Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Collection Of 4363 Swatch Watches Brings In US$6.6 million

A couple of days ago a 4363 piece collection of Swatch watches sold for HK$51,707,500, or about US$6,641,414. That's about US$1500 per watch. This collection was put together by Swiss nationals Peter and Linda Blum, and included prototypes as well as watches created by artists like Keith Haring and Mimmo Palladino.

The sale was conducted by Phillips de Pury in Hong Kong. According to Swatch, the collection was purchased by a "very important mainland Chinese collector".

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Introducing the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Traditionnelle 14-day Tourbillon

Vacheron Constantin unveiled the Patrimony Traditionnelle 14-day Tourbillon as a pre-SIHH 2012 teaser a few days ago. It is a tourbillon in a largish, 42 mm rose gold case. The two week power reserve is thanks to four barrels. 

VC Patrimony Traditionnelle
14-day Tourbillon

The dial and case are traditional Patrimony (no pun intended) and not visually extraordinary in any way. And a tourbillon calibre with a long power reserve is not spectacular either.

But what caught my eye is the dial side of the cal. 2260 movement which is beautifully executed.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Up Close With The Patek Phillippe Ref. 5131 World Time Cloisonné - A Critical Examination

The Patek Philippe 5131 world time with cloisonne enamel dial comes in either white gold (5131G) or yellow gold (5131J). Between the two I prefer the warmer look of the 5131J but I very much prefer the cloisonne dial on the 5131G. The dial on the yellow gold model has much more muted and limited colours, while the white gold has a much wider palette.

Patek Philippe 5131G white gold

Patek fans will find this outrageous but the quality of the cloisonne dials is not the best I have seen on a modern watch. The imperfections (bubbles and surface cracks) are, at best, on par with average quality cloisonne dials. This is evident in some of the photos. I have examined other Patek watches, like the limited edition Calatrava sets made each year, that are better.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

MB&F unveils HM4 Razzle Dazzle and Double Trouble

The Double Trouble on left and Razzle Dazzle on right
Just a few weeks after the Legacy Machine 1 premiere, MB&F has unveiled the Razzle Dazzle and Double Trouble, a pair of limited editions based on the Horological Machine No. 4 Thunderbolt.

Inspired by the nose art of WWII aircraft, the figures are painted by Isabelle Villa and covered with clear protective lacquer to prevent damage.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

George Daniels Millennium wristwatch to be sold at Sotheby's

Lot 92 at Sotheby's London auction on December 13 is a George Daniels Millennium wristwatch in yellow gold. This is a highlight of an otherwise fairly boring selection dominated by nineties era watches. 

Daniels Millennium
Photo courtesy Sotheby's

The Millennium was a limited edition of 50 pieces made in 1999 by Mr Daniels and his protege Roger Smith with a movement based on an ETA 2892.

They have come up occasionally at past auctions, selling for GBP60,000 to GBP70,000. The estimate for the upcoming sale is GBP40,000-60,000. Given Mr Daniels' recent passing it will be interesting to see what this hammers for.


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The outstanding Seiko Credor Spring Drive Minute Repeater

One of the most accomplished minute repeaters to be launched in recent years is the Seiko Credor Spring Drive Minute repeater.

It has some very interesting construction features including a double case for resonance: the hammer strikes a pin that strikes the gong which is outside the inner case holding the movement. And the alloy for the gong is made by a craftman whose family has been making wind chimes for 800 years. More on this later. 

The sound is clear, loud and resonant - outstanding.

And the earlier Credor sonnerie with its lingering chimes thanks to a miniature orin bell like those found in Japanese temples. This sound has a very much more Japanese aesthetic.

And another Seiko chiming timekeeper - it's a long video at nearly two minutes.


Sunday, 20 November 2011

Announcing the winners of the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève 2011

The Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève has evolved - and improved - tremendously over the decades since it was launched. From a contest that was dominated by certain brands with predictable results it has become a noteworthy event. Last year it even awarded the Seiko Space Walk the Sports Watch Prize. Part of the evolution can be credited to jury member Bernard Cheong, the inimitable watch collector from Singapore.

Results for the 2011 edition were just published. One can never agree with the entirety of a contest's results but the jury did a good job here. I applaud most of the choices.

For those interested, the rules of the contest.


The “Golden Hand” (watch of the year): De Bethune DB28
Though there are other worthy contenders it's hard to disagree with this choice. De Bethune makes some spectacular looking watches with very interesting technology.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Seiko Prospex Marinemaster 1000 m wins Good Design Long Life Design Award

The Japan Institute of Design Promotion has just bestowed the Good Design Long Life Design Award on the Seiko Prospex Marinemaster 1000 m SDX011 diver with its ceramic and titanium case.

This award is given to designs that are at least 10 years old which have been improved over the course of their life while retaining the original design. Last year the Grand Seiko was the recipient of his award.

Up Close With The Glass Timekeepers Of Design Legend Marc Newson

Marc Newson's genius is most apparent in his glass timekeepers. Though united by function and material, the hourglasses and Atmos clock are obviously different. Yet the design and use of material is so incredibly coherent that is obvious they have come from the same place. And they are beautiful to behold. 

When viewed individually each is beautiful - the fluidity, surface and transparency of glass is used brilliantly - but arrayed side by side his creations are stunning.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Panerai opens its enormous Singapore boutique

I've been to several Panerai boutiques around the world; they are typically cosy and covered in the same pearwood used for Panerai boxes. Panerai just opened its boutique in Singapore, sited on a prime, ground level space in ION Orchard mall, a few days ago.

Not only is it large, it is the first to be outfitted with the new boutique look that will eventually be rolled out to other stores. The wood panelling is darker with more obvious grain, made from teak like the deck of boats. And there are Le Corbusier LC2 chairs in pale suede all over (while I love the design I always find the LC2 way too narrow).

Unique, pink dial Lange Pour le Merite tourbillon sells for CHF314,500

A unique Lange Pour le Merite tourbillon in platinum just hammered for an outstanding CHF314,500 (inclusive of premium) in Sotheby's in Geneva. This particular watch, no. 22/50, has a pink dial ordered by the original owner. Based on the photos the condition doesn't look great - oxidisation of hands and scratches on screw for example - but it is a beautiful watch. Visually this is a perfect match for the Patek 5101 Ten Day Tourbillon with copper dial.

Lange watches usually fetch respectable but not outstanding prices at auction so this is interesting. A Zeitwerk sold for a premium at a Christie's sale recently too.


Royal Oak 40th anniversary - here's hoping for more

2012 is the 40th anniversary of the Royal Oak, penned by the late Gerald Genta. One of the models to mark the anniversary was recently unveiled as a SIHH 2012 preview. The Openworked Extra-Thin Royal Oak is just that - a slim, automatic watch with a skeletonised dial. The platinum case is the same 39 mm diameter as the 1972 original. Inside beats the in-house cal. 5122. This will be limited to 40 pieces.

For the anniversary of what AP calls a "spectacular non-conformist" watch I am hoping there will be more in store besides this skeletonised Royal Oak. A Royal Oak Starwheel which myself and others have long talked abou perhaps. Or a new Royal Oak Concept. This is just ho-hum.


Monday, 14 November 2011

Richemont is raking it in

Richemont, owner of Cartier, Panerai and a host of other brands, just reported its six months results to September. The sterling figures offer few reasons for a watch collector or buyer to rejoice.
  • Sales increased by 29 % to € 4 214 million, or by 36 % at constant exchange rates
  • Sales in Asia-Pacific ex-Japan grew 48%, or 60% at constant exchange rates, driven by you-know-where which is now the third largest market after Hong Kong and USA
  • Retail sales (mainly brand boutiques) are outpacing wholesale, growing at 37% while wholesale grew 23%
  • Communications expense grew 29% as well, and stands at 8% of sales
  • Gross margin is 63.2% while operating margin is 25.5%
  • Net cash position is now EUR2.6 billion
And Johann Rupert, Chairman and CEO, sounded optimistic in his statement.

"Notwithstanding these challenges and based on the Group’s performance for the year to date, operating profit for the full year is expected to be significantly higher than last year."

If you were wondering if watches are expensive, now you have an answer.


Hands-On With The Kari Voutilainen Vingt-8 Chronometer, Featuring His First In-House Movement (with live photos and price)

Presented earlier this year as the sucessor to the successful Observatoire, the Vingt-8 is equipped with Voutilainen's first in-house calibre featuring a enormous, adjusable mass balance and dual escape wheels.   

Now that the run of the Peseux 260 based Observatoire was completed, Kari Voutilainen has unveiled his first in-house, series production movement, the cal. 28. The first wristwatch containing this movement is the Vingt-8 (vingt is 20 in French).

Thought styled much like the Observatoire, the Vingt-8 is different in several ways. For one, the Vingt-8 measures 39 mm in diameter, 2 mm more than the Observatoire, though the Vingt-8 retains the teardrop lugs which have become Voutilainen's signature.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Panerai offers to swap movements of the infamous PAM318

According to, Officine Panerai has offered to swap the movements of the New York edition Luminor PAM00318 that was the subject of so much controversy recently. This will be done gratis at the New York and Los Angeles boutiques but owners have to cover shipping and insurance.

A tidy ending to the story? Given what Panerai is as a brand, I doubt so.


Friday, 11 November 2011

Peter Speake-Marin unveils new sports watch - the Spirit Pioneer

Speake-Marin Spirit Pioneer
When Peter Speake-Marin was in town earlier this year he revealed plans for a new sports watch which has just been launched at SalonQP in London. The Speake-Marin Spirit Pioneer housed in PSM's distinctive Piccadilly case with a military-inspired dial in matte black lacquer with thick, applied white Luminova numerals. While not exactly a sports watch it is certainly sporty and fills a hole in the PSM range in price and styling with a retail price of CHF9800.

"Spirit is inspired by a timepiece I bought 15 years ago when I was restoring antique pieces in Piccadilly, London. It was an authentic military watch from the first half of the 20th century that I restored in my own time and wore regularly as my personal timekeeper."

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Announcing Long Awaited Improvements To The Geneva Seal, Including Functional Testing

Last year in my conversations with several executives of Geneva based brands the topic of upcoming changes to the Geneva Seal was often mentioned. The criteria for the seal had not changed in many years and it was losing prestige bit by bit, especially after Patek Philippe abandoned it in favour of its own Patek seal. 

Finally the changes have been announced by the Geneva Laboratory of Horology and Microengineering, also known as TIMELAB, which administers the Poinçon de Genève, at a press conference in Geneva yesterday.

Chopard LUC XPS for 125th anniversary of Geneva Seal

The Poinçon de Genève celebrates its 125th anniversary this year and the body that administers the Geneva Seal certification will soon announce improvements to the criteria which haven't changed in some time. 

In the meantime, Chopard has unveiled the L.U.C XPS Poinçon de Genève 125th Anniversary, a limited edition of 125 pieces in rose gold with the exemplary LUC 1.96 automatic calibre.

Explaining The Saga of the Controversial Panerai PAM318

The Unitas inside the PAM318
Photo from Bruno.M1
The Panerai PAM00318 was a limited edition of 150 pieces made for the New York boutique. Recently someone posted photos of the movement inside the PAM318 on Paneristi (the OP XXIX calibre), showing what is an unfinished and lower end Unitas movement (nickel balance instead of Glucydur for example). 

Even though the Unitas used by Panerai are usually decorated or have modified bridge shapes, they are still industrial looking. In other words the Panerai Unitas, even when decorated, is not a fine movement.

I do own other Panerai watches, but not the PAM318, so I don't feel the indignation and even fury expressed by some of the owners on the forum. But given that Panerai is a luxury product with a fanatical following, I can understand the reaction.

Unsurprisingly this was spawned lots of heated discussion. It'll be interested to see how this turns out.

Update: Panerai offers to swap movements.


Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Comparing the first 1960 Grand Seiko and the 130th Anniversary SBGW040

The first Grand Seiko of 1960 was the inspiration for the trio of Grand Seiko limited editions made for Seiko's 130th anniversary this year. Seiko has done a terrific job with the remake, I have the steel SBGW033, but there are subtle differences with the original. Here is a comparison of the two, detailing the differences.

Most obvious is the crystal. The modern GS has what Seiko calls a box-shaped sapphire crystal, which is expensive to make. On the other hand the original has a domed plexiglass as was common for that era. Notice that the modern version has a step at the top of the bezel while the vintage GS bezel is almost flush with the crystal.

The hands and markers on the modern watch are more substantial too.

There are also differences in the dial in terms of minute markers as well as the dial lettering.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Physicist whose work led to atomic clock dies

Dr Norman Ramsey
Photo Associated Press
The New York Times just reported the passing of Norman F. Ramsey, the physicist whose work led to the atomic clock. In the late forties, Dr Ramsey pioneered a method, now known as the Ramsey method, of measuring the osillations of atoms. And in 1967 Dr Ramsey invented the hydrogen maser atomic clock. For his work Dr Ramsey won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1989.


Introducing the De Bethune Dream Watch IV, a spectacular and ridiculous iPhone case

This is silly on so many levels but it is certainly spectacular; the coolest way to carry an iPhone no doubt. The De Bethune Dream Watch IV iPhone case is made of mirror polished titanium with a wandering hours pocket watch. 

Clearly inspired by the unique piece made for Only Watch 2011, the pocket watch face is made from blued titanium with gold and diamond stars. Earlier this year De Bethune unveiled something similar, but in alligator skin, this is worlds apart. 

Sunday, 6 November 2011

A disappointing Greubel Forsey GMT?

A couple days ago, after several teasers on Facebook, Greubel Forsey, the recently crowned chronometric champions, unveiled the GMT. Naturally it is a tourbillon, featuring the 25° inclined Tourbillon 24 Secondes cage. The design is attractive, I like it, and in keeping with the steampunk-ish aesthetic of the brand. And I have no doubt the finishing is beyond reproach, as with other GF watches.

But I find the complication - a dual time zone with cities disc and a rotating earth globe - somewhat disappointing. Being used to exotic and sometimes incomprehensible tourbillon watches, a tourbillon with second time zone is somewhat of a let down. Admittedly it is impossible to continually top the previous year's complications, but I'm sure GF has something better in store for SIHH 2012.


Saturday, 5 November 2011

Cartier Pre-SIHH 2012 - Cadran Lové Tourbillon and Masse Secrète panther

Rotonde de Cartier Cadran Lové Tourbillon watch
Cartier has just unveiled a pair of watches for its pre-SIHH 2012 information, the Rotonde de Cartier Cadran Lové Tourbillon watch with the cal. 9458 MC, and for the ladies the Masse Secrète panther decor watch containing cal. 9603 MC.

The Cadran Lové Tourbillon is actually a variant of the ladies' crocodile tourbillon of SIHH 2011 but here oversized, skeletonised Roman numerals take the place of the crocodile. This is a similar design motif to that used on the Santos skeleton watches. The case is 46.2 mm in white gold.

I love Artya's humour - Bye Bye Euro

Artya Bye Bye Euro
Yvan Arpa of Artya once again illustrates his peculiar brand of humour with the Bye Bye Euro. This unique piece features shredded Euro notes on the papier mache dial. The press release is a gem and worth reading for its hilarity (text in bold for emphasis):

The creative Brand ArtyA launches a tribute to “the sommet de Bruxelles 2011” to announce the end of the Euro currency.

This unique Watch called “Bye Bye Euro” has a hand manufactured dial using real Euros passed in a shredder, the case as well has gone through an exclusive crushing process in the ArtyA Art & Workshop in Geneva, Switzerland.

The ArtyA 1/1 “Bye Bye Euro” is powered by a high end Swiss automatic movement and the strap is braided kevlar to better absorb shocks.

Sarkozy, Berlusconi, Papandreou and Merkel are invited to buy one in order to remember their dreams.

It is available on the Artya site for CHF5900 with tax.