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Luxury watches made of steel: 6 stunning timepieces fetching higher prices from IWC, Ulysse Nardin and more

Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronograph Annual Calendar

Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronograph Annual Calendar

Steel-clad complications are no less precious than their counterparts in gold and platinum; they’ve merely skewed their value towards their movements and designs. In light of this, watchmakers have taken to releasing steel watches at even higher price points than watches made of more precious metals. Here are our six picks of steel timepieces for watch aficionados.

IWC Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month Spitfire, S$47,300

IWC Pilot's Watch Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month Spitfire

IWC Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month Spitfire

Here are the two most useful complications to have. On one hand, the perpetual calendar minimises its owner’s involvement by accounting for differing lengths of the months automatically to display the correct date  at least until 2100. On the other hand, the chronograph encourages more fiddling, to time any and every event that its wearer encounters. Combine them with an eye on symmetry and a premium on legibility, and a winning package emerges. Hidden beneath the dial are other technical complexities, such as a seven-day power reserve, and a date-change mechanism that sends four discs jumping simultaneously at the end of every year.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Duo, S$17,600

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Duo

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Duo

What better way to display a second time zone than on another face? The Reverso Tribute Duo tells local time via its main face, which has a white grained dial set with blue hands and indexes in an unmistakably Art Deco execution. Swivel the case around, and the flip side presents a dial that’s almost like a film negative of the main one blue is the dominant colour here instead, accentuated by silver hands and dial markings. In lieu of a small seconds display, the sub-dial
on the reverse is a day/night indicator.

Glashütte Original PanoMaticLunar, S$17,900

Glashütte Original PanoMaticLunar

Glashütte Original PanoMaticLunar

The PanoMaticLunar is an exercise in asymmetry. Its dial elements may all be off-centre, but they form a pleasing whole thanks to their exacting positioning vis-à-vis each other. There are, for instance, two vertical (and invisible) lines running down the dial, one connecting the centres of the hour/minute and small second indicators, and the other linking the large date and moon phase displays. In turn, the lines are joined by another perfectly horizontal one that bisects the small second and large date displays. This nuanced arrangement was, according to Glashütte Original, inspired by the Golden Ratio. Closer study will reveal myriad other details on the dial, produced in-house by the manufacture’s facility in Pforzheim.

Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronograph Annual Calendar, S$20,100

Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronograph Annual Calendar

Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronograph Annual Calendar

The Marine Chronograph Annual Calendar sports classic styling via its dial and hands to hark back to Ulysse Nardin’s past as a maker of marine chronometers, which contributed to transoceanic navigation. The movement beating within the timepiece is decidedly modern though, beginning with a silicium escapement and hairspring. Another fresh development here is the annual calendar that required just three additional wheels on top of the simple calendar mechanism, which has itself been pared down from 30-odd to around a dozen components. The result? Greatly improved convenience, as the date needs to be corrected just once a year. A chronograph function bumps up its appeal.

Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Watch with Large Date, Retrograde Second Time Zone, and Day/Night Indicator, S$12,800

Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Watch with Large Date, Retrograde Second Time Zone, and Day/Night Indicator

Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Watch with Large Date, Retrograde Second Time Zone, and Day/Night Indicator

This is a Cartier through and through; there’s no mistaking the classical styling that stems from the combination of minutiae here. Note for instance the Roman numeral indexes, the railway track chapter ring, and the silvered dial with a flinqué guilloché pattern. The remaining elements lend a fancier edge to the timepiece, beginning with a large date display at 12 o’clock. The second time zone complication takes things further with its atypical execution a retrograde indicator for the hour, which is paired with a separate day/night indicator.

Frédérique Constant Manufacture Worldtimer, S$5,400

Frédérique Constant Manufacture Worldtimer

Frédérique Constant Manufacture Worldtimer

A worldtimer complication isn’t exceedingly difficult to produce. Creating a worldtimer timepiece, however, is anything but, thanks to the sheer amount of information that must be presented on the dial harmoniously. Frédérique Constant has pulled it off here, and even managed to put various touches on the dial to increase its visual punch. A high contrast blue and white colour scheme ensures legibility, with dashes of red to anchor the GMT and Daylight Saving Time indications. The dial itself is built in tiers; the central world map is elevated above the cities and hour rings, while the date display is layered over it at six o’clock.

Credits

Photography GreenPlasticSoldiers
Art Direction
Joaelle Ng

This was originally published in WOW. We thank WatchesbySJX for insight given on the overall prices of steel watches in the luxury watch industry.

Novelty watches for him: IWC Aquatimer Chronograph Edition ‘Sharks’ released with book by photographer Michael Muller

The grey dial of IWC Aquatimer Chronograph Edition “Sharks” references the colour of the species it was named after

The grey dial of IWC Aquatimer Chronograph Edition “Sharks” references the colour of the species it was named after

New watches are often called novelties and the origin of this is from the French word “nouveauté” [this is disputed but not disproved – Editor] but translated as “novelty” due to the linguistic quirks peculiar to the watchmaking trade. Sometimes, new watches fit the novelty bill to a tee, as in the case of the IWC Aquatimer Chronograph Edition “Sharks”. Surely, offering a watch as part of a package with a book, all presented in a bite-proof metal shark cage, must count as novel!

Called Sharks, the book in question is by American photographer Michael Muller and it is one of those heavy-duty Taschen affairs. This limited-edition collector’s item comes with the Aquatimer Chronograph Edition “Sharks”, and is a boutique exclusive for IWC. So don’t go looking for it in Kinokuniya, folks.

Obviously, the Chronograph Edition “Sharks” is the same Aquatimer we looked at a couple of years ago, with some tweaks. The watch is limited to 500 pieces and features a hammerhead shark engraving on the solid case back. We’ll revisit some of the other details in a bit. First, more about the photographer, his project, and why IWC was interested.

If the name Michael Muller sounds familiar, but you aren’t a devoted follower of the National Geographic Channel (NGC), don’t fret. Actually, his work was featured on the Travel Channel, not NGC. Banter aside, Muller photographs celebrities and works on advertising campaigns. You’ve probably seen his work and not even guessed it. Happily, he’s not just Insta-famous…

Anyway, sharks are Muller’s particular passion and he travelled the world documenting shark species for this book. IWC describes his work here as having “an unprecedented degree of technical perfection”, which probably explains why the Schaffhausen-based watchmaker was drawn to him.

Hammerhead sharks are featured on the back case of the IWC Aquatimer Chronograph Edition “Sharks”

Hammerhead sharks are featured on the back case of the IWC Aquatimer Chronograph Edition “Sharks”

Muller’s work in “Sharks” illustrates the plight of the fish species, of which an estimated 100 million are caught and killed every year. This unbelievably large-scale slaughter drew IWC to the project. Raising awareness is the name of the game here, so we’re happy to play our part too.

Protecting endangered species is one of the key themes in IWC’s commitment to environmental issues. That is why, since 2009, we have also been working intensively with the Charles Darwin Foundation as it campaigns for various causes such as the preservation of the shark populations in the Galapagos Marine Reserve,” explains Georges Kern, CEO of IWC.

So, what is different about the Aquatimer Chronograph Edition “Sharks” then? Aside from the engraving on the case back, the grey dial is meant to evoke the distinctive colouring of many shark species. In terms of hands, hour markers, numerals, functions, and movement, this edition is the same as the standard Aquatimer Chronograph.

It is also worth noting that the edition of Muller’s “Sharks”, which comes with the Aquatimer Chronograph Edition “Sharks”, is signed by the photographer.

Specifications

Movement Self-winding Calibre 89365 with flyback chronograph
Power Reserve 68-hours
Case 44 millimetres in stainless steel
Water Resistance Up to 300 metres
Strap Black rubber with stainless steel pin buckle
Price S$17,400

This article was originally published in WOW.

IWC Da Vinci watches: Two new editions join the automatic collection for SIHH 2017

Some watch collections are legendary by design, with brands doing everything in their power to push the message. Others, like the IWC Da Vinci collection sort of stumble into the status, sometimes years after the saga began. Here, in advance of the 2017 edition of the SIHH, IWC showcases four different editions of the brand new Da Vinci and you might be forgiven for wondering why all the fuss over another round watch, even if two happen to be proper high complications: the in-house chronograph perpetual calendar and the tourbillon retrograde.iwc-da-vinci-moonphase-automatic-36-pre-sihh-2017

Before jetting off to an examination of the history of this remarkable collection, alongside the technical features of the high complications, we begin for 2017 with the Da Vinci Automatic 36 and the Da Vinci Automatic Moon Phase 36 (both seen above). Helpfully, the names here tell you all you need to know about the watches, briefly. One is a 36mm time-and-date automatic and the other is also 36mm, without date but with a moon phase indication in addition. The moon phase model will put you in mind immediately of the Portofino Automatic Moon Phase 37, which is one mm larger. Indeed, the calibre here is the same calibre 35800. Likewise, the Automatic 36 uses the same calibre 35111 beating within the Portofino Automatic 37, even though the date is positioned here at 6 o’clock.

As far as look and feel go though, the new Da Vinci models are unabashed throwbacks to the 1980s, with larger bezels, discreetly recessed inner dials, swiveling or articulated lugs (they move to ensure a better fit), bulbous crowns, slim (gold-plated) lance-shaped hands, Arabic numerals, and silver-plated dials. These elements are common to both the Automatic and Moon Phase models (neither has multiple crowns!) and we assume will hold true for the haute horlogerie pieces (perhaps with proper gold hands although there is some speculation that there will be a steel version of the chronograph perpetual calendar).iwc-da-vinci-automatic-36-pre-sihh-2017-caseback

IWC tells us that all Da Vinci models come with Santoni straps, standard, and both the Automatic and Moon Phase models appear to feature a Flower of Life engraving on their casebacks (above). This design is meant as a visual (and visceral) tribute to Leonardo da Vinci, whom the collection is named after. On that Moon Phase model, it joins the Portofino Moon Phase as the only ladies models to feature this complication in the IWC range. For IWC, the moon phase indicator rarely appears without other accompanying complications so this distinguishes the ladies’ models.iwc-da-vinci-moonphase-diamond-set-pre-sihh-2017

There are a variety of different iterations on just these basic novelties, including plain stainless steel, diamond-set (54 on the bezel) stainless steel (above) and 18k red gold (no diamonds for the Moon Phase 36). In addition, the Automatic 36 is also available with a steel bracelet and an 18k red gold bracelet.

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg

Formula One Weekend With IWC Schaffhausen

The Formula One weekend doesn’t just bring some of the finest race-car drivers and their extraordinary teams. It is also a chance for sponsors to bring fans closer to their idols, and to iconic shopping destinations around the island, during the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix 2016 weekend. In fact, from September 10, fans of the race will be able to head down to The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands to try out the special F1 simulator.Mercedes Formula One Team Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg

The simulator can be found next to the IWC Schaffhausen boutique and will be made available to the public from 10am to 10pm daily until September 18 at 6pm. On September 14, IWC Schaffhausen brand ambassador, Lewis Hamilton, will make an appearance at Marina Bay Sands store to set his race lap time. Apart from taking on the simulator himself, Hamilton will also be meeting fans in a question and answer session. The lucky winner with the best lap time — who knows it may be better than Hamilton’s – will win exclusive F1 merchandise signed by the Formula One driver.

Mercedes AMG GT S Official Safety Car of the FIA Formula One World Championship

Mercedes AMG GT S Official Safety Car of the FIA Formula One World Championship

Alongside the stimulator, fans can also get a glimpse of the Mercedes-AMG GT as it sits proudly on display at level one. With a masculine design and unbridled power, it is a display that will capture the heart of any racing fan.

Over at ION Orchard, a full-scale replica of the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One team garage will be on display, which brings the race to the heart of the city. Located at the Atrium, it will be the first time the public will be able to witness the engineering excellence that drives the racing team. On September 15, racing driver Nico Rosberg, another IWC ambassador, will visit the garage showcase while visitors can take part in an on-site contest to guess his race day fastest lap time.

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.

Specifications

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.

Specifications

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.

Specifications

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.

Specifications

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.

Specifications

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.

Specifications

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.

Specifications

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.

Specifications

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.

Specifications

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.

Specifications

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.

IWC Inaugurates Italian Boutique in Milan

IWC Schaffhausen never stops. It was first Rome, then Venice, and this year, the Swiss luxury label opens its third Italian boutique in Milan. Set in the city’s luxury shopping area of Via Montenapoleone 1, the opening ceremony was graced by a bevy of important business representatives, with the ribbon-cutting performed by brand ambassador Pierfrancesco Favino and television host and actress Alessia Marcuzzi.

PORTUGIESER CHRONOGRAPH RATTRAPANTE EDITION BOUTIQUE MILANO

Of special note is the 100-piece limited edition Portugieser Chronograph Rattrapante Edition “Boutique Milano” watch, presented for the first time during the evening. Featuring the characteristic third button for the rattrapante mechanism and a stopwatch function with minutes and seconds, the watch is also aesthetically mesmerizing, to say the least. A red gold case, blue dial, black alligator strap, 31 jewels and the inscription of “01/100” on the case back of the watch spell timeless elegance. Throw in the “Biscione” incision – the grass snake of the Milanese Visconti family – and the luxury watch label shows its love and connection to Milan.

PORTUGIESER CHRONOGRAPH RATTRAPANTE EDITION BOUTIQUE MILANO

Obviously, a celebration of haute horlogerie calls for the pairing of haute cuisine. Renowned Michelin-starred chef and IWC brand ambassador Andrea Berton presented a specially conceived menu, while the guests toasted with a fine selection of sparkling wines from the Ferrari Trento Winery.

HANDOUT - IWC Schaffhausen presented the limited and exclusive edition of 100 pieces of the Portugieser Chronograph Rattrapante Edition “Boutique Milano” (Ref. IW371215) during the gala dinner at Ristorante Berton for the IWC Schaffhausen Boutique Milan Opening on June 28, 2016. (PHOTOPRESS/Richard Morgano for IWC)

“We are honoured to officially inaugurate the Milan boutique. Milan is a city that reflects luxury par excellence, where everything is fast and dynamic, but that still appreciates the marking of time and the elegance of wristwatches,” said Beppe Ambrosini, Brand Manager IWC Italy. Will time ever stop ticking for IWC? Not on their watch.

IWC Schaffhausen Boutique, Via Montenapoleone, 20121 Milano, Italy – +39 02 8962 3901

IWC Funds School For Underprivileged Thai Youth

It always feels good to give back to the community and those less fortunate. The wonderful folks at IWC Schaffhausen must feel the same. This year, the brand has chosen to work alongside Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Youth Foundation, as they usually do. The collaboration will bring the underprivileged youth of the country’s Karen population the necessary professional training.

With the opening of the Hospitality & Catering Training Centre in Mae Sot, the luxury Swiss watchmaker and the foundation are hoping to bring the future of the country’s minority population out of the poverty cycle. Bringing the youth into the hospitality sector not only aims to provide job opportunities but can also be seen as a way to inject manpower in the industry.IWC-CSR-Thailand-students-2016

The facility was made possible thanks to the sale of the Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Edition “Le Petit Prince” in red gold that was auctioned back in November 2015. Sold for $48,752 the auction was held in Geneva by the renowned auction house Sotheby’s. This is not the first time that the watchmakers have sold a timepiece to aid in a good cause. Back in 2013, IWC auctioned off a unique Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Edition “Le Petit Prince” in platinum for $177,563. The sale of that timepiece, went towards financing two school buildings with a library in Ruluos, Cambodia.

23 Watches Offering Multiple Complications

Whether for increased functionality, to uphold tradition, or just because, an extra serving of complex mechanics always delights the connoisseur. Here, we take a look at several timepieces that will make you do a double take.

Chronograph + Calendar

Breitling Navitimer 01

Breitling Navitimer 01

Mention the chronograph, and a sporty timepiece invariably comes to mind. It’s an easy association to make, since the complication has played pivotal roles in the tales of derring-do that have taken place in cockpits, race cars, and even outer space. Its contributions in less thrilling situations may be oft overlooked, but aren’t any less significant. Doctors in the past, for instance, relied on chronographs with pulsometer scales to quickly and accurately determine their patients’ heart rates. The chronograph’s myriad uses make it one of the handiest complications to have on the wrist – even today – whether in a robust, sporty timepiece designed to brave the elements, or a dressier one meant for the office. So what better complication to pair it with, than another perennially useful one – the calendar?

Date And Time
Omega Speedmaster White Side of the Moon

Omega Speedmaster White Side of the Moon

The calendar is the most relevant astronomical complication for daily life, bar none, which explains its ubiquity in watches. Combine it with the chronograph, and a winner emerges. On the technical front, this isn’t particularly difficult, since calendar modules can be stacked onto an existing movement relatively easily, if it doesn’t already have a date indicator. There are also plenty of choices, depending on the desired level of complexity for the watch, as well as the considerations for its dial design.

The most straightforward option is, of course, a simple date indicator that requires an adjustment at the end of every month with less than 31 days. Most integrated chronograph movements will already include such a complication, since it doesn’t take up much space, requires few parts, and is simple to accomplish. The Breitling Calibre 01 used in the Navitimer 01 is one such example, with the date display at 4:30 on the dial. Omega’s co-axial Calibre 9300 is another; its date window sits at six o’clock to maintain the symmetry of the watch’s bi-compax layout, as shown in the Speedmaster White Side of the Moon.

Zenith El Primero Winsor Annual Calendar

Zenith El Primero Winsor Annual Calendar

Annual Affair

To kick things up a notch, the chronograph can be paired with the annual calendar, which requires a manual correction just once a year at the end of every February. The added complexity of the complication is apparent on the dial, which now displays the day of the week and the month. This can be managed in different ways. In the Annual Calendar Chronograph Ref. 5905P, Patek Philippe began by doing away with a running seconds hand, thus removing a sub-dial entirely. The hour totaliser was also excluded to leave a single counter at six o’clock, which marks the elapsed minutes, to further reduce clutter. Zenith, on the other hand, removed just the hour totaliser (arguably the least used portion of the chronograph), but kept the small seconds sub-dial on its El Primero Winsor Annual Calendar.

Good Till 2100
IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month Edition "75th Anniversary"

IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month Edition “75th Anniversary”

If the annual calendar isn’t enough, there’s always the perpetual calendar. The usage of this complication moves the watch into high watchmaking territory, and creates an interesting dichotomy at the same time. As long as the watch is kept running, the perpetual calendar requires no input from its wearer (at least until 2100), so having a chronograph function encourages him to interact more with it – start-stop-reset, start-stop-reset.

Presenting the information from a chronograph and a perpetual calendar becomes even more challenging with the inclusion of a leap year indicator. For Hublot, this necessitated the combination of multiple indicators into each sub-dial, as the Big Bang Chrono Perpetual Calendar shows. The counter at nine o’clock, for instance, combines the month, leap year, and chronograph minute totaliser, with the information displayed in three concentric layers. The brand also organised the information with distinct visual cues – white arrow-tipped hands for the calendar, red-tipped hands for the chronograph, and plain stick hands for the time. The thoughtful layout has even enabled Hublot to sneak in a moon phase indicator.

Hublot Big Bang Chrono Perpetual Calendar

Hublot Big Bang Chrono Perpetual Calendar

IWC, on the other hand, took a different route by utilising digital displays in its Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month Edition ‘’75th Anniversary’’ watch. By confining the date and month to two such displays, the manufacture could free up valuable real estate on the dial for an airier design. The chronograph sub-dial reinforces this by merging the minute and hour totalisers, which also allows elapsed time to be read like a normal watch, rather than the more common 30-minute counter.

Time Zones + Alarm

Vulcain Aviator Cricket

Vulcain Aviator Cricket

The world timer was created to allow its wearer to keep track of multiple time zones at a glance. From this came the simpler GMT complication that Rolex developed for airline pilots, to provide them with an easy reference for Greenwich Mean Time, the basis of all flight operations. These complications didn’t remain the exclusive domain of businessmen and aviators though. Globalisation, best exemplified by the democratisation of air travel in the mid-20th century, made both the world timer and GMT complications popular with a far wider audience, and has kept them relevant even today.

Ringing Reminder
Hublot Big Bang Alarm Repeater

Hublot Big Bang Alarm Repeater

Of course, one could use a little help if he has multiple time zones to keep track of. A rotating bezel could work – just align the 12 o’clock marker to the important time, and it will serve as a reminder. Why not go one step further, though, and use an actual alarm? Archaic as it seems, a mechanical alarm does offer benefits over its digital counterpart that’s available on a smartphone. For one, it’s integrated with the watch, which never leaves its wearer’s wrist, so it cannot be misplaced. There’re also no concerns with battery life either. Since the complication is powered by a separate mainspring that’s wound up manually, keeping it ‘charged’ is a nonissue.

Blancpain Leman Réveil GMT

Blancpain Leman Réveil GMT

Although the mechanical alarm isn’t a common complication, some manufactures do offer it in watches that track multiple time zones. Vulcain is one of them, as the brand was already producing watches equipped with mechanical alarms for Swissair pilots in the 1950s to help them with the important milestones in a flight. The spiritual successor to those watches is the Aviator Cricket, which pairs the world timer with a mechanical alarm. Operating the watch is easy: The alarm is set by positioning the central red-tipped hand to the desired time. Blancpain and Hublot have similar offerings, albeit with the GMT complication instead of a world timer. Blancpain’s Leman Réveil GMT has a sub-dial for the second time zone at three o’clock, with the alarm set like Vulcain’s timepiece. Rounding up the trio is Hublot’s Big Bang Alarm Repeater, which allows the alarm time to be set to the minute through a separate sub-dial at four o’clock.

Hybrid Theory
Jaeger Le Coultre Master Geographic

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Geographic

What other complications can a GMT or a world timer synergise with? With each other! Strange as it sounds, the two actually complement each other perfectly. Consider this: The GMT complication is intuitive to use, but tracks just one other time zone; the world timer, on the other hand, sacrifices some legibility to display far more information. Therefore, a hybrid can offer the best of both worlds by showing a selected time zone prominently, while the rest is available on demand.

Breitling for Bentley GMT Light Body B04 S

Breitling for Bentley GMT Light Body B04 S

Fusing the GMT and world timer complications can be done in several ways. For the Breitling for Bentley GMT Light Body B04 S, the red GMT hand continues to track home time, as the hour hand is set when one moves to a new time zone. To read the times in other cities, its user needs only to turn the bezel to align the home city on the inner flange with the GMT hand.

In A. Lange & Söhne’s Lange 1 Time Zone, local time is indicated by the larger sub-dial at nine o’clock. The smaller one at five o’clock has a triangular arrow that points at the city ring on the flange, and displays its corresponding time. Actuating the pusher at eight o’clock advances this city ring, and changes the time in the smaller sub-dial accordingly.

A. Lange & Sohne Lange 1 Time Zone

A. Lange & Sohne Lange 1 Time Zone

Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Master Geographic works similarly, with the crown at 10 o’clock responsible for changing the city at six o’clock. The time for the chosen city is then displayed accordingly in the sub-dial immediately above it. Granted, these three examples are not world timers per se. They do, however, have the ability to offer the time in more than 2 cities with just a little extra effort.

IWC Timezoner Chronographer

IWC Timezoner Chronographer

IWC’s Timezoner Chronograph, a 2016 novelty, deserves a special mention here. The timepiece displays the time of just a single city – the one at 12 o’clock on the bezel – in both 12- and 24-hour formats. Turn the bezel, however, and the white and red central hands that indicate the hours will jump accordingly, with the corresponding date correctly displayed at three o’clock. It’s both a GMT and a world timer watch, yet paradoxically it is also neither.

Perpetual Calendar + Moon phase

Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar "Terraluna" requires an adjustment for its moon phase dispaly just once every 1,058 years.

Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar “Terraluna” requires an adjustment for its moon phase dispaly just once every 1,058 years.

The perpetual calendar was covered earlier as a pairing option for the chronograph. On its own, however, this complication has almost always been paired with the moon phase display. For the man on the street, an indicator showing the current phase of the moon has about as much use as one that tracks the equation of time. This hasn’t stopped manufactures from including it in their perpetual calendar watches though, and for good reason – the moon phase display is the perfect feminine balance to the masculine perpetual calendar and its practical concerns with accuracy. Besides, it also lends a poetic touch to the dial that might otherwise be cluttered with hard information like the month and the day of the week – one certainly can’t argue against this, if he still appreciates wearing a mechanical watch in this day and age.

IWC Big Pilot's Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun

Integrating a moon phase display into a calendar complication is easy. The period of the lunar cycle is roughly 29.53059 days, so a wheel with 59 teeth is commonly used. This wheel is advanced by a finger once every day, just like the rest of the calendar’s displays. The tiny difference between the two accumulates over time though, so a correction of one day is needed every 2.64 years. For the perfectionists out there, there’s good news – alternative gearing ratios for the moon phase do exist, and can drastically increase the complication’s accuracy. The A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar “Terraluna”, for instance, has a moon phase display that requires a correction just once every 1,058 years.

Montbalnc Heritage Spirit Perpetual Calendar Sapphire

Montbalnc Heritage Spirit Perpetual Calendar Sapphire

Technical details aside, the way the moon phase indicator meshes with the perpetual calendar’s displays also bears some study, and Vacheron Constantin’s Patrimony Perpetual Calendar is about as classic as it gets. Three sub-dials for the perpetual calendar’s full array of information, balanced by the graphical moon phase indicator. To reduce clutter, the manufacture merged the month and leap year into a single hand at 12 o’clock, which makes a complete revolution just once every four years. This reductionist approach extends to the simple aperture that shows the moon phase.

Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Perpetual Calendar

Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Perpetual Calendar

Montblanc’s Heritage Spirit Perpetual Calendar Sapphire has all its information sorted into the same positions on the dial, but looks far more contemporary because of its smoked sapphire dial, and the more elaborate sub-dial for the moon phase. IWC’s Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun is another variation on the theme, with the information presented in a slightly different arrangement. The highlight here is the double moon indicator at 12 o’clock, which simultaneously displays the moon phase as it is viewed from the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

Glashütte Original Senator Perpetual Calendar

Glashütte Original Senator Perpetual Calendar

Finally, there’s Glashütte Original, which has stripped things to the bare minimum on the Senator Perpetual Calendar. The central hour and minute hands remain alongside a sweep seconds hand. All other information is shown via five apertures on the dial, including a single coloured dot that indicates the leap year.

Minute Repeater + tourbillon

It’s impossible to talk about the minute repeater without bringing out the superlatives. The complication remains the most revered among watchmakers and collectors alike, not least because of its complexity; a ‘simple’ minute repeater watch consists of over 300 parts that must all be finished, assembled, and adjusted. What’s more, there’s no room for error in several of the steps, like the removal of material to tune the gongs, as they are irreversible. It’s little wonder then, that the minute repeater remains the last bastion of high watchmaking that’s still well out of mass production’s reach. Its rarity is just part of its charm though. There’s nothing quite like listening to a minute repeater ‘live’ as its chimes announce the time down to the exact minute.

Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater with Flying Tourbillon

Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater with Flying Tourbillon

Spins & Strikes

Although minute repeaters frequently display their inner mechanisms through transparent case backs or open-worked dials, to admire them is to, above all else, have an auditory experience. As such, what better complication than the tourbillon to pair it with in order to create a multi-sensorial experience?

Jaeger- LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon

Jaeger- LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon

The tourbillon was conceived to even out a balance’s positional errors by constantly spinning it through all its possible positions. It might be an unintended consequence, but the rotating tourbillon carriage is mesmerising to watch, to say the least. Franck Muller was the first to recognise this and designed a movement where the device was first visible from the dial side of the watch, to create a constantly moving spectacle on the wrist. Combining the minute repeater with the tourbillon results in a timepiece with both audio and visual interest in spades.

Breguet Tradition Minute Repeater Tourbillon Ref.7087

Breguet Tradition Minute Repeater Tourbillon Ref.7087

Several manufactures offer such a match currently, but their executions differ widely from each other. Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Master Ultra Thin Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon has its tourbillon prominently displayed at six o’clock, but keeps the minute repeater hidden when the watch is viewed from the dial side. Cartier’s Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater with Flying Tourbillon, on the other hand, has its gongs and hammers in the same position, while its tourbillon is moved to 12 o’clock to provide balance instead.

Girard Perregaux Minute Repeater Tourbillon With Gold Bridges

Girard-Perregaux Minute Repeater Tourbillon With Gold Bridges

Those who want even more visual details will do well to consider either Breguet’s Tradition Minute Repeater Tourbillon Ref. 7087, or Girard-Perregaux’s Minute Repeater Tourbillon With Gold Bridges. In each watch, the movement design allows large portions of the minute repeater mechanism to be visible from the dial side. These components only come to life when the strike train is activated though, which leaves the tourbillon as the star attraction normally.

Patek Philippe Ref.5539G-001

Patek Philippe Ref.5539G-001

Patek Philippe’s Ref. 5539G-001 deserves special mention here. Ever the stalwart of tradition, the manufacture has kept the tourbillon on the back of the watch, with the only hint of its existence being the text on its dial at six o’clock.

Story Credits

Text by Jamie Tan

This story was first published in World of Watches.

5 Watches Making Old School Chic

If we are determined to think the worst, then it could be designers hitting a brick wall in their heads, or shareholders holding watch CEOs at gun point, that vintage watch designs are being raided from company archives and given new life in contemporary collections that look… little different. This is, however, not an isolated phenomenon unique to the watch trade. Beyond that received wisdom that the world’s largest luxury market that is China prefers conservatively styled, three-hand dress watches with silvered dials (PVD, be gone!), there is also this hipsterism thing going on that’s blowing in from the West, on the wings of Instagram, java, and jive. Typewriter showrooms are morphing into coffee shops, with junkyard garages following suit; and there’s been a revival of all things artisanal, as blog empires trumpet the return of the “gentleman”, with hats, brollies, and high-waisted pants. Old is gold, and watch companies are only giving consumers what they want when they rehash last generation’s icons.

It is not a bad thing. Petrolheads should be so lucky to have car companies ape their cousins in the watch trade. But they are not. And for watch buyers, let us count our blessings and sample some of the notable icons that have been given a refresh of the body, but thankfully, not in spirit.

Zenith Pilot Montre D’Aeronef Type 20 Extra SpecialZenith-Pilot-Montre-Daeronef-type-20-extra-special-2

Watchmakers can be inspired by aviation in any number of ways, like making watches with design cues lifted wholesale off actual flight instruments. Zenith is among a very few who can boast that it actually made these cockpit instruments, from 1910 to 1960. These were very momentous decades for aviation, stretching from the dawn of powered flight, through two World Wars, to the flowering of jet propulsion technology. And after shedding its fancy pants in recent past, Zenith decided to re-connect with its roots in classical watchmaking, and with its aviation heritage in particular when it released three pilot’s watches in 2012.

Of these, the Type 20 in particular, is a spitting image of vintage aircraft cockpit clocks that Zenith used to supply, as well as the watch that Louis Charles Joseph Blériot was wearing on his wrist when he made the world’s first Channel crossing in a heavier-than-air aircraft in 1909. The Type 20 has since grown into a diverse collection, encompassing a variety of complications including GMT, annual calendar, tourbillon, and even ladies’ models; as well as models showcasing elaborate engraving, skeletonisation, and dials of enamel and meteorite. But of particular interest here is the Type 20 Extra Special in bronze, introduced in 2015.

To make the collection more accessible, Zenith previously released a Type 20 Extra Special in steel, in 2014. However, with a lower price tag, came a third-party movement supplier (Sellita). No shame in that, but a third-party movement for an accomplished movement maker and vertical manufacturing pioneer like Zenith is, to say the least, inappropriate. Hence, the bronze model released in 2015 came equipped with an in-house movement.

For its colour, and the way it ages, bronze delivers character, charisma, and stand-out looks without the cost of a precious metal. There is such a thing as “bronze disease”, which refers to an irreversible chloride corrosion that affects copper-based alloys including bronze, manifested as a greening of the metal. Saltwater is one factor, and one might even be wary about sweating on the watch; but in reality, bronze artefacts have survived from as far back as five millennia BC (seven thousand years, some in the sea), and bronze is still used to make ship propellers, which are dipped into the ocean all the time! Moreover, at least among bronze watches from brands of comparable cachet, the Type 20’s asking price is attractive, in one case, by nearly half. Titanium (hypoallergenic) case back is a thoughtful feature towards wearer comfort.

IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage WatchIWC-Big-Pilot's-Heritage-Watch

Vintage Pilot’s watches are the stuff of legend in part because pilots of today – in an age of GPS, radar, and planes that can practically fly themselves – do not need watches as much as their forebears, who depended on watches to derive such fundamental information such as where one is, and how long the fuel will last. In this regard, a pilot’s watch had to be precise, and hardy enough to operate reliably in the flight environment, in the face of gravitational stress from fast manoeuvres, rapid fluctuations in temperature and pressure with altitude, and magnetic fields emitting from flight equipment. IWC has much claim to making authentic pilot’s watches, for the long years it has been supplying them to the preeminent air forces of the day, including the Luftwaffe in the 1940s, and the UK Royal Air Force during the post-war years.IWC-Big-Pilot's-Heritage-Watch-back

For 2016, IWC has refreshed its pilot’s watch collections, most distinctive of them being the Big Pilot’s Heritage watch in a colossal 55mm case size, as large as the 1940 model that was a saucer of a watch strapped to the thigh rather than worn on the wrist. Legibility counted for much, and one flew seated. Unlike the original, IWC has chosen to construct the case out of sandblasted titanium, cutting the weight by 18 per cent to 150g. Limited to 100 pieces, it’s a piece of history. But for something more wrist-friendly, the Heritage also comes in 48mm case size. This model features a longer running movement than the 55mm model (eight days’ power reserve, as opposed to 46 hours), and while both have soft iron inner cases to shield the movement against magnetic fields, IWC has managed to craft a sapphire crystal window onto the 48mm model’s back case. Hero jewellery.

Montblanc 1858 Chronograph TachymeterMontblanc-1858-Chronograph-Tachymeter

Why are vintage-inspired products lately resurgent? Is it just a matter of aesthetics? It could be, for some. And that would be enough. But for others, it is also about the way things used to be done, that with progress, we had somehow traded away beauty, elegance, and significance for cost effectiveness and convenience. To right that balance is probably why Montblanc took the Minerva manufacture under its wings in 2006. Established in 1858, Minerva is notable for creating beautiful, handcrafted movements, and since its acquisition, its expertise and ideals have been secured, and have coloured Montblanc’s watchmaking collections, from limited edition high complications to more accessible, non-limited timepieces. The 1858 chronograph, in a limited edition of 100 pieces, follows this fine tradition; it’s Old School through and through.

The watch face is of the traditional bi-compax layout, with two sub-dials; lumed Arabic numerals and quaint needle-tipped cathedral hands are right for optimal legibility; while traditional railway track markings are hard to beat for precise division of time. There is good reason for having a pair of chronograph pushers, but a monopusher integrated with the crown is visually cleaner. Montblanc has also reverted to an old logo, to more coherently pair with the overall aesthetic of the watch.Montblanc-1858-Chronograph-Tachymeter-back

Some traditionalists might baulk at the 1858’s case size, though: an immodest 44mm, at odds with vintage codes, to say the least. The upside to this is that it offers room for a large, lushly decorated movement, the manual-winding MB M16.29, inspired by a Minerva movement from 1929. Column wheel, lateral coupling, a large balance with weight screws and swan neck regulator; and a Minerva signature, the chronograph hammer shaped like a devil’s tail. It’s a modern-sized widescreen window into the pillars of classical watchmaking. And what a view.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic 195Jaeger-lecoultre-geophysics-1958

What better way to remember the Cold War than with a wristwatch to commemorate a rather weird episode within this global contest where nations came together across an ideological divide to co-explore the globe with socialist zeal; while on the wings, the Superpowers shadow-boxed like ex-lovers over milk gone sour. The period in question is the International Geophysical Year (IGY) that lasted from July 1, 1957, to December 31, 1958. Some 67 countries collaborated on scientific and exploration projects related to the earth sciences. The Soviet Union stunned the US when it successfully launched Sputnik 1 in October 1957. The US returned the favour in August the following year when the USS Nautilus, the world’s first operational nuclear-powered submarine, steamed from Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean, crossed under the North Pole, and surfaced in the Atlantic, northeast of Greenland, practically in the USSR’s backyard. International cooperation aside, it was about putting one’s rival within nuke range.Jaeger-lecoultre-geophysics-1958-white

Jaeger-LeCoultre’s contribution to the IGY was the Geophysic, the most capable watch it knew how to make at that point in time, best suited to the precision, reliability, and toughness required of scientific exploration. With production run lasting about a year, only a little over 1,000 pieces were ever made in stainless steel, and 30 in gold. In 2014, the manufacture has re-issued the Geophysic, in a slightly larger case size (38.5mm as opposed to 35mm), powered by a modern, proven self-winding movement in place of the original’s hand-wound movement, and validated by JLC’s own 1,000 hours of testing, which exceeds the COSC standard for which the original was certified. A new Cold War is brewing; good time for a new Geophysic, in three variants and two dial layouts.

Vacheron Constantin Historiques Cornes de Vache 1955Vacheron-Constantin-Historiques-Cornes-de-Vache-1955

Last year, Vacheron Constantin released a vintage-styled chronograph with a recognisably generic design, bearing two sub-dials on a silvered dial. Many other brands have something like this too. But not the lugs! Rounded, voluptuous, and pointy; for an otherwise very sober watch, they are a most peculiar appendage, almost kinky. By the lugs, one can identify it for the Vacheron “Cornes de Vache”. Horns of a cow, in English. The spiritual successor to the Ref. 6087 of 1955. Even back then, it seems Vacheron Constantin already had a sense of humour. A bull would be a fiercer animal some of us prefer to associate with, what with rage, power, and bullish markets. Cows, on the other hand, give butter. But bull would be “taureau”, not “vache” and the wordplay would be lost. Cow (vache) it is… and only from Vacheron!Vacheron-Constantin-Historiques-Cornes-de-Vache-1955-back

But it takes somewhat more than a pun to make a legend. Ref. 6087 was the company’s first chronograph that was water resistant and anti-magnetic, being equipped with screwed-in case back and soft iron inner case. It is also among the rarest of Vacheron Constantin’s chronographs – only 36 were ever made; 26 in yellow gold and eight in pink gold from 1955 to the mid 1960s, followed by two in platinum in the 1990s, which bore the same reference number and movement but in a case without the cow horn lugs. Ref. 6087 was also the manufacture’s last chronograph model till 1989.

In name, form, and its pivotal place in the company’s history, the Historiques “Cornes de Vache 1955” makes a compelling proposition, beyond the fact that it’s been so beautifully made.

Story Credits

Text by Yeo Suan Futt

This story was first published in World of Watches.

Larger than Life: IWC Big Pilot’s Watches 2016

Swiss watchmaker IWC decided to pull a Netflix move this year and showcase its entire 2016 collection, creating the horological equivalent of the binge-watch. Well, the Schaffhausen-based firm has not quite gone all the way because key information, such as specifications and images for all the models are still to come so maybe this is more of an elaborate trailer. Leading the way for the brand in 2016, with pictures and everything are the Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 and 55; these models are so named because of their respective sizes, in millimeters.

UNDATIERTES HANDOUT - For 75 years, the historic Big Pilot's Watch (52-calibre T.S.C.) was the largest wristwatch ever made at IWC in Schaffhausen. In 2016, IWC Schaffhausen unveils its successor: with an amazing 55-millimetre case diameter, the Big Pilot's Heritage Watch 55 eclipses a record that was set back in 1940. Like its big brother, the Big Pilot's Heritage Watch 48 looks very much like the historic original, but makes a few more concessions to modern ideas of aesthetics and comfort. (PHOTOPRESS/IWC)

The Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55

No, as you can see, the word ‘Big’ in the name is not figurative and given that so much of the real estate is taken up by the dial, your friends will be able to use your watch to tell the time across the room. In fact, these two models are limited edition (with a novel distinction) tributes to the oversized aviator’s watches of WWII (some of which were made by IWC, including one which was the biggest ever made by the firm, until the Heritage 55). What we know about these two watches, other the fact that both boldly give you the time of day – with small seconds at 6 o’clock – is that although they look remarkably similar dial-side (see if you can spot the major differences yourself) and are both cased in titanium, they are quite different.

UNDATIERTES HANDOUT - For 75 years, the historic Big Pilot's Watch (52-calibre T.S.C.) was the largest wristwatch ever made at IWC in Schaffhausen. In 2016, IWC Schaffhausen unveils its successor: with an amazing 55-millimetre case diameter, the Big Pilot's Heritage Watch 55 eclipses a record that was set back in 1940. Like its big brother, the Big Pilot's Heritage Watch 48 looks very much like the historic original, but makes a few more concessions to modern ideas of aesthetics and comfort. (PHOTOPRESS/IWC)

The Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48

The Heritage 55 is powered by the manual-winding calibre 98300, a movement known to collectors from the Portuguese FA Jones pieces, that is itself a tribute to pocket watch movements from IWC. The Heritage 48, on the other hand, is powered by the manual-winding calibre 59215, which is distinguished by a power reserve indicator visible via the caseback; this calibre will run for 8 days before fading, which is in stark contrast to calibre 98300’s 46-hour power reserve.

Specs

  • Big Pilot’s Heritage 55
  • Dimensions: 55mm x 13.5mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds
  • Power reserve: 46 hours
  • Movement: Mechanical, manual-winding, calibre 98300
  • Water resistance: 60 meters
  • Material: Titanium
  • Limited to 100 pieces
  • Big Pilot’s Heritage 48
  • Dimensions: 48mm x 14.5mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date (6 o’clock), power reserve (caseback)
  • Power reserve: 192 hours
  • Movement: Mechanical, manual-winding, calibre 59215
  • Water resistance: 60 meters
  • Material: Titanium
  • Limited to 1,000 pieces
UNDATIERTES HANDOUT - For 75 years, the historic Big Pilot's Watch (52-calibre T.S.C.) was the largest wristwatch ever made at IWC in Schaffhausen. In 2016, IWC Schaffhausen unveils its successor: with an amazing 55-millimetre case diameter, the Big Pilot's Heritage Watch 55 eclipses a record that was set back in 1940. Like its big brother, the Big Pilot's Heritage Watch 48 looks very much like the historic original, but makes a few more concessions to modern ideas of aesthetics and comfort. (PHOTOPRESS/IWC)

The Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55 is limited to 100 pieces, each one numbered.

UNDATIERTES HANDOUT - For 75 years, the historic Big Pilot's Watch (52-calibre T.S.C.) was the largest wristwatch ever made at IWC in Schaffhausen. In 2016, IWC Schaffhausen unveils its successor: with an amazing 55-millimetre case diameter, the Big Pilot's Heritage Watch 55 eclipses a record that was set back in 1940. Like its big brother, the Big Pilot's Heritage Watch 48 looks very much like the historic original, but makes a few more concessions to modern ideas of aesthetics and comfort. (PHOTOPRESS/IWC)

The Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 is limited to 1,000 pieces but it looks like each one only bears “one out of 1,000” instead of an actual number.

Pre-SIHH: IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar

2015 marks the 75th anniversary of IWC’s Portuguese collection, and the manufacture has designated it as the Year of the Portugieser. The name is not a typo error – IWC quietly renamed this collection late last year, although the exact reasons for doing so remain a mystery for now.

The original Portuguese was created to meet two Portuguese businessmen’s needs for a wristwatch with the precision of a marine chronometer. To do so, IWC housed a large pocket watch movement (then the only ones accurate enough) into a watch measuring 41.5mm across to create the first Portuguese, Ref 325. Its large round case was unusual in a period which favoured dainty square/rectangular watches given the Art Deco movement that was in full swing. This design cue has however grown to become timeless over the years, alongside the alternatingly satin brushed and polished case surfaces, the railway track chapter ring, Arabic numeral indexes, and feuille shaped hands.

Two milestones will dominated 2015 for IWC. Since it’s the Year of the Portugieser, several new models of the collection will be unveiled at SIHH later this year. Besides this, IWC is also moving into the next phase for its watchmaking capabilities, which entails the in-house design and production of base movements for its watches. The confluence of these events explains the manufacture’s pre-SIHH focus – the Portugieser Annual Calendar.Pre Sihh Portugieser Annual Calendar 2The Portugieser Annual Calendar is IWC’s first annual calendar. This complication requires an adjustment just once every year at the end of February, but accounts for the differing lengths of the other 11 months. The watch displays the day, date, and month on three separate apertures at 12 o’clock, and all calendar related adjustments are made via the crown to maintain a streamlined case, which measures 44.2mm here. The movement within it, Calibre 52850, is from the 52000-calibre movement family, the first of three new ones that IWC will progressively introduce in 2015 (52000), 2016 (42000), and 2017 (69000). Annual calendar aside, Calibre 52850 also features twin barrels that gives it a seven day power reserve, which is tracked via the sub-dial at three o’clock.

IWC has included several details that elevates the movement family to a “premium” level. For one, Calibre 52000 movements will be set with a solid gold medallion inscribed with “Probus Scafusia”, which is Latin for “quality craftsmanship from Schaffhausen”. In addition, the pawls, automatic wheel, and rotor core of the Pellaton winding system are made of ceramic for greater durability, due to feedback from the servicing department about abraded winding wheels and pawls. Finally, blued screws complete the aesthetics of the view through the case back.

In contrast to the ultramodern movement within it, the external design of the Portugieser Annual Calendar has seen only slight changes that do not detract from the collection’s DNA. All the details mentioned above remain front and centre in the watch, with notable new ones being the crystal, which now has an arched edge to accommodate a thicker movement without requiring a larger case, and a curved springbar and strap ends to better conform to the wearer’s wrist.

The Portugieser Annual Calendar comes in several different colour variations. Ref. IW503504 has an 18K red gold case and silver plated dial. The other two references in steel, IW503501 and IW503502, have a silver plated and midnight blue dial respectively. 

IWC Portofino Midsize: Watches & Wonders Debut

For the second Watches & Wonders held in Hong Kong, IWC has unveiled its new Portofino Midsize collection. The collection comprises of four different models, who together account for a whopping 20 new references from the manufacture, and is one of the most comprehensive launches of a new collection that we’ve seen to date. With the launch of this collection at Watches & Wonders, IWC has departed from its usual practice of revamping a single collection every year. We might just be looking at the beginning of a biannual release schedule from the manufacture.

According to IWC’s CEO Georges Kern, the new collection is targeted at customers with smaller wrists, and a throwback to Portofinos of the past – the very first Portofino was just 34mm across, after all. Note, however, that this is an additional collection, and will in no way replace the existing collection of Portofinos.Iwc Portofino Midsize Watches Wonders Debut 8The collection comprises of four different models, and the flagship model/reference is the Portofino Midsize Automatic Moonphase in white gold (Ref IW459004), as shown above. This particular timepiece has its bezels, lugs, and dial set with diamonds, and a lacquered dial that imparts a deep black that contrasts with them. The other references for this model have cases of red gold or stainless steel, and come with mother of pearl dials and diamonds on their bezels. The Portofino Midsize Automatic Moonphase is powered by IWC’s self-winding Calibre 35800 movement, which beats at 4Hz and runs for 42 hours on a full power reserve.Iwc Portofino Midsize Watches Wonders Debut 5The next model is the Automatic Day & Night (above). As its name suggests, this model has a GMT complication with an inbuilt day/night indicator, in the form of a bi-colour ring that’s set within the dial itself. Despite having four sweeping hands on the dial, the time can be read at a glance, as the GMT hand is noticeably shorter and blued, while the other three hands are silver in colour. The timepiece will come in either red gold or stainless steel, depending on the reference. A Calibre 35700 movement powers this timepiece and, like the 35800, runs at 4Hz with 42-hour power reserve.Iwc Portofino Midsize Watches Wonders Debut 6People who are looking for simplicity in their next watch would be well-advised to check out the Portofino Midsize Automatic and Portofino Midsize Automatic 40mm (the former, like the other two models above, clock in at 37mm). These minimalist 3 hand watches comes in either red gold or stainless steel, with your choice of plain or diamond-set bezels, and slate or silver dials. With a total of 13 references between them, there’s likely something for everyone.Iwc Portofino Midsize Watches Wonders Debut 7Lest we end up sounding like a catalogue, suffice it to say that strap options are aplenty for this new collection. Aside from alligator straps provided by shoemakers Santoni, IWC is also offering Milanese mesh bracelets in stainless steel or red gold on selected references.

As part of efforts to launch this new collection, IWC roped in several celebrities for a photoshoot in Portofino (where else?) in May earlier this year. They included double-Oscar winners Christoph Waltz and Cate Blanchett, Hollywood stars Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor and Zhou Xun, and supermodels Adriana Lima and Karolina Kurkova. Peter Lindbergh was the photographer for the manufacture, in a collaboration that dates back to 2010.Iwc Portofino Midsize Watches Wonders Debut 3 Iwc Portofino Midsize Watches Wonders Debut 4

IWC: Drivers and Ingenieurs

In the run-up to the F1 night race taking place in Singapore this weekend, IWC has unveiled two new watches jointly designed with the drivers from the Mercedes AMG Petronas (MAP) racing team – the Ingenieur Chronograph Edition ‘Lewis Hamilton’, and the Ingenieur Chronograph Edition ‘Nico Rosberg’. IWC is the official engineering partner for MAP, and the namesake watches come as no surprise given both drivers’ penchant for horology.Iwc Ingenieurs And Drivers 1At a glance, one can see the new watches’ similarities to the Chronograph Racer (above) from IWC’s Ingenieur collection. The three timepieces all sport bi-compax layouts and 45mm cases, and have combined chronograph minute and hour totalizers on their 12 o’clock sub-dials. The latter are in turn balanced by small seconds sub-dials at six o’clock, complete with integrated date windows. The new watches are also similarly powered by IWC’s Calibre 89361 movement. This self-winding chronograph movement has flyback function and comes with a 68-hour power reserve.

The above parallels are no coincidence. Christian Knoop, associate director of IWC’s Creative Centre, has remarked that the design process faced time constraints given the drivers’ schedules and the need to allocate sufficient time for actual production and testing. It was impossible to design a new watch from ground up anyway – Knoop expressed his priority to maintain IWC’s heritage by adhering to timeless (and not merely fashionable) designs, which were to come from one of the manufacture’s six current collections. The choice of Ingenieur was obvious, given its sporty lineage and association with motorsports. Based on design ‘toolkits’ provided for by IWC, each driver then came up with his own watch.

Despite these ‘constraints’, the visual contrast between the drivers’ watches are apparent. When asked about their respective designs, both drivers were extremely candid – there was no marketese about how the watches were reflections of their personalities or the like. Instead, each driver had different goals when designing their watches, which are reflected in the final products.Iwc Ingenieurs And Drivers 2Lewis Hamilton, being a technophile, wanted a watch that featured a lot of technology. To that end, his watch (above) features a dial, crown and crown protection, and chronograph pushers all made of carbon, a material that sees widespread usage in F1 cars in various forms. His choice of a titanium bracelet was also deliberate, and a first for IWC – Hamilton wanted a metal bracelet that was rugged and skin friendly.Iwc Ingenieurs And Drivers 3On the other hand, Nico Rosberg wanted a watch that showcased elements of complex technology, passion, and emotion. Unlike Hamilton’s monochromic design, Rosberg’s watch (above) has bright splashes of yellow for its chronograph functions reminiscent of his previous helmet, with a silver plated dial that further lightens up the watch’s colour scheme. A dark fabric strap completes the watch for an airy and sporty look.

Differences in design philosophy aside, the watches share similarities that differentiate them from the ‘stock’ Ingenieur Chronograph Racer. Firstly, the case back of each watch is embedded with a carbon fibre medallion. This medallion comes from the undertray of the respective driver’s race car that was used earlier this season, and sealed with a piece of sapphire glass adorned with his personal logo. As a result, the watches are 1mm thicker at 15.5mm compared to the Chronograph Racer. Interestingly, both drivers had also separately chosen to use Grade 2 titanium for their respective watches instead of the stronger Grade 5 commonly used in watchmaking – unlike the latter, Grade 2 titanium is darker and looks less like steel, which the Chronograph Racer is made in. Finally, both watches are limited editions, and will come in 250 pieces each.

On the occasion of the watches’ unveiling, IWC and MAP also announced that they had renewed their partnership for a further three years – IWC will thus be the official engineering partner for MAP until the end of the 208 Formula 1 season.

IWC Commemorates 70th Anniversary of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Final Flight

Iwc Antoine Exuperys Final Flight 1Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s fate on his final reconnaissance flight in 1944 was one of aviation’s greatest mysteries, and frequently compared to Amelia Earhart’s disappearance over the central Pacific Ocean. Saint-Exupéry had already been discharged from the air force because of his age, but had continued flying out of a sense of national duty. His last assigned mission was a reconnaissance flight in and around the Rhone valley, to prepare for an Allied invasion of southern France.

Unfortunately, he did not return after taking off from an airbase in Corsica. Speculation over where Saint-Exupéry came down was finally put to rest in 1998, when a fisherman recovered a bracelet of his off the coast of Marseille. Subsequently in 2001, a diver found pieces of wreckage from his plane on the seabed in the area, which were recovered two years later. As the debris field was one kilometre long and 400 metres wide, it was theorised that Saint-Exupéry’s plane had struck the sea’s surface at a high velocity.

Iwc Antoine Exuperys Final Flight 5

To mark the 70th anniversary of Saint-Exupéry’s final flight, IWC has released the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “The Last Flight”. As we’ve detailed previously, IWC has a longstanding partnership with the estate of Saint-Exupéry, with several special edition watches issued over the past decade. The Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “The Last Flight” is the tenth such timepiece, and marks a return to Saint-Exupéry themed pilot watches after a few featuring the eponymous character of Le Petit Prince, Saint-Exupéry’s best known book.

Three limited editions of the watch are available; the crown, pushers and caseback come in either titanium, red gold, or platinum, with limited runs of 1700, 170 and 17 pieces for each respective variation. Although all IWC special edition timepieces honouring Saint-Exupéry have had their dials in tobacco brown similar to his flight suit, this is the first iteration with a ceramic watch case in the same colour. This colour motif is made complete with a calfskin strap, also in tobacco brown.

Besides its unique ceramic case, the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “The Last Flight” has features differentiating it from the “stock” Pilot’s Watch Chronograph and other special edition pilot chronographs IWC currently offers. Despite the familiar bicompax layout, the watch has no date window at three o’clock. It has, instead, been integrated into the small seconds subdial at six o’clock.

The timepiece is also capable of measuring elapsed time of up to 12 hours with flyback, and both its minute and hour counters have been combined into the subdial at 12 o’clock. The result is a surprisingly pleasing symmetrical dial. Flip the watch around, and you’ll see the engraving on the caseback commemorating Saint-Exupéry’s last flight.

Iwc Antoine Exuperys Final Flight 6

 

Like many previous occasions, a once-off piece of this watch has been made in platinum. It will be auctioned off in November at Sotheby’s Geneva, with the beneficiary this time being the Hospital Pequeno Príncipe in Curitiba, which is Brazil’s largest children’s hospital. Proceeds from the watch’s auction will go entirely towards a library in the hospital’s recreation area.

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A Watch By Any Name

Watch collecting, like most other technical hobbies, is chock-full of nicknames and acronyms. Often, these nicknames stem from associations with a famous personality or event. Omega’s Speedmaster Professional went to the Moon in 1969 and is now known as the Moon Watch, while vintage Speedmasters which pre-date the Moon landing are thus known as pre-Moon Speedies.

The most avidly collected brands and genres are those with the greatest proliferation of nicknames, so it’s no surprise that the richest brand in the horological lexicon is Rolex, especially of the vintage sort. To the uninitiated, the vernacular of Rolex fanatics is baffling, yet often logical. Tropical dials refer to dials which were originally black, but have since faded to tones ranging from dark brown to light caramel, ostensibly due to the tropical sun.

Many nicknames are thanks to the famous wrists the watches were once spotted on. Paul Newman once wore a particular Rolex Daytona chronograph with a distinctive two-tone dial, giving that Daytona its nickname. A more recent vintage is the Patrizzi Daytona, named after Osvaldo Patrizzi, the Italian auctioneer who discovered, or at least publicised, the fact that a certain number of Rolex Daytona watches from the early 1990s have discolouration on their chronograph sub-dials – the silver rings darken into brown.

Patrizzi’s achievement also reveals another aspect of the Rolex collector dialect. Italian influence in vintage watch collecting, particularly in Rolex, is pronounced because the Italians were amongst the first and most enthusiastic collectors some thirty years ago. So the Rolex Eef. 8171 triple calendar is known as the padellone, which is Italian for large pan, in reference to its case shape.  And then, there is the ovettone (meaning ‘egg’ in English), which is a form of the Rolex Bubbleback, and also the freccione (big arrow), another nickname for the Steve McQueen Explorer which has a large, arrow-shaped GMT hand.

Nicknames are often shared, perhaps a reflection of the limited number of celebrities available for naming. The Rolex Explorer Ref. 1655 is named after Steve McQueen, but so is the square-cased Heuer Monaco chronograph.A Watch By Any Name 2This extends to imaginary characters as well. Amongst the most collectible vintage Rolex watches is the James Bond Submariner, which refers to the watch Sean Connery wore. Rolex was mentioned by Ian Fleming in his novels (he also mentioned Girard-Perregaux) and also used in the early films. But Omega has been a title sponsor for the super spy’s films since Pierce Brosnan, and now makes a limited edition for each Bond flick. However, Omega’s watches have also been decorated with nicknames of their own. The Constellation ‘Pie Pan’, for instance, caught on like wildfire when it was coined. Referring to the design of the dial, which resembles old-school pie-baking apparatus, it is widely loved for the distinctive shape. In fact, vintage Omega Constellations are also called Connies by watch aficionados. Amusingly, owners of the Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation also call their planes Connies. So you’ll want to be sure of the context of any conversation before jumping to announce you’ve got a Connie on the wrist.

And then there are the Genta creations of the 1970s: the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Patek Philippe Nautilus and IWC Ingenieur SL. All three were designed by Gerald Genta, the most influential watch designer of his day. They share similar wide and flat profiles, giving rise to the nickname Jumbo, which applies to all three.

But verbal creativity in watch collecting extends even to the most affordable end of the spectrum. Modern Seiko timepieces, especially dive watches, have a curious abundance of nicknames. There exist the Monster, Sumo, Samurai, Stargate, Starfish and the even Tuna (with the prefixes Baby, Darth and Gold). Though these are unofficial monikers, they have stuck fast. In fact, Seiko itself uses the Monster appellation for a series of limited editions made for the Thai market, which is an uncommon instance of a watch brand actually adopting an informal nickname. But why not, really? As the Italians always say, when you’ve got a nickname, it means they really love you.

An Interview with Georges Kern, IWC’s CEO

An Interview With Georges Kern Iwcs Ceo 8For the better part of the 1980s and 1990s, IWC was the benchmark in terms of top-notch movement engineering, being the first manufacture to machine cases in titanium and ceramic, and also to present true qualitative solutions in a new era of luxury watchmaking such as the Pellaton Winding mechanism. Probably Switzerland’s best kept secret at the time, the real essence of the Schaffhausen manufacture was known to and revered by few except the watch collecting cognoscenti. Today, though, anyone who has a vague interest in luxury mechanical watches would have heard of those three letters, often enunciated with an unmistakeable technical ring. These days, nobody calls it the International Watch Company anymore, but that doesn’t really matter, because the acronym sounds so much cooler.

Unlike a lot of luxury watch brands today, IWC isn’t defined by or famous for a single product or product family. From the Portuguese and Portofino, to the Aquatimer and Ingenieur, and also the Pilot’s Watches and Da Vinci, each collection stands in its own stead.

This has been the product development strategy implemented by its CEO, Georges Kern, since the day he took office. And that was 12 years ago in 2002. Then, Kern at 36 years, was the youngest CEO in the entire Richemont Group, which owns IWC and several other luxury watch brands. It was a watershed year for the manufacture, naturally, but Kern’s results speak for themselves. Where before, IWC was an extremely niche brand virtually unknown to the wider audience, it is today globally recognised as a luxury powerhouse with an exciting image backed by hundreds of years of watchmaking technical expertise.

In this exclusive interview with WOW, Kern discusses the motives behind his latest direction for the brand, the rejuvenated Aquatimer collection released this year, as well as the importance of being focused in an ever-changing world.

What is your overall approach to managing IWC as a brand and a manufacture?
We renovate, rework and relaunch products in a cycle of five years. This is similar to the car industry. We work on the design, evolve the product, develop technical content, and of course, communicate our efforts in hopes of making these lines grow, and eventually becoming institutions. Our product lines have been with us for 50, 60, even 80 years, and they have continuously evolved.

How did this year’s Aquatimer collection evolve?
First of all, it’s much more expensive because of the [improved] materials, technicality and movement. We wanted to adjust the average prices to the level where the brand is. The uncanny thing is that every time we relaunch a product, some other line suddenly looks older. When we relaunched the Portuguese, the Portofino looked old; when we relaunched the Ingenieur, the Aquatimer needed revamping. I think it’s a positive circle. So we worked a lot to inject technical content including new materials like bronze. We continue using titanium which is a very typical material for IWC, and the overall product design is more mature. We don’t have the yellows and oranges we had before. I think we are more grown up now than before, so we need to associate sportiness with some elegance.An Interview With Georges Kern Iwcs Ceo 7When you say that the brand is more mature now, does it mean you are moving away from the younger generation?
I don’t mean we’re mature in terms of age, but in terms of appearance. The brand has matured, but we’re not losing young customers. In fact, we’re gaining them. IWC is a very cool brand. We know that from market research and we have a great modern, contemporary image, one of the best in the industry. But there are some things I wouldn’t do today which we have done, say, 10 years back. This is brand building. It’s how you create brand content and equity. It takes decades to evolve the brand, and you have to do it very carefully.

This year, IWC offers the first complicated and the first bronze Aquatimer. Is this an indication of the maturity you were speaking of?
Much more important than having a complicated watch is the look. It is mature and a lot more high-end than it was before. But you also need to illustrate this through the movement, which was why we did it. We’ve done so for other lines like the Portofino and the Ingenieur, and it worked. People like specialities. All 50 pieces of the Aquatimer perpetual calendar were sold out. Like the Ingenieur, all the specialities were sold  out immediately. Because they are limited and feature special materials, people understood that they are high-end products.

Can you talk to us about trends in general? Where do you see things heading? People have been talking a lot about smaller, thinner watches and the Aquatimer is quite the opposite. Tell us what you think is going on.
This is nonsense because every brand has its identity and everything will always exist. Everything in watchmaking has been done since 200 years ago. Believe me. But that’s not the point. The point is how you build your brand. It’s the brand that sets the trend, not the product. Do you have a cool aspirational brand, yes or no? If it’s a yes, then people will buy your brand. People buy foremost a brand before they buy the product. IWC is particular because we are, in marketing terms, called a ‘love’ brand meaning we have less awareness than others, yet we are much bigger. Consider this: Everybody knows Siberia but nobody wants to go, right? So it’s not just about awareness but the quality of the awareness. We know from research that people tend to buy two or three IWCs. At other brands, they buy only one because frankly, all their watches look alike.An Interview With Georges Kern Iwcs Ceo 10What is your success formula?
I’ve always been asked what the keys of success are, what are my vision and strategy, et cetera. We don’t hide our vision and strategy. It’s written in any newspaper in the world. Yes, you need vision and strategy, you need to know how to position your brand, and you must able to define what your brand stands for in three things, like IWC is masculine, sober design and technique. But more important is implementation. For example, in football, everybody knows the strategy of Pep Guardiola. Now, you go to FC Schaffhausen and ask those guys to play like Pep Guardiola is asking you to play. It doesn’t work! You can say what you have as a vision, but the real question is: How do you implement it?

If I buy an expensive television and it doesn’t work, I can bring it back and get a new one on the same day. If I buy a watch and something is broken, I have to wait sometimes half a year to get a push button fixed. Do you feel pressurised to do something about this?
All the time! After-sales service is a cost. People who think that they would ever make money through that, I say forget it. The problem here is two things: Infrastructure and logistics. For instance, if a vintage watch gets sent in, you might not have the components. If you’re in China and there aren’t enough watchmakers there, so the lead-time increases. This is constant work and it’s always difficult to be up at the level you want to be.

Do you consider masculine appeal when pushing out new collections? Last year it was cars and noise, an über masculine pitch, and this year it feels more fluid and potentially more attractive to a greater audience.
It’s very much a gut feel. If brand building would be an exact science, then everybody would do a brilliant job, wouldn’t we? And there are many failures out there. It’s really the instinct. Also, I test a lot with celebrities. It’s interesting how they’re always spot-on about the details because they have everything. When we show them something new, their comments are usually very helpful.An Interview With Georges Kern Iwcs Ceo 4What were your main concerns in revamping the Aquatimer?
We began with the turning bezel. We’ve always preferred watches with wide openings and a turning bezel doesn’t afford that. We needed something more sophisticated than the turning bezel with crown, which everybody already has by now. That was the starting point. Then, we decided we need a technical, sober design with a touch of coolness. It was a very long process. I can show you an unbelievable number of designs we refused. Many of them were beautiful designs which unfortunately did not fit. See, that’s judgement. You have to be able to see what’s beautiful per se and what fits the brand.

I’m sure you don’t like making market predictions, but would you say for 2014, there would be room for more growth, or is IWC’s growth going to come mainly from gaining market share?
I have no idea. And what should I do anyway? We are an industrial company. I am building a new manufacturing centre which costs 35 million Euros. We took this decision three years ago for many reasons. Our company has been here for 150 years and will be for another 150 more. We’re not bankers, we don’t make deals in three months. We have cycles, and our cycles are long. I’ve never fired anyone because of economic reasons. That’s the only thing I never want to do in my life, because it would be my failure.

Do you see a comfortable ride ahead?
We cannot fight external factors. That’s the only thing I’m afraid of. I’m not afraid of anybody here [in Geneva] or in Basel. The only thing I’m afraid of is factors I cannot influence. Currency, variations, debts, et cetera, because what are you going to do? When there’s drama, you just have to be better than the others. Let’s not forget we have very long cycles. Machines, investments, write-offs, toolings… These take years. Years! It’s why we’re also careful in employing people. You don’t want to get rid of them when there’s a crisis. You want to keep all your watchmakers and employees.An Interview With Georges Kern Iwcs Ceo 2Can you think of a drama similar to the Quartz Crisis that might really affect the watch industry?
Humankind has the tendency to forget. Take the last 24 months and consider all the dramas, from Fukushima to Greece getting out of Euro. The problem today is that the number of crises has increased. In the old days, you had a war every 50 years. Now, you have all kinds from financial to ecological to political drama. The watch industry is a very stable one, relatively speaking. How do we adapt our industry to a market and environment that’s changing all the time? One thing we can do is build brand equity.

Can you see new markets growing for you?
You have to go where the children are. You cannot fight demographics, and the children are in Asia. Look at the populations where they are. Asia will continue.

Do you ever watch what your competitors are doing?
You have to set trends. IWC is big and I think there are more people watching us than we are watching them. When we do stuff, people watch us. But for me, I don’t care what they do. When you constantly look left and right, you’ll zigzag. There’s a quote I like by this German footballer. It’s a stupid quote but I love it. This guy named Podolski who’s playing for Arsenal. He’s very young and the first time he played for the German national team, they were up against Brazil. He’s not the smartest guy around, but he’s funny. A journalist asked him how he plans to take on the Brazilians, what is the game plan, and so on, but all he said was, “I don’t care, give me the ball, I want to make a goal.” And think about it, sometimes this is the only mentality you should have.An Interview With Georges Kern Iwcs Ceo 9

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch for Father and Son: Family Matters

With Father’s Day coming in just a week, we thought we’d revisit an older duo from IWC’s current line-up for those looking for a suitable gift, whether for themselves or their fathers. Introduced in 2012, the Pilot’s Watches for Father and Son consists of two different but matching watches. Do not be mistaken though, that this pair of watches are only available as is. Beyond the initial set of two matching watches, you can purchase additional timepieces Son’s watches, with personalised engraving on every timepiece’s caseback, for fathers with multiple children.

Iwc Big Pilots Watch For Father And Son Family Matters 1

The larger watch of the two is essentially IWC Big Pilot’s Watch (S$25,000), the adjective here undoubtedly referring to its massive 46mm stainless steel case. The impressive proportions here call to mind the original purpose of pilot watches to provide accurate and, equally importantly, legible timekeeping for the aviators of yore. Legibility isn’t the only advantage the large case affords, as the automatic Calibre 51111 movement in it comes with a long power reserve of 7 days. Although the mainspring actually has an even longer power reserve, IWC has engineered the movement to stop after 168 hours to maintain precision, lest a nearly depleted mainspring supplies insufficient torque to drive the movement accurately.

Iwc Big Pilots Watch For Father And Son Family Matters 2

Despite its name, the “son’s” watch is more than suitable for ladies given its modest 39mm case (S$7,200). The keen observer will notice its similarity to the Pilot’s Watch Mark XVI, and indeed the two are virtually identical. IWC’s decision not to use the newer Pilot’s Watch Mark XVII for the “son’s” watch is praiseworthy – in an era when we are tempted to chase after the latest and greatest, the usage of the “older” Mark XVI makes more sense as its date window perfectly complements that of the Big Pilot’s Watch.

Iwc Big Pilots Watch For Father And Son Family Matters 4

Apart from the general adherence to the B-Uhr watch design given IWC’s history of manufacturing them, the two watches also have similar engineering details that echo this heritage. The sapphire crystal of each watch is secured against displacement, lest a drop in ambient air pressure causes it to pop out. The watch cases have also been fitted with soft-iron inner cases to protect their movements against magnetism. Of course, the 60m water resistance is a given. From the nearly identical functions and features and their unmistakable visual similarities, you can easily draw parallels with a man (or lady) who’s a chip off the old block. A fitting gift for Father’s Day, no doubt, but a purchase like this is no frivolous matter, so some thought is obviously required. You’d better hurry though, as the clock’s ticking.

IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Le Petit Prince”

We’ve reviewed the various Antoine de Saint-Exupéry themed watches that IWC has released over the years, with 2013’s December issue of WOW detailing IWC’s partnership with the estate of Saint-Exupéry, who disappeared during a reconnaissance mission in 1944. IWC has released the ninth watch to stem from this collaboration, which continues the recent trend of Le Petit Prince edition watches.

The Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Le Petit Prince” is the third to feature the eponymous character from one of history’s bestselling books, this time based on the existing Pilot’s Watch Chronograph. The self-winding Calibre 79320 movement remains in this watch, with a power reserve of 44 hours. As usual, the central chronograph seconds hand has displaced the seconds hand to a sub-dial at nine o’clock, with the 30-minute and 12-hour counters at 12 and six o’clock respectively.

Iwc Pilots Chronograph Le Petit Prince 1

Unique to current iteration of the Pilot’s Watch and Pilot’s Chronograph(s) is the date window at three o’clock, which is styled like a cockpit altimeter – three running numbers are displayed but only the centre one is marked with an arrow to indicate the current date. This detail has carried over to the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Le Petit Prince”, with IWC’s signature subtly placed within the small seconds sub-dial to provide balance. Like its predecessors, the watch’s dial is rendered in a midnight blue unique to the Le Petit Prince edition watches and the caseback has a unique engraving, this time depicting the Little Prince with his friend the fox. We will refrain from spoilers here, but suffice it to say that some of the most sublime sections of the book, and the greatest lessons for the reader, come from the Little Prince’s conversations with the fox.

Iwc Pilots Chronograph Le Petit Prince

The Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Le Petit Prince” is available in stainless steel and, to the relief of fans of the brand and the story, not a limited run unlike the previous two editions. It is already available at the IWC boutiques in Ion Orchard and Marina Bay Sands for S$8,800.

 

IWC Releases Portuguese Chronograph Classic Edition “Laureus Sport for Good Foundation”

For the eighth time, IWC is supporting the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation with a special timepiece. Through the sale of the Portuguese Chronograph Classic Edition “Laureus Sport for Good Foundation”, IWC is sponsoring the charitable organization’s efforts to give children around the world a chance at a better future.

Iwc Portuguese Laureus Sport For Good Foundation 5

Laureus Sport for Good Foundation aims to alleviate the problems faced by children worldwide, such as poverty and violence, through sports projects that inspire and instil hope and values into them. The foundation currently supports over 140 projects around the world, and has helped over 1.5 million children around the world. IWC’s partnership with it dates back to 2005, and it has traditionally released a special edition watch annually, in the form of a variation on an existing model, with part of the proceeds channelled to fund the foundation’s projects.

Iwc Portuguese Laureus Sport For Good Foundation 4

This year’s timepiece (Ref. IW390406) is a classic Portuguese Chronograph Classic with a few interesting variations. Besides its in-house 89361 calibre movement with a flyback function, the usual quarter-second scale rims the railway-track-style chapter ring on a dial with applied Arabic numerals. The case diameter remains at 42mm, but the Edition “Laureus Sport for Good Foundation” comes in stainless steel instead of red gold, with the unique Laureus blue dial that has become a trademark for this series. To further set this watch apart, its caseback has been specially engraved with this year’s winning drawing from the annual drawing competition organised by IWC within all of the foundation’s projects. This year’s winner is 16-year-old Masha Nikulina whose interpretation of the competition’s theme – “Time to Play” – depicts happy children skiing and playing in the snow.

As part of a limited edition range released annually, the watch is limited to 1000 pieces.

Iwc Portuguese Laureus Sport For Good Foundation 3