Thursday, 22 January 2015

SIHH 2015: Up Close With The Panerai Mare Nostrum Titanio PAM603 (With Photos And Price)

Panerai has once again remade the extra-large Mare Nostrum chronograph, equipped with a refined Minerva movement, except this time the 52 mm case is in lightweight titanium.

In 2010 Panerai unveiled the first oversized Mare Nostrum chronograph (PAM300), inspired by a prototype officer's chronograph from 1943. That is now a desirable timepiece on the secondary market, so true to form Panerai introduced the Mare Nostrum Titanio PAM603 at SIHH 2015.

Translating as "our sea", Mare Nostrum was the Roman term for the Mediterranean Sea, coming back into vogue during the Second World War. And it was for the deck officers of the Italian Navy of WWII that the original Mare Nostrum prototypes were developed. 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

SIHH 2015: Hands-On With The IWC Portugieser Hand-Wound Eight Days 75th Anniversary (With Photos And Price)

For the 75th anniversary of one of its signature timepieces IWC has created the Portugieser Hand-Wound Eight Days “75th Anniversary”, a convincing vintage style wristwatch powered by the calibre 59215.

One of several new Portugieser watches IWC just unveiled at SIHH 2015 (including the Portugieser Annual Calendar), the Portugieser Hand-Wound Eight Days 75th Anniversary is a limited edition version of the first Portuguese Hand-Wound with a vintage-inspired dial. Though mechanically identical, the 75th Anniversary limited edition is modelled on a very rare variant of the original reference 325 Portuguese made in the 1930s. 

The dial is an adventurous design - only the hour markers at each quarter are present, with the dial ringed by a bold variation of the traditional railway minute track. And IWC returns to the classic italic script logo in this limited edition, something that collectors are surely pleased about.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

SIHH 2015: Introducing The Vacheron Constantin Harmony Monopusher Chronograph, Equipped With The New Cal. 3300 (With Specs And Price)

To mark its 260th anniversary Vacheron Constantin has created a series of limited edition, cushion-shaped timepieces, including the Harmony Chronograph equipped with the calibre 3300, single-button, manually wound chronograph movement.

Modelled on a 1928 pulsometer chronograph and made to mark Vacheron Constantin's 260th anniversary, the Harmony collection of SIHH 2015 comprises six different models, each a limited edition. The median priced timepiece in the anniversary range is the Harmony Chronograph, a one-button, hand-wound chronograph with a traditionally styled movement as well as an unusual 45 minute counter.

SIHH 2015: Panerai Unveils Its First Carbon Fibre Watch, The Luminor Submersible 1950 Carbotech

For the new Luminor Submersible 1950 Carbotech PAM616, Panerai has turned to a carbon fibre reinforced polymer known as Carbotech for the case, bezel and crown lever bridge, the first time Panerai has used a carbon fibre composite.

Long popular with brands like Hublot and Richard Mille, it is now Panerai's turn to use carbon fibre composite for a watch case. The new Luminor Submersible 1950 Carbotech 3 Days Automatic (PAM00616) is named after the carbon fibre reinforced polymer used for make the case, bezel and crown lock bridge. Carbon fibre composites like Carbotech have a characteristic wave-like pattern due to the layering process used to make the material.

Monday, 19 January 2015

EDITORIAL: What Does The Rising Swiss Franc Mean For Watch Buyers?

Three days ago the Swiss National Bank lifted its cap on the Swiss franc's value against the Euro. Within hours the franc rose by as much as 40% against the Euro, with Swiss stocks moving in the opposite direction; on the same day shares in Richemont and the Swatch Group fell by as much as 16%. What does the franc's appreciation mean for watch buyers?

A frightening chart but what does it mean?

Reaction to last Thursday's surprise move by the Swiss National Bank (SNB) has been panic in some quarters. The sudden strength of the Swiss franc will have an impact on watch buyers, but the consequences are unlikely to be as significant as some fear.

A strong franc makes the production cost (and other Swiss franc-denominated costs) of watches made in Switzerland more expensive. Depending on the currency, the equivalent production cost of a Swiss watch in foreign markets is between 15% to 40% steeper with the newfound strength of the Swiss franc. But not all of that will translate into an increase for the end consumer since the production cost is far, far away from the retail price of a watch.

EXPLAINED: The Fine Art Of Black Polishing AKA Spéculaire

Black polishing, also known as spéculaire finishing, is employed to finish steel parts in a watch movement to create a mirror-like surface. Used for steel screws, levers and bridges, true black polishing is done by hand and only found in the best timepieces. Here we have watchmaking instructor Henrik Korpela to demonstrate the technique in detail.

Commonly known as black polishing (poli noir or spéculaire), but also called mirror polishing (poli miroir) or block polishing (poli bloqué), this technique of finishing is employed to give steel parts a perfectly smooth surface that appears a stark black from certain angles, hence the name. The technique is so time consuming that it is typically found in true haute horlogerie watches, from the likes of Philippe Dufour or Kari Voutilainen, or Seiko's top of the line Credor Eichi

Friday, 16 January 2015

Mastering The Artisanal Crafts At The La Maison des Metier d'Art of Cartier

Cartier recently opened La Maison des Metier d'Art, a farmhouse converted into an ambitious, multi-disciplinary workshop dedicated to the decorative arts, focused not just on product creation but also the revival of lost techniques and the developing new ones.

Sitting right next to the expansive Cartier manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds, La Maison des Metier d'Art is decidedly decidedly diminutive - an appropriate comparison since what takes place inside is miniature in size and scale. Originally a nineteenth century farmhouse, La Maison des Metier d'Art is now the centre of all metier d'art for watchmaking at Cartier. It is an impressive collection of rare artisanal talent, assembling dozens of craftsmen and women who work wonders with their fingers.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

NEWS: Switzerland Abandons Currency Cap, Battering Watch Industry

The Swiss central bank unexpected lifted the cap on the value of the Swiss franc against the Euro, sending its currency soaring, further battering the downbeat watch industry.

Just hours ago, in a shock move, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) abandoned the cap on the value of the franc against the Euro, a step MB&F founder Maximilian Busser label a "gigantic pain". Implemented in 2011 after the Swiss franc surged, the lifting of the cap batters Swiss exporters, exacerbating the situation of the Swiss watch industry.

In the hours after the SNB's announcement, the Swiss franc jumped to the highest level ever against the Euro - appreciating some 41% - and also strengthened against all other currencies. But this year, unlike in 2011, the Swiss watch industry is facing nearly flat growth and a very uncertain outlook.

Speake-Marin Signs On Pierce Brosnan As Brand Ambassador

Pierce Brosnan, best known for playing James Bond, is now brand ambassador for Speake-Marin, bringing some Hollywood glitter to the independent watchmaker based in Switzerland but English in its heritage.

© Marco Grob for Speake-Marin

Independent watchmakers that aren't Richard Mille rarely have brand ambassadors, much less genuinely famous personalities. So Speake-Marin's partnership is Pierce Brosnan is notable, having emerged from a chance meeting on the set of the upcoming film Survivor, where Brosnan plays a watchmaker, who also happens to be a skilled assassin by night.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Pre-Basel 2015: Introducing The Arnold & Son Golden Wheel, Combining Wandering Hours With Deadbeat Seconds (With Specs And Price)

The Arnold & Son Golden Wheel is an intriguing combination of complications, a wandering hours time display using three sapphire discs, and a central deadbeat seconds hand.

Arnold & Son is adept at integrating a deadbeat seconds into all manner of complications, most recently into a chronograph with twin seconds handsBaselworld 2015 will bring arguably the most unusual dead seconds timepiece yet, the Golden Wheel.

The Golden Wheel displays the time via three sapphire discs, each rotating on its own axis, as well as around the dial. Known as a wandering hours, this form of time display is not new, having been found on pocket watches dating from the eighteenth century. In modern watchmaking the Audemars Piguet Star Wheel and Urwerk UR-105 are probably the best known implementations of the mechanism.

Introducing The HYT Skull - Punk Rock Meets Hydro-Mechanical Time (With Specs And Price)

HYT has appropriated a recently fashionable motif in watchmaking and combined it with the underpinnings of its H1 wristwatch to create the Skull, which displays the time on a skull-shaped glass tube.

Members of the global elite who fancy themselves punk rockers have made skull watches a great commercial success for several independent brands, particularly Richard Mille and Hublot. The latest to join the fray is HYT, makes of timepieces with liquid time displays. The HYT Skull indicates only the hours, via a coloured liquid inside a glass tube that circles a skull-shaped dial plate.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Introducing The Longines Master Collection GMT World Time For Singapore's 50th Anniversary (With Specs And Pricing)

Singapore celebrates its 50th year of independence in 2015 and Longines will mark this occasion with a limited edition Master Collection GMT world time with "Singapore" on the world time ring.

A tiny island nation that's one of the richest states in the world, Singapore will celebrate SG50 in 2015. It will be exactly 50 years old on 9 August, half a century after it separated from Malaysia. First to announce a timepiece for Singapore's 50th birthday is Longines, with the Master Collection GMT world time in rose gold. 

NEWS: Antonio Calce Appointed CEO Of Sowind, Overseeing Girard-Perregaux and JeanRichard

Luxury conglomerate Kering has appointed Antonio Calce Chief Executive Officer of the Sowind Group, comprising the brands Girard-Perregaux and JeanRichard as well as its movement manufacturing division. 

Less than a year after being told to leave by the owners of Corum, Antonio Calce has taken up the same role in a much larger enterprise, the Sowind Group. A subsidiary of Kering, the Sowind Group is made up of JeanRichard and the jewel in the crown, Girard-Perregaux. Famous for its unique Tourbillon With Three Gold Bridges, Girard Perregaux is one of the great but underrated brands in haute horlogerie.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Hermès Equips The Arceau Automatique And Petite Lune With H1837 Manufacture Movement (With Specs And Price)

Hermès proceeds apace with outfitting its timepieces with Vaucher Manufacture movements, with the Arceau Automatique and Arceau Petite Lune now fitted with the self-winding calibre H1837.

Arceau Automatique

Two years ago Hermes debuted the H1837 movement in the Dressage, a slim automatic movement made by Vaucher. At Baselworld 2015 two models from the Arceau line will receive the same upgrade, with the H1837 replacing the ETA sourced calibres currently used.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Editorial: National Stereotypes And Watchmaking

Those well worn jokes about three people of different nationalities walking into bar often carry a small grain of truth. So unsurprisingly these stereotypes hold true in watchmaking.

Germany’s mittelstand manufacture world-class drill bits, printing presses and diesel engines, and also watches. Watchmaking is after all a specialised form of micromechanical engineering. 

But drill bits and printing presses are not very amusing or entertaining, and the same can be said for German watches. At every level of the price spectrum - Lange, Nomos, Sinn, Glashütte Original – German watches are the equivalent of a grave personality that doesn’t tell jokes. Nomos perhaps is an outlier; it has a mild sense of humour, but more in the vein of Berlin-poor-but-cool rather than Jerry Seinfeld.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Pre-Basel 2015: Bulgari Introduces Sapphire Blue Dials For the Octo and Bulgari Bulgari (With Specs And Price)

Bulgari will introduce metallic blue dials for its signature Bulgari Bulgari and Octo wristwatches, both equipped with the in-house calibre Solotempo BVL 191.

With the 40th anniversary of the Bulgari Bulgari this year, the Italian jeweller has big things in store for the distinctive Gerald Genta design. But before Baselworld 2015 all Bulgari will reveal is the new sapphire blue dial for the Bulgari Bulgari, as well as the Octo.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Montblanc Unveils Smartwatch Band, Tries To Succeed Where Others Have Failed

Montblanc recently announced the TimeWalker Urban Speed e-Strap, a watch strap with smart watch functions, making it the latest luxury watchband to dabble in electronics, going down a path that is lined with past failures. Or it might just be a shrewd move to gain headlines as anticipation of the Apple Watch grows.

Swatch/Tissot Paparazzi, TAG Heuer Meridiist, Bulgari Ipno and Venture SPARC - ring a bell, anyone? They shouldn't, because all of them died a quiet death, with the TAG Heuer Meridiist smartphone being the most recent fatality. All of them were attempts by upscale watch brands to succeed in electronics or smart watches. Joining that illustrious line-up is the Montblanc TimeWalker Urban Speed e-Strap, a removable watch band with a buckle that functions like a smart watch, featuring functions like an activity monitor, Bluetooth smartphone linkage and even social media feeds.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Hands-On With The Hajime Asaoka Project T Tourbillon, Where Japanese High Tech Meets High Horology (With Live Photos)

Japanese watchmaker Hajime Asaoka is a singular artisan who works solo, creating some of the most impressive timepieces made anywhere by an independent watchmaker. The latest timepiece to emerge from the apartment-workshop is the Project T Tourbillon, bringing together cutting edge manufacturing and painstaking hand-finishing.

Hajime Asaoka is a self-taught watchmaker who got his start reading Watchmaking by George Daniels. He converted an apartment located in the fashionable neighbourhood of Aoyama in Tokyo into a workshop (which we visited in 2012), where he makes nearly all the parts of a wristwatch himself, even to the extent of printing his own dials.

For his newest creation, the Project T Tourbillon, Asaoka recruited two of Japan's leading engineering outfits, machine tool maker OSG Corporation and Yuki Precision, a machining specialist. 

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Explaining The Patek Philippe Multi-Scale Chronograph Ref. 5975 (With Live Photos, Details And Price)

Patek Philippe turned to vintage chronographs from 1950s as the inspiration for the Multi-Scale Chronograph Ref. 5975. Part of the 175th anniversary limited edition line-up, the Multi-Scale chronograph is equipped to measure pulse, speed and distance.

The 175th anniversary collection introduced by Patek Philippe in October last year comprised four models, two practically unaffordable for most, and the remaining pair being relatively accessible. One is the World Time Moon (which we looked at over here), and the other is the Multi-Scale Chronograph, a wristwatch with a triple logarithmic scale dial that fuses a vintage theme with modern styling, available as a men's watch (ref. 5975) or ladies' (ref. 4675).

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Pre-SIHH 2015: IWC Announces The Portugieser Annual Calendar, And A Whole New Portuguese Collection

With 2015 being the 75th anniversary of the Portuguese, IWC will unveil a thoroughly redesigned line-up of Portuguese timepieces at SIHH later this month, including the Portugieser Annual Calendar as well as the new calibre 52000 seven day movement.

SIHH 2015 will see IWC rework its entire Portuguese collection, arguably the brand's most important range of timepieces both commercially and technically. Almost a dozen new models will be presented in 2015, which is the 75th anniversary of the Portugieser watch, including the Portugieser Annual Calendar, as well as three new movements. 

Many of the new watches take inspiration from historical models, and IWC is taking the past seriously enough that the collection is now the Portugieser, which is German for "Portuguese", just as it was in the past. 

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Year In Review 2014: Our 10 Top Stories Of The Year

At the end of the year that was the best ever, with traffic stats up by over 60% across all metrics, here's a look at our ten top stories of 2014.

In terms of readership stories on Rolex and Seiko trump all the others, which is unsurprising since both are probably the most searched watch brands online. Other notable stories are our editorials on the end of the road for rising watch prices (ranked 6th and 8th), and the compilation of opinions from key figures in high horology on the Apple Watch.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Up Close With The Patek Philippe Ref. 5960/1A Chronograph Annual Calendar In Steel

Introduced for the very first time in steel, with a matching steel bracelet to boot, the Patek Philippe Ref. 5960/1A is the most affordable variant of the chronograph with annual calendar, and one that's very nearly a sports watch.

The Nautilus chronograph it is not, but the Patek Philippe Ref. 5960/1A comes very close to being a sports chronograph. And it is arguably more practical, combing both a chronograph and legible annual calendar function. Introduced at Baselworld earlier this year, the Ref. 5960/1A is entirely steel, unlike its precious metal predecessors, making this particular complication the most affordable it has ever been.

Hands-On With The Rotonde De Cartier With Calendar & Power Reserve - An Affordable Small Complication (With Photos And Price)

Cartier has started to expand its line of affordable, mid-range complicated timepieces, one of which is the Rotonde De Cartier With Calendar And Power Reserve, powered by an in-house movement and priced under US$10,000.

At Watches&Wonders 2014 Cartier unveiled a pair of petite complications, wristwatches with minor complications priced affordably. One was the Rotonde Second Time Zone Day/Night, and the other is the Rotonde De Cartier With Calendar And Power Reserve.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Pre-SIHH 2015: Introducing The Montblanc Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum World Time (With Specs And Pricing)

Montblanc grows its classical Heritage line with the addition of the Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum, a world time with a day and night display that will make its debut at SIHH 2015.

At SIHH last year Montblanc unveiled the first of the Heritage collection, a line of classically styled timepieces at an accessible price point that is one of the key elements of the strategy in revamping Montblanc's watch business. That is set to continue at SIHH 2015 with the Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum, a world time wristwatch with a day and night indicator.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Up Close With The Patek Philippe 17th Anniversary World Time Moon Refs. 5575G and 7175R (With Photos And Price)

For its 175th anniversary Patek Philippe combined its signature world time with a photorealistic moon phase, paired with a carefully detailed case that features sculpted, lyre-shaped lugs.

Of the four models Patek Philippe unveiled for its 175th anniversary, the Multi-Scale Chronograph and World Time Moon stand out for being relatively affordable - after all, the top of the line anniversary Grandmaster Chime costs 2.5 million francs. Unsurprisingly, they have garnered the most interest, particularly the World Time Moon, according to anecdotal evidence from Patek Philippe retailers.

Made in both men's and ladies' variants (refs. 5575G and 7175R respectively), the World Time Moon is unusual in several respects. For one, it's the first time in the modern era Patek Philippe is combining a world time with another complication. And the World Time Moon is also a very large edition, totalling 1750 pieces for both versions. Less obvious but also significant is the sculpted case form, illustrating the great strides Patek Philippe has made in its case making.