Sunday, 27 May 2012

Dinner with Stephen Forsey

Stephen Forsey was in Singapore last week, one of the stops on his whirlwind (no pun intended) Asian tour. I sat down for an interview with him, which will be published in The Business Times watch supplement in August.

Stephen Forsey

We discussed a range of topics including Greubel Forsey's emphasis on quality and its amazing movement finishing. Many of the elements in Greubel Forsey watches are inspired by historic watchmaking, which Stephen was exposed to during his time as head of restoration at London jeweller Asprey.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Introducing The Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute 50th Anniversary

50 years ago Lt Commander Scott Carpenter orbited the Earth in the Aurora 7 spacecraft with a Breitling Cosmonaute ref. 809 on his wrist. It was Lt Cmdr Carpenter who first mooted the idea of a 24 hour version of the classic ref. 806 Navitimer in the late fifties because it enabled him to keep track of the time while in space. 

To mark this anniversary Breitling unveiled a limited edition Cosmonaute at Baselworld 2012. The new Cosmonaute still retains the classic Cosmonaute look with the 24 hour dial, which I like, but with the addition of a date and applied Breitling logo, which I don't as they clutter up the dial.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Understanding Patek Philippe's Legendary Chronograph Wristwatches Over the Century

Having previously been around Europe, Singapore is the first Asian stop for "Chronographs", an travelling exhibition of Patek Philippe chronographs. This is a showcase of 14 historical timepieces and 23 chronographs from the current range, providing a tangible timeline of Patek Philippe's rich history in chronographs.

Open only for a day to clients and the media, "Chronographs" is a small but important show - Philippe and Thierry Stern were here to for the exhibition - that neatly traces the development of Patek Philippe's chronographs starting over 150 years ago.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Sale of Sincere Watch to Hong Kong investor completed

As expected, on 21 May 2012, Be Bright Limited completed its purchased of Singapore retailer Sincere Watch Ltd.

Be Bright also acquired a 75% stake in its Hong Kong subsidiary Sincere Watch (Hong Kong) Ltd, which triggers a mandatory offer of HK$2.12 for the remaining shares in the Hong Kong subsidiary. Because the Hong Kong entity is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange the news had to be filed with the exchange, though the Singapore holding company is privately held.

Be Bright is an investment vehicle of Ms Pollyanna Chu, as reported in greater detail in an earlier post covering what is the third sale of the Sincere Watch company since 2007.

How this change in ownership shapes Sincere Watch will be noteworthy, as will any shifts amongst the watch brands that Sincere carries.  

- SJX 

Monday, 21 May 2012

JLC to auction three Reversos for Sudan charity (Sale cancelled)

On May 31, Christie's will auction off three Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso timepieces at its sale in Milan. The watches will be sold with no reserve and all proceeds will go to the Salam Centre for cardiac surgery in Khartoum, Sudan.

This centre was built by the humanitarian NGO Emergency and provides free healthcare, particularly specialised care for cardiac patients.

The three Reverso watches comprise lots 312 to 314 at the sale. Two of them are the men's Grande Reverso Ultra Thin in steel, and the third is the Grande Reverso Lady Ultra Thin. Each watch has the red heart logo of Emergency in lacquer on the reverse of the case.

Bids can be placed online or in person at the sale. Details can be found on the Christie's site.


UPDATE: The sale of jewels that was to have included these Reversos has been cancelled by Christie's.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Quick look review - the Bremont EP120 Spitfire

On Giles Bremont's wrist during his recent Singapore trip was the EP120 Spitfire limited edition. Bremont is probably best known for the watches it does for various airforce units like the chronograph for B-52 Stratofortress pilots, but the EP120 is undoubtedly the coolest watch it has made.

Bremont EP120

Launched in 2008 in a limited edition of 120 pieces and sold out (notably they sell for the original retail of GBP6495 or even a bit more on the secondary market), the EP120 commemorates a famed 1942 Spitfire Mk V that downed six German fighters on a single day in 1942.

Up-Close With The Blancpain Villeret Traditional Chinese Calendar (With Original Photos & Price)

Blancpain take on a wristwatch for the Chinese market is admirably different, equipped with a traditional Chinese calendar mechanism instead of one that displays the common Gregorian calendar.

Blancpain Chinese Calendar with grand feu enamel dial

Blancpain for going a step further with the Villeret Traditional Chinese Calendar wristwatch, which it unveiled at Baselworld 2012. And despite the busy dial, I like the watch.

Several brands have created Islamic calendar watches, and Svend Andersen made a Jewish calendar timepiece, but the Blancpain is the first Chinese calendar wristwatch. And given the growing Chinese demand for watches, it probably won't be the last.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Richemont posts healthy results for the year

Richemont just posted its results for the year ended 31 March 2012. Given its strong half year figures announced last year, it is not surprising Richemont has done extremely well for the year. Some highlights with my comments in parenthesis:
  • Sales increased by 29% to €8,867 million at actual exchange rates
  • Sales growth of 43% in Asia 
  • Gross profit rose 29% but gross margin remained the same at 63.7%
  • Operating profit rose by 51% to €2,040 million (!)
  • Operating margin reached 23%, from 19.7%
  • Selling and distribution expenses were 19% higher, reflecting sales growth in general and the opening of new boutiques by the Maisons
  • Richemont now has 948 boutiques worldwide
  • Retail sales through boutiques are just over half of total sales and are growing at a faster rate than wholesale sales, which are authorised retailers, at 34% vs 23% (this is part of the gradual push to make retail sales the dominant channel since it has better margins)
  • Communication expenses increased by 20%, representing 10% of sales
  • Healthy cash flow generated from operations: €1,789 million
  • Net cash position of €3,184 million (is Richemont going to buy something with all that money?)

Chairman Johann Rupert ends his commentary with "cautious optimism" due to the economy, especially in the Euro zone.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Unique, 36 mm Lange Pour le Mérite tourbillon sells for record EUR330,000

German auction house Dr Crott just sold a unique, 36 mm Lange Pour le Mérite tourbillon for a surprising EUR330,000. That is a record for the Pour le Mérite tourbillon.

The hammer price is well above the CHF314,500 (which works out to about EUR262,000 today) paid for a unique, salmon dial Pour le Mérite at Christie's in November 2011.

The piece sold by Dr Crott has a 36 mm platinum case (the standard size was 38.5 mm), as well as a black dial with diamond-shaped indices used on the rose gold model.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Hands-on with the the Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre à Sphérotourbillon (with live photos and pricing)

Jaeger-LeCoultre's flagship complication for 2012 is the Duomètre à Sphérotourbillon. It has twin barrels and gear trains - what JLC calls the "dual wing" concept - one to power the tourbillon and the other for the time display. Impressive as this is, it is hard to top the watch that started it all, the Gyrotourbillon 1.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre à Sphérotourbillon in rose gold

Pictured here in the 42 mm rose gold case (also available in a platinum limited edition of 75 pieces), the Spherotourbillon gets its name from its dual axis tourbillon.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Ivory enamel dial for Laurent Ferrier tourbillon

Recently Laurent Ferrier announced once of its tourbillons achieved record results at the Besançon Observatory. That watch was one of the new Laurent Ferrier Galet Classic Tourbillons with the beautifully toned ivory grand feu dial.

The Roman numerals are black, as are the hands, which are actually blackened gold. And a nice detail is the white gold rim around the sub-seconds dial. Inside sits the superbly finished calibre with tourbillon and double hairspring created by La Fabrique du Temps.

This is the second dial variation for the Galet Classic Tourbillon announced this year, after the brushed, slate grey dial.


Hands-On with the Jaeger-LeCoultre Deep Sea Chronograph (with live photos and pricing)

JLC has been on a winning streak with its remakes of vintage models, most notably with the 1931 Reverso. The pair of Deep Sea Alarms launched last year sold well, so earlier this year JLC announced the Deep Sea Vintage Chronograph. That was not exactly a remake but rather a new but vintage-looking model inspired by the Deep Sea Alarm. JLC just unveiled the second variation-on-the-theme, the Deep Sea Chronograph.

JLC Deep Sea Chronograph

The model name has no "vintage" prefix so it looks more like a modern watch; the Luminova is clean white instead of faux aged. But the dial has the same matte, grained texture as its Vintage brothers, as well as the retro-style  "tropical" strap.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Hublot Skull Bang for Laurent Picciotto

Hublot has just announced the Skull Bang, a 100 piece limited edition made for Chronopassion in Paris, a small but amazing Aladdin's cave of watches. The store is run by Laurent Picciotto, the closest thing to a celebrity watch retailer (and the owner of the outrageously patina-ed Panerai Bronzo).

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Up close with Omega's new De Ville chronograph

At Basel 2012 Omega presented the revamped De Ville Co-Axial chronograph, shown here in red gold with blue dial. What caught my eye was not so much the high spec 9300/9301 movement, but rather the dial. Contrary to contemporary Omega dials, this one has much more interesting detail. 

Omega De Ville Chronograph in steel

Monday, 7 May 2012

De Bethune presents the DB28ST

De Bethune DB28ST
De Bethune recently unveiled the DB28ST dead seconds tourbillon. This is the second DB28 with tourbillon, the first was the beautiful DB28T of SIHH 2011.

Like its sibling the new DB28ST has spring-loaded lugs which allow the titanium case to hug the wrist. Unusually the DB28ST has a platinum bezel.

This obviously uses a variant of the movement found in the beautiful DB25T with its stunning blued titanium starchart dial, which has been inverted to reveal the tourbillon and dead seconds mechanism on the dial side.

Around the open-worked centre is a frosted, sterling silver chapter ring. Beautiful horology blending old and new, as is usual from De Bethune.


The first Harry Winston Opus 3 at auction

Harry Winston Opus 3 in rose gold
Late last year - nearly a decade after its launch in 2003 - the first few Opus 3 from Harry Winston were delivered. Conceived by Vianney Halter but far too ambitious a concept for the technology available, the Opus 3 almost became a watch of myth and legend.

A rose gold version will go under the hammer at Christie's in Hong Kong at end May, with an estimate of US$75,000-150,000. I reckon it will go for about US$120,000 at the low end, possibly more.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Up Close With The MB&F Moonmachine, A Collaboration With Sarpaneva

Yesterday Max Busser unveiled the Moonmachine, the latest variant of the HM3. Based on the HM3 Frog, the Moonmachine was conceived by Stepan Sarpaneva.

Taking the place of the date on the HM3 is Sarpaneva's recognisable moonphase display against a background of stars. Below the moonphase sits a mystery rotor similarly decorated with stars.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

MB&F unveils the HM3 Moonmachine

MB&F has just unveiled the Moonmachine. This is a result of Maximilian Busser's collaboration with Finnish watchmaker Stepan Sarpaneva best known for his mildly menacing moonphase display. 

A variant of the bug-eyed HM3 Frog, the HM3 Moonmachine has Sarpaneva's trademark frowning moon face peering out from where the movement and rotor of the HM3 normally are.

The Bremont B-52 Stratofortress chronograph

I just finished dinner with Giles Bremont, one half of the brothers who founded the company. Bremont is a fairly new English brand specialising in military pilot's watches. Previously I found their watches somewhat pricey for what they are, but after examining them up close I am persuaded otherwise.

Bremont B-52 Chronograph

The case work in particularly is impressive - the case is hardened steel (2000 Vickers, more than ceramic and about the same sapphire) with an interesting form and construction. It is a sandwich with an aluminium centre band that can be anodised in a variety of colours, orange being the most striking.