Tag Archives: Montblanc

New luxury watch designs: Interview with Davide Cerrato on Montblanc’s passion for fine watchmaking

Montblanc may not have as storied a history in the art of fine watchmaking as others but a lot of thought goes into crafting each timepiece that leaves its factory in Le Locle. Who better to walk us through the decision-making process involved than the Managing Director of Montblanc‘s Watch Division, Davide Cerrato. Join us as we get an insider’s guide as we explore the design process of the brand’s new watches.

Why the choice of bronze?

As I was looking through the watches that Minerva produced in the 1930s and 1940s for inspiration, it became clear to me that bronze would be an interesting choice to express the vintage touch of the new watches. The alloy is a good material to express the idea of ageing, and to create an aged product. The patina every watch case acquires will also be unique, which translates to a different ownership experience depending on where the wearer lives, as well as how he wears his watch.

Was everything else built around this material choice?

Yes, we went with a very specific shade of champagne for the dial, instead of the black or dark chocolate brown that actual vintage watches had, to match the bronze case. The aim was to create a mono-colour or mono-material look for a very powerful design language. Similarly, the look of the case back was considered, and we chose to use red gold plating for the bridges and mainplate to complement the bronze case.

What about the two-tone execution for the other watches?

The monopusher chronograph was planned to be the main highlight. As always, however, Montblanc wants to continue sharing its passion for fine watchmaking, so we aimed to recreate the same vintage rugged military look, but at an affordable price point. Matching bronze and steel, which had never been done before, was the perfect way to do this, because you could have patina on the bezel and crown, but keep things affordable with the rest of the watch in steel. Military chronographs of that era often looked largely similar.

Was it challenging to create something unique for Montblanc’s reinterpretation?

Yes, it was. This was the reason for the choice of a champagne dial instead of one in black. There was no specific detail that we put in just to create a different look though it was more the overall look of the watch, both on the front and back. The inside of the strap, for instance, is full alligator leather complete with scales, to frame the view of the movement nicely to convey a similarly precious feel.

This article was originally published in WOW #43 (Festive 2016) issue.

Luxury watch brands: Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award 2016 recognised Peggy Guggenheim

Over the past 25 years, Montblanc has recognised the invaluable contribution of modern-day patrons of the arts from 17 various countries through its prestigious Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award. The award is part of the brand’s commitment to actively engage in the promotion of arts and culture across the globe. To accompany the award, each year, Montblanc commissions a unique limited edition pen inspired by a historical patron of the arts.

The Montblanc Patron of Art Edition 2016 paid tribute to Peggy Guggenheim, one of the most influential art collectors and exhibitors of 20th-century art. If her name sounds familiar, it is because she is the niece of Solomon R. Guggenheim, the eponymous founder of the Guggenheim Museum. As a significant figure in the Western art world, Peggy Guggenheim dedicated most of her life to protecting the art of her time by discovering and nurturing new talent, while building an important collection of works, which are currently housed in a Venice museum that carries her name.

Born in 1898 to a family whose fortune was made from the mining and smelting of metals, Peggy grew up in New York and travelled to Europe at the age of 23. Marrying first husband Laurence Vail, Peggy soon found herself at the heart of Parisian bohemia and American expatriate society. In 1938, she opened her first art gallery in London, and a year later conceived the idea of opening a ‘modern art museum’ formed upon historical principles. Throughout and in spite of the war, Peggy busily acquired works for the future museum, with a resolve to “buy a picture a day”. Some of the masterpieces of her collection, such as works by Francis Picabia, Georges Braque, Salvador Dalí and Piet Mondrian, were bought at that time.

Peggy Guggenheim, recipient of the 2016 Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award.

Peggy Guggenheim, recipient of the 2016 Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award.

Eventually, Peggy left France in 1941 and returned to New York where she finally opened her museum-gallery, Art of This Century. The gallery hosted innovative exhibition rooms and soon became the most stimulating venue for contemporary art in New York. She exhibited her collection of Cubist, abstract and Surrealist art in the gallery. Peggy also held temporary exhibitions of leading European artists to unknown American ones. This led to a cross-pollination of styles and ideas. Peggy and her collection thus played a vital role in the development of America’s first art movement of international importance. She spent the last 30 years of her life in Venice, bringing American avant-garde art to Europe and continued to collect works of art and support artists.

The pen commissioned for the 2016 Montblanc Patron of Art award pays homage to Peggy’s life from her arrival in Europe to her later life in Venice. Created in the Montblanc Artisan Atelier from the finest materials and shaped by highly skilled master craftsmen, the design of the writing instrument is inspired by the art deco style that surrounded Peggy when she arrived in Paris in the 1920s, with clean lines forming the straight shape of the cap, clip and barrel. The skeletonised gold structure of the barrel mirrors the dramatic gates to the Guggenheim Collection in Venice. The lion head clip design refers to the Lion of Saint Mark, symbolic of the city where Peggy chose to house her collection. A red lacquer inlay spiral is inspired by the iconic striped mooring poles lining the canals of Venice. Crowning the cap, the Montblanc emblem is crafted in white marble, mirroring the distinctive marble façade of Peggy’s palazzo.

Through the artistry of great craftsmanship, Montblanc shares the story of the woman who championed so many modern artists with passion and determination. Peggy’s contribution to cultural life is undeniable, and she joins a small group of historic patrons to be honoured by Montblanc. The limited edition writing instruments serve to inspire contemporary patrons by commemorating historic patrons of art. The Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award has been awarded since 1992 and is still awarded annually to recognise today’s patrons for their contribution and commitment to arts and cultural projects.

This article was first published in Art Republik.

Who makes Montblanc’s watches? A look inside the luxury brand’s manufacturers in Le Locle and Villeret, Switzerland

1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition

In the pantheon of Roman gods, Janus is the one who presides over beginnings, transitions, and endings. Time itself is part of his domain, and Janus was often depicted with two faces – one gazed back at the past, while the other looked into the future. Montblanc shares a striking similarity to Janus in that both bridge the past and future: the Maison constantly seeks to break new ground, yet keeps a keen eye on its heritage, both to protect it and to draw inspiration from it. This trait is characterised, quite fittingly, by the brand’s timepieces.

Birth of a manufacture

Montblanc’s Le Locle manufacture

Montblanc only started producing timepieces in 1997. This was admittedly a late start, especially in comparison to other manufactures that already boasted over a century of watchmaking heritage by then. Considering how the Maison has managed to establish itself as a bona fide manufacture with both mass market and Haute Horlogerie offerings within two decades, however, it is clear that the length of time is but one factor in determining the relative success that a brand has in this field.

Montblanc’s initial foray into timepieces was centred on Le Locle, where it established its watchmaking operations. The choice was an easy one to make – the little town nestled in the Jura Mountains had a long history of watchmaking, and already depended on it as its chief economic activity from the 1840s. As Montblanc was part of the Richemont Group, it could also count on technical support from sibling brands such as IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre. From the get-go, however, the Maison was determined to maintain its autonomy in design and product positioning. To that end, its initial offerings heavily mirrored the fountain pens that the brand was then better known for – gold cases and black dials recalled classics such as the Montblanc Meisterstück 149 and drew an instant link between the two product universes. The stylised six-pointed white star was also a recurring motif and appeared in places such as the crown and the seconds hand.

Over time, Montblanc expanded its range of watches to include women’s collections such as the ultra-feminine Star Lady, and sportier lines like the Timewalker. The brand’s ability to master both the traditional and the avant-garde was evident from the start – even as it pushed the envelope with technical details such as the use of DLC in some sports watches, it also offered classic designs in lines like the Star collection.

Acquiring Minerva

Montblanc’s Villeret manufacture

Montblanc received a major boost to its watchmaking capabilities in 2006 when the Richemont Group acquired Minerva. The Villeret-based manufacture was nearly 150 years old by then, and the terms of the deal included unlimited rights to its calibres, existing ébauches, machines, tools, and even the building itself. Considering that Minerva did produce its own watches, it was certainly possible to establish the manufacture as a distinct brand within the Richemont Group’s portfolio, albeit one that operated on a smaller scale. The ultimate decision, however, was to integrate it with Montblanc.

Minerva was only named as such in 1929; the company was founded in 1858 and was initially an établisseur that merely assembled finished components into complete watches. It reached a major milestone in 1902 with the introduction of its first in-house movement and, by 1910, was producing around a dozen different ébauches alongside chronographs and stopwatches.

As an entity, Minerva changed hands several times and, as was common in the past, had its products marketed under many different brands, such as the now defunct Rhenus and Tropic. There were common threads running through its history though. For one, despite the ownership changes Minerva remained private until its acquisition by the Richemont Group. This gave the manufacture an independence that also shaped its development – automation, for instance, was never considered, which kept the quantities of movements and watches produced relatively modest.

In turn, Minerva’s limited scale safeguarded its independence, as it was too small to attract the attention of conglomerates keen on acquiring watchmaking assets. Ownership aside, the company’s winning of the timing contract for the 1936 Winter Olympic Games also set an important precedent by firmly establishing chronographs, stopwatches, and measuring instruments as the second key pillar of the business, in addition to watches. This business unit kept the company afloat during the Quartz Crisis, as it supplied stopwatches and other measuring devices to clients outside the watch industry.

Two houses under one Maison

Hairspring production remains a key competency of the Villeret manufacture

Under Montblanc, Minerva was rebranded as the Maison’s Villeret manufacture. This addition meant that Montblanc now had two synergistic watchmaking assets under it –the state-of-the-art Le Locle manufacture that produces tens of thousands of watches annually, and the traditional Villeret manufacture with an expertise in movement development and production honed over one and a half centuries.

Villiret Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique 110 Years Anniversary

Indeed, the Maison took full advantage of this and eventually separated the watchmaking functions among the two manufactures to play to each’s strengths. The Villeret manufacture now handles in-house movement development and prototyping, as well as the assembly of all in-house movements from small to high complications. Selected timepieces that are produced within the manufacture’s high watchmaking atelier are encased there as well, with each watch cased up by the same watchmaker that assembled its movement. Finally, the Villeret manufacture also produces hairsprings. This fairly uncommon capability that has allowed Montblanc to offer atypical oscillators, such as the Villeret Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique 110 Years Anniversary Limited Edition watch, which uses two concentric cylindrical hairsprings (one set inside the other) within the tourbillon escapement.

The Le Locle manufacture, on the other hand, handles the watchmaking functions outside of movement development and production. These range from the initial design and prototyping work, to the production of cases, dials, and hands, to final assembly and quality control. Montblanc’s Laboratory Test 500 Hours, which subjects all Montblanc watches with in-house movements to a battery of tests totalling 500 hours, is also conducted at Le Locle. Finally, with the recent establishment of a dedicated business unit for watches, even the staff involved in marketing and other such functions are now based there.

Back with a twist

With the cutting edge design and production capabilities of one manufacture to complement the rich heritage of the other, Montblanc has been able to flex its watchmaking muscles and offer vintage inspired watches with decidedly modern twists. The recent three additions to the Maison’s 1858 collection epitomises this, beginning with the 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition.

This timepiece is the flagship of the three new watches and harks back to the early days of chronograph technology with its monopusher layout. The modern self-winding chronograph movement with two pushbuttons, such as the ubiquitous Valjoux 7750, is the result of several cumulative developments, which the monopusher chronograph predates. Instead of two pushers, the sole pusher here starts, stops, and resets the chronograph sequentially, and is thus unable to total the elapsed time for separate events by stopping and restarting the chronograph – a quaint limitation today, but the norm in the past.

Choice of complication aside, the watch’s design also alludes to the past, specifically Minerva’s history of producing watches for military use. The importance of keeping accurate time in a military context should be easy to understand. Coordinating troop movements to predetermined times, for one, would maintain the element of surprise. A chronograph with a telemeter scale, on the other hand, would allow an artillery battery’s commander to gauge the distance to the enemy. Pilots, too, relied on chronographs when navigating, by timing the various legs of a flight pattern. The 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition’s design is based on an earlier reference in blue, which was itself derived from a pilot’s monopusher chronograph Minerva made in 1932. Note how the cathedral hands, vintage typeface for the hour indexes, and oversized onion crown have all been maintained as throwbacks to the original.

In lieu of an exact facsimile, however, Montblanc opted to update the original’s design while preserving its vintage military vibe, with the most striking change being the usage of bronze instead of steel. Bronze was, of course, never used in any vintage watch – the material was only introduced as a case material in the mid-1990s. The alloy immediately imparts an aged look to the watch that will intensify over time as it acquires a patina.

Lest one is worried about this choice of material, rest assured that the variant used here is aluminium bronze. This alloy will start to develop a dark, even patina after two to three weeks of wear, but lack the pitting or green discolouration commonly observed in standard bronze and brass. Meanwhile, the timepiece’s case back is bronze-coloured titanium, so skin allergies are a non-issue. The choice of bronze is certainly atypical for a timepiece positioned at this level. Davide Cerrato, managing director of Montblanc’s watch division, agreed. “It’s clearly not a watch for everyone. If you think you’re buying a gold watch, then you’ll be disappointed because it will get darker – we’ve communicated this very clearly. For the collector who wants a watch with a patina, however, it’s the perfect timepiece.

MB M16.29 calibre

The 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition’s bronze case has been matched with a champagne-coloured dial, which is yet another anachronism. Period correct military watches would, of course, have high contrast dials in either black or white for maximum legibility. This was also deliberate. According to Cerrato, this dial colour was chosen to impart a monochromic look, for an even heavier touch of vintage appeal. The crystal also remains domed like the original, although its material has been updated from acrylic to sapphire. The finishing touch on the front of the watch is the vintage styled Montblanc logo, which currently appears on all 1868 collection timepieces.

Flip the watch around, and the transparent case back presents a feast for the eyes. The MB M16.29 calibre here features impeccable hand finishing on every single component – frankly, a given that’s expected of the Villeret atelier – and there is much to see thanks to the chronograph’s horizontal clutch layout. The V-shaped chronograph bridge and arrow-shaped component, signatures of the Minerva manufacture, are also present here, with the latter executed at one end of the chronograph blocking lever.

In a first for the brand, the movement bridges and mainplate have been plated with red gold, to complement the hue of the bronze case. The greatest visual delight is served up by the large balance wheel, which beats at a leisurely 18,000vph. This oscillation frequency is inherently less accurate compared to movements beating at higher frequencies and thus demands much more work to reach similar levels of chronometric performance. The consequence is of this is that every watch becomes a luxury product through and through given the time lavished on its movement.

This article was first published in the World of Watches (WOW) festive issue. 

Luxury perfumes for her: Lady Emblem Elixir fragrance by Montblanc brings a new interpretation

 

Valentine’s day is just around the corner! If you’re thinking about what to get for your significant other (or just as a gift from you to you), Montblanc’s Lady Emblem Elixir might be it. Montblanc’s Lady Emblem is captured in a bottle with a scent that represents all her qualities perfectly. Described as a woman with an intense gaze who captures your attention at first sight, she has a rebellious streak that contrasts her calm nature. Much like her, the fragrance is a combination of notes that contrast yet complement each other.

Beneath the floral notes, sits a hint of wood that adds to the allure of the Montblanc Lady Emblem. The scent opens with zesty mandarin; followed by dewy lychee to create a bubbly finish. Helmed by the Damask rose, the heart carefully reveals a harmonious mix of orange blossom, jasmine and iris. The infused sparks of vanilla, patchouli and sandalwood come together to round up the fragrance trail with a woody aroma. With its gracefulness injected with a hint of black pepper, the scent bursts into sensual elegance.

A reflection of the 43-faceted cut cap that is reminiscent of the Montblanc diamond that was inspired by the six-valley design, the flower-shaped bottle is dressed in a pink gold hue with metallic accents. The box pairs beautifully with the bottle because of its pink gold wash, making the perfectly sophisticated combination.

The Montblanc Lady Emblem Elixir collection comes in 3 sizes: 30ml ($80), 50ml ($122) and 75ml ($155). The series will be available from mid of February 2017 at selected department stores.

Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph Rally Timer Counter in two of its transformations

Montblanc Timewalker Chronograph Rally Timer Counter: Transformable watch shown at SIHH 2017 Day 3

Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph Rally Timer Counter in two of its transformations

With Day 3 at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) wrapped up, we find ourselves overwhelmed as usual. The WOW team has by now seen (and, not for nothing, photographed) all the novelties from all the major players exhibiting at the Palexpo. At this moment, we are hard pressed to choose just one watch to highlight…

For example, there is an amazing Richard Mille vying to be the lightest watch in the world; an amazingly complicated Grand Sonnerie, 10 years in the making, at Vacheron Constantin; a lubrication-free watch from Officine Panerai that has a 50-year warranty; and an outrageous and out-of-this-world diamond-encrusted wonder from Audemars Piguet. Believe it or not, the list goes on but for today, our penultimate day inside the halls of the Palexpo, I want to look at something fun, which we discovered at Montblanc, with the Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph Rally Timer Counter.

Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph Rally Timer Counter in action

A 50mm wrist titan, this watch can be transformed into a pocket watch, a table clock and a dashboard clock. It can also be worn in many different ways, making it possibly the most flexible wristwatch at this size (the watch is cased in grade 2 titanium so it isn’t actually as hefty as it sounds). The case turns from 0 to 180 degrees, or from 3 to 9 o’clock, which means the knurled crown can be positioned from 3 to 9 o’clock.

It was inspired by the original Minerva Rally Timer from the 1930s and is reportedly in exactly the same size today. Even the movement, the manual winding manufacture MB M16.29, is inspired by the original Minerva calibre 17.29. It is worth noting that Montblanc and Minerva are today the same, with Richemont announcing that both firms are now totally integrated.

Of course, Montblanc has a couple of star pieces from the fair, one of which graces the current issue of WOW, and another of which is a superlative chronograph with three balance springs, also in the TimeWalker collection but more on this later. For now, the specifications.

Specifications

Case: 50mm titanium

Dial: Black, with Arabic numerals and SuperLuminova treated indexes

Movement: Manual winding calibre MB M16.29 with monopusher chronograph

Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph

Limited edition of 100

Double Balance Wheel

Why Two Balance Springs are Better than One

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

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

Audemars Piguet

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

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

Fine BalanceAudemars Piguet

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

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

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor

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

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

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

Greubel Forsey Double Balancier Incliné

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

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

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

MB&F Legacy Machine No.2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

F.P Journe's Chronomètre à Résonance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Timekeeping

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

Montblanc's Timewriter II Bi-Fréquence 1000

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

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

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

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

Breguet Tradition 7077 Chronograph Independent

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

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

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

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

TAG Heuer Carrera Mikrograph

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

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

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

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

TAG Heuer Carrera Mikrotimer Flying 1000

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

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

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

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

Train Reaction

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

Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre à Quantième Lunaire

Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre à Quantième Lunaire

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

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

Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre Spherotourbillon Moon

Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre Spherotourbillon Moon

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

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

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

Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre à Chronograph

Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre à Chronograph

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

Forward Spiral

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

F.P Journe Centigraphe Souveraine

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

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

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

Audemars Piguet Millenary Minute Repeater's Calibre 2928

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

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

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

Audemars Piguet's Millenary Quadriennium

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laurent Ferrier Galet Classic Tourbillon Double Spiral

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

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

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

Montblanc Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique

Montblanc Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique

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

Montblanc Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique

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

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

This article was first published in WOW.

Montblanc Augmented Paper

Montblanc Augmented Paper: Ode to Digital Luxury

What in the world is Augmented Paper and what does Montblanc have to do with it? Well, to begin with, let’s slow it down a little and go back to basics. Handwriting is an art much loved at the German writing instruments and watchmaking firm Montblanc but it is a decidedly analog love affair in an increasingly digital milieu. Well, with a dash of augmented reality, Montblanc is showing off an augmented notebook and pen set at IFA 2016 (it automatically digitizes handwritten notes) that has already won over a segment of the public.

Now, there is nothing inherently revolutionary about this, just as there was nothing truly special about Apple’s touchscreen mobiles when they came out. In the current case, real-world pens that can capture real-world notes and send them to a computer, tablet or smartphone screen are nothing new. LiveScribe has been successfully cultivating a loyal following of journalists and college students for many years with its clever pens that can save doodles and even simultaneously record sound.

Of course, most clever pens don’t speak at all to the values of traditional craftsmanship nor do they make aesthetic gestures towards cultivating an individual style. This, you might guess, is where the Montblanc Augmented Paper enters the picture.

It is essentially a modified Montblanc StarWalker ballpoint pen and an Italian leather bound notebook that come in their own folio, also in leather; Montblanc’s writing instruments are typically made in Germany but its leather workshops are in Italy.

In a neat coup, the company isn’t calling attention to next-gen pens or anything like that. Indeed the company is calling the system Augmented Paper rather than a smart pen because it is the smart leather folio – essentially a cunningly disguised graphics tablet – where most of the tech is hidden. Ok, so there is some leaden stuff in this approach for sure.

As long as you write with the pen, on the notepaper, while it is on this folio, it can, according to the company, accurately recognize handwriting (in 12 different languages) and convert it into an on-screen font. The Montblanc Augmented paper set really only works as a set.

On the other hand, the system doesn’t need to be connected to a computer or other device to work. Simply start jotting and it can save up to 100 pages of notes internally. When it is time to empty the memory to start jotting again, there’s an app – the Montblanc Hub app – that can be used simply for storing and cataloguing or for sharing notes with others. This app has been met with some criticism, as apps are wont to encounter. Basically, as we understand it, the digitized handwriting is searchable once transferred via the Montblanc Hub app, which is amazing. Every new note gets its own page in the app, even if it is part of the same page in the notepad, which can be confusing; there is apparently no option to reorganize into folders and such. Check out The Verge’s comprehensive look at the Montblanc Augmented Paper for more on this.

The tech that does the saving and much of the heavy lifting here isn’t from Montblanc but Wacom and is essentially electromagnetic resonance. Basically, the folio generates a weak electromagnetic field, which is what the Montblanc StarWalker ballpoint pen interacts with. It is this interaction between field and pen that is captured so the entire process is actually a digital one, not one that moves from analog to digital. At the same time, what you produce with the pen on the notepad are of course proper handwritten notes; they can’t be digitally erased. Lenovo and of course Wacom feature this tech in their products and it is reportedly stable.

The batteries will last for up to eight hours and everything can be recharged via the bundled USB cables. The set will cost $725 when it goes on sale, exclusively at Harrods in London from mid-September. But for that fee, Montblanc is throwing in three ballpoint pen refills.

And for those that don’t live in Knightsbridge that are taken by Montblanc’s marriage of analogue luxury and digital practicality, the Augmented Paper will be going on sale globally via Montblanc boutiques and concessions, from October. We’re eagerly awaiting our shot at this in Singapore.

Franck Muller

9 Stealth All-Black Watches: Dark Beasts

All-black watches are cool. It is that simple. Whether they sport in-house power plants and are the result of internal research and development or use third-party solutions, these watches are captivating. As we show in this spread engineered (and published) by WOW (World of Watches), there are plenty of forms for these dark horses of space-time to take. How did it all start? Well we won’t bore you with the details but watches with black dials offered better visibility for wearers and less glare to unwittingly call attention to the wearer.

These qualities appealed to the military mind of course and so of course many aviator timepieces had black dials. It wasn’t until 1972 that an all-black watch – with case, dial and bracelet entirely in black – emerged. That was the legendary Porsche Design Chronograph 1. Here are nine watches proudly flying the black flag into the 21st century.

BulgariBulgari Octo Ultranero Velocissimo

Bulgari Octo Ultranero Velocissimo

  • Dimensions: 41mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, chronograph
  • Power Reserve: 50 hours
  • Movement: Automatic BVL 328 based on Zenith El Primero calibre
  • Material: DLC-coated steel
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Rubber
PaneraiPanerai Luminor 1950 10 Days

Panerai Luminor 1950 10 Days GMT Ceramica

  • Dimensions: 44mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, GMT, 24-hour hand, power reserve indicator
  • Power Reserve: 10 days
  • Movement: Automatic Panerai P.2003 calibre
  • Material: Black ceramic
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Buffalo, black
HYTHYT H4 Gotham

HYT H4 Gotham

  • Dimensions: 51mm
  • Functions: Retrograde hours, minutes, seconds, power reserve indicator
  • Power Reserve: 65 hours
  • Movement: Manual-winding, HYT calibre
  • Material: 3DPT carbon
  • Water Resistance: 50 meters
  • Strap: Black rubber with integrated Nomex fabric
Franck MullerFranck Muller

Franck Muller Black Croco

  • Dimensions: 55mm x 39mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds
  • Power Reserve: 42 hours
  • Movement: Automatic calibre FM 800
  • Material: PVD-treated steel
  • Water Resistance: 30 meters
  • Strap: Crocodile, black
ChopardChopard Superfast Chrono Split Second

Chopard Superfast Chrono Split Second

  • Dimensions: 45mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, chronograph with split seconds,
  • Power Reserve: 42 hours
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Material: DLC-coated steel
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Calfskin, black
BremontBremont ALT1-B

Bremont ALT1-B in DLC-coated steel; $9,000

  • Dimensions: 43mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, chronograph
  • Power Reserve: 42 hours
  • Movement: Automatic calibre BE-54AE
  • Material: DLC-coated steel
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Calfskin, black
Bell & RossBell & Ross BR-X1 Carbon Forgé

Bell & Ross BR-X1 Carbon Forgé

  • Dimensions: 45mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, chronograph
  • Power Reserve: NA
  • Movement: Automatic calibre BR-CAL.313
  • Material: Carbon, titanium and ceramic
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Alligator and grey rubber
MontblancMontblanc TimeWalker Urban Speed UTC

Montblanc TimeWalker Urban Speed UTC

  • Dimensions: 41mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds, date, second time zone
  • Power Reserve: 42 hours
  • Movement: Automatic calibre MB 24.05
  • Material: DLC-coated steel
  • Water Resistance: 30 meters
  • Strap: Leather, black
SevenFridaySevenFriday V3/01

SevenFriday V3/01

  • Dimensions: 44.3mm x 49.7mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, day/night indicator
  • Power Reserve: 40 hours
  • Movement: Automatic Miyota 82S7
  • Material: PVD-treated steel
  • Water Resistance: 30 meters
  • Strap: Leather, black

Story Credits

Photography Greenplasticsoldiers

Art Direction Joaelle Ng

This article was first published in WOW.

Montblanc TimeWalker Pythagore Ultra-Light Concept

Review: Montblanc TimeWalker Pythagore Ultra-Light

Montblanc Ambassador and Chinese professional badminton player Lin Dan is an overpowering force, being the first and only player to have won all major titles in the sport, namely the Olympic Games, World Championships, World Cup, Thomas Cup, Sudirman Cup, Super Series Masters Finals, All England Open, Asian Games, and Asian Championships. A watch that Lin can wear at work and at play would have to survive the violent bursts of speed that badminton is known for; it would have to be very light to complement Lin’s swift play, and be tough enough for the tremendous forces and shocks generated by every move.

Part of the TimeWalker collection that combines high performance with a contemporary and sporty aesthetic, the Pythagore Ultra-Light Concept was built with Lin in mind. This begins with a case built with ITR² Kevlar/Carbon elements in the case middle, case back, bezel, and crown, and black DLC titanium for the horns, resulting in a timepiece that weighs a mere 14.88g.

A composite material charged with carbon nanotubes, ITR² (Innovative, Technical, Revolutionary Resin) is eight times lighter than steel and four times lighter than titanium. According to Montblanc, only a handful of specialists have the know-how to make watch cases out of ITR², and Montblanc is even combining it, for the first time, with Kevlar/carbon, a highly resistant synthetic fibre.

Montblanc TimeWalker Pythagore Ultra-Light Concept

Montblanc TimeWalker Pythagore Ultra-Light Concept Caseback

To keep weight to the minimum, the titanium lugs are skeletonised, and mineral glass is used front and back in place of sapphire crystal.

Weigh savings go beyond the case: there is no dial to speak of; and the movement is largely skeletonised, exposing the handcrafted components to ready inspection. The mainplate is made of titanium, the seconds sub-dial is a ring of anodised aluminium applied directly onto it, while the minute track is merely etched on. The hands too, are of anodised aluminium. Bare as it is, Montblanc did not utterly forsake adornment, having engraved stars at eight and three o’clock to denote major championships Lin had won.

Beating within is the new manual-winding Calibre MB M62.48, which is inspired by a Minerva movement from 1943 that features straight architectural bridges of titanium that follow Pythagoras’s Golden Ratio for visual harmony, hence its name.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 40mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds
  • Power Reserve: 50 hours
  • Movement: Manual-winding Calibre MB M62.48
  • Case: 40mm ITR² Kevlar/Carbon with DLC titanium lugs
  • Strap: Black nylon

This article was published in WOW magazine.

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.

Montblanc Urban Spirit: Leather Accessories

German luxury brand Montblanc is best known for its sophisticated writing instruments and fine Swiss-made timepieces but we have always liked its leather accessories! In the new Montblanc Urban Spirit Collection, the brand aims to bring these leather accessories to the forefront with its innovative functionality. Perfect for the modern traveler, the designs can swiftly move from night to day.

Sleek and versatile, the 22 pieces in the collection are thoughtfully crafted to cater to the needs of the user. From business to pleasure, the accessories come in various sizes that boast reliability and security. The latest collection is fitted with a special lining called the Montblanc Shield. The lining is fitted in the internal pockets of the small leather goods and the internal zipped pocket of the larger leather goods.Montblanc-Urban-Spirit-Collection-Leather-Accessories-Article

The purpose of the material is a real technical one, to prevent the tampering and copying of personal data found in the chips of credit cards and passports. Made of soft, supple Italian leather the collection is a chance for the brand to showcase the craftsmanship that it has nurtured at Montblanc Palletteria in Florence; yes the leather goods are the work of craftspeople in Florence, as we learned ourselves first-hand at a presentation in Singapore.

The century-old Florentine traditions come to life in the Double Gusset Briefcase that is fitted with the signature Montblanc closure system. Along with the roomy compartments, the briefcase comes with a practical satellite system that allows it to be hung on trolleys.

The multi-functional aspect of the designs come into play with the Tote Bag, thanks to its cufflink closure which sees the bag go from an workbag to a small duffle in minutes. For wallets, the Montblanc Urban Spirit Collection has brought out external pockets that provide easy access to frequently used cards.

Father’s Day Gift Guide 2016

In case you’ve missed the memo, Father’s day is only 11 days away. If this is news to you, then don’t panic because you still have time (not much but it will do). For those fretting about what to get dear old Dad, we are here to help. Each year, children around the world spend time, effort and money putting together the perfect gift for the woman who spent long sleepless nights looking after you. We often overlook the man who spent sleepless nights wondering how in the world raising a child costs so much.

It is only fair then, that we put as much thought and effort to coming up with gifts for the man who is your bank, knight in shining armor and partner in crime. The great thing about getting something for Dad is that you can narrow the list down fairly quickly. First up, we have something that we think every father wishes he could have had a glass or two of when paying for your little (it really wasn’t that much!) shopping sprees.

AlcoholMacallan-edition-no-1-featured

There is nothing better to complete your day, than a glass of whisky. Our favorite go to whisky of course is none other than the Macallan Edition No. 1. We’ve given you a glimpse into just how good it is, and it is our expert (by that we mean that we drink it often enough to call ourselves experts) opinion that this is the one to truly warm your father’s heart this year. With orange and dried fruit, the Edition No.1 is a special blend that leaves you wanting more. Just don’t drink it all before dad has had a glass, or 10.

Grooming2016_MR_BURBERRY_FATHERS_DAY_RGB_CROPPED_02

Don’t you just love it when someone smells as good as they look? This year, why not get dad a fragrance that will leave him feeling like a million bucks, with a little help from Burberry. With the brand’s latest fragrance, Mr Burberry, you can gift him a sophisticated scent that mixes classic and unexpected ingredients. The woody fragrance has hints of grapefruit and smokey guaiac wood for a touch of seduction. For father’s day, the brand even brings you a monogramming service for that personalized touch.

Writing Instruments

Montblanc Heritage Collection Rouge & Noir Writing Instruments

Montblanc Heritage Collection Rouge & Noir Writing Instruments

You can never go wrong with a luxury pen and what better than a Montblanc writing instrument. Our pick would be the writing instruments from the brand’s Montblanc Heritage Collection Rouge & Noir, Special Edition that was created to celebrate the brand’s 110th anniversary. The pen features a serpent on its cap; an emblem that has been linked to the brand since it first began. The instruments are available in coral and black.

FashionDior-Homme-store-Opening-article-3

You could treat dad to a well-tailored suit for Father’s day, especially since it should be a staple in any man’s wardrobe. Head down to Dior Homme at ION Orchard, for an expertly crafted suit, that is sure to please the main man the moment he puts it on. If a suit isn’t something he favors, then you’re in luck. The spanking new store also carries one of Dior’s latest collections for men. This could be just the shopping spree that makes up for you using him as a flesh-and-blood ATM.

BagsTods-envelope-bag-brown-leather

Fresh from the latest Tod’s fall/winter collection, the Envelope bag is our accessory of choice. Sleek and simple, it is perfect for the modern man on the go. While the bag is available in black, we think this shade of brown will lend a youthful touch to an outfit. If you think he will love the bag as much as we do but it could be too bulky for an avid traveler, we have good news for you. The bag also comes in soft suede, so it can be stowed away in a luggage bag during travel with no trouble.

WatchesDRIVE_DE_-CARTIER_WATCH FACE

You may not be able to buy him a car — we have to be realistic and also, watch that carbon footprint people — but you can get him something inspired by automobiles. In walks the Drive de Cartier 1904-PS MC, with its cushion shaped case and exterior that takes its inspiration from cars. We have covered the timepiece in a previous article so we won’t bore you with the details but the guilloche dial and Roman numerals combined with the in-house Cartier movement make this a wonderful gift for a motor head.

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.

Montblanc 110th Anniversary Pens

It has been 110 years since Montblanc released its first collection and to mark this milestone, the Richemont-owned luxury firm has returned to where it all began. Back in 1909, the founders of the brand released the “Rouge et Noir” writing instrument. With black ebonite and a red cap top, the fountain pen by Montblanc took its inspiration and name from the famous novel written by Stendhal.

The Montblanc Heritage Edition: Rouge & Noir Special Edition Pens in Black and Coral

The Montblanc Heritage Edition: Rouge & Noir Special Edition Pens in Black and Coral

Bringing back the early model, the Maison recently released the Montblanc Heritage Collection Rouge & Noir Special Edition and Limited Edition 1906. Fashioned after the original design, the new collection is slimmer and features a longer silhouette along with modern piston technology— an example of how the Maison rethinks and reinvents the art of writing.Montblanc-Limited-Edition-nib

Using a design motif that was popular during the Art Nouveau period, the collection features a serpent that coils its way down from the cap to become the clip. Made of a new alloy, the clip can also be lifted without being bent. Made from precious black resin and lacquer, the Montblanc Heritage Collection Rouge & Noir Special Edition has a off-white snowcap embedded with precious resin in coral resin sits proudly on the crown.

The Montblanc Heritage Collection: Rouge & Noir Limited Edition 1906

The Montblanc Heritage Collection: Rouge & Noir Limited Edition 1906

The Montblanc Heritage Collection, Rouge & Noir, Special Edition Coral is the rouge in the collection, made of a vivid coral resin and lacquer. Both writing instruments feature an Au 585 gold nib decorated with an intricately engraved serpent. The final design that rounds off the collection is the Montblanc Heritage Collection, Rouge & Noir, Limited Edition 1906. Limited to 1906 pieces, the cap and barrel are made of ebonite and follows the traditional manufacturing process. On the rhodium plated Au 750 gold nib with bi-color design, is the engraved serpent.

BMW Individual 7 Series: Hand-finished Edition

Buckle up because BMW is about you take you on a very extravagant ride. To celebrate its centenary year, the German luxury automaker is building 100 individually numbered and hand-finished 7 series sedans.

The BMW Individual 7 Series THE NEXT 100 YEARS – to give the car its full and somewhat unwieldy name – will be available in two- or four-wheel drive and three engine choices: 4.4-liter TwinPower Turbo V8, plug-in hybrid, or the wild 6.6-liter TwinPower Turbo V12 with its 610 horses. Actually, the car is offered on a choice of three platforms, which you will have already guessed if you know your Bimmers. These are, in order, the  BMW 740Le iPerformance, 750Li, (both with or without xDrive), and of course the M760Li xDrive. Ok, to be honest, we really don’t like The Next 100 Years name and will join the chorus of voices across the Internet in asking BMW to consider changing it. Aside from being SEO-unfriendly, it is more importantly clunky, confusing and uninspiring. Our house style for example means we have to drop the upper case spelling.

To put it another way, for this very special occasion, BMW went the extra mile and looked to Hamburg-based luxury goods brand Montblanc for a meaningful collaboration. If BMW wants to give the world a hand-finished automobile with such lavish details that require (brand name) outside partners then it should put a little more care into the name. After all, a centennial comes around but once every hundred years.

Anyway, Montblanc is bringing its renowned flair for creating writing instruments to the table with a centennial fountain pen for each prospective Next 100 Years owner, using the same design features, materials and paint finishes that will adorn the customized car.

bmw_individual 7 series_the next 100 years_montblanc pen

Now this car has all the bells and whistles you would expect from BMW – every equipment specification comes standard here – but the feeling behind the whole effort is decidedly old school. Old World even. The car’s interior is blanketed in contrasting black and “Smoke White” fine-grain Merino leather and it of course features remote-controlled parking and other clever innovations.

bmw_individual 7 series_the next 100 years_interior

The car’s exterior is where the Old World quirkiness comes into play because that lovely blue finish you see here is the only one available. It is a special coat for the anniversary and as such is a standard feature. In short, if you are looking for this in salmon pink well, good luck… The forged lightweight 20-inch alloy wheels with a V-spoke design and handcrafted badges are also standard.

The cherry on this very decadent-yet-restrained sundae comes in the form of a plaque denoting the model’s number, between one and 100, on the center console’s cup holder cover so everyone, inside and out, is well aware your vehicle is a limited edition production.

Spirit of Travel: Montblanc 4810 ExoTourbillon

First launched in 2006 to celebrate the centenary of the maison, Montblanc’s 4810 collection has been newly overhauled for the brand’s 110th anniversary. The collection takes its name from the apparent height of Mont Blanc’s peak in metres, and has a full range of regular and limited edition timepieces, the most exciting of which is the 4810 ExoTourbillon Slim 110 Years Edition. The watch features three versions of miniature painting on its dial, with the motif being maps of the different continents – North America, Europe, and Asia. Maps, of course, evoke the spirit of travel and Montblanc’s founders had been early business travellers between Hamburg (where the company is based) and New York, which was the destination that would first come to mind when one thinks of Transatlantic Travel.

Painted as viewed from the sky, the continents were given a three-dimensional effect using layers upon layers of enamel paint. The artist who worked on these watches had been the same one who painted the twin hemispheres of last year’s Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères Vasco da Gama. Hailing from Montblanc’s spiritual and physical home, she paints in thick layers of vitreous enamel, beginning with the numerous shades of blue for the oceans before moving on to the greens and browns of land and mountains, not forgetting the whites of the polar ice floes.Montblanc-4810-collection-2

With a miniature painting dominating much of the dial, the remaining space below is dedicated to the ExoTourbillon, which also functions as a small seconds indicator thanks to the little red arrow on the tourbillon cage. The ExoTourbillon mechanism forgoes the traditional tourbillon design for a smaller cage that’s more like a platform outside and away from the balance. According to Montblanc, this reduces overall weight for improved isochronism. Also, the lack of a cage allows for a stop seconds mechanism to be easily – and elegantly – implemented. Without any risk of striking the cage, the balance wheel can be halted for precise time setting. Finally, an extra large balance is also possible with this geometry and Montblanc has certainly taken the opportunity to show off its in-house savoir faire with balance wheels and hairsprings.

These watches are limited to 36 pieces for the North America and Europe versions, and 38 for the Asia version, for a total of 110 timepieces.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 42mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds
  • Power Reserve: 50 hours
  • Movement: Self-winding Montblanc Calibre MB 29.24 with ExoTourbillon
  • Case: White gold
  • Water Resistance: 50 meters
  • Strap: Black alligator leather with white gold ardillon buckle

Story Credits

Text by Jamie Tan

This story first appeared in WOW.

Montblanc: Heritage Rouge & Noir Accessories

To commemorate more than a century of innovation and excellence in the world of writing instruments, fine watchmaking and leather goods, luxury brand Montblanc launched a collection of men’s accessories that tie in with the launch of the Heritage Rouge & Noir writing instruments.

The accessories are a work of art in their own right, with small details that showcase the craftsmanship and skill of the artisans behind each design. Centring on the theme of the serpent, the brand has revisited the serpent clip design of the Maison’s 1920s writing instruments. The motif that was popular during the Art Deco and Art Nouveau periods is a symbol of power, mystery, rebirth and renewal.Montblanc_Ultimate-Serpent-LE1-diamond

The Ultimate Serpent Limited Edition 1 is made to be paired with some of the finest Montblanc accessories. Fitted with the Montblanc-cut diamond that was commissioned for the brands centennial anniversary, the writing instrument is best paired with the unique solid red gold cufflinks. The cufflinks showcase the Montblanc-cut diamond that sits on a skeletonized frame. Montblanc_Ultimate-Serpent-LE

Along with it is the 1906 Heritage Edition in honor of the brand founders. In red gold, white gold and yellow gold, the cufflinks feature a technical feat by the brand with a Montblanc diamond suspended in the centre of the cufflink, similar to a compass even with a hemisphere visible from the side. There is even a Heritage Rouge & Noir Limited Edition solid red gold cufflinks that highlight the craftsmanship that has been honed for over a century. With the scales of the snake engraved intricately to form the body, you can choose to use either rubies, sapphires or emeralds for the eyes. Each version of the cufflink is limited to three pieces.

Interview: Pakho Chau

With gorgeous looks and a buff physique often revealed via Instagram posts of his gym and basketball sessions (he used to represent Hong Kong as a strapping 1.82m player) and shirtless magazines covers, Pakho Chau is afflicted by the same malady that has plagued many of his predecessors: pretty boy syndrome. Our friends at Men’s Folio had a chat with Chau late last year and tried to get beneath the surface while also producing a lovely spread featuring the Cantopop star.

Often labeled with a disclaimer for a perceived character flaw, these good-lookers ironically have an easy start as pop idols but it doesn’t require a lot of range. There are reasons why pretty boys are having it tough when it comes to longevity and credibility. It goes to show that looking like an Adonis cramps your style.

Cases in point: Many hated Aaron Kwok and his floppy hair in the 1990s before his Golden Horse Award wins; Wang Leehom was similarly the subject of vehement verbal abuse in the new millennium despite being able to play different musical instruments; and detractors who remembered Takeshi Kaneshiro as a Taiwan-based pop idol despised him in both decades. It was with great effort that Miuccia Prada and Giorgio Armani (and maybe Biotherm) convinced them otherwise about the latter.

To drive home the point on the international front, I recall lesser male specimens cursing as Brad Pitt sleepwalked through Meet Joe Black and exhibiting the middle finger each time Tom Cruise grinned like a proboscis monkey onscreen. Have you ever watched a Tom Cruise film after Risky Business and Top Gun and be so aware that it’s Mr Cruise on screen in every subsequent film. The man does not inhabit a role. The role has to audition with back-flips and quadruple summersaults. Boy-band bashing is likewise extensive on both sides of the pond. And don’t get haters started on Justin Bieber. That would just be uncivilized.

Louis Vuitton Rope circles denim jacket and pants

Louis Vuitton Rope circles denim jacket and pants

As a counterpoint, female colleagues pointed out that raging heterosexuals did not display a similar disdain when the members of Girls’ Generation sashayed meaninglessly throughout the recent music video of “Party”. Point taken, but hardly a paradigm shift.

The gripe being that many of these handsome male homo sapiens commonly lack that the necessary talent in correlation to their physical attributes, with weedy wannabes that are a dime-a-dozen falling by the wayside. This clearly isn’t the fate that awaits Chau. “I believe that true success requires sacrifice,” he says. “It’s not safe to rest on your laurels because only the hard workers earn the respect they deserve that makes them living legends in their own right.”

Throw Show Luo, the brooding vocals of Eason Chan, and a sprinkling of Hong Kong singer and actor Daniel Chan in a mixer and you’d probably get Pakho Chau. While the 30-year-old is blessed with good looks, he literally got his start at the bottom at film composer Chan Kwong-Wing’s recording studio as a junior engineer. “I had modelling gigs on the side,” recalls the Hong Kong native. “But my time learning music production had the most impact on my career as I learned the tricks of the trade. I learned not just the technical process, but also that success requires time, persistence, and patience to nurture.”

Ermenegildo Zegna Couture Cotton shirt, wool pants, wool coat

Ermenegildo Zegna Couture Cotton shirt, wool pants, wool coat

Just as well, with peepers that resemble Bambi’s, his cheekbones are also dangerously defined, and his wry smile can turn sane females (and the occasional male) into shrieking banshees at the drop of a snapback cap. Chau first caught the attention of Chan, whose claim to fame includes scoring Hong Kong blockbusters The Storm Riders, Infernal Affairs and Bodyguards and Assassins, putting him in good stead. A recording contract with Warner Music in 2007 soon followed.

It helped that he can carry a tune (without the help of Auto-Tune), play the guitar, and write his own songs. His musical inclinations date back to the age of five, when he was already playing the piano. “My dad was an audiophile and used to buy CDs very frequently,” he says. “As a result, I was exposed to Cantopop at a very young age. My mom also fervently encouraged me to attend piano lessons, and that’s how I became infatuated with music.”

Thankfully, there were no heart-thumping dance tracks or an artificial transfusion of street cred courtesy of faux hip-hop posturing in Chau’s music. Instead, we’re treated to forlorn ballads that are lyrically poignant and, every so often, heart wrenching. “There’s always a real-life incident that inspires a song,” he mentions candidly. “However, not one aspect of life completes me. There are notches in our short time here on Earth that is represented lyrically and in the melodies of my composition.”

Dior Homme cotton shirt, wool suit, wool coat

Dior Homme cotton shirt, wool suit, wool coat

This is not intentionally skewed as his latest single “We’ll Be Fine” tells a melancholic tale of loneliness and the desire for emotional fulfillment. The accompanying music video shows Chau driving and walking aimlessly with the ambiguous ending suggesting the death of his beloved. The nimble strumming of guitars in the background showcases his sturdy vocals. “I’m sure everyone affiliates to the emotions that resonate from my songs in some ways,” he says. “And that’s what makes each one of us unique.”

The solo artist is well aware of the steep learning curve, and after seven studio albums, he’s delivered a more polished and sophisticated sound. There is truth in that, in a sea of homogeneous Asian celebrities, he has made efforts to differentiate himself by being true to himself without a regurgitation of a manufactured pop template. The reception from fans so far has been wonderful, even as Chau gives props to those that paved the way for him and his peers.

“Jackie Cheung, Aaron Kwok, Faye Wong, Eason Chan, Joey Yung, Miriam Yeung…” he rattles off a list of Cantopop superstars and crooners that he notes as having been instrumental in shaping his outlook to making music that’s accessible and honest. “They each have facets that I emulate and incorporate into my repertoire. I’m also heavily influenced by [Irish singer-songwriter] Damien Rice’s song writing expertise and his effortless way with the acoustic guitar that’s second to none.”

Louis Vuitton polyester bomber jacket

Louis Vuitton polyester bomber jacket

So sure, he has his singing career. But we’re back to the original Zoolander-inspired conundrum. Is there more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking? The film roles are steadily pouring in with him joining the fray of romantic comedies S for Sex, S for Secret, 12 Golden Ducks, and Love Detective last year alone. “My schedule these days is crazy, so to have opportunities to dabble in film is a godsend,” he says, to which he was quick to point out that “music is still my focus. I don’t ever want to stop making music. Hopefully, fans of my music will like the films I appear in as well.”

It would also seem natural that Chau would be an ambassador of youthful lifestyle giants Watsons, Adidas, Levi Strauss & Co. and Clinique Men’s Skincare, extolling the virtues of grooming elixirs and treatments for men, just like any auntie-killer would. Yet, as an indication of maturity, Montblanc has designated him as the Asian influencer for its luxury timepieces. “I didn’t like watches when I was younger,” he admits. “However, I’m gradually realizing the importance of time and how the amount of it that we’re allocated is finite. I’m a budding collector and Montblanc’s rich heritage is one that has constantly caught my eye over the years.”

Far from fearing the repercussions of overexposure, he is receptive that the additional visibility will only broaden the appeal of his music. And why shouldn’t his mug have its day in the sun? Everything is about making a good first impression these days. Chau gravitated with his best face forward on a grand stage. “I remember my concert at the Hong Kong Coliseum (in 2014) as being the biggest scale performance of my career,” he lets on. “I was extremely nervous and completely in awe when glancing at the sea of faces in the crowd. In my mind, each member of the audience came because of me. That was a very touching moment.”

Louis Vuitton wool coat, wool pants

Louis Vuitton wool coat, wool pants

 

Story Credits

By Jason Kwong

Photography Matt Hui / Sugarsugar Production

Styling Tok Wei Lun

Styling assistant Chua Chin Chin / Arm Collective

Makeup Kris Wong

Hair Cliff Chan / Hair Corner

Montblanc Unveils New ‘Legend’ Fragrance

Luxury all-rounder Montblanc announced the upcoming release of a new fragrance at exactly the right time to capitalize on the unrelated buzz from the SIHH in Geneva. The timing also gives us the opportunity to get into the unique heritage and product mix at the Richemont-owned firm that the new Montblanc Legend Spirit, to be launched in the spring of this year, embodies.

Montblanc is to writing instruments as BMW is to luxury cars. The brand is also well known for its leather goods and, relatively recently, its amazing watches. Any fragrance the company launches has a lot to live up to but Montblanc clearly likes its chances here. The new Montblanc Legend Spirit joins the original Legend fragrance (launched in 2011) to deliver a message of strength, independence and authentic masculine character. The Legend Spirit adds a more relaxed, casual and even spontaneous facet to this story. If anyone has been keeping an eye on the menswear shows in London and Milan, this seems like the perfect time for a fragrance with exactly that mix of values.

This brings us to the packaging, which as you can see is indeed very cool. White – a signature choice for Montblanc – is also reportedly a source of inspiration for this fresh, woody, aromatic scent developed by master perfumers Nathalie Lorson and Olivier Cresp. Lorson is the nose behind the legendary Encre Noir and she worked on the Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium with Cresp (and Marie Salamagne).

According to an AFP report, the Montblanc Legend Spirit has top notes of pepper, grapefruit and bergamot, with an aromatic heart of lavender and cardamom, and an aquatic accord. This leads to a base of sandalwood, cedar and cashmere, blended with oak moss and notes of white musk. Of course only a sample can attest to the quality of the fragrance and you should allow yourself to be guided by your nose.

The AFP also reports that Montblanc Legend ambassador, British model Simon Clark, is set to star as the face of “Legend Spirit” in a campaign shot by John Balsom.