Ian Happ Celebrates Baseball and Watchmaking with America’s PasTime
Chicago Cubs’ outfielder Ian Happ was in Miami to play a series against the Marlins in August. Before one of the games, the switch-hitting slugger got his first chance to swing the new custom bat that bears his name. But instead of maple, ash, or birch, this model is made of clear Lucite.
More at home on a bookshelf than the ballpark, the stylish bat is instantly recognizable as a sculpture crafted by the artisans at Berd Vay’e. Named America’s PasTime, it’s a high-end take on souvenir mini bats that unites the worlds of sports and horology. Inside the 17-inch transparent bat, slivers of Happ’s wooden bat appear to float among a galaxy of gleaming vintage watch parts. Limited to 30 pieces, America’s PasTime comes with a clear Lucite stand for display, and a custom bag to store it.
Chicago Cub slugger Ian Happ partners with Berd Vay’e and Goldsmith & Complications for America’s PasTime, a series of 30 bat-shaped sculptures. Each one presents a unique mix of vintage watch parts and pieces of Happ’s bat suspended in Lucite.
Happ, a longtime watch enthusiast, says he was eager to collaborate with Berd Vay’e and create something that incorporates two of his biggest passions. “I love watches because they tell stories about your life,” he explains. “I tend to buy watches either when a season is over or just beginning. Those pieces always take me back to those moments, which is a nice way to remember a time and place and to think about what those moments mean to me.”
America’s PasTime is available exclusively from Goldsmith & Complications, whose founder, Danny Goldsmith, played a key role in its creation. “Danny and I have been thinking about collaborating on a project for a while,” Happ says. “We were talking one day, and Berd Vay’e came up. We love what they do and agreed they would bring baseball and watchmaking together in an extraordinary way. Now that I’ve seen the bat it in person, I know we made the right call. I think people who like watches and baseball are going to really enjoy it.”
Happ got into watches at a young age, thanks to his older brother. Having that horological background, he says, proved to be an asset when he was promoted to the major leagues in 2017 at the age of 22. “The main topics of conversation in the clubhouse are golf, wine, and watches. Being able to talk about watches was how I connected with teammates, especially the veteran players. I’ll never forget the personal connections that watches helped me make.”
“My Speedmaster has been a reliable everyday wear since I got it four years ago…The F.P. Journe Chronomètre Souverain was my first serious timepiece,” Happ says.
Happ bought his first nice watch at the end of his rookie season, an Omega Speedmaster. He says it’s still one of his favorites. “I followed it down the watch rabbit hole,” he says, laughing. “After that, I started exploring different brands and learning about independent watchmakers. In the beginning, I was definitely anti-Rolex. Everyone has one. Why do I want to be like everyone else, right? I made a conscious effort to avoid mainstream brands and gravitated toward indie brands.”
True to his word, Happ’s first major watch purchase was the Chronomètre Souverain from F.P. Journe. “It’s a gorgeous watch,” he says. “I loved everything about the way it looked. But it had a platinum case and was heavy, so I didn’t wear it as much as I thought I would.”
Happ says: “For a well-rounded collection, I think it’s important to have different kinds of complications. I travel quite a bit for work, so naturally I’m drawn to GMTs like the Rolex Pepsi that are easy to adjust when I’m switching time zones. Another piece that I really enjoy is the Triple Calendrier 1942 from Vacheron Constantin. It’s a special watch to me.”
He sold the watch and moved on, a pragmatic attitude that continues to inform his approach to collecting. “I buy watches to wear them, not store them. Most of the time, I keep my collection down to a handful of pieces. I like to wear something for a while and then try something new.”
That includes breaking his no-Rolex rule. “I joined the club,” he says, laughing. “I had the chance to get a Rolex Pepsi, and I’m glad I did. I love wearing it as much as anything I’ve owned, including the Omega, which is still one of my favorites. Rolex is popular for a reason; they make an incredible timepiece.”
Despite the high turnover rate in Happ’s collection, one recent acquisition seems destined for his permanent collection — the Roberto Clemente Tribute by Oris. Introduced last year, this watch honors the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Hall of Fame outfielder and celebrated humanitarian. “I grew up in Pittsburgh where Roberto played,” he says, “so that watch hits a lot of emotional buttons for me.”
“I grew up in Pittsburgh where Roberto played, so that watch hits a lot of emotional buttons for me,” Happ says of the Roberto Clemente Tribute by Oris.
But his connection to the watch runs deeper than that. At the end of the 2020 season, Happ partnered with Oris to arrange a special surprise at the Roberto Clemente Museum in Pittsburgh for his little league coach, Frank Paladino. “I started playing for him when I was eight, and he became like a second father to me,” Happ says.
“Roberto Clemente was one of Frank’s favorite players growing up, so when I heard about the Oris tribute, my first thought was: ‘What better way to honor everything he’s done for youth sports than through Roberto’s legacy?’ I said before that I like watches because they tell stories. Well, this watch story is about as good as they get.”
“We’ve been working on this for a while, so it was cool to finally see it in person a few weeks ago…I think people who like watches and baseball are going to really enjoy it,” Happ says.