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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

Quartz dive watch: Luminox Carbon SEAL 3800 Series could be the world’s lightest

Reportedly weighing in at up to 105 grams, the cased-in-carbon Luminox Carbon SEAL 3800 Series is a diver’s watch, water resistant to 300 meters. Yes, it is under 100 grams in some versions, which is remarkable for what is a 46mm tough ticker. We have not done any comparative tests but this might well be the world’s lightest diver’s watch (quartz category). Ok there is no such award or category but if there were, Luminox would have a winner on its hands. Ok, so it is not completely cased in carbon. It has a steel caseback protecting its reliable quartz Ronda 715 HH6 heart but the carbon compound process used to create the (rest of the) case looks impressive. Steel is also used for the crown.

Manual winding watch: Credor Eichi II by Seiko is refined and subtle

The Credor Eichi II is a three-hand time-only watch that you can safely tell friends and colleagues is a Seiko because it is. Well, Credor is the part of the Seiko Group that creates haute horlogerie timepieces and the Eichi II is a superlative example of what the brand does. The dial is hand-painted porcelain (no ordinary white dial this) and the case is platinum and both are as beautiful as they are invisible to the casual observer. Needless to say, the finish on the movement is nothing short of breathtaking but it is the use of Seiko’s proprietary Spring Drive that elevates this watch to another level. The glide of the seconds hand is pure poetry.

Omega limited edition: #SpeedyTuesday Sells Out in 4 Hours

A couple of days ago, we received news of a new limited edition Omega Speedmaster – the Omega Speedmaster “Speedy Tuesday Limited Edition more informally known as #SpeedyTuesday – was going to be available for pre-order in an exclusive Instagram push. While respecting the embargo on it, we pushed out the news as soon as possible that Tuesday (hence #SpeedyTuesday), via the social media magnet otherwise known as Instagram. Yes, the hashtag forms the actual name of this limited-to-2,012-pieces watch. Well, needless to say, plenty of watch journalists did the same and my own Facebook feed – dominated as it is by my obsession with timepieces – exploded. For one shining moment, Omega trumped Trump…

Now, watches aren’t interesting to most people, not in the way a supercar is. At least at Luxuo, we know this for a fact. Happily, the social media canvassing we witnessed for this watch was deeply gratifying. Sadly, it did not in fact actually rival news about the US President-Elect. It might not even compare against Mitch McConnell’s social media presence (that’s #mitchmcconnell for those who care).

Amazingly, Omega has confirmed that a mere hours – 4 hours, 15 minutes and 43 seconds to be precise – after the postings began, the watch had sold out. If this was a supercar, we would have expected the watch to have sold out well before any public news broke. Once again, this is a watch and not a tongue-twisty affair with more components that the Large Hadron Collider. This is the improbably named #SpeedyTuesday, proving that yes, Tuesday can indeed be speedy!

It is, frankly, unprecedented, as far as we know and it is difficult to underestimate how important this is, especially given the challenging retail climate we find ourselves in. The WOW Features Editor Jamie Tan tells me that Sennheiser accomplished something similar with its HD6XX on Massdrop but when it comes to watches, we are unaware of any other examples of such an unqualified success. Now, full disclosure here, as the editor of WOW, I’m positively beside myself; I might have even been moved to tears. Yes, I did not manage to pre-order the #SpeedyTuesday so color me #sad.

Automatic watch for travellers: Baume & Mercier Clifton GMT Power Reserve is unveiled before SIHH 2017

Multiple time zone watches can be the bane of watch designers everywhere. Unlike the chronograph, which has found a relatively stable user-interface and a comfortably homogenous display system, the multi-time zone watch exists in so many variations that one can never quite tell what it is, except on closer inspection. For example, believe it or not, there are countless people who have no clue how to use a mechanical worldtimer. The fault, arguably, lies not with the public but with the watchmakers. The Baume & Mercier Clifton GMT Power Reserve attempts to address this.

Revealed as a teaser for the full 2017 assortment ahead of the SIHH, this watch uses the real estate on its blue dial to good effect. It starts with having “GMT” on the dial at 12 o’clock, right below the 24-hour indicator, which might be too obvious for some but it certainly makes the watch easy to understand and use. At the same time, the 24-hour GMT display is admirably quirky, consisting of a single hand to track the time on a dual-arc subdial. One only needs a single hand for the GMT anyway and that double-track display makes optimal use of the allocated space. The lack of numerals here though might put some off, given that reading the time this way is not intuitive.Baume-Mercier_BM05_10316_Porter_1465667

As far as proportions go, it is all smiles here. The GMT display matches up nicely with the power reserve arc at 6 o’clock. The date at 3 o’clock, with a rounded rectangular window framed by a sharp-edged rectangular white border, is a good effort at drawing attention to the aperture but again will likely divide opinions.

Chugging along beneath all this functional discourse on the dial is the automatic Soprod 9035 calibre with some custom finishes, including Cotes de Geneve on the rotor. The power reserve here is 42 hours, which is not too shabby given that this is an automatic. Frequent travellers who often find themselves on long-haul flights would do well to recall that the watch won’t wind itself if the wearer is motionless for long stretches.

At 43mm, this is by no means a particularly discreet watch, which makes the aforementioned dial layout quite vital. What looks best in a smaller watch often appears outlandish when blown up so it is no surprise that Baume & Mercier have opted for a watch that could be mistaken for a chronograph at a distance. The look of the chronograph is, after all, a proven proposition.

Specifications

Movement Automatic Soprod 9035 with GMT,

Power Reserve 42-hour

Case 43mm stainless steel

Water Resistant Up to 50 meters

Strap Black alligator leather

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graham Chronofighter Target Denim

New trigger system adaptation: Graham Chronofighter Target Denim celebrates the world of fashion

The Chronofighter is one of Graham’s core collections and arguably the brand’s most emblematic, thanks to the unique “trigger” system that controls the chronographs’ start/stop functions. It’s been well received and Graham has, in response, created several variations on the theme. These range from elegant women’s watches to technical diving watches to vintage-styled pilot watches, each with its own adaptation to the trigger system’s design.

The latest timepiece to join the line-up has veered off in an entirely different direction this time, and entered the world of fashion. Enter the Chronofighter Target Denim. This new watch will appeal to the sartorially inclined with its form, which melds serious tool watch design elements with street fashion chic. Purpose-driven design is readily apparent in the bold lines and surfaces of the case, alongside the choice of technical materials: scratch-resistant ceramic for the bezel, and black carbon for the trigger. Meanwhile, the playful aspects of the watch are seen in the blue-tinted dial, which complements its eponymous denim strap.

As usual, Graham has put a heavy premium on the wearer’s ease of access to the watch’s functions. Reading the time is a cinch despite the choice of a smoked dial, which exposes the movement underneath it, as the white dial markings and bold hands create a high contrast with the background. The brand has also eschewed the 12-hour totaliser for the chronograph; in exchange for a shorter limit for the measurement of elapsed time, the 30-minute totaliser has been magnified to dominate the bottom half of the dial for better legibility. Measurement of intervals up to 30 minutes long aside, the chronograph can also be used with the telemeter scale – printed on the outer edge of the chapter ring – to measure the distance to an (audible) event based on the speed of sound.

Apart from this reference in blue, two other colourways of the Chronofighter Target Denim are available. One has a green-tinted dial paired with a khaki canvas strap, while the other has a grey-tinted dial and an anthracite canvas strap.

Specs
Movement: Self-winding Graham G1747 chronograph movement with 48-hour power reserve
Case: 47mm in steel and carbon; water resistant to 100m
Strap: Blue denim strap with steel ardillon buckle

ball-engineer-master-ii-diver-worldtime

Dive watch review: Ball Engineer Master II Diver Worldtime delivers better readability in low light

A divers’ watch with worldtimer function is a novel idea, as seen here in the Ball Engineer Master II Diver Worldtime. As far as we know, this is the only divers’ watch to feature such a function; Ball itself notes that this is the first diver worldtime day date watch. Ball introduced this winning combination in 2010 and no brand has followed it down this path, or shall we say down to this depth. The new watch features an updated design and an updated movement too.


Specifications

Movement Automatic Ball RR1501 with worldtimer, day, date; 38-hour power reserve
Case 45mm stainless steel; water resistant to 300 metres
Strap Stainless steel bracelet or rubber strap


What is preserved here is an intuitive way to read off time, especially in low-light settings because that is where a Ball watch excels. This refers to the self-powered H3 gas tubes that are the watchmaker’s claim to fame. Given that legibility is a key differentiating factor in every Ball watch collection, the brand has paid special attention here. As we have mentioned before, multiple time zone watches are frequently difficult to read, compared with chronographs. Ball’s commitment here is part and parcel of its spin-off company, Patrick’s Labs, which is effectively the watchmaker’s research and development arm.

Complicating matters here, in particular, is the bidirectional rotating inner bezel. As it stands, this is one of the few divers’ watches that includes a bidirectional inner bezel as opposed to the usual unidirectional external bezel. If one looks at the previous versions of this model, the information on the dial appears to be where the changes reside. Adding weight to this is the calibre Ball RR1501, which is unchanged from the previous edition. Both font and markers have been updated, while water resistance is now listed below the logo at 12 o’clock instead of at 6 o’clock. The worldtime disc has been overhauled, with extraneous information excised; as before, it continues to rotate counter-clockwise.

 

Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater Mysterious Double Tourbillon: A look inside this new luxury chiming watch debuting at SIHH 2017

Chiming watches remain the most charming of all mechanical timepieces, mostly because they are discreet pleasures. After all, with a minute repeater for example, the beauty is in what it sounds like and the wearer is likely the only person who knows for sure. Visually, these rarefied watches that sound out the time often look like time-only pieces, with only the sliding piece on the case giving away the game. Skeletonising offers, to date, the best chance to transform a minute repeater into a feast for the eye as well as the ear. For 2017, the Cartier manufacture at La Chaux-de-Fonds clearly thinks it can do better.

With this striking timepiece, the Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater Mysterious Double Tourbillon, the Cartier watchmakers have created a mechanical wristwatch that has never existed in any form, anywhere. This is the first time a mysterious flying double tourbillon has joined forces with a minute repeater (which is skeletonized to boot). In fact, to our knowledge, this is the first time a mysterious indication of time has been seen alongside a skeletonised minute repeater.

Now, Carole Forestier-Kasapi and her team are no strangers to repeaters and Cartier is certainly the only major brand to associate itself with the mysterious watch – a tradition dating back to the clocks of Louis Cartier in 1902. Creating a cohesive watch out of old traditions and new know-how is where Cartier excels and where the brand often adds value to watchmaking as a whole. To put it another way, Cartier may not innovate by tradition but it certainly makes innovation in watchmaking seem like a proud tradition, a beautiful one at that.

calibre 9407 MC

Calibre 9407 MC

“We don’t have a long experience in fine watchmaking. We wanted to do things differently. This fact probably makes our watches appealing to the client. And our watches are beautiful! You know, just because we make technical watches doesn’t mean the watches have to be ugly. We have always had very good designers in the house of Cartier and this is one of our strengths,” said Forestier-Kasapi.

She was speaking at that time, in 2012, about the Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon, powered by calibre 9402 MC. When you see the numbering in the new model, calibre 9407 MC, the provenance is clear, which you might have guessed from those dial-side hammers and gongs. Having said that, looking back at the various forms the Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon have taken at Cartier, there are clear differences here, made obvious by the open-worked movement and the position of the repeater push piece at 4 o’clock.

Triple Threat Pre-SIHH Novelties

We should say at the outset that Cartier never does anything by halfway measures so the Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater Mysterious Double Tourbillon is only one of three novelties to be revealed prior to SIHH 2017. The others are the Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Hour and the Panthere Joueuse de Cartier, which are certainly winning propositions in their own right but we’ll have to address those in another issue, possibly when we look at the SIHH novelties in full or in a shoot sometime next year.

Minute Repeater Mechanism

Minute Repeater Mechanism

Turning back to the multi-complication of the pre-SIHH releases, Cartier definitely wants to window to show off this new watch before the onslaught of novelties begins. Truly, the virtues of the watch are obvious even as the mysterious mechanism remains fully, well, mysterious. Casual observers have already noted how well the calibre 9407 MC preserves the secrets of the mysterious flying double tourbillon, which it does. The visual pleasure of watching the tourbillon make a circuit in one minute, and then the entire assembly rotate in five minutes is delectable, as we have already seen with the Rotonde Mysterious Double Tourbillon in 2013.

The repeater portion of this calibre, which occupies the remaining 61% of calibre 9407 MC, is another matter. Doing a multi-complication is great and everything but does it compromise the quality of the delicate chiming mechanism? First of all, the many watchmakers we have spoken to over the years typically agree that adding a tourbillon to a movement with a minute repeater causes no problems overall and does not detract from the quality of the sound. In this particular instance, Cartier notes that the space for the double tourbillon is actually smaller than it was in the Rotonde Mysterious Double Tourbillon 9454 MC. This reduction of 1mm to 15.5mm was done to accommodate the repeater gongs.

Perfecting the Pitch

Ultimately, chiming watches must be judged on aural pleasure and that is entirely subjective. What we can highlight here is that Cartier has boiled down the essence of a successful minute repeater into four dimensions: intensity, tonality, tone and deadening. Those familiar with watches that strike the time will know a few more terms: volume, rhythm, harmony, pitch, duration, paired sounds and ready sounds… Happily, the Cartier manufacture’s approach with the Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater Mysterious Double Tourbillon is refreshingly approachable.

On that note (no pun intended), it is important to bear in mind that this is a 45mm watch in grade 5 titanium while the gongs are in the usual steel as per Cartier’s other repeaters. The manufacture’s own notes suggest that titanium was chosen to reduce the case-gongs mass ratio for better acoustic transparency. As you might have guessed, the entire 45mm case acts as a resonance chamber for calibre 9407 MC. Cartier makes no other assertion on the choice of material for the case, in terms of its suitability for sounding the time in a sonorous fashion.

The Mysterious Cage

The Mysterious Cage

The manufacture does take some pains to establish that it has tried its best to improve the transmission of vibrations from movement to case by creating no less than six points that the movement connects with the case. Four of these are via screws linking the movement and the case while two are screws that link the gongs themselves to the case (at 6 o’clock, in the middle of the hammers). If you are familiar with other Cartier repeaters, you might also recognize that the gongs present a square profile to the hammers at the point of contact, to increase the surface area that the hammers can work with. Cartier reports that this improves the vibration velocity.

The low-pitched gong (tourbillon-side) sounds the hours and is calibrated to strike in B (5th octave). The high-pitched minutes gong is set to D (6th octave), by way of contrast. Low-pitch and high-pitch notes are separated by 10 dB, which seems like a good split. Interestingly, the intensity of the notes has been clocked at 66dB, as opposed to the 68dB of the previous Cartier repeaters. You will of course appreciate the quality of the sound is more important here than the actual intensity, given that the difference is a mere 2dB. That quality is assured here – as in all Cartier repeaters – by the use of a flying inertial governor instead of the more traditional recoil anchor. The governor has been moved from its position in 9402 MC, in single axis with the tourbillon and gongs to a spot just below the mysterious double tourbillons.

As for the actual quality of the sound, for the moment we only have the specifications from Cartier to go on but we might update on the actual sound quality online from SIHH 2017 itself. See you there.

Specifications

Movement Manual winding calibre 9407 MC, with mysterious double flying tourbillon and minute repeater; 84 hours power reserve

Case 45mm grade 5 titanium

Strap Black “Gomma” alligator

Franck Muller Gravity Tourbillon Skeleton: Specifications, colours and the beautiful mechanism of the luxury watch

Gravity and timekeeping make strange but fetching bedfellows as shown here in the Franck Muller Gravity Tourbillon Skeleton. For a start, let’s get the strange part out of the way. Gravity is a force that certainly affects space-time and it is very cool in that way. Unfortunately, how it does this is very poorly understood by most people, largely because it is counter-intuitive. Since Abraham-Louis Breguet invented the tourbillon, the world of mechanical timekeeping has had a special relationship with this fundamental force.

On the one hand, it made admirable strides in illustrating how a mechanical system could correct for errors in rate caused by gravity’s effect on the hairspring. On the other hand, it also gave the impression that gravity was an avowed enemy of timekeeping but this is certainly not the case.

The Franck Muller Gravity Tourbillon Skeleton zooms in on the poetic side of gravity, leaning on the fact that gravity effectively causes space-time to curve. This is reflected to amazing effect in the gentle slope of the tourbillon carriage and bridges. The implication of this design is that gravity is causing deformations around the escapement, without causing any visible effects. This is extraordinarily beautiful. Adding to this are the matching blue accents in the carriage and the bridges, alongside the now-familiar curves of the Vanguard case. It helps of course that the tourbillon is quite large, with the carriage itself having a diameter of 21.2mm; the balance wheel is likewise quite large at 14mm and is set noticeably off-centre, calling further attention to the entire assembly.

franck-muller-gravity-sqt-planche-croquis-bleu

Returning to that striking blue colour for a moment and the contrast with the black elements, the manual-winding calibre CS-03.SQT largely uses anodized aluminium so there is a wide range of colour possibilities here, from orange to yellow, to blue and more. Franck Muller says personalization is certainly a possibility here. As for that black, it is the result of a PVD treatment but the movement can also feature 5N or rhodium plating.

Specifications

Movement Manual-winding CS-03.SQT with tourbillon; 5-day power reserve

Case 38.4mm x 39.6mm PVD-treated titanium, steel, rose gold or white gold; water resistant to 30 meters

Strap Rubber and nylon

Review Glashütte Original Senator Excellence Panorama Date Moon Phase

Review: Glashütte Original Senator Excellence Panorama Date Moon Phase

The story of Glashütte Original this year is all about Calibre 36 and it is certainly true that it is the beginning of a new story for the Saxon watchmaker. The Senator Excellence is at the heart of it but BaselWorld this year also showed us a hint of where the watchmaker intends to take this tale. Behold the Glashütte Original Senator Excellence Panorama Date Moon Phase, a chapter devoted to complexity made simple.

Well, to begin with, those familiar with moon phases will know all the usual stuff: it will be accurate for 122 years before it needs to be adjusted. Stellar stuff that is but the simplicity we seek lies in the operation of this adjustment. Again, those familiar with the moon phase, or own a watch with this charming complication, will know that there is a circumstance that will require manual intervention. If the watch stops for a prolonged period, it will need to be reset and, when it comes to the moon phase, that can be tedious. Not so for the Panorama Date Moon Phase.

From winding the watch to the setting of time, from changing the date to setting the moon phase, everything can be managed via the crown. When one pulls the crown out to position one, Calibre 36-04, can be wound. Position two allows the setting of both date and moon phase indicator, tied as they are to each other. Finally, position three allows the setting of time. Of course, the fact that the power reserve is rated to 100 hours also helps keep the pressure off. That, to keep it brief, takes care of the main message of simplicity.

Review Glashütte Original Senator Excellence Panorama Date Moon Phase

On the other hand, it is not only practically speaking that the watch offers advantages. A watch is something one wears and interacts with almost intuitively. Using a pusher to correct the moon phase gives one a feeling of being disconnected from this most personal of treasures. Glashütte Original corrects that defect with the Panorama Date Moon Phase.

Of course, this implies there is a great deal of complexity involved with what the Swatch Group-owned firm is doing with the automatic Calibre 36-04. Like Calibre 36, we know for certain it is using a silicium hairspring, a free-spring balance and a movement architecture aimed at solving technical issues down the line, including making servicing easier. All of these moves bring the German manufacture in-line with the practices of its parent group and have been a long time coming.

What hasn’t changed is the Glashütte Original look and feel, as seen in the double disc date display – pleasantly oversized as usual – and the off-kilter positioning of both the date and the moon phase indicator. Combined with the central hands and sweep seconds, the result is an admirably well-balanced 40mm watch.

Review Glashütte Original Senator Excellence Panorama Date Moon Phase

Specs

  • Dimensions: 40mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, moon phase
  • Power Reserve: 100 hours
  • Movement: Automatic Calibre 36-04 with date and moon phase
  • Material: Stainless steel or rose gold
  • Water resistance: 50 meters
  • Strap: Louisiana alligator or bracelet (stainless steel version)

SIHH 2017 Preview: Officine Panerai introduces PAM685 and PAM687

Watches tell the story of time, interpreting it in deliberate ways and delivering it in innumerable styles. While the 12 chapters on the dial (typically) stay the same, everything else depends on the name and logo on said dial. Of the various authors, if we can call them that, Officine Panerai offers among the most compelling narratives. In 2017, the most resolutely Swiss of Italian brands draws attention to its most primal story, which in the case of PAM685 is writ large on the bezel.

Properly called the Panerai Radiomir 3 Days Acciaio PAM685 and PAM687, these Special Editions are modeled on 1930s prototypes for the Italian navy. According to Panerai, those prototypes featured 12-side bezels with the words Officine Panerai – Brevettato (Panerai Workshop – Patented) engraved. Both PAM685 and PAM687 recall this early chapter in the story of Panerai with admirable clarity, as you can see in the pictures here.

Briefly, this is the mythical tale of the Panerai reference 3646, a sort of proving ground watch for what Panerai eventually supplied to the Italian Navy. In recreating this look, Panerai has put together two elements in a way never before seen in the contemporary Panerai watch: engraving and the 12-sided bezel. To our knowledge, this is the only time Panerai has introduced engraved wording on a 12-sided bezel. This same bezel is also used on the caseback, which features a sapphire crystal window to admire the manual-winding calibre P.3000.

PAM00687

Officine Panerai PAM685 and PAM687 have the same view via the caseback, that of the P.3000 calibre

Panerai says reference 3646 (in something very much like this form) was probably used by naval authorities during the test period for the watches, which means anything from 1935 to 1938.

It is thus important to note that Panerai has merely recreated the look of the prototypes; PAM685 and PAM687 are perfectly water resistant (though only to 30 meters), have solidly dependable in-house P.3000 movements and do not feature radioactive materials (SuperLuminova is used instead). Yes, Panerai did not select the name Radiomir by accident as the originals did indeed feature radium, a toxic radioactive element.

As you may have guessed, these time-only Special Editions are in fact limited propositions and both feature 47mm Radiomir cases in stainless steel, complete with wire lugs. The only difference between the two versions is the dial color. PAM685 sports a black dial while PAM687 features a faded brown dial that Panerai calls “tropical”. Of course, both dials are in the typical sandwich construction favored by Panerai.

PAM685 AND PAM687

PAM685 AND PAM687

Specs

  • Dimensions: 47mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes
  • Power reserve: 72 hours
  • Movement: Manual winding calibre P.3000
  • Case: 316L steel
  • Water resistance: 30 meters
  • Strap: Untreated leather with large prong buckle

 

Corum Heritage Diphylleia

Review: Corum Heritage Diphylleia

Corum’s creations for women span a wide range and appeal to an equally diverse group of female watch lovers. From the display of feather marquetry in the Heritage Artisans Feather watch to the play of D color diamonds on the high jewelry version of the Golden Bridge, there’s something for everyone whatever her preferences.

The brand explored the feminine side of watchmaking earlier this year with the Heritage Diphylleia, where a flower has been sculpted out of a watch. The diphylleia that inspired the timepiece is also known as the skeleton flower, and has a unique property – its petals acquire a lace-like translucency when they are wet. The Heritage Diphylleia alludes to this effect with a bezel that’s set with 22 diamonds totalling 5.3 carats, and an inner flange of mother-of-pearl. Together, these two elements sparkle and shimmer, not unlike a dew covered diphylleia in the early morning.Corum Heritage Diphylleia

On the watchmaking front, the Heritage Diphylleia features a skeletonised movement, which has its plates and bridges engraved with a floral motif. Besides keeping the theme consistent, the openworked movement also offers views through the timepiece to enhance the perception of lightness and airiness. This watch is available in both rose gold and white gold, but in extremely limited runs of just eight and 18 pieces respectively.

This article was first published in World of Watches: Jewellery.

Review: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Frosted Gold

Review: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Frosted Gold

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

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

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

ro_15454or-gg-1259or-01_2_closeup_prcmyk

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

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

Specs

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

Review: Breguet Classique 7147 Watch

In its press notes for the Breguet Classique 7147, the Swiss watchmaker calls the watch a ‘must-have’, a term criminally abused in fashion but blessedly uncommon in watchmaking parlance. Nevertheless, it is strange to refer to some kinds of things as must-haves. Take real estate for example. No one ever calls a house a must-have even though shelter is an actual bona fide must-have.

Don’t get us wrong here because Breguet watches obviously have a powerful appeal, particularly – we would argue – in gold. On the other hand, just as one would never call the Bugatti Chiron a must-have, a watch like the Breguet Classique 7147 should not be thought of in this way. To some, the Chiron will look a dream come to roaring mechanical life but others will see a nightmare of absurdity. Indeed, part of the appeal of the car is in this very divisiveness.

Fine watchmaking has a strong divisive streak and Breguet makes some lovely examples, one of which is the Classique 7147. Proposed by the Swatch Group-owned watchmaker as a dress watch, it is certain to upend the expectations, and upset the constitutions, of some gentlemen. By tradition, a dress watch is meant to be a paragon of subtle appeal. In contemporary times, this often translates as ‘boring’, which unfortunately goes hand-in-hand with the word ‘classic’. Typically, the dress watch sits quietly on the wrist, hidden under the sleeve, a pleasure exclusively for the wearer. The Classique 7147 sure does like a bit of attention though.

The Classique 7147 is far from properly classical, what with its off-kilter small seconds subdial, its 40mm diameter and bold decorative touches. These decorations include an engine-turned hobnail motif in the center of the dial and an angled cross weave guilloche pattern on the subdial. Roman numerals and blued steel Breguet hands complete the look.

breguet-classique-5140

By way of comparison, look at the Breguet Classique 5140, which sports a clean and pure dial, although some variations have added more decidedly ‘Breguet’ touches (as the version above does). No, we have not made a mistake, this is not the new 7147. The similarity in the look, right down to that quirky small seconds subdial, is to be expected as the 7147 replaces the 5140, which has been around in one shape or another since at least 2008.

One of the key differences between these two references is actually more subtle though and can’t really be illustrated well. The Classique 7147 is just 6.1mm thick, making it appropriately slim for a dress (it has to fit comfortably under shirt sleeves) and distinctly thinner than the 5140 (the current Breguet catalogue lists it as 10.8mm thick). This of course is a function of the movement within, calibre 502.3SD, which is just 2.4mm thick. The Classique 7147 has an exhibition caseback through which the movement can shine, which is another change from the 5140.

Specs

  • Diameter: 40mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds
  • Power Reserve: 45 hours
  • Movement: Self-winding calibre 502.3SD with pallet fork and balance spring in silicon
  • Material: 18k rose gold and 18k white gold
  • Water Resistance: 30 meters
  • Strap: Leather
Chanel J12 watch Baselworld

Chanel J12 XS: Tough Chick

The first watch designed by Chanel with a masculine touch goes through a complete makeover and is now smaller, girlier and the most desirable it has ever been. This story is from the perspective of our friends at L’Officiel Singapore; we have previously adopted the WOW Singapore review of the same watch.

The year 2003 was no ordinary one for Chanel. It finally made its debut at BaselWorld (the industry’s biggest watch fair where top manufacturers gather annually in Switzerland to show off their latest horological feats), 16 years after the Parisian house unveiled its first timepiece, the Première. But the year was also a dismal one for the people of the world who were fiercely battling the Sars epidemic. “In fact, China realized that it had many more cases than what was officially announced,” Chanel’s International Watch Director Nicolas Beau recalls. “It was two days before the show and a lot of Chinese would be coming in. Everybody panicked. Some even wanted to go home.”

Chanel J12 watch Baselworld

Black high-tech ceramic and 18k white gold with baguette-cut diamonds, black onyw, matte leather and patent calfskin

But when BaselWorld concluded that year, people weren’t talking about Sars as much as Chanel’s J12, which was presented at the fair in a new white high-tech ceramic version (trumping the reception of its black predecessor launched back in 2000). “Suddenly we realized how powerful this creation was,” Beau adds. “The J12 introduced a new color and a new spirit to quite a traditional-looking watch. And because it’s a traditional-looking watch, it would be boring if we made it in steel. Ours in ceramic told people something different.”

The J12, which was Chanel’s first automatic timepiece, is a fascinating work of art. Seven years of research and development contribute to the allure of the watch, most of which lies within its high-tech ceramic case. Made entirely from scratch at the brand’s G&F Chatelain Manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds, the material is lighter and hardier than gold and steel, resistant to thermal and chemical shocks, and very comfortable to wear, absorbing and maintaining the skin’s temperature when worn. “We have discovered many new things since we started making ceramics in 2000,” Beau reveals. “We can even incorporate the material into mechanical movements now.”

That isn’t the only novelty. The J12 was also the first timepiece which Chanel designed with a surprising yet compellingly masculine approach. The house’s late artistic director Jacques Helleu had these goals in mind for the watch: it had to look timeless, be indestructible and remind him of “masterpieces in the world of automobiles”. As Beau points out: “We created a strong full-black watch with the original J12 and then followed up with an even stronger J12 in white. Today, both have become very key colors in the watch market.”

In October, Chanel gave the J12 its most exciting update yet (leading to both this and the previously published piece). Named the Chanel J12 XS, the new petite 19mm model is still beguiling with a case in either black or white high-tech ceramic, but it now exudes vibes that are way more girly than macho. There are four permanent boutique styles: the first two have slim patent calfskin straps that are worn over larger matte calfskin cuffs. The third is attached onto a pair of supple lambskin gloves, while the fourth features a patent calfskin cuff in multiple rows that’s quite rock ‘n’ roll.

Chanel J12 watch Baselworld

Black high-tech ceramic and steel with patent calfskin, lambskin and diamonds

The making of the J12 XS also involved France’s most brilliant craftsmen such as glove makers from the House of Causse and couture embroiderers from Maison Lesage (the latter is behind the most artistic dials of Chanel’s Mademoiselle Privé timepiece range). To make the new model even more desirable, there are also six sequinned styles which are hand-embroidered by Maison Lesage to resemble the natural patterns found on exotic python, alligator and shark leather.

For those with more exquisite taste, there are also four unique and extremely wearable high jewelry models. One comes with a large solid cuff (they are unlike the boutique-exclusive Chanel J12 XS watch cuffs, which are supple) while two come with smaller, solid cuffs. All three are decorated with diamond-set white gold trims. Finally, there is a cheeky time-telling ring that is set with 24 baguette-cut diamonds around a white gold flange.

“The J12 introduced a new colour and a new spirit to quite a traditional-looking watch. And because it’s a traditional-looking watch, it would be boring if we made it in steel. Ours in ceramic told people something different.” declared Nicolas Beau, Chanel’s international watch director.

This story was first published in l‘Officiel Singapore

Review: Breitling Chronomat 44 Blacksteel Special Edition

Review: Breitling Chronomat 44 Blacksteel Special

The Breitling Chronomat 44 Blacksteel Special Edition makes a strong statement on the wrist – not just because of that 44mm girth. Wrist appeal is something ephemeral that goes beyond dimensions and weight. Of course, given that this is a big and heavy watch, ephemeral might sound like entirely the wrong word to use but bear with us. While you are more likely to hear this watch described as a visceral pleasure, that misses the charm of the piece.

First of all, only Breitling could make a 44mm watch seem perfectly natural and reasonable, especially in the year of the massive Avenger Hurricane. Bear in mind, the Chronomat 44 still bears distinctive yellow markings and has that delightfully overstuffed-with-information feel that all Breitlings have. Actually, this yellow dial is new for the model even if the colors are trademark for the brand and, if you look a little closer, you’ll see that the square chronograph counters have been replaced with more typical round ones. This might appear familiar to you because Breitling actually released another version of the Chronomat earlier this year, prior to BaselWorld in fact.

Like that watch, this Special Edition sports the in-house Calibre 01 movement and an exhibition caseback to show it off. The rotor of the self-winding movement has also been given the all-black treatment, like the case. Finishing the aesthetic touches here is the two-tone rubber TwinPro rubber strap, which goes all-black too, except for lining in the same yellow as the dial. It is these little touches that speak to the ephemeral appeal we keep coming back to. Even that information-packed dial is part of this appeal, and indeed one of the key elements of what makes even smaller Breitling watches so easily identifiable even at a distance. A watch with this much going on must be a Breitling (or at least be Breitling-inspired).

Review: Breitling Chronomat 44 Blacksteel Special Edition

As this is a special edition, the ephemeral story goes on, continuing on the unidrectional bezel. Here we find rubber inlaid numerals that remind us of the strap. It can be argued that this, like the rider tabs on that bezel, are part of the visceral appeal because they have utility – the tabs can be used to both mark time and to improve how the bezel handles. The thought process that went into these details though speaks better to that ephemeral part because there is amazing continuity between, bezel, case, dial, movement and strap.

On that visceral side of things though, the polished DLC-treated case is water resistant to 200 meters. The screw-lock crown and chronograph pushers help in keeping things dry. The watch is clearly aimed at both people who like pilot’s watches (Breitling’s bread-and-butter) and diver’s watches. After all, it has a strong technical look and is very much a tool watch. Backing up that look is Calibre 01, a COSC-certified chronograph movement with a 70 hour power reserve.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 44mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, chronograph
  • Power Reserve: 70 hours
  • Movement: Self-winding Calibre 01 COSC-certified
    Material: DLC-treated steel
  • Water resistance: 200 meters
    Strap: Rubber TwinPro

This article was first published in World of Watches.

Review: Bell & Ross Instrument de Marine

With a square case, exposed screws, a round dial, and oversized hands and numerals, the Bell & Ross BR 01 is one of the most instantly recognisable watches today. Modelled after flight instruments on the dashboard of a contemporary fighter jet, the watch has evolved from this core aesthetic to take on a vintage guise as seen with the Vintage BR line and an edgy, hyper-realistic form à la the BR-X1. More than 10 years has passed since Bell & Ross introduced the BR 01, but it still hasn’t run out of ways to reinvent the watch.

The new Instrument de Marine line posits the question: What if Bell & Ross had been founded 200 years earlier, when the aircraft had not yet been invented? At an era when sea travel was the most state-of-the-art, it isn’t too farfetched at all to imagine that deck instruments on board a ship would provide the inspiration. And of all the navigational objects associated with seafaring, the marine chronometer is the most symbolic one.g27-04-br-x1-t-marine-base-tout_lo-jlk

Time is a key factor in sea travel and thus marine chronometers – the most accurate timekeepers of their time – were indispensible tools to guide a vessel to its intended destination. Invented by the English clockmaker, John Harrison, marine chronometers were often mounted on gimbals, which kept them consistently in the horizontal position, unperturbed by the rocking motion of the vessel. As they were relied upon to be extremely accurate, not only do marine chronometers need to be precise, they also had to display the time clearly. Every second counts when navigating the high seas; a one-second error in time reading could lead a ship astray by as much as five kilometres.

This is why the seconds indication in a marine chronometer is always clearly displayed.

BR 01 Instrument de Marine embraces the baroque style aesthetics of this bygone era. For the first time, this normally contemporary timepiece comes with classical Roman numerals and blued steel poire-shaped hands on a white lacquer dial. Not only that, its entire case recalls the design of those square wooden boxes, in which the round marine chronometers are housed for safekeeping. Finding this to be a perfect visual metaphor, this round timepiece in a square case, Bell & Ross constructed the case of the BR 01 Instrument de Marine with an interesting mix of materials, some harking back to the olden times, and others modern and high performance oriented: Indian rosewood (used for the hulls and masts of ships, as well as the wooden case for marine chronometers), bronze (a reminder of the brass fittings on board a ship), rose gold (pairing beautifully with the rosewood), and grade 5 titanium (resilient and lightweight).

Echoing the aesthetical direction of the BR 01 are two additional pieces that embrace the maritime theme without relinquishing their technical flair – the BR X1 Skeleton Chronograph and the BR X1 Tourbillon Chronograph. Both pieces feature an openworked dial but instead of bronze, rose gold is used for the tourbillon model, and all three timepieces feature sapphire case backs that expose the movement mechanisms. The delightful melange of colours and textures brought about by this intoxicating mix of materials makes the collection stand far out, but perhaps the most alluring factor about these watches is their individual potential to change over time, gaining a unique patina.

Specifications

BR 01 Instrument de Marine
Movement Manual-winding Calibre BR-CAL.203 with 56-hour power reserve
Case 46mm in precious wood, titanium, and bronze; water resistant to 100m
Strap Brown alligator leather with bronze pin buckle

BR-X1 SKELETON CHRONOGRAPH Instrument de Marine
Movement Self-winding Calibre BR-CAL.313 skeletonised chronograph with 46-hour power reserve
Case 45mm in precious wood and bronze; water resistant to 100m
Strap Brown alligator leather with bronze pin buckle

BR-X1 Tourbillon Chronograph Instrument de Marine
Movement Manual-winding Calibre BR-CAL.283 skeletonised flying tourbillon with four-day power reserve
Case 45mm in rose gold and precious wood, water resistant to 100m
Strap Brown alligator leather with rose gold pin buckle

This article was first published in World of Watches.

Review: Graham Chronofighter Superlight Carbon

The way our eyes make sense of the world can sometimes throw us off. In fact, wasn’t it Aristotle who said that “our senses can be trusted, but they can easily be fooled”? When we look at a large object, particularly one that is powerful and sporty like the Graham Chronofighter, our minds subconsciously predict that it will feel substantial on the wrist – all that heft must be made of something, right? In most cases, we wouldn’t be wrong, unless we’re looking at the Chronofighter Superlight Carbon Skeleton.

Its colossal frame measures a whopping 47mm across, and that does not include the added measurements brought on by the Graham signature fast-action start-stop trigger and reset pusher, which is unique to the Chronofighter collection. Taken altogether, it would dwarf a good majority of today’s sports watches, but aficionados need not feel parried by its menacing presence, because the Chronofighter Superlight Carbon Skeleton is oversized, not overweight.

Made of superlight black carbon composite, the watch only looks big; it actually weighs less than 100g all in. The trigger had been fashioned out of 3K carbon, as was the bezel, but also crucial in keeping this timepiece within the featherweight class is the black skeletonised dial, which trims the nett weight down even further. Exposing the chronograph gear wheels and part of the going train, including the balance, this openworked construct melds perfectly with the technical appeal of the watch, and continues on the back where a smoked sapphire crystal exposes the movement completely.

Predominantly black, this timepiece, however, isn’t one to blend into the shadows. The trigger and bezel interact with light to showcase the textured nuances of 3K carbon while the reset pusher and strap feature a clous de Paris pattern that, while invigorating to behold, is not purely aesthetic, as it offers better traction when handling the watch. Its dial is a cornucopia of layers and apertures, wheels and hands, all combined in one smexy package.

Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 47mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, chronograph
  • Power Reserve: 46mm
  • Movement: Self-winding Calibre G1790 skeleton
    Material: 47mm in black carbon composite
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
    Strap Integrated black rubber with black carbon pin buckle and additional black fabric strap

This article was first published at World of Watches.

Review: Glashütte Original Senator Chronometer

For the past 20 years, Glashütte Original has dabbled at various points with blue colorways for its watches. The latest timepiece to receive this treatment is the Glashütte Original Senator Chronometer, the seemingly simple watch with a power reserve indicator and large date display.

The Senator Chronometer is a chronometer, though it isn’t certified by COSC like Swiss-made watches. Instead, its certification comes from COSC’s German counterpart, the Glashütte Observatory, which tests each watch to the German equivalent standard of DIN 8319. The precision requirements of DIN 8319 are identical to COSC’s, but its tests are only done on complete watches (sans straps).

The new reference of the Glashütte Original Senator Chronometer (which we first looked at at BaselWorld, where there are more images) features a blue dial produced by Glashütte Original’s dial manufacture in Pforzheim, and details abound, if one knows where to look. The “base” layer of the dial is created with multiple layers of lacquer, and has a finely grained texture, while markings such as the railway track chapter ring and hour indexes are products of engraving followed by galvanization.

Note how the white markings are all sunken ever so slightly vis-à-vis the dial surface as a result of the manufacturing process. Meanwhile, the power reserve indicator and small seconds counter are more deeply recessed, as is the border within the large date aperture. To match the dial’s color, the timepiece’s strap is navy blue alligator, with a deployant buckle of white gold, which complements the case.

Large date and power reserve indicator aside, the Glashütte Original Senator Chronometer has a few technical tricks up its sleeve that greatly simplify its use. The little aperture within the power reserve indicator is the first – it’s a day/night indicator, which makes setting the date a cinch. The second technical feature concerns time setting; when the crown is pulled out to adjust the time, the hacking small seconds hand resets to zero, while the minutes hand jumps to the next minute and moves only in increments of one minute, to ensure a dead accurate setting of time.

This article was first published at World of Watches.