viernes, 28 de diciembre de 2012

TAG Heuer Grand Carrera Caliber 36 RS Caliper Chronograph Watch Review

For a lot people, TAG Heuer's many famous ambassadors are a positive attraction to the brand, however for others these celebrities are needless distractions. I have nothing against Leonardo DiCaprio nor Cameron Diaz, and the many other TAG ambassadors, but that's not what attract me to the brand.

I have no clue if Mr. DiCaprio or Miss Diaz are horological aficionados, or if they are even knowledgeable about timepieces... So seeing their pictures on a TAG advertisement just makes me feel that the brand is simply banking heavily on the modern day infatuation with Hollywood stars to sell their watches.

What is hidden from this pageantry is the fact that TAG Heuer has a long history of innovation in the area of creating the finest chronographs. This glorious past of measuring time intervals at ever finer levels of precision has recently resurfaced at the past few BaselWorlds shows where TAG Heuer has introduced increasingly precise chronographs that measure 1/10, 1/100, 1/1000, and 5/10,000 (or 1/2000) of a second; yes, all with a mechanical movement!

The latest version, the Mikrogirder, will likely see the light of day as a highly limited commercial edition like the Mikrograph and Mikrotimer before it, nonetheless, TAG's recent dedication and R&D is boosting its brand and it is regaining its reputation in horological circles. One such early effort, and more affordable chronograph, is the Grand Carrera Caliber 36 RS Caliper Chronograph that can measure time to 1/10th of a second accuracy. Probably good enough for more people's needs (and finger response times).

The TAG Heuer Grand Carrera Caliber 36 RS Caliper is an imposing watch. It is 43 mm wide and 15.75 mm high. At just over 190 grams, it is also rather heavy. Its steel construction reminds you that this is a manly instrument that can be used for serious timing tasks.

The main feature of the watch is the 1/10th of a second chronograph which comes from the TAG Heuer Caliber 36 movement. It is a modified version of the famous Zenith El Primero movement that runs at 36,000 bph - giving it the ability to measure these smaller intervals.

Like most two button chronographs, the TAG Heuer Grand Carrera Caliber 36 can be started with a push on the top button. The start button has a solid click feel to it.

The long, polished steel, seconds hand will move around the dial in micro-steps while the one-third quadrant at three o'clock tallies the minutes (up to 30) and three quarter quadrant at 6 o'clock tallies the hours (up to 12).

When engaged, a second push to the top button stops the chronograph. The second button resets the chronograph along with both the minutes and the hours tallies.

However, what sets this Grand Carrera apart is a simple, but wonderfully useful, and easy to use caliper that allows one to read the 1/10th second measurement right off the dial. Think of the caliper as a physical mechanical "magnifying glass" for the seconds markers.

It works as follows, once the chronograph is stopped, you move the caliper using the distinctive crown at 10 o'clock, which is adorned with a red stripe giving the watch an unbalanced yet instrumental feel. That crown moves the caliper back or forth around the dial like an internal bezel.

The caliper is simple, it has 11 digits, marked from 0 to 9 and then 0 again. The first 0 is red and has a special red marker. Using the 10 o'clock crown, one needs to align the caliper's red marker with the location where the seconds hand stopped. From that point, the 1/10 seconds is indicated by finding the number on the caliper that best aligns with one of the next 10 seconds markers on the dial.

The whole thing works beautifully and precisely. It's no wonder that TAG Heuer won first prize in the sports watch category for this innovation at the Grand Prix d'Horologerie de Geneve in 2008.

I made various short and long measurements during my Caltrain rides from San Jose to San Francisco (and intermediary stations) and back, using the Grand Carrera Caliber 36 along with my Casio Pathfinder and my iPhone 4S. The *non-scientific* results, shown in Tables 1 and 2, indicate that my TAG Heuer Grand Carrera Caliber 36 is not only accurate to 1/10th of a second, but it seems to deviate 0.05 seconds to the CASIO Pathfinder for short measurements and 0.15 second from my iPhone 4S clock application digital chronograph for longer measurements.

This is a decent result if you account for the fact that the margin of error of me pushing both the watch and the iPhone start buttons at the same time likely has a margin of error of at least +/- 0.05 second which is in the same order of magnitude as the measured deviations. As Ariel indicated to me, I also realize that there exist electronic machines that will precisely measure the accuracy of your chronograph, however, I don't own one and am not about to invest in one either. Plus, while it took an hour or so of my time to tabulate and gather, it was fun to actually use the chronograph… How many can say that of your chronographs?

As I mentioned, the watch measures 43 millimeters with the well protected screwed down crown which is stamped with the TAG Heuer shield armor logo in silver on a black sapphire crystal. The watch's dial is black with well visible hour markers in polished steel and marked seconds around the dial.

The dial is recessed and a second smaller dial where the caliper moves contains markers for 1/5th second between any two second markers. The bezel is also polished steel with a black marked tachymetre that is done discretely, thereby, not distracting the users who may not care to measure speed.

At 9 o'clock is a cutout vertical strip that allows the black and red hands to be seen and move to indicate the current seconds. While interesting and giving the dial an asymmetric feel, it is pretty useless and hard to read since there are no indications of what seconds we are at in a minute...

The black hand is shown for the first 40 seconds and the red for the last 20 seconds, thus helping the guessing game, but what I found is that it simply just frustrates me, as it is still too hard to guess what exact second it is at. The movement also does not hack so this cut has an always moving hand, I guess it tells you the watch is functioning.

The accuracy of the chronograph is in great part due to the El Primero-based movement which is a C.O.S.C. certified movement that beats at 36,000 bph. The beautiful movement can be seen from the sapphire window on the back.

Unlike most visible casebacks, TAG decided to split this one into two viewing sapphire windows with the remaining steel marked with the TAG Heuer name and logo, model name and number, as well as the unique serial number of the watch.

The self-winding rotor is decorated with the TAG Heuer name and logo and cut open to better show the movement which is itself decorated with rubies, blue steel screws, and brass gears. The whole thing is quite impressive and accentuates the feel of a solid instrument.

While the watch is heavy (0.43 lbs) and large, it actually wears small and seats comfortably on my 7.5 inch wrist. This is due to the steel bracelet whose lugs start of at 22 mm and narrow down at the deployment clasp that contains two small pushers making a satisfying click on open and on close. The small buckle has an engraved, flattened, TAG Heuer shield armor logo. It is small but easily visible thus allowing one to quickly see where to detach the strap.

The steel strap alternates with polished and brushed links that could not work better with the polished bezel and the hour markers. That combination gives the watch a slight shiny appearance that, while not ostentatious, makes it noticeable from far.

While this watch is easily the most accurate mechanical chronograph that I own and its speedy looks makes one want to be part of a race, it has a few minor negatives. Besides the useless seconds strip on the dial, this watch is not meant to be used at night.

The dial is simply not visible at night. There is a thin strip of Super-LumiNova application on the hours and on the minutes hands, but the hands are hardly viewable but for a few minutes after a charge.

TAG Heuer makes four versions of the Grand Carrera Caliber 36 RS Caliper. The stainless steel version reference CAV5115.BA0902, reviewed here, sells for a manufacturer suggested price of $9,500, a steel with rubber band which is reference CAV5115.FT6019, and a black PVD titanium with black leather or black rubber strap which are references CAV5185.FC6237 and CAV5185.FT6020.

The black edition is slightly larger and has a higher price at $10,500, but not all are not limited editions, while they do have unique serial numbers. All the models are water resistant to 100 meters.

All models have small red accents on the dial to indicate the caliper marker, the minutes and hours tally, as well the caliper crown. Overall I am quite satisfied with the TAG Heuer Grand Carrera Caliber 36 RS Caliper Chronograph. It's a super accurate chronograph and the innovative (even though it borrows from a very classic concept) 1/10th of a second caliper readout works brilliantly and adds to the overall look and feel of speed and racing that this model and the TAG Heuer brand stand for.

Necessary Data
>Brand: TAG Heuer
>Model: Grand Carrera Caliber 36 RS Caliper reference CAV5115.BA0902
>Price: $9,500
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes
>Friend we'd recommend it to first: To the 20-something to 30-something guy with a passion for sports cars and a timepiece budget of $7k to $10k.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Minimal lume on the hands and no lume on the dial means that this watch is practically unusable at night.
>Best characteristic of watch: Fit on my wrist (I have a 7 and 1/4 inch wrist) and the clever and innovative caliper system that makes reading the 1/10th seconds reading of the excellent TAG Caliber 36 chronograph movement a breeze.

domingo, 23 de diciembre de 2012

Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph Open Hometime Watch

Several years ago in 2008 Montblanc released an interesting new watch called the Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph. Nicolas Rieussec is accredited with being the guy who invented the chronograph, and the unique design of the timepiece's chronograph display is meant to honor that original device. I did a aBlogtoWatch review of a Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph Automatic watch here. Another important aspect of the Nicolas Rieussec is that it has what I think is the first in-house made Montblanc movement in Le Locle. It started with the caliber R100 in the original Nicolas Rieussec model.

2012 saw the release of a new version of the Nicolas Rieussec called the Open Hometime version. It is an update on the Chronograph Automatic that I previously reviewed. The refinements aren't many, but in my opinion this is probably one of the best looking Rieussec models today. While it has the same functions as the Chronograph Automatic, inside the Open Hometime is the new caliber R210 movement. What is different? Well the second timezone hand is now a disc, and there are some skeletonized parts on the dial. It is more a variation on the caliber R200 versus something totally new.

The 43mm wide case shape and size are the same, but you'll notice that Montblanc finally updated the steel bracelet. Originally, the Rieussec borrowed bracelets from "lesser" Montblanc watch collections. Montblanc informed me that it was their wish to design a new, better bracelet for the collection. If you compare the bracelets on this watch and the one on the models I reviewed a while ago, you'll see the difference. The new bracelet is certainly better suited to the design of the Nicolas Rieussec watch case. In addition to the steel Open Hometime model, there is an 18k red gold version available as well.

Through the rear of the case you can once again see the movement. Appearance wise, the R210 is similar to the R200. Functionally the movement is quite useful. It has a monopusher column-wheel based chronograph that uses moving discs. There is no running seconds hand. The automatic movement has a power reserve of 72 hours and also has the date, day/night indicator, and a second time zone. The R200 movement has the second time zone displayed as a second hour hand on the main time dial (which is off-centered). The R210 uses a disc instead of a hand, and the second time zone is displayed at the bottom of the time dial.

In addition to having an open view of the movement on the dial, much of the face is done with a machine engraving-like decorative design. It looks very nice and fits the overall theme of the Nicolas Rieussec collection very well. One of the things that I've noticed about the Nicolas Rieussec collection is that it is one of the most uniquely designed timepieces that you can wear daily. That means it is comfortable and convenient enough for full-time use on your wrist, but has a very distinctive and unique design at the same time. It is still pricey though, but not outrageous for the features and feature-rich in-house movement. In steel, the Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Open Hometime is priced at 10,690 Euros and 26,500 Euros in 18k red gold.

lunes, 17 de diciembre de 2012

MB&F HM5 Watch

Before he presented the HM5 watch to me for the first time earlier this year, MB&F's Max Busser first showed me two vintage watches from the 1970s. One was an Amida and the other was a Girard-Perregaux. Each was called a driver's watch, and was designed to display the time from the side. The idea being that someone with their hands on a steering wheel didn't have to turn their wrists to read the time. The Amida was mechanical while the Girard-Perregaux was an LED quartz. Max said to me that MB&F created a watch somewhere between these two, which also combined the design of some sports cars. He was absolutely correct.

It was not until recently that I was able to even discuss the MB&F HM5 watch (which we debuted here). I encourage you to visit that post to learn more about the HM5's technical specs and see an aBlogtoWatch video presentation by MB&F discussing the watch. I probably won't repeat too much of the tech specs in this piece. Now I bring you a hands-on review of the MB&F Horological Machine No. 5, nicknamed "On The Road Again." All of this makes me wonder what an MB&F designed automobile might look like.

MB&F, in a sense, has become like Disney for me. Less about animation and songs and more about something to look forward to. Having said that, I should modify my statement to say "the Disney of 20 years ago and older." Disney today just ain't what it used to be! Anyhow, I thoroughly enjoy how MB&F is able to surprise and tantalize me. I am waiting for an HM or LM watch that I actually really don't like just to say that I am not a mere MB&F fanboy. But so far, Mr. Busser (and his friends) are able to retain my attention rather well. When "On The Road Again" was first shown to people, it was (as can be excepted) met with mixed reviews. MB&F was slightly discouraged buy this until they recalled that "oh yea, we are the brand about polarizing crazy watches for the few and not the many." Polarizing design is good, if not absolutely great when it comes to the success of many niche timepieces.

Most of the photographs out there of the Horological Machine Number 5 don't really do it justice. It is admittedly an intellectually complex watch to photograph because it does not adhere to the typical conventions of how people see watches. For instance, it is not worn in the normal manner, and the most appealing part of the watch is not its "dial." The dial is further unpleasant to photograph and not the main attraction of the watch at all. When you understand this, then photographing the watch becomes more interesting. I did have fun with it, and also enjoyed talking like a pretentious wannabe photographer just now.

The dial of the HM5 is analog with a jumping hour window. Though analog in the "trying to look digital" way. The idea is quite simple, but it looks like a mystery. The mechanical movement in the HM5 is just like that of any other watch. But it uses a jumping hour disc and a second disc for the minutes. These actually point straight up. MB&F designed a sapphire crystal prism to project the view of the discs at a right angle. The prism also acts as a magnifier to make the time easier to read. Most of the crystal is also smoked, except for the area inside of the neon green lines where you read the time. Reading the time is pleasant but not as sexy as on an analog watch. That is sort of the nature of digital or digital-style time reading. MB&F wasn't interested in it being ultra sexy. Rather, MB&F was interested in making the best looking side-view digital-style analog display ever made. They didn't say that to me, but that was their goal. And that is what they did. It is the best of its breed, even if its breed is snapping turtles.

In fact, dials and instrument on cars in the 1970s were not sexy at all. Much of the 1970s and 1980s had rather plain looking gauges and instruments - which is interesting now that I think about it. This is a beauty pageant winner compared to many of them. The dial is however useful. I found it legible, and we can't of course forget the lume. Yes, the numerals are lumed if you recall. They charge "manually" when you open the slits (louvres) on the back of the case. These are opened and closed using a little lever switch. It is fun to play with for sure. Open them up and light spills onto the discs charging the lume. Like I said before, it's a very fun piece of over-engineered magnificence.

A group shot with the MB&F HM5 and its "inspiritors" show its relative size and case complexity. The watch looks a bit larger than it is, but it isn't a small timepiece. The case is 51.5mm tall and 49mm wide. It is also 22.5mm thick. But it wears more svelte on the wrist I found. This is likely because of the case's wedge shape. It is also quite comfortable even though it has a tendency to be visually a bit lopsided given the mass toward the dial. The case is rather light actually because it is mostly made from titanium-like zirconium. The inner case which houses the movement is in steel. The crown is large and great to operate, and I really like that MB&F made sure the movement was able to make the time adjust back and forward (not just in one direction which can be common with movements like this).

In pictures of the absolute rear of the watch where the crown is located one can see the two water vent "exhaust ports" on the ends of the case. These are meant to look like automobile exhaust pipes, but are also there to allow water and moisture to escape the case (which is water resistant to 30 meters). On the back of the case, only two of the louvres open and close - the rest are in a dark gray color. The case with its different tones and polishes looks very interesting and quite cool to be honest. In my opinion, the case of the Horological Machine No. 5 is difficult to dislike. With its automotive styling and lovely curves, it looks like MB&F should put wheels on it and a small steering wheel.
I find it interesting that the bottom of the watch is very different than the top. A good example are the screws. The top and sides of the case are totally clean. Turn it over and the bottom has tons of screws - and they look good. Though it might be a few too many screws depending on your taste. It overall makes for a fascinating contrast that helps the HM5 stand out as a complex design object even in its small form. This for me is artful engineering.

Attached to the case is a rubber strap that fits the character of the watch rather well. MB&F, you know I am still waiting for you guys to release something on a bracelet? Isn't it about time? We never thought that Urwerk would come out with something on a bracelet and they finally did. What gives? Consider my arms crossed waiting for one. The rubber strap tapers and ends with a zirconium buckle. Rubber straps are difficult to make "high-end." Basically you can use good rubber and offer interesting designs. This one has oblong-shaped port-hole style perforations. It is pretty cool, but my imagination wonders what it would look like on a bracelet.

Once again, inside the HM5 is a mechanical automatic movement which is a base Girard-Perregaux. I find that a little bit ironic given it is one of the watches the HM5 was inspired by. The movement is visible through the sapphire display case back which has MB&F's signature 22k gold "battle axe" rotor. That design logo shows up again engraved into the crown. For 2012 MB&F will produce 66 pieces of the Horological Machine No. 5 as a limited edition. They have confirmed that future versions in other colors and/or materials will come later - but it is unclear when. It is a very fascinating watch that once again is a razor sharp execution of the mission MB&F said they sought out to achieve with its design and concept. MB&F continues to prove their strong ability to tell stories and make art in functional, horological machines. Price for this version in zirconium is $63,000 making it the least expensive MB&F watch to date.

Necessary Data
>Brand: MB&F
>Model: HM5 "On The Road Again"
>Price: $63,000
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes
>Friend we'd recommend it to first: That rich 30-something guy you know who isn't into "materialism or brands," but ends up buying the best audio equipment and has no problem drinking otherwise collectible wine.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Having to take the time to constantly explain what it is to people.
>Best characteristic of watch: Beautiful yet polarizing case design will make you feel like a true aficionado.

domingo, 16 de diciembre de 2012

FP Journe Chronometre Optimum Watch: Timekeeping At Its Most Optimal

By James Lamdin

One thing that has always turned me off about haute horology pieces is the sheer uselessness of the complications watchmakers devise for their flagship timepieces. Any number of these complications are really just exercises in devising the most complex and obscure ways of measuring the passage time – or some correlated component therein. And while they are interesting experimental design studies often worthy of praise, they are just unnecessary – plain and simple. While many of these incredible timepieces represent the pinnacle of design and manufacture in the watchmaking industry, they are often so over-complicated and difficult to service that regular trips back to their homeland are required to keep them ticking. Much as a modern F1 car can’t operate without a computerized brain plugged into it and electric blankets to keep the tires warm, modern haute complications are so –er- complicated that they don’t make sense for real life use.

As a lover of the simplicity of straightforward non-complicated timepieces, I was intrigued when I was invited to check out the new FP Journe Souverain Chronometre’ Optimum last week at their boutique on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Here I was promised a glimpse at a true Haute timepiece simply dedicated to the most precise measurement of time. Previous to my visit, I only had the basics of information regarding Journe. I was certainly aware of the company’s unique identity as Switzerland’s only manufacturer in which its namesake was holding positions as owner, founder and (of course) watchmaker. I was also aware of the story of the man behind it all – having famously decided to build a tourbillon in his first attempt at watchmaking, simply because he couldn’t afford to buy one for himself. But I wasn’t prepared to be introduced to a timepiece – and a man – so engrained in the realm of haute horology mystique, that it actually made sense to me on such a basic level.

FP Journe S.A. has only formally existed since 1999, but Francois-Paul has been making watches in the same vein for roughly thirty years and his design style and signature are visible across the line. I was also aware of the growing appreciation of the brand amongst the collector crowd, and have watched with interest as auction values have climbed steadily in the past several years. And of course Journe’s annual production is very small. Their facility in Switzerland houses only about 25 watchmakers, and they produce less than a thousand watches a year. Yet in the past decade they have opened eight brand boutiques in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Furthermore, they have complete vertical integration, owning both their die maker and case maker. Pretty astounding success for a small brand any way you look at it.

Last week’s visit was my first chance to handle the Chronometré Optimum, as well as sit down with Mr. Journe himself to discuss the timepiece in detail.

The first points to hit on in a discussion of this incredible timepiece is what it really is all about, what the motivation behind creating it was, and why it is worthy of note. In his own words, Mr. Journe explained to me that the concept was to manufacture a mechanical wristwatch capable of “optimum” performance in time measurement – a concept he had been envisioning since the late 1980’s, but which he admits he did not yet have the “intellectual maturity” to accomplish at the time. He went on to explain that being the sole owner of an independent brand meant that “there are no deadlines,” so innovation comes on its own timeframe. The components for the Chronometré Optimum began shaping up in 2001, and was first officially unveiled as the finished product earlier this year.

Aside from striving for incredibly accurate timekeeping, the other primary purpose for the manufacture of this timepiece is service longevity. As Mr. Journe explained, he only considers a piece to be optimized if it can keep accurate time for an extended period – not just within the power reserve, but over years of service. This was the reasoning behind the design of the double barrel movement, revolutionary in that the mainsprings are manufactured from titanium to minimize weight and inertia – the enemies of accuracy. The movement also features a remontoire for added accuracy and delivery of constant force. The bi-axial escapement design is also “dry,” meaning no lubricants are required or recommended. This design allows for operation without loss of amplitude for 50 hours – absolutely astounding. With this design, Mr. Journe expects the service intervals to be at least ten years apart. This is incredible for a movement capable of this accuracy.

The Chronometré Optimum features a power reserve indicator and two registers on the dial (one for hours and minutes and another for sweep seconds) but doesn’t feature any additional complications such as a date or day function. “Never put a date on chronometers,” Journe says, as they cause too much time loss with additional escapements. There is, however, a dead-beat seconds register on the case back, included as a “nod to collectors,” who understand the history of the dead-beat complication. Curiously, the register runs counter-clockwise, which piqued my interest. When I asked him about it, I half expected some sort of vague, intellectually masturbatory response about the design being so common in the business. Surprisingly, the response I received was clean and simple, “Putting in the additional components to reverse it wouldn’t be efficient, and would make the piece unnecessarily harder to service”. This was an incredibly eye-opening insight into the mind of a master watchmaker that I have come to truly appreciate.

Mr. Journe recently stepped down from running the day-to-day operations of the company so he could “return upstairs to his work bench, where he belongs”. He spends a fair amount of time working with his young team of watchmakers, training them to think about watchmaking in a manner differently than other major manufacturers. His watchmakers assemble their timepieces from start to finish – they are experts in the whole process, unlike other assembly line manufacturers, with specialists for each component down the line. Journe feels strongly that each watchmaker must truly understand the timepiece as a whole, and can address the manufacture or servicing of any one of their wristwatches.

The Chronometré Optimum is truly an incredible timepiece and a work of art, and although my understanding of the inner complexities of the movement barely scratched the surface, it was more than enough to be duly impressed. There will be a total of 16 available in 2012 and a goal of 60 pieces in 2013. They are available in 40 and 42mm case sizes and clad in either Platinum or Rose Gold. Prices start at $86,400 for the smaller size in Rose and top out at $92,400 for the 42mm Platinum.

When I asked Mr. Journe what would come next, he laughed and told me it only gets more difficult from here. He believes that the next major innovation will come in manufacturing a watch without a mainspring at all. In his words, “mainsprings are the cause of friction and time loss,” and as long as they exist, mechanical timekeeping can never be perfect. Above all, my discussion proved that Mr. Journe’s company is a business built on passion. He values quality over quantity, and continually turns down offers from the big watch conglomerates to sell his company. As he puts it, “What would I do with all of the money? Go fishing? I don’t fish. I make watches, it’s what I love to do.”

sábado, 15 de diciembre de 2012

Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph Blue Dial Watch

Some people will probably tell you that a "sporty Vacheron Constantin" is an oxymoron. It sort of is, but that hasn't stopped a lot of traditional formal watch makers from producing high-end sport timepieces meant more for casual wear than actual active abuse. Sometimes I want to think of a sport watch as something that is meant to go deep, go high, or be beaten up. Anything in an 18k rose gold case with an alligator strap probably wouldn't volunteer for all that. Then again, pieces like this Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph will jump at the chance to sit on your wrist whilst you cruise down a country road in a grand tourer. What, your Sundays aren't like that?

As we all await a refreshed version of the Overseas to be released, we continue to see slight revisions to the existing formula trickle out of the house of Vacheron. For 2012 we get one with a lovely blue dial - which makes a nice contrast with either the steel or rose gold case in quite the regal manner. Blue dialed steel sport watches are not common, but they aren't bad looking at all. In person the blue color Vacheron Constantin uses is bright and cheerful, without any cheesy electric vibes.

The Overseas models always fascinated me like a strange purebred cat that didn't necessarily have a reason to exist in nature, but you appreciate them nonetheless. With its rather strong anti-magnetic case properties and curious "150 meters" of water resistance combined in a thick steel case, an argument could be made that if you wash away all the Vacheronity of the watch, it could make a nice high-end weekend timepiece with jeans (gee I love writing those long sentences). Ah, but it does have all those Maltese Cross elements and historic Vacheron Constantin name on the dial. Even the bracelet is designed to look like Maltese Cross logos stacked on top of one another. At least someone had the wisdom not to include a tachymeter scale on the dial. Screw-down pushers for the chronograph are the last hint that the Overseas has absolutely no desire to show up to the same parties as Vacheron Constantin Patrimony collection pieces.

My first experience with an Overseas model was in law school. A friend of mind came to class one day with a "nice watch" his parents back in Taiwan bought him. It was an Overseas on a strap. I thought it was pretty cool even if he didn't know too much about it. He had an appreciation for it, but wasn't a huge enthusiast. For me it became clear that if you absolutely must have a Vacheron Constantin watch, but nothing else in their collection fits your personality, then the Overseas was the model for you. So I guess the collection does have a good reason for existing.

The 42mm wide case is given wide lugs for an ample wrist stance. The size feels good and wears larger than say a traditional Audemars Piguet Royal Oak or Patek Philippe Nautilus. The bezel with its polished Maltese Cross-like design will either appeal to you or distract you. The case is actually very nicely made. Good detailing with a lot of wonderful beveling and finishing. It isn't just attractive but on the wrist it is comfortable. Kudos to Vacheron Constatin's refinement department (I would really love it if that existed).

The dial of the Overseas Chronograph and other Overseas models is simple compared to the design of the case. It isn't bad, but it doesn't excite me on a chemical level. I think the hour and minute hands need to be a bit longer, and there is a bit of room for pizazz. At the same time the dial is brutally effective and quite legible. There is as much Omega Speedmaster DNA in this dial as there is almost 300 years of watch making history.

Inside of the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph with Blue Dial (ref. 49150/B01A-9745) is the caliber 1137 automatic chronograph movement, which is a base Frederic Piguet. That isn't an in-house made movement, which for some people defeats the purpose of getting a Vacheron Constantin in the first place. F. Piguet is however the high-end movement making division (also called Blancpain Manufacture) of the Swatch Group. Never mind that the Richemont Group owns Vacheron Constantin, but F. Piguet movements are pretty nice and nothing to complain about. This is one of only one or two currently made Vacheron watches with the caliber 1137 movement inside of it.

My favorite detail of the Overseas is the engraving of the old-timey long-distance sailing ship. Be it a war or merchant ship, it certainly does espouse the notion of being an "overseas" explorer. It is a nice romantic touch to seal the package. Price for this blue dial version (in steel) of the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph will retail for about $20,000. More for the 18k rose gold version of course.

Piaget Emperador Coussin XL Ultra-Thin Minute Repeater Watch

For SIHH 2013, Piaget will once again break a record when it comes to being thin with the Emperador Coussin XL Ultra Thin Minute Repeater. No we are not talking about anything related to "The Biggest Loser," but rather a new movement which is the thinnest of its kind. Traditionally, Piaget has been known for making very thin mechanical movements. A few years ago they revisited this pursuit and started to produce movements of various types and complications that are the thinnest of their kind.

If you look back in aBlogtoWatch archives you'll find a number of these watches. A few will probably be listed below under "Related Posts." Usually when Piaget has something slim to brag about they put an "Ultra Thin" title in the name of the piece. For 2013, Piaget has upped the ante even more by producing the world's thinnest minute repeater movement in the caliber 1290P. It also happens to be an automatic. The 1290P contains 407 parts and is just 4.8mm thick.

The Emperador Coussin XL Ultra Thin Minute Repeater watch has no dial, just a lovely view of the movement. The caseback is of course an exhibition back with a view of the gold micro-rotor for the automatic winding system. The movement is very much a Piaget in design and looks beautiful. There is a message around part of the minute repeater's regulator that reminds you the movement is made in Piaget's highest-end movement making facility in the small town of La Cote-Aux-Fees. Even though the watch has no dial, that doesn't mean it doesn't have hour indicators. There is probably a sapphire crystal middle section where the rose gold hour markers are applied. I appreciate open dials, but I appreciate open dials with hour markers even more.

While the watch is the thinnest automatic minute repeater around, it certainly isn't the smallest. The Piaget Emperador Coussin XL case is 48mm wide in 18k rose gold. The entire watch is just 9.4mm thin - pretty darn svelte for a minute repeater. While the dial is open, the minute repeater gongs and hammers are placed on the rear of the watch - but of course are still visible. Even though the minute repeater-based 1290P automatic movement is very compact, Piaget claims that the audio from the minute repeater is quite impressive at 65 decibels in volume. I don't really know what that translates into realistically, so I will have to check it out for myself at SIHH.

Piaget has already made the world's thinnest mechanical movement, automatic movement, and a range of others like the world's thinnest tourbillon and automatic tourbillon. Now that they have the most basic and most complicated movements down they have a chance to fill in the middle. Perhaps a really thin chronograph is due next? I bet that would be lovely. The 2013 Piaget Emperador Coussin XL Ultra Thin Minute Repeater will debut next month and will be priced at over $250,000 when it is eventually commercially released.

viernes, 14 de diciembre de 2012

Two Nomos Tangomat GMTs

The Amazing In-House Xi Movement

Since all three of these watches are based on the same movement, let's start there. The in-house ξ (Xi) movement is a real thing of beauty. It has subsidiary seconds at 6 o'clock (which can be stopped when setting) and two coupled rings for telling time in the second timezone - one small ring at 3 o'clock for telling the time and one larger ring that runs the full perimeter of the movement that indicates the location of the second timezone. Finishing on the Xi is extremely high quality, as you would expect from Nomos, and the partially cut-out rotor allows you to still admire much of the movement through the sapphire caseback on all three models.

Second Timezone Indicator On Both Tangomat GMTs

Nomos Tangomat GMT City Code Timezone Indicator

Nomos Tangomat GMT Plus +/- GMT Timezone Indicator

While on the the Zürich Weltzeit the larger timezone ring is fully exposed and is styled as a worldtimer cities ring, both Tangomats keep the ring concealed except for an aperture at 9 o'clock. The biggest difference between the Tangomat GMT and the Tangomat GMT Plus is how this ring indicates the second timezone. The GMT uses three-letter city codes while the GMT Plus uses the number of hours +/- GMT for the timezone. The actual time ring at 3 o'clock functions almost exactly the same on all three models, though it too is a little more covered up on the Tangomats.

The Architectural Tangomat Case

Another obvious difference between the GMT models and the Weltzeit is the case choices and aesthetic styling of the watches. The Weltzeit is packaged in the curved and classic looking Zürich case, with flowing lugs and a round pusher at 2 o'clock. The GMTs on the other hand feature the Tangomat case, which is much more rigid and architectural than the Zürich. The case sides are steep, the lugs are angular and arching, and the round pusher is swapped for a rectangular one. The GMTs also have a much bolder, more traditionally Nomos-looking dial, with a lot more white space.

All three of these GMT watches are outstanding and present immense value for money. The Tangomat GMTs are both priced at $4,570 and the Weltzeit is $5,760, and you get beautifully finished, in-house GMT movements in very stylish packages. But which of the three you prefer is entirely a matter of taste.

Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Rising Hours Watch

SIHH 2013 will see the release of a brand new version of the now well-known Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec watch. I find it rather interesting to see how Montblanc continues to explore and expand this collection that started the in-house made Montblanc movement watch collection. Made in Le Locle, timepieces like the Nicolas Rieussec collection represent the in-house made mid-range of watches in the Montblanc collection. Above them are the Minerva Villeret produced Montblanc watches.

The Nicolas Rieussec Rising Hours evolves the design of the dial to play around with the complications once again. Gone is the second time zone, but added in is a day of the week indicator opposite the date. The off-centered time display is where the real difference can be found. Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec watches typically have day/night (AM/PM) indicators, but this model offers this function in a much more beautiful way. The time dial has a normal minutes hand, but now comes with a wandering disc to indicate the hours. This is opposed to a jumping hours disc, or just an hour hand. The numerals on the hours disc are hollow, showing another disc underneath. This second disc is half dark gray and half blue. It moves under the hour indicators to indicate day or night. It is a very clever and interesting addition to the Nicolas Rieussec line.

Like last year's version of the Nicolas Rieussec, the dial of the watch is classically decorated and very attractive. This style really does help the core design look its best. Inside the Rising Hours model is a Montblanc MB R220 automatic movement that is visible through the sapphire case back. The movement has about three days of power reserve as well as other features including the date and a monopusher 30 minute chronograph. It continues to be one of the most interesting Montblanc watches around for those looking for something non-standard.

The Nicolas Rieussec Rising Hours watch case is about 43mm wide on a strap or metal bracelet. Montblanc will offer the Rising Hours in steel, rose gold, as well as a limited edition of 28 pieces in platinum. A great looking piece, I think it is a winner, though I will have to see it in person. The skeletonized minute hand does concern me a bit as I fear it may be hard to spot on the live watches. We will be sure to check this watch out more when we get some hands-on time with it.

Autodromo Monoposto Limted Editon Watch

When Autodromo debuted earlier this year, they did so with an interesting and distinct line of watches that were exclusively quartz powered. Nine times out of ten, the average watch nerd would likely prefer a mechanically powered watch and this is just what Autodromo has announced with their newest model. The new Autodromo Monoposto is the brand's first mechanical model and it is a beautiful one at that.

The Monoposto is built around a 43 x 10 mm stainless steel case with wire-style lugs and a distinctly vintage vibe (aside from the admittedly modern sizing). Exposed above the dial is a domed KL glass crystal which has a sapphire coating. "Monoposto" translates to "single seat" and the crystal on the Monoposto features a red strip that is meant to recall the days before race cars had rev limiters. Mechanics had to apply a red strip to the glass on a car's tachometer so that the driver would have a way to quickly check if they were pushing the engine too hard. While I think that this may cause some confusion (at-a-glance) with the also-red seconds hand, the overall look is pretty cool and it certainly fits the aesthetic they have developed across the Autodromo line up.

The Monoposto is powered by a Miyota 821A Japanese automatic movement which offers a three-hand display with date and a power reserve of 42 hours. The 821A is a new revision of the 8215 auto we have used seen in many watches in the past. Like the 8215, the 821A does allow for hand winding but does not offer hacking (a stopping of the seconds hand when the crown is pulled out for time setting). With a quoted timekeeping of -20~+40 seconds a day, the 821A is certainly an entry level movement, but it should prove to be as dependable and cheap to service as its predecessor. Additionally, the Monoposto is fitted with a display case back which allows a view of the movement within.

Autodromo is making just 500 examples of the Monoposto, half with a black dial and half with silver. Selling directly through Autodromo's website, the Monoposto costs $875 USD and includes a leather strap and a numbered presentation box. I think the Monoposto is beautiful and certainly Autodromo's best looking watch to-date. The wire lugs, domed crystal and minimal dial design are perfect and nicely exhibits the care and attention to detail that Autodromo invested in the Monoposto design. Given the price point, it would have been nice to see a sapphire crystal or even an uprated Miyota 9015 ticking within. That said, the fairly lack-luster movement is made good my a beautiful design that should appeal to anyone who loves the idiosyncrasies and beauty of vintage automotive design. That's all of us, right?