jueves, 29 de noviembre de 2012

Introducing The Richard Mille RM038 Bubba Watson Victory Watch

RM038 Victory Watch

A few months ago we showed you Bubba Watson's actual Richard Mille RM038 when he won the Masters at Augusta National Golf Course. Well now Richard Mille has released a special edition RM038 Victory watch to commemorate the occasion. A piece of the proceeds go to charity and you get a cool watch to boot.

The Victory watch is very similar to the regular RM038 (if there is such a thing as a "regular" Richard Mille watch), with a few design tweaks specific to Bubba Watson's Masters win. You'll notice the inner flange is green to evoke the iconic Masters Jacket and Bubba Watson's signature is engraved on the back. Otherwise you've still got the manually-wound, skeletonized tourbillon movement with grade 5 titanium components and special lightweight alloy case.

There will only be 4 Victory watches produced and each will be numbered 1 through 4. Number 4 is reserved for Bubba himself, while the other three are available for sale the end of November. Ten percent from the sale of each watch will be donated to Bubba & Friends Drive to a Million, Bubba Watson's fund that supports a collection of charities.

The RM038 Victory watch is priced at $650,000 and head over to Richard Mille for more details.

miércoles, 28 de noviembre de 2012

Jack Heuer’s TAG Heuer Limited Edition Carrera 80 Watch

There is something that watch maker Tag Heuer has which trumps most of its competitors. That thing is the person Mr. Jack Heuer. I sat down with Jack Heuer back in March to discuss his legacy and the debut of the Carrera Jack Heuer 80 Limited Edition watch. The timepiece was released in honor of Jack's 80th birthday as well as his more or less retirement from actively consulting with the brand. Though I have a feeling watch and Tag lovers will spot him around. So what is so special about Jack?

In 1958 Jack Heuer joined the family company Heuer as an engineer. Jack is the great grandson of Edouard Heuer who started the Swiss timepiece maker in 1860. In the 1960s and 1970s "mechanical" was more or less the state-of-the-art in watch making with electronic watches being a mere fringe. It was in a sense, the last golden age of the consumer mechanical watch, before they became luxury items. During this time brands raced to make the best sport watches, which included timepieces for racing, diving, precision timing, and of course space travel. Heuer collectors fully know what role the brand had in advancing the mechanical chronograph wrist watch. It was an important player with a real history of innovation, design, and legitimacy. Jack Heuer was there during this time, eventually running the brand and ushering in new products like the Carrera watch family.

Jack represents a link to this important era. Not just because it was the past, but because it was part of the pre-age of luxury watches. A time when the hard-to-get collectibles of today were available at your local department store. It was when the wrist watch was a necessity, and when precision chronographs had a very real and very valuable purpose. It was an age of nostalgia that many watch brands like to reminisce about today - and for the time being, Jack Heuer is a living and breathing connection to that time, and ambassador to all that is Heuer history.

In the 1980's, TAG purchased Heuer and eventually created the brand TAG Heuer. In the 1990's, TAG Heuer was purchased by the larger luxury group of LVMH. So what again does TAG Heuer have that most of its competitors don't? A real face to the story of their past. A person who can speak on the legacy of innovation and interesting products that they released. A recollection of the good times and bad times. He is the human side of the corporate identity that most large brands lack. That isn't to say that current TAG Heuer CEO Jean-Christophe Babin is any less human. Quite the contrary, but Babin is not an Heuer and is a relatively recent addition to the Tag Heuer family. The Carrera collection for example, is one of the brand's best sellers. It is intentionally retro in design because we like to think of it as a connection to the era it represents, and Jack Heuer was there to launch it.

For these reasons the Carrera Jack Heuer 80 Edition watch was so heavily anticipated by collectors. I was lucky to check out and photograph the piece personally owned by Jack Heuer himself. The rear of the watch comes complete with his signature in red and his family crest. It is a bi-compax version of the Carrera Chronograph with a Caliber 17 automatic movement. The Caliber 17 is unfortunately not the integrated in-house produced 1887 chronograph movement, but is a good quality base Swiss ETA 2894-2 automatic with a chronograph module. Bi-compax (two register) Carrera watches are rare, and it makes for a good look in the watch. Ironically enough, while the Carrera Jack Heuer 80 Edition is intended to be similar to the original 1963 Carrera, that previous model had a triple register, full 12 hour chronograph.

Aside from that, the original Carrera and this limited edition model are quite similar (though of course the colors are very different). All in all, the Carrera collection as a whole has retained the charming case and dial design of the original. Speaking of the original 1960's models - I am not a huge vintage watch guy but many of those are really gorgeous. Items from from Heuer, along with Rolex and Omega are among the few vintage pieces I like at all. The brushed metal dial of the Carrera Jack Heuer 80 is matched with deep anthracite toned subdials and tints of red for the hands and logo. This is another retro-inspired modern TAG Heuer watch with only Heuer branding. A nod to vintage lovers of course, you get the traditional Heuer logo on the dial as well as the really neat looking "Heuer" deployant clasp buckle.

The perforated black leather strap with the red inner lining is sexy. It almost makes me think of kinky lingerie. But I wasn't going to share that thought with Jack. It is quite a nice strap which single-handedly upgrades the entire look and feel of the watch. The watch is actually also available on a standard Carrera steel metal bracelet. While I will always recommend a bracelet, in this instance I would suggest to have either both the strap and bracelet option - and change them out as you see fit. That or get just the strap - as it is so cool and unique for a Carrera. It would be a shame to miss out on it. Interestingly enough the watch is priced the same on either the strap or bracelet.

The steel Carrera case is 41mm wide and relatively thick which is common with TAG Heuer Chronographs today. Another interesting point was Jack remarking that the original Carrera was meant to be a relatively thin chronograph for the time. A hallmark of a vintage-themed chronograph is the presence of a tachymeter (tachymetre) scale. Often intrusive if place on the dial, I love the subtle but legible placement of the tachymetre scale on the flange ring against an anthracite gray color.

I would be remiss not to point you over to a more in-depth review of this watch by aBlogtoRead.com friend Calibre11. David breaks down the Carrera Jack Heuer like only a true TAG Heuer fanatic can. Check his piece out here.

It made me happy to see Jack wearing and enjoying this watch specially made for him. It did take me a while, but after thinking about it I did realize why Mr. Heuer is such an incredible asset to not only TAG Heuer, but also watch appreciation as a pursuit. He didn't spend his entire career in the watch industry, and he has a lot of valuable insight and experiences that today's watch executives should not forget. I was really happy to have met with him. The TAG Heuer Carrera Jack Heuer 80 Edition watch is limited to 3,000 pieces with a retail price of $4,900. Fun trivia: the original 1960s era Heuer Carrera watches all retailed for about $70-$90, with the 18k gold version costing $240. Upgrade price from steel to gold-plated Carrera watch? About $5.

lunes, 26 de noviembre de 2012

Omega De Ville Co-Axial Chronograph Watch

In the United States Omega is to a very large degree the "Seamaster" and "Speedmaster" watch brand. Those two timepiece families mostly dominate the image we think of when someone mentions Omega. Let's think about some of the more noteworthy things Omega is known for. Well there is the moon landing watch for one - that was a Speedmaster. There are the modern James Bond watches, those are all Seamasters - which are on my mind right now as I just saw Skyfall a few days ago. Omega is a sport watch brand to Americans, and that is how we like it.

Internationally Omega is more than that. Lest we forget the Constellation and De Ville watch families. These two arms of Omega are decades old and represent a different, more formal side of the brand. Even if they do not represent what you are looking for in an Omega, they are worth being familiar with. In the US they don't have as much traction as the "masters," but they are still good watches. Let's take a look at one of the newer De Ville models - the freshly redone Co-Axial Chronograph.

This might be one of the first times I have really discussed a De Ville model on aBlogtoWatch. Mostly because some of the older models aren't to my taste. Which is ironic because the first ever Omega I owned was a vintage hand-wound De Ville from the 1970s. When I saw the new Co-Axial Chronograph models at Baselworld 2012, I knew Omega had a relative hit. My problem with the older non-three hand men's De Ville models was that they seemed to lack a cohesive design, and were unsuccessfully asymmetrical in their appearance.

A few years ago Omega designed the De Ville Hour Vision which is what all modern De Ville models are based on. Omega went back to the roots of what the De Ville collection was supposed to be and come out with a visually interesting dressy men's watch with a touch of classic design as well a subtle Art Deco aesthetic. The Hour Vision also featured the new (at the time) Omega caliber 8500 automatic movement - which was an in-house made Omega caliber that of course contained a Co-Axial Escapement.

The Omega caliber 8500 movement ended up being the base of the three-hand Seamaster Planet Ocean models, as Omega continued to push forward with more and more watches with in-house movements. After that the Omega caliber 9300 automatic chronograph movement came out for Omega's sport chronograph models. You can search aBlogtoWatch for more details on the caliber 9300 - that we discussed in great detail when it first came out.

Now, rather than Omega sport watches borrowing from Omega dress watches, the opposite is true as the in-house made Omega caliber 9300 chronograph makes its way into this revised De Ville Co-Axial Chronograph collection. Steel De Ville's will have the caliber 9300, while solid gold models will have the caliber 9301 (the difference is that the 9301 has a gold rotor and bridge over the escapement). The 9300 features a two-register chronograph, but one of them has two hands and is able to measure a full 12 hours. If you are quick you can also use the chronograph as a second time zone by starting the chronograph at noon (or midnight) in your reference time, and then setting the main time to your local time.

The movement also has a silicon balance spring and a power reserve of 60 hours. Don't forget that it is also COSC Chronometer certified, and it is lovely to look at through the sapphire crystal caseback window of the watch. Basically, those wanting a more formal watch with Omega's best chronograph now have an alternative to the Seamaster Planet Ocean Chronograph or the Speedmaster Co-Axial Chronograph. The 9300's bi-compax two register design are very symmetrical and thus visually flattering to a watch dial. This is especially true when you place the date window at 6 o'clock. This stunning new layout for the modern De Ville model is what makes the Co-Axial Chronograph model a winner. Choices are relatively plentiful as the De Ville watches come with silvered, black, or deep blue dial matched to a steel or 18k red gold 42mm wide case. Note that the bulging rounded corners of the case make it wear a bit smaller than you might think. While this is a formal style watch, it is rather tall off the wrist and isn't designed to slip neatly under shirt cuffs.

While I do find the crown and pushers a bit plain, the newer De Ville case is rather attractive with high-quality finishing and nice contrast polishing. I am happy to see that there is at least 100 meters of water resistance as well. The available bracelet however has proven to be a polarizing design. I intentionally wanted to review it in order to see how it looks on the wrist after wear it for a while. From a quality perspective the bracelet is well-made, and comfortable - in other words, what you've come to expect from modern Omega metal bracelets. From a design perspective the mixture of larger and small, polished and satin-finished links is a matter of taste. I could live with it just fine, but for me it will never be a Planet Ocean bracelet for instance. The alligator strap with deployant clasp is a mighty appealing for a watch like this. I do wonder what it would have been like if Omega created an updated version of the last generation De Ville's bracelet which is sometimes called the "armadillo" bracelet. It is probably one of the most unique metal bracelets Omega has ever designed - though I will save that discussion for another time.

While I find the dial design of the De Ville Co-Axial Chronograph sharp, I do miss the presence of luminant. Instead you get crisply cut hands and applied Roman Numeral hour markers. A close-up image of the dial shows the detail of the diamond-cut hour markers and how good they look. These days it is diamond-cut or bust in my opinion. Brands not using the best quality dials with cheap looking hour markers, who also try to charge a lot deserve low sales. Though it is easy with Omega's size and production power to have all the best machinery and suppliers. A lot of small brands simply can't claim that.

Mixing new and old, the De Ville once again offers a lot to enjoy with a noticeable quirkiness that you often don't see from mainstream brands. I like quirkiness. Think of how much more interesting Rolex would be if they had more quirky things to offer. They really don't being mostly conservative. At least Omega does a little of that in addition to offering the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord of mainstream luxury watches with the Seamaster Planet Ocean and Speedmaster models. Price for the Omega De Ville Co-Axial Chronograph watch on the bracelet is $9,000.

sábado, 24 de noviembre de 2012

Breitling Barnato 42 Midnight Carbon Watch

While I am generally a big fan of Breitling watches, I don't personally like a lot of the Breitling for Bentley timepieces. These have a distinct design ethos apart from the rest of the Breitling range. I like the concept, but many of the pieces have a design that does not speak to me. Having said that, I really like this new limited edition Breitling for Bentley Barnato 42 Midnight Carbon watch with its good size and restrained look compared to its siblings.

The largest watches Breitling makes are probably in the Brietling for Bentley collection. If you are familiar with my work then you know I like large watches - but many of those watches are just too big for me. You really need to be one of the world's biggest-wristed men to pull some of those off. This new watch is a more narrow 42mm wide. It will actually wear larger due to the very wide lug structures. This new 42mm size in the Barnato collection is a welcome addition in my opinion.

Breitling fans know that this is not at all the first Breitling for Bentley Barnato piece. "Barnato" is a name from Bentley's racing history back in the late 1920s. This is just the newest watch in the product subfamily. One retro element of the watch is the dial design around the chronograph subdials. These tracks are meant to reminisce old instrument gauge designs. Overall, the watch dial on the Barnato 42 is pleasantly held-back without confusing textures and difficult-to-read hands or indicators. The watch hands and applied hour markers are (properly) the easiest things to read on the black dial. The touch of red is a pleasant touch. I do feel that the strength of this watch lays much in the surprisingly graceful dial design.

The 42mm wide case (water resistant to 100 meters) is in steel with a black coating. I believe it is DLC, but Breitling does not make specific mention to DLC. They merely state that the case has a "highly resistant carbon-based treatment." So... AKA DLC? The case has that signature Breitling for Bentley look with the angular flanks and "clos du Paris" engraved bezel. In this more subdued size I think it looks better. Attached to the watch is a black rubber strap. Come to think of it I don't know why the watch has both the terms "Carbon" and "Midnight" in the title. They are both often used to mean something is dark or black. Perhaps they could have just stuck with one term to help identify the piece.

Inside of the watch is a base ETA Breitling calibre 41B automatic chronograph movement. Like all Breitling movements this one is also COSC Chronometer certified. I honestly can't get over how 'into this piece' I am compared to other Breitling for Bentley models. I hope that this new "simplified" design ethos in the watch carries over to future Breitling for Bentley pieces. Breitling will produce just 1000 pieces in the limited edition Breitling for Bentley Barnato 42 Midnight Carbon watch set.

Breitling Navitimer 01 Watch Review

Written by Michael Maximilien

The Breitling Navitimer 01 is the first Navitimer with the new in-house Breitling B01 movement. The Navitimer is maybe one of a handful of original classic aviator watch designs and Breitling can claim that it's the only wristwatch chronograph in continuous production for more than 50 years. With the B01 movement, Breitling has recently extended the guarantee of the Navitimer 01 to five years from the typical industry standard of two years.

Another important historical fact is that the Navitimer was first released around the time of the invention of the automatic chronograph (late 60s) in collaboration with brands like Heuer, Hamilton, and Zenith. And like all Breitling watches, the Navitimer 01 is certified C.O.S.C. However, it is fair to ask what makes this watch special and deserving of your horological time and passion and of maybe your emotional and monetary investments?

Well, like most Breitling watches, it has a certain "bling" to it and that makes it easily noticeable. Part of the reason is that Breitling uses a highly polished steel case and the classic Navitimer fluted ring on the bezel. However, this Navitimer does have differentiating touches from previous versions.

First, what has not changed is the patented Breitling style and super busy dial that somehow remains legible. The dial is black with three silvery white subdials and a silvery white slide rule ring at the periphery that turns smoothly with the bezel yet with also a measured resistance. Like all Navitimers, the dial includes three concentric rings of markers that essentially transforms the watch into an analog computer. If you know how to use it, that is...

Using the slide-rule (the bezel) and the chronograph function, one can measure average speed and productivity rate, perform various calculations such as currency conversion, multiply and divide numbers, calculate ground speed and miles per minute, calculate rate of climb or descent, gas consumption, and of course elapsed time. Using the bezel and the current position of the sun in the sky, you can also use the Navitimer as a compass. And, if this was not enough for your analog computing pleasures, the solid caseback includes, along with the unique serial number of the watch, a Celsius to Fahrenheit table to easily convert temperatures. A recent post (How to Use a Watch Bezel Slide Rule) this summer on aBlogToWatch.com explained how to use these types of computing bezel slide rules.

Two really nice touches on the busy dial are first the brand's anchored B-winged logo applied and raised in yellow gold and second, a surprisingly great, yet minimal, application of Super-LumiNova. The lume is applied on the hour and minutes hands and applied as square dots on the hour markers. While at first you would think that this won't make a difference in night legibility, it actually results in a dial that is quite legible in the dark. You only need to charge the lume for a few minutes and voilà, you can tell the time in the dark for a few hours. The date window (not lumed) between 4 and 5 o'clock integrates nicely with the dial and subtly, yet visibly, shows the date in white with a black background.

But what maybe is the most important aspect of this Navitimer and also explains the nice, short, 01 moniker is the movement. It's the first Breitling manufacture movement, the B01. This is the same movement used in the Chronomat B01 and other newer Breitling models. That same movement is also the basis for the Breitling B02 and B03 in-house variations. It is a classic column-wheel chronograph design which is typically agreed by most to be a better design for a chronograph than alternatives like lever or cam actuated movements. While being a common design and not revolutionary, creating a new completely in-house column wheel chronograph is no small feat and pushing the guarantee to five years shows the brand's confidence on the reliability of that new movement.

Additionally, the 01 movement has a quick date change feature as well as a hacking second. On top of this, you get almost three full days (70 hours) of power reserve. Well done Breitling, and welcome to the league of true timepiece manufactures.

The chronograph is the classic two-pusher type with a start/stop button and reset button. The feel on the buttons is measured with a satisfying click. At first it might appear a bit too hard but it is done really well since that resistance will help guarantee that the buttons are pressed only when you want them to.

When started, the distinctive red seconds arrow hand with the anchored B-logo counter balance, moves around the dial in micro steps and the minutes counter at 3 o'clock only moves one position at the 60 seconds marker. The hour tally at 6 o'clock counts up to 12 hours and moves slightly between the hour markers indicating 15, 30, and 45 minutes for the current hour count.

Another nice touch is that the hands for each of these tally subdial is done in the same shiny stainless steel as the case, however, the background is silvery white with a radiating pattern that contrasts well with the black dial and silver hands. The result is a watch with a really distinctive look, especially since the rotating slide rule background is also of that same silvery white finish. Truly an elegant, unique instrument style, that is recognizable from a crowded chronograph pilot watch market…

The most understated part of this Navitimer 01 is also one of my favorite features, the strap and excellent folding clasp and buckle. The black calf leather strap is padded and has a really nice heavy white stitching that matches well the black/white dial. The leather is soft but yet thick and the padding makes it very comfortable once adjusted.

Adjusting the strap is easily done by pulling on the end of the strap that is loose over the folding clasp. The clasp and buckle are in the same shiny stainless steel and the buckle has the brand's B-winged logo applied and raised. Another brilliant design touch.

The buckle easily clicks into place while securely helping wrap the strap on the wrist. This ease of adjustment was really useful on a recent trip to Hawaii where I wore it all day. And at 120 grams the watch is light which also contributes to making the Navitimer 01 simply a joy to wear. A serious instrument, yet so light and comfortable that you can forget you have it with you.

At 43 mm the Navitimer is not a small watch, however, due to the center black dial and the surrounding silvery white slide rule, the watch wears and appears smaller. The recessed vase-like shape of the Navitimer's dial also contributes to this illusion.

The Navitimer 01 (reference AB012012-BB01) is not a limited edition and comes with the black leather strap shown here or options for brown leather or for a metal bracelet (two types). The steel version on black leather strap (shown here) goes for $7,945, the basic stainless steel bracelet goes for $9,020, while a rose gold version is priced at $20,100 on leather and at least $5,000 more for the gold bracelet.

Breitling does offer a limited edition of the Navitimer 01 in steel that, as far as I can tell, has four hardly noticeable changes from the one reviewed here. Differences are: 1) a white gold B-winged logo on the dial instead of yellow gold, 2) the date aperture has white background with red digits instead of black background and white digits, 3) the serial number (up to 2000) is engraved on the side of the case, and 4) a sapphire crystal caseback showing the in-house B01 movement. Of these changes, the only one I wish mine also had is the see-through caseback...

Overall I am highly satisfied with the Navitimer 01, and as my first introduction to Breitling watches I think I could not have picked a better model. While certainly a noticeable watch with a "blingy" look, the contrasting black and silvery white dial give it the feel of a true instrument. The accuracy of the chronograph due to that in-house C.O.S.C caliber 01 movement and the various features of the dial make it a utility watch that I can geek out with for hours while also reminding me of one of the 20th century greatest human achievement: aviation.

If I have any negative opinions about this watch is that I have yet to master, without referring to the manual, the various features of the dial. Also, this is not a watch you want to get wet. It's listed at 30 meters water resistant, however, the dealer and Breitling (via the manual) are pretty clear about this: do not submerge it... I guess, the slide rule, while super cool, does have a clear shortcoming.

If you want a classic pilot watch that has strong real history and that only got better with a new in-house movement, but is now guaranteed for five years, the Breitling Navitimer 01 should be on the top of your list. You are getting a superb timepiece with real pedigree and a brand that, maybe like no other, has a passion and dedication to aviation that is unquestionable.

jueves, 22 de noviembre de 2012

Peter Speake-Marin Spirit Mark 2 Watch

Searching for something you will likely never see on another wrist? Peter Speake-Marin may have just the watch for you. The luxury watchmaker has announced a re-imagining of their Spirit Pioneer, nicely named the Spirit Mark 2. The Spirit Mark 2 is a redesign of the original Spirit Pioneer in that is follows the same form, but does so via a new movement, case, and dial which present a gorgeous three-hand display that is instantly recognizable as being a Speake-Marin design.

The Spirit Mark 2 features the Speake-Marin signature Piccadilly three piece case, lending a 42 x 12mm sizing that is perfect for this design. I have seen a Peter Speake-Marin Piccadilly in person and the proportions are spot-on and make for a gorgeous watch with strong lugs and a detailed case design that is both unobtrusive and thoughtful. The Spirit Mark 2 features a circular ground finishing on the fixed and sterile bezel that surrounds an anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal. Timekeeping is managed by the TT738 automatic movement which incorporates twin barrels to offer 120 hours of power reserve. Unlike many other Speake-Marin models which feature a display case back, the Spirit Mark 2 is fitted with a low-profile solid case back which means owners will not be allowed a view of the custom rotor that has become a signature element within Peter Speake-Marin designs (though the shape is seen on the dial above the 6 o'clock marker).

With a US price tag of $9980, the Spirit Mark 2 is a decidedly exclusive watch with a refreshing design which will stand out against the usual suspects from Rolex, Omega and Panerai. I think this new model looks stunning and should prove to be just as successful as the Spirit Pioneer. While a Speake-Marin may not be for everyone, well-heeled collectors should take note of their individualistic styling, very low production numbers, and a production process which incorporates almost exclusively bespoke parts.

The Hublot F1 King Power Austin Limited Edition Watch

Not to be outdone by Audemars Piguet and their claims to Formula 1 racing, Hublot, the official watch brand of F1, has announced the F1 King Power Austin as a tribute to the United States Grand Prix which was held in Austin, Texas this past weekend. Limited to just 250 units, this titanium cased chronograph boasts a carbon and titanium bezel which has been styled to look like a cross-drilled performance brake rotor. Measuring 48mm across, the F1 King Power Austin is powered by the HUB4100 automatic chronograph movement which has a power reserve of 42 hours and offers a 30 minute chronograph, sub seconds and a date display.

While the King Power line is a predictable platform for an F1-inspired watch, Hublot has not simply slapped an F1 logo on an existing model. The rubberized chronograph pushers boldly proclaim "START" and "RESET" in red and black lettering, calling for a comparison with the button-heavy layouts of a modern F1 steering wheel. The pushers are matched by a bright red dial and highlight stitching in the hornback alligator strap. I find that the design definitely makes me think of the complex and precise equipment used in an F1 car and that the coloring would look very much at home in the pit lane. F1 is all about bright colors, over engineered mechanical complexities and big attitudes, and the F1 King Power Austin emulates these things well.

This Hublot announcement comes hot on the heels of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Michael Schumacher Limited Edition announcement in which AP flexed its F1 credibility by working with one of the best drivers in the history of the sport. Rivalries and competition can be just as intense in the watch making world as they often are among teams and drivers that make up Formula 1 racing. We feel that such background stories make the watches more interesting. The Hublot F1 King Power Austin will be available soon and carries a list price of $25 200 USD. With 250 being made in the limited edition, we recommend only those with the wallet, wrist fortitude, and highest level of F1-in-America pride head to their nearest authorized dealer.

martes, 20 de noviembre de 2012

Ball For BMW Watches

Florida is a good state for watches. There is a lot of wealth, a desire to show status, as well as a relaxed attitude when it comes to luxury. Perhaps it is the sun or the humidity, but people have a much more laid back sense of showing off compared to the sometimes stuffy North-Easterners. But what do I know? I am just a California boy. I am here in Tampa Florida of all places to experience the debut of the timepieces that the Ball Watch Company and BMW cars are releasing together. The location isn't that strange given that Ball Watch USA is located nearby in the city of St. Petersburg, run by clever and constantly busy Jeff Hess.

Hess built up Ball watches in the US over the last 10 years or so, but he wears a number of hats - including watch store owner. Hess knows the watch industry quite well, including its history. While Ball is a Swiss brand, its origins are totally American when it made accurate timepieces for the railroad. Come to think of it, the modern Ball watches haven't really done anything automotive until now. The BMW watches are their first foray into car-themed timepieces, and overall the watches are well done.

Any watch brand these days who makes a watch with a car maker has an immediate hill to climb. The assumption is that any relationship will fail - because so many have in the past. Ferrari for instance doesn't have the greatest track record of holding on to partners. Having said that, there are some enduring love affairs when it comes to watch/car duos. Breitling and Bentley come to mind, as well as Jaeger-LeCoultre and Aston Martin (though the AMVOX series has been a niche piece at best for JLC). Maybe Ball and BMW have a good shot? It really all depends on the product.

In September of 2012 I first announced the Ball and BMW relationship to make watches here. Later I showed you images of the full collection of Ball for BMW watches in this article here. I highly recommend you check out at least the former link as it not only has images of each Ball for BMW watch model and each variation thereof, but it also details the technical specifications of the watch. In this article I will discuss more about checking out the watches hands-on.

At a ritzy BMW dealership here in Tampa, Ball watches threw a little get-together complete with the Ball brass from Switzerland. The irony is that you really won't be able to purchase Ball watches from any BMW dealership. You'll have to travel over to a Ball watch retailer for that. I didn't quite understand that part as it would appear to make a lot of sense to have the watches actually in dealerships for people to check out while haggling for their new M3. Perhaps that will come in the future.

The collection of Ball for BMW watches is actually rather vast. While there are only four basic models to begin with, each comes in a lot of versions. It makes the entire family look very well populated. One model that I didn't get to check out is the upcoming limited edition version that has a thermometer in it. The Ball Watch CEO had a prototype, so at least I got to check it out. Aside from that you get to pick your flavor between the Ball for BMW three-hand automatic "Classic," the "GMT," and the "Power Reserve." I just realized that this is perhaps the first time in history (hyperbole... but maybe...) a car-related watch didn't have a chronograph option. That's right, no chrono Ball for BMW watches. Frankly, you don't need one. These aren't racing watches, these are BMW watches.

Your entry level model is the Ball for BMW Classic. I was actually incorrect in the video saying it was 8mm thick. It is actually almost 11mm thick, but looks really thin. The 40mm wide Classic is just that. While not a retro looking watch, it certainly does have a bit of traditional flavor to the design. It is actually well done even though it is a tad narrow for my tastes. I do however really like its elegant demeanor and thin profile. Like I said in the video, I appreciate how the embossed BMW logo on the dial (while large) is not "in your face," and doesn't overpower the design. The Classic is actually a very handsome and sensible watch, and truly unlike anything else in the Ball watch collection. Inside of it is a COSC Chronometer certified Swiss ETA 2892-2 automatic movement.

The curved sides of the case are attractive, and for the price-point you get a very impressive level of detailing and fit and finish. The steel bracelet on the Classic and other models is killer. It is relatively thin, and very comfortable. It also features polished beveled edges that significantly upgrade the look. The bracelet actually feels like a thinner version of the Hydrocarbon bracelet - but more dressy in style. You'll notice the crown has a BMW logo on it, as well as the styling of the print on the sapphire exhibition caseback window.

Someone who is truly an expert will be able to notice the subtle BMW car styling cues on the watch. I didn't catch them all. BMW was picky about design and according to Ball, "knew exactly" what they wanted. It took about two years of back and forth between the two brands to finalize the designs. Even without the BMW connection the watches would look good. I think that is a key message to the collection. They aren't cool because they have a Ball and BMW logo. They are cool on their own and happen to have a BMW logo on top of that. I think that makes a big difference.

The other models are larger than the 40mm wide Classic going up to 42mm wide. All models have steel cases, but some versions have DLC black coated cases. Those black-cased models frequently have orange accents on the dials to make them appear more sporty. The brushed/polished steel cases are intended look a bit more formal and dressy. The GMT model is likely going to be a popular seller because it is so straight forward. The dial is supremely legible, and has a very timeless modern feel to it. The design refinement of the watches is very high, showcasing truly world-class designs. You don't have to love how they look, but these are no amateur timepieces. The GMT feels comfortable and agile on the wrist. The dial has just enough details to make it interesting without going overboard. On here you get a mini BMW logo which is charming looking, and certainly not too auspicious. Inside the Ball for BMW GMT watches are Chronometer certified Swiss ETA 2893-2 automatic movements.

While I love the steel bracelets, I am merely OK with the straps. They are supposed to look like textile, but feel rubbery and are a bit thinner than I'd like. They are designed well enough, but I think I would prefer an alligator or more complex leather strap. Or alternatively, a textured rubber strap. Perhaps I am missing the point of them. Having said that, they do complement the look of the Ball for BMW watches nicely enough.

Inside each of the watches is what Ball calls their "Amortizer" shock absorption system. They had something called the Amortizer in the past, and this is not that feature. Either I am confused, or Ball changed what the Amortizer is to a new system which is passive (versus something you needed to manually engage) that helps shield the movement from shock. Given that these are not Ball's highest-end watches, I appreciate the high-level of decoration in the movements, as well as the detailing on the deployant clasps on both the straps and the bracelet. It is probably more watch than your average aspirational BMW driver is going to know how to appreciate.

The non-limited Ball for BMW watch is the Power Reserve model. This piece has arguably the most complex dial, but is also very appealing in its design. Note how different Ball for BMW watches look better with either a light or dark colored dial. The Power Reserve has a deep dial with a power reserve indicator thanks to its Chronometer Certified Swiss ETA 2897 automatic movement. Again on this model the relatively thin bezel of the entire range helps the dial look as large and impressive as possible.

With features like optional DLC black coating, chronometer certification, superlative finishing on the case, and good use of tritium gas tube illumination, the Ball for BMW watch collection is a bit more watch than most people would expect. I think Ball sees it as a new arm of their collection as opposed to a one-time product release. The BMW family could be a new member of the Ball watch line-up for good, carrying with it a totally distinct design ethos and offering, while staying in line with the durable, high-value DNA that Ball has built for itself. Priced between about $3,000 - $5,000, the Ball for BMW watches are worth checking out whether or not you have (or would like to have) a BMW in your garage.

lunes, 19 de noviembre de 2012

Devon Tread 1 Steampunk Watch

I was amusingly surprised when the video I made of the original Devon Tread 1 watch went viral (you can see it here on YouTube). Posted in 2010, the video showed me playing with the Tread 1 and displaying how its belt-driven time telling system worked. It had about 450,000 views at the time of writing this article - and it was an off-the-cuff video I took on one of the Devon guys kitchen counter here in LA. Later, I was lucky enough to get a Devon Tread 1 for a while and wrote about it here in the full review.

2012 sees the release of the special limited edition "Steampunk" version of the Tread 1, and I am happy to offer this exclusive review and first ever hands-on look at it. It is Devon's answer to an artsier version of a mechanical art watch, and it is something which I am happy they decided to make. If you think the Tread 1 was a niche product, I wonder how you feel about the Tread 1 Steampunk? In most respects the Steampunk version of the Tread 1 is the same as the original. Mechanically it is the same (although it features the latest firmware), and the case dimensions are more or less comparable (the differences come in with all the Steampunk cladding). Having said that, the new parts make it feel like something rather different - and no, those aren't loose screws coming out of it.

The watch does however contain a lot of screws - mostly decorative. The steampunk aesthetic is derived from a mixture of Jules Verne-style science fiction and Industrial Revolution era technology and machinery. Most people think of it as retro-futuristic, and I have to admit a lot of it is rather cool. One hallmark of steampunk creations is an "aged" looked that has the things not looking brand new. This is actually why bronze is becoming a bit of a trendy material in some watches. The Tread 1 Steampunk uses a lot of it to create a convincing aged look - which is actually charmingly ironic as the innards of the Tread 1 are thoroughly modern. No "real" steampunk items would have a computerized micro controller!

In hues of gold and brown the Tread 1 Steampunk holds its own in the complex world of high-end steampunk-ish creations. Compared to some other things out there the Tread 1 Steampunk is actually a bargain. Then again, as a luxury timepiece it isn't at all inexpensive.

It is hard for me not to smile wearing the Tread 1 Steampunk on my wrist. I actually know it looks silly to many people, but it just tickles me properly in all the right places. Maybe it is a lifetime of enjoying video games and sci-fi, or perhaps it is simply my "male instincts" which tell me that this watch is cool. Is it cooler than the original Tread 1? It is really something totally different. In fact, I would venture to say that given the color and aged look of the Steampunk, it is actually more "fashionably versatile" than more futuristic looking unit.

Size wise the Tread 1 Steampunk isn't small. The case is 56mm wide and 50mm tall. The case is also 18.5mm thick. It does however wear much more comfortably than you might expect - this is due to the richly wrapping lugs. The metal case seems to mix steel and bronze elements, and is matched to a good looking brown leather strap. Devon did a good job of mixing the colors and textures nicely. Steampunk enthusiasts will no doubt swoon.

The design element on the Tread 1 Steampunk are essentially "armor cladding" on the original case. This includes the bronze plates and screws. I first wrote about the Devon Tread 1 Steampunk watch here, showing renders of the design. You can see how the final version is slightly different, but not radically so. The "Frankenstein's Monster" neck screws are still there and very proud looking. Not too sharp to the touch actually. My favorite touches are the screw rivets all around the case and the patina which forms over the bronze surfaces. This patina continues to develop overtime, and changes the look of the watch slightly. Hardcore collectors love this stuff.

One element that didn't make it from the Tread 1 Steampunk concept are was a different color for the numerals on the belts. Devon was supposed to use a more tan color that matched with the bronze and brown colors. Perhaps it wasn't legible enough. The black belts with white text still do it for me. Though it would have been interesting to perhaps use brown colored belts to give the appears that the belts are made of leather or something such as that. What Devon did do is change the color of the internal mechanics giving them a brass finish as opposed to a polished steel look. I think that was a nice touch, and is used throughout the movement mechanism.

It just dawned upon me that some of you are reading about the Devon Tread 1 for the first time, meaning that you are not familiar with the concept. I will quickly go over it, but please refer to the review of the original Tread 1 for more details on how it works, and everything that it does. The concept of the watch is simple: to use a series of electronic one-step motors in conjunction with a small computer to move belts that tell the time. There are windows on the dial where you read the correct hour, minute, and dial. It is quite easy to read and live with.

Devon doesn't call the watch a simple quartz movement, but rather an electro-mechanical movement. That isn't inaccurate. The movement was specially design by Devon and is very complicated. It has a lithium ion battery that lasts about 2-3 weeks, and the watch can be turned off to save power, or placed in a power saving mode that has just the hour and minutes (not the seconds) displayed. That power savings move is how most people will leave the watch anyways - mostly because the constant sound of the motors running can get a bit tedious to the ears. In power saving mode it happens just once each minute. Full-bore "all belts alive mode" is for when you really want people to notice what is on your wrist.

To control the watch you have a sort of joystick that looks like a crown sticking down on the case. It works rather well once you learn how it operates. Does this make for a good daily wear timepiece? That really depends on who you are. Action heroes, Bond villains, and rattlesnake boot wearing oil tycoons could probably get away with wearing the watch daily. Most others will choose it a few times a week when they are feeling like they want to converse with the world. You really don't want to wear this watch if you aren't seeking attention.

Devon will produce just 150 pieces of the limited edition Tread 1 Steampunk. It is built right here in California, and offers a true American charm that you won't find from European high-end watches. For those with the budget it is hard to resist adding it to a well-rounded and ambitious collection. You'll certainly want to wear it a lot as well. Price is $25,000, which is up from $17,490 for the standard model. Online it can be purchased via the Devon watch dealer Watchismo.