Friday, 30 September 2011

Up Close With The Iconic Girard-Perregaux Tourbillon With Three Gold Bridges

Invented by Girard-Perregaux and arguably the most iconic tourbillon ever made, the Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges is distinctive and gorgeous. Yet it is simple, having no additional complications.

Based on a design patented in 1884, the Girard-Perregaux Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges is possibly the most distinctive tourbillon ever designed. It is actually fairly simple, being a hand-wound, one-minute tourbillon with a lever escapement. What makes it unusual is design of the calibre: the movement is symmetrical, with three horizontal, arrow-shaped bridges which give the watch its name.

ochs und junior in New York on 8 Oct

I just learned via felipe over at Timezone that ochs und junior, the quirky brand created by watchmaking genius Ludwig Oeschlin, will be presented in New York by Beat Weinmann of Embassy on Oct 8. Details of the event are on the ochs und junior blog.


Wednesday, 28 September 2011

AHCI tours China in Oct 2011

Five cosmopolitan members of the Académie Horlogère Des Créateurs Indépendants, better known as the AHCI, will exhibit in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong in October 2011. To say that China is an important market is an understatement so this is not unexpected, though it's an unusual combination of watchmakers exhibiting. Taking part in the exhibition are Hungarian watchmaker Aaron Becsei of Bexei Watches, Konstantin Chaykin who hails from Russia, German independent Lang & Heyne, Aniceto Jiménez Pita of Spain and the sole Swiss watchmaker in the group Marc Jenni.

Watch storage on a grand scale

German safemaker Döttling just unveiled the GrandCircle, a two meter high, EUR195,000 safe to show watches and other expensive objects. This is certainly more beautiful than most of the competition which is angular and boxy. In fact this might even be a beautiful piece of furniture, in terms of design and not just expensive materials.

That being said the GrandCircle is clad in expensive materials, including galuchat, Alcantara and wood veneer.

It is not just a ultra-luxe storage closet though. In addition to the 52 watch winders, it has a clock made by independent clockmaker Mattias Naeschke. The pendulum clock indicates the full calendar and has a 30 day power reserve. The base of the GrandCircle includes a small hifi set as well as a fire-resistant safe.

This is a limited edition of 20 pieces. Of course for those who want more Döttling can outfit an entire room.


Monday, 26 September 2011

Philippe Rochat in Singapore

Mr Rochat preparing dinner
for Hublot in Singapore
Last week Michelin-starred Swiss chef Philippe Rochat, regarded by some as the best chef in Switzerland, was in Singapore to cook for several clients, including Hublot. Along with Mr Rochat, some twenty members of his restaurant staff, along with ingredients for all the meals, were flown in Singapore for a spectacular meal.

During the dinner Hublot unveiled the Big Bang Black Caviar Carat, which is the Black Caviar watch set with baguette diamonds on the bezel.

A look at the Panerai PAM390 special edition

Thanks to a gentleman collector I had the chance to see the PAM 390 special edition today. A few months ago Panerai announced the Luminor Base PAM00390 to be sold exclusively at Panerai boutiques. It has a 44 mm steel Luminor case, tobacco dial (painted, not sandwich) and gold hands. It is delivered with the wonderfully textured Assolutamente strap; the strap on the watch pictured is not the original strap.

Case back is solid, engraved with a mini submarine, and the movement inside is the Unitas derived OP I movement. Essentially this is an entry level watch, a PAM000 Logo fitted with a different dial.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Only Watch 2011 full results

Only Watch 2011, the charity auction conducted by Antiquorum, just concluded a few hours ago in Monte Carlo, with sales totalling EUR4.5 million. Overall results are good though there are a couple that are embarrassingly low like the Chopard and Chaumet. Notably high prices include the Patek 3939 repeater in steel, the Van Cleef & Arpels From Earth to the Moon and the BLU Gagarin tourbillon. Here are the full results.


Friday, 23 September 2011

A handful of results from Only Watch 2011

The unique Patek Philippe ref. 3939 repeater in steel sold for a whopping EUR1.4 million. The Vacheron Constantin Dove Watch I like hammered for EUR90,000. Surprisingly the Van Cleef & Arpels Poetic Complication sold for EUR215,000. The rest of the results soon.


The Chopard LUC Triple Certification "3C" Tourbillon

The LUC range of watches from Chopard, especially those with Poinçon de Genève (Geneva Seal) or Qualite Fleurier Seal, are all wonderfully finished and constructed, truly beyond reproach. With that emphasis on finishing and quality in mind, Chopard has just unveiled the Chopard LUC Triple Certification Tourbillon, aka the 3C Tourbillon. Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, co-President of Chopard, was just in town to present the watch. 

The name of the watch is derived from the triple certificates it carries, the Geneva Seal, Fleurier Quality Foundation (FQF) and COSC. There is some redundancy between the certifications. While the Geneva Seal and COSC are complementary, the FQF certification overlaps with the other two labels.

COSC is a timing certificate, issued to a particular movement - not a cased up watch. On the other hand, the Geneva Seal is issued by the Canton of Geneva for watches made there, and concerns finishing and decoration of movements. It hasn't been updated in some time and the body governing the certification will be announcing a revamp in November.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Explaining Corum's Golden Bridge Wristwatch

First conceived by independent watchmaker Vincent Calabrese in 1980, the Golden Bridge has since become the quintessential Corum timepiece. Equipped with a long, thin baguette movement, the Golden Bridge is now available in a variety of forms and sizes, but always retains its original movement form.

In recent years Corum has begun to tighten its product line and now its website lists just the Admiral’s Cup, Golden Bridge and vintage-inspired Heritage lines. The most interesting is the Golden Bridge, so named because the movement is laid out in a straight line, secured by a long, 18k solid gold bridge.

Monday, 19 September 2011

The Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Open Power Reserve

El Primero Chronomaster Open
Power Reserve in rose gold
Zenith made the exposed balance wheel its trademark during the Nataf years. I never liked the exposed balance wheel, it brings to mind inexpensive watches. At Baselworld 2011 Zenith launched the El Primero Chronomaster Open Power Reserve. The dial has an aperture at 10 o'clock, ostensibly to show the 36,000 bph balance wheel.

I dislike the exposed balance wheel. But importantly, despite my misgivings about the design of the watch, offers good value, like much of Zenith's current range.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Introducing the Richard Lange Tourbillon “Pour le Mérite” Handwerkskunst

Lange has just unveiled the Richard Lange Tourbillon “Pour le Mérite” Handwerkskunst, a 15 piece limited edition for Lange boutiques. Like the 165th anniversary Homage set launched last year, this tourbillon is cased in honey gold. Notably, the RL Tourbillon PLM was launched only at SIHH 2011, several months ago.

Richard Lange Tourbillon “Pour le Mérite” Handwerkskunst

"Handwerkskunst" means craftsmanship, consequently this limited edition has several features that represent artisan skill. 

Photo essay: Lange 165th Anniversary Homage three piece set in honey gold

Last year to celebrate the 165th anniversary of Lange, the firm unveiled the Homage to F. A. Lange trio comprising the Tourbograph Pour le Merite, Lange 1 Tourbillon and 1815 Moon Phase, each cased in honey gold, an alloy harder than regular yellow gold and also paler in colour. 

The Tourbograph Pour le Merite in honey gold

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Hands-on with the Zenith El Primero Tourbillon (with live photos and price)

The recession has caused a little bit of realism to creep in watch prices (though in some cases it is fleeing again). None more so than for the tourbillon. Zenith is a standout in this regard. Its new El Primero tourbillon retails for a mere $60,000 in steel, and that is for a chronograph and flying tourbillon. Compared to prices of not too long ago that's a steal.

For the price you get an interesting and historical chronograph movement with a good looking case and dial. Overall quality is good, though not outstanding, but it is still excellent value for money.

Monday, 12 September 2011

When a Swiss watchmaker gets really angry, he issues a press release

Swatch just terminated its joint venture with Tiffany & Co. Rare is a press release like this in the staid world of Swiss watchmaking, the land of green grass, cows and mountain hikes. Quoted from the press release:

"Today Swatch Group terminated its cooperation contracts with Tiffany & Co. This action became necessary following Tiffany & Co’s systematic efforts to block and delay development of the business
Swatch Group and Tiffany Watch Co. Ltd. will press claims for damages against Tiffany & Co., New York, in compensation for the loss of planned long-term future business." 

You can practically feel the indignation and outrage in the statement.


A look into Rolex marketing

Bloomberg just ran a fascinating story on marketing at Rolex and how "Testimonies" - the brand's ambassadors - are chosen and work. If Rolex appoints me as a Testimony I'd ask for the new Explorer II black dial, ahead of everyone else!


Sunday, 11 September 2011

Casting gold at Chopard

In the latest instalment of a highly informative series of press releases on various crafts related to watchmaking, Chopard explains the process of casting gold at its factory in Meyrin, Geneva. This is unusual as few watch manufacturers have an in-house foundry; scale is needed for such a facility. The prior two explained electroplating and installing hairsprings.


Press release:

The Gold Caster

Within the world of watch and jewellery manufacturers, Chopard is one of the rare companies to have its own in-house gold foundry. Driven by a concern to ensure extreme quality, to achieve vertical integration of its production and to provide a fast response to its own needs, the company produces its own gold alloys from fine gold ingots.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

REVIEW: Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph Ref. 5980/1A (With Live Photos And Price)

An owner of the Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph Ref. 5980/1A - the brand's only sports chronograph - shares thoughts on the timepiece.

“I like sports watches. Not that I actually use them for sport, I have a G-Shock for that. But they are useful and practical for everyday wear. Legible, waterproof and the bracelet is convenient.

The Patek 5980 is not too big and also slim for a chronograph. Therefore it appears sporty and masculine, yet refined. It is quite a rare combination in this type of watch.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Hamilton Pan Europ chronograph is hitting dealers

Hamilton Pan Europ
Limited edition of 1971 pieces
A remake of the 1971 Hamilton Pan Europ Chronomatic was launched at Baselworld and I wrote about it when I saw the prototype. The post was surprisingly popular with several thousand hits; the Pan Europ chronograph (a limited edition  of 1971 pieces) is perfectly in tune with the trend of re-edition watches. 

Now the Pan Europ chronograph is just hitting dealers and I just saw one of the first pieces, pictured here.  I have ordered one and will hopefully receive it soon. I foresee this watch will be a hit, even with those who do not find the rest of the Hamilton line-up appealing.

I liked the prototype tremendously when I saw it and my opinion remains the same with the production piece. It is a authentic (though not 100% accurate) remake.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Richemont five month results - riding high

Richemont just announced its results for the five months to Aug 2011. Sales are up by 29 % at actual exchange rates. At constant exchange rates, sales increased by 35 %. The star performer was Asia-Pacific which grew 46% at actual exchange rates. The jewellery maisons (Cartier and VC&A) did well at +34% at actual rates while watchmakers grew 28%. Montblanc (both pens, watches and accessories) is underperforming with growth of only 10%.

Here is the performance breakdown:

Change at constant exchange rates versus prior year
Change at actual exchange rates versus prior year
Sales by region

+ 22 %
+ 21 %
+ 59 %
+ 46 %
+ 41 %
+ 26 %
+   8 %
+ 7 %
Sales by distribution channel

+ 44 %
+ 37 %
+ 27 %
+ 22 %
Sales by business area

Jewellery Maisons
+ 41 %
+ 34 %
Specialist Watchmakers
+ 34 %
+ 28 %
Montblanc Maison
+ 15 %
+ 10 %
+ 30 %
+ 24 %
+ 35 %
+ 29 %

In his statement CEO and Chairman Johann Rupert cites the global economy and strong Swiss Franc strength as reasons to be cautious and not expect similar figures for the rest of the year. He does note a net cash position of EUR2.6 billion. Might Richemont make an acquisition?


Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback TiAlum

Zenith continues to establish itself as the maker of conventional and well priced watches across the segments with some Hublot-inspired tactics. One of the major new models debuted by Zenith this year is the El Primero Stratos, a sports chronograph that looks like a cross between a Daytona and the old Zenith Rainbow.

Besides the run of the mill metals like steel and gold, the Stratos is also available in TiAlum (which was formerly known as Alchron but Audi apparently owns that trademark), an aluminium alloy exclusive to Zenith in watchmaking.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Shaping and installing the hairspring

The balance spring is the beating heart of the watch, regulating the release of power from the mainspring and keeping time. Manufacturing the hairspring is a fascinating process but shaping and fitting the hairspring calls for more delicate work. This press release from Chopard nicely encapsulates that work; it is part of a series looking at the various manufacturing aspects of a watch factory, the previous one covered electroplating.


Press release:

The Balance-Spring Fitter

If there is one profession that demonstrates the extent to which watchmaking is an affair for specialists, it is that of balance-spring fitter. The régleuses (coming from the French term, as it is a profession mainly exercised by ladies) sphere of activity focuses on the five parts constituting the beating heart of the watch: the balance, the balance-staff, the balance-spring, the collet and the stud. This dying art only exists in a handful of authentic Manufactures; one being the Chopard Manufacture in Fleurier, which continue performing manually and in-house one of the most original and specific of all watchmaking operations: shaping the terminal curve of the balance-spring. The latter is doubtless the most fascinating part of the movement. This tiny flat spring forming a spiral determines the frequency of the balance, its regularity, and thus the precision of the watch itself.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Ulysse-Nardin acquires Donzé Cadrans SA

Ulysse-Nardin has just acquired Le Locle-based enamel dial specialist Donze Cadrans SA in its entirety from Francine and Michel Vermot, who are retiring. Under the late Rolf Schnyder has always had enamel dial watches in its catalogue since the eighties, not just at the high-end but also more affordable watches like the San Marco. Mr Vermot was one of its key suppliers from the beginning; Mr Schnyder often mentioned Mr Vermot in interviews. But being one of the few companies able to make enamel dials in meaningful quantities, Donzé Cadrans SA supplies not just but many other brands.


Enamel dial of Ulysse-Nardin San Marco

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The art of miniature marquetry

Close-up of the marquetry bear dial
One of the watches unveiled at SIHH 2011 by Cartier was the Rotonde de Cartier jumping hours with marquetry bear dial. Marquetry is the art of inlaying wood to form a motif. Made by award winning marqueter Jérôme Boutteçon, the dial is composed of over three dozen tiny pieces of wood veneers, carefully cut and finished by hand. I take a close look at the art of marquetry on the Cartier forum I moderate.


The veneers are sawn by hand

Friday, 2 September 2011

Hands-On With The Urwerk UR-1001 Zeit Device Pocket Watch (With Live Photos And Price)

Felix Baumgartner of Urwerk was just in Singapore to present the UR-1001 Zeit Device – the "mothership" as he calls it. That is a most appropriate name. It looks like a spaceship and up close its lines and details are reminiscent of something from a sci-fi film, almost like a city of the future. Other Urwerk creations also give that impression, but none more so than this.

After four years of development, the Zeit Device was just unveiled a few days ago and Singapore is Felix's first stop on a world tour.