domingo, 31 de marzo de 2013


If you look at many of the most popular watch brands, you'll notice that their collections usually contain a few (or many) classics whose names have been around for years. Brands like Rolex don't really release new models, but rather continue to improve on their core collection over time. Models like the Submariner and Datejust have been around for generations. Other brands also keep tradition alive by continuing to offer modern versions of designs that have proved successful for many years. To recognize and help suggest those watches which are "living legends" we've come up with a list of the top 10 worth owning. To be clear, to be a living legend, a watch must have historic roots and still be produced today. We know we couldn't include them all so mention your favorites in the comments below.

1. Rolex Submariner

It was 1954 that Rolex originally released the Submariner, and the watch industry hasn't been the same since. The Submariner was never released as a luxury product, but rather a professional diver's watch that anyone could enjoy. It attained a cult status for being a damn good sports watch and later in the 1980s when the mechanical watch gained a more luxury status and Rolex began its long path to become the world's most desirable luxury timepiece brand. The Submariner is their most popular model for good reason. Durable and legible, its slick style remains timeless, and most importantly - suitable for most any man (and many women) regardless of look, style, or age. It goes without saying that the perennially good design of the Rolex Submariner is alive and well today in its newest renditions featuring 40mm wide cases available in steel, two-tone, or 18k white or yellow gold. Pricey with an average price of about $8,500, but sure to be timeless and retain value.

2. Omega Speedmaster

Regardless of price, prestige, history or technology, the Omega Speedmaster is widely considered to be the quintessential sports chronograph. You want a handsome but not showy chronograph with a great history, distinctive look, and a long enough life to offer many different versions? That's a Speedmaster. Why? The Omega Speedmaster was good enough for NASA and one was strapped to Buzz Aldrin for his 1969 moonwalk. The Moonwatch is basically the Submariner of chronographs, there are lots of versions, plenty in the used market, they hold their value well and have evolved relatively slowly. Whether you fancy a manually wound 3570.50 or the updated co-axial automatic Speedmaster 9300, you really cannot go wrong and you'll own a piece of horological history Priced from about $4,500 - $8,700 for steel versions..

3. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

Facing bankruptcy in the expanding wake of the quartz revolution, the Royal Oak is the watch that saved Audemars Piguet and made them the brand they are today. Knowing they needed revolution and not evolution, Audemars Piguet brought in none other than Gerald Genta to design a watch that could introduce the brand to a bigger market. Genta created the AP Royal Oak ref 5402ST which launched in 1972 with a price tag so aggressive that not only did it vastly exceed the price of any of its competition, it even out-priced most gold watches on the market. The world had no reference for a steel luxury sport watch, making the Royal Oak an all-in play by Audemars Piguet. While the Royal Oak may have been a polarizing idea from its inception, it created a new watch archetype, the luxury steel sport watch, and acceptance grew fast enough to keep Audemars Piguet in business and the distinctive Genta design is a now an integral part of their brand iconography Starting around $20,000.

4. Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

1931 saw the debut of the Reverso, which was one of the original partnerships between Jaeger and LeCoultre, which subsequently merged to form a singular brand. From the start the Reverso was destined to be a high-end watch being made for members of Britain's elite society as a timepiece to be worn while playing polo in then colonial India. While the flipping case concept seems simple by today's standards, it proved complex to initially industrialize. The rectangular case originally flipped to display a solid metal back to protect itself. The art deco styling and handsome mannerisms of the angular timepiece made it a quick hit among high-society folk especially in Europe. The middle of the 20th century saw a halt to Reverso production and it wasn't until the 1980s that the Reverso started to come back. This was especially the case in the last 20 years. Its handsome styling is of course classic, but also timeless and inherently masculine. Jaeger-LeCoultre has also offered a dizzying array of Reverso styles and sizes to appeal to most luxury watch customers. The Reverso case and movement are made totally in-house by Jaeger-LeCoultre. Prices average around $10,000.

5. Rolex Datejust

Easily Rolex's most fundamental watch, the Datejust has been around since 1945 when Rolex added a date feature to their Bubbleback watch. The Datejust is evidence to what Rolex believes to be most essential in a watch. Rolex is a conservative brand and the Datejust is their most practical model, offering everything you need in an everyday piece and nothing more. While a 41mm version was lunched in 2009, the Datejust was previously available only in smaller sizes including 36mm (mens), 31mm (mid size) and 26mm for the ladies. This enduring model has been worn by many famous individuals including President Dwight Eisenhower, literally countless actors, and even Tony Soprano. One of the quintessential Rolex models, the Datejust offers excellent versatility, working just as well with jeans and a t-shirt as it would with a suit and tie. Prices start around $9,000 (for the Datejust II), but the sky is the limit if you like yellow gold and pave diamonds.

6. Tag Heuer Monaco

The Heuer Monaco was launched in 1969 as one of the first automatic chronographs in existence and one that Jack Heuer named in honor of the famous Monaco GP Formula One course. With its square case and now-famous Calibre 11 automatic movement, the Monaco was even seen on Steve McQueen's wrist in the 1971 film Le Mans. An absolute classic in the chronograph world, the Monaco was discontinued after only a few years but the design saw a McQueen reissue in 1998 and was later relaunched by Tag Heuer in 2003. Vintage and limited edition Monacos are extremely desirable and claim a considerable fee in the used market. Whether you're channeling Steve McQueen or Walter White, a Monaco will provide about as unique a wrist presence as can be found today From about $4,500.

7. Glashutte Original Senator Navigator

In addition to diver-style watches, the most popular sport watches are pilot-style timepieces - and there are tons of them. Pilot watches are some of the original "big watches" and it is hard to pinpoint exactly who created them first. People tend to agree that many of the early ones were German and Swiss from as early as the 1920s. This particular quintessential design is sometimes referred to by the "B-uhr" name and has been reproduced by dozens of brands. Because we like them, we chose the Original Senator Navigator by Glashutte Original to represent this iconic living legend watch as there is no clear "living parent" to the design. Glashutte Original makes a few pieces in their Original Senator Navigator pilot watch collection with an average price of about $7,000 and they are very high in quality even though they are rare to be found even where Glashutte Original watches are sold. Other brands who offer this design sell them at prices from a few hundred to many thousands of dollars.

8. Breitling Navitimer

The early 1950s heralded in the era of another famous pilot watch - the Navitimer by Breitling. What made this piece famous was its combination of chronograph and slide-rule bezel. While not the first Breitling piece to offer these complications, the Navitimer was quickly adopted by military and professional pilots as a useful tool because in addition to telling time, it was able to offer a range of necessary inflight calculations. This was thanks to the slide-rule and chronograph combo. When cockpits went digital, the utility of the Navitimer subsided, but today many pilots are still trained using traditional analog calculation systems as a backup if electronics fail. The Breitling Navitimer is much more than a tool having attained the status as a high-end tool watch for the discriminating and intelligent active guy. Today, Breitling offers version of the Navitimer with their own in-house movements and it remains one of the brand's top sellers. Price is about $9,000.

9. Cartier Santos

The Cartier Santos is a surprisingly enduring design that is actually quite closely linked with the birth of manned flight. Alberto Santos-Dumont was the first man to achieve sustained flight in a fixed wing aircraft circa 1906. Dumont was close friends with a French jeweler named Louis Cartier and had shared with him the difficulty he experienced when trying to check his pocket watch while flying. Cartier set about to design a wrist-mounted watch that would allow Dumont to view the time without removing a hand from the flight controls. In helping Dumont with a practical problem, Cartier created the first pilot's watch and likely kick-started the trend of men wearing watches on their wrists, which was generally only done by women at the time. The original Santos design lives on today as the Santos 100 in which the distinctive square-style case and roman numeral dial have been updated to a modern 51 x 41.3 mm size. The Santos has endured because of both its origins and its functional sporting design which looks great despite being over 100 years old. Starting from about $6,700.

10. IWC Portuguese

The story of the IWC Portuguese collection starts with its name. According to IWC, a group of Portuguese ship merchants traveled to their manufacture in Switzerland in the 1930s asking for a legible and highly precise watch able to be worn while onboard a ship. At the time it was necessary to have precise marine chronometer clocks while at sea because there was no way for the ship to update its clocks while far from land. The men from Portugal wanted precise wrist watches as opposed to having to rely on stationary clocks. While it is unknown how precise these original clocks ended up being, what is known is that the watches to come out of the relationship proved very popular. Their design is based on ship instrumentation and marine clocks, and they remain extremely popular sellers for IWC today. The Portuguese comes in a range of styles but each has that large-size dial look with applied Arabic numerals and properly proportioned hands. To many, it is watch design perfection, and by all accordingly a living legend. Average price is about $10,000.

Notable Top 10 Living Legend Watch runner-ups: Breguet Classique, Bell & Ross BR 01, Junghans Max Bill, Patek Philippe 5270, Hublot Big Bang, and Movado Museum Dial.

This article was jointly produced by Ariel Adams & James Stacey

Chopard L.U.C Engine One H Watch

For 2013 Chopard will release a new version of the L.U.C Engine One watch that was originally debuted back in 2010 (we have some hands-on pictures here). The new watch is called the L.U.C Engine One H, "H" likely standing for "horizontal," which is exactly what is new about this timepiece. The in-house made Chopard L.U.C tourbillon movement has been inserted into the case horizontally versus vertically. The result is a fresh looking design.

Frankly I like the new design better. Mostly because I like the increased size wearable on the wrist. The manually wound movement was designed to look roughly engine-like, especially with those linear grooves - which is a style which you'll seen in a new generation of more simple in-house made Chopard movements that we debuted here. The titanium case will be 44.5mm wide with an exhibition caseback with a view of the caliber o4.02 L movement. Functions include the time, power reserve indicator, and of course a tourbillon. How do you feel about that nice thick leather strap? This is a watch for world's richest bikers. The Chopard L.U.C Engine One H will be limited to 100 pieces.

sábado, 30 de marzo de 2013

Girard-Perregaux Constant Escapement Watch

"Constant Escapement" sounds like the marketing slogan for an all-inclusive vacation resort somewhere. "What you truly seek is constant escapement..." It is true, like other hobbies in life, high-end watches are a constant distraction, and offer some nice escape when wound properly. What Girard-Perregaux actually means is "constant force escapement" - which is really what this new high-end technically-astute timepiece is all about. In this watch are clues to the future of the brand as well as insight as to what Switzerland's top watch makers are currently working on. The Constant Escapement doesn't do anything new, but it does do some existing things in a fresh new way.

What we've been noticing lately from Girard-Perregaux is a rather distinct rejection of its own aesthetic codes. For a while, Girard-Perregaux was all about "classic and timeless" - with good looking retro-inspired pieces and a relative negligence of their sport watch collections. This was them taking the vintage watch craze to an extreme. All of a sudden in 2012 and 2013 you see something different: a new focus on the West with larger-sized watches and much more contemporary designs in the Sea Hawk collection, as well as the refreshed WW.TC collection. It is difficult to determine what led to this pivot in focus. A good place to look is Girard-Perregaux's more recent acquisition by the PPR group (now called Kering). Or perhaps Girard-Perregaux is once again remembering a different part of their history - as the innovator. For a time the brand was indeed a producer of sometimes wild experimental designs from early quartz movements to LED powered displays.

The spirit of modern design comes through well in the Constant Escapement which at first attempts to look classic, but ends up being more a futurist's versus purist's timepiece. Consider the off-centered dial for instance. Imagine that it took up the entire face. That is a modern, versus classic design, and when mixed with the range of industrial finishes on the dial, make for a technical, versus traditional look for the Constant Escapement. The hefty 48mm wide 18k white gold case size is another key indicator. GP, in more ways than one, may be saying "hello tomorrow, so long yesterday" in more ways than one.

We are told that this is just the first Constant Escapement model to be released. Details are scant, but given that this watch is not a limited edition, and that we are only given a view of the 18k white gold models means that Girard-Perregaux has interesting plans for this technology. What I want to know is how delicate it is. This leads me to the discuss what the hell a constant force escapement even is, and what you are looking at. Well it is something that is meant to solve an age old question, and one that most watch makers like to gloss over. The issue regards what happens as power from the mainspring moving to the rest of the movement is uneven as the spring unwinds? This causes rate errors in timing (meaning that a watch is prone to run fast when fully wound, to slow when almost unwound). Think of the car engine example and the torque curve. At various RPMs, different amounts of power come from the engine to the wheels. For cars, this isn't an issue as there is no need to maintain the same speed as the RPMs increase or decrease, but what if that was the case.

Just like the torque of a car engine, a mechanical watch movement has a torque curve and that range means that timing accuracy is not consistent. The goal of a constant force escapement is just that, to provide 'consistent' power to the escapement, thus ensuring more stable results in measuring the time. This is usually achieved in a stepping, or pulse method. Rather than power moving "unfiltered" to an escapement, an intermediary system controls power to deliver it in consistent pulses to the escapement. The hoped-for result is "varying amounts of power to the constant force mechanism, but equal power to the regulation system."

Girard-Perregaux has developed yet a new way to do this using thin blade-like strands connected to a central point that pulses against the escapement produced from silicon. Two of these work in tandem to send pulses of energy to the double escapements. The system operates at 3Hz using some unique never-before-seen parts, and is said to produce very consistent timing results. Girard-Perregaux gets so close to actually mentioning how well the Constant Escapement performs without actually mentioning it. So how stable are the rate results in this new type of mechanical movement with a constant force escapement? "Better."

The in-house made caliber MVT-009100-0007 looks rather fantastic and the system benefits from having a week long power reserve. We appreciate the linear-style power reserve indicator and the presence of the centrally mounted seconds hand in tandem with the off-centered hour and minute dial. The design is a great mixture of modern style and traditional timepiece layouts with a focus on symmetry and legibility. This is a watch for "today" that you can wear if something from MB&F or Urwerk is just too wild for you.

What comes next for the Constant Escapement is anyone's guess. I hardly see Girard-Perregaux putting this into more mainstream watches, but it could hint that silicon is going to play a major role in the brand's upcoming new mechanical movements. That I think would be a benefit to them. While they will always be a traditional watch maker, it will be extremely important to them to feel fresh and contemporary in today's highly competitive high-end watch market. Price for the Girard-Perregaux Constant Escapement watch will be about $100,000.

Case: white gold
Diameter: 48.00 mm
Glass: domed anti-reflective sapphire
Crown: white gold with engraved GP logo
Dial: silvered with grained finish and rhodium-plated appliques
Hands: dauphine style
Case back: sapphire glass, secured with 6 screws, all inscriptions hand engraved
Water resistance: 30 meters
Girard-Perregaux movement MVT-009100-0007
manual mechanical movement
Caliber: 17½ ’’’
Frequency: 21,600 Vib/h – (3 Hz)
Power reserve: Approximately one week
Jewels: 28
Number of components: 271
Functions: hour, minute, central second, linear power reserve
Black alligator strap
White gold folding clasp
Reference: 93500-53-131-BA6C

miércoles, 27 de marzo de 2013

Christophe Claret Soprano Watch

For my money, Christophe Claret is the guy I would hire to run a movement design department of a watch company. In fact, for much of his career in watches, that was what he was doing. What I like about Christophe, and even more so respect, is that he "gets" what mechanical watchmaking really is in today's world. Some watchmakers present themselves as religious zealots - keeping the faith alive by preserving the honor and tradition of traditional watchmaking. Claret has advanced beyond that. Like a kid, he knows that mechanical watches are toys for the rich - of all ages. And there are different types of mechanical watches for different levels of "rich."

So what Claret does is take traditional concepts, complications, and principles, and arranges them in contemporary ways. He is really at the forefront of interpreting traditional watchmaking and making it interesting for today's tastes and expectations. Like a modern day Breguet, his talent is in impressing some of the world's most elite collectors by producing cool, limited production, high visibility tech toys powered by springs. The Soprano collection of minute repeater tourbillon watches is one of his latest feats. Let's check it out...

Part of me wants to put jam on this watch and eat it. The movement looks that good. Those tall bridges hovering over a deep mass of hand-decorated parts produced with high-tech machines in Claret's secret lair. About 450 parts in a movement impossible for my non AutoCAD-operated brain to comprehend. The sword-like hands on the dial are edged in synthetic ruby, or onyx, or blue crystal. Its dial (or lack thereof) was designed to play with the light, as inside of it are several layers of sapphire crystal discs. If there was ever a minute repeater suitable for wearing while driving a sleek Ferrari or muscular Lamborghini, this is it.

The Soprano is named as such because it sings. Christophe likes to outdo others, and with his minute repeaters, he frequently does. Minute repeaters after-all, are his specialty. The one in here plays the full Westminster Quarters notes. That is four notes as opposed to the typical two notes of many other minute repeaters. To do this, the watch employs four circular gongs hit by four hammers that are visible on the dial. The tone of the minute repeater in operation is loud and clear - especially on the all-titanium models. Also, Claret developed a silent inertia governor for the minute repeater. Translation: no humming noise while the repeater is in action. You can hear the minute repeater in action in the video above.

Titanium is the obvious choice for the 45mm wide (15.32mm thick) case as it is strong and light, but not so dense as to terribly retard the sound of the chimes. Platinum apparently is a terrible choice for minute repeaters. The case is modern looking yet simple. It serves merely as a frame for the movement. Little touches inside of the movement are what matter. On the dial you'll see a trio of distinctive looking bridges on the calibre TRD98 manually wound movement. Claret calls these "Charles X bridges" as they were inspired by pocket watches from Charles X. On the dial you also have a tourbillon, and above it, a skeletonized view of the mainspring barrel. Skeletonizing mainspring barrels allows you to see the spring inside it and know if the watch needs to be wound (judged by how tight the spring is). The movement has a power reserve of about 72 hours.

Claret developed a technology that helps him produce the right sound from minute repeater watches. When it comes down to it, the shape, material, and method of constructing these little machines is today dictated by computers. Claret has some incredibly sophisticated machinery to build his watches, and is very proud of the modern techniques he uses to build these traditional little items. To be honest, between a watchmaker using historic tools with trial and error, and Claret's infomatic approach to building proper mechanical watches - I'll choose the latter.

Perhaps there is something about Claret's distinct love of the "new" that appeals to me as a tech generation type. Slow and steady is certainly not my pace, nor do I fawn over traditional design as though it was the only "true" mantra. Instead, I applaud the construction of quality machines. I love precision, and obsession, and fascination with perfection. Everything Claret does is about mental mastication of how to improve upon and further enhance the work of the dead watchmaking masters. He's like a spiritual guide of this art form - helping to keep it alive in an era all but ready to forget it.

If my French was better I'd ask Christophe what he would do with his life if he'd never discovered watches. What would he make? Where would he apply his talents? Would he still be someone who creates and builds? Would he be a numbers man or a hands-on man? The funny thing is that when I meet watchmakers of his caliber, I have no answers to these questions. These (mostly men) people are so razor honed to being watchmakers I could not guess where alternative lives would have taken them.

Christophe likes to share the story of how his brand was born. When I first met Christophe Claret, he was the guy that made cool complicated watch movements for other brands. Among the last really neat movements he made for third-party clients were things like the Jean Dunand Palace or Tourbillon Orbital. When the financial crisis hit, his list of clients stopped selling watches, which in turn stopped them from paying Claret, and of course put a big damper on future orders. As a necessity to survive, Claret decided to just leap into the brand business and put his name not just on the movements but on the dials.

His original business model was actually quite traditional. The early watch industry was a pairing of one company making movements, and another company making the cases and selling the watches. Only later did you have the same brand produce both the movement and the case - though that is commonplace today. According to Claret, the gamble to start his own eponymous brand paid off. His creations are unique, polarizing, and really what the high-end watch industry should be about. Shock and awe collectors with wild creations to tantalize - resulting in either extreme love or extreme hate. Those are the emotions that move people to spend $300,000 and up on a watch.

Christophe Claret will produce very view Soprano watches. There are three versions and each will be limited to just eight pieces. Each of the cases is heavily made from titanium, but is also accented with parts made from either 18k white gold or red gold. The case-fitted straps are hand-stitched alligator with contrast stitching (go for the red if you can pull it off). While not everyone loves Claret's watches, perhaps preferring something more "designer" or traditional, I have a big soft spot for what he does. People with an appreciation of mechanics and Claret's own subtle sense of humor will no doubt find stuff like this irresistible. Items like this motivate me as much as status and power to go out and make a fortune (only to blow it on a timepiece). Price is between 468,000 - 476,000 Swiss Francs.

domingo, 24 de marzo de 2013

Jaeger-LeCoultre Deep Sea Chronograph Cermet Watch Hands-On

We recently featured an exclusive hands-on look at the new for 2013 Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra-Thin Perpetual calendar watch. We were excited both by the price and aesthetics of that sexy and slim perpetual calendar with its classic design. That watch represented one of the three pillars which we consider to be the strengths of Jaeger-LeCoultre as a brand. The other two pillars are sport watches, and wildly complicated watches (that may either be sport or classically designed pieces). While I have a lot of love for a Reverso or Master collection piece, my own personal tastes draws me much closer to Jaeger's sport watches such as this new Cermet version of the Deep Sea Chronograph.

What is cermet? It is what it sounds like - an alloy material that is part ceramic and part metal. Cermet was originally brought to my attention by Audemars Piguet, who a few years ago began to experiment with the material on bezels of some Royal Oak Offshore watches. According to Jaeger-LeCoultre, the cermet used on this watch is a "material consisting of aluminum reinforced with particles of ceramic and then covered with a protective coating of ceramics, has incomparable properties of lightness, resistance, and stability."

Fair enough. So cermet is lighter than most metal and ceramic materials, but has the strength and scratch resistance of ceramic. Apparently it is also much lighter than titanium. It also seems to not have the shattering properties that ceramic can experience upon high impact. I've seen highly polished cermet, but on this Deep Sea Chronograph watch, Jaeger-LeCoultre opted for a more matte finish. As a sport watch material, cermet seems like a good way to go, although there are other good materials (this is just one of them).

One thing I am not sure of, and sort of forgot to clarify with Jaeger-LeCoultre, was whether or not the entire watch case is cermet. I believe the black-colored pieces are, but as you can tell, the Deep Sea Chronograph case has a sort of sandwich construction with the dark gray/black sections between between lighter titanium colored sections. My understanding is that these sections are also potentially cermet as the material can be produced to look like metal - but these sections may also be "merely" titanium. In any event, on the wrist the Deep Sea Chronograph Cermet does feel light yet durable. Some will love the bi-color case style, and others will no doubt prefer a more solid color to the case. Jaeger-LeCoultre has a range of Deep Sea watches of both styles.

For me, this was my top watch pick at the 2013 SIHH show at Jaeger-LeCoultre. No, it wasn't the most technically innovative or outstanding watch, but it was on a short list of timepieces that in my opinion are desirable and also come with a price that is within the realm of accessibility. I can lust after a Gyrotourbillon 3 for years but that won't bring me (as well as the majority of other watch lovers) any closer to being able to afford it. Pieces like the Deep Sea Chronograph Cermet, and other versions have that Jaeger-LeCoultre prestige, in-house made movements, and a price that is something we could conceivably save up for, and that is why I get much more excited about pieces like this.

2012 also had a Jaeger-LeCoultre Deep Sea Chronograph watch, and the 2013 version has some minor changes. The movement is the same, but the cermet case construction and size are different. Last year's Deep Sea Chronograph watch was 42mm wide and the 2013 Cermet version is 44mm wide. I personally prefer the larger size, but I know a lot of people who want smaller 40 or 42mm sport watches. 44mm is a good size offering a modern look with the retro-styling that the Deep Sea Chronograph is known for. As a diver, it isn't ultra deep diving, but much of that has to do with it having a chronograph function - so water resistance is 100 meters.

The good looking case feels modern given the material. As I said in the video part of this article, I think Jaeger-LeCoultre hit on a real sweet spot between old and new in this timepiece. As a diver, you also have a rotating bezel as well as a nice looking textile strap. The dial is nicely legible, and offers that sort of attractive minimalist design you see in some of the more popular retro-style dials. Little touches add all the class you expect from JLC such as recessed chronograph subdials, applied hour markers, and a nice texture to the face.

Jaeger-LeCoultre will actually produce two dial variations of the Deep Sea Chronograph Cermet. There will be the standard Ref. 208A570 with the white colored luminant, and the Ref. 208A57J that has a darker colored lume. This latter model is technically called the Deep Sea Chronograph Vintage Cermet, named as such because old dive watches tend to have lume that discolors over time. Another important difference is that the Vintage model will only be available for purchase at Jaeger-LeCoultre mono-brand boutique stores.

Inside the Deep Sea Chronograph Cermet watches are in-house made Jaeger-LeCoultre caliber 758 automatic movements. The 758 is a sweet column-wheel based chronograph with a 65 hour power reserve and a unique "chronograph function" indicator. My only complaint is that JLC decided not to include a date window on the dial. The chronograph function indicator takes the form of a small round window over where the hour and minute hands meet. The window shows either all white, half white and half red, or all red. These various displays indicate whether the chronograph is stopped, paused, or operating. It isn't the most useful feature in the world, but it is cool. And the idea behind it is to allow for divers in murky water (who no doubt will be relying solely on their pricey Swiss Jaeger-LeCoultre luxury watch) to easily determine at a glance what is going on with their chronograph. Though I am not sure whether or not Jaeger-LeCoultre even suggests that using the chronograph underwater is OK. Think of it as an historic throwback complication. Enough said, money is already on the table.

As I keep hinting, my feeling is that Jaeger-LeCoultre's best kept secrets are typically their sport watches. Whether they are retro-inspired like the Deep Sea Chronograph, or modern like the Extreme Lab 2 or AMVOX series, they are well designed, interesting, and certainly come with an impressive value given all that Jaeger-LeCoultre does in-house. On that note, the price for both the Deep Sea Chronograph Cermet, and Deep Sea Chronograph Vintage Cermet is $18,000.


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sábado, 23 de marzo de 2013

MCT Sequential One S110 Watches

Unique Swiss watch maker MCT is sort of back on the scene after being quiet for a few years. The brand's famous Sequential One timepiece was developed by movement designer Denis Giguet, who later left the brand. When I last spoke to him he told me that he would be working full time at Van Cleef & Arpels of all places. MCT was recently scooped up by a new guy I believe and has been trying to get back on track. The first step is to revitalize the Sequential One with some design variations. Here are the two new MCT Sequential One S110 watches.

Each has the same wonderfully original manually wound movement that has a revolving retrograde minute hand and hour markers on triangular shutters. We first wrote about MCT here back in 2009 and there is a video there showing how the watch works - it is super cool. The minute counter moves sequentially in a clockwise manner as the hours change. There are four points on the dial that each can display three of the 12 hours of the day.

Designer Fabrice Gonet revisits the Sequential One in the new S110 series adapting the core design of the 45mm wide cushion-shaped case to frame a more modern and skeletonized movement. The S110 cases are either naked titanium or DLC black coated. We hope to get some hands-on time with the new MCT watches soon to see if they concept is still interesting after its debut about four years ago. Price of these new MCT Sequential One S110 watches will hover around $100,000.

Movement: Mechanical hand-wound, 471 parts, 81 jewels, 18,000 vib/h, 40-hour power reserve, patent for the minute disc rotation with energy accumulation

Functions: Sequential indication of the hours, jumping minutes and small seconds

Case: Grade 5 titanium with or without black DLC coating, 44 parts, 45 mm. Sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on both sides, and sapphire back with anti-reflective coating on the inside. Water-resistant to 30 m (3 ATM/100 ft)

Dial: Hours indicated by 4 assemblies of 5 triangular prisms. Minutes indication by a 2 three-part 270° rotating disc. Central sapphire crystal dividing the dial into two separate parts

Bracelet/Strap: Hand-sewn calfskin lined with hypoallergenic leather, safety folding clasp

Parmigiani Toric Quaestor Labyrinthe Watch

Pretty much any timepiece from Parmigiani Fleurier that has the term “Toric” in the title is going to be spectacular. This watch is the Toric Quaestor Labyrinthe (that I will refer to as merely “Labyrinthe”), a limited edition of five pieces set for 2013. These pieces rank toward the top of the Parmigiani wrist watch ladder. They are very limited in their production, and a symbol of the artful in-house made movements as well as what can be realized in their cases and dials by offering traditional, but uniquely designed high-end timepieces.

The Labyrinthe name comes from the maze-like design of the dial – even though it is more or less a series of concentric circles produced as a result of the sandwiched two-part dial. It is really the dial that attracted me to the watch. It is produced from an upper level of 18k white gold, with additional applied polished hour markers, the beveled edging on the white gold layer are hand-polished. Under that is a layer of rare and precious green Burmese jade. The result looks like a flowing river of milky green through a maze-style channel in the face. Despite the dial design, there is an impressive level of legibility. The dial also contains a power reserve indicator and a subsidiary seconds dial.

In addition to the case and design, the Toric Labyrinthe contains a Parmigiani minute repeater movement and when activated chimes back the current time in a musical code. Like many high-end watchmakers these days, Parmigiani continues to assert the minute repeater as the last luxury icing on these horological cakes in order to demand attention both aesthetically and visually. The wonderful thing about a minute repeater from a marketing standpoint is that you can include it in a watch increasing the value many fold, but it doesn’t need to significantly deter from a unique dial style. That is in contrast to (for example) a perpetual calendar that is desirable, but requires that you have a lot of necessary features on the dial. What I am saying is that watchmakers can create artistically unique watches and still charge a lot for the movements inside by including the more auditory than visual minute repeater complication.

The solid platinum case of the 46mm wide Parmigiani Toric Quaestor Labyrinthe is weighty and beautiful. The unique “double coined” bezel makes for a good visual effect that I’ve not seen before. Parmigiani make a controversial decision to include a minute repeater in a watch with a dense platinum case. The material is usually known for absorbing sound and thus reducing the volume of minute repeater chimes. For that reason many brands prefer titanium as a material for minute repeater watches. Still, it was likely Parmigiani’s desire to make the Labyrinthe as high-end as possible, and you simply can’t do that with titanium these days.

So what Parmigiani did was create a system that connected the minute repeater mechanism more directly to the case. The idea is that rather than have the sound waves attempt to pass through the platinum, the gongs would be connected to the case – making the case itself help resonate the sound.

I did play with the minute repeater myself and found that it works nicely. Another welcome feature in the minute repeater mechanism is the addition of a silent flywheel. This means that when the minute repeater is activated there isn’t the typical humming sound of the regulator – at least that is the idea. The in-house made movement is visible through the sapphire crystal caseback window, and exhibits a typically high level of fit and finishing by the brand. It is the caliber PF357 manually wound movement that operates as 21,600 bph. The power reserve is 72 hours and the minute repeater has two gongs.

On the wrist, the 46mm wide platinum case with its distinct styling looks very good. Rather neo-classical in design, it looks like something Julius Caesar would have worn. No doubt Parmigiani would be proud to conceive a product with that intended purpose in mind. Though perhaps it's more for modern day caesars, czars, and those deemed royalty by birth or social position. Once again, the Parmigiani Toric Quaestor Labyrinthe will be limited to just five pieces and price is $550,000.

viernes, 22 de marzo de 2013

Breva Génie 01 Is First Ever Mechanical Weather Station Watch

Thanks to the talent brought to us by master watch movement designer Jean-Francois Mojon and company Chronode, we now have on this earth what is essentially the world’s most expensive "Casio ProTrek" with the Breva Genie 01 timepiece. Why spend a few hundred bucks for a watch with a slew of digital environmental sensors that can (and will) last like an Energizer bunny when for over $150,000 you can get a mechanical weather station watch with an altimeter and barometer? Of course the Breva requires a bit more tinkering and care. It makes perfect sense for me. It's like those guys that want to have a photography dark room in their basement to get closer to the “soul” of picture development in resistance of the scourge that is the unholy memory card and Photoshop alliance. Though in this case I hardly think that someone will have more artistic control over predicting the weather by using a mechanical versus computerized means of considering it.

My sarcasm is extremely hypocritical given the fact that I’ve dedicated my career to mechanical timepieces. I actually think new brand Breva’s “Génie 01” watch to be extremely cool, as well as luxuriously unnecessary. Though aside from being technically marvelous, it does feel just as convenient as having to use a slide-rule versus a digital calculator. There must be an outlet for purists right?

The video which Breva had produced makes the Génie 01 looks like sex on gears. What’s with that ball rolling around? It reminds me of that famous mid 1990s Lexus commercial with the metal ball mysteriously flowing over the curves of a car. Breva should be commended for filling that gap in the horological world where a mechanical weather station watch should have been sitting. This timepiece is the first of its kind, and follows in the footsteps of the HYT H1 watch, that was also designed with the help of Chronode.

At its core the Génie 01 uses a technology that is several hundred years old. That is a gas filled chamber that expands based on external air pressure. This is used both to determine altitude as well as the barometric pressure. When these are both taken into consideration, as well as the change of pressure while remaining at the same elevation, you can more or less predict whether “rain is a comin’.”

Breva dutifully explains the means by which the Génie 01 weather station features are used. Not being myself an amateur barometer enthusiast I didn’t pay close enough attention in class. Their website will explain in more detail for those interested. In a nutshell you use the pair of extra crowns to adjust scales along the indicator hands to help compensate for starting readings and the change in elevation. Reading it got me all excited to pull out my sextant and go boating after throwing my GPS overboard. Life is just too convenient these days thanks to technology, and it makes me sad that only the mega-rich can afford the toys required to remember what it was like to live in the past. When is a custom coach-maker going to finally release that new limited edition automobile with the crank starter? I’ve just always wanted to experience the pleasure of that truly connected automotive engine experience – and pay handsomely for it.

Available to start in only 18k white or pink gold, you know the Génie 01 is designed exclusively for predicting the weather at formal or executive events. Try going hiking with it and the park ranger will stop you for being over-dressed. We live in a society with rules, and if you just start ignoring them, all hell could break loose. At 44.7mm wide, Breva designed the watch to fit comfortably on most wrists. ProTrek owners have to still deal with the rigors of 50mm. Though I have a feeling Casio produces a much lighter timepiece. I seriously want to take the two watches out in the field to road test them. That would probably make for the single greatest comparison article I’ve ever produced. The ultimate test between tradition and technology.

Where Breva will easily win is sex appeal. The Génie 01, with its skeletonized dial and mechanical movement, is by far the better watch to wear on a date. Casio hasn’t quite figured out geek-chic yet – at least not in the ProTrek range. But alone on a stormy night… I think Casio might have my vote for reliability and functionality.

Inside the Breva Génie 01 is a proprietary mechanical movement that is manually wound with a power reserve of 65 hours. It was designed again by Mr. Mojon and Chronode. It contains dual anaerobic capsules for measuring air pressure, and is made from 405 parts. Functionally, the Breva Génie 01 offers the “hours, minutes, small seconds, altitude indicator, barometric pressure indicator, power reserve indicator, air pressure equaliser, equaliser seal indicator, barometric scale adjuster, and altitude scale adjuster.”

Included in the movement (as you may have seen) is an air pressure equalizer. You can manually release air from the movement to equalize it with the environment. Apparently there are situations that require this, among other manners of mechanical babysitting necessary to properly predict the weather. I am sure that with a few minutes instructions anyone will be an instant expert on using the watch. I am just impressed that someone made something like this, and look forward to what potentially more impracticably delicious stuff Breva has in store for us. The Génie 01 will be initially produced as a limited edition of 110 pieces with 55 pieces 18k white gold (150,000 Swiss Francs) and 55 pieces in 18k pink gold (145,000 Swiss Francs).

Génie 01 technical specifications
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds, altitude indicator, barometric pressure indicator, power reserve indicator, air pressure equaliser, equaliser seal indicator, barometric scale adjuster, altitude scale adjuster.

Case, dials and strap:
Case material: available in white gold (55 pieces) or 4N pink gold (55 pieces)
Dimensions: 44.7 mm x 15.6 mm
Number of components: 70
Winding setting crown at 9 o'clock, altitude and barometric pressure adjuster at 2 o'clock (altitude inner pusher, barometer exterior ring), air pressure equaliser at 4 o'clock
Crystals: sapphire crystal and display back treated with anti-reflective coating on both sides.
Dials: smoked sapphire with galvanic growth text, numbers and markers
Altitude scale: available in metric or imperial measurements
Strap: hand stitched alligator strap with folding buckle to match case material.
Watcher resistance: 30m
Air equaliser with moisture-resisting osmosis membrane Teflon fabric around a gold rim

Proprietary movement developed exclusively for Breva by Jean-François Mojon/ Chronode
Diameter: 36mm
Number of components: 405
Number of jewels: 46
Balance frequency: 4 Hz
Dual anaerobic capsules measuring air pressure
Spiral anti-vibration spring: LIGA by Mimotech
Power reserve: 65 hours

jueves, 21 de marzo de 2013

Halda Race Pilot Watch Zenith Mechanical & Digital Movement

Swedish boutique watch brand Halda releases their second watch with the Race Pilot. Their first watch was the Halda Space Discovery, that was pricey, but interesting with its module system. The idea is that the watch case itself can be removed and you can include a digital device or a standard mechanical watch. On a bracelet, the Space Discovery is now complemented by the Racing Pilot which comes on a natural rubber strap, and offers some new things.

Halda wanted to make this a racing world inspired watch so the "Racing" part of the name makes sense. The "Pilot" part eludes me, but given the features in the digital module, a pilot would find the piece useful enough. My biggest problem with the Halda concept is that you need a place to store the other module if you have both. What I think they should have done is made it so that the case itself can flip over, showing a mechanical movement on one side, and a digital display on the other. With a brand like Linde Werdelin, you can at least attach their digital instruments to your mechanical watch - though that does tend to make them a bit bulky.

The Race Pilot watch itself is 45mm wide made from DLC black coated titanium with a steel case back. The design is nice and modern, and I am sure the system for removing and inserting the module is clever enough. Let's discuss the mechanical module first. Halda is very proud of their relationship with Zenith who supplied the movement. It isn't an El Primero, but that doesn't matter much as it isn't a chronograph. Inside the Race Pilot mechanical watch module is a Zenith caliber 685 automatic movement with the time, date, and power reserve indicator. The complex dial should appeal to those interested in high-end sport watches done in a modern taste. I believe this movement is used in some Zenith Elite watches.

Dial design looks cool in the renders, but I'd need to see it myself in the flesh to make a final determination. The materials Halda uses are those that are only going to look great if manufactured properly. Having said that, it could look really sharp if Halda pushes its suppliers enough.

The Race Pilot digital module is a bit more interesting and offers a few things that help make this watch more than just a super expensive Casio ProTrek. It would have been great if Halda could have used a higher resolution display, but in the interest of battery life I understand why they use these. Still, when the dial looks so similar to a Suunto, it is hard to separate yourself as a brand. This module is also made from DLC coated titanium, and it has three pushers for all the functions.

Some of the more unique features (or noteworthy) of the "Race module" (with the Halda caliber 2012-1 movement) are the red LED status lights on the case, the internal accelerometer (for a G-Force meter), and a "Race Pilot" program that has information on some of the most popular racetracks around the world. Of course, the digital watch also has the typical slew of functions including the time, 1/100th of a second chronograph, calendars, world time, alarm, countdown timer, and a battery power indicator. Pretty much what your smartphone has. If there was ever a time when I wanted smartphones to be wearable, it is now. If only to force luxury watch brands to offer more than just design and a well-constructed package. I want them to DO something special as well.

You can purchase the Halda Race Pilot digital and mechanical modules separately (7,500 Euros and 9,800 Euros respectively, or together as a complete set for 14,000 Euros.

Movement: Automatic movement by Zenith SA, caliber 685 with 38 jewels and a frequency of 28.800 bhp (4Hz).

Functions: 12-hour display, central minute and hour hand. Small second sub dial and a Power Reserve indicator. Hand and hour indicators with Superluminova. Case: Titanium with black DLC treatment, caseback in solid stainless steel.

Dimensions: Diameter 45 mm, Thickness 16,9 mm.
Crystal: Domed sapphire crystal, anti-reflex treated. Caseback – Domed sapphire crystal with a magnifying effect
Water Resistance: 5 atm Rotor: Specially designed in heavy metal etched with Halda Race Pilot and decorated with Côtes de Genève and Clous de Paris
Power Reserve: Minimum 50 hours

Electronic Movement: Movement by Halda Watch Co, caliber HR 2012-1 with a three axis accelerometer, a low power consumption microprocessor and a tailor made LCD display with LED backlight controlled by an automatic light sensor.

Functions: Race Pilot program, Race Chronograph, Countdown to Race, FIA Formula 1 Countdown, Dual Time, Week Indicator, World Timer, Alarm Clock, Timer (24h), Perpetual Calendar, Power Save Mode.

Case: The case is made of Titanium with black DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) treatment. The caseback is made out of solid stainless steel.

Dimensions: Diameter 45 mm, Thickness 17,65 mm
Crystal: Domed sapphire crystal, anti-reflex treated
Water Resistance: 5 atm
Battery Lifetime: Minimum 2 years