Sunday, 27 February 2011

A chat with Christophe Claret

Christophe Claret has long been the supplier of high horology movements to a great number of brands, including including Bovet, Breguet, Cartier, Chopard, Corum, Girard Perregaux, Harry Winston, Jorg Hysek and Parmigiani.

Last year he unveiled the DualTow (shown below), the first watch under his own brand name (if we exclude the music box repeater from a few years back).

I interviewed him in 2010 and here is a condensed version.

On his beginnings in 1986: "I was one of the first [independent watchmakers at Basel], along with Andersen, Calabrese, Journe, Muller and Daniels. Mr Schnyder came to see [my repeater] and he asked if I could make a minute repeater with San Marco jacquemart; I said 'Why not?'"

Claret's production: "We make 46 different calibres and sell to 16 brands. We make 120 movements [a year]; with 46 different calibres that is a very small number per calibre."

On the tourbillon: "The tourbillon is interesting because it is something you can look at. The tourbillon moves, there is animation [and] movement. That is why many collectors like it. [But] the tourbillon is the most simple [movement] of my production. It is a very nice complication, but for me it’s not very technical. This is why many people like to make [tourbillon watches] – to make money."

Repeaters: "The know-how [to make good repeaters] is very rare. You must understand it is not enough to have a good movement with a strong hammer and good gong. You must have a good transmission of sound through the case; you need a good case [construction] for good transmission of sound outside the case. The worst [case for a repeater] I think is platinum. White gold and pink gold is better. Steel and titanium are even better."

Technology in production: "Sometimes I use a very expensive machine, but the progress and technology [it gives us] is important, as we can make a better movement. For example, we used to have CNC machine that took 25 minutes to cut a piece, now we can do it in 25 seconds. It is faster, but it is also better for the quality because you don’t have to spend time filing [away the burrs]. Better quality, better precision and faster. [But] it is not enough to buy the machine, you need many good workers, you need the savoir faire to make the machine run properly."

- SJX 

Thursday, 24 February 2011

The Patrimony Traditionnelle World Time from Vacheron Constantin

In anticipation of the upcoming The Hour Lounge dinner here in Singapore, here's a look at the clever world time from Vacheron Constantin. At SIHH 2011 Vacheron Constantin unveiled a series of small complications, the most interesting of which was the Patrimony Traditionnelle World Time. This is an elaborate, yet clever and easy to understand, Louis Cottier-style world time.

Unlike traditional world timers with time zones adjustable in one hour segments, this can be set to half and quarter hour time zones. These less conventional time zones, locales like Kabul and Yangon, are shown in red on the dial.

Day and night are indicated by a sapphire disc over the world map in the centre, half the disc is tinted grey while the other half is clear - the tinted half indicateds night time. Case diameter is 42.5 mm.

While I commend VC for creating an innovative and useful world time, the hands of the watch are not to my taste. They look out of place. But nevertheless this is a cleverly executed variant on a usually unimaginative complication.


Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The spectacular Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 2

Based on the Quadruple Tourbillon, the Invention Piece No. 2 from Greubel Forsey is another example of the brand's distinctive, and spectacular, watchmaking. 

The movement finishing is incredibly fine, with a frosted finish on the bridges that Greubel Forsey uses frequently and to great effect.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

One of my favourites from SIHH

One of my favourites from SIHH 2011 is the Panerai Luminor 1950 3 Days PAM372. It is well priced with an authentic vintage feel, plus it has the new P.3000 in-house calibre.

Diameter is 47 mm and crystal, interestingly enough, is domed plexiglass. The text on the dial is engraved, while the dial is sandwich construction. 

Sunday, 20 February 2011

New Seiko watches for the brand's 130th anniversary

Chino Watch, a Japanese dealer, shown three limited edition models for Seiko's 130th anniversary. They are the Grand Seiko SBGW033, Brightz Ananta chronograph SAEK015 and shrouded Prospex Diver SBBN021.

I love the SBGW033. The automatic chronograph is also good looking and more distinctive than the rest of the Phoenix line.

These will be launched in July and August 2011.


Update 1: Full information on the 2011 novelties from Seiko including the 130th anniversary Grand Seiko can be found here.

Update 2: Live photos of the 2011 novelties.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Up Close with the IWC Il Destriero Scafusia Grand Complication

The Il Destriero Scafusia was a grande complication from IWC, conceived for the brand's 125th anniversary in 1993, a time when the watch industry was on the cusp of its renaissance.

Presented in 1993 for the 125th anniversary of IWC, the Il Destriero Scafusia, which translates as "Warhorse from Schaffhausen", is demonstrative of the principles of the IWC brand - clever and practical engineering - for the base movement for this incredible calibre is none other than the Valjoux 7750.

The Cartier Pasha Second Time Zone

One of the gems from Cartier this year is the "Pasha 42 mm Large Date Second Time Zone Day/Night Disk".

The model name is certainly inelegant, but the watch is not. It is beautifully designed and detailed - notice the font for the big date and the art deco night/day disc.

Of all the variants offered my favourites is the silver dial, which is available in either rose gold or steel. The rose gold version is also available in a brown dial, not my favourite colour for a watch dial; while the steel is also offered on a bracelet which takes away from grace of the design.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Value for money

I have posted these on the forum before but thought it worth revisiting here. Seiko watches are, in my opinion, truly superb value for money, at every price point. There is literally something for everyone.

But it is at the mid to high-end, with the Grand Seiko and Credor, that Seiko truly shines. The quality is outrageously good, especially for the price.

I have 19 of them and will definitely add more soon.


Sunday, 6 February 2011

A introduction to Seiko in Shizukuishi

The Shizukuishi Watch Studio in Morioka Japan is where mechanical Grand Seiko watches are made, along with Credor, Prospex and other upper end mechanical Seiko watches. This factory is part of Seiko Instruments Inc (SII) and is the only fully integrated mechanical watch production factory in Japan. Almost every part in a watch is made here, even the hairsprings and mainsprings, though the raw wire for each comes from another SII factory 50 miles away.

There is a key philosophical divergence in Seiko’s approach to watchmaking versus its European peers. There is a focus, no, obsession, with perfect functioning and as a consequence all the processes that affect that are rigorously designed, like the clean room assembly for instance. No other watch facility, save for Seiko Epson's factory, has a clean room to assemble watches. The photo on right shows suiting up before entering the clean room assembly area pictured just below.

That obsession with perfect functioning extends to the movements as well. Finishing of the function parts - pinion teeth, pivots etc - are hand applied and of Geneva Seal standard. But decoration of bridges are done by machine resulting in a precise and slightly harsh look.

Above: A raw and polished pinion


The Swiss watch industry rich list

Every year Swiss business magazine Bilanz publishes a list of the 300 richest people residing in Switzerland, much like the infamous Forbes list. No big surprises in the 2010 list, though there are some possible omissions that come to mind. The 2010 rankings published in Dec 2010 are as follows for the watch, jewellery and luxury goods industry (all figures in CHF millions):

1          Family Hayek – Swatch Group – 4,500
2          Gérard Wertheimer – Chanel and casemaker G&F Chatelaine – 4,500
3          Johann Rupert – Richemont and tobacco – 3,500
4          Family Stern – Patek Philippe – 2,500
5          Family Mouawad – jewellery and also Roberge watches – 1,750
6          Family Scheufele – Chopard – 1,750
7          Family Gaydoul-Schweri – Migros discount stores and more recently Hanhart – 1,250
8          Family Schneider – Davidoff – 1,250
9          Thomas Straumann – Dental implants and H. Moser & Cie – 1,250
10        Family Audemars, Piguet – Audemars Piguet – 750
11        Jörg Bucherer – Bucherer – 750  
12        Ernest Schneider – Breitling – 750  
13        Carlo Crocco – Hublot – 350  
14        Rolf Schnyder – Ulysse-Nardin – 250  
15        Family Weil, Bernheim – Raymond Weil – 250   
16        Jean-Claude Biver – Hublot – 150  
17        Eric Guerlain – Guerlain, Christian Dior and LVMH – 150  
18        Family Macaluso – Girard-Perregaux, Sowind – 150  
19        Franck Muller and Vartan Sirmakes – Franck Muller Watchland – 150


Saturday, 5 February 2011

Malmaison opens in Singapore

Malmaison just threw open its red doors and I was lucky enough to get a tour. Situated on a prime site in Knightsbridge mall along Orchard Road, it is the first "luxury emporium" in Singapore. Run by one of S. E. Asia's largest watch retailers, The Hour Glass, Malmaison retails all manner of the interesting and high quality, and of course watches.

Inspired by Empress Josephine's chateau of the same name - notice the subtle references to this in the decor, like the beehive motif on the main door - Malmaison is a eclectic in style and product. 

Amongst the items on offer are Pierre Corthay shoes, a small selection of vintage Cartier objet d'art and artisan Frederic Malle perfume. Soon to arrive are Charvet shirts and ties, amongst other things.

One of the most interesting features of the store are the teleporter-like glass cylinders for testing perfume (pictured right).

Spray the perfume inside, close the door to allow the smell to diffuse and then stick your head in for a whiff. This elaborate set-up is called for because the perfumer is apparently the MB&F of scents; Frederic Malle invites the best 'noses' in the world to compose a particular fragrance.

The store is a different experience from everything else in Singapore. So too are the products, they are unique and beautifully made; aside from the watches what is on offer is not available elsewhere in Singapore. But Singapore is a very small place so Malmaison will have to work hard to make its voice heard. Nevertheless I applaud Michael and his team for daring to create a store like this.


A quick tour of the premises

The grand hall on the ground level

Which leads to an enormous, Harry Potter-esque griffin, flanked by Rolex and Patek boutiques on each side

An excellent selection of vintage Rolex is on display in the Rolex boutique - though none are for sale - this is the first authorised Rolex retailer in the world that displays vintage Rolex alongside modern

Past the griffin one arrives at the Napoleon room entirely in soothing blue velvet 


In the same area you have the men's section with shoes; ties, shirts and pocket squares soon to arrive

Below: Pierre Corthay's 'Satan' shoes

This stool is made from fossilied wood - sitting on the oldest wood in the world

 Up the stairs to the second level

Where you have books, jewellery and perfume; a florist selling only roses will soon open


 One of the offices on the second level has a star chart ceiling

And tribal art from Africa and the Pacific Islands 


And if you buy something you get it wrapped with a ribbon in the shape of a rose