Thursday, 30 August 2012

Devon launches the Tread 1 Steampunk limited edition

Devon Works recently announced the Tread 1 Steampunk, a limited edition version of the Tread 1, which was the original, electronic, belt display watch. Reminiscent of Vianney Halter, the steampunk watchmaking pioneer, the Tread 1 Steampunk is clad in rivetted bronze plates. The time belts are dark brown with ivory numerals to complete the vintage look. 

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

A look at President Vladimir Putin's watch collection

The New York Times just published a story about the perks available to President Vladimir Putin of Russia. These are detailed in a report put together by the Russian opposition. The items covered in the report include palaces and planes, and also watches.

He has been spotted wearing, amongst other things, a Lange Tourbograph in platinum, as well as a Patek ref. 3974 minute repeater with perpetual calendar. The NYT story cites the value of the watches as US$687,000, which is much too low. The Lange and Patek alone cost well over a million dollars.

The full list of watches can be seen in the PDF report. I am quite sure that is not President Putin's complete collection because executives from more than one brand have told me that the President owns watches from their brand.


Monday, 27 August 2012

Photo essay: Jean-Baptiste Viot In Paris chronometer

Jean-Baptiste Viot presented his In Paris chronometer a couple of years ago. Using parts from the Peseux 260 movement (which Kari Voutilainen also used for his Observatoire), the In Paris is almost entirely handmade by Mr Viot in his Paris workshop.

Jean-Baptiste Viot In Paris

Housed in a modest 38 mm case, the movement clearly takes inspiration from 18th century pocket watches. The look is very unusual yet also very French, with hints of 18th and 19th century pocket watches. Mr Viot spent some years doing restoration for Breguet, so this is not surprising.

Friday, 24 August 2012

How To: The Art Of The Hand-Made Watch Strap In Exotic Leather

Hughes Handcrafted, run by Hughes Low, a self-taught Singapore-based craftsman, specialises in small leather goods, mainly in exotic skins like crocodile, alligator and ostrich. Everything by hand, saddled stitched in the traditional manner.

Here Hughes shows us how a hand-made watch strap is handmade. This is hand-crafting in the traditional method with traditional materials, as Hermes does. Hughes' work is amongst the most impressive I have seen, though it requires a tremendous amount of patience until the finished product.

I am fairly particularly about my watch straps and have dozens of them in all styles and materials. I've tried all the well known custom makers including the famous Parisian firms: Camille Fournet (excellent), Jean Rousseau (good as well) and Atelier du Bracelet Parisien (also known as ABP, exceptionally atrocious; they scratched the lug when changing the strap in the store and pretended nothing happened).

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

An fascinating interview with Gerald Genta

Well worth a read is this interview from 2009 (in PDF format) with the late Gerald Genta, published by Veryimportantwatches. Mr Genta is one of the most prolific watch designers of all time - he says he penned over 100,000 watches. But more importantly a handful of his designs have gone on to become iconic watches of the 20th century.

In the interview he covers his early history as well as some fascinating anecdotes, like how he designed the Patek Philippe Nautilus in a restaurant. He of course talks about the Royal Oak Jumbo of 1972, which is arguably his most famous work.

In the interview Mr Genta also revealed his dislike of thick and chunky watches. Also notable are sketches for some of his work from the 70s and 80s, which illustrate his importance as a watch designer to the petrodollar rulers in the Middle East and Brunei in that era.


The original 1972 Royal Oak

Monday, 20 August 2012

Hands-On With The One-Of-A-Kind Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Skeleton For The Kidz Horizon Charity

On September 1, 2012 a unique, 41 mm Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Skeleton will be auctioned at the Ritz-Carlton in Singapore. All proceeds going to Kidz Horizon, a charity that helps terminally ill children.

Inside is the skeletonised cal. 2139, but what makes this unique is the 41 mm case (the RO skeleton is usually 39 mm). Despite the increase in the case size, the proportions still look good. In fact the large case brings it closer to the proportions of the classic Royal Oak Jumbo (which I really love) which is wide and flat.

The movement is done in a style suited to the aesthetic of the watch - all grey and ruthenium coated. This style of skeletonisation is in fashion now, so Chopard has done it with its LUC Skeletec as well.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

News: A jar of Jaeger-LeCoultre honey for visitors to the manufacture

Jaeger-LeCoultre now offers the gift of a jar of JLC branded honey to visitors at its Le Sentier manufacture. Ten hives have been installed in front of the manufacture to cater to this. 

This also boosts JLC's environmental credentials, which is made abundantly clear in the announcement:

The aim of this initiative is to make visitors from all over the world, as well as the 1,200 employees, aware of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s commitment to preserving the environment. Bees play a key role in nature – by transporting pollen from flowers that they visit, they contribute to the reproduction of plant species. Today, they are a threatened species and this is a good opportunity for the Manufacture to give them a helping hand.

Having been there I know the manufacture at Le Sentier is an impressive facility but surely this is taking diversification and vertically integrated production too far?


Monday, 13 August 2012

MB&F announces the HM3 Poison Dart Frog - with live pics

Despite bypassing retailers with his C3H5N3O9 ("nitroglycerine") project in collaboration with Urwerk, Max Büsser still needs the network for the MB&F brand. The latest retailer exclusive is the HM3 Poison Dart Frog, a 10 piece limited edition made for The Hour Glass in Singapore.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Hands-on comparison: Seiko Monster 4R36 Gen. 2 vs. Seiko Monster 7S26 Gen.1

The Seiko Monster is a legendary, affordable sports watch that was recently updated. Several variants of the new Monster are available, including the orange dial with black PVD bezel version (SRP315K1) shown here (the basic steel versions are the SRP307 and SRP309 with black and orange dial respectively). 

Old Seiko Monster SKX781 on left, and new Monster SRP315 on right

(Note that the old Monster shown here (SKX781K1) has had the chapter ring replaced, the original dial is entirely orange.)

Several cosmetic changes were made though the case remains 42.3 mm. However, the biggest functional improvement is the new movement. The Monster now has the 4R36 movement which both winds manually and hacks. The 7S26 in the first generation Monster could do neither.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Hands-On with the Laurent Ferrier Galet Micro-Rotor (live photos and pricing)

The Laurent Ferrier Galet Micro-Rotor is an interesting timepiece because of its contradiction. Movement decoration is top notch and traditional, much like the Laurent Ferrier Galet Tourbillon, but in terms of construction the calibre is modern, almost overengineered.

The FBN (Ferrier-Barbasini-Navas) Calibre 229.01, developed by La Fabrique du Temps, is a micro rotor automatic, but it is clearly designed not only for function but also to show off the movement finishing.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Introducing The Hajime Asaoka Tsunami Wristwatch Equipped With A 16 mm Balance Wheel

Japanese independent watchmaker Hajime Asaoka just announced his new calibre, a hand-wound, time only movement with a 16 mm titanium balance wheel - and the steel case is only 37 mm.

Though the movement itself is compact, it has an unusual design in that both the balance wheel and mainspring are unusually large. According to Asaoka-san, the barrel is similar in size to that of a pocket watch. That, of course, is quite evident from the photos of it.

Friday, 3 August 2012

News: Flat luxury watch sales mean Chinese economy not picking up

Sitting there unwanted
Bloomberg just reported luxury watch sales in Hong Kong to Chinese buyers did not recover in July, meaning the Chinese economy is not picking up. Sentiment amongst the retailers surveyed was generally weak.

"China’s economy, the world’s second- biggest, is yet to rebound according to one gauge: sales of the luxury watches that business people give to clients and officials to build commercial relationships." Read the rest of it on Bloomberg.

But remember that slow growth doesn't mean a contraction. If the demand for high-end watches starts to contract sharply I expect that will do wonders for pricing.


Photo essay: Patek Philippe 10 Day Tourbillon ref. 5101P

Patek Philippe is a grand old house with a phenomenal history in complications. Today it still remains one of the top complications maisons, even though I find it's entry to mid level watches, like the Nautilus or even the not so mid level 5131 cloisonne world time, expensive for what they are.

Patek Philippe 10 Day Tourbillon ref. 5101P
The diamond in the case at six o'clock indicates the case is platinum

But at the top end of the complications spectrum, Patek movements have a flair that competitors lack. They just have that special something, like the spectacular 'octopus' wheel on the 5016 grande complication, that is perhaps reflective of the brand's institutional memory and heritage (or maybe it's just the Sterns).

News: $799,500 for Steve McQueen's Heuer Monaco

On the last day of July Steve McQueen's Heuer Monaco (or rather one of them) sold for US$799,500 at an auction in Hollywood.

Though it looks to be in superb condition, this is a ridiculous price for a watch that is not historically significant, not in the sense of the Patek Philippe ref. 2499 or Rolex Submariner. And for someone of my generation Steve McQueen has little cachet so the celebrity connection has zero value for me.

Usually when a watch sells for an outrageous price I suspect the hidden hand of the watch brand attempting to increase its own brand equity, but in this case the price is so silly I doubt TAG Heuer forked out $800,000 for this watch.

Steve McQueen's Heuer Monaco
Photo courtesy On The Dash

You can find out more about this watch (and a whole lot of other Heuer timepieces) at Heuer collector site OntheDash.


Thursday, 2 August 2012

News: Yohan Blake is the new Richard Mille ambassador

Pictures from Adidas show Yohan Blake wearing the new green and yellow Richard Mille tourbillon that was announced a few days ago. We'll soon find out if Richard Mille has picked another winner.


Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images for adidas