sábado, 30 de junio de 2012

Tag Heuer Monaco Grand Prix Watches

The Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix is one of the most famous and prestigious races in the F1 calendar. Even those who have never followed motorsports have heard of Monaco (maybe because of Tag Heuer), a highly technical course which winds through the roadways of the famed city-state and playground for the rich and famous. The Monaco GP, now in its 83rd year, highlights prestige, luxury and wealth in a way that few other F1 weekends can match. Super yachts line the shore as on-lookers watch some of the most advanced machines in the world run a tight and aggressive course with more than its fair share of elevation changes. Well-heeled race fans, celebrities and socialites flock to the south-east coast of France to enjoy a truly legendary weekend of screaming race cars, world-renowned casinos and swanky parties.

Few watch brands have as strong a symbiotic relationship with motorsports as Tag Heuer. Many of their most famous models are tributes to notable elements within the world of motorsport, consider the Camaro, Carrera, Silverstone, Monza, Formula 1, and of course, the Monaco. Tag has made special editions for not only Mercedes but also McLaren, one of the most successful F1 teams of all time. In addition to the manufactures, Tag Heuer has also seen their brand represented by some of F1's best drivers, including Alain Prost, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Ayrton Senna. Other brands have tried to connect themselves with motorsports but from track day junkies like Steve McQueen, to modern day World Champions like Jenson Button, Tag Heuer has become the reigning watch brand in motorsports. A big marketing campaign success by most accounts.

Tag Heuer celebrated the 2012 Monaco GP by announcing four watches, two limited editions that directly commemorate the Monaco Grand Prix, and the "re-release" of two special editions which were previously only available through Tag Heuer boutiques. Above is the Monaco Calibre 12 ACM Limited Edition (CAW211K) which celebrates the first year of partnership between Tag Heuer and the Automobile Club de Monaco, the group responsible for organizing a series of races throughout Monaco, including the Monaco Gran Prix. Tag Heuer is their official timing partner and thus created this 39mm black dialed Monaco featuring the ACM logo on the dial. The Monaco Calibre 12 ACM will have a production run limited to 1200 units.

Not one to forget their popular Carrera line, Tag Heuer also announced the new Carrera Calibre 16 Day Date Monaco Grand Prix LE (CV2A1F) which will be limited to 3000 units and can be had with a sporty tire tread-inspired rubber strap or a stainless steel bracelet, both of which nicely suit its 43 mm stainless steel case. I have always enjoyed the Carrera line as they feature a very pleasing case and lug design as well as excellent legibility for a chronograph. This new model sports a simplified dial layout and bright red accents for the second hand and elements of the dial and bezel script. It is really ironic that there is now a Tag Heuer Carrera Monaco watch. Nice and confusing right?

Also announced was a duo of bright blue Monacos meant to invoke the memory of Steve McQueen, who wore a Monaco in the 1971 film Le Mans, and has been a considerable factor in the continued popularity of the Monaco line. First, the Monaco Heuer Steve McQueen Calibre 11, a traditional looking blue and white edition of the Monaco that is actually a slightly revised version of a boutique-only model that Tag Heuer announced last year. This is basically a vintage inspired Monaco with bright white racing stripes on the dial and its crown on the left side of the case. Note the use of "Heuer" and not "Tag Heuer" on the dial and the matching blue leather strap. It is fitting that this vintage inspired chronograph wears the Heuer name on its dial as the original Monaco design launched in 1969, some sixteen years before Heuer became Tag Heuer.

Last up is the Monaco Twenty Four McQueen (CAL5111) which is a more modern interpretation of the Monaco form. Featuring a highly detailed dial design, curved crystal and 40.5 mm case, this high end chronograph features an El Primero-based Calibre 36 chronograph movement with an advanced shock absorber system visible at all corners of the dial. This is also a model that is simply seeing a wider release after being a boutique-only offering last year.

While pricing has yet to be announced, these special editions are a great way to highlight brand successes and Tag Heuer's strong connections with not only Formula 1, but specifically Monaco and its famous course. Given it's provenance as the first automatic chronograph and its truly iconic design, I am a big fan of the base Monaco models and really enjoy how Tag Heuer has managed to protect the style and aesthetic promoted by original models while still promoting innovation and technology through models like the Monaco Twenty Four McQueen.

viernes, 29 de junio de 2012

Hublot Big Bang Zegg & Cerlati Watches

The next limited edition Hublot Big Bang watch is for women. To be honest, the Big Bang model has taken a back seat (this will most likely be changing soon) to other Hublot models when it comes to limited editions for men. The King Power has been favored for a while because of its larger size and more technical design. In 2012 Hublot re-released the Big Bang as a larger watch and modernized it a bit. Anyhow, this shiny Big Bang is for the ladies and has been done in collaboration with watch maker and retailer Zegg & Cerlati. Making limited edition models for retailers is a popular way of creating exclusivity and making retailers happy while giving them a reason to promote items to their customers.

Zegg & Cerlati have a few retails stores mostly in Monaco (where they are based). In addition to carrying a range of other brands (including Hublot of course), they also offer their own line of watches and jewelry. They only have one watch right now that comes in a range of styles (in different colors of gold and amounts of diamonds). It is called the Place du Casino. I think it is for women - hard to tell. Place du Casino is a super Monte Carlo name... and right there on the dial "Monte Carlo" is spelled out. I think you can use this watch as gambling currency in their casinos.

Aside from Zegg & Cerlati's watches is their rather impressive range of appendage adornments. Most notable is the finest cock ring I have ever seen. In my time I have viewed a lot of cock rings and this one is by far the most comfortable looking and luxurious. The color and poise of the cock done in yellow, rose, and white gold helps frame its bold stature and firm pose. "Signe du Coq" is truly an apt name for such a strong cock ring.

In addition to cocks, I mean roosters, Zegg & Cerlati jewelry features a lot of animals... on rings. Rather interesting stuff if you like bedazzled gorillas on your index finger. Hublot produced two limited edition lady versions of the 41mm wide Big Bang for Zegg & Cerlati with Tina Zegg. She liked the mirror dial look of some other Hublot models and wanted to go with these two. One in steel and one in 18k rose gold. Interestingly enough, the rose gold version does not have a rose gold dial. The dial is rather made from mirror polished brass. You can see the color tone differences in the image. Hublot chose a strap to match the brass dial on the gold version.

The watches are interesting looking and certainly not something I would expect Hublot to release without outside influence. They might opt for a bit more color and dazzle, but I find these to be interesting timepieces actually. The straps are gold or silver colored done with a glossy finish. It was important for Zegg that the dials be monochromatic, but also legible. With the mirror dial design Hublot came up with a few years ago - that is possible. You really don't see that many mirror finished dials on watches. It is almost an ironic concept.

Inside the watch is a base ETA Hublot caliber HUB4300 automatic chronograph movement. The steel Big Bang Zegg & Cerlati will be limited to 100 pieces while the 18k rose gold version will be limited to 50 pieces. They are available in Zegg & Cerlati boutiques in Monte Carlo, Austria, and Switzerland. Don't forget to check out the rings.

jueves, 28 de junio de 2012

Ulysse Nardin Black Sea Chronograph Watch

If you would have told me sight-unseen that a rubber-clad timepiece would make a luxury watch I would have never believed you. Then it started to happen, high-end brands began to experiment with coatings of vulcanized rubber on watches. It started with bezel pieces, crowns, and pushers. Then brands like Ulysse Nardin said "screw it, let's just coat the entire damn thing in rubber." That is where pieces like the original Black Sea came from. Since then, Ulysse Nardin has offered a range of Maxi Marine based watches coated in rubber. There was a blue model, and some with trim details of various styles such as a Boca Raton boutique-only piece available in Florida with a gold bezel. This is the first chronograph version of the rubber-clad design.

The watch is called the Black Sea Chronograph and as a diver, it is water resistant to 200 meters with a rotating diver's bezel. While few people actually go underwater with a watch like this, the dial does represent its utilitarian theme with bold hands and hour indicator. One thing that surprisingly seems to work are the skeletonized hands. Lately I have noticed a huge personal dislike of skeletonized hands. Mainly because they often serve no purpose other than to make reading the dial more difficult. Designers use them for two reasons. First for the practical reason to make seeing dial underneath the hands more visible. That makes sense, and is often a balance of trading off legibility for being able to see dial information more of the time. The second reason is purely for design. This I hate. This is when designers think skeletonized hands look cool in CAD drawings and computer renders. They could care less that it takes the utility level of an actual watch down a few steps - not knowing that the materials used to make the dials and hands drastically effect what it looks like in real life as compared to the computer images. This is especially bad when there is nothing under the hands on the dial you need to see. Keep away from those watches. In this case, Ulysse Nardin takes a much more practical approach. The hands are skeletonized in order to make viewing the chronograph subdials possible more of the time. This is because the hands are really fat. So while they are skeletonized, the fat lume-coated tips are large enough to see easily. So this is a case when someone actually put time into the dial design to consider the right balance as best they could.

The Black Sea Chronograph case is 45.8mm wide, but wears a bit smaller than it looks because of the thick bezel. You can see that the dial has a sand-like texture and there is a splash of red and blue on the face as well. While the name of the watch is the Black Sea Chronograph, Ulysse Nardin reminds you that this is certainly part of their Marine Diver collection right on the dial as part of the unique looking subsidiary seconds counter. On the side of the case is a steel plate that has the serial number of the watch - this isn't a limited edition.

How does vulcanized rubber over steel feel? Well the rubber is stuck to the case really well of course. It is bonded to it, so it isn't like the steel case is wearing a rubber jacket. You get the impression that it ought to wear well, but the right hit might end up tearing away some rubber. I wonder how often that happens. Vulcanized rubber is rather durable, especially as in this instance it does not need to bend at all. My understanding is that it is supposed to look good for a few decades at least. I don't know of vulcanized rubber watches from 30-40 years ago - so I really don't know how they hold up.

Attached to the black case is a black rubber strap. In the true Marine Diver style, the rubber strap has two black ceramic pieces in it close to the case. These have the Ulysse Nardin logo engraved into them. The rear of the case has a sapphire exhibition caseback window that helps break up the constant look of black rubber. Inside the watch is a caliber UN-35 automatic chronograph movement which is a base Swiss ETA. Even the crown and pushers are done in vulcanized rubber to complete the theme. Overall this is a unique sports chronograph watch that I feel is more interesting when handled in person than it appears to be in marketing images. I have to end by quipping on Ulysse Nardin's press release comment that the "Black Sea Chronograph is for the for man who counts the hours before he can return to sea." You can make your own joke about this strange comment on ocean addiction. Price is $10,900.

martes, 26 de junio de 2012

Longines Watches And The French Open

A couple of weekends ago, I had the privilege of attending the 2012 French Open (aka Rolland Garros) in Paris, France. The French Open is arguably one of the top two or three professional tennis tournaments in the world (behind Wimbledon and alongside the US Open) and brings the game's top players to the heart of Paris for a yearly event which dates as far back as 1891. Compagnie des Montres Longines Francillon SA, better and more simply known as Longines Watches, have been the official timekeeper and partner of the French Open since 2007, and claims to have found a strong synergy between their brand and the world of tennis. When you consider Longines' products, their ambassadors, and their partnerships, it becomes very clear as to why the French Open is an ideal venue for what is the largest yearly event in Longines' social calendar as they dedicate a lot of their resources to embracing the sport of tennis.

Longines is part of the Swatch Group which makes them a sibling to a series of other Swiss brands like Omega, Hamilton and even Blancplain. Longines produces both quartz and mechanical watches and are best known for the Lindbergh series and more recently, the Column Wheel Chronograph. Their strength lies in more dressy designs that are practical enough for everyday use while still offering a wide range of complications. According to their CEO the best selling Longines pieces are three hand automatic and chronograph models. Thanks to their close ties with ETA (also owned by Swatch), Longines is able to build exclusive movements for their flagship models (seen above) like the L688 (used in the Column Wheel Chronograph, seen below) and the L707 (used in the Master Collection Retrograde Moonphase, more photos below). Longines is able to take advantage of their close relationship with the ubiquitous movement maker to offer what are effectively in-house movements at a price point that few other brands can match.

Take a quick look at their watches and it's easy to see why Longines has been able to foster a long-standing relationship with the world of professional tennis. With an old world elegance the designs are an excellent fit for the tone of the sport - as a spectator. I'm generally not one who has much interest in brand ambassadors but Longines takes their ambassador roles very seriously with the job given to the likes of 2010 French Open Champion Francesca Schiavone, as well as tennis legends and notable philanthropists Stefanie Graf and Andre Agassi. Even with only a casual understanding of modern tennis, it is easy to understand why ambassadors like these can be extremely valuable to a brand like Longines.

In addition, Longines sponsors a yearly tournament that brings the 16 best tennis players under the age of 13 from around the world (annual alternation between boys and girls). This two-day tournament, the Longines Future Tennis Aces 2012, saw a final victory go to Destanee Aiava of Australia (seen above). The two finalists had the opportunity to play an exhibition game with Stefanie Graf and Sabine Lisickiwill and will also receive further sponsorship from Longines until their 16th birthday. While Rolland Garros is the largest annual event for Longines, their sport sponsorships do not stop with tennis as they are also involved with archery, gymnastics, alpine skiing, and even equestrian sports like the Prix de Diane which we showed you last year. This is a carefully selected group of sports which echo the same principals that Longines wishes to convey for themselves such as elegance and tradition.

What does any of this have to do with watches? Consider the Longines Master Collection L27394713 Retrograde Moonphase, a dressy 44 mm timepiece sporting multiple functions, a lovely bright white "barleycorn" dial, and the exclusive-to-Longines caliber L707.2 automatic movement. This watch looks fantastic in their photos but is truly a knockout in person. The 44mm sizing overpowers some of its more dressy conventions and makes the Retrograde Moonphase a rather versatile and easy to wear timepiece. Boasting standard time, day, moonphase, day/night indication, and retrograde displays for date, sub-seconds, and a second timezone, the Longines Retrograde Moonphase does not leave much to be desired from a complication stand point (probably because there isn't room for anything else). All of these functions are managed by the L707.2 movement which is made exclusively for Longines by ETA. The base of the movement is the ETA A07.L31 which offers a 48 hour power reserve, 25 jewels and automatic winding.

The L27394713 Retrograde Moonphase wears nicely on-wrist, not too tall nor, at least on the included alligator strap, too flashy. The dial is full of fine details and for a dive-watch-junkie like myself, the multitude of hands took a few glances to get accustomed to. Once acclimated, the Retrograde Moonphase is capable of showing you a lot of information at once without seeming too busy or complicated. Were it not for the 44mm sizing, I would have no problem categorizing this watch as traditional and classic. If you like the idea of a dressy multi-complication but want something in excess of 42mm, this Longines would fit the bill nicely. I especially like the patterning on the dial, the use of Roman numerals and the triptych of retrograde displays. There is enough visual interest in this Longines that you will be smiling long before you even realize you haven't bothered to actually read the time. [Ed. Note - sounds like someone has a crush on that watch].

Longines has outfitted the Retrograde Moonphase with sapphire crystals for both the front and the display back as well as push-button butterfly clasps for the 22mm wide alligator strap. This is a similar watch to the L27394713 Retrograde Ariel reviewed sometime ago and you can consider the L27394713 an upgrade over the L27174716, offering the day/night indicator and the moonphase for some additional flare. With a list price of $3600 USD, the Retrograde Moonphase offers a lovely and detailed timepiece with an interesting movement at a very competitive price point.

With 180 years in the business, it's safe to say that Longines takes watchmaking rather seriously. They are actually still based at their original location in Saint-Imier in western Switzerland and have announced a line commemorating their history and connection with their roots. The new line, dubbed the Saint-Imier collection (seen above, right), offers a range of men's and women's watches that all share a similar hand set but span both three-handers and chronographs in a variety of dials and case sizes. While we will have more on the Saint-Imier line in the coming weeks, Longines history actually dates back to 1832 when a small company called Agassiz & compagnie setup a watch making business being run mostly out of employee's homes. This company progressed and eventually setup a factory in the Saint-Imier valley in an area called Les Longines. By 1867, they had produced their first movement from within the factory walls and Longines has been pushing forward ever since. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, Longines holds the longest standing trademark still in use today. That is a history to be proud of and Longines promotes their product and their history through famous ambassadors like Kate Winslet, Aishwarya Rai, or Simon Baker and events like the French Open.

Longines offers a wide range of watches but it is clear that their brand focus lies more in dressy designs and classically-styled chronographs (like the L27764213 Mono-pusher Chronograph seen above right). Their brand strategy seems to be working as Longines is now measured in the top five watchmaking brands in the world. Longines has seen massive success in Asia and is well situated to expand into the void created as Omega began to implement manufacture movements that demand higher price points.

The finale of my weekend in Paris was the opportunity to attend the Men's Finals. Held in the Philippe Chatrier Court, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic squared off for the the French Open title in spectacular fashion. I was astonished to find out that the Philippe Chatrier court seats nearly 15,000 spectators as, compared to other sporting events I have attended, it felt much more personal and the match was much more viewable than that number would suggest. Very much a gentleman's sport, I was surprised as the crowd turned on any player that lost his cool or allowed his temper to flare up. At one point, Djokovic smashed his racket into a bench and the crowd immediately booed at this display of aggression and poor sportsmanship.

Growing up in Canada, I knew to cheer when a hockey player acts aggressively or starts a fight, so this disapproval was foreign to me. While the match was eventually delayed due to rain, we were able to take in three hours of tennis and the game, when played at such a high level, seemed similar to a boxing match. A testament to who can keep playing through the pain as they attempt to strategically tear down their opponent. Even though I was flying home when Nadal won the following day, I immensely enjoyed the sets that I was able to see.

Tennis is a natural fit for a brand like Longines as the sport prides itself on tradition, prestige, and competition. While no "pop- up" store was present at the French Open, the grounds of Rolland Garros were graced with a Longines booth that allowed tennis fans the opportunity to measure the speed of their serve and various clocks around the park had been designed to look like Longines watches.

These endeavors are largely aligned with Longines whom, in addition to their their focus on elegance, tradition, and performance, can safely speak to the incredible task of keeping a brand alive for 180 yrs. Longines seems to really understand their core skill and competencies and their current President Walter Von Kanel has been working with Longines since 1963 and has held his current role since 1988. Do you need to like tennis to understand and appreciate Longines? No, I don't think so. Prior to attending the French Open, my understanding of tennis was roughly equal to my functional grasp of the French language, that is, little to none. Longines is a very traditional Swiss watch brand and their watches may not appeal to all buyers but their product is solid and they have a very firm grasp on who they are and what they do well. I had the opportunity to see a number of very nice models from Longines and the brand uses its ambassadors and events like the French Open to promote their values and connect their product with something that they appreciate and can support.

lunes, 25 de junio de 2012

HD3 Slyde Watch Review

This is the Slyde by HD3. It represents a lot of things and is one of the most unique high-end watches on the market today. It is digital and has a touchscreen. It also comes with a charging base and can connect to your computer. Right now it doesn't have anything like Bluetooth or WiFi, but that isn't really the point. When non-watch world people see it, they immediately begin asking questions about it like it is a smart-phone version of a watch. I get that, but what the Slyde actually represents, is more a digital interpretation of traditional Swiss watch values.

Go back in HD3's history and you'll see a lot of exotic high-end mechanical watches. Nothing at all like the Slyde. HD3 was started by well-known watch designer Jorg Hysek, the original founder of the brand Hysek. Today, Mr. Hysek is still involved but his son (also Jorg) is running the show. During the financial crisis, HD3 knew it needed to change things in order to survive. Many other brands in this position simply stuck to their guns, selling wildly expensive high-end watches to a few select clients in the hope that it would keep them alive until things got economically better. I think that HD3 wanted to do something else. Their idea would be to go 'edgy' and do something that their Swiss colleagues might scoff at. True enough, digital watches don't exactly have a ton of respect in the high-end world. HD3 has actually changed those perceptions in an appreciable way. The common comment I get from Swiss people outside HD3 when discussing the Slyde is "really cool" with a jealous smile on their face. Tapping into some of the reasons that people like their tablets and smart phones, the Slyde offers up style and technology.

While the Slyde is still a high-end item, it is not only watch industry insiders who are excited by the device. When I debuted the watch to the world back in January of 2011, the video with Mr. Hysek senior presenting a prototype Slyde was extremely popular. This showed me that people who don't necessarily wear watches are ready and eager to get devices back on their wrists. Still, the Slyde is a polarizing watch. Some people think it is the next best thing, while others seem to simply disagree with it from an aesthetic or conceptual standpoint. Having said that, it is likely one of the most mainstream items HD3 has ever designed. So enough about people's perceptions of it, what do I think and what is it like to wear and use?

HD3 currently offers a few styles of the Slyde. I have the steel model, but it also comes in titanium. There are also steel and titanium versions with PVD black segments, and a version with some 18k rose gold trim. Don't miss the model with diamonds on the lugs. The case is quite comfortable, but larger at almost 48mm wide and about 58mm tall. The entire case curves for comfort, and the wide strap helps it look composed. I like the different metal finishes and the polished edges on the case. For me, the design nicely mixes Swiss watch and gadget. There are no buttons on the case. On the right side of it are five little lights. Well one of them looks like a light but is actually a light sensor. These glow when the screen is activated or while charging the watch. The number of lights that turn on indicate the battery life. Slyde suggests charging the watch once each couple of weeks depending on your use. I got at least that much battery life out of it. You can set how long the screen stays activated from the computer-based software that comes with the watch.

To activate the screen you tap it. This is usually done with a finger, but when my hands are full I just tap the watch on my cheek or forehead - that does the trick. When the screen is activated you can then swipe it with your finger up, down, or to the sides. This allows you to access the various screens. All adjustments are done via holding your finger on the screen for a few seconds. The simplicity of using the Slyde is not a let down. I was worried at first that it would have a steep learning curve. Not at all. In just a few minutes you'll learn everything you need to know about it.

Slyde comes with one installed "engine." This is like the skin of the watch you see. Each engine has screens for a range of functions you expect in most digital watches. This includes a world time function, chronograph, countdown timer, full calendar, moon phase indicator, and a series of special custom calendar functions. Some of these special calendar functions include linking pictures with calendar data. The Slyde allows you to upload some images to it and assign a date to them. You then can see how many days you need to wait until the date comes or how many days have passed since a calendar date. Take for example the birth of a child. You can upload an image of the baby and set it to their birthday. When you access the image it will tell you how many days passed since they were born. Alternatively, you can upload a picture of a vacation destination and the date when you will travel there for a countdown each time you look at it.

The software works pretty well and the touchscreen is responsive. It is fun to swipe around the screens. HD3 will make other engines available for download soon, and the watch has enough memory to store four of them at a time. The rest can be stored via software on your computer. My only issue with the Slyde right now is that there is a second or so delay from when you tap the screen until it activates. This means it takes longer to check the time as compared to a standard watch. With its upgradable hardware and software, this might be remedied in the future. Also, the screen is a sapphire crystal which is great. This means scratch resistance. Just be prepared to wipe it down a lot because all that touching means smudge marks all over your pretty watch.

To charge and connect the Slyde to a computer you place it on the charging dock which can connect to your computer via USB. This same port can be connected to an AC adapter for basic charging. Attached to the watch is a very iconic HD3 "double" strap. This version has an alligator-print leather strap, but rubber straps are also available. The strap ends with a good looking locking fold over clasp.

Playing with the Slyde is the best part of the watch. Tap the screen for example and on most functions they perform a little animation. There is even a little video player. Slyde will work with a range of watch designers for new engines, and the opportunities are really interesting. Things you can't do with actual mechanics you can do on the Slyde. The idea is for all the "watch skins" to look like they could feasibly be mechanical. There just isn't all that pesky engineering to deal with.

Like I said, the Slyde is a very polarizing watch, and I have had a lot of opportunity to test this while wearing it all over the place. This type of polarization is good, and I am always happy to strap it on. This is the digital watch you aren't ashamed of wearing to a business meeting. Slyde goes where Casio can't! It is also a lot more expensive. HD3 is a high-end brand and the Slyde accordingly is priced as such. Even the new engines are said to be paid downloads and limited editions! More on that as Slyde develops that system. Price for the basic steel model is $6,895. In basic titanium it is $7,295 while PVD coated models are a bit more. Prices go all the way up to $19,595 for the steel version with diamonds.

Tech specs from HD3:

CLT electronic movement.
Movement Dimensions (not case)
Vertical - 38.54mm. Horizontal - 35.09mm. Thickness - 7.32mm.
3.8V lithium polymer, capacity of 250 mAh.
TFT 232x240 pixel, 28 x 29mm active zone.
Touch sensor
Stainless Steel.
Width - 47.71mm. Length - 57.84mm. Thickness - 17.53mm.
Domed sapphire touchscreen.
Blue LEDs
Battery power-reserve indicator.
Brushed, polished.
USB socket connector (for charging the battery or communicating with PCs or MACs).
30 meters.
Supplied with one black rubber strap.
Optional alligator-patterned black leather strap.
Exclusive HD3 pushpiece-operated folding clasp.

Travel box
Black polyurethane with watch compartment and charger.
USB cable charger
For PC or MAC connection plus main adapter. For transfecting data and charging the battery.

domingo, 24 de junio de 2012

Graham Chronofighter Oversize Black Sahara Watch Hands-On

Few brands have given me as much to discuss as Graham. Over the years I have used Graham watches as a springboard to discuss a range of topics from my love of large watches to my disapproval of the term “Oversize” - as applied to most things that use the term “Oversize.” I’ve found myself blogging at length around pictures of Graham watches about things that have little to do with Graham watches. Oh Graham, I feel like we know each other so much and so little at the same time.

Lately Graham USA sat down with me and we were able to chat. I learned a lot about you Graham, and was able to have a little bit more of an intimate experience with your watches. Yes, that is as racy as it sounds. Nothing like a steam room with nothing but oversize watches sticking to your skin. That latter part may not have happened… or maybe it did.

The first thing I learned is that Graham is a Swiss watch brand. I and others seemed to feel there was an English side to them. It is true that the name of the brand comes from the British clock maker George Graham who lived during the end of the 17th century to the beginning of the 18th century. There are also some pieces with British racing green colors, and perhaps some other English flair. Nevertheless, the watch is totally Swiss straight outta La Chaux-de-Fonds.

Last, I learned that most of their non standard ETA movements are built for them by La Joux Perret. This isn’t exactly news, but it is interesting as I have been watching La Joux Perret closely as of late. You may or may not know that Japanese watch maker Citizen bought La Joux Perret outright and as far as I know, I am not sure what they plan to do with them. If they are daring and brave, then they will use La Joux Perret to build a massive Swiss watch movement maker to fill in the gaps where ETA has stopped supplying watch movements and parts. Citizen already is behind movement maker Miyota that sells movements to third parties. Anyhow, back to Graham. I swear, I really can’t discuss them without going off on tangents!

Four paragraphs into this article and I get to the main attraction, these new second generation Chronofighter Oversize watches. Pictured, you’ll see the Black Sahara and K2 versions. There are three more versions available called the Raptor, Amazonia, and Black Forest versions. Both of the pictured models come in PVD black steel cases but with different straps and dials. By the way, according to Graham these are all “Wildlife Chronographs.” You can see that the names are all nature related, but isn’t “Raptor” a bit out of theme? Plus, I am going to call the Black Forest piece the Black Forest Cake watch. Why? Cause it’s soooo riche.

Compare the first and second generation Chronofighter Oversize watches together and you’ll notice some appreciable changes. First is the trigger system which has been cleaned up a bit and now comes in a solid piece of hard carbon. The trigger system for the chronograph is really a key element to the collection. The way it works is simple. Graham designed the chronograph pushers to be at 10 o’clock and in the crown at 9 o’clock. The trigger goes over the crown and is pressed at 8 o’clock – though it presses the pusher in the crown. This trigger is the start and stop pusher, while the pusher at 10 o’clock resets the chronograph. On these Wildlife Chronograph models Graham opted to remove the 12 hour counter making them 30 minute chronographs. This is probably because in the wild, nothing you want to time ever lasts more than 30 minutes. The watch also has a telemeter scale around the periphery of the dial. Such numeric tracks almost universally help a dial look more professional and instrument-like. Plus, according to Graham, you can use it to see how far away lightning is from you. Yea, finally a high-end mechanical Swiss watch for lightning chasers. By the way, with all the “water resistant this” and “anti-that,” I am still waiting for the first “lightning resistant” watch. Seriously, I need a watch like that and am pretty sick of waiting.
The new chronograph trigger system with its carbon trigger is well done and is smaller than the first generation trigger I believe. I also believe that the watch is overall lighter. Another great new feature is use of a black ceramic bezel. On these models the bezel is polished, and will of course lead to a more scratch resistant bezel surface. At 47mm wide, the steel cases feel good on the wrist, and not at all oversized. Over the dial is an AR coated domed sapphire crystal and the cases are water resistant to 100 meters.

The dials are attractive and really make the Chronofighter Oversize watches what they are. Visually balanced, the dials are also really legible with large hands and lots of lume. Out of all the Wildlife Chronograph models the Black Sahara is my favorite, as is the Amazonia (similar, but with green not beige accents). I also like the use of black date discs behind little round windows.

Attached to the Graham Chronofighter Oversize Wildlife Chronograph watches are textile straps of various colors. Nothing says wildlife safari like a fabric strap to remind you of what types of tents our forefathers slept in. Inside the watches is the Graham caliber G1747 automatic chronograph movement done as I said by La Joux Perret. Overall these are fun watches with a lot of wearability as well as character. Well done and I certainly like where (Swiss) Graham is going. Price is $6,900.

sábado, 23 de junio de 2012

Junghans Meister Handwind Watch

This is the Junghans "Meister Handaufzeug" or "Master Handwinding," a retro and classic dress watch scheduled for release in July of 2012. Based on the ETA/Pesaux 7001 movement, it's rather slim at 7.3mm thick and 37.7mm wide. The design inspiration is a Junghans models from the 1930s, revamped to celebrate the brands' 150th anniversary. I think they did an admirable job. I really like the crown. Nicely sized for winding and tucked below the domed crystal.

The movement is a classic, introduced in 1971 and used in the Blancpain 7002, Omega 651, Nomos Tangente, and many other watches out there. The 7001 has a 42 hour power reserve and is only 2.5mm thick. The movement, designed in an era of smaller watches, is narrower than the case so there's a gap between the edge of the sub seconds dial and the outer dial. That sticks out to me a bit, but otherwise I quite like the design.

The Junghans Meister Handwind, with sub seconds in a thin case, is reminiscent of the Piaget Altiplano:

And also of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Ultra Thin:

Both of those cost much more - the JLC is around $5k, and the Piaget $19k, so by comparison the Junghans is a fantastic bargain at around 1000 Euros.

One minor drawback is the crystal, it's Plexiglass with a 'SICRALAN' coating process to harden it a bit. Then again, this is a pure dress watch and expecting sport watch durability is silly. [Ed. note: is it really Paul?]

There are three versions, in steel and PVD gold:

It has a mineral crystal on the back of the case, so you can admire the movement too.

Expected list price is 950 to 1,050 Euros, which I consider an excellent deal.

Overall this is a classic and restrained Junghans dress watch at a great price. Since most men don't wear pure dress watches daily, it's a good place to spend a bit less. No point spending your entire budget on a watch you wear twice a year, which is also why I can overlook the mineral crystal. If you do, in fact, wear it every day then I'd recommend spending more (also consider the Zenith Elite series) to get a sapphire crystal. This is a great size and should slip underneath shirt cuffs with ease.