Thursday, 27 October 2011

Seiko President Shinji Hattori's watch

Shinji Hattori is the President of Seiko Watch Corp and Seiko Holdings; his great-great grandfather founded Seiko 130 years ago. Naturally he has his choice of watches. During our dinner earlier this evening he was wearing an ultra-slim Credor skeleton (movement 1.98 mm high) on an unusual white strap. When I asked about the strap, he replied it was the strap for summer. He chose the Credor ultra-slim because he likes light and thin watches.

More on Seiko soon.

- SJX in Tokyo

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Blancpain unveils the absurd X Fathoms

Blancpain just unveiled the X Fathoms watch in Dubai, the scuba diving capital of the world. Looking at the watch you'd never figure out what it does - it a mechanical depth gauge. Admittedly the 9918B calibre is technically interesting with some unusual features. But even if you know what it is you probably won't know how to use it. Intuitive seems not to have been part of the design brief.

A flexible metal membrane on the case back deforms with pressure at increasing depth, which activates the depth guage which works up to 90 m. The first 15 m are indicated by a one scale, and the excess beyond 15 m by another scale.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

George Daniels obituary by Omega

George Daniels
Photos courtesy Omega
George Daniels, who recently passed away, famously sold the co-axial escapement to Omega. The company just issued an obituary for Dr Daniels. Notable excerpts from the obituary including his faith in the co-axial escapement and his thoughts on the resurgence of the mechanical watch:

"George Daniels was a past Master of the Clockmaker’s Company in London and past President of the Horological Institute. He was awarded the Tompion Gold Medal of the Clockmaker’s Company, the Gold Medal of the British Horological Institute, the Gold Medal of the City of London Guild and the Kullberg Medal of the Stockholm Watchmakers’ Guild. In 2010, he was made a CBE by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to watchmaking.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Patek Philippe unveils ref. 3670A steel chronograph with vintage 13-130 movement

Patek Philippe has just unveiled new limited edition that is sure to send collectors into a frenzy. Sixteen calibre 13-130 (13'" movement used in ref. 130 chronograph) were found when Patek Philippe in 1996 along Rue du Rhone in Geneva where its boutique now stands. Apparently they were found in an old chest on the fifth floor; 16 beautiful calibres, based on the Valjoux 23 ebauche, originally assembled in 1955 - it certainly makes for a fantastic story.

This is based on the Valjoux 23 ebauche but heavily modified and far more beautiful than other executions of the same Valjoux. In fact this is probably one of the finest chronograph movements ever in terms of classical design and finishing.

George Daniels passes away

RIP George Daniels
Inventor of the co-axial escapement, George Daniels, has passed away at 85. Mr Daniels was a legendary watchmaker and one of the earliest independent watchmakers, in today's sense of the word. For his "services to horology", he was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 2010.

Most famous for creating the lubrication-free co-axial escapement, which he sold to Omega (though Omega does lubricate it, Mr Daniels was also an author. He wrote Watchmaking, a masterful book that explains, in great detail, how to make a tourbillon wristwatch. 

His style of watchmaking was most reminiscent of classical Breguet watches. But his watches are rare - in his entire career he only completed 37 watches entirely on his own - though more were made together with his protege Roger W. Smith like the Anniversary wristwatch.

When not making watches Mr Daniels' love was vintage Bentleys.


Friday, 21 October 2011

Greubel Forsey and Tissot win Concours de Chronométrie 2011

News has just come in that the Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon Technique topped the tourbillon category of the Concours International de Chronométrie 2011 (International Chronometry Competition) with 915 points out of a maximum of 1000. 

Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon Technique

The contest consists of a 15 day test in various positions and temperatures (detailed English contest regulations in PDF format).

Thursday, 20 October 2011

An MB&F retrospective

After the launch of the MB&F Legacy Machine 1 which is a shrewd total departure from the existing MB&F Horological Machine aesthetic, I thought it is appropriate to explore his past creations. Through them you can see a visual continuity alongside the evolution of the brand.

The MB&F LM1

I first saw the MB&F HM1 in the Swissotel opposite the Messe Basel hall in 2006, amidst much secrecy as MB&F was just a start up then. This was a tourbillon (STT based) and hard to miss on the wrist - a perfect watch for the times.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

More on the Panerai Luminor 1950 PAM422 to be unveiled at SIHH 2012

Previewed on the Panerai site a few days ago, the new Luminor 1950 3 Days PAM00422 is an SIHH 2012 release but is now on show at “O’Clock – time design, design time”, the Panerai exhibition in Milan that runs till Jan 2012. Fitted with the new P. 3001 calibre, the PAM422 is essentially a variant of the PAM372 which I reviewed, with the addition of sub-seconds at nine and a power reserve on the back.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Hands-On With The Grand Seiko 130th Anniversary SBGW033

I have been wearing this for a few days now and here is an initial review of the Grand Seiko SBGW033, the steel version of the 130th Anniversary Grand Seiko limited edition.

This is a remake of the original Grand Seiko and Seiko has done a fantastically authentic job. Everything, right down to the buckle, looks and feels like the original. This is of course a modern watch with a domed sapphire crystal and 72 hour power reserve, but it feels perfectly original.

Quality is top notch, as expected with Grand Seiko. Dial, hands, case and crystal are all beautifully made and finished. The diamond-cut indices and hands catch the light sparkle in the light.

Because the dial is a subtle off-white shade, the blued steel seconds hand is a perfect complement.

Friday, 14 October 2011

The Citizen Eco-Drive Satellite Wave is ultra-cool, with live photos

Citizen Eco-Drive Satellite Wave
The Citizen Eco-Drive Satellite Wave, the uber-cool wristwatch that synchronises with GPS satellites, meaning it will be synchronised to the correct time anywhere in the world, as long as a signal can be received. 

It was launched at Baselworld 2011 with a price of JPY336,000 (about USD4300) and is just being delivered now. Citizen presented an anime video for the launch of this watch (available at the end of this post) and this really looks like something from a sci-fi cartoon. 

I recently saw one courtesy of a friend and it looks a lot better in the metal. It is an immense 48 mm but not especially heavy, despite being DLC steel and ceramic. And because of the look of the watch, the enormous size works for the design and feel.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

UR-110 ZrN Torpedo "Champagne Supernova"

Just a few weeks after the launch of the UR-1001 Zeit Device pocket watch, Urwerk presents yet another new model, the UR-110 ZrN Torpedo "Champagne Supernova". This is a variant of the UR-110 Torpedo first launched in steel and titanium during SIHH 2011. This watch gets its name from the pale gold Zirconium Nitride coating on the front plate of the case.

Zirconium Nitride is a ceramic coating with 2000 Vickers hardness. Urwerk says the "ZrN coating is vapour-deposited over the sandblasted steel bezel."

Monday, 10 October 2011

The most intellectual Hublot: the Antikythera Calibre 2033-CH01

Hublot Antikythera Calibre 2033-CH01
During my visit to Hublot earlier this year, Mathias Buttet, the resident technical genius, shared with me a fascinating work in progress, a modern, wristwatch size recreation of the Antikythera mechanism, the Hublot Antikythera Calibre 2033-CH01.

It is an outrageously complex mechanism, displaying all sorts of obscure astronomical information and Mr Buttet tried his best to make me understand. Now finally the news has been released and I can share it here.

Discovered in 1901, the Antikythera mechanism is possibly the oldest mechanism object in the world. It remained a mystery until its insides were revealed by x-ray and the whole device digitally rebuilt on computer. It is believed to display "the different cycles of the sun, the moon and (in all likelihood) the planets, relating these to the civil calendars of several large Greek cities (Corinth, Delphi or Olympia), and showing the dates of the different games in these cities." Naturally the mini Antikythera will display all of this as well, along with the time. This is a remarkably intellectual and interesting project for a company best known for the Big Bang and bling.

Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of Hublot (center), and Mathias Buttet (right)

The actual watch housing this square movement, which includes a flying tourbillon, will be unveiled at Baselworld 2012, but the movement is revealed here for the first time.

New Panerai Luminor 1950 3 Days PAM422

Coming on the heels of the Luminor Base Special Edition PAM390, the Panerai website is showing a new model heavily inspired by vintage Panerai. It is captioned "Luminor Marina 1950 3 Days - 47 mm" (and now known to be the PAM 422). It seems to be a PAM372 with a seconds at nine and a power reserve on the movement fitted on the Assolutamente strap. The calibre inside is the P.3001, obviously a variation of the P.3000. For those wondering how many similarly vintage watches can Panerai contrive to create in a year, the answer is more and more.

Update: Latest news on the PAM 422.


Panerai Luminor PAM422

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Felipe reports on Ochs und Junior in New York

Ochs und junior Tinta
Photo courtesy felipe
Felipe just published an informative and well illustrated report on the Ochs und Junior trunk show in New York that captures nicely the minimalist and practical spirit of the brand conceived by Ludwig Oeschlin.


Friday, 7 October 2011

Hands-On With The Montblanc Villeret Vintage Pulsographe, A Fine Example Of Fine Finishing (With Live Photos)

Montblanc acquired Minerva a few years back and then unveiled a high-end line of traditionally constructed and finished watches named Villeret 1858. This has been met with some scepticism – Montblanc after all is a pen company.

Only 200 or so Villeret watches are made each year and they start at about EUR40,000. Not accessible or affordable by any measure. But if you look closely at the Villeret watches, they acquit themselves very, very well, demonstrating the best of watchmaking finishing techniques.

Rolex signs Tiger Woods

In a homecoming of sorts Rolex has signed Tiger Woods, after he was dropped by TAG Heuer in the wake of his divorce. Tiger Woods was once the ambassador for Tudor (remember the Tudor "Tiger" chronographs?), before joining TAG for a much bigger fee.

I doubt this means a Rolex "Tiger" Explorer II though.


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

More exclusive close-ups of the MB&F Legacy Machine

MB&F unveiled the Legacy Machine 1 yesterday and this blog was the first to present close-up photographs of the actual LM1, rather than just stock images. Here are more photos of the LM1 that detail the quirkily attractive dial and wonderful movement finishing.

Created by Voutilainen and Mojon, but finished by specialist finishing firm CL Rochat, the movement is gorgeously finished.

Though it is obviously a 21st century creation, it is styled in the manner of vintage pocket watches, as was Max's goal. A more detailed opinion of the movement can be found in yesterday's article.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Up Close With The MB&F LM1 - A 19th Century Horological Machine (With Original Photos & Price)

With the LM1 Maximilian Büsser surprises everyone once again (he’s good at that). From one extreme of the space ship-like HM4, MB&F now presents a round watch with a classically styled and finished movement. The “friends” responsible for the Legacy Machine's hand-wound calibre are Kari Voutilainen and Chronode’s Jean-Francois Mojon while Eric Giroud did the design based on Max's sketches.

MB&F Legacy Machine 1

Max says if he were born in 1867 instead of 1967, the Legacy Machine is the watch he would have created. The LM1 is the Horological Machine of the 19th century. 

Monday, 3 October 2011

The art of gem setting

Chopard brings us yet another enlightening press release explaining the art of gem setting, part of a series of write-ups exploring different crafts at Chopard. Being as much a watchmaker as jeweller, Chopard has some unusual expertise, including gold casting. Earlier articles covered electroplating as well as hairspring assembly.


Press release:

The Gem-Setter

While the parts imagined by the designers take on shape and volume beneath the expert fingers of the jeweller, they spring to life in the gem-setters’ hands. It is these artisans who clothe the jewellery in colours and light by skilfully inserting the gems in their metal mounts. At Chopard, the gem-setters’ sole aim is to sublimate the Haute Joaillerie or watchmaking creations entrusted to them. In pursuing this goal on each new precious object, they constantly push the limits of their craft, inventing new types of setting, and driving the gems into parts of the jewellery that are particularly thin, small or hard to reach.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The story behind the Panerai Bronzo

Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop of the International Herald Tribune just penned a story on the concept behind the Panerai Bronzo PAM382. She explains how Angelo Bonati found inspiration in a restored yacht found off Antigua. Yours truly is quoted in the article as well.


A Bronzo prototype that has already developed a patina