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Two Women Watch Designers are Changing the Face of Time: Marie-Laure Cerede and Chadi Nouri Gruber

Cartier SIHH 2018 novelty: Cartier Revelation d'une Panthere, a ladies timepiece bearing 900 gold beads which descend to form the motif of the Cartier Panthere

Cartier SIHH 2018 novelty: Cartier Revelation d’une Panthere, a ladies timepiece bearing 900 gold beads which descend to form the motif of the Cartier Panthere

For as long as history has documented, watches in general have always tended to be round save for a few early women’s models which were designed into jewellery and brooches. Then, there came a revolution, the world’s first square watch – not that it mattered because documenting such a horological milestone wasn’t really on the foremost on the minds of the manufacturers. Sans social media, there was no necessity to distinguish or crow about the achievement of a unique case shape, round or square the watch was a watch. Fast forward today, save for a few iconic models, how many of us can actually name the designer of our watch? If you owned a Audemars Piguet Royal Oak or a Patek Philippe Nautilus, it is highly probable you could name Gerald Genta but who else? What about horology’s other icons? The Reverso or the Cartier Santos? When did we start ignoring the designer?

Over the last two decades, watchmakers became veritable rockstars. After all, they made the cool movements, visualised the finishing, advised on the decorations and essentially made decisions as to what quickens the heart of a watch savant. But, in this pursuit of high horology, we often forget that design is often the first catalyst for our horological lusts. You disagree? We would like to prove a point.

Audemars Piguet SIHH 2018 novelty, the Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon, a jewelset creation of exquisite depth and femininity.

Audemars Piguet SIHH 2018 novelty, the Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon, a jewelset creation of exquisite depth and femininity.

Meet Two Women Watch Designers are Changing the Face of Time: Marie-Laure Cerede and Chadi Nouri Gruber

If you recall, not too long ago, there was a shaped watch which caused quite a stir in an industry that was primarily round watches. In 1972, Audemars Piguet unveiled the Royal Oak to the derision of all present and the criticism that the design would doom the company to bankruptcy. Far from it, the Royal Oak’s avant garde design not only saved the company but pioneered a whole genre of unique case shapes for the industry.

That said, some occasions don’t call for “break the rules” cutting edge design, instead, deep introspection of the brand’s design codes often unveils new interpretations of classic motifs while the blending of modern material and fluidic science allows for a new timepiece yet rooted in the brand’s most classical of animal motifs. Witness, Cartier’s Panthere.

Cartier Watchmaking Studio Creation Director, Marie-Laure Cerede

Cartier Watchmaking Studio Creation Director, Marie-Laure Cerede


Cartier Watchmaking Studio Creation Director, Marie-Laure Cerede

900 gold beads forms the motif of the Cartier Panthere, an outstanding artistic and technical challenge for Manufacture Cartier. In expressing the vision and design philosophy of the maison, you will find that our techniques are design led instead of being led by technical aspects. We spent a lot of time finding the right fluid that would allow the beads would fall at exactly the right speed, sliding gradually, instead of flowing all down at once.

The Santos is arguably the most well known of all Cartier watches. Since it is the anniversary this year, are you concerned that the limelight will only deepen public awareness of the icon and take attention away from the other models the maison has been developing?

That’s certainly true but I believe that on the feminine side, the Panthere does a very good job of holding its own as an equal icon. 900 gold beads forms the motif of the Cartier Panthere, an outstanding artistic and technical challenge for Manufacture Cartier. In expressing the vision and design philosophy of the maison, you will find that our techniques are design led instead of being led by technical aspects. We spent a lot of time finding the right fluid that would allow the beads would fall at exactly the right speed, sliding gradually, instead of flowing all down at once. We decided not to change anything much for Panthere because it was already a signature. In the Santos, we express Cartier’s masculinity. Fact is, the brand doesn’t have that many watches which expresses this masculinity.

It’s common perception that most consumers prefer a round watch to shaped forms, do you see a unique opportunity for the brand to do more in this genre?

I think it’s a unique opportunity and more importantly, it serves as a creative statement for the maison. Though we have a very beautiful round watch with the Ballon encoded in the DNA of Cartier, the first signature of the brand is clearly the extravagant shaped form.

What do you think it’s the secret of Cartier to entice people who previously preferred round watches to get their first form watch?

We truly playing on a unique Cartier signature. It’s not just a shape, it’s about working on the watch as a whole and creating something harmonious. Round watches are compact and easily harmonious but where Cartier succeeded is that we took this concept and applied it different shapes and even for something like the crash. The work of the maison is truly critical for us – for us, watch design is not merely a puzzle of putting together spare parts but in ensuring that all the lines, curves and angles flow in a way which creates visual harmony.

The new Santos de Cartier launched at SIHH 2018

The new Santos de Cartier launched at SIHH 2018

Cartier’s history has been rich in design and aesthetics but very little attention has been paid historically to movement design, has it been a challenge to overcome this? Do you aim to attract more women with the mechanical aspects of watchmaking?

It’s a challenge to give a sense of significance of our calibres to the end consumers. My view of female watch lovers is that they’re different and they seek different attributes than men. That said, they still recognise value and the calibre is a very big component of perceived value but at the end of the day, its design which resonates. It’s the attraction that sells before you want to discover what’s inside.

Both yourself and your predecessor (Carole Forrestier) are women in a historically male dominated profession, are women catching up in terms of this genre?

I’m a woman but I’m a minority in that I like my complications. I’ve always been very interested in high complications but I still feel that women are not very interested in this aspect. They can design very masculine watches like the Santos or very feminine watches like the Panthere but at the end of the day, it doesn’t mean anything. The product should be able to express its beauty naturally and if you have to explain, it really just means that your product isn’t that great. The immediate desirability of the brand must have impact.

Audemars Piguet Head of Product Development Chadi Nouri Gruber

Audemars Piguet Head of Product Development Chadi Nouri Gruber

Audemars Piguet Head of Product Development Chadi Nouri Gruber

“When most brands make ceramic versions of their watches, they tend to be decorated much simpler than their steel versions because ceramic is much harder to machine and finish. Audemars Piguet does the opposite, we apply exactly the same design codes and contrast finishing to ceramic as we do our steel models.”

Last year you released the black ceramic royal oak perpetual calendar and this year you released the RD#2 concept, any worries that you might encourage some buyers to adopt a “wait and see” approach for the day it becomes a production model?

No. They’re two different pieces. One is a world record holder and the other is undeniably attractive in black ceramic. For example, when most brands make ceramic versions of their watches, they tend to be decorated much simpler than their steel versions because ceramic is much harder to machine and finish. Audemars Piguet does the opposite, we apply exactly the same design codes and contrast finishing to ceramic as we do our steel models. The RD#2 is just a concept for now and while we do like to make dreams come through, we don’t know when in the pipeline that will be. We don’t even know what material it will eventually be in. We do know that we will want both calibres to live side by side.

I understand it was difficult to reduce the three levels to one, I am also assume it is remaining a concept watch for now because there are still things to be worked out, so what are the challenges you face currently?

Well, we are not really facing any more challenges, which is why we were confident to unveil the RD#2 piece. It’s basically taking a three storey house, compressing it into a single level while keeping all the furniture. We’ve merged functions inside the movement in order to reduce the thickness. We basically fused two functions into a single component – The end of the month cam is integrated with the date wheel and the month cam is integrated with the month wheel. So this allowed us to create everything on one plane.

Your classic Offshore Chronographs had smaller hour indexes so it didn’t distract as much visually, it felt it had better balance than the newer versions. I guess what I really want to ask is will the re-issue be a one-off or will you have a series of design tweaks to bring it back to more classic roots?

It’s not a one-off. The reason we did the re-edition was to show that the Offshore design was always timeless and peerless. We are distributing 250 pieces throughout 2018 and it will probably stay in our collection for the years to come. It’s like the re-edition of the 5402, the first Royal Oak and for the 40th anniversary, we released the 15202 as part of our regular collection. It’s something we are planning to keep.

Something that struck me was that there were fewer high jewellery pieces this year and more bejewelled Offshores, what was the rationale?

This year we decided to merge high jewellery with high watchmaking. This is why we focused on our first concept for ladies. By merging both worlds, I wanted to find a complication which still allowed us to play with the design. In this case, we felt that the flying tourbillon would be perfect, the first in the Audemars Piguet world. Then when we started working that, we decided to take it to the concept GMT for men; we made two versions for women including a baguette set diamond version with the invisible setting technique, the white gold frame virtually disappears, it’s a brilliant high jewellery piece because the stones look virtually suspended. As you know, at Audemars Piguet high jewellery and high complications are not mutually exclusive, we like to have a full collection to offer.

Not to assume, based on your joining of high jewellery and high complications, your counterpart over at Cartier, Marie-Laure feels that women have a long way to go towards enjoying highly complicated watches, do you agree with this position?

I don’t believe it’s a long way. The interest is definitely on the rise and I believe it’s our job to keep informing them and talk to them in their language, and that’s what we are doing with the concept watch and as you have seen in the Millenary. This year we are doing strap animations, we’re doing opal, we are frosting the case, we have incorporated a mechanical calibre which has taken us five years to develop. We want them to see the beating heart through the dial of the watch while having personal contact with the piece through daily winding of the watch. I don’t believe we have a long way. Women love to have choices – you can have a quartz watch or a mechanical piece, and if its communicated in the way they understand, they will appreciate. It’s not that we’re less interested in technical pieces, we are just less interested in technical words. It just needs to be communicated in a more romantic way.

How do you balance between creating what they want and creating a need that they will want?

This is what we do when creating a signature Audemars Piguet timepiece for both men and women. We are rule breakers. The difference between Apple and Samsung is that Samsung does focus groups to understand what clients want. Apple doesn’t ask, they just create things that people need. I believe that we are Apple of the horological world. Yes, we do look at what our competitors do to stay informed and then we decide what we can do that will be completely unexpected yet exactly what the people need. It’s not only in terms of movement but with design. Look at the Royal Oak Offshore 25th anniversary, it’s a totally design driven piece- case, bezel, strap, buckle, bridges, push pieces, push piece guards, we considered everything. Of course it creates some controversy, much as the original Offshore did in 1993. Look at where we are today.

Keep a look out for Part 2 where we catch up with other watch designers who have long toiled in the shadows of watchmakers.

25 years: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore 2018 Re-Edition of the 1993 Model

While the superlative Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin took a bit of the limelight off the 25th birthday of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore, it’s important to understand that without the Royal Oak Offshore and the revenues provided by this best selling hit, it would make cool, high horology concepts like the RD#2 a little harder to sell for one of Swiss watchmaking’s last independent brands. Audemars Piguet is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Royal Oak Offshore with a 2018 Re-Edition of the 1993 model.

25 years Young: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore 2018 Re-Edition of the 1993 Model

Not too long ago, it was intimated to us by Audemars Piguet CEO François-Henry Bennahmias that there was some drama surrounding the birth of the Royal Oak Offshore. First, there were minor fisticuffs at the Le Brassus manufacture when a young designer named Emmanuel Gueit clashed with a veteran watchmaker over the potential of the then unheard of 42mm gargantuan beast. Second, the father of the Royal Oak himself, Gerald Genta had visited Audemars Piguet during the launch at Baselworld to decry the maison’s efforts at ruining his vision and design.

It’s a point of historical irony that Genta never experienced a sense of deja vu considering that his own magnum opus had itself experienced similar controversies – an octagonal watch in a metaphorical industry-wide circular “hole”; furthermore, a stainless-steel watch retailing for what prices approaching those of precious metal timepieces, the Royal Oak has had a legacy of disruptive firsts.

Following large footsteps, 21 years after the fact, the Royal Oak was primed for a remake and Gueit pioneered the idea of large behemoth watches into the collecting zeitgeist and its continued popularity belies its history of initial resistance within the company from the very top at the time, Georges-Henri Meylan. Nevertheless, cooler heads prevailed and the company already known for “breaking the rules” because they had mastered them, led the “Offshore” (because it was not so named at its birthed and certainly not marked as Offshores on casebacks as it is today) to a launch as a variation rather than as a standalone collection.

Since then, it has won a solid fan base and become a platform for innovation for the Le Brassus watchmaker and since then more than 120 references of the 42mm Royal Oak Offshore has been launched over the years in a wide range of materials including titanium, ceramic, forged carbon, gold and platinum.

2018 Re-Edition of the 1993 Model Price and Specs

The first Offshore was a respectful homage to the original, replicating the original blue Petite Tapisserie dial much like its historical predecessor. The 2018 celebratory re-edition remains faithful to that model, keeping its stainless steel case, blue rubber crown and pushpieces; everything save for the movement. In the original, the Offshore chronograph calibre was a 2126/2840 from Jaeger-LeCoultre, today it bears the selfwinding 3126/3840 movement that incorporates 25 years of horological upgrades and improvements.

Movement Automatic calibre 3126/3840 with 50 hours power reserve
Case 42mm stainless-steel case with 100 meters water resistance
Strap Stainless steel bracelet with AP folding clasp
Price SG$38,800

SIHH 2018 Audemars Piguet Royal RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin

The 12 o’clock moonphase of the new Audemars Piguet SIHH 2018 Royal RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin pays homage to the Le Brassus manufacture’s first perpetual calendar wristwatch released in 1955.

For SIHH 2018 Audemars Piguet unveils the Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin, the world’s thinnest self-winding perpetual calendar. At just 6.30 mm thick, the Audemars Piguet Royal RD#2 marks a new watchmaking record, the latest in a long line of world firsts for the Le Brassus watchmaker.

SIHH 2018 Audemars Piguet Royal RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin

January 2017, Audemars Piguet celebrated the 40th anniversary of the first yellow gold Royal Oak with the release of a new Royal Oak Ultra-Thin Ref. 15202 “Jumbo” in the same material. With a case thickness of 8.1mm, the Royal Oak Ultra-Thin Ref. 15202 with AP caliber 2121 (originally a JLC 920 modified for use in the ref. 5402 from 1972; eventually, intellectual property rights became wholly owned by AP and the calibre 2121 officially became an in-house movement). We mention this for context because manufacture’s calibre 2121 with central winding rotor was a mere 3.05mm thick and for SIHH 2018 Audemars Piguet has busted its record for both an ultra-thin model and icing-on-cake, the addition of a high complication in it.


Thinnest ever, but no compromise on quality: 40-hour power reserve, and same frequency (2.75 Hz / 19’800 vibrations per hour) as calibre 5134

Introducing the Audemars Piguet ultra-thin 5133 calibre with perpetual calendar

The Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin joins the maison’s penchant for high horology and ultra-thin movement with a movement of entirely their own design and manufacture – the new  ultra-thin 5133 calibre with perpetual calendar.

Taking years to develop and re-engineer, the AP calibre 5133 essentially takes a three-storey movement with basic time and a multi indication perpetual calendar and then ingeniously alters movement architecture to fit all the components found within a single level, making it ultra-thin while combining and re-arranging functions to boost ergonomy, efficiency and robustness.

As a result, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin calibre 5133 now features a patented system features a record- shattering 2.89 mm central rotor, 0.26mm thinner as compared to the calibre 2121; and in terms of case size, the Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin is just 6.30 mm, shaving almost 2 mm off the Royal Oak Extra-Thin Jumbo, making the new Audemars Piguet SIHH 2018 novelty the thinnest self-winding perpetual calendar on the market today.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Price and Specs

Case 950 platinum case with 20 metres water resistance
Movement Automatic self-winding manufacture Calibre 5133 with 40 hours power reserve
Strap 950 platinum bracelet with AP folding clasp
Price TBA at Press Presentation. Updates to follow.


New Watch: Audemars Piguet Millenary now available in Frosted Gold Edition

Created in collaboration with Florentine jewellery designer, Carolina Bucci, the Frosted Gold technique was last seen on the 41mm men’s Royal Oak and before that women’s 37mm Royal Oak Frosted Gold edition. Today, Swiss Manufacture Audemars Piguet was proud to present its new line of Millenary timepieces including a new Frosted Gold edition of the Millenary.

Unveiled during Dubai Watch Week, the trio of new Audemars Piguet Millenary watches including the new Millenary Frosted Gold, was an ultra-lavish but still exceedingly feminine luxury women’s watch based on the concept of imagining a watch from the inside out, exposing the beating heart (read: balance wheel) held aloft the signature “Batman” bridge in a distinctive oval form hand-wound manufacture calibre built back to front.

New Watch: Audemars Piguet Millenary Collection now available including one Frosted Gold Edition

First created in 1995, the latest women’s Audemars Piguet Millenary collection was launched in 2015 but for 2018, the Le Brassus manufacture adds new ‘second-skin type’ metal bracelets to the white and rose gold cases from the 2015 collection. Thus, the trio of new Millenary watches which join the collection may look aesthetically different but join the existing collection rather than replace them.

Essentially, the case (both white gold and rose gold) and dial remain of The Millenary remain unchanged; the manufacture added a touch of elegance through Polish bracelets, bequeathing vintage appeal – thanks to the nostalgic links (no pun intended) to the 50s and 60s when Milanese bracelets were all the rage, that said, they have the appearance of Milanese or shark-mesh bracelets but the brand considers them to be different due to construction techniques used (see the section below). The Polish finished precious metal bracelets are not only comfortable but supple akin to a second skin with adjustable links every 5mm, allowing her wearer to find a perfect fit. Stylistically, the polished Milanese bracelets complement the oval shape of the case and the roman numerals on the dial.


In addition to the polished Milanese or as some have come to know them as “shark-mesh” bracelets, the Millenary line is also enriched by a new version featuring an opal dial, introducing this fine stone for the first time on a Millenary timepiece. The Millenary Frosted Gold edition is also the first outside of the Royal Oak collection to use the finishing technique.

The defining feature of the Frosted Gold resides in its shimmering sparkle, which in turn comes from a surface treatment process rooted in an ancient gold “hammering” technique, also called the Florentine technique. By beating the gold with a diamond tipped pneumatic tool vibrating at 200Hz (12,000 beats/minute), it creates tiny indentations on the surface that give a sparkle effect similar to that of precious stones, like diamond dust. For this new Millenary, the bezel, the inner bezel, the top of the lugs and the case’s sides at 9 and 3 o’clock have been frosted.

About Audemars Piguet’s new Millenary Polish bracelet…

The Audemars Piguet’s new Millenary Polish bracelet is the result of rolling-up a thread around an axis. This thread is then directed to the right, then to the left, to create a regular alternation, whereas on the Milanese bracelet, the wires are all threaded in the same direction. The Polish finishing offers new challenges to the production process, as each bracelet is individually handmade.

Audemars Piguet’s new Millenary Price and Specs

Case  18-carat pink gold case with 20m water-resistant
Movement Hand-wound Manufacture calibre 5201 with 49 hour power reserve
Strap 18-carat pink gold bracelet with folding clasp
Price TBC


Case 18-carat white gold case with 20m water resistance
Movement Hand-wound Manufacture calibre 5201 with 49 hours power reserve
Strap 18-carat white gold bracelet with folding clasp.
Price TBC


Case Hammered and satin-finished 18-carat pink gold case with 20m water resistance
Movement Hand-wound Manufacture calibre 5201 with 49 hour power reserve
Strap Hammered blue rubber strap with 18-carat pink gold pin buckle. Additional alligator straps in light blue and black. rubber straps
Price TBC

3 Desirable Watches Up for Bids Phillips Watches Hong Kong Watch Auction: FIVE

International auction house Phillips will be hosting The Hong Kong Watch Auction: FIVE on 28 November at Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong. But before that these 3 superlative, highly desirable, investment grade timepieces: Lot 944 Patek Philippe. Ref. 5073P-001, Lot 915 Audemars Piguet. Ref. 26381OR and Lot 832 A. Lange & Söhne. Ref. 824.035 up for auction by Philips Watches will be on display at the Mandarin Oriental from the 23rd till the 27th of November.

3 Desirable Watches Up for Bids at Phillips Watches Hong Kong Watch Auction: FIVE on 28 November

The Rolex Ref. 5100 was made in a limited 1000 piece run and it was also the first Rolex to be equipped with a sapphire glass and quick-set date.

The Hong Kong Watch Auction: FIVE is highly anticipated and among them, a rather rare Rolex Ref. 5100 Beta 21(Lot 902), considered a Holy Grail for Rolex aficionados – the Beta-21 stands for a period of innovation and experimentation in Swiss watch history where the Ref. 5100 was made in a limited 1000 piece run and it was also the first Rolex to be equipped with a sapphire glass and quick-set date. As the precursor to Rolex’s own in house Oysterquartz watches, the vintage Rolex Beta 21 has a special place amongst collectors; Also up for bids is a Philippe Dufour Simplicity (Lot 942) and an Audemars Piguet Ref. 5402 ST Royal Oak ‘A Series’ (Lot 842), these might not be the most expensive timepieces up for auction but they’re certainly among the most horologically significant. Here are our top 3 desired picks up for auction at the upcoming November 28 Philips Hong Kong Watch Auction.

Phillips Hong Kong Watch Auction Lot 944 Patek Philippe. Ref. 5073P-001. Estimate: $400,000 – $700,000

Launched in 2011, Patek Philippe. Ref. 5073P-001 is among Patek Phllippe’s most lavish creations to date. Fitted with baguette diamonds to the bezel and lugs, the model’s diamond weight adds up to an impressive 5.288 carats, giving it an unmistakable presence on the wrist.

Auction Lot 944 Patek Philippe. Ref. 5073P-001 is exceedingly rare and this is the third to appear for auction to date

The Reference 5073 was only available to Patek Philippe’s most exclusive clients and produced upon special request. It was incredibly time consuming for the firm to find such well-matched diamonds, and setting the baguette stones was extremely laborious. As a result very few examples were manufactured, making this reference exceedingly rare, as confirmed by the fact that the present watch is only the third reference 5073 to ever appear on the auction market thus far.

Fitted with a perpetual calendar complication, Phillips Hong Kong auction Lot 944 Patek Philippe. Ref. 5073P also has a minute repeating mechanism which chimes with great clarity and tone. Of note are the particularly long cathedral gongs, which are almost twice as long as conventional gongs. These ensure that watch has a deeper tone with longer resonance. This is particularly noteworthy as the present watch is cased in platinum, which can cause the watch to chime less brightly than their gold counterparts, due to the density of the metal.

This watch is furthermore accompanied by its original certificate and portfolio photograph and Extract from the Archives. It is interesting to note that the sale date on the Extract does not match the date on the Certificate. This because Patek Philippe archives record, for watches sent to the USA, the date the watch is sold to their American distributor – the Henry Stern Agency – while of course the Certificate mentions the sale date to the final client.

Phillips Hong Kong Watch Auction Lot 915 Audemars Piguet. Ref. 26381OR. Estimate: $150,000 – $300,000

The Lot 915 diamond-set Audemars Piguet. Ref. 26381OR Millenary marries its bold aesthetic with the diamonds off-set by the pink gold of the case and the onyx highlights. With a carat count of approximately 11 carats, the Ref. 26381OR Millenary is both a jewellery piece and mechanical marvel, with skeletonized tourbillon movement. In excellent condition, the watch comes complete with box and papers and is impressive to behold. Coincidentally, Audemars Piguet is launching a new series of Millenary timepieces for SIHH 2018, a gentle uptick in awareness and desirability for the auction piece usually ensues with the renewed interest.

Phillips Hong Kong Watch Auction Lot 832 A. Lange & Söhne. Ref. 824.035. Estimate – $75,000 – $100,000

The Phillips Hong Kong Watch Auction Lot 832 A. Lange & Söhne. Ref. 824.035 is an outstandingly rare and attractive variation of what can arguably be considered the most sophisticated chronograph wristwatch ever designed: the Lange double split. The hefty platinum case – now discontinued – is furthermore lavishly fitted with 48 baguette-cut Top Wesselton VVS diamonds for a total of 5.2 carats. The icy beauty of the white metal and the brilliance of the diamonds create a perfect contrast with the black dial, for a breathtaking aesthetic effect. The technical side of this piece is no less momentous than its aesthetic impact.

Phillips Hong Kong Watch Auction Lot 832 A. Lange & Söhne. Ref. 824.035 in now discontinued platinum case.

When the Double Split was presented to the public in 2004, it was hailed with unbridled acclaim by industry experts, serious collectors, and simple enthusiasts alike. Hardly ever has a new model been so positively received, and such a response was indisputably more than deserved.

Split seconds chronographs are used to time two events happening simultaneously. As a matter of fact, the split second complication (or “rattrappante”) is one of the most daunting complications in watchmaking, comparable to the minute repeater. The mechanical complexity of having the second hand re-set properly and precisely on top of the running first one when released presents enormous technical challenges. In the case of the Double Split, however, Lange pushed the boundaries of portable watchmaking even further, and added a split minute counter as well. This overcomes one of the great limitations of the “classic” rattrappante: the fact that the two events being timed could not have a difference in length superior to one minute. The Double Split allows to record separate times with a difference of up to 30 minutes instead.

The inspiration for this movement comes from an historical Lange watch, a pocket timepiece dating to the end of the 19th century; The result of such an effort is what is considered by many the ultimate chronograph movement, not only for its technical complexity, but also for the flawless finishing and sheer aesthetic beauty.

Men’s 41mm Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Frosted Gold

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Frosted Gold was originally introduced at SIHH 2017 in 33m and 37mm, white and rose gold cases and while many considered the case proportions to be better suited for women, I was recalling the original Royal Oak watches launched by Audemars Piguet at the then Swiss Watch Show (eventually rebranded Baselworld) in 1972 and those were 39mm in diameter. Thus, harbouring daydreams that a 37mm Royal Oak Frosted Gold might suffice on the wrist, I was determined to make do with the more gentlemanly proportions and then came the new 41mm Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Frosted Gold.

Men’s 41mm Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Frosted Gold

Following the success of the women’s Royal Oak Frosted Gold model, Audemars Piguet returns, officially this time (because CEO Benhamias was wearing a prototype 41mm Royal Oak Frosted Gold for men when he was conducting presentations of the smaller women’s Frosted Gold editions), in a new Limited Edition run of 200 pieces. The men’s 41mm Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Frosted Gold boasts the same elegant features which made the smaller Frosted Gold Royal Oak such a mega hit:18-carat white gold case and bracelet, gorgeous blue “Grande Tapisserie” dial and the iconic Royal Oak hands which light the face of the Frosted Gold Royal Oak a glow in the twilight hours.

The appearance of frosted gold can be achieved through galvanic techniques as in the case of the baseplate in Max Busser’s latest (and last) MB&F Legacy Machine Split Escapement but on the dazzling Royal Oak Frosted Gold collection, Audemars Piguet works in collaboration with jewellery designer Carolina Bucci. Here, Bucci applies her heritage artisanal hammering technique to the new Men’s 41mm Royal Oak Frosted Gold. Known as the Florentine Finish, this ancient technique was used to create a textured surface decoration on precious metal accessories and jewellery by beating the gold with a diamond tipped tool and creating an all encompassing tapestry of glittering surfaces through countless tiny indentations, giving rise to a shimmering effect similar to that of diamond dust. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Frosted Gold simply dazzles as it catches glints of light, however faint.

It should not go unsaid, that the larger 41mm diameter also implies that the painstaking work is exponentially harder due to the increased surfaces across the signature gradating bracelet architecture and its connecting links – there is literally more surface area to hammer and while keeping in mind that the polished and satin finished surfaces need to be considered as the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is transformed into a Frosted Gold edition.

While the original 33mm and 37mm Royal Oak Frosted Gold were available in a choice of white gold and yellow gold with silvery dial,  the new 41mm Royal Oak Frosted Gold comes in white gold only with blue tapisserie dial. Beneath its shimmering visage, the Royal Oak Frosted Gold 41mm is powered by the manufacture 3120 with 60 hours power reserve.

Men’s Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Frosted Gold 41mm Price and Specs

Movement Automatic winding calibre 3120 with 60 hours power reserve
Case 41mm white gold case in Florentine Finish wit 50 metre water resistance
Strap Florentine Finished white gold integrated bracelet
Price US$55,000 in limited edition of 200 pieces

There’s more… Introducing the Audemars Piguet Cufflinks Family

Accompanying the new Royal Oak Frosted Gold 41mm are an accessories collection of six new pairs of Audemars Piguet Royal Oak cufflinks – three in stainless steel with either blue, black or silver “Tapisserie” pattern in the center. Two in pink gold with blue or black “tapisserie” in the center and last but not least, one in yellow gold with a blue “Tapisserie” pattern in the centre – all the Audemars Piguet Cufflinks feature the signature hallmarks of the Royal Oak watch – the distinctive hexagonal screws and the unmistakable octagonal shape.


Audemars Piguet for Material Good: Royal Oak Tourbillon Chronograph Openworked


In the middle of New York’s SoHo, perched on a second-floor loft on 120 Wooster Street sits Material Good, an ambitious new concept luxury goods store, owned by Rob Ronen and Michael Herman who curate a selection of high-end pieces – everything from watches to birkins – both new and pre-owned. Two years on, Herman and Ronen’s exquisite taste presented amidst a store filled with tasteful designer touches like a Douglas Little light fixture, a shearling daybed and walls of textured gold and silver, convinced the Le Brassus manufacture to launch a collaboration watch: an Audemars Piguet for Material Good Royal Oak Tourbillon Chronograph Openworked

Audemars Piguet for Material Good: Royal Oak Tourbillon Chronograph Openworked

As authorised dealers for Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille, the Material Good Royal Oak Tourbillon Chronograph Openworked holds its own even as the pair sit in a collection of other high profile timepieces including pedigree vintage watches from Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

Originally released in platinum at SIHH 2016, the new Royal Oak Tourbillon Chronograph Openworked ref. 26347 for Material Good is now available in pink gold  and titanium after extensive creative consultation between Audemars Piguet and the SoHo luxury retailer – a rarity considered that Material Good is only two years old but definitely representative on how the retailer has served as taste-makers and trendsetters for the wider New York area that the Le Brassus watchmaker even considered collaboration with such a relatively young boutique.

“When we were conceptualizing Material Good, we knew selling complications would be a priority from the beginning; The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Tourbillon Chronograph Openworked speaks to that on every level. It is an incredible achievement both in terms of engineering and craftsmanship, and we are proud to offer such an exceptional timepiece to our discerning clientele.” – Rob Ronen, co-founder

The Audemars Piguet Material Good Royal Oak Openworked Chronograph evokes the dramatism and refinement of the original octagonal skeleton timepiece with stopwatch functionality and visual spectacle of well finished tourbillon complication at 6 o’clock, into large-ish 44mm case proportions.

As befitting a six figure watch, haute horlogerie finishing characteristic from Audemars Piguet is on display on everything from the case-work, calibre decoration, to the practiced knowledge of high complications are all on display for the new Material Good AP Royal Oak Openworked Chronograph.

AP Material Good Royal Oak Tourbillon Chronograph Openworked Limited Edition Price and Availability

The new Royal Oak Openworked Chronograph Limited Edition is available exclusively in a 25 piece (pink gold and titanium) run at Audemars Piguet boutiques and Material Good, New York.

Movement Manual-wind Audemars Piguet in-house caliber 2936 with 72 hours power reserve
Case 44mm x 13.2mm 18kt rose gold or in titanium, water resistant to 20 meters
Bracelet 18kt rose gold or titanium bracelet with a folding clasp
Price US$297,000 for pink gold and US$261,000 in titanium


Shape Your Time: Exploring Square and Form Watches of 2017



Square watches, or in industry parlance: form or shaped watches are a fairly sizeable segment (given that Cartier produces AND sells so many of them, but more on that later). That is to say, even though there’s a preponderance of round watches in the industry, the belief that square or shaped watches only have a niche appeal is fundamentally unsound. However, significant conversations with retailers and brands alike all indicate that the round watch, if anything, will dominate even more than it already does. For our part, we find this very disappointing indeed.

The much-reported preference of markets (apparently everywhere) for round watches seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy that no brand has seriously challenged. Well, one brand is challenging it but because that brand is Apple, watchmaking firms have only expressed tepid interest. More often than not, the companies have expressed aggressive disinterest.

Shape Your Time: 2017 Resurgence of Form Watches

This will mean that square watches will indeed be scarce, as we will illustrate here, and that fact represents an opportunity for the most consummate of collectors. The important thing is of course to see if there is enough demand to create the right sort of imbalance. Of course, we will be steering clear of making predictions as to investment value and such. Our purpose here is only to highlight an opportunity.

Designing Time

Before getting into that, let us look at the design situation at the turn of the last century, when the taste for wristwatches was still nascent. Louis Cartier was a jeweler with a penchant for what former Cartier CEO Franco Cologni called square surfaces. It was at the turn of the previous century that Cartier entered into its famous partnership with Parisian watchmaker Edmond Jaeger, who himself was tied up with the LeCoultre watchmaking company in Switzerland. This partnership prefigured the commercial launch of the Santos watch in 1911, a move that heralded the arrival of all sorts of new shapes in watchmaking.

The Panthere de Cartier is the major form watch release for 2017 that carries the codes of the Tank and the Santos, as seen below and right.

The Panthere de Cartier is the major form watch release for 2017 that carries the codes of the Tank and the Santos, as seen below and right.

At this time, before watchmakers and the public had any idea of what the ideal wristwatch would be, it was truly a free-for-all in terms of design. According to Cologni, in his book Cartier The Tank Watch, Louis Cartier was moved first and foremost by form, believing it to be more important than function. Arguably, this is the beginning of an idea that has an inherent weakness for the development and future of wristwatches– that function should follow form.

In contemporary times, the late Apple impresario Steve Jobs redefined this with his products, recognizing that “design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” As far as watchmaking goes, the idea that design is how the object itself functions speaks to why so many watches today are round. Our daily time is indeed circular because that is what happens when you track the hours and minutes with hands. This powerful idea then shapes a powerful commercial argument.

Audemars Piguet is one of the few with a strong oval watch collection that also comes with a shaped movement

Audemars Piguet is one of the few with a strong oval watch collection that also comes with a shaped movement

The Audemars Piguet Millenary Quadriennium brought to life from the sketch before

The Audemars Piguet Millenary Quadriennium brought to life from the sketch before

Fragmented Collections

When asked about the new IWC Da Vinci being round despite the 2007 version being a refreshingly complex tonneau-tortue shape, here is what then-IWC CEO Georges Kern said: “The point is, 70 percent of the market is round watches. And the shaped segment is very limited and further segmented: square, rectangular, baignoire, tonneau… At the size IWC is today, with our reach, you need to be round because that’s what the market is.”

Kern was heading up watchmaking, marketing and digital for the Richemont Group overall so what he says carries weight far beyond IWC.

By virtue of its contrast bezel, the Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 PAM684 is a form watch hiding in round clothes.

By virtue of its contrast bezel, the Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 PAM684 is a form watch hiding in round clothes.

Despite predictions to the contrary, the Apple Watch Series 2 stuck with the rectangular shape and is water resistant to 50 metres.

Despite predictions to the contrary, the Apple Watch Series 2 stuck with the rectangular shape and is water resistant to 50 metres.

Franck Muller enjoyed a peak in the 90s and the early 2000s giving tonneau shaped watches a boost in popularity, pictured here, the Vanguard Fullback

Franck Muller enjoyed a peak in the 90s and the early 2000s giving tonneau shaped watches a boost in popularity, pictured here, the Vanguard Fullback

In fact, Kern’s estimation is generous considering that most informed sources consider round watches to be closer to 80 percent of the market. Before proceeding though, the market itself requires some definition because it does not only include the high-end market, meaning watches above US$1,000. In a 2015 article on the then-upcoming Apple Watch Series 2, no less than Forbes predicted that Apple would abandon its signature look in favour of the more conventional round shape. This prediction was based on the input of industry insiders and the like, and no doubt also took Jobs’ own philosophy into account. Of course, Apple confounded these expectations, illustrating again the hazards of journalists predicting outcomes. Considering that the Apple Watch 2 is both a status symbol and below US$1,000 (it is available for as little as $398 from the Apple Store), its very existence threatens the narrative that the market is overwhelmingly interested in round watches.

Exploring Form and Shaped Watches

Despite being, in the official lingo “timeless”, watches certainly mirror the era they are made and released in. This is what makes vintage watches from some periods – particularly the Art Deco age – so distinctive. Given the importance of heritage to the core of Swiss watchmaking – fine and otherwise – the brands have done a good job of retaining certain aesthetic touches across the ages. We have already gone into why Jaeger-LeCoultre shares the rectangular watch crown with Cartier. Both these firms maintain and champion in the 21st century a look that was already classic in the 1950s. But form watches – which are otherwise known as shaped watches – are not just rectangular of course

Patent drawing of the original Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

Patent drawing of the original Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

The 2017 Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Duo owns the form space in classical styling

The 2017 Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Duo owns the form space in classical styling

In official parlance, any watch that isn’t round is called a “form watch.” So that means everything from cushion-shaped Panerai watches to every collection from Cartier other than the Drive de Cartier, Cle de Cartier and Calibre de Cartier; we would argue that the popular Ballon Bleu is actually a form watch because it has a tactile appeal arising from its pebble shape. To look at the number of models in the form watch segment itself, we can only reference other magazines. Armbanduhren, a specialty German watch catalog, lists more than 1,000 models of watches (and has done since we began paying attention, in 2011). Of these more than 900 are round, meaning that form watches are roughly 10 percent of the annual offering.

If we take these numbers to base an extrapolation on, then we have roughly 10 percent of the watch models in any given year vying for potentially 30 percent of the market. Of course, we have no way of knowing just how many pieces are made and sold directly but it seems a good bet that only Cartier will be selling form watches in significant numbers.

Drive de Cartier pushes the cushion-shaped aesthetic, here in extra flat form.

Drive de Cartier pushes the cushion-shaped aesthetic, here in extra flat form.

This brings us to sales, briefly. Forbes ranks Rolex as the top-selling brand of high-end Swiss watches and Omega as the third. Guess what brand occupies the second rung? Yes, the standard-bearer of form watches itself, the Panthere of fine watchmaking, Cartier sells the most watches annually, other than Rolex.

Square and Rectangle Watches

The Tank is probably the most famous form watch in the world, rivaled only by the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. If one throws in the very popular and aforementioned Santos, also from Cartier, as well as the Twenty4, Nautilus and Aquanaut from Patek Philippe, and the Cintrex Curvex from Franck Muller, these are probably the most widely known form watches on the planet. Leaving all these aside and returning to just Cartier, this powerful brand has sought to increase its market share by unleashing an array of round watches but of these, the Ballon Bleu is so rounded that it resembles a sort of magical pebble that tells the time. The shape of this watch is, arguably, what made it an unqualified success. Nevertheless, Cartier clearly feels like its best shot at gaining market share lies with round watches, lending no small amount of credence to Kern’s statement.

Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5168G

Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5168G

The Bulgari Octo Tourbillon Sapphire shows off its form with a sapphire case middle

The Bulgari Octo Tourbillon Sapphire shows off its form with a sapphire case middle


In the early days of wristwatches (pocket watches were almost universally round and so are contemporary executions, Tom Ford’s attempt to transform the Apple Watch notwithstanding), firms experimented with wildly differing shapes, only a few of which remain well known today. In the era of properly water resistant watches though, most wristwatches are round and that is just because it is much simpler to achieve ISO water resistance standards when the case of the watch is round. Once again, function keeps interfering with the notion of the form watch

The reason for this water resistance bit could very well fill another article but, to cover it briefly and intuitively, just think of how easily a rubber gasket would work with a round watch as opposed to a rectangular one. It is for this reason that even brands with a yen for specific shapes (or even just one shape in particular) opt for the round shape when necessary.

Bell & Ross makes a point about exceptional water resistance (300 metres) with the BR 03-92 Diver

Bell & Ross makes a point about exceptional water resistance (300 metres) with the BR 03-92 Diver

Function versus Form

An excellent, if obvious, case in point here is the Richard Mille diver watch while the equally obvious counterpoint is Bell & Ross. In fact, Bell & Ross raised the roof at BaselWorld this year by releasing a diver’s watch that maintained the brand’s signature square look. It is important to note that in this case, no pun intended, the display of time is round allowing Bell & Ross to package both form and function into the mix; obviously, the brand had to work hard to achieve exceptional water resistance in this unusual shape and that should only increase its appeal.

This example aside, function is arguably the strongest reason explaining why the watchmaking trade has doubled down on the round shape in recent years, The aforementioned standard bearers of form watches such as Jaeger-LeCoultre and Cartier are both betting big on round while Omega – once a stellar producer of shaped watches – now only features the odd bullhead and Ploprof for variation. Omega is the third largest maker of high-end mechanical timepieces in Switzerland and it has no other shape in its regular collections but round.

Richard Mille RM50-03

Richard Mille RM50-03

As for the number one spot, Rolex reintroduced the world to the rectangular Prince in 2005 in what was then considered to be yet another of the brand’s calculated surprise moves. It followed up by proposing the Cellini as a brand new tuxedo-friendly family in its collection. Unfortunately, Rolex unceremoniously ditched the rectangular Prince, with the model not even worthy of a mention on its website. If you have never heard of the Rolex Prince, it is as if it never existed…

What is particularly unfortunate here is that this is Rolex, a brand unafraid to go its own way. Perhaps no other major brand would take a chance on something major that would require some getting used to, such as the Sky-Dweller and the Yacht-Master II. If the rectangular Prince can’t make it here then the majors are truly closed for business on the form watch side. On the other hand, there are still pristine examples of the Prince available and this quirky little dressy number may yet have its day.


Chameleons: A Case in Between

All this points to the obvious truth that few brands care enough about the form segment to flood the market with options, making what’s available all the more precious. This is what Officine Panerai so smartly trades on, even resolving professional tool watch issues without compromising on the shape of the watches. Brands such as this are few and far between, and bring this story to a special class of offerings.

Audemars Piguet leads the way in disguising round watches as form watches... or is it vice versa?

Audemars Piguet leads the way in disguising round watches as form watches… or is it vice versa?

Another great chameleon in this arena is Audemars Piguet, the maker of the highly idiosyncratic Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore watches. The shape here feels distinctive yet it maintains a sort of amorphous state, being perhaps close enough to being round that the unsuspecting eye accepts it as such. Of course, it might also be a round watch masquerading as an octagonal one. Indeed, case, bezel and crystal all come together in masterful fashion to surprise both eye and hand. In short, it is a rather beautiful ambiguity that Audemars Piguet shares here with Panerai.

Other brands too have their place here, including one collection from Patek Philippe with a shared progenitor as the Royal Oak – the Nautilus, and by extension the Aquanaut. Speaking of the great Gerald Genta, it would be remiss to ignore the current Bulgari Octo collection. Bulgari’s determination to convince the world of the virtues of its Octo shape is remarkable, making this brand one of the leading lights of the form watch segment.

Engine of Demand

Taken together, the brands that champion form watches because that is what they must do to survive and, further to that, thrive, perform an invaluable service to watchmaking as a whole – and to collectors by extension. They serve to drive the engine of demand, which is a far more difficult beast to understand than supply.

To put it another way, if while pushing their own goals and growth targets, these corporations also happen to create a little demand for gems of the past such as the A. Lange & Sohne Cabaret or the Rolex Prince, so much the better for collectors, especially those who are already moving in this direction. For those on the sidelines, the success of a particular model can lead to the brand reviving the model in its current collection or increasing its offering, thus building even more cachet and demand. There is actually a proper example of this, which brings us back to Audemars Piguet and Cartier.

The original release of the so-called Series A of the Royal Oak numbered only 1,000 watches yet the ensuing popularity of the model translated to innumerable iterations over the years. This collection – and the Royal Oak Offshore – probably contributes the lion’s share of the brand’s reported figure of 40,000 plus watches sold annually. Finishing our tale at Cartier, where we started, the success of the Tank watch might arguably be correlated to the success of Cartier as a force in high-end watchmaking. While the Royal Oak has just the Royal Oak Offshore as an offshoot, the Tank has quite a number of descendants. The popularity of the Tank with collectors inspired Cartier to create extensive options here, with no less than six different families of Tank watches available, with multiple references in each family. Not bad at all for a watch that started with just six models for sale in Paris in 1919.

Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30 Degree Asymmetrical

Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30 Degree Asymmetrical

Minor Leagues: Where Independent watchmakers stand on Shaped Watches

Where the big brands have circled the wagons, so to speak, it is quite a different story at smaller outfits such as Azimuth, Bell & Ross, MB&F, SevenFriday, Urwerk and others. Certainly some, especially classical names such as Philippe Dufour and Laurent Ferrier, trade on a certain inner beauty but even here, some are not afraid to bust out of the circle. This is most obvious in the watches of Greubel Forsey, where the cases literally bulge in odd ways when the function calls for it. Obviously, when one makes very small numbers of watches it is possible to take certain risks. Here’s how Max Busser of MB&F puts it:

“It’s a question of horological integrity; I’ve said from the beginning that MB&F is not going to put round movements in funky shaped cases because we’re not designers. We’re mechanical artists. This is what separates marketers from creators; If you want to please the market you probably won’t take creative risks. The bigger the company, the more you will be inclined to please the market.”

Busser’s point here extends to watches at many different prices points, as evidenced by Kickstarter notables such as Momentum Labs, Helgray and Xeric. Obviously, Kickstarter projects are defined by the marketplace so the vast majority of projects there are round watches but there are significant alternatives, which one can discover by looking at the offering from those three names.


Form Watch Movements

Proportionally, it is rewarding when watchmakers equip a rectangular watch with a movement with exactly the right shape. In first half of the 20th century, it was quite normal to expect form watches to come with movements in the corresponding shape. The idea was to have the mechanical movement function as a sort of kinetic sculpture, one where function followed form. Today, form movements are the exception rather than the rule, even within the increasingly limited area of form watches. Given that form watches as a whole are like an endangered horological species, this story concerns itself with the shape of the watch as a whole rather than the shape of the movement.

The Tank Louis Cartier and Jaeger-LeCoultre calibre 944 are both examples of kinetic sculptures

The Tank Louis Cartier and Jaeger-LeCoultre calibre 944 are both examples of kinetic sculptures

Nevertheless, an entire class of collectors follows this segment and connoisseurs of mechanical watches are always pleased when watchmakers make an effort to match the shape of the movement with the shape of the watch so in this section we will look at the history of such efforts and suggest why they have fallen out of favor, although the simple answer as to why your cushion-shaped watch comes with a round movement is not hard to fathom: it makes sense from a cost and reliability perspective.

With apologies to Louis Cartier and to play devil’s advocate, what value does it really speak to that function should follow form? It is by no means a recent development that we consider function more important than form. To reference the main part of this story, this speaks to why the Apple Watch is rectangular.

Jobs’ design ideology finds its spiritual cousin in the watchmaking philosophy of Jaeger-LeCoultre, at least when it comes to the Reverso. Other than the Squadra, the Art Deco icon has always been equipped with a form movement and its case shape was dictated by function. The Reverso has the shape that it does to facilitate its defining reversible function. Function though is where form movements run into trouble, for one obvious reason: automatic winding, or rather the lack thereof.

The newly launched Tiffany Square Watch comes with its bonafide form, square shaped movement. A rarity even amongst specialist watchmakers.

The newly launched Tiffany Square Watch comes with its bonafide form, square shaped movement. A rarity even amongst specialist watchmakers.

Since at least the 1960s, the watch buying public has sought out automatic models. Once again, you can look to Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso models over the years to see how this played. For the most part, the Reverso has been equipped with manual-winding calibers, all form ones of course. For self-winding models, in the Reverso Squadra and elsewhere, the Grand Maison uses round movements. Cartier sidestepped the issue though because Edmond Jaeger designed and equipped the early Cartier form watches with round LeCoultre movements.

Check out the latest Tiffany Square Watch which joined body (and movement), the pantheon of shaped watches.


A Birthday in St. Tropez with Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Hotel Byblos

There was an important birthday recently celebrated in St. Tropez, one important enough that the likes of Rolls Royce and Dom Perignon were in attendance. The birthday boy? Hotel Byblos, and his most epic headline gift? The new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Hotel Byblos, an exclusive line of Royal Oak Offshore Summer Editions.

Two epic gifts were in attendance - the men's and women's limited edition Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Hotel Byblos.

Two epic gifts were in attendance – the men’s and women’s limited edition Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Hotel Byblos.

How Hotel Byblos Saint-Tropez got in bed with Audemars Piguet

Created in 1965 by a Lebanese businessman obsessed with Brigitte Bardot, Hotel Byblos was an inspired re-creation of Beirut’s Excelsior Hotel where Bardot was frequently a guest. Following two years of construction, Hotel Byblos was a resort-hotel the likes of which the world had never seen. Sited north of the Place des Lices and designed with its own Provençal village replete with signature alleyways, building aesthetics and of course, entertainment offerings.

Epic parties were held at Hotel Byblos St. Tropez even before the scenario in the Hangover movies were a thing.

Epic parties were held at Hotel Byblos St. Tropez even before the scenario in the Hangover movies were a thing.

Two years later, it was acquired by Group Floirat which made Le Byblos Saint-Tropez synonymous with the ultra-rich or the super-famous. Since then the world’s entertainment and financial elite have graced the Riviera either through long-term stays or almost marriage-ending wedding parties (as in the case of Mick Jagger and Bianca); it was a venue for the jet-set with clientele that was literally A-list.

Decades on, the Provençal village has flourished into a sprawling 17,000 sq m venue for debauched designer living and rooms for 91 guests. More notably, its database of guests and almost uncontrollable attraction to the ultra wealthy, has made Hotel Byblos the premier event venue for many luxury brands. But just because you are a luxury brand, doesn’t mean you get to appropriate the swagger of the Byblos brand.

Antoine Chevanne and Audemars Piguet CEO François-Henry Bennahmias have had a close relationship for the last 2 years as a result of Byblos Exclusive Editions. Eventually, it came to be known as the "BAP" pronounced Be Happy or (Byblos Audemars Piguet) collection.

Antoine Chevanne and Audemars Piguet CEO François-Henry Bennahmias have had a close relationship for the last two years as a result of Byblos Exclusive Editions. Eventually, it came to be known as the “BAP” pronounced Be Happy or (Byblos Audemars Piguet) collection.

Antoine Chevanne is CEO of Le Byblos Saint-Tropez, having served as General Manager at the legendary resort-hotel for five years before assuming the role, and he believes the secret of the hotel’s success lies in creating bespoke experiences for guests. Thus when he organised the 50th birthday celebrations, he made sure Hotel Byblos only worked with brands with the same philosophy and service standards- Goyard, Sisley, Missioni and of course Audemars Piguet. That said, Chevanne and Hotel Byblos’ association with the Le Brassus manufacture already began years ago.

“The cooperation began two years ago when I met with François-Henry at the Audemars Piguet manufacture in Le Brassus. I presented the Byblos Exclusive Series’ concept to him and he immediately loved it before deciding to rename it ‘B.A.P’ (pronounced Be Happy) for ‘Byblos – Audemars Piguet’.” – Antoine Chevanne, CEO, Hotel Byblos

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Hotel Byblos features the brand’s iconic tapisserie pattern and snailed subdials.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Hotel Byblos features the brand’s iconic tapisserie pattern and snailed subdials.

Limited Edition: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Hotel Byblos

It is a partnership that has blossomed into a relationship Audemars Piguet CEO François-Henry Bennahmias is proud to share, “Antoine and I got on really well from the moment we met. Not only is he a watch lover, but there was this instantaneous dynamic between the two of us with a similar vision of the future. We had to be a part of all this, you can’t miss Hotel Byblos turning 50 years young!”

The 44 mm pink gold Royal Oak Offshore Hotel Byblos men's edition comes in pink gold case with automatic chronograph 3126 calibre viewable through the exhibition case back. The case back is adorned with the hotel’s anniversary dates and its coat of arms depicting Europa and Zeus.

The 44 mm pink gold Royal Oak Offshore Hotel Byblos men’s edition is equipped with automatic chronograph 3126 calibre, viewable through the exhibition caseback. The caseback is adorned with the hotel’s anniversary dates and its coat of arms depicting Europa and Zeus.

The new Summer Edition Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore models launched for Hotel Byblos’ celebration were created in two versions: a women’s diamond-set piece in stainless steel and a men’s piece in 18kt pink gold. Both feature a caseback engraved with the hotel’s anniversary dates and its coat of arms depicting the myth of the Byblos: the abduction of Europa by Zeus.

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Hotel Byblos collection is a limited edition run with 50 men’s and 20 women’s watches.

The ladies edition of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Hotel Byblos features a bezel set with diamonds.

The ladies edition of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Hotel Byblos features a bezel set with diamonds.

The case back of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Hotel Byblos is decorated with the Byblos emblem like the one found on the men's version.

The caseback of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Hotel Byblos is decorated with the Byblos emblem like the one found on the men’s version.


The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in black ceramic has a case with water resistance of up to 50 metres

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in black ceramic

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in black ceramic has a case with water resistance of up to 50 metres

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in black ceramic has a case with water resistance of up to 50 metres

Yes, the Royal Oak is a cash cow (no jokes about Swiss Made cows here) for Audemars Piguet. It is the kind of animal any watch brand would love to have in their stable. The model and its Offshore descendants have been offered in various sizes and materials, and played host to numerous complications, subject to the whims and fancies of those fine watchmakers in Le Brassus. Its cult status is beyond dispute.

The Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar is regarded by many as the go-to choice if they were to only choose one Audemars Piguet watch. What’s not to like about a watch with an iconic design, a respected complication and practical wearability? The latest size, introduced not more than than two years ago, is moderate too, at 41 millimetres. Potential buyers previously had only the choices of stainless steel or gold, but now a black ceramic option is introduced, priced somewhere in between those options.

Adding to the delight, the watch is paired with a full ceramic bracelet so it is better prepared for the tropics or outdoors than if it were to come with a leather strap. According to Audemars Piguet, producing, polishing and assembling this ceramic bracelet requires five times more man-hours than a regular one in stainless steel.

Close-up view of the dial of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in black ceramic

Close-up view of the dial of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in black ceramic

The Grande Tapisserie dial is in a very dark slate grey, while the sub-dials are sunken and even darker for enhanced legibility. A central hand points to the number of weeks in the year on the dial flange. Although this is used on a more regional than global basis, it is a very good reminder of how much time we have left in the current year. It should also be noted that the graphical moon phase is the high accuracy sort, requiring one correction in just about 126 years.

At the heart of all the functions is the extra-thin automatic Calibre 5134. It is only 4.31 millimetres thick, thanks to the clever design where the outer radius of the rotor sinks into the recess around the periphery of the movement. A clear view of this is afforded by the sapphire case back.

Comparing this ceramic version with steel or gold is a futile exercise. There is a right watch for everyone and the right person to pick yours is you. That is all we have to say about that.


Movement Self-winding Calibre 5134
Power Reserve Minimum 40-hour
Case 41-millimetre black ceramic
Water Resistance Up to 50 metres
Strap Black ceramic bracelet with titanium folding clasp
Price SGD 131,600

This article was originally published in WOW.

Art events in Asia: Cheng Ran’s ‘Circadian Rhythm’ presented by Audemars Piguet at Art Basel Hong Kong 2017

Cheng Ran, Film Still from ‘Circadian Rhythm’, 2017, video installation. Image courtesy of Audemars Piguet

Cheng Ran, Film Still from ‘Circadian Rhythm’, 2017, video installation. Image courtesy of Audemars Piguet

‘Circadian Rhythm’ by Cheng Ran, will be presented by Audemars Piguet at the Collectors Lounge at Art Basel Hong Kong. Since 2013, Audemars Piguet has invited artists to conceptualise original works based on the brand’s story to present at all three Art Basel shows in Hong Kong, Basel and Miami. The list includes British photographer Dan Holdsworth, French art duo Kolkoz, Austrian videographer Kurt Hentschläger and Geneva-based artist Alexandre Joly, and Chinese artist Cheng Ran joining the ranks with the latest commission.

Cheng, born in 1981 in Inner Mongolia, is known for his video artworks that are informed by both Chinese and Western culture. As an artist who frequently explores time and space in his artistic practice, he was a natural choice for the project with Audemars Piguet. Cheng’s recent solo exhibitions include ‘In Course of the Miraculous’ at the K11 Art Foundation in Hong Kong in 2016, and his first solo museum exhibition in the United States, ‘Cheng Ran: Diary of a Madman’ at the New Museum, co-presented with K11 Art Foundation, following a three-month residency.

Cheng Ran, Film Still from ‘Circadian Rhythm’, 2017, video installation. Image courtesy of Audemars Piguet

Cheng Ran, Film Still from ‘Circadian Rhythm’, 2017, video installation. Image courtesy of Audemars Piguet

For the latest Audemars Piguet commission, Cheng has taken inspiration from the beautiful landscape of Vallée du Joux, home to Audemars Piguet, where its precision timepieces are crafted. In an immersive video installation, the artist shows off the area’s verdant forest and gentle streams, set against an intricate soundscape of the peaceful Swiss Jura Mountains blending harmoniously with the precise mechanical ticks from the complicated mechanisms of Audemars Piguet watches.

Cheng Ran. Image courtesy of Audemars Piguet

Cheng Ran. Image courtesy of Audemars Piguet

Speaking about his concept, Cheng says, “I was inspired by the artistry and attention to detail Audemars Piguet dedicates to creating one single timepiece”. He adds, “I hope viewers will enjoy the immersive excursion I have created through landscapes and soundscapes, transporting them through experimental types of media. I am thankful to have been given the chance to continue my journey with Audemars Piguet since the piece was presented in Shanghai at the end of last year.” The work was first presented at Yuz Museum at the end of 2016 in the Audemars Piguet watch history exhibition, ‘To Break the Rules, You Must First Master Them’.

The pairing of Audemars Piguet watches with Cheng Ran’s work will be a visual and auditory treat for VIP guests at the art fair. “Audemars Piguet has pushed watchmaking boundaries ever since it was founded in 1875, a characteristic that is also fundamental to the production of great art,” says Olivier Audemars, Vice President of the Board of Directors of Audemars Piguet. “Through his video Cheng Ran reflects on the very heart of our craft and our connection to nature while managing to take the viewer on an unexpected journey. ‘Circadian Rhythm’ combines both art and watchmaking into a single pulse, like two hearts beating in unison”.

Art Republik looks forward to the Audemars Piguet presentation of Cheng’s work at Art Basel Hong Kong.

This article was originally published in Art Republik 14.

Luxury watches: 7 mechanical timepieces with digital displays

We popularly refer to the hands of time in many everyday events, typically when we want to talk about going back in time to fix something or making a tiresome meeting end quicker. We process these entirely natural set of metaphorical motions largely without thinking about why time even needs to have hands. In truth, since digital quartz watches spread like wildfire upon the wrists of more humans than ever before in the 1970s, time hasn’t needed hands to make sense. Soon, with the proliferation of those pesky handheld computers called mobile phones (our data suggests you are reading this story on one right now), an entire generation will cease to understand and appreciate anything other than digital time.

Well, mechanical watches too have caught the digital bug — digital display that is, as these seven watches show. Ok, some of them still use hands but mainly in unexpected ways or for aesthetic reasons.

This spread was first featured in World of Watches’ (WOW) Festive issue. The WOW team would like to highlight that this spread was incorrectly credited. The digital artist responsible is Zi Wen.


Review: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Frosted Gold

Review: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Frosted Gold

Upon hearing the words frosted gold, as we have here with the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Frosted Gold, one cannot help but recall the festive season. It almost sounds like some tasty treat, like the legendary Frosted Malted of old. Well the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Frosted Gold is quite a delectable horological treat, a present to itself in a way to honor the 40th anniversary of the first lady’s model of the Royal Oak. The Royal Oak proper itself celebrated its 40th in 2012, which here in Singapore was a memorably grand affair at the old KTM train station at Tanjong Pagar. The women’s model got a suitably glitzy party at the international level but more on that another time.

Savvy watch collectors will think of a movement decoration technique used by the likes of Greubel Forsey and Kari Voutilainen upon reading the words frosted gold – superlative stuff that is best appreciated in person or via an extreme close-up. As it happens, this is related to the Royal Oak Frosted Gold because the gold in question indeed owes its frosted look to an age-old jewelry finishing style called the Florentine technique. According to Audemars Piguet, this technique derives from an ancient method of hammering gold, which we take to mean using a tiny hammer to bang out the wonderful little indentations seen here.

Bucci’s workshops use a diamond-tipped tool to create the tiny indentations, giving the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Frosted Gold its luster. It took many months of collaborative work between the Audemars Piguet manufacture and the Bucci workshop to port this technique over from jewelry to watchmaking. For the manufacture, the key was how to integrate the new technique with the Royal Oak’s signature combination of brushed and polished surfaces. It must be said that the results speak for themselves. You look at the pictures and you just want to reach out and touch the watch, which is an unqualified win for this new model.


Audemars Piguet is taking this opportunity shine the spotlight once more on the original designer for this model, Jacqueline Dimier. While the Royal Oak was famously created by the late Gerald Genta, Dimier took on the challenge of adapting the design for the feminine version. A major name in design in her own right, she was the in-house head of design for Audemars Piguet until 1999. The brand is relishing the opportunity to talk up Dimier again during the 40th anniversary and pay tribute with the Royal Oak Frosted Gold.

As far as the innards are concerned, Audemars Piguet has gone with safety and stability, which will disappoint some aficionados. In particular, the decision to use the quartz calibre 2713 for the 33mm version has drawn some flak from Internet commentators. This is exacerbated by manufacture’s decision to use the solidly dependable automatic calibre 3120 for the 37mm version. Arguably, if women favor the larger mechanical version, there might be a strong enough draw for the manufacture to consider it for the 33mm as well, if it can find an automatic solution. The answer will reveal itself in time…


  • Dimensions: 37mm and 33mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date; hours, minutes, date (33mm version)
  • Movements: Automatic calibre 3120; quartz calibre 2713 (33mm version)
  • Power Reserve: 60 hours (37mm version)
  • Materials: Rose gold and white gold
  • Water Resistance: 50 meters
  • Strap: Rose gold and white gold bracelet
audemars piguet exhibition shanghai

Audemars Piguet Hosts Ambitious Exhibit In Shanghai

“To break the rules, you must first master them” – the name set the tone. The luxury Swiss watch manufacturer is currently hosting its most ambitious exhibition which brings guests on a journey through its history — in Yuz Museum, Shanghai.

Audemars Piguet appointed French designer Mathieu Lehanneur to conceive a special installation: a large ring, made of 12 rooms – an allusion to a watch dial  – where 200 historical and contemprary timepieces are exposed. “This exhibition is a reflection on time… a dreamy vision of time where each instant differs from the previous one. Here every door opens onto a new story,” Lehanneur said.

audemars piguet exhibition shanghai

the “ring” installation, designed by Mathieu Lehanneur

In the middle of the circle stands a huge rock, created from cast replicas of those found in Audemars Piguet’s home in the Vallée de Joux. It is meant to remind the visitors of the brands origins and how far it has come from there. Key artists, as Cheng Ran, Dan Holdsworth and Alexandre Joly, also contributed to the exhibit, showing the brands commitment with the world of contemporary art.

audemars piguet exhibition shanghai

Since 1875, the oldest fine watchmaking manufacturer still in the hands of its founding families, has proven its expertise in Haute Horlogerie crafting and its capacity to adapt and prosper through the ages. This exhibition, presents the largest collection ever brought outside of its own Museum also explores a selection of horological arts and crafts that the brand has mastered over the centuries.

After Shanghai, the “ring” exhibit will be displayed in severl other art capitals throughout 2017.

“To Break the rules, you must first Master Them” by Audemars Piguet, Yuz Museum, Shanghai. Until November 13th

Double Balance Wheel

Why Two Balance Springs are Better than One

Just like the human body, a mechanical movement has a core anatomy. Typically, it includes a mainspring coiled within a barrel and a going train that consists of four gearing wheels, the escapement, and the balance wheel. Science has proven that larger brains equate to higher intelligence, so it stands to reason that having two brains is very likely better than just one.

It is the same for mechanical watches. When done well, having two balance wheels (or more) yields higher timekeeping accuracy and additional barrels understandably give more power. A set of gongs that encircle the movement twice, also known as cathedral gongs, produces chimes with greater resonance, color, and richness as opposed to traditional gongs that go round the movement only once. And two tourbillons are always better than one.

Audemars Piguet

For the first time, Audemars Piguet makes a Royal Oak equipped with two sets of balance wheels and hairsprings geared to one going train.

In their continual quest to build better watches, watchmakers have not only toyed with the concept that having additional critical components would improve performance, but they have also boldly acted on it, producing some of the most exciting mechanical movements in modern watchmaking history.

Fine BalanceAudemars Piguet

Oscillator is to watch what pendulum is to clock. A staggering majority of mechanical movements, whether made today or historically, have been designed with a single oscillator placed at the end of the gear train. The oscillator generally consists of balance wheel and balance spring, and its job is to convert the linear flow of power coming from the mainspring into oscillations, hence the back and forth motion. With each oscillation, it dispenses power to the escape wheel in pulses and this is how a watch advances each second.

Unlike a clock, which sits immobile on a mantelpiece or mounted on the wall, a watch and its movement are constantly put through different positions on the wrist. Gravity’s effect acts on the hairspring from as many as six different directions.

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor

With four oscillatiors set at an incline and a differential mechanism to extrapolate the average rate, the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor places first in showmanship

The argument that a tourbillon would be the ideal solution to optimal rate accuracy (or not) is a tale as old as time. A less conventional but no less exciting solution is to implement additional balance wheels instead of just the one.

Companies like Roger Dubuis, F.P. Journe, and more recently, Audemars Piguet and Greubel Forsey all have stunning inventions to show. In particular, Roger Dubuis outdid even itself and worked with two pairs of two balances in pursuit of timekeeping precision. Even ultra-niche MB&F has thrown its hat in the ring with this formula.

Greubel Forsey Double Balancier Incliné

The Greubel Forsey Double Balancier Incliné uses two balance wheels set at a 30-degree incline

Audemars Piguet presented the Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked this year. It is the first timepiece by the Le Brassus manufacture to be made with two balance wheels, in what it calls the dual balance patented geometry.

Before this seminal invention, Audemars Piguet had only produced watches with double hairsprings. With the ambition to increase timekeeping precision, its watchmakers mounted a second balance wheel with its own balance spring on the same axis as the first, resulting in a regulator that oscillates at three hertz with double the mass. More mass equals more inertia, and more inertia enables the regulator to continue oscillating even when there is shock. Ergo, the greater the inertia, the more stable the timekeeping.

MB&F Legacy Machine No.2

The MB&F Legacy Machine No.2 flaunts two balance wheels hanging over the dial and seemingly disconnected from the differential wheel.

Precision also stands to benefit and this movement, Calibre 3132, boasts an average daily rate of -2/+10. Also, because the two balance wheels are set against each other, the hairsprings take turns to “breathe” and the effect of gravity gets cancelled out as the device regulates itself.

Greubel Forsey has always dabbled in movements with multiple balance wheels or multiple tourbillons set at multiple axes. From the get-go, this ultra-niche firm has been about modern horological inventions, and so it’s not surprising that it is home to the most robust collection of double (and quadruple) tourbillons on the market.

Joining the Double Balancier Incliné of 2009 is the breath-taking Double Balancier à Différentiel Constant with two balance wheels set at a 30-degree incline from the mainplate. Between two regulators lies a spherical and constant force differential that is used to average out the errors of the two balances. Note that because they’re set at an incline, the balances are already more accurate than ordinary ones, as no matter what position the watch is in, either one or both of the balances will not be completely vertical to the force of gravity.lm2_platinum_engine

Other than to even out the margins of errors of the two balances, the differential is also boosted by a constant force mechanism that sends energy in regular pulses to the two escapements. This means that irrespective of the movement’s state of wind, the amount of power being sent to the regulators remain constant.

Without it, the regulators stand to oscillate faster and stronger when the mainspring is fully wound, and with progressively less speed and power as energy in the mainspring depletes. Oscillating in tandem, the two balance wheels produce a hypnotic effect that is even more exciting to watch than any traditional high complication.

Going by the kind of watches Roger Dubuis has been producing, audacity would clearly be its middle name if the Genevan manufacture had one. Three years ago, it released a watch called the Excalibur Quatuor that had not one, not two, but four spring balances. Needless to say, the movement, Calibre RD101, stood beside itself both in terms of technique and aesthetic.

F.P Journe's Chronomètre à Résonance

F.P Journe’s Chronomètre à Résonance remains the only double balance movements that utilises the phenomenon of resonance for regulation.

Each of the four balance wheels was set at an incline to average out the effects of gravity on the movement, and the wheels work in pairs, compensating immediately for rate variations caused by changes in position. According to Roger Dubuis, what the tourbillon achieves in 60 seconds, the Quatuor does instantaneously.

This movement is also equipped with a differential device to average out the errors of both pairs of spring balances, and oscillating at four hertz each, they come together to bring the accuracy of the movement to an astonishing 16 hertz. Putting one’s ear next to the watch, the break-neck speed at which all four balances simultaneously oscillate produces a sound that’s not quite the soothing, traditional tick-ticking, but rather, an almost deafening trill not unlike the cacophonous chirping of crickets.

A sure sight for sore eyes, the MB&F Legacy Machine No. 2 offers a sleek and modern take on the double balance movement. Ironically, though, this timepiece finds more inspiration in the past as opposed to the future. According to MB&F founder, Maximilian Büsser, the idea for the LM2 came from timepieces made by two esteemed watchmaking legends: the double balance calibres made by Ferdinand Berthoud from the 18th century and the one-and-only Philippe Dufour Duality.F.P Journe's Chronomètre à Résonance

Hovering above the dial, the two balances are supported by a pair of curved arms designed to evoke a distinctive futuristic vibe echoed by the bridge supporting the gilded differential wheel. The objective of this differential wheel is, once again, to average out the errors between the two balances. Oscillating at a leisurely 18,000vph, these mesmerising devices mirror each other and reflect the twin wheel layout of two gear wheels seen from the case back, which remind one of a style of watchmaking that was dear to Berthoud. Done, as usual, in collaboration with friends of the brand, the LM2 movement was designed by Jean-François Mojon of the movement specialist firm, Chronode, and expertly finished by Kari Voutilainen.

Making a movement with two balance wheels isn’t as easy as it sounds. Bear in mind that in watchmaking, as with all kinds of engineering, having more parts means more parameters to control. Therefore, a double balance movement is more than twice as complicated to make. In lieu of a differential to even out the performances of both balances, F.P. Journe utilised the much under-explored physical phenomenon known as resonance to synchronize the two balances.

Mechanical resonance is where the frequency of oscillation of an object matches the frequency of another, resulting in an increase of amplitude. The F.P. Journe Chronomètre à Résonance is, till date, the only wristwatch that relies on the resonance phenomenon for precision – proof that such a movement is immensely complex to design and difficult to achieve. Both balances have to be placed at the optimum distance from each other, and this is adjustable by a central pinion. Because they’re placed so near each other, one affects the other’s frequency, thus constantly compensating for the deviations. The two balances are also made in the signature F.P. Journe extra-large geometry with four arms and corresponding adjustable inertia weights, where large balance wheels typically offer greater stability thanks to higher moments of inertia generated.

Good Timekeeping

Another area where an additional balance wheel comes in extra handy is in chronograph movements. Traditionally, chronographs experience a sharp drop in amplitude whenever the stopwatch mechanism is activated because those components deplete power from the gear train. Thus, for that split second or so, timekeeping precision would suffer, and fully regain only when the chronograph is stopped and reset. This condition affects not only chronographs, but all movements with additional functions, particularly functions that require a significant amount of power to operate. Repeaters are another example.

Montblanc's Timewriter II Bi-Fréquence 1000

Montblanc’s Timewriter II Bi-Fréquence 1000 uses a separate balance wheel for the chronograph, which pulsates at 360,000vph, but thanks to a patented divisional mechanism, measures time accurate to 1/1,000th of a second.

Having a separate balance wheel for the chronograph function not only eliminates this problem but also enables the movement to measure time autonomously and with even greater accuracy. When it is no longer at the mercy of the gear train, the chronograph’s balance has the freedom to oscillate at higher frequencies than the regular balance wheel.

This brings with it several advantages. The higher the frequency, the more accurate the timekeeper. Yet high frequency balances are subject to a lot more wear and tear, so limiting its use to only when needed would be extremely judicious. Finally, a high frequency balance needs to be small in diameter, which although fast and accurate, is not especially stable; large balances are stable although not as accurate. Therefore, what is the optimal geometry for good chronograph activity isn’t at all good for the regular hours and minutes, and so having a dedicated balance to each is to have the best of both worlds.

For a time, TAG Heuer had committed itself to the development of some of the fastest, most accurate chronographs on the market. Watches like the Carrera Mikrograph and Carrera Mikrotimer Flying 1000 offer super accurate chronograph function on the one hand and stable timekeeping on the other. The Mikrograph’s chronograph records time accurate to the nearest 100th of a second with a micro balance wheel that beats at an insane 360,000vph while the main balance wheel for the hours and minutes cruises along at a relatively leisurely 28,800vph, which is actually considered pretty fast for the hours and minutes.

Breguet Tradition 7077 Chronograph Independent

The Breguet Tradition 7077 Chronograph Independent uses silicon balance springs with Breguet overcoil in both balance wheels

On the other hand, the Mikrotimer Flying 1000 takes things up another notch, measuring time to the nearest 1,000th of a second. Its micro balance wheel powers on at a breakneck speed of 3.6 million times per hour, making it 125 times faster than a standard Swiss chronograph, and a hundred times more accurate than the most prevalent industrialized fast-beat chronograph movement, the Zenith El Primero. To watch this timepiece in action is not for the faint hearted because the central seconds hand spins around the dial a whopping 10 times per second. The only drawback is that the chronograph is only able to clock short events of no more than 150 seconds.

Both the Mikrograph and Mikrotimer Flying 1000 are made with the TAG Heuer dual-chain architecture, which eliminates the need for a clutch, but more impressively, both timepieces received COSC certification. Even while the chronograph is running, the watches remain highly precise.

Also measuring time in high definition is Montblanc with its TimeWriter II Chronographe Bi-Fréquence 1000 released in 2012. Again, there is one balance wheel for timekeeping and another for the chronograph, where the former beats at a deliberate pace of 18,000vph or 2.5 hertz, while in stark contrast, the latter pulsates at 360,000vph or 50 hertz. Here’s where the ingenuity of independent watchmaker Bartomeu Gomila comes into play.

TAG Heuer Carrera Mikrograph

The TAG Heuer Carrera Mikrograph has two balance wheels, one for the hours and minutes oscillating at 28,00vph and another for the chronograph that oscillates at 360,000vph.

Compared to the Mikrotimer Flying 1000’s 3.6 million vph frequency, the Bi-Fréquence 1000 is 10 times slower. Yet it manages to display time just as accurately (to the nearest thousandth of a second) thanks to Gomila’s unique and patented mechanism. According to Montblanc, it took 10 years for Gomila to build the prototype, which is based on the idea of a childhood game involving a hoop and a stick. Using a thousandths wheel as the hoop and the chronograph gear train as the stick, the thousandths wheel rotates 10 times per second with each impulse received from the gear train. Thus, Gomila’s invention allows further division of the elapsed time by 10 times, thus yielding 1/1,000th of a second reading from a 1/100th of a second balance frequency.

The chronograph also has its own mainspring and can continue running for 45 minutes when fully wound. Both balance wheels can be seen through the dial, along with the chronograph minutes and seconds at six o’clock, the centrally mounted hundredths of a seconds hand that corresponds to the scale on the outermost circumference, and an arch window at 12 o’clock displaying 1/1,000th of a second.

If there were just one watch that deserves to be made with two balance wheels, it would be none other than the Breguet Tradition. Firstly, this timepiece inspired by early Breguet souscription watches is known for its fully openworked aesthetic, where the balance wheel is mirrored by the third wheel and its arbour to form a pleasantly symmetrical aesthetic. But where the balance wheel can be seen constantly oscillating, the third wheel appears not to move at all, even though in reality it is – just very slowly. As beautiful as the Tradition is, many purists and WISes lament this one tiny imperfection.

TAG Heuer Carrera Mikrotimer Flying 1000

With an incredible frequency of 3.6 million times per hour, the TAG Heuer Carrera Mikrotimer Flying 1000 records time accurate to 1/1,000th of a second.

With the Tradition 7077 Chronograph Independent, however, this “wrong” is finally righted, as instead of the third wheel, there is the chronograph balance wheel. To achieve maximum design integrity, Breguet made this balance wheel in the same size as the timekeeping balance. However, in order for it to function optimally, it had to be made in titanium. This is because it oscillates at five hertz and this needs to be lighter than the traditional timekeeping balance oscillating at three hertz.

It may not be ultra-precise like the TAG Heuer and the Montblanc but this timepiece is extra reliable as a pair of brakes engages the chronograph balance every time it starts and stops. Mainly, its role is to ensure positional integrity when the balance stops and optimal amplitude when it starts. Breguet has also used silicon overcoil hairsprings and pallet forks in these areas.

The chronograph can run continuously for 20 minutes because it has its own mainspring. Winding it isn’t done through the crown, but rather, it happens automatically when the reset button is pushed. The reset button winds a small blade spring, which can be seen through the sapphire case back.

Train Reaction

Apart from introducing additional balance wheels, some watchmakers have considered other means of isolating a movement’s timekeeping elements from its functional ones. The most prolific of them would have to be Jaeger-LeCoultre and its ingenious Dual Wing concept. Introduced in 2008, it is essentially a system with two separate gear trains, each with its own mainspring and barrel, and both sharing one regulating organ.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre à Quantième Lunaire

Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre à Quantième Lunaire

As with double balance movements, one of the gear trains is dedicated to timekeeping and the other, all the functions and complications built into the movement. To date, they include moon phases, dual time, chronograph, the Jaeger-LeCoultre patented Sphérotourbillon, and the grande sonnerie in the inimitable Hybris Mechanica à Grande Sonnerie.

With a balance frequency of 21,600vph, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre watches aren’t the fastest timekeepers on the market but in terms of rate precision there is no doubt that they’re among the very best. Reaching -1/+6 seconds per day, the Dual Wing construction allows all manner of complications to function without causing any loss of amplitude to the balance.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre Spherotourbillon Moon

Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre Spherotourbillon Moon

This is because there is no connection between the two going trains; the two gear trains run completely independently of each other, that is, until the end where they converge at the balance wheel. Of all the variations made to date, energy guzzlers like the chronograph and the Hybris Mechanica à Grande Sonnerie stand to benefit the most from the Dual Wing construction.

Manually wound, the Calibre 380 movement family stays powered for 50 hours. This applies to the hours and minutes as well as the complication, in the case of Calibre 380A, the chronograph. Each barrel is clearly labelled and they correspond to their respective power reserve indicators on either side of the foudroyante counter displaying 1/6th of a second.

Hot on the heels of the Duomètre is the F.P. Journe Centigraphe Souveraine, which also offers a method of chronograph timekeeping that does not sap the life out of the mainspring, not even for a fraction of a second. Again, the chronograph has been isolated from the timekeeping mechanism, but here is where the Centigraphe Souverain is absolutely unique.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre à Chronograph

Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre à Chronograph

The hands of the 100th of a second, the 20 seconds, and the 10 minutes counters are driven by two different wheel trains bifurcated from the chronograph gear train. Next, the one-second and 20-seconds counters are also driven by their own wheel trains positioned on either side of a single intermediate wheel driven by the barrel arbour. Finally, yet another separate train of wheels, also driven by the barrel arbour, drives the 10-minutes hands. In short, all of the hands draw power directly from the mainspring.

Forward Spiral

To average out the effects of gravity on the balance spring, a watchmaker may decide to construct a tourbillon carriage with which to protect the balance wheel and its spring, but this device makes regulation exponentially more difficult. Said watchmaker may also decide to split the flow of power into two sets of balance wheel and spring, interpolating their rates of precision with a differential, as seen with the timepieces discussed earlier by Audemars Piguet, Greubel Forsey, Roger Dubuis, and MB&F.

F.P Journe Centigraphe Souveraine

The F.P Journe Centigraphe Souveraine combines ultra-precise timekeeping with one-of-a-kind mechanics

While not quite as magnificent as the tourbillon, double balances are, in their own way, just as thrilling to admire. This places movements with double hairsprings one rung below the double balance when it comes to horological greatness.

Yet, it would not be fair to presume that such movements are inherently less complicated to make. The balance spring, a thing of beauty in itself, is something literally only a handful of watch companies can make in-house. To produce variants of the industry standard – Nivarox with Breguet overcoil – would be to call on a wholly different area of watchmaking expertise. At first blush, a double spiral looks deceptive simple, as it lacks the drama and fanfare of a tourbillon or a double balance system, but put it under the loupe and its beauty instantly becomes palpable.

Audemars Piguet Millenary Minute Repeater's Calibre 2928

Audemars Piguet Millenary Minute Repeater’s Calibre 2928 uses double hairsprings in one balance.

How does a double spiral system resist gravitational forces? Positioned opposite each other, the springs “breathe” alternately; when one expands, the other contracts. In addition, they each move in the opposite direction. So, when the center of gravity of the first balance spring makes a shift, the center of gravity of the second one moves in the exact opposite direction, thus compensating for the error and ensuring that the gravity center is always kept at the center of the balance wheel.

The theory behind achieving optimal rate accuracy using two spirals is not too different from that which uses two balances – components move in opposite directions to equal out the effect of gravity on the spirals. But having two spirals in one balance wheel reduces the need for additional components, thus making it easier to regulate the oscillator.

Audemars Piguet's Millenary Quadriennium

Introduced in 2015, the Millenary Quadriennium also comes with Audemars Piguet’s proprietary AP escapement and two balance springs

Before this year’s Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked, Audemars Piguet has presented timepieces with two spirals within a single balance wheel. The Millenary Minute Repeater with AP Escapement combines the proprietary AP escapement with a double spiral (flat terminal curve) and variable inertia balance wheel that oscillates at 21,600vph. Its vast expanse of a dial affords stunning views of the escapement as well as the regulator.

Likewise, the Millenary Quadriennium also boasts the AP escapement and a double spiral regulator oscillating at 21,600vph. According to Audemars Piguet, the movements are as precise as a tourbillon, since the AP escapement brings higher timekeeping efficiency and the double spiral compensates for potential poising flaws. While flat spirals typically do not breathe as concentrically as overcoil spirals, a double spiral construct renders this issue void because errors are effectively cancelled out when the springs take turns to breathe and in opposing directions.

H. Moser & Cie's Straumann double hairspring can be found in the Henry Double Hairspring, a watch named after the company's founding father.

H. Moser & Cie’s Straumann double hairspring can be found in the Henry Double Hairspring, a watch named after the company’s founding father.

The production of hairsprings is a regular milieu of a very select few watchmaking companies. There is literally only a handful of them, and H. Moser & Cie. might be considered the least likely to boast this capability on account of its ultra-niche branding and small production numbers. Its sister company, Precision Engineering AG, makes balance springs that are physically comparable to the Nivarox springs invented by Reinhard Straumann, which almost all companies today use. Nivarox consists of about 45 per cent cobalt, 20 per cent nickel, 20 per cent chromium, five per cent iron, and smaller percentages of titanium and beryllium, and so does the Straumann hairspring proprietary to H. Moser & Cie., so named in tribute to the inventor.

Note the set of two swan neck regulators under the balance bridge.

Note the set of two swan neck regulators under the balance bridge.

Using two Straumann hairsprings, H. Moser & Cie. made a double spiral for the escapement in a timepiece that paid tribute to its founding father, Heinrich Moser. Rather than a flat hairspring, the spiral is made with a Breguet overcoil to allow optimal concentric breathing, and like all H. Moser & Cie. watches, its entire escapement can be removed from the movement thanks to the interchangeable module design. The escape wheel and pallet fork are done in hardened gold, another key characteristic of an H. Moser & Cie. timepiece.

Laurent Ferrier Galet Classic Tourbillon Double Spiral

The Laurent Ferrier Galet Classic Tourbillon Double Spiral is classic on the outside, complex in the inside.

Speaking of in-house manufactured hairsprings, Montblanc not only produces them by hand at its Villeret manufacture, but it also managed to flaunt this exceptional mastery with a double cylindrical spiral in the Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique. Introduced in 2011, this timepiece is linked to historical marine chronometers, which also tended to be made with cylindrical hairsprings. In this work of mechanical showmanship, the double cylindrical hairspring is paired with an extra-large variable inertia regulator balance wheel and a magnificent tourbillon carriage that is essentially three infinity signs fused in one. The tourbillon bridge also follows through with the infinity symbol motif.

Where there is a double hairspring that already works to cancel out the effects of gravity, a tourbillon regulator is arguably superfluous. However, the Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique stubbornly combines both in this showpiece that offers a mere hint of watchmaking savoir-faire by Montblanc’s Villeret manufacture. The oscillator moves at a frequency of 2.5 hertz or 18,000vph, which is the traditional speed of all of Montblanc’s Villeret-made timepieces. Slow compared to even moderately paced movements, the manual-winding Calibre MB M65.63 was intentionally given this frequency so collectors could clearly admire the beauty of the spirals, the balance, and of course, the tourbillon.

Montblanc Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique

Montblanc Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique

Who else also made a tourbillon with two spirals? Watchmaking independent Laurent Ferrier, which is known for its pure, understated designs that juxtapose with elaborately finished and decorated movements. In the Galet Classic Tourbillon Double Spiral, the balance wheel oscillates with two inverted hairsprings that are mounted at the center. Once again, the double hairsprings increase the reliability of the regulating system by neutralizing the lateral displacement of the balance axis. At a frequency of 21,600vph, the entire regulating system is housed within a gorgeously finished tourbillon carriage. In addition, it rotates once every 60 seconds under a hand-decorated and hand-finished tourbillon bridge.

Montblanc Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique

Montblanc Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique features two cylindrical hairsprings, one inside the other, within an extra-large balance and tourbillon carriage.

In their perpetual quest for timekeeping precision, watchmakers never fail to turn up new inventions that surprise and delight. This is where watchmaking becomes an art, not just a by-product of physics and mathematics in time telling. The beauty of two balance wheels oscillating to a classical cadence, the dance of two hairsprings taking turns to breathe, the elegance of two tourbillons rotating in unison… Less is not always more, especially in high watchmaking.

This article was first published in WOW.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Watch: Golden Age

The Royal Oak is enshrined within the annals of horology as the timepiece that proved the efficacy of steel in a high-end luxury sports watch. In fact, the watch was only offered in steel in the initial years of its production, since the material was central to the Royal Oak’s very identity. References in gold were eventually introduced in 1977, and all three colours of gold alloys have since been used, depending on the specific watch model.

Yellow gold has, however, been absent from the Royal Oak collection for a while… until this year, that is. Audemars Piguet’s reintroduction of this color variant may seem strange, given its (arguable) status as the less fashion forward alternative to its pink and white cousins, but the manufacture’s penchant for going against the grain is well known – it was this very quality that spawned the Royal Oak, after all.audemar-piguet-royal-oak-caseback

The Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar is one of the models to receive the line extension in yellow gold. The top surfaces of the bezel, lugs, and bracelet links are all vertically brushed, and give way to high-polish slanted surfaces before returning to vertically brushed flanks. This combination of different finishes cleverly highlights the facetted case and bracelet; the rounded octagonal bezel, a mainstay of the Royal Oak’s design, is especially prominent given the surface treatment. A cool blue dial bearing the manufacture’s signature Grande Tapisserie guilloché balances the warmth of the case and bracelet. Upon it, three sub-dials present the information from the perpetual calendar, while the fourth at six o’clock bears an astronomical moon phase display, which requires a correction just once every 125 years and 317 days. The week is indicated by a centrally mounted white hand, which points to the markings on the flange.

Powering the watch is Audemars Piguet’s Calibre 5134, a slightly larger version of the ultra-thin 2120 calibre aimed at providing a better fit for the 41mm case. At just 4.31mm thick, however, the new movement manages to keep the watch case’s height to a reasonable 9.5mm.

New Sun Xun Work for Audemars Piguet Art Commission

New Sun Xun Work for Audemars Piguet Art Commission

Audemars Piguet is delighted to announce details of major new artwork by Chinese artist Sun Xun for the second Audemars Piguet Art Commission. The installation, which will be unveiled at Art Basel Miami Beach 2016, will be one of Sun Xun’s most ambitious projects. The Chinese artist’s entire multidisciplinary arsenal will be mobilized in the large-scale immersive environment of the installation. In addition to 2D and 3D animation, the work will include traditional scroll paintings, ink drawings, various architectural and design elements, as well as sound. The installation will be presented to the public on the Miami Beach oceanfront, and will span a city block across from Collins Park.

Since 2006, Sun Xun has overseen a large and growing animation studio to realize his increasingly complex productions. ‘Time Spy’, a film animation included in the installation, will be created using classic Chinese illustration methods, in which every frame is a fully executed woodcut. The work has required the assistance of hundreds of Chinese art students who have been supporting Sun Xun in the production of each individually crafted woodcut. The 3D animation will be projected onto a screen, which the audience will view through custom glasses designed by the artist.


7 Perfect Sports Chronograph Qualities

Dreams do come true sometimes and when envisioning the perfect sports chronograph, we found ourselves listing out the qualities it would have to possess. Rather than to keep it all to ourselves, we knew it would entertain those who share our passion for fine watches. We present the seven sports chronograph qualities in our checklist.

The Movement

An El Primero movement from 1969. Note the column wheel at 12 o’clock. The intermediate wheel that meshes with the chronograph wheel to drive it is in red

An El Primero movement from 1969. Note the column wheel at 12 o’clock. The intermediate wheel that meshes with the chronograph wheel to drive it is in red

The movement may lie hidden within the case, but it makes its presence felt in very palpable ways, from the functions available to the dial’s layout and the pushers’ tactility. Variations abound, but some options are definitely preferred over others here.

Switching and transmission

TAG Heuer Carrera Mikrogirder

TAG Heuer Carrera Mikrogirder

For a start, there’s the familiar stomping ground of a chronograph’s actuation and coupling to consider. Actuation refers to the “switch” that controls the chronograph. Cam actuation uses the eponymous component, which is fairly easy to produce and assemble, but has a drawback of uneven tactility – the initial force required to start the chronograph is noticeably higher than what’s needed to stop or reset it. A column wheel, in contrast, is more difficult to manufacture and finish than a cam, but promises a smoother pusher feel akin to what gun enthusiasts describe as “snapping a glass rod” when they talk about a trigger’s tactility.

The coupling system determines how the chronograph mechanism is powered by the base movement. In horizontal coupling, a wheel swings horizontally and engages with the base movement to allow the chronograph to draw energy from the gear train. This engagement can be precisely adjusted, since it’s a system of levers that can be visually inspected by the watchmaker. It has its disadvantages though. For one, the connection puts an additional load on the mainspring all of a sudden. This reduces the energy sent to the balance and hence its swing amplitude, which affects isochronism. The meshing of wheels also causes wear and tear, and leads to a chronograph seconds hand that’s prone to flutter and backlash when the chronograph is first started. The vertical clutch does not have these problems, as the chronograph mechanism is constantly engaged with the base movement, and started by frictional meshing of two discs pressing into each other vertically. It’s considered a better solution but does, however, demand more skill in regulation and adjustment.

Rolex’s Calibre 4130 with column wheel and vertical clutch

Rolex’s Calibre 4130 with column wheel and vertical clutch

Quick ticks

A movement’s beat frequency typically runs from 2.5Hz (18,000vph) to 5Hz (36,000vph) in modern calibres. All else being equal, a movement with a higher beat rate will be more accurate, as the balance gives more “readings” per second, which averages out any erroneous beat’s timing to a greater extent. This is why quartz movements, whose crystals vibrate at 32,768Hz, are far more accurate than mechanical ones. A chronograph’s resolution corresponds to its beat rate – a 4Hz movement can measure elapsed time down to 1/8th of a second, while a 5Hz one goes to 1/10th of a second. Taken to the extreme, this can yield mindboggling results like TAG Heuer’s Carrera Mikrogirder, which beats at 1,000Hz to give a resolution of 1/2000 second.

Further complications

Flyback and rattrapante/split-seconds chronographs are variants on the simple chronograph. The flyback function allows a chronograph’s reset pusher to be actuated while the chronograph is running. This makes all its hands “fly back” to zero and continue running without lag – useful for timing consecutive events such as the legs in a plane’s navigation pattern. The rattrapante chronograph has two chronograph seconds hands. Actuating a third pusher stops one of them to allow an intermediate timing to be read, and pushing it again snaps it forward to catch up with the other instantaneously.

The verdict

Parmigiani Fleurier’s PF361 calibre in the Tonda Chronor Anniversaire

Parmigiani Fleurier’s PF361 calibre in the Tonda Chronor Anniversaire

The ideal movement for the ultimate sports chronograph should have the following: a column wheel for smooth and confident actuation, vertical coupling for greater accuracy and a precise start to the chronograph second hand, high frequency that’s both more accurate and capable of measuring smaller units of time, and split-seconds functionality to time simultaneous events that will arguably see more use than a flyback function.

Note the two column wheels

Note the two column wheels

Parmigiani Fleurier’s PF361 has all of the above, but is limited to just 50 pieces, and is constructed in gold. Relax the requirements, however, and more options present themselves. There’s Zenith’s El Primero, which remains the only high-beat chronograph movement in mass production, but it uses horizontal coupling and is a simple chronograph. Rolex’s Calibre 4130 is both column wheel-actuated and vertically coupled, but beats at 4Hz and lacks a split-second functionality. The list goes on (both Rolex and Zenith movements are detailed here).

Making A Case

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver chronograph in steel, with ceramic pushers

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver chronograph in steel, with ceramic pushers

A great movement is nothing without a case to protect it – and everything else – from the ravages of the outside environment. Of course, details such as water resistance and a scratchproof sapphire crystal are non-negotiable. However, the choice of material and production technique for the case are less clear cut given the permutations of the available options.

Metals and coatings

Bulgari Octo Velocissimo Ultranero

Bulgari Octo Velocissimo Ultranero

By eliminating precious metals like gold and platinum, as well as exotic ones such as tantalum, only stainless steel and titanium are left when it comes to metallic cases. Both are available in several variants. Grade 2 titanium, for instance, is close to steel in terms of its hardness, but it is far less dense, and therefore much lighter. Grade 5 titanium, on the other hand, is significantly harder than its Grade 2 sibling and just as light, but lacks the latter’s unique drab grey appearance.

Both steel and titanium cases can be toughened with a diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating applied via physical vapour deposition (PVD), which significantly increases their surfaces’ hardness. This is commonly done nowadays for both practical and aesthetic reasons, and its only drawback is perhaps the hassle and costs of repairing a chipped/damaged coating – the original layer of DLC must be completely stripped before the case is polished and a new coating is reapplied.

Exotic stuff

Instead of steel or titanium, ceramics and carbon can also be used to make a watch’s case. These materials vary in hardness and density, but generally exhibit a high level of toughness with a touch of the exotic. Ceramics are fairly straightforward – compact the powdered formulation in a mould, bake it under high pressure to sinter it into a solid, then machine this mass to create a finished case. Carbon, on the other hand, can be forged, baked, or vacuum-moulded together, often with other “ingredients” such as quartz fibres to enhance its properties. The last step is still machining though, to achieve the desired shape and contours.

New production techniques

Panerai PAM578

Panerai PAM578

The available materials described above are fairly well understood, and new ones being introduced tend to be variations on existing themes, with marginal improvements over current offerings. New production techniques, however, sometimes create paradigm shifts. Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), for example, was introduced by Panerai earlier this year in its Lo Scienziato Luminor 1950 Tourbillon GMT Titanio PAM578. The technique is already in use elsewhere, including the aerospace and medical industries, and works just like 3D printing – a solid component is “built” from a metal powder using a laser, which sinters the powder layer by layer. Unlike subtractive production, which involves removing material by cutting/milling out unwanted parts, DMLS is additive, and capable of producing solid components with hollow interiors. As the PAM578 shows, a hollow titanium case can be made with DMLS, with no loss of structural strength or water resistance thanks to the manipulation of the internal space’s shape.

The verdict

Oris Williams Chronograph Carbon Fibre Extreme

Oris Williams Chronograph Carbon Fibre Extreme

The clear winner here is the latest and greatest technology available – DMLS. Titanium, especially its Grade 5 variant, is already light and hardy enough to stand up to general abuse. With DMLS, further weight savings can be had for an extremely comfortable chronograph with no loss of strength.

Shock Proof

The MRG-G1000HT uses Alpha Gel for shock protection, like other metal-clad G-Shocks

The MRG-G1000HT uses Alpha Gel for shock protection, like other metal-clad G-Shocks

Shock protection such as Kif or Incabloc is ubiquitous in modern calibres, and serves to protect the delicate balance staff, which must be thin to reduce friction, yet support the weight of the entire balance wheel. Why stop there, though? The entire movement can be protected, and there are various ways to do this.

Suspended animation

A movement can only receive shocks through its case, so isolating the two from each other is a very viable method. Richard Mille does this in the RM 27-01 Tourbillon Rafael Nadal by suspending the movement with four braided steel cables, each just 0.35mm thick, and using a system of pulleys and tensioners to adjust their tautness. The brand claims that the watch has a shock resistance of 5,000G – enough to survive a tennis match on Nadal’s wrist.

Instead of minimising the contact between the movement and its case, Franck Muller took things to the other extreme with the Vanguard Backswing, its golf-themed timepiece. The watch has a relatively small movement just 26.2mm across, which is fitted into a case measuring 44mm by 53.7mm; a wide spacer ring containing silicone inserts takes up the rest of the inner case and cushions the movement from shocks and vibrations.

Steel cables suspend the movement inside the Richard Mille RM 27-01

Steel cables suspend the movement inside the Richard Mille RM 27-01

Gelled up

When Casio started developing G-Shocks with metal cases, it had to re-examine the issue of shock resistance, since the protection afforded by the original shock absorbing resin case was no longer available. The solution to circumvent this has evolved over the years, and the latest involves the judicious application of a high-tech material called Alpha Gel. This silicone-based substance is sourced from Taica Corporation, a Japanese R&D firm, and contains extraordinary shock absorption properties – a layer of Alpha Gel barely an inch thick can cushion a one-metre fall of an egg and keep it from breaking. By designing the movement and case to be in contact only at specific points, and “reinforcing” these points with Alpha Gel, the movement is effectively protected against shocks and vibrations.

The verdict

Suspending a movement with tensioned cables or floating it within a wide spacer ring are both effective solutions to creating a shock resistant watch. The main drawback, however, is the volume of space needed within the case to implement them. Alpha Gel thus emerges as a preferred option as it requires less internal space, which allows a larger movement to be used.

Surviving Magnetism

The IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph has a soft iron inner cage

The IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph has a soft iron inner cage

Magnetism is the bane of any mechanical watch. A magnetic field wreaks havoc on a movement’s accuracy by affecting the swing of the balance wheel, and continues to do so even after it’s gone should the movement become magnetised. From obvious sources like MRIs, to insidious ones like a handbag’s magnetic clasp, this invisible force permeates our daily life. Naturally, the perfect sports chronograph must guard against it.

There are two ways to render magnetism moot. The first is to shield the movement using a soft iron inner case, like what IWC does with some of its pilot’s watches. Such an inner case protects the movement by redirecting the magnetic field through itself, while remaining non-magnetised due to its soft iron construction. The advantage of this method is its simplicity and low cost – crafting an inner case with this common material is easy. In a sufficiently strong magnetic field, however, the soft iron inner case will be magnetically saturated, and any “residual” magnetic field will still pass through it to affect the movement. In addition, this principle requires a specific design – a sealed inner case that encases the movement – to work well. The dial and case back must thus have no cut outs lest the magnetic field affects the movement through these holes.

Rolex’s Syloxi hairspring

Rolex’s Syloxi hairspring

The alternative to shielding a movement is making its regulating organs amagnetic. The hairspring, pallet fork, and escape wheel can all be made in silicon, which is nonmagnetic, thanks to improved production techniques like DRIE (Deep Reactive Ion Etching). As a silicon hairspring is already cut specifically to promote concentric breathing, the balance assembly is free sprung and not regulated. This necessitates a variable inertia balance wheel with weighted screws on its rim for regulation, so the balance wheel is not rendered in silicon.

The verdict

Silicon pallet and escape wheel visible through the dial cut-out

Silicon pallet and escape wheel visible through the dial cut-out

In most environments, a soft iron inner cage is more than sufficient protection for a watch movement; the design’s longevity attests to its effectiveness. Why stop there, though? Silicon parts aren’t just impervious to magnetism, but also require little to no lubrication while weighing less than their traditional counterparts. The no holds barred option will have to be silicon.

Visibility In Darkness

Barring electronic solutions like LED lights, there are two main methods to making a watch visible in the dark. The first involves Super-LumiNova or other such luminous paints, which glow in the dark after being “charged” with light, whether natural or artificial, ambient or directed. Luminous paint can be applied in any pattern and, with some tweaks in production, anywhere on a watch down to its case and lugs. It can also be recharged an unlimited number of times, and a sufficiently thick layer of it will glow in the dark for hours before fading off.

Luminox Navy SEAL Colormark Nova

Luminox Navy SEAL Colormark Nova

The alternative to Super-LumiNova is self-powered light sources driven by the radioactive decay of tritium gas. To achieve this, tritium is sealed within a glass tube whose inner surface has been coated with a fluorescent material – the (very low levels of) radiation from tritium excites this coating, which glows and gives off light. This glow is constant, and lasts through the night. Tritium, however, has a half-life of just over 12 years – after this period, only half of the tritium gas in each glass tube remains radioactive, which means that the brightness has also been halved accordingly.

The verdict

Why make a choice between the two? As Luminox has demonstrated with its Colormark Nova series of watches – the two technologies are not mutually exclusive. It makes sense to use tritium-powered light for essential indicators such as the hands and hour indexes, which can then be complemented with Super-LumiNova on other indicators, such as bezel markings.

The Bezel

The right bezel can greatly enhance a watch’s functionality; the challenge lies in narrowing down the available options. Should it rotate? If it should, in one or both directions? What type of markings should it have?

Longines Pulsometer Chronograph

Longines Pulsometer Chronograph

The Options

Rotating bezels tend to come in two variations. A diver’s rotating bezel only turns counter-clockwise, and comes with count up markings to allow its user to measure elapsed time by aligning the marker at 12 o’clock with the minute hand. Other timepieces, such as pilot’s watches, tend to have bi-directional rotating bezels containing either count up markings that function similarly, or count down markings that function as reminders for time sensitive events.

The alternative to these are bezels with specific markings that must be used together with the chronograph seconds hand. These are usually fixed bezels, although manufactures including TAG Heuer have made rotating ones in the past.

The most common one is the tachymeter, which allows the wearer to read off its markings for the hourly rate of an activity, by measuring the time it takes to complete one unit of it. Starting the chronograph and stopping it after a car has travelled for one kilometre, for instance, will give the car’s speed in kilometres per hour – the wearer just needs to see where the chronograph seconds hand is pointing to on the tachymeter. The unit does not matter; one can arrive at the number of cookies a person eats in an hour by measuring the time he takes to finish one cookie.

Tudor Fastrider Black Shield with tachymeter on bezel

Tudor Fastrider Black Shield with tachymeter on bezel

The pulsometer and telemeter function similarly to the tachymeter, but are more specialised. A pulsometer gives the heart rate of a person (in beats per minute) by using the chronograph to measure the time it takes for a certain number of heart beats, usually 10 or 30. The telemeter, on the other hand, indicates the distance to an event, such as a lightning strike. The chronograph is started when the event is seen, and stopped when it is heard. By assuming that light travels instantly, while sound’s average speed through air is around 300m per second, a calibrated scale – the telemeter – can be made, and the distance to the event read off it.

The verdict

The tachymeter is an easy pick here for being the “Goldilocks” bezel – it is neither too general to make proper use of the chronograph, like the diver’s bezel, nor too specialised, like the pulsometer. The flexibility inherent to the tachymeter is also an important advantage – any event can be timed and instantly converted to give an hourly rate.

The Strap

The attention that’s lavished onto a timepiece, down to the last screw, usually leaves little love for its strap. Yet, as the interface between watch and wrist, the strap performs a vital function, and can make or break the wearer’s experience. Ideally, the perfect sports chronograph will be paired with a strap that’s comfortable, robust, and also convenient to wear and adjust. Naturally, these requirements preclude a dressy leather strap, but what of the other options out there?

Rolex’s Glidelock fine adjustment system

Rolex’s Glidelock fine adjustment system

The Options

The evergreen choice for a sporty watch, chronograph or not, is a metal bracelet. Whether rendered in steel or titanium, a well-made bracelet stands up to abuse well, and maintains a presence on the wrist with some reassuring heft. Many bracelets also feature fine adjustment clasps, which allows the bracelet to be sized even more precisely for a wrist after adding or removing links. Since it doesn’t require a tool, such a clasp also allows the bracelet’s fit to be changed out in the field, which is perfect for impromptu adjustments when wearing the watch over clothes like a windbreaker, for instance.

The rubber strap is another popular option, thanks to its lightweight, waterproof, and hypoallergenic (when made with synthetic materials) properties. Out of all the available choices, Rolex’s Oysterflex probably takes the cake – it has an internal skeleton of nickel titanium that makes it unbreakable, yet maintains the supple feel of a rubber strap with all the advantages described.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master 40 with Oysterflex bracelet

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master 40 with Oysterflex bracelet

A third possible alternative is the NATO strap. Usually woven from nylon or an equivalent material, it has a section with two layers, and is fastened to the wrist via a series of rings and a regular ardillon buckle. Compared to the bracelet and rubber strap, it has two benefits – it can be swapped without any tools, and it keeps the watch on the wrist even if a springbar were to fail.

The verdict

Easily replaceable and capable of keeping a watch attached should a springbar breaks, the NATO strap is a clear winner. Brands like Tudor offers some of their timepieces with NATO straps, while myriad aftermarket options are also available. The icing on the cake is its cost – NATO straps, even premium ones, are relatively cheap.

Magnificent Seven

TAG Heuer Formula 1 Cristiano Ronaldo with NATO strap

TAG Heuer Formula 1 Cristiano Ronaldo with NATO strap

To build the ultimate chronograph, one only needs to combine all the elements discussed above…right? Well, not exactly. If it isn’t obvious enough by now, the perfect chronograph doesn’t exist, not least because every wearer’s needs are different. The exercise that was done on the preceding pages was useful for revealing the breadth of available options to a manufacture, but choosing one over another for any category will almost certainly entail trade-offs, even if they weren’t explicitly mentioned. Making a strong, lightweight, hypoallergenic titanium case using DMLS is certainly an attractive proposition, but the process is slow, and far more costly than milling a similar case from a block of the same metal. In the same vein of things, a rattrapante chronograph with two column wheels and a vertical clutch may be the bee’s knees, but the production, assembly, regulation, and servicing of such a calibre will cost its owner, to say the least. Price and value are also important factors to consider for a watch buyer, which explains the longevity of the workhorse Valjoux 7750 – it’s not perfect, but it works, and it’s affordable. Ultimately, options are always a good thing, and the luxury of choice never hurts.

This article was first published in WOW.

Luxuo World of Watches Rolex Daytona closeup 2016

10 Important Collector Watch Calibres

Car nuts rattle off engine codes as a special lingo that authenticates membership within the tribe; trump card hoarding schoolboys of an earlier age would memorise service designations of combat jets, as well as such vital stats as engine thrust and capacity armament. Watch appreciation too, has a nerdier aspect that finds parallel obsession with calibres, mainly addressed by their number codes: 2824, 2892, 7750, 4130, etc.

Calibres, or movements, are the hearts of mechanical watches and the very engines that divide the continuum of existence into consistent intervals that we might know when it is that we are meeting for lunch.

As has been widely reported, though there are myriad brands in the watchmaking business, at least where the Swiss are concerned, most of the movements come from a single source: ETA. A movement maker within the Swatch Group, ETA supplies movements that can be found in around seven out of 10 Swiss watches, never mind what brand it says on the dial. Of these, the 2824 and 7750 come to mind as being among the most ubiquitous. The self-winding 2824 found in three-hand watches, and the 7750 in automatic chronographs, pretty much cover the field. We will not be including these two movements in our list, as they belong more properly to “movements you already know about”. Rather, our list includes movements that are noteworthy, from a collector’s standpoint for their relevance to the brand or particular collection; or that they represent a milestone in the ever-progressing evolution of the mechanical movement. As a whole, this ensemble was also chosen as a broad survey of watchmaking, old and new.

Patek Philippe Calibre 240Patek-Philippe-Calibre-240

Sitting at the pinnacle of fine Swiss watchmaking, Patek Philippe is renowned for its elegant high complication watches. Such a feat would not be possible were it not for movements like the 240, a trusty, self-winding ultra-thin movement designed to take on more modules for ever more complications, while still looking svelte, and gala-ready. Unlike most self-winding movements sporting a full-sized rotor, the 240’s is a micro-rotor, not stacked on top of the movement (thus adding height) but recessed on the periphery, hence contributing towards a slim profile. At the same time, it does not obscure the beauty of the wonderfully decorated 240 when viewed through a crystal case back, though the rotor too is a thing of beauty in itself, a solid piece of 22K gold.Patek-Philippe-Calibre-240-automatic-movement

Dating from 1977, the 240 has been updated over the years and today features the Spiromax (silicon) balance spring, which offers precision in operation and manufacture as well as resistance against magnetic fields. At its simplest, the 240 drives several of Patek Philippe’s time-only watches such as the Ref. 7200R ladies’ Calatrava.

That said, the 240 was designed as a base calibre to accommodate complication modules while retaining a slim profile. In Patek Philippe’s present catalogue, there exists no less than seven variants with an impressive array of complications, from the 240 HU with world time and day/night indication, 240 PS C with date hand and small seconds, up to the 240 Q offering moon phase and perpetual calendar! With the latter, the number of components had grown by more than 70 per cent, to 275 parts, and movement height increased from 1.61mm to 3.88mm. Because of the added energy required to drive these added components, power reserve had also dipped, but remains at an agreeable minimum of 38 hours.


Automatic movement beating at 3Hz, with silicon hairspring and 48-hour power reserve

Dimensions: 27.5mm x 2.53mm

Number of parts: 161

Rolex Calibre 4130Rolex-Calibre-4130

Even in the relatively dignified realm of luxury watch collecting (high expense and a Britannica’s worth of technical history and cult lore promotes sobriety), there are fanboys, and the objects of their fevered affection falls upon Rolexes, not a few. Lusted after at a higher pitch even in this company, is the Cosmograph Daytona, and this was recently demonstrated once again at BaselWorld 2016 when the announcement of a new steel cased Daytona with white dial and black ceramic bezel sent the watch press and enthusiast community into another fit of ecstasy.

Why is this? Some credit surely accrues to the movement behind the silvered/lacquered face: the Calibre 4130.Rolex-Calibre-4130-Daytona-Movement

The Daytona wasn’t always mated to the 4130. Introduced in 1963, it was driven by a hand-wound Valjoux movement till 1988 when it was cased with Zenith’s self-winding El Primero movement (also featured on our list). However, Rolex famously detuned the movement from its native 5Hz to a more conventional 4Hz, while swapping out more than 50 per cent of the El Primero’s original parts. Major surgery; but still, not a Rolex movement. That would come in 2000, in the shape of the 4130, ticking all the right boxes: self-winding, column wheel control, vertical clutch for smooth starts, and Parachrom hairspring designed to perform well against magnetism, temperature variation, and shock. Rolex even reduced the number of parts enough that it could fit in a longer mainspring to achieve an impressive 72 hours of power reserve. It is a chronometer too, naturally.


Automatic chronograph movement beating at 4Hz, with 72-hour power reserve

Dimensions: 30.5mm x 6.5mm

Number of parts: 201

Audemars Piguet Calibre 3120Audemars-Piguet-Calibre-3120

Often banded together with Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin as the “Big Three” of high watchmaking, Audemars Piguet is phenomenally plugged into pop culture while remaining firmly anchored in high watchmaking orthodoxy. Like no other, its long resume of firsts in watchmaking innovations and high complications sits very comfortably with associations on the funkier end of the cultural spectrum, being a perennial favourite of sports and rap royalty. Part of this comes from dynamic thinking, like in 1972, when Audemars Piguet practically created a new genre of the luxury sport watch when it introduced a steel watch, finished to the standard and priced accordingly, as one of gold: thus the Royal Oak (RO) was born. Together with the burlier Royal Oak Offshore (ROO) chronograph that came on the scene in 1993, and in an almost unlimited arsenal of limited editions in various colour combinations, the RO and ROO are wont to steal the thunder from the company’s arguably more accomplished collections. The movement that unites the handsome duo, is the self-winding Calibre 3120.Audemars-Piguet-Calibre-3120-movement

Like Patek Philippe’s 240 described above, the 3120 is also a base calibre meant to accommodate more modules for additional complications. What’s different is that the 3120 was not made thin, but robust, including a balance bridge that anchors the oscillator securely on two points, wound by a full-sized solid gold rotor. Its thickness is suited for the masculine, sporty RO and hulkier ROO. In the latter’s case, because the chronograph is a module stacked above the 3120, the date display looks recessed – a quirk that has done nothing to dampen its popularity.


Automatic movement beating at 3Hz, with
60-hour power reserve

Dimensions: 26.6mm x 4.26mm

Number of parts: 280

Zenith El Primero Calibre 400Zenith-Primero-Calibre-400

A rock star among movements in more ways than one, the El Primero was unleashed to the world in a relatively low-key press conference in January 1969, which belied its ground-breaking specs. Not only was it the world’s first automatic integrated chronograph movement, it also featured an escapement that blitzed along at an unprecedented 5Hz which offered better chronometry and the ability to measure elapsed times to an accuracy of a tenth of a second. An engineering coup; but Oscar Wilde hit the nail on its head when he complained that people knew the price of everything and the value of nothing. In 1975, Zenith’s then-American owners decided to focus on making quartz watches and ordered the El Primero’s production equipment dismantled and sold as scrap. Instead of complying, an intrepid employee spirited away the El Primero’s technical plans and tooling bit by bit after work. Thanks to Charles Vermot, the El Primero resurfaced in 1984.Zenith-Primero-Calibre-400-movement

Today, the El Primero remains among the fastest beating mechanical movements at 5Hz, in the company of a few brands that have caught up with high beat movements in recent years. Though it started life as a chronograph, El Primero can now also be found in Zenith’s time-only watches such as the Synopsis, which drops the chronograph function but features an updated escapement with silicon wheel and lever visible through an opening on the dial. It has also made its way into the watches of Zenith’s sister brands within the LVMH group: TAG Heuer, Hublot, and Bulgari.


Automatic chronograph movement beating at 5Hz,
with 50-hour power reserve

Dimensions: 30mm x 6.6mm

Number of parts: 278

A. Lange & Söhne Calibre L951.6A-Lange-Sohne-Calibre-L951-6

The beautiful images and videos about Lange’s watches and movements belie a much more dramatic history that the Lange manufacture shares with its home city, Dresden. Towards the end of World War II, the city was obliterated by aerial bombing. Lange too ceased to exist after it was nationalised together with other companies into a watchmaking consortium to serve the needs of the Eastern Bloc. But both Dresden and Lange have since regained their place in the world with the end of the Cold War. The former, rebuilt brick by brick – from original rubble, in the case of the magnificent Frauenkirche church; while Lange has shrugged off the mass market tickers it made in the Communist era to return to the high watchmaking of its roots. It is history that informs the ethic at Lange, and the difference this makes is amply demonstrated in Lange’s interpretation of the ubiquitous wristwatch chronograph: the Datograph Up/Down.

While the field is largely divided between sports chronographs made for everyday practicality and ruggedness or daintier dress chronographs meant to add a dash of dynamism to a formal getup, the Datograph is a little different in approach. On the outside, it is almost austere in its devotion to function, driven by visual clarity and balance without anything superfluous. Yet, turn the watch over and the Calibre L951.6 astounds with baroque richness. Lange doesn’t seem to care about ease of manufacture, since the L951.6 has got more parts than many perpetual calendars, all finished with stoic patience and consummate skill. At the same time, it brims with technical innovation: unlike most chronographs where the elapsed minutes is a dragging hand, that on the Datograph jumps from marker to marker, making for much clearer readings. It’s just one of a series of instances where Lange spares no effort in creating innovative solutions to easily overlooked issues, while remaining well within the old school realm of mechanical craft. Moreover, not only is the L951.6 an in-house movement, Lange is also in the even smaller class of companies that make their own hairsprings. No shortcuts.


Hand-wound chronograph movement beating at 2.5Hz, with big date and power reserve indicator (60 hours)

Dimensions: 30.6mm x 7.9mm

Number of parts: 451

Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 854/1Jaeger-LeCoultre-Calibre-854-1

In an industry where most watch brands source their movements from other companies, Jaeger-LeCoultre is the technical superpower with more movements than we’ve got fingers to count them (more than a thousand different calibres, in its 180-year history, with hundreds of patents shepherding the evolution of mechanical watchmaking), and distinguished names on its client list include the likes of Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, and Cartier. Jaeger-LeCoultre today boasts a most expansive catalogue that showcases its deep expertise in diverse disciplines, covering high complications, artisan craft, and gem-setting. Of these, its most iconic watch is the Reverso; and even here, this venerable model exists in countless iterations, from petite quartz models for ladies, to high complication models with perpetual calendars, triple dial faces, repeaters, and multi-axis tourbillons spinning in cage within cage. Do we pick the movement one ought to know by drawing movement numbers out of a fish bowl? No. If we have to choose, we’d pick the Calibre 854/1.Jaeger-LeCoultre-Calibre-854-1-movement

The original Reverso was created in 1931 in answer to complaints by British army officers stationed in India over having their precious wristwatches smashed during energetic games of polo. With the Reverso, simply flipping the case over protected the fragile crystal and watch dial, while the metal case back that now faced the outside could be engraved with unit insignias or loving words. Outside the polo experience however, we think it more practical to have a second dial in place of bare steel, tracking a second time zone.

Enter the Reverso Duoface of 1994, refreshed in recent years with an ultra-thin and special edition blue dial versions, displaying time on each of its two sides. The GMT function is among the most practical of complications in this global village century, and while every other GMT watch in the business shows home time either via pointer, or window on one dial, the Reverso is alone in spacing this out over two. It may not be as efficient as checking dual time zones in a single glance, but the clarity can’t be beat. And because the Duoface sports contrasting dials, e.g. silvered dial and black on the reverse, it is essentially two watches in one, able to match near a complete range of dress codes and occasions. All this is made possible with the hand-wound 854/1, a single movement driving two time displays. Time can be set normally by pulling the crown, or when passing time zones, the hour hand in the second display can be advanced in one-hour jumps by pushing the flat pusher on the case side.


Hand-wound movement beating at 3Hz, with dual time zone and 45-hour power reserve

Dimensions: 3.8mm thick

Number of parts: 180

Montblanc Minerva Calibre 16.29Montblanc-Minerva-Calibre-16-29

There is a logic to progress that is unflinching, almost ruthless in its efficiency. Making much more of something in shorter time, for much less, is an advantage that is very hard to pass up. For this reason, mass produced commodity is stamping out the niceties of artisan production everywhere. Yet, thanks to companies like Montblanc, industrial prowess is sometimes lent towards preserving precious pockets of artisan production so that future generations may yet wonder and actually acquire heritage objects of rare beauty.

Montblanc churns out timepieces by the tens of thousands a year from its facility at Le Locle. It also has a manufacture at Villeret (formerly Minerva SA before it was acquired by the Richemont Group in 2006 and turned over to Montblanc) that produces only around a couple of hundred timepieces a year – that’s about as many as possible, doing things the old way, everything in-house, with classical tools and machines, largely by hand!Montblanc-Minerva-Calibre-16-29-movement

Minerva was best known for its chronographs, and the Calibre 16.29 that is used in the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter is a gorgeous sample of classical watchmaking. Based on a movement made by Minerva in the 1930s, the 16.29 is huge, filling up the 44mm watch case. There’s a column wheel, lateral coupling instead of vertical clutch favoured by its modern brethren, and the huge balance with weight screws oscillates at a stately 2.5Hz for maximum visual drama. But classical architecture is not the 16.29’s sole merit: lush finishing aside, the serpentine profile of its bridges and levers, including the signature devil’s tail of the chronograph hammer, makes many other chronograph movements
look ungainly in comparison.


Hand-wound chronograph movement beating at 2.5Hz, with 50-hour power reserve

Dimensions: 38.4mm diameter

Number of parts: 252

Chopard L.U.C Calibre 98.01-LChopard-LUC-Calibre-98-01-L

Some companies just have the knack for juggling diverse competencies. Among these, Chopard could have been content with the knowledge that its haute joaillerie collections are no strangers to red carpet galas, while its Happy Diamonds watches are extremely popular as everyday luxury. But the latter can no more lay claim to “authentic watchmaking” than could the Swatch watch, though both are phenomenal success stories for their respective companies. To address this, Chopard co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele established the Chopard Manufacture in 1996 to create “serious” watches fitted with movements designed and manufactured in-house. Since then, Chopard Manufacture has kept the steady pace of a long-distance runner, creating no less than 10 base movements with some 60 variations, cased in beautifully finished, classically styled watches of varying degrees of complication under the L.U.C label, the initials of the original company founder.Chopard-LUC-Calibre-98-01-L-movement

Of these, Chopard’s 8Hz is a dazzler for sure; but for us, the L.U.C Calibre 98.01-L beating inside Chopard’s Quattro watch is more in character with the company’s bold gambit and tireless consistency. Quattro is Italian for “four”. In the 98.01-L, which was introduced in 2005, that refers to the movement’s four mainspring barrels coupled in two stacks – a world’s first! According to Chopard, each mainspring is 47cm long, and it’s no small feat to squeeze four of them into a 28mm movement that is just 3.7mm thick. As such, the watch boasts a power reserve of nine days when fully wound. What is noteworthy is that this is achieved despite having the movement beat at a relatively quick (and energy-hungry) 4Hz. Moreover, while accuracy can suffer in watches with long power reserves as the energy wanes, the 98.01-L manages to be a COSC-certified chronometer. Add to that, quality and provenance validated by the Geneva Seal, and no room is left to doubt Chopard’s intent and capability in authentic watchmaking.


Hand-wound movement beating at 4Hz, with four barrels and nine-day power reserve

Dimensions: 28mm x 3.7mm

Number of parts: 223

Cartier Calibre 1904 MCCartier-Calibre-1904-MC

Cartier has an enviable history of supplying the most exquisite jewellery to royalty, and commercial success as a luxury purveyor to, well, the whole world. Its timepieces, too, have staked their place in watchmaking history. The Santos created in 1904 is one of the earliest true wristwatches (as opposed to pocket watches bound to the wrist by leather straps) for men, originally made for Alberto Santos-Dumont who flew the first true (powered) aeroplanes.

Still, for too long, Cartier hadn’t gotten the respect it deserved, not least for its Parisian (not Swiss) address, and that its most dazzling timepieces and complication creations, particularly those produced between 1998 and 2008 under the “Collection Privée Cartier Paris” (CPCP) label, used movements from companies like Jaeger-LeCoultre and Piaget, though Cartier did the finishing.Cartier-Calibre-1904-MC-movement

The sniggers stopped when Cartier introduced its first Geneva Seal watch in 2008, the Ballon Bleu Flying Tourbillon. However, it is a more mundane watch that is the real hitter into the heartland of Swiss watchmaking: the Calibre de Cartier, launched two years later. Though a humble three-hand with date, it is as pivotal as first love, containing Cartier’s first self-winding manufacture movement, designed, developed and made in-house: the Calibre 1904 MC.

Cartier now has a base movement from which to venture into higher complications, while broadening its reach tremendously, in bringing to market reasonably priced watches with authentic manufacture movements. To this end, the 1904 MC was engineered for reliability, ease of service, and efficient mass production. Performance also factored prominently in its design – though the 1904 MC boasts two mainspring barrels, they are arrayed in parallel, achieving only a modest power reserve of 48 hours, but energy delivery is made more consistent over a broad spread of its state of wind, contributing significantly to accuracy. The 1904 MC is also used in 2014’s Calibre de Cartier Diver, which meets the ISO 6425 international quality standard for diver’s watches.


Automatic movement beating at 4Hz, with twin barrels and 48-hour power reserve

Dimensions: 25.6mm x 4mm

Number of parts: 186

IWC Calibre 52010IWC-Calibre-52010

Even among storied brands, IWC stands out for how deeply it has written itself into watchmaking history. Timepieces for air force pilots just as air power was gaining traction among military planners, watches for scuba diving, timepieces for engineers as we turned a corner into the modern technological age – individuals engaged in pushing boundaries on land, in the air, and under the sea need wristwatches and IWC has enriched its own heritage and know-how by making purpose-built wristwatches for them. For a dressier pick, the Portugieser is among the most iconic and best loved. The original introduced in the 1930s was borne from the need for a marine-chronometer grade wristwatch, then only possible by casing a large, high-quality pocket watch movement in a wristwatch case.IWC-Calibre-52010-movement

This collection has been characterised by large cases and IWC’s largest movements ever since, including 2000’s Portugieser Automatic with a 50000-calibre movement that boasts seven-day power reserve and a highly efficient Pellaton winding system. The calibre 52010 featured here is a 2015 update with further technical enhancement and better finishing. Ceramic parts have been added to the winding system, making it virtually impervious to wear and tear; the faster balance now beats at 4Hz for better accuracy. Moreover, 52010 has two mainspring barrels to supply the same seven days’ power reserve with greater consistency for improved chronometry. IWC also partly skeletonised the rotor so the improved finishing of the movement is more readily evident.


Automatic movement beating at 4Hz, with two barrels and power reserve indicator (seven days)

Dimensions: 37.8mm x 7.5mm

Number of parts: 257

This article was first published in WOW.

In Pictures: Many Facets of Iroshini Chua

Dr Iroshini Chua wears many hats as a mother of two, family physician, travel columnist, high society fixture, party planner, accomplished home chef, charity crusader, style influencer, among others. The multi-hyphenate is also well known for her good taste in accessories and her love of gemstones. She has designed jewelry as a hobby business in the past, and is planning to launch her own brand in the near future. We asked her to share a few secrets on how she balances style and comfort so effortlessly.

Hostess With The Mostest

Special thanks to The St. Regis Singapore for hosting the photo shoot at its lavishly appointed Presidential Suite, which features a master bedroom, living room, dining room, executive office, gym, and terrace. Displayed on the premises are prized artworks by masters including Marc Chagall, Mark Tobey, Le Pho, and Sam Francis. Hand-painted silk panels adorn the walls, while custom-made Czech crystal chandeliers cast a warm glow. Other highlights include a luxurious bedroom and a beautiful master bathroom with its own Jacuzzi and separate jet massage shower with marble steam chamber.

Special thanks to The St. Regis Singapore for hosting the photo shoot at its lavishly appointed Presidential Suite, which features a master bedroom, living room, dining room, executive office, gym, and terrace. Displayed on the premises are prized artworks by masters including Marc Chagall, Mark Tobey, Le Pho, and Sam Francis. Hand-painted silk panels adorn the walls, while custom-made Czech crystal chandeliers cast a warm glow. Other highlights include a luxurious bedroom and a beautiful master bathroom with its own Jacuzzi and separate jet massage shower with marble steam chamber.

Van Cleef & Arpels Magic Alhambra one-motif white gold and diamond long necklace, Perlée white gold hoop earrings, Cadenas white gold and diamond watch; Emporio Armani embroidered cotton-mix pleated dress.

Career Woman

Christian Dior La Mini D de Dior 19mm watch, Rose Dior Pré Catalan pink gold and amethyst necklace, earrings, and ring, polyamide-mix pleated dress.

Christian Dior La Mini D de Dior 19mm watch, Rose Dior Pré Catalan pink gold and amethyst necklace, earrings, and ring, polyamide-mix pleated dress.

“I like wearing timeless and feminine clothes and jewelry that can easily take me from the clinic to an evening engagement.”

Mummy Duty

The Presidential Suite is part of The St. Regis Singapore’s Suite Society programme, which also features the Manhattan, Metropolitan, Knickerbocker, Astoria, and King Cole Suites. Guests who book them are offered exclusive access to exceptional dining and lifestyle privileges.

The Presidential Suite is part of The St. Regis Singapore’s Suite Society program, which also features the Manhattan, Metropolitan, Knickerbocker, Astoria, and King Cole Suites. Guests who book them are offered exclusive access to exceptional dining and lifestyle privileges.

Audemars Piguet Ladies Royal Oak Self-winding 37mm diamond watch; Chanel pearl sautoir; Iroshini’s own pearl and diamond ring; Christian Dior printed cotton-knit top and viscose-mix skirt.


Available across all St. Regis properties around the world, the St. Regis Aficionado programme provides guests with exceptional bespoke experiences, such as private access to the world’s premier lifestyle collections and auctions, tasting rare private vintages, and getting a custom-tailored garment made.

Available across all St. Regis properties around the world, the St. Regis Aficionado programme provides guests with exceptional bespoke experiences, such as private access to the world’s premier lifestyle collections and auctions, tasting rare private vintages, and getting a custom-tailored garment made.

Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Small Model 33mm watch with diamonds; Iroshini’s own yellow sapphire ring, blue sapphire earrings; Ondademar silk kimono, cotton camisole, woven hat, heels.

“I love to discover new destinations, and I holiday at resorts about eight to 10 times a year. I don’t believe one should eschew style for comfort or vice-versa. This resort outfit is my perfect solution as it is comfortable for lounging by the pool as well as a chic ensemble for the restaurants. Matching it well is this Vacheron Constantin watch, which is so versatile and offers a pop of color.”

Lady Of Leisure

Chopard L’Heure du Diamant collection white gold necklace with 4.85 carats of diamonds, High Jewellery white gold ring with 13.6 carats of yellow diamonds and 1.28 carats of white diamonds, High Jewellery white gold and diamond ear studs; Diane von Furstenberg appliqué cotton-mix dress; Wedgwood Daisy Tea Story teacup and saucer set.

Chopard L’Heure du Diamant collection white gold necklace with 4.85 carats of diamonds, High Jewellery white gold ring with 13.6 carats of yellow diamonds and 1.28 carats of white diamonds, High Jewellery white gold and diamond ear studs; Diane von Furstenberg appliqué cotton-mix dress; Wedgwood Daisy Tea Story teacup and saucer set.

“I believe that diamonds can be beautifully paired with a busy print or loud colors to pull an entire look together without competing with them. This way, each can be admired in its own right.”

Belle Of The Ball

Home to one of the finest private art collections in Southeast Asia, The St. Regis Singapore offers exclusive access to museum-quality art. The collection showcases over 70 original works of art, including sculptures, paintings, and prints by internationally renowned artists. Hotel guests are invited to partake in The Art of Living tour around the hotel, conducted by the hotel butlers at 6pm daily.

Home to one of the finest private art collections in Southeast Asia, The St. Regis Singapore offers exclusive access to museum-quality art. The collection showcases over 70 original works of art, including sculptures, paintings, and prints by internationally renowned artists. Hotel guests are invited to partake in The Art of Living tour around the hotel, conducted by the hotel butlers at 6pm daily.

Piaget Extremely Piaget white gold ear cuff with 3.19 carats of diamonds and 12.76 carats of blue sapphires, Extremely Piaget white gold necklace with diamonds totalling 52.43 carats, a 20.06-carat cushion-cut sapphire, and a 7.35-carat pear-shaped blue sapphire, Limelight white gold secret watch with Polynesian mother-of-pearl and 506 multi-cut diamonds totaling 76.24 carats; Iroshini’s own Tex Saverio silk-mix laser-cut applique tiered gown; Jimmy Choo red suede clutch.

Party Princess

At The St. Regis Singapore, all guests have access to the signature St. Regis Butler Service, which includes food and beverage requests, unpacking and packing of luggage, garment pressing, and the e-butler option for access to the butler service, from within or outside the hotel, at any hour 
via e-mail.

At The St. Regis Singapore, all guests have access to the signature St. Regis Butler Service, which includes food and beverage requests, unpacking and packing of luggage, garment pressing, and the e-butler option for access to the butler service, from within or outside the hotel, at any hour 
via e-mail.

Cartier Panthère Captive de Cartier white gold watch with diamonds, emeralds, and onyx, Panthère de Cartier yellow gold earrings with tsavorites and diamonds, Panthère de Cartier yellow gold bracelets, one with tsavorites and onyx, the other with black lacquer, tsavorites, diamonds, and onyx; Iroshini’s own Tex Saverio polyester-mix laser-cut top; Marciano cotton-mix shorts; Ash gladiator heels

“My wardrobe contains edgy and architectural pieces for night outs. They allow me to have fun with fashion and be experimental. The iconic panther motif on the timepiece and jewels packs a punch and makes the entire look more impactful.”

Story Credits

Text by Yanni tan

Images by Wong Wei Liang

Styling by Vernon Sim

Styling Assistance by Christine Lim

Hair by Eileen Koh

Makeup by Amy Chow, using Chanel colors

Location The Presidential Suite at the St. Regis Singapore

This story first appeared in WOW Jewelry, Singapore.