Monday, 30 April 2012

3D printing will radically change watchmaking

The $1099 Thing-O-Matic from Makerbot
Three-dimensional printing is an additive process of producing an item. 3D printing builds up an object in resin or metal or other materials. A nozzle squirts the material out a tiny bit at a time, building upwards and outwards. In contrast traditional methods like milling and drilling are subtractive - start with a large blank and whittle it down.

The possibilities for 3D printing are thus limitless, constrained only by the printer. In a milling machine the object desired can be no large than the original block of material. And unlike traditional methods 3D printers can print mobile and jointed objects, not just static items.

In horology, I first encountered three-dimensional printing at watch factories, where the process is used to make resin prototypes of watch cases to evaluate form and size. And the idea further developed in my conversations with Dr Bernard Cheong, whose wide ranging mind is fascinating but sometimes incomprehensible; he too is deeply interested in this technology. And then The Economist just ran a lengthy special report on the topic, which it calls “A Third Industrial Revolution” (accessible only to subscribers unfortunately).

The Last Seiko Credor Eichi Has Been Sold

The Seiko Credor Node Spring Drive Eichi (ref. GBLR999) is one of the finest finished watches in the world - the photos speak for themselves. It was part of Seiko's exquisite high-end Credor range that also includes the amazing Credor decimal repeater.

I use past tense as the last Credor Eichi was completed by Seiko Epson's Micro Artist Studio in 2011. And one of the last, or perhaps the absolute last, Eichi watches was just received by its lucky owner.

Seiko Credor Eichi

The Eichi retails for approximately US$70,000 and is labelled "Seiko Time Corp." on the case back.

Only a truly remarkable collector would buy an Eichi, because he must be able to overcome the branding and he must know how to appreciate the remarkble finish. Especially since the owner is non-Japanese, possibly the only person outside of Japan to own one.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

How important is accuracy?

Laurent Ferrier recently announced that one of its sublime Galet Classic Tourbillons, serial no. 35 to be specific, achieved a superb average daily variation of just 1.29 seconds at the Besançon Observatory timing test. This makes it the best performing chronometer certified at Besançon since 2006.

The certificate for the Laurent Ferrier

Lange on the rocks

Lange recently presented some beautiful photos of its watches on minerals extracted from the Ore Mountains of Saxony, now housed at the Technical University of Freiburg. Saxony once had a rich mining industry, which was the basis of the wealth of the Saxon kings. Interestingly, FA Lange established Lange in 1845 because the economy of Glashütte was suffering due to the closure of the nearby silver mines.

There's nothing horologically novel here, but the photos are beautiful, as are the watches. All the 2012 novelties are shown in this series of photos, including the new Datograph Up/Down.

- SJX

Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar on serpentinite

Sunday, 22 April 2012

News: Habring² Doppel 2.0 for the anniversary of the Doppelchronograph

Habring², run by Austrian watchmaker Richard Habring and his wife Maria, recently announced the Doppel 2.0. Richard developed the condensed, cam-operated rattrapante mechanism, built on top of a Valjoux 7750, which is why he was hired by Günter Blümlein at IWC. Richard's intelligent but down to earth approach to watchmaking fit perfectly with the IWC philosophy of good, practical engineering then.

Habring2 Doppel 2.0

Now for the 20th anniversary of the Doppelchronograph, and after the original patent has lapsed, Richard presents an improved version of the his split seconds mechanism, the calibre A08MR. Compared with the original, this new rattrapante is more reliable and easier to service.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Hands-on with the Chopard LUC XP Skeletec in rose gold (with live photos and price)

I very much like the Chopard LUC line of watches. They offer well-finished, sophisticated movements for comparatively reasonable prices. However, Chopard has a somewhat uneven track record in terms of strong designs. Chopard unveiled its first LUC skeleton watch at Baselworld earlier this year, the LUC XP Skeletec - and it is a winner. The watch is beautifully designed and executed; it is one of the most attractive skeleton watches available today.

Chopard LUC XP Skeletec

Unlike most skeleton watches that have usually have ornate, flowery skeletonisation, the LUC Skeletec is contemporary in style. The bridges are formed in an attractive, circular motif, both front and back.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Meis Lange book now available in English

A. Lange & Söhne – Great Timepieces from Saxony by Reinhard Meis was updated and expanded last year. From the original single volume it is now two books with 916 pages and over 2700 photos. The original was published just after the revival of Lange in 1994 so it was lacking recent information.


Originally available only in German, the set is now in English and Italian. Printed by Callwey Publishing House, the ISBN is 3-7667-1903-4.

- SJX

It is available for pre-order from Amazon.

Hands-on with the Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Contemporain (with live photos and price)

Greubel Forsey unveiled the stunning Tourbillon 24 Secondes Contemporain at SIHH 2012. Rather than a whole new movement, this is a variant of the Tourbillon 24 Secondes which has a single, inclined tourbillon cage that completes one revolution in a speedy 24 seconds.

Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Contemporain

What sets this apart is the stunning, heat blued titanium dial. De Bethune pioneered the use of blued titanium for dials with its Dream Watch which had a concentric guilloche dial. And more recently De Bethune used a highly polished, star-chart dial on the DB25T Dead Seconds Tourbillon


Friday, 13 April 2012

Panerai unveils two Special Editions for Singapore, the PAM432 and PAM433

Panerai finally had the official opening event for its Singapore boutique at ION Orchard mall yesterday, after a couple of hiccups, though the store had opened to the public in November last year. Alongside the opening event Panerai unveiled the pair of Special Edition Luminors made for the Singapore boutique. These two boutique editions are similar to those made for Panerai boutiques in other countries - including the infamous New York edition PAM318 - save for the case back engraving.

The first is the Luminor Marina 44 mm PAM432. This is the entry level Panerai with a steel case and ecru Luminova on the dial and hands.

Panerai Luminor Marina PAM432

Hands-On With The Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer, A Convertible Deck Watch (With Live Photos And Price)

Recently launched at Baselworld 2012, the Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer limited edition celebrates the brand's 120th anniversary. Like the sold-out Pan Europ limited edition chronograph, the Khaki Navy Pioneer watch is a retro-inspired and well priced watch.

Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer

The Navy Pioneer is modelled on the marine chronometers Hamilton supplied the US Navy with during the Second World War (when it was still an American, rather than Swiss, company). Several companies have made wristwatch versions of marine chronometers or deck watches, but the Khaki Navy Pioneer is by far the most interesting. 


Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Watch of the Day - Seiko Orange Monster

Modded Seiko Monster
Inspired by my gallery of wristshots on Facebook, I've decided to start a series of "Watch of the Day" posts. Each post will cover the watch I was wearing the previous day. It will be a review of sorts, plus some interesting background on the watch.

These will be posted regularly, but not daily. They will range across a variety of watches, across complications and price segments. I might even invite contributions from readers of this blog. For the inaugural WOTD, I've picked something inordinately affordable, the Seiko Monster.

How it acquired this moniker is lost to the internet, but this Seiko is known as the Monster. There are many variants of the Monster, including valuable limited editions in bright colours made for the Thai market. But the most common and affordable Monsters are the Black Monster (ref. SKX779) and Orange Monster (SKX781), with the prefix referring to the dial colour. These two are the no frills, entry level Monsters, selling for about $250, which is less than some watch straps. 

But there are also Snow Monsters, Night Monsters and so on. There even exist Monster cousins that aren't dive watches, like the Trek Monster. And yes, there are even Mini Monsters.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

My favourite Patek from Basel 2012 - the 5940J pepetual calendar

Launched at Baselworld 2012 as the successor to the 5040 and 5041, the 5940 is a tonneau-cased perpetual calendar in yellow gold. Though it is just a facelift, the movement remains the micro-rotor cal. 240Q from the 1980s, the 5940 is by far my favourite of the novelties from Patek Philippe this year.

Patek Philippe 5940J perpetual calendar

Friday, 6 April 2012

Döttling presents two cool mini-watch safes

Döttling, the German maker of exceptionally lavish watch storage boxes, has just announced a pair of limited edition Colosimo safes. 



Named after an American gangster, these are miniature, desk top safes designed to keep a handful of watches, or three watches on a winder as pictured below. This is the smallest item Döttling makes; the largest is outfitting an entire room.

A ladies' watch from Kari Voutilainen

Kari Voutilainen 2-Eight
It's unusual for a high horology independent watchmaker to create a ladies watch, which is why the new 2-Eight from Kari Voutilainen is notable. Admittedly it still looks fairly masculine; its most feminine element is the mother of pearl dial centre. 

The design retains all the archetypal Voutilainen design elements like the hands and numerals. Because it's cleaner without overly elaborate guilloche, I actually like this dial more than most of the Vingt-8 dials. Incidentally both 2-Eight and Vingt-8 mean the same thing, "28". 

Case diameter is 37 mm, compared to the 42 mm of the Vingt-8. But the calibre clearly fits better in the smaller case of the 2-Eight, as the photo below demonstrates.

They use the same in-house movement with an oversized balance wheel and an unusual direct impulse escapement. The calibre, which has German silver bridges, is wonderfully finished, as these photos testify.

- SJX

An embarrassing Breguet

With the internet, even those with zero horological knowledge can discovering lots about a watch. And so it was that Patriarch Kirill I of the Russian Orthodox Church was spotted wearing an embarrassing $30,000 Breguet, as The New York Times just reported. I can't figure out the model from the photos online, but someone has clearly been scrutinising the high-resolution version of the photo. The problem of the pricey watch was compounded by the fact that the Patriarch's minders digitally removed the watch from the photo (but forgot to remove the reflection of it in the table surface), before restoring it after a public outcry.

- SJX

Patriarch Kirill I at right
Photo courtesy of patriarchia.ru

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Strong results for Philippe Dufour Sonneries at Sotheby's

Philippe Dufour Grande et petit sonnerie wristwatch
in pink gold, no. 3
The Philippe Dufour Grande Sonnerie wristwatch and pocket watch which I wrote about here a few weeks ago, just hammered at Sotheby's Hong Kong auction for handsome prices, reinforcing Mr Dufour's status as a pre-eminent independent.

The grande and petite sonnerie wristwatch in rose gold, serial no. 3, sold for the substantial price of HKD4.82 million, or about USD621,000, inclusive of buyer's premium, well above the estimate of HKD2.2-3.2 million, which works out to about USD283,000-412,000. Incidentally another Dufour grande sonnerie wristwatch with a skeleton dial recently changed hands privately as well, but unfortunately that transaction price is private as well.

That compares very well with the earlier sale of a similar white gold Dufour grande sonnerie wristwatch which sold at Christie's in 2008 for CHF437,000, or about USD477,000 at today's rates. I won't be surprised if the price continues to climb at future sales, given there are only six or seven Dufour sonnerie watches out there.

The pocket watch on the other hand sold for HKD1.34 million, or about USD173,000, including the premium. That is well within the estimate of HKD1.0-1.5 million, which is USD128,800-193,200, and also quite a bit less than the wristwatch, which is not surprising given the relative appeal of wristwatches.

Mr Dufour is one of the few independent watchmakers who creations sell for higher prices on the secondary market as compared to the original retail price. It would be interesting to see how a Philippe Dufour Simplicity, which is Mr Dufour's quintessential and perhaps iconic timepiece, does at auction. Though they change hands fairly regularly, though not often, on the secondary market, a Simplicity has yet to appear at auction.

- SJX

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The Urwerk UR-110 Torpedo in tantalum

In addition to the UR-110 ST with a guilloche steel plate, Urwerk also unveiled the UR-110 TTH, which stands for "tantalum hull".

At 4.1 mm thick, the tantalum front plate is nearly double the 2.4 mm height of the regular UR-110 front plate which is in steel, like that of the UR-110 in blue or the champagne-coloured ZrN.

Tantalum is a hard and dense, bluish-grey metal that is also used to tip certain artillery shells. I have some experience with tantalum watches; the metal colour is unique and beautiful, and the heft of the metal is satisfying.

Louis Vuitton presents regatta chronograph for LV Cup

2012 is the 30th year Louis Vuitton is sponsoring the LV Cup sailing contest, the winner of which will go on to contest the America's Cup in San Franciso. For this event Louis Vuitton has unveiled a new sailing chronograph, the Louis Vuitton Tambour LV Cup Automatic Countdown.

Though not a serious, technical timepiece by any means, this watch is attractively designed and executed, like most of the LV watch range. This has a 44 mm steel case with a metallic blue, sunray brushed dial. Inside is an ETA calibre with a Dubois-Depraz module giving it a five minute yachting countdown function with flyback.

Although Louis Vuitton is hardly a high horology brand, that is changing. In fact, Louis Vuitton is more ambitious than fellow fashion house Chanel, in terms of technical, rather than mass market watchmaking. Next year Louis Vuitton watches will move to Meyrin in Geneva alongside La Fabrique du Temps, which LVMH acquired in 2011. Fabrique du Temps is the movement specialist responsible for the Laurent Ferrier Galet Micro-Rotor and Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Geneve-winning Galet Classic Tourbillon, amongst other things.

- SJX

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Vianney Halter launches the Antiqua Ocean diver's watch

Some five years after his last new watch, the Classic Janiver, Vianney Halter has just presented his latest creation, the Antiqua Ocean, on his website.

Based on the design of his seminal Antiqua Perpetual Calendar of 1998, the Antiqua Ocean is a diver's watch rated to 300 m. 

Each of the indications in a porthole. The sub-dial on the upper right shows the time, with the date just below it. At the bottom left is the duration of the dive, while the last sub-dial at 10 o'clock is a depth gauge.

This is Vianney's first steel wristwatch, which is good news given how high the retail prices of his current products have risen.

The pictures show the prototype, and more information will be presented soon. Products from Vianney tend to emerge at a leisurely pace so I don't expect to see this in stores quickly.

Incidentally, please take note of today's date as well.

- SJX

Hands-On With The Credor Spring Drive Minute Repeater, The $350,000 Seiko Grand Complication

Made by the Micro-Artist Studio at Seiko-Epson in Shiojiri, the Seiko Credor Spring Drive Minute Repeater is a hand-made and hand-finished to the most obsessive standards. As I wrote earlier in my article on the Credor Eichi, the movement finish executed at the Micro-Artist Studio is done according to the tutelage of no less than Philippe Dufour.


Seiko Credor Minute Repeater (left) and Credor Sonnerie

The Credor Minute Repeater (ref. GBLS998) is Seiko’s most expensive and complicated watch, retailing for a nearly unfathomable JPY34,650,000, or about USD418,000. That is an extraordinary price, but this is an extraordinary watch.


Blancpain creates traditional Chinese calendar wristwatch


Blancpain Traditional Chinese Calendar
2012 is the year of the Dragon and numerous brands have presented dragon themed watches. Most are unimaginative, with a dragon motif engraved or enamelled somewhere on the watch.

Blancpain went a step further and presented an unusual perpetual calendar wristwatch at Baselworld 2012. Instead of the typical Gregorian calendar, this displays the traditional Chinese calendar. That's not too surprising given China is Blancpain's most important market by a substantial margin.

The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar. Some of the basic rules include the first day of each month starting on the dark moon. Each year has 12 months, but because the year is shorter than a solar year, a 13th month is added every second or third year. For an in-depth explanation, Wikipedia is a good place to go.