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Rowing Blazers’ Jack Carlson Talks Design Inspiration, Collaborations and More

Jack Carlson Rowing Blazers

What was the last watch you bought?

The Rowing Blazers TAG Heuer Carrera, of course! It’s a watch that I’ve worked on for about a year with George Bamford and my good friend Eric Wind. I wanted to do a Carrera inspired by these vintage Heuer Yacht-Timers I collect.

They have a white dial with big blocks of colour (red, green, blue, yellow), and each block is rendered in a kind of Pop Art-looking hatching, reminiscent of the Ben-Day dots in old comic book art. I’m obsessed with it, and I think the Carrera came out beautifully. It’s the most expensive watch collab Rowing Blazers have ever done, quite a bit pricier than our Tudor or Zodiac collaborations — and I’m thankful it’s been so well received.

Rowing Blazers x Bamford TAG Heuer Carrera

Do you collect anything outside of watches?

Haha – yes. Lots of things. I’m an archaeologist, so I’m wired to be interested in objects. I collect matchbooks, ties, pins, hats, vintage t-shirts, playing cards — things like that. I like when you can sort of tell your life story through objects: the matchbooks being souvenirs of all the restaurants and hotels and bars you’ve visited; the ties being vestiges of all of the clubs and teams and schools you’re a member. I don’t wear ties very often to be honest, but every time I join a new club (or have the opportunity to swap with someone who’s a member of a different club), I get a new tie.

You have to get the tie. With the ties, I’m very inspired by a place called The Bear Inn. It’s the oldest pub in Oxford, and the walls and ceiling are covered in snippets of old club and college ties. If you go in wearing a club tie they don’t already have, you can let them cut a piece off with a pair of scissors in exchange for a half pint. They have a couple of mine on the walls.

What, other than a watch, is at the top of your wish list?

There’s an oil painting of a Concorde on 1stDibs I’ve been contemplating. I like weird, old things. I’d also like a Lunaz electrified old Jaguar, Rolls, or Range Rover, but that’s not going to be an imminent purchase.

A recent find/discovery?

I rediscovered this absolutely gigantic old map of the Roman Empire that I’ve had for a long time. It was made for a classroom. It’s rolled up and you can unfurl it. It’s a work of art. I’m going to hang it in my apartment. It seems timely given the ‘How often do you think about the Roman Empire?’ meme that’s making its way around the internet. I studied classics and did a PhD in Roman archaeology – so the answer for me is pretty frequently!

Jack Carlson Rowing Blazers
Jack Carlson Rowing Blazers

What inspires you?

Vintage clothes and objects. Museums. Movies. Artefacts from my own past. Whenever I’m designing a new collection or capsule or product, I’m almost always taking inspiration from something vintage in the first instance. I like to design variations on old things that I wish existed. I also take a lot of inspiration from my childhood, from cartoons and literature — hence our collaborations with Babar, SEGA, Tintin, and so on.

A book/podcast/album that changed the way you think?

Paul Fussell’s Class. Dan Fox’s Pretentiousness and Why It Matters. I am finally about to start David Marx’s Status and Culture, and I suspect that will be joining this list. I like books about culture, status, and belonging, particularly if they talk about clothing and material culture. I think it kind of shows how I went from being an archaeologist to being a designer.

Arthur Ashe

Arthur Ashe Summer ’23 Collection

Who is a celebrity/person of note/intellectual you admire?

Arthur Ashe. An American civil rights hero, tennis legend, and style icon. I have been fortunate enough to be part of the revival of his namesake brand, working with Jeanne Moutoussamy- Ashe and the Arthur Ashe Legacy Fund at UCLA. It’s a small tennis-lifestyle brand right now, but we have big plans for it.

What’s your ideal long weekend?

A weekend with good friends in a place like Kitzbühel or Nantucket or Marin. Anytime I have the chance that’s what I do. Even better if you can somehow bring a classic car into the mix.

What would we always find in your fridge?

A bottle of Champagne – in case of emergency. Other than that it’s pretty sparse, to be honest. I usually eat out, I have to confess.

What’s a rule/mantra that you live by?

Aut viam inveniam aut faciam. Erroneously attributed to Hannibal, the Carthaginian general who famously took his elephant cavalry over the Alps to invade Rome, it means I shall either find a way, or make one.

What does the year ahead look like for you?

I’m just taking things one day at a time

More details at Jack Carlson.

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About the author

Michael Sonsino

As Digital Editor for Oracle Time, Michael needs an eye for detail, which makes it a good thing that his twin joys in life are miniatures and watches. He's a lifelong fan of fine timepieces, especially those of a more historic nature - if it has a twist of Art Deco, all the better. Recent purchase: Seiko Prospex 1959 Alpinist Modern Re-Interpretation. Grail watch: Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921.