Inside every car guy there’s a watch guy trying to escape, and vice versa. We’re not sure, but it looks like ICON 4×4’s Jonathan Ward has found the perfect balance of these two mechanical passions. So if mechanical powertrains of the wrist- or road-based variety are your bag, he’s definitely worth a follow.
Tell us about yourself.
My wife and I founded my company because I was frustrated with status quo in the custom automotive world. In one camp you had traditionalists who embraced the ‘stock’ (read: archaic) mechanical systems and adhered to restoring to the original configuration, imperfections and all. In the other, you had modifiers who followed established formulas (pro-touring, street rod) that often erase the grace and beauty in the details of a classic car.
So with ICON, I set out to revisit vintage transportation design in a modern context. The goal was to integrate and embrace all of the conveniences and corruptions of modern automobiles with all of the grace and design beauty of the classics. Sounds simple, but it involves many design and engineering challenges – which I love. Otherwise I get bored easily!
What’s your daily watch and why?
I’m totally out of control – I’ve got over 100 watches. I change every day – the only possible way to justify my collection is to wear them all! They’re mostly vintage (1890–1970), plus a few modern watches. But I’m far from a watch snob, and don’t even know the model numbers on most. I buy watches with quality movements and distinct designs, no matter the manufacturer. There are no batteries in anything I own. If there’s one criteria I look for, they gotta have soul!
Most of what I know I want is out of my budget. However, an early Universal Genève Moonphase chronograph, a Wakmann, or a perhaps a Sarpaneva would be nice. I’m also into military watches right now, as long as they are 37–44mm.
How do you unwind?
Lately I’ve been taking night classes in leather craft – learning from an old master, then corrupting the traditional processes with CAD and laser cutting. I’ve been making my own watch straps for a few months, plus the occasional wallet, which is good fun! They’re far from perfect, but each is better than the one before.
Although I have a large collection, I’ve run out of watches that I can do bands for. I’m now having my watch geek friends send me their watches for custom bands so I can continue to practice. I’m also practicing CAD 3D modeling, as I recently adopted a new program, Fusion 360 from Autodesk. Beyond that, I’m an avid traveller, and on the board of a great children’s charity called GO Campaign, which takes up a lot of my time.
What’s your daily ride (car/motorbike/dragon)?
I am a bit of a schizophrenic when it comes to my cars. I have such a wide appreciation for the craftsmanship and design perspective. So I roll a ’93 Bentley Continental Mulliner coupe, a 993 Turbo, a ’71 BMW 2002 and a ’51 DeSoto wagon. Plus I test drive each and every ICON that rolls out of my shop.
What are you working on at the moment?
We have over 50 active automotive projects at the shop. Most are production models that no longer require my attention. However, the Derelict and Reformer jobs are one-off projects that I’m deeply involved in, responsible for all design and content directives. The two that are eating up most of my time are ‘The Hellion’, a 1970 Superbird with a Hellcat integrated within, and a Tesla-eating ICON Derelict 1949 Mercury coupe with 800+ torque EV.
Do you have any special projects in the works?
Yes – quite a few in fact. Automotive-wise, we’re working on something very exciting that we’ll go public with in about a year. It’s an iconic 1970s coupe with the mechanical system (same brand and DNA) and conveniences of a brand new car.
I’m designing my own watch, which we hope to announce later this year. It will follow my ICON brand DNA of fusing modern touches into classic design. The first watch will be based on the speedometer and other details found on a special 1930s Duesenberg.
I also have a furniture project in the works. In collaboration with designer Davide Berruto, we’re designing and developing a chair based on one of my favorite design eras, Streamline Moderne.
How did you find yourself in custom car building? What was your background?
I have no right to call myself an industrial designer. I have no formal training, no degree. I simply followed my passion and my unique perspective (as we all should!). My wife and I found ourselves no longer passionate about our previous careers. While still young and without children, we decided to make the change and turn one of my hobbies into a business. I’m so glad we did!