miércoles, 30 de enero de 2013

Tag Heuer Carrera CMC Concept Chronograph Watch

2013 is the 50th anniversary of the Carrera so we are expecting a great deal this year. Tag Heuer obviously knows chronographs. If one is keeping score - Heuer was the first brand to launch a mechanical chronograph and not only in 2011 did Tag Heuer launch their own in-house (cough, ahem) chronograph movement, the 1887, but they have also been teasing the horological world with the amazing tech and cutting edge designs of their Mikrogirder lines. Tag Heuer seems to have a very healthy love for research and development and it is from that not-yet-for-sale side of their company that they announced the Tag Heuer Carrera CMC Concept Chronograph this month in Geneva before Baselworld.

We will likely need to wait until Baselworld for a brand new Carrera - which is not guaranteed but certainly likely. So what is this Carrera CMC watch all about? Essentially it is an 1887-powered chronograph with a Mikrogirder bullhead-style case - which is actually the point that deserves most of the attention. The case has been carefully crafted from Carbon Matrix Composite, a material used in Formula 1 and aerospace applications due to its lightweight yet exceptionally strong construction. A version called the Carrera Jack Heuer is a more "metallic" version of this watch. Crafted from carbon fibers that are just 0.007 mm thick, CMC is processed, heated and compacted into a defined shape. The end result is very strong and very light, so much so that the entire case assembly on the Carrera CMC Concept (excluding the crystal) weighs only 19g. For reference, I have leather straps that weigh considerably more than that. Total weight as shown in the photos is 76g, still a massive achievement for a chronograph that is likely ~45mm across.

Not much more information is available at this time but this is the first time CMC has been used in watch construction and, if ever available on a production model, should boast considerable advantages in terms of not only weight, but also longevity. Tag Heuer says the case is just 19 grams, and the entire watch with the movement is less than 80 grams. We tip our collective hat to Tag Heuer for making yet another drool-worthy concept that bucks the "just add a tourbillon" trend that is so prevalent in top tier watchmaking these days. By "concept" Tag Heuer once again means "we will make a few expensive pieces." The Carrera is one of Tag Heuer's most enduring model names and it is encouraging to see Tag Heuer consistently striving to make their watches interesting, capable, and packed full of good technology. So what do you think? Lusty or just another pricey concept watch? tagheuer.com

martes, 29 de enero de 2013

Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Watch

In addition to a slew of many other salivation-worthy watches, 2013 greets us with this new version of the well-known and pretty darn cool Zenith Christophe Colomb. Now a staple of the brand's "Academy" collection of more complicated watches, the Christophe Colomb has been executed in a number of versions. Zenith enthusiasts will recall that the history of the watch's gimble-style escapement assembly started a while ago with the Defy Xtreme Zero-G Tourbillon watch that pre-dated the Christophe Colomb collection. When Mr. Dufour took over Zenith a few years ago he re-purposed the unique complication into something much more interesting and desirable.

Zenith will be the first one to point out that the escapement mechanism is not in fact a tourbillon. A true tourbillon is an escapement that rotates on its own axis. Many things which are called tourbillons are not. In this case, the escapement is designed inside of a cage which is meant to remain upright by being weighted down and mounted on a gyroscopic-style gimble to the movement. It playfully moves around as you turn and spin the watch. It is quite cool to look at and a miniature technical marvel that requires many parts to complete.

The second most noteworthy element of the Christoph Colomb is the rather noticeable sapphire crystal bubble that protrudes on both the top and bottom of the case. This of course exists to allow for the escapement assembly to have space in which to move around. The number one question I get about this is whether or not it is comfortable to wear. I was extremely dubious myself at first, but after wearing a few iterations of the watch I can honestly say that you don't feel it. That is the bottom part of the bubble on the rear of the watch. The top bubble is... well a large bubble. It allows for a fascinating view into a fascinating movement and is simply something to be aware of and avoid knocking into things.

No matter how many times I am fortunate enough to play with this watch I am still amused and enchanted by it. In this newest version it is even better. The design and skeletonization remind me a bit of Breguet aesthetics. I think many of you will find that as well. Called the Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane, this is most certainly the finest of the Christophe Colomb models yet. Why? Well it has to do with how it looks and what goes in to it.

Previous versions of the Christophe Colomb featured a range of features and dial changes. One for example had an equation of time complication, a feature which for me is worthless. Here Zenith goes back to the basics offering features we want, and a movement enhancement that at least I love. In addition to the "gravity module" escapement, the Hurricane has a fusee and chain complication. My interest in the little constant force mechanism made up of a conical cam and small bicycle chain endures... especially in this watch. I don't know if this is the first time Zenith has attempted the fusee and chain complication, but this is the first time I can think of that they have. Breguet for instance has made a few of them, which is another reason why there is a resemblance for me.

You'll notice that the fusee and chain assembly are very prominent and actually partially under the time dial. Thus, you'll get to notice it each time you read the time. In addition to being skeletonized, the assortment of the features on the dial is particularly convenient for visual appreciation. In my opinion, because Breguet has had more experience with these types of open movements and dials, their pieces are slightly better decorated and finished on the movement surfaces. That is to be expected, but the Christophe Colomb is nevertheless a very good achievement for Zenith featuring a beautiful set of features and visual balance.

A 45mm wide, the 18k rose gold case of this limited edition watch is nicely polished and weighty on the wrist. It does not feel overly large though. Inside the watch is a Zenith made El Primero caliber 8805 manually wound movement. Because it is an El Primero, the escapement does indeed operate at a higher 36,000 bph (5 Hz) operating speed. That is interesting, especially since even tourbillons don't always operate at even 28,800 bph. The movement is complicated and no doubt requires immense skill to assemble. The movement is separated into three main parts which include the main movement, the gyroscopic carriage, and the chain. The number of parts in each is 354, 173, and 585 respectively. Just fathom how long it takes to assemble the 173 part escapement assembly without damaging parts and making the entire thing work.

Functionally, the caliber 8805 is basic but satisfying. In addition to the time dial there is a subsidiary seconds dial, and a power reserve indicator. That is pretty much all you need. The rest of the watch's features are for mechanical fun. For this reason offering a skeletonized version of the Academy Christophe Colomb makes so much sense. Though I still don't quite understand the "Hurricane" part of the name.

I tend to wonder what types of people wear watches such as this full time? Are there such people, and does a timepiece such as this have what it takes to survive the daily grind and still serve as a reliable time teller? To be honest I don't know. Zenith might not even know. I sat with Jean-Frederic Dufour as we discussed the piece and other new happenings at Zenith. He sat wearing a pair of sport watches - one on each wrist from the brand. Zenith is doing quite well and their prices are quite fair for their mid-level watches. All Zenith timepieces contain in-house movements whose designs these days are mostly spot on. I also like to point out that Zenith is among the few brands that seems to consistently make watches with appropriately sized hands.

Zenith will produce just 25 pieces of the Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane watch. They really don't have the capacity to build too much more given the time involved and price of each piece. With the special escapement and the fusee and chain transmission, this is an incredibly cool timepiece from Zenith who seems to be on a serious roll these last few years Price is $280,000. zenith-watches.com

TECHNICAL specs from Zenith:



El Primero 8805, Manual
Unique Gyroscopic system that ensures perfect horizontal positioning of the regulating organ
Calibre: 16½ ``` (Diameter: 37 mm)
Thickness: 5.85 mm
Components: 354
Gyroscopic carriage made of 173 components
Chain made of 585 components
Jewels: 53
Frequency: 36,000 VpH – (5 Hz)
Power-reserve: min. 50 hours

Hours and minutes excentred at 12 o’clock
Self-regulating Gravity Control module at 6 o’clock
Small seconds display at 9 o’clock
Power-reserve indicator at 3 o’clock
Fusée-chain transmission under the hours/minutes dial

Case, Dial & Hands
Material: 18-carat rose gold
Diameter: 45 mm
Thickness: 14.35 mm 21.40 mm
(with domed sapphire crystal)
Crystal & Case-back: Box-shaped sapphire crystal with anti-reflection treatment on both sides and excrescent domes that cover the Christophe Colomb module.
Water-resistance: 3 ATM
Dial: Gold with hand-crafted guilloché motif
Hour-markers: Black lacquered
Hands: Blued steel

Strap & Buckle
Alligator leather strap with protective rubber lining
Reference: 27.00.2218.713 brown alligator leather
18-carat gold triple folding clasp
Reference: 27.17.0003.940
Rose gold

domingo, 27 de enero de 2013

Rolex Milgauss 116400GV Watch M

As a research scientist with a passion for fine timepieces, I have always been on the lookout for the watch that would best match my work and life passions. If you also fit that category, then look no further than the Rolex Milgauss, and especially the unique anniversary edition reference 116400GV ("glass verte") with the green sapphire glass. It is a watch with a unique history that stands out from an all too common Rolex lineup and that was designed for scientists… Let's explore why that is.

While I will not give you a full history of the Milgauss, I want to brush on the important highlights. The Rolex web site and various blog posts do a thorough job of documenting the history, in particular this post is one of the better one I have found on its history.

In a nutshell, the Milgauss was introduced in the late 50's when electricity, electronics, aeronautics, and nuclear engineering was bringing about what we now call the technology and information revolution. As a species we had just discovered the power of the atom, we were finally in a position to leave mother earth (albeit for short periods of time), and the amount of innovations around transmitting, storing, and transforming information, created a series of revolutions that would forever change mankind.

As a consequence of this flood of innovation, scientists (and generally everyone) were increasingly being exposed to magnetic fields. Not only from the instruments used but also from everyday appliances such as TV sets, radios, and the many new electrified appliances that were making their way into households. You don't need to know Maxwell's equations to know that an electrical current and a magnetic field are two sides of the same "coin" and that one can easily be converted into the other. The German mathematician and physicist Carl Friedrich Gauss was one of the first to explore this space and thus, in his honor, the measure of magnetic flux density is a Gauss. Today other measurements like the Tesla and ampere/meter (1000G = 0.1T = 80,000A/m) are more commonly used.

Of course, the result of being exposed to so much accidental or intentional magnetic fields is that anything you have on you that is sensitive to such fields will be affected. You also don't need to know much about the inner workings of a mechanical watch to realize that a magnetic field is one of its sworn enemy. Briefly, mechanical watches (even the best ones) use a balance wheel containing a hairspring that is used to regulate the movement, it's the watch's heartbeat, if you may. Mess with the hairspring or balance wheel then you will end up with a watch that runs too fast or too slow… Therefore, in situations where the watch is exposed to a magnetic field, components of the watch can be magnetized and thus be disrupted.

It is in this context that various manufacturers started exploring how to achieve watches that could resist such fields. IWC was the first to release a widely available watch resistant to magnetic fields with its aptly named Ingénieur model. Not to be outdone, in that same time-frame Rolex also released its own magnetic-resistant watch: the Milgauss (from the French "mille" and Gauss, thus resistant to 1000 Gauss). James Stacey recently covered a set of newly announced Ingénieur pieces by IWC, to be released in 2013: the year of the Ingénieur for IWC.

The basic innovation in both the Rolex Milgauss and the IWC Ingénieur and other such watches is the use of a Faraday cage that encloses the movement. Similar to how being inside an airplane protects you from the effect of lightning, a Faraday cage (ferromagnetic enclosure) around the movement will divert a current or magnetic field and shield and protect the entire movement, including the balance wheel and its hairspring. While being a great innovative step in watchmaking, there is much more to the new Rolex Milgauss than simply a Faraday cage.

The Milgauss like all of Rolex's sports line up is based on their famous and ubiquitous oyster perpetual case. This is the same case design used in the Submariner or in the Explorer models, however, the Milgauss is done in a polished 904L steel with a polished smooth bezel that gives it a unique character amongst the other members of the Rolex family of sport watches. On the back of the Milgauss, unlike the Submariner but like the Sea-Dweller, there are markings for the model, the brand, and Oyster case.

Inside the Milgauss is the in-house Rolex 3131 movement, that while hidden from view, is superbly accurate and sparsely decorated. I've spent weeks wearing it noticing only about +/- 1 or 2 seconds difference from my iPhone reference time which I used to set the Milgauss using the 3131 movement hacking feature. The power reserve is of 48 hours and the 3131 movement can also be wounded manually by unscrewing the non-protected large but flat crown. There are no date on the Milgauss since any cut out on the dial would likely interfere with the operation of the Faraday cage. Finally, the 3131 movement includes the Rolex Parachrom hairspring which is made with a highly non-magnetic material, providing additional protection from the omnipresent fields that the Milgauss tries so hard to fight against.

The lack of a date cut out also results in what is a simply awesomely symmetrical dial; which is easily one of my favorite aspects of the Milgauss. First, the dial is black with simple baton-like hour markers filled with white Super-Luminova that shine green, though the markers at 3, 6, and 9 are orange-filled and shine blue. At twelve o'clock is a large Rolex coronet underneath which the Milgauss model is marked with the common Oyster Perpetual. The hour and minutes hands are similar to the Datejust model and are made of white gold with a thin strip of the white Super-Luminova. On the periphery of the dial is the now common ROLEX ROLEX (…) and unique serial number (at 6 o'clock) laser etched markings which helps with counterfeiting and gives the dial a certain genuineness…

But perhaps the best aspects of the dial are these two subsequent features. First, the seconds hand on this watch is the completely unique lightning bolt hand that is painted orange. The color contrasts perfectly with the black dial and also matches the discreet seconds markings around the dial (also in orange). And second, to complete the case, the dial is covered by the uniquely colored crystal matching the corporate colors of Rolex. The crystal is perfectly transparent with hints of green that never overpowers and seem to change intensity depending on the angle you look at the dial or how light is reflected on it. Finally, while you would not think that orange and green would work well together, it does so in this case in spades… and this is coming from someone whose color preferences tends to be conservative (read, black and white).

The Milgauss case is 40mm with lug to lug measurements coming at merely 48mm. As a result the watch wears rather small which also means that it will fit most guys. For me, unless I previously wore one of my larger watches, the 40mm case does not bother me. Also, because the Milgauss weighs in at just under 150 grams, any smallish feelings tend to disappear quickly since you can definitely feel that you are wearing a heavy and solidly built timepiece. The bracelet is of the same steel with polished center links. The adjustment of the screwed links is easily done and the bracelet size can be further slightly adjusted in a breeze with the Easy Link. This is a wonderful Rolex innovation that I often use. Essentially, it allows the bracelet to grow or shrink by 5mm in a few seconds by simply opening the clasp and pulling on one end to release the easy link, or folding it to hide it. The whole thing works simply and brilliantly.

The folding clasp on the Milgauss is one that can create some debates. Unlike the Oyster Flip Lock clasp that is found on the GMT Master II, this one does not have a folding lock and uses a loose bit that you pull with fingers (or nail) or push to create a lock. That lever like bit, even when closed, seems to be dangling and does not appear to be securely lock, while the rest of the clasp does lock quite nicely. At first, I did not appreciate this bracelet style, since the dangling part of the bracelet seemed to swivel a bit… However, I have to come to appreciate the fact that it is a lot easier to open and close this bracelet than the Oyster Flip Lock on the GMT Master II. And for a daily wear at work, I found that the simplicity of the Milgauss bracelet allows me to adjust it on my wrist quickly and efficiently without even looking at the watch and loosing any concentration on the task at hand.

When Rolex first released the Milgauss reference 116400GV anniversary model, it was in some short supply which resulted in various speculations and price hikes. However, nowadays you can find it in most authorized dealers, though its price keeps creeping up with Rolex's yearly price changes, indicating perhaps some level of sales success. The reference 116400GV model retails for $8,200 while the white dial and black dial models go for slightly less: $7,650. The primary difference, besides the different dial schemes is that the GV is the only one with the green crystal, the others have the regular transparent sapphire crystal. It's also the only Rolex with a non-transparent sapphire crystal.

Overall, I could not be more satisfied with my Milgauss GV. Even though I work close to heavy scientific equipments and various electrical devices emitting all sorts of magnetic fields, it is doubtful that I really need the kind of protection the Milgauss provides, though, it's good to know it's there. The historical pedigree of the Milgauss and the fact that it was engineered with science in mind make it the perfect timepiece for nerds, like myself, who tend to also love science. It's simply the scientists' watch! rolex.com

Necessary Data
>Brand: Rolex
>Model: Milgauss 116400GV
>Price: $8,200
>Size: 40mm x 13mm (48mm lug to lug)
>Weight: 150g (with two or three links removed to fit my wrist)
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes
>Friend we'd recommend it to first: any guy (or gal) interested in science or working in an engineering field.
>Worst characteristic of watch: the lume application on the hour markers, while great and shining in green and blue when the dial is well charged, does not last long. It seems to last for about a few hours (not more than 3) with the blue light disappearing first and rather quickly.
>Best characteristic of watch: the unique green sapphire and orange lighting bolt shaped seconds hand.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 Jubilee Watch

At SIHH 2013 the most prestigious of the actually many prestigious new Jaeger-LeCoultre watches was a new version of the famous Gyrotourbillon. I don't think it is exactly what a lot of Gyrotourbillon fans were expecting given its return to a very classical demeanor and style, but it is a truly new Gyrotourbillon with some interesting features. As part of the master collection, this new piece is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 Jubilee watch.

The term "Jubilee" (anniversary celebration) is conspicuously in the watch's name even though Jaeger-LeCoultre doesn't mention any specific anniversary around the piece's release. If there was to be an anniversary it would be of the 180th anniversary of the beginning of what is today Jaeger-LeCoultre back in 1833. That is as much as I can surmise. The Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 Jubilee will be a limited edition of course, as slowly see production and possible variations over the years. What Jaeger-LeCoultre likes to do is take models like this and dress them up with diamonds in years after the piece's initial release. I saw that with the Gyrotourbillon a lot, but actually not at all or too much with Gyrotourbillon 2. While it is possible to place diamonds or other precious stones on most any timepiece, no matter how seemingly strange their placement, I do see the Gyrotourbillon 3 as a more "collector" oriented piece that seems to only have diamond-potential real estate on the case (thankfully not on the dial).

Now I mentioned that the Jubilee part of the name didn't make a ton of sense. That may be so but it does coincide with a small family of other Jaeger-LeCoultre watches that also bear the "Jubilee" name. These extremely complex classical watches are part of the ongoing honoring of Antoine LeCoultre. If you want to purchase the Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 now, you have just three changes and it comes with two other timepieces. It is sure to be a rather heavy investment. The set is the Jubilee Collection and sure to make your watch collection proud by angering your bank account.

75 more pieces of the limited edition set in platinum will be produced over time. More still will likely arrive in other precious metals. The case is generously sized at 43.5mm wide and 15.5mm thick, again what Jaeger-LeCoultre describes as "extra-white platinum. One area that they focus on quite a bit is the strap - more specifically the deployant. According to my friends at Jaeger-LeCoultre, this timepiece has about 100 pieces in the deployant alone. Giving it the ability to microadjust for comfort, especially as your wrist may expand or shrink given environmental influences.

So what exactly does the Gyrotourbillon 3 watch do? Well let's start by talking about the gyrotourbillon. It was originally developed by Eric Coudray for Jaeger-LeCoultre a few years ago. Mr. Coudray is a rather brilliant French watch maker who speaks not a word of English and appears to have never visited a barber. Though Mr. Coudray's steady hands are legendary and he is a very clever micro engineer. The gyrotourbillon is called as such because it appears to move like a gyroscope. Though in reality it is a two-axis tourbillon in a spherical shaped cage that is mystifying to view in action. The case is so delicate that most people who attempt to assemble the watch will break it. It is light and made from titanium and new for the gyrotourbillon 3 it has a spherical-shaped balance wheel inside of it. Imagine that. The ball-shape hairspring is a first for wrist watches, and truly completes the spheroid theme of this uber complication. No doubt it is clearly visible on the dial.

Borrowed from the Extreme Lab collection in the same brand, the Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 Jubilee watch also has a digital chronograph. Well a mechanical digital analog hybrid chronograph. If you see that counter in what looks like a subsidiary seconds dial then you are not seeing a big date indicator but rather a minute counter for the monopusher chronograph That subsidiary dial is the seconds register for the chronograph The watch does not offer the date nor a subsidiary seconds dial for the time as it appears to. Rather, this timepieces has the time in an off-centered dial, day/night indicator disc, and this unique chronograph. The marriage of these complications together is most likely unique, and it is truly something new. Ultra niche of course, but not necessarily intended to be practical beyond stimulating the horological region of watch lovers' brains.

While the Gyrotourbillon is not readily a Jaeger-LeCoultre at first look and is no doubt a whimsical timepieces, it does satisfy in a way that only Jager-LeCoultre timepieces can. As I will likely repeat in the future. They are among the only brands at SIHH 2013 to release even a new movement, and not just at this high-end range. For me JLC is currently an under appreciated brand (though fervent enthusiasts will deny that they contain somehow more appreciation somewhere), and is a true innovator in a space so frequently marked by sessility. jaeger-lecoultre.com

Technical details

Reference: 5036420
Case material: Platinum 950
Strap/bracelet: Alligator Leather

Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 176

Hour - Minute
Digital Instant Chronograph
Flying spherical tourbillon

Case - 43.5mm wide
Platinum 950
Water resistance : 5 bar

Silvered opaline


Alligator Leather

Double Folding Buckle 20.0 mm

viernes, 25 de enero de 2013

De Bethune DB28 Skybridge Watch

De Bethune creates some of the most unique looking and distinctive watches on the market today. With a stellar aesthetic and standout case design, the new Skybridge is an interesting addition to their DB28 range of watches. The DB28 Skybridge employs the same skeletonized floating lugs and twelve o'clock crown placement seen on other models in the DB28 family, but offers a less complicated dial arrangement with an artful interpretation of the De Bethune design language.

The Skybridge offers a duality of modernism and elegance that has the look of a dressy Linde Werdelin, meant to be worn to a gala ball, on the moon. The Skybridge features a 43 mm polished titanium case with a 45 mm matched bezel. The case looks lovely but is entirely upstaged by the dial, also based in blued and polished titanium, which mimics a view of the night sky and is garnished with a selection of polished titanium balls (acting as mid-dial hour markers) and diamonds. There is a minute track surrounding the dial and a large conical design element intersecting the dial like an art deco spaceship. At the base of this "spaceship" is a small orb that functions as a very understated moon phase display. While I am hesitant to use the word "romantic", that is my genuine impression of the dial design for the Skybridge, and I love it. The ornate hands, the rich blue of the dial, and the charming dial design all make for a very compelling watch.

Mechanically speaking, the DB28 Skybridge is fairly straight forward. Running on the DB2105 in-house and hand-wound movement from De Bethune, the Skybridge has no seconds hand and no date, possibly because they would detract from the design. I have a hard time focusing on the time when I look at the Skybridge, evidenced by how I only just realized that the displayed time is 1:51 and not the more normally used 10:08. The DB2105 has 236 parts in its construction, including twin barrels and 27 jewels supporting a six day power reserve.

This is not De Bethune's first go at a watch with this overall look but I feel that the way in which they have minimized the impact of the time and moon phase display has allowed additional dial real estate (and visual attention) to be invested in the nature of the design. Not only will the DB28 Skybridge be a perfectly functional and reliable dress watch, but you have to assume there is a sense of occasion when you choose to wear a watch like this. While not a simple-looking watch, the De Bethune DB28 Skybridge does offer a distinctive and enchanting wrist presence that would be sure to rival anything else in your collection.

Richard Mille RM036 Watch With G-Force Meter

If you are a fan of Monty Python then you are a fan of comedy frequently derived from irony, and often from absurdity. Consider me such a fan, and I have a feeling that Mr. Mille falls into this same camp. At SIHH 2013 my enduring image of him is sitting in a chair and speaking energetically with his hands. "Absurdity" is the easiest way to explain the combination of features and the conception of the new Richard Mille RM036 "G-Sensor Tourbillon" watch.

In brief, the watch is a mechanical tourbillon-based timepiece with a g-force meter. On the one hand you have a rather fragile tourbillon escapement, and on the other hand you have a device designed to measure the force from velocity... typically used when you are planning on experiencing some rather high forces. These things simply don't go together most of the time.

In truth the RM036 is a beauty on the wrist. I've never been a closeted fan of Mr. Mille's spirited contraptions that are a result of an "I wonder if I can produce this mentality." Richard Mille attempted to prove in the past that his tourbillon watches could withstand the types of forces that would destroy most tourbillon-based movements. How did he do that? By placing such watches on the wrists of race car drivers, tennis players, runners, and golfers. All to be worn in the heat of competition. So these athletes did, and the watch purportedly survived - but perhaps that wasn't enough for Richard Mille to get his point across. In development for a few years, Richard Mille has just released a watch with a mechanical g-force meter. Cool. but what will I do with it? Well what I did do with it is test the g-force meter.

Holding the watch firmly in my hand, I tightened my fist and threw it to the side to see what would happen. Looking then at the watch dial I took notice of the g-force gauge on the top of the dial. The little hand which was once in the green was now in the red. All the way in the red. Looks like I just threw my wrist with enough force to kill a race car drive if his car was traveling at the same speed. I was impressed with myself. Unfortunately the gauge isn't specific as to how much force the watch just experienced. I support you need to trust that anything "in the red zone" is dangerous. A press on the pusher on the side of the case resets the hand for more actions to see what else the watch can endure.

I have to be frank with you, if I am planning on putting myself in a centrifuge or anything else that will compress my innards I don't plan on taking a tourbillon with me. It isn't particularly necessary to enjoy the almost romantic allure of that spinning escapement while the force of many Gs is convincing my stomach it is placed too low in my body. Richard Mille is also likely aware of this fact, but has seemingly long since forgot the notion that timepieces need to make much sense. In fact, the absolute frivolity of high-end watch design that market the mid 2000s is back with a vengeance. Only this time around it is much more limited in production and much more expensive. What used to be $200,000 in 2005 is $500,000 or more in 2013. But just a few pieces are all that is needed to get media and lots of excitement. Why does the RM036 exists? Because Richard Mille has the means, connections, and customers to make it so.

So why did they produce this watch? More or less for fast driving. The piece was made for Jean Todt, who is not actually a person who drives very fast (as far as I know). Todt is however involved with the world of motor sports in France and may be associated with the FIA Action for Road Safety. To be honest, the details from Richard Mille on the official purpose of the watch are scant and vague. Todt is a friend of Mille and perhaps the two thought the watch would be a fun idea. The brand refers to it as a timepiece designed to assist with road safety. The idea being that your watch tells you if you are accelerating too fast (and then what? You are going to slow down because your watch willed it?). Pretty sure our own bodies have ways of telling us that. Nevertheless, 15 of these watches will be made for you know... the safety of drivers, and their tourbillons.

Many Richard Mille watches are birthed at the Renaud & Papi headquarters. The watch movement designers there were tasked with coming up with a sufficiently small, sufficiently mechanical g-force meter to place inside of the watch. While this is the most interesting feature of the watch, it is one that Richard Mille explains the least. The RM036 has a gauge that looks a bit like a power reserve indicator on the dial that shows the maximum Gs experienced. A pusher at 9 o'clock resets the "G-Sensor" hand. So after driving really fast you can look at your wrist and giggle as you check out how close to the red zone you got. Unfortunately, the G-Sensor meter lacks any numerical values. So you'll simply have to take safety cues from the colors.

The RM036 Jean Todt G-Sensor watch comes in a 42.70mm wide titanium case with rubber strap. It is actually very light and supremely comfortable. If you are a fan of Richard Mille designs, then the watch is pure lust. The movement is manually wound and rather than pull out the crown, a pusher in the crown acts as a function selector (wind, set time, or neutral). With about 70 hours of power reserve, the movement has the time with a tourbillon that acts as the seconds indicator. There of course is also the matter of the G-Sensor which is a 17mm wide module that sits at the top of the movement.

If the RM036 is as durable as Richard Mille claims it to be, then we have another rather impressive piece of ludicrously over-engineered mechanical porn that certainly gets our wheels turning. Rather than the watch acting as a safety tool, I have a feeling that would-be racers with more money than good sense will use it to see how far they can make the needle go while rapidly braking their Lambos and Porsche's on the track. Richard Mille will produce just 15 pieces in this limited edition set of RM036 G-Sensor watches in titanium. Price is $490,000. richardmille.com

martes, 22 de enero de 2013

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor Watch

"Quatuor" is a name I can hardly pronounce but represents a piece of fun from Roger Dubuis that is wonderfully and most exquisitely deranged. Day one at SIHH 2013 is over and I am trying to wrap my mind around all the people I saw and faces I inadvertently forgot. Always good to reunite with friends and have strangers who seem to know you come up and ask how things are. I'd like to remove the "how are you?" question as a polite follow-up to "hello" during small talk conversations. It is all too generic. More a waste of time than a useful social ritual. How about something more interesting such as "was it difficult to choose what pants to wear today?" or perhaps "are you unhappy with your country's current leadership?" Yes, my mind was on all things save for timepieces. Of which there were scant few "novelties" at 2013's SIHH, but of course a few leaders in the "cool pack."

The show starts like a mimic of all the others. Practically all that is new is within the booths. Roger Dubuis is one of the few places whose booth is as worth seeing as the watches. While Roger Dubuis timepieces are prohibitively expensive for all but the most anti-frugal of budgets, I love their take on showy, light-hearted, and clearly theatrical luxury. This year's booth looks like some type of tree root-filled forest floor with a giant golden eagle in the center. Yes, an eagle produced specially for Roger Dubuis by a company that makes stuff for movie sets. There is also a man with an American bald eagle on his hand. An actual live bird that draws a crowd. The eagle is impressively calm, while a not-so-small fortune in watches rests behind it in the back office dungeons. The booth attendants are dressed like extras from Game of Thrones. I suddenly have no idea what any of this has to do with watches. And then Jean-Marc Pontroue, CEO of Roger Dubuis, shows me this incredibly weird watch box that opens up to the Quatuor.

The watch has four diagonally positioned escapements (not tourbillons), that are connected in pairs by a series of differentials. These escapements average each other out theoretically - helping the watch to be more accurate. How accurate is neither an issue or concern as practicality is about as inherent to this watch as it is to the brand's booth design. The concept works, and that is all that matters. Sound from the four escapements running in unison is a hallmark of the Quatuor. Roger Dubuis haphazardly calls it a 16Hz watch. That seems to imply that by adding four 4Hz escapements together you equal 16Hz. I am not sure it works that way.

Set in the Roger Dubuis Excalibur case the Quatuor is large at 48mm wide. Its complex movement forces the watch to be thick, but in reality it is just as insane as your average neighborhood Roger Dubuis skeleton double tourbillon watch. The movement is strikingly symmetrical and beautiful in its design. According to a Roger Dubuis watch maker it takes a full 2-3 days to merely assemble the movement. Something like 2,400 hours are needed to build the watch from start to finish.

Designed by lead Roger Dubuis movement designer Gregory Bruttin, the caliber RD101 movement in the Quatuor is unlike most things you've seen before - even though it just shows the time. It almost feels like something in the Opus collection. The movement is comprised of almost 600 parts, and is deeply dark and rich in polished and other artistic techniques. It looks quite cool, but is unfortunately very difficult to photograph properly.

The four escapements running together act to help average out the rate results and amplitude of the movement. Put at diagonal angles facing into the dial they are quite beautiful to see. I think making this a quadruble tourbillon would have been too much. Even though there is so much going on where the dial is, it isn't hard to find the face of the watch to read the time.

According to Roger Dubuis the power reserve mechanism is new. It rotates once each 5 hours or so in combination with a normal hand. It is just that the normal hand has two sides to show the power reserve "twice." It is difficult to explain but the video helps illuminate how it works better. What advantages it have over "normal" power reserve indicators is a bit lost to me, but I was nevertheless impressed. I mentioned that Roger Dubuis watches are theatrical. The Quatuor is a good example in the already showy Excalibur collection.

At all angles the RD101 manually wound movement is beautiful. Seeing the constant movement of those four escapements is endearingly interesting although the timepiece is anything but quiet (visually and aesthetically). It is just the type of watch nerd candy people like me love. And Roger Dubuis made it for a simple love of the game. It is unique and special yes, and of course priced as such accordingly.

The final oddity about the Excalibur Quatuor watch collection is in the material of one of its versions. Both Quatuor models will be limited editions, the 18k red gold one to 88 pieces, but the other version to just three pieces. What is so special about it? Well it is actually made out of silicon. Yes, that material everyone has been so googly eyed about for years when it came to replacing metal parts in mechanical movements... made its way into a watch case (as the entire case). Now as far as I am told silicon is very scratch resistant. I can't personally attest to that, but it is light. Damn light. I picked up both silicon, titanium, and steel cases of the same volume and the silicon was by far the lightest, taking a dark gray almost gun metal hue. And it costs a fortune to machine properly. The limited edition of 88 pieces gold Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor watch is around 350,000 Swiss Francs, while the silicon version (if I heard correctly) is about 2.2 million Swiss Francs. Crazy yes, but for a brand whose top seller in places such as the US is a double tourbillon with a skeletonized movement at a price over 200,000, creating something even more exclusive is simply what one does. Really an interesting concept in perfectly working and salable order, as well as a top choice timepiece that you'll never likely even get to touch. rogerdubuis.com

Tech specs from Roger Dubuis:

Excalibur Quatuor in Silicon
Case: 48 mm, silicon
Dial: Charcoal grey interior flange, white minute-circle transfers, charcoal grey engraved Roger Dubuis and Poinçon de Genève inscriptions, rhodium power-reserve indicator, black DLC hours and minutes hands, charcoal grey circular satin-finish exterior flange, black DLC appliques
Water resistance: 3 BAR (30 m)
Strap: Black, genuine alligator, hand-stitched
Clasp: Silicon adjustable folding buckle
Movement: Hand-wound movement, RD101
Hand-wound mechanical movement, 16 ¾’’’, 113 jewels,
finely adjusted in five positions, rhodium-plated, circulargrained
motif. Stamped with the Poinçon de Genève (certification in process)
Specific features
Hours, minutes, 5 differentials, 4 balance wheels, power reserve indicator.
Number of parts: 590
Height: 10.60 mm
Frequency: 4x4 Hz (28,800 vph)
Power reserve: 40 hours
Production: 3 pieces
Excalibur Quatuor in pink gold
Case: 48 mm, pink gold
Dial: Charcoal grey interior flange, white minute-circle transfers, Charcoal grey engraved Roger Dubuis and Poinçon de Genève inscriptions, pink gold power-reserve indicator, pink gold hours and minutes hands, Charcoal grey circular satin-finish exterior flange, pink gold appliques
Water resistance: 3 BAR (30 m)
Strap: Brown, genuine alligator, hand-stitched
Clasp: Pink gold adjustable folding buckle
Movement: Hand-wound movement, RD101
Hand-wound mechanical movement, 16 ¾’’’, 113 jewels, finely adjusted in five positions, rhodium-plated, circulargrained motif. Stamped with the Poinçon de Genève (certification in process)
Specific features
Hours, minutes, 5 differentials, 4 Balance wheels, Power reserve indicator.
Number of parts: 590
Height: 10.60 mm
Frequency: 4x4 Hz (28,800 vph)
Power reserve: 40 hours
Production: 88 pieces

lunes, 21 de enero de 2013

Bremont HMS Victory Watch

Joking around with the ever-charming guys from Bremont I snapped some pictures of the limited edition HMS Victory timepiece. While still new to the watch game the guys at Bremont are quickly figuring out what it takes to be a major player in the industry and all the fun stuff, as well as BS, that goes along with it. More so than even other similar brands Bremont's production is split between two separate types of products, even though they are related when it comes to design and execution.

First are the non-limited or mainstream watches. These are the pieces anyone can buy at anytime. Then there are the limited editions available either as just a limited run of pieces or as a limited run of pieces that only a select group of people or club can buy (think special watch series for some Air Force squadron). It is difficult to determine which type of product Bremont is focusing on more, or rather what they feel is important to them. The brand is still comprised of a relatively small team, so they aren't really too focused on totally new models and new limited edition pieces at the same time. For 2012 the bulk of their attention seemed to be on the HMS Victory watch.

I've got two sets of pictures for you here, and both are important. First are my hands-on pictures of a PROTOTYPE version of the Victory that has been around the block enough times. These are versions made before a full production and are typically not visually complete or with the right finishes. This prototype watch has a lot of things not finished with it that are done on the final piece, which is what the second set of pictures are of. Thanks to Bremont retailer The Watch Gallery UK, we have these sexy shmexy images of the all-done Victory watch complete wit proper case details and that amazing caseback and rotor.

Let's just skip to that rotor and caseback shall we... I am no Horatio Nelson or HMS Victory ship historian, but the watch is full of imagery dedications to the two. As you'll recall from my first piece Debuting the Bremont HMS Victory watch last year here, I mentioned how the timepiece had wood from the actual ship as well as metal from actual nails taken from the ship. You can see all of that on the back of the watch. There is the wood ring about the exhibition caseback window, and metal from the historic war ships' nails in, I believe, the rotor, case middle barrel, or perhaps both.

The historical looking design of the automatic rotor mixed with the etchings on the sapphire crystal and Nelson's message around the wooden right are pretty darn cool. In a sense it is amusingly over the top as well, intended for serious watch and history buffs. The quote from Nelson reads "Thank God, I have done my duty." It is an almost masturbatory celebration of the famous Brit and his naval achievements. Would you have it any other way? Once someone decides to honor something in a limited edition watch the tendency is to take it as far as one can. That's just human nature.

Part of the point of the HMS Victory watch is to benefit the restoration and upkeep of maintaining the actual HMS Victory ship. The 18th century warship is the last of its kind and as a historic monument always needs cash to survive. This project will deliver financial assistance to that cause.

I just realized that this watch has nothing to do with Bremont's aviation theme. It does however have a lot to do with Bremont's British theme. As a pilot watch brand Bremont has an uphill battle fighting greats such as IWC and Breitling. As a primarily British heritage and pilot watch brand they place themselves in a new class. The best part is that it isn't a PR show. Bremont is started by and run by the English. They also plan to move as much as of their production to the UK from Switzerland as possible moving forward, as they continue to reinvest in themselves. Those are some handsome goals, and among fellow English watch brands Bremont is typically seen as a leader of the pack.

The ship's clock style dial of the HMS Victory watch is benefited by black on white hands and a clear symmetrical look. The functions are built on top of a base Swiss ETA Valjoux 7750 automatic movement. They modify the subsidiary seconds hand to be a 30 second retrograde hand, and turn the date indicator into a retrograde hand as well. The resulting operations are both logical and attractive. Though the module on top of the already thick 7750 make for a rather thick timepieces.

The HMS Victory watch is 43mm wide available in steel or 18k rose gold. Each version is limited to just 250 pieces and comes in a pretty sweet collector's box, with... is that watch strap buckles to close it? On the wrist it is conservative-cool and historical feeling (and looking). It is going to make a number of mature watch collector's super proud. Bremont is doing their job today pretty well, When you look at their pieces you think, London, planes, and now ass-kicking admirals. Prices are high through. The Bremont Victory watch in steel is about $20,000 and about $30,000 in gold. According to Bremont they are all sold out, but I have a feeling that means to retailers. So get em while they are hot.