P.T.: Oddly when you put it next to a Midas, it has almost nothing in common with it, other than the crown being on the left. Also, I’ve never heard anyone describe the watch like that! I often think that tension in design makes things much more interesting.

toledano chan b1 case angles

D.C.H.: A lot of watch nerds put specs ahead of design, but if I can’t have it both ways in a particular watch, I’m choosing design every single time. I mean, I love the look of early Tudor Subs, and they have bog-standard ETA movements under the hood. I get the sense that you feel the same way about design above all else, especially given your background. So, function follows form?

P.T.: Absolutely! This watch is a sculpture story, a materials story: it’s not about the movement at all. FYI, it’s a Swiss Sellita.

toledano chan b1 front

D.C.H.: Is this a one-and-done, or will we see more down the road? Maybe a white gold version, or something altogether different?

P.T.: Oh no! We have soooo many ideas for what’s coming next. As I said, this watch is a form/materials story, so we’ve already got ideas for at least the next three versions. Just wait until you see the piece unique we made for the Sotheby’s auction in New York in June…

The Toledano & Chan B/1 is available starting May 16th, priced at US$4,000, limited to 175 pieces.

Brand Toledano & Chan
Model B/1
Case Dimensions 33.5mm (D) x 10.4mm (T)
Case Material 904L stainless steel
Water Resistance 50 metres
Crystal(s) Sapphire
Dial Lapis lazuli
Bracelet Integrated steel bracelet, folding clasp
Movement Sellita SW100, automatic
Power Reserve 42 hours
Functions Hours, minutes
Availability Limited to 175 pieces, available from 16/05
Price US$4,000