Tag Archives: timepiece

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.

Franck Muller Vanguard Tourbillon Skeleton

Review: Franck Muller Vanguard Tourbillon Skeleton

The art of skeletonization is often recognized as the highest form of movement decoration, and for good reason. Literally taking the edges off all the plates and bridges, as well as major components, skeletonization reduces a movement to such a bare minimum that its functionality often teeters in the balance. Extreme skeletonization demonstrates a watchmaker’s bravado – how much material can be removed before the movement loses its stability?

But there’s no room for trepidation here because every component cut and every hollow bored must be done with surgical precision in order to preserve optimum timekeeping performance yet achieve maximum skeletonization. As a matter of fact, this task is so complex that the end result is often regarded as a complicated movement in its own right, and who better to turn to for such an intrepid creation than the Master of Complications, Franck Muller?

Like most haute horlogerie marques, Franck Muller is no stranger to this category of fine watchmaking. In fact, it has been making skeletonized watches since the day it was born. Some of its most recent creations include the Giga Tourbillon with its openworked movement and the 7 Days Power Reserve, which boasts more negative space than actual movement, pushing skeletonization to new extremes.

Even though these are technical heavyweights, what with a tourbillon and seven days long power reserve, the watches appear almost light and airy. This hollow, weightless effect is what the new Vanguard Tourbillon Skeleton went for, but with a decidedly modern twist.Franck Muller Vanguard Tourbillon Skeleton closeup

Maximum skeletonization has been achieved but with absolutely no compromise on movement stability, thanks to the astutely designed structure, which reminds one of the many beams on a suspension bridge – that’s quite apt considering that these minute, hollowed out parts are, themselves, called bridges. Echoing the color scheme of the case, they have been hand-polished and assembled, although judging from the rounded internal angles, one would surmise they had been cut and beveled by machine. Still, when fully put together, the movement Calibre FM 2001 is just as likely to sweep you off your feet, and we haven’t even begun to talk about its flying tourbillon regulator.

Those familiar with Franck Muller’s complications would immediately recognise the tourbillon carriage rendered in the shape of the manufacture’s initials. Held together by three screws, the asymmetrical FM insignia makes it just that little bit harder for the watchmaker to regulate the tourbillon, but Franck Muller had it mastered eons ago. Set in a circular black finished aperture, the carriage is finished to the same effect as the skeletonized bridges – pink gold with vertical brushing – and beneath it lay the blackened balance wheel oscillating at 18,000vph, the escapement, and the hairspring. The Vanguard Tourbillon Skeleton comes in titanium, carbon, stainless steel, and pink gold.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 44mm x 53.7mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes
  • Power Reserve: 60 hours
  • Movement: Manual-winding Calibre FM 2001 with flying tourbillon
  • Case: 44mm x 53.7mm in pink gold, titanium, carbon, and stainless steel
  • Water Resistance: 30 meters
  • Strap: Rubber-lined nylon or crocodile leather with matching deployant buckle

This article was first published in WOW magazine.

Bell & Ross BR 03-94

Review: Bell & Ross BR 03-94 Watch

Back in 2005, who would’ve imagined that a square watch could singlehandedly set Bell & Ross on the trajectory that’s brought the brand to where it is today? The BR 01 did just that, and went on to spawn two smaller iterations, the BR 03 and BR S, which were also extremely successful. The latest addition to the family, the BR-X1, was conceived as a platform for Bell & Ross to express its technical savoir-faire, but the brand hasn’t neglected its core collections despite this shift in direction. The proof? The BR 03-94 Desert Type.

The BR 03-94 Desert Type is the latest variation on the theme of the square aviation watch, which is one of Bell & Ross’s calling cards. Like the collection’s other models, it contains several recognisable design cues. For one, there’s the square case with a raised round bezel framing the circular dial. The dial itself is highly legible, thanks to a combination of sword-shaped hands and a mix of baton and Arabic numeral indexes. Finally, there are the four screws on the upper surface of the case – a nod to the screws used to mount aviation instruments (the collection’s inspiration) onto a cockpit’s panel.

The strength of the BR 01/03/S families’ design lies in its versatility, as the BR 03-94 Desert Type shows. Despite being dressed in matte black and khaki – the two primary hues used in desert camouflage – the watch maintains a striking visage. Part of this is due to the brand’s subtle play with textures. Note how the black portions of the hands have a grainier texture compared to the black ceramic case, for instance, or how the sub-dials have a circular grained pattern. Bell & Ross has also manipulated the sense of depth of this watch by going beyond the usual traits of a layered case/bezel construction and sloping inner flange. The sub-dials have been countersunk here, while the dial itself has a sandwich construction consisting of an upper dial with cutouts set over a lower dial of a contrasting colour.

Functionally, the BR 03-94 is powered by an ETA-based BR-CAL.301 chronograph movement. The watch is capable of measuring elapsed times of up to 30 minutes, and sports a clean bi-compax layout to facilitate this, with a date window at 4:30 rounding up its functions. Its wearer can opt for either a matching beige calfskin strap or a black synthetic fabric strap to complete the package.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 42mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes. chronograph
  • Power Reserve: 42 hours
  • Movement: Self-winding BR-CAL.301
  • Material: Black ceramic
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Beige calfskin or black fabric, both with black PVD-coated steel ardillon buckle

This article was first published in WOW.

5 Watches Bridging Art and Time Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Quaestor

Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Quaestor: Solid Gold

Traditional Japanese art comes in numerous, highly specialised forms, but artisans often go back to the same few familiar motifs in creating their pieces. Koi fish, sakura flowers, geisha, red-crowned cranes, and the beloved pine tree are just some evergreen examples. And the artisans can hardly be blamed, for these motifs don’t merely symbolize Japan-ness; being so naturally beautiful, people from all cultures and nationalities can easily appreciate the artwork they inspire. For this reason, Parmigiani Fleurier has chosen to turn to the Land of the Rising Sun for ideas to create the two latest unique pieces in its Toric Quaestor line.

The first piece features a scene dominated by the branches of a great pine tree, which is a symbol of power, vitality, and immortality in Japanese culture. It is also said to bring good luck, which is why some people keep pine bonsai plants at home or in places of business. Parmigiani Fleurier chose solid yellow gold as the material with which to carve out the individual pine needles, as well as the accompanying tree branches. Hand-applied onto the Atrina deep black mother-of-pearl dial, the needles have been arranged at random and varying heights to create depth, while the branches have been given a printed patination treatment in order to give the appearance of natural erosion.

Parmigiani-Fleurier-Toric-Quaestors-Japanese-pine

Japanese Pine inspired Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Quaestors

Increasing the color contrast between the black mother-of-pearl and the golden artwork are flecks of 24K yellow gold set into the recesses of the dial. This auspicious masterpiece cased in pink gold took 70 hours to complete, and so that they don’t disturb the Zen tranquillity of the dial, the brand logo and the Swiss Made indication have been printed in white on the reverse of the crystal. It is paired with an Hermès leather strap, and a crown set with a ruby cabochon.

From the mighty pine, Parmigiani Fleurier moved on to the dry, level landscapes of Japanese rock gardens, often simply called Zen gardens. This style of landscaping involves carefully arranged rock formations, water features, mosses, pruned trees and bushes, as well as gravel rivers, which are beds of sand or gravel that have been raked to represent ripples in water. Accordingly, Parmigiani Fleurier crafted a solid gold dial with swirls and whorls reminiscent of gravel rivers. These lines have been engraved and hammered by hand at varying depths, and the artisan paid special attention to the position of each ripple against the next. The distances between them have to be perfectly clear yet fine and subtle – thankfully, the Swiss share the same devotion to precision and meticulousness as the Japanese.

Zen Garden inspired Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Quaestor

Zen Garden inspired Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Quaestor

Now, while the dials of these watches reflect pure Zen serenity, their movements show the exact opposite. Turn them over to look through their sapphire case backs and discover the labyrinthine architecture of Parmigiani Fleurier’s in-house Calibre PF355. Proffering a minute repeater complication, its mechanism is exactly as complicated as it looks. Unlike typical striking watches, the Toric Quaestor has a flywheel in place of a traditional pallet fork, thus ensuring complete mechanical silence when the mechanism is chiming. In addition, the choice of gold as the case material isn’t purely aesthetic or coincidence; the manufacture believes that gold yields the best sound for the cathedral gongs of the Toric Quaestor.

Zen on the outside but complex on the inside, the Toric Quaestor Grove and Toric Quaestor Ripple aren’t the kind of watches one may see every day, which is why Parmigiani Fleurier intends them only for the most deserving of buyers.

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 46mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, minute repeater
  • Power Reserve: 72 hours
  • Movement: Manual-winding Calibre PF355 with skeleton minute repeater or Calibre PF349 with minute repeater featuring cathedral gongs
  • Material: Rose gold or white gold
  • Water resistance: 10 meters
  • Strap: Black or Havana Hermès alligator leather with rose or white gold ardillon buckle

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.

Review: MB&F LM1 Silberstein Watch

With Alain Silberstein, we are acutely aware that space-time is indeed three-dimensional so a collaboration with MB&F – masters of kinetic time sculptures – is unsurprising. Of all things though, the timepiece in question is an interpretation of the LM1 called the LM1 Silberstein. MB&F has two basic lines as far wristwatches go, the Horological Machines (designation HM) and the Legacy Machines (designation LM). Silberstein has already collaborated with MB&F with a HM so in a way, going with an LM for the new watch is maybe just the thing to do.

If you need to catch up here, take at the LM1 and the HM2.2 Black Box. The later was what MB&F calls Performance Art and is also where the LM1 Silberstein sits. Returning to space-time for a moment, Silberstein is famed for bringing playful geometric designs to watchmaking, including three-dimensional elements such as pushers and crowns in square, triangular and round shapes. These shapes confront watch lovers with the truth of space-time being far beyond the two dimensions of typical watch displays. Equally important was his use of color-blocking in his own line of Silberstein Creations watches (which sadly ceased operations in 2012), which brought a sense of play to time we enjoyed tremendously.LM1_Silberstein_Black_Ti_Hres_CMYK

Performance Art and the LM1 Silberstein

At BaselWorld this year, we were shown the LM1 Silberstein but like everyone else, were given a strict embargo on talking about it publicly. Well, watchmaking is not quite at the see-now-buy-now paradigm that high-end fashion is exploring. When you think about a timepiece like the LM1 Silberstein, concerns about instant gratification are rendered meaningless. The appeal here is so personal – and it really does grow on you – that we can’t imagine conventional marketing methods working well. If you’ve even read this far into the article, you already understand this.

Ok, time for some quick basic facts then. If you took some time to look at the MB&F LM1 again you’ll have noticed that LM1 Silberstein has much the same functions and this is correct. Gold star for you! Basically, it is a dual timezone watch, with distinct displays for each one. The movement remains the Chronode-produced calibre realized by Jean-François Mojon and Kari Voutilainen. Now, try to spot the differences between this watch and the LM1. If you are anything like me then you will appreciate looking for all the changes yourself.

One key change that you can’t spot easily though is the concave curve of the two subdials. Silberstein wanted this to contrast with the convex curve of the sapphire crystal, which acts to shield the mechanical parts from the elements. The concave subdials are meant to be inviting, like the warm frosted finishing beneath. This of course means that the hands are concave too. The visual effect of this is something only the wearer will enjoy, like a secret pleasure if you will. Yes of course the sapphire bridge obviously calls attention to itself and even casual observers will notice it. Before we get to that, a few words from the press release from Silberstein himself.

Alain Silberstein

“I resonated with LM1 because by highlighting the balance – the mechanism that splits time into miniscule increments – it highlights how man converts eternal time into something he can use.” Apparently Silberstein felt so strongly about the balance – the star attraction of the LM1 – that he convinced Max Busser that a sapphire crystal balance bridge would be a nice touch. Well, MB&F says it took two years to develop said bridge and that is a lot of effort, as the press release notes rather wryly, for a component that is meant to be invisible. Honestly, we can’t think of another example of a similar kind of balance bridge but we’ll find out and update the story accordingly.

On a final note, you will of course have noticed that case band has some words engraved on it. This is a paraphrased quote from Gustave Flaubert (he of Madame Bovary fame): “Le vrai bonheur est d’avoir sa passion pour métier”. This translates roughly as ‘Making a profession of your passion is true happiness.”LM1_Silberstein_RG_Profile_Hres_CMYK

Specs

  • Dimensions: 42.5mm (diameter) 17mm (height)
  • Functions: Hours minutes, two completely independent time zones, vertical power reserve indicator
  • Power Reserve: 45 hours
  • Movement: Manual winding, single mainspring calibre developed for MB&F by Jean-François Mojon/ Chronode and Kari Voutilainen
  • Material: 18k red gold, grade 5 titanium, PVD treated grade 5 titanium
  • Water Resistance: 30 meters
  • Strap: Calfskin

Limited edition of 3 x 12 pieces in each material listed above

 

Review: U-Boat Chimera Net Watch

Bronze dive watches are very much in vogue, and the U-Boat Chimera Net is the latest to join the fray. The timepiece has a 46mm case in naturally aged bronze, accentuated by a humongous crown and two equally imposing pushers on the left of the case, topped off with U-Boat’s signature protective lever. For an added layer of security, the sculpted pusher between the crown and its guard must be depressed to eject the crown from its recessed position before the date and time can be set.

To achieve the dial’s look, three sub-layers are imposed over each other, with the lowest made from laser-cut wire mesh. This affords a view of the U-77 modified Valjoux Top Soigné automatic movement underneath. The counters are laid out like the archetypal tri-compax chronograph, but with a twist – an additional 24-hour indicator has been included at seven o’clock.

The U-Boat Chimera Net’s design is clearly larger than life, and its technical aspects back things up, with an over-engineered slant that’s visually apparent in several places. To improve water resistance, the bezel and back of the case are locked together by external tubing, while the flat crystal on the back is sealed with two gaskets. The thick hand-finished calf leather strap makes for a very macho complement to this heavyweight bruiser, which is limited to 300 pieces.

Specs

Dimensions: 46mm

Functions: Hours, minutes, date, chronograph, 24-hour counter with day/night indicator

Movement: U-77 Vlajoux Top Soigné automatic chronograph calibre with 24-hour indicator

Case: Full bronze or bronze and blackened steel

Water Resistance: 100 meters

Strap: Brown calfskin leather with steel tongue and bronze inserts

This article was first published in WOW.

Review: Hermès Arceau Tigre Watch

On the metiers d’art front this year, Hermès has unveiled the stunning Arceau Tigre, created in partnership with the husband-and-wife team of Olivier and Dominique Vaucher. The timepiece marks the first time the shaded enamel (enamel ombrant) technique is used in watchmaking, and sports the motif of a tiger in the likeness of an illustration by Robert Dallet, an artist with whom Hermès collaborated in the 1980s.Arceau-Tigre-Email-Enamel-JohannSauty

As a technique, shaded enamel is derived from lithophanes – thin and translucent porcelain plates that display three-dimensional images when backlit. The design on a lithophane is formed by the porcelain’s varying thickness, which lets different amounts of light through to create this effect. In the Arceau Tigre, ambient light is used instead; to create the same effect, the tiger’s image is first carved in relief on a base of white gold, before translucent black enamel is applied over it and fired. This two-step process combines the best that each technique has to offer. The engraving is able to capture every nuance of Dallet’s original drawing, down to the individual strands of hair on the tiger. Enamelling, on the other hand, accentuates the engraving’s depth, as deeper parts of the engraving contain a thicker layer of enamel and appear correspondingly darker. The final product is an extremely lifelike recreation of a tiger that looks three-dimensional despite the smooth dial surface.Arceau-Tigre-Gravure-Engraving_JohannSauty

Housed in the asymmetric Arceau case, the timepiece has a simple two-hand layout that maximises the view of the dial art. The Arceau Tigre is limited to just 12 pieces worldwide.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 41mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes
  • Power Reserve: 50 hours
  • Movement: Self-winding Hermès H1837
  • Case: White gold
  • Water Resistance: 30 meters
  • Strap: Brown alligator with white gold ardillon buckle

This article was first published in WOW.

Review: Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8 Day Power Reserve

The Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8 Day Power Reserve is the first Grand Seiko watch to be produced by the manufacture’s Micro Artist Studio, located in Shiojiri within central Japan’s Nagano prefecture. Although “Micro Artist Studio” isn’t a misnomer per se, the name is an understatement through and through – the team of specialists there represents the absolute best from Seiko, and are more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the best from Europe, whether in terms of movement assembly/finishing or metiers d’art techniques.

The Micro Artist Studio’s creations run the gamut from the three-hand, time-only Credor Eichi II to the ultra-complicated Credor Spring Drive Minute Repeater. What’s common to these timepieces has always been their impeccable quality both inside and outside, and the new Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8 Day Power Reserve is no different. From the front, one immediately notices the mirror polish on the platinum case, which was achieved using an adapted zaratsu technique originally used in polishing Japanese blades.

In contrast with it, the dial sports a fine speckled texture that sparkles like freshly fallen snow, a finishing that Seiko calls diamond dust. The usual hallmarks of a Grand Seiko timepiece have been preserved here, from the facetted hour and minute hands, to the seconds hand that is shaped like a tapered lance.Grand-Seiko-Spring-Drive-8-Day-Power-Reserve-caseback

Flip the watch over, and the new 9R01 Spring Drive calibre presents itself, with the power reserve indicator at three o’clock. At 37mm, the movement is rather large, and fills the case properly without the need for spacer rings. Calibre 9R01 uses three barrels connected in parallel to achieve a power reserve of eight days and, as a hybrid Spring Drive movement, is capable of being accurate to +/- 10 seconds a month.

In the 9R01, Seiko has opted to use a single large plate in lieu of individual bridges and cocks. This makes assembling the movement far more challenging, as all the components underneath the plate must fit perfectly. A single plate, however, provides a rigid platform that’s almost like a second mainplate – all the movement parts are thus sandwiched more securely with no play between them.

Although the plate blocks the view into the movement, much can still be seen. Note, for instance, how the outline of the plate from nine to one o’clock has been shaped to resemble Mt. Fuji. Jewel bearings and blued screws aside, the movement plate also has holes that expose the wheels underneath it, all to evoke the lights of the city of Suwa, which is near the Artist Micro Studio’s home.

Specs

Dimensions: 43mm

Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds, power reserve indicator (caseback)

Power Reserve: 8 Days

Movement: Manual-winding Seiko 9R01 Spring Drive

Case: Platinium

Water Resistance: 100 meters

Strap: Black alligator with platinium deployant buckle

This article was first published in WOW.

Le Mans Classic 2016 X Richard Mille RM11-02

More than 123,000 fans turned up for the eighth edition of the Le Mans Classic this year. Held from July 8 to 10 on the Bugatti circuit, the attendance for 2016 surpassed that of any other Le Mans Classic. The weekend was filled with events for motorsports enthusiasts that provided entertainment for all.Le-Mans-RM-11-02-Richard-Mille-

With Swiss watchmaker Richard Mille as official timekeeper and main partner, the Le Mans Classic saw 40 cars participate in the Group C Racing category (last held in 1993) on the first day. The return of the event kicked off a string of other activities such as the celebrations to commemorate BMW’s 100th birthday and the 50th anniversary of the Ford GT40 win at Le Mans Classic. Enthusiasts were also treated to an Artcurial Motorcars auction, the prestigious Le Mans 24 Heritage Club competition as well as the Fédération française des véhicules d’époque (FFVE).

Little Big Mans

Little Big Mans

While the adults had much to do, the Le Mans Classic also had something for the younger aspiring drivers. Before the official start of the race on Saturday, a group of lucky six to 10-year-olds took over the Bugatti Circuit for the Little Big Mans race. Flagged off by Jamaican sprinter and Richard Mille sporting partner, Yohan Blake, it was one of the many instances in which the race’s official timekeeper honored the race.RM11-02-Le-mans-classic-timepiece

Meanwhile another Richard Mille partner, Pharrell Williams flagged off the main event and the luxury watchmaker presented a new model for the race. The RM11-02 Le Mans Classic is decked in the colors of the much-loved race — even the functions are reminiscent of a race car. Much like the commemorative piece from 2014, the green shade is displayed on its movement, ceramic case middle and rubber collar surrounding the carbon crown. The specifications of the timepiece are relatively similar to a classic RM11, with a few exceptions. The countdown function located at the nine o’clock position uses a disc instead of a hand. For the sub-dial at the six o’clock position, Richard Mille uses a 24-hour counter instead of the usual 12-hour counter. The RM11-02 Le Mans Classic is limited to 150 pieces.

Interview: Watchmaker Peter Speake-Marin

It isn’t everyday that you get to sit down with a master watchmaker such as Peter Speake-Marin, to learn more about what makes him tick (no pun intended). So when we were given the opportunity to meet the man behind the Speake-Marin, there was little hesitation in saying yes. From his accidental foray into the world of watchmaking to his thoughts on the era of independent watchmakers, we bring you our conversation with the man himself, Peter Speake-Marin.

Tell us about how you started out in watchmaking and what is it you love about watches.

I started out in watchmaking by accident in 1985, a long long time ago. It was unintentional, unplanned. I was 17 years old and looking for direction. I had an average education, and a very kindly careers teacher dug up a prospectus from Hackney Technical College, and it clicked. It was the very first time that I had excelled at anything; I was average at everything prior to that. I had a certain tendency to like things which are technical and mechanical and creative, but never a real clear direction, and (at 17), I landed in something which is kind of intrinsically part of who I am.

What I love about watchmaking or horology comprises three elements that I liked when I was at school, which were history (I always had a fascination with history), art (things which are created), and mechanics. And within horology you have all three elements.

Did you always want to have your own brand or did you see yourself working in your own creative shop like Renaud & Papi, where you worked for a time?

No, not at all; it was never an aspiration to have my name on a watch. In fact, the very first watch I made… well, it did have my name on it, but only for balance. The company name was called The Watch Workshop, and I put Speake-Marin on it because it needed to have equilibrium on either side of the dial. But when I first started making my watches, collectors said they didn’t want The Watch Workshop, because they said that sounded like jack shit, which doesn’t sound very attractive. “But you’ve got a really cool name, so we want you to sign it, because you’re the artist behind the watch.” That’s how Speake-Marin became a brand name.

I became a watchmaker as a brand, making my own watches, because I had learnt virtually everything that there was to learn in my field, and I’ve always had a hunger to grow as a person in my sphere. And the only area where you can continue to grow forever, is when you find yourself in a creative domain, where you can continuously follow and pursue different designs, different mechanics, different ideas. So it was very much a part of who I am, which has led me to develop a brand but the idea of simply having my name on a watch was not something that was a driving force behind it happening.

What’s changed since the Harry Winston project and starting your own brand?

For the first eight years of being self-employed, I worked as a consultant for different companies, one of which was Harry Winston. This was part of my learning process, which is something that I needed to have as a human being. What has changed since then is kind of everything. Because the industry within which I work today is not the same one as when I began; I did the project with Harry Winston now 12 years ago.

When I first began, with collectors, the first question would be ‘What makes this different?’. That would be the first question. And the last question would be ‘What does it cost?’ Today, what has changed is that the first question is, ‘What does it cost?’ and almost the last question is ‘What makes it different?’ So the world that we live in today is a different world, not better or worse. There’s always pluses and minuses on both sides but it is a very different world from the one where I first began. I think it is actually a better world, a more intelligent world.

The Black Magister Double Tourbillon by Peter Speake-Marin, equipped with a SM Calibre SM6.

The Black Magister Double Tourbillon by Peter Speake-Marin, equipped with a SM Calibre SM6.

Can you tell us about the Black Magister novelty? It reminds us strongly of the Harry Winston double tourbillon.

It has got nothing whatsoever to do with Harry Winston. It has everything to do with the first watch that I made, which was a pocket watch tourbillon. Because my very first watch was a tourbillon, I’ve always had a love of tourbillons, and I’ve had them in my collection now for about the last four or five years, something like that. There’s no association with Harry Winston within that product, except for the fact that technically as a tourbillon, and I design tourbillons for them and they make tourbillons as do a hundred other brands. What is unique about this particular product, is that you have a configuration that doesn’t exist with any other brand, and you have a beautiful gothic sense for everything which is technical on the left hand side of the watch, and everything which is indication of time, power reserve and day and night indication, is very conservative, very symmetrical, on the right hand side of the watch.

How important is the in-house movement to the Speake-Marin brand?

We have in-house calibres, simple and technical, and we also use calibres by companies such as Voucher and ETA. For everybody who likes the in-house calibre, there is somebody who likes something else. There are arguments that go both ways. For myself, and I am sort of my brand, it is not the most important thing in the world to have an in-house movement. What is the most important thing is to have the freedom and the choice to realize the ideas that I have. If I made every component of every watch that I produced, I would only produce a few watches per year, and I wouldn’t be able to execute the different ideas that I have. So in the same way that you use a different tool for a different job, I use different calibres in relation to different products and different watches along the way. If I lived for 300 years, then I would want to make every piece myself but I am limited by time and therefore I have to be realistic.

Part of what I love is diversity. I have three collections with more than 50 different references. I’ve made hundreds of very different watches – not one watch a hundred times, but lots of different pieces – I’ve done more as an independent watchmaker in diversity than I think any other independent watchmaker, and also many different brands, bigger brands as well. And so what I love more than anything is to have that freedom to be able to explore different ideas. So everybody loves manufacture movements but they are only part of the story, they’re not all of the story.

The London Chronograph by Speake-Marin, with a Valjoux 92 movement.

The London Chronograph by Speake-Marin, with a Valjoux 92 movement.

Who is the Speake-Marin collector and what is important to this person?

Conventionally, the Speake-Marin collector is the same kind of collector that buys a lot of independent product. They tend to be people who have an above-average level of knowledge when it comes to watch collecting. They have probably already bought most of the conventional brands and are looking for something different. They are not necessarily as concerned about what other people think. If you have maybe your standard Hublot or Rolex owner, it is more of a status symbol to present to other people what they want to reflect about themselves. People who buy independent watchmaking products, I think quite often buy it because they love watchmaking. They love it for the product rather than for the image that it creates and projects to other people. Also the people who buy my watches tend to be into cars, photography, high end hi-fi, and are more mature. They’re probably starting in mid-30s, and go above from there on.

Do you miss working with your own hands to build watches from start to finish?

Yes. Big time. The only time I feel, in my work, fully at peace, is actually when I’m at a bench, which doesn’t happen very often anymore, because it’s like a zen moment. Because when I’m at a bench, I know where all my tools are, what they do. I know that world, I control that world. That world is about a meter square, and I’m in my zone. Outside of that zone you control nothing in this life, in that sense. But I do miss it, and I’m trying to orchestrate my life so that I get back to it as well.

Has the era of the independent watchmaker peaked?

Watchmaking is a constantly changing animal. It doesn’t just apply to independent watchmaking but watchmaking as a whole. The wrist-watch industry, even though a billion dollar business, is a very new one. It began at the beginning of the 20th century. It then came to a conclusion pretty much in the 1960s, came back again in the 1980s, and then it suffered again around 2007, 2010, and it is today in the process of morphing, changing, adapting. So are the people who are buying the product – how they buy it, where they buy it, what they buy, how much they spend. So is the technology – how timepieces are manufactured is also changing. So it’s not so much that the independent world is changing; it’s all changing.

It is actually part of what I find fascinating about our industry – that people have this perception that, you know, the company’s been around for 200 years. Well, actually, they probably haven’t. And the ones that have, they’re not the same companies that they were at the beginning. What they do carry with them is DNA and the inspiration of people who died many, many years ago.

The wonderful thing about independent watchmaking is that people who buy my products are living in the period when the watchmaker is still alive. And I think that human element is actually quite a unique thing. It’s like buying art from artists who are alive today. I think we’re in the beginning of a new period which will probably have a big influence on the watch industry as a whole in the future. So the industry is consistently changing, morphing, on every level: client base, manufacturing base, branding, the whole thing.

Has it peaked? No, it never will peak. Because it’s like with music, like writing; you’ve got so many notes and you’ve got so many words and letters, but there’ll always be new novels. There’ll always be new music. There’ll be a bit of the same rubbish that you’ve seen before, because people think, ‘Oh! People are successful doing that, so we’ll do the same thing!’ which doesn’t last forever. So you’ll always find fantastic new singers, new authors, new watchmakers… honestly it’s the beginning, it’s just part of the process, and it will continue.

The Magister Double Tourbillon by Speake-Marin.

The Magister Double Tourbillon by Speake-Marin.

Collectors used to look to the work of independents such as yourself, Kari Voutilainen and Vianney Halter to take the pulse of what was hot in watchmaking. Do you think that time has passed?

I think that maybe to a degree, when you have something that is fresh and brand new, everybody leans towards it. They may not necessarily buy it, but they’ll lean towards it because it’s something which is fresh. But fresh and new is only fresh and new for a short period of time, and then everything tends to calm down. It’s the nature of it. It’s like when you have a brand new brand that is hugely successful; you know it ain’t gonna last forever. They may continue as a brand forever, but the initial buzz will only be a buzz.

People like the people you mentioned, Vianney, Kari and myself, we’re all about the same generation. I think, ironically, I’m probably a little bit younger by one or two years, but we’ve been doing this now on and off, well for myself, 30 years; Kari, probably 10 years; Vianney, I’m guessing 15 or 16 years. And we’re kind of established. People know us, they see us, they’ve seen our journeys in different ways, and there are many new people who come along as well. So I don’t know if we are seen as leading the pulse of what goes on. We’re just individuals, you know? We’re just these little anomalies in an industry, who, with every year that we exist, become a little bit stronger, a little bit better known, thanks to people like you, and through the Internet, through photography, through interviews, through the enormous number of forums that exist out there. So I think we’re just part of the story. We don’t lead the story. There are too many stories out there.

How does the Speake-Marin brand elevate itself from the maddening crowd of names in watchmaking?

The same way that all independent companies do. Every authentic brand born of a living watchmaker makes product that is a representation of that individual, in the same way that an artist who makes something original. His art or his music will be defined by who he is. This does not apply to companies that try to do rehashes of Patek Philippe Calatravas or Rolex Oysters or Cartier Tanks because it is something that’s proven to be successful but under a different brand name. So the thing that makes Speake-Marin unique is Peter. The thing that makes Voutilainen unique is Kari. The thing that makes Halter unique is Vianney. So it’s very much the individuals. We are personal brands, if you like; we are human brands.

What new technologies in watchmaking inspire you most? For example, growing parts instead of machining them, practical applications…?

I’m not inspired by all the technologies but I see them as being fantastic tools. It means that you can make things quite easily, things that have never been able to be manufactured before. Sometimes they’re a little bit freaky or frightening, because you know that if you make something in a very unique way, it cannot be made in any other way. And from a longevity point of view, that’s maybe not always the best thing. But technologies are becoming more and more available to a wider group of people so you can always probably remanufacture those components in the future.

Technology is purely a tool. A tool is useless without creativity, without the human aspect. So the machinery, robotics… all of this kind of new technologies are fantastic tools but they mean nothing if they don’t have people with creativity and imagination to actually use them and exploit them.

When you’re not in front of a bench, which you say is your zen zone, what do you do in your free time that keeps you calm?

I have two kids, and I’m married, for many many moons now, and I like spending time with them. In my house, I have what my wife calls my ‘man-room’. That’s where I have my little gym, which is actually very stoic and is not all pretty… it’s like a cell, almost. And in my room, I work out. I’ve now adopted Taichi Qigong, and I find that is extraordinary, and that is actually a way that I unblock my energy. Well, I need that, and when I do that I’m aware of how powerful it is. So I do a combination of things on a selfish level, I do that, I work out a little bit, I run every weekend, and most mornings I take my Welsh corgi for a walk through a forest for nearly 45 minutes to an hour. It’s all kind of very solitary activities but they’re the things that I do that helps me, to a degree, to remain sane.

Find out more about the timepieces from Peter Speake-Marin by visiting the Speake-Marin website.

Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Mysterious Seconds Revelation

Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Mysterious Revelation

Despite the announcement of its sale by majority stakeholder DKSH last year, Maurice Lacroix remains active in the industry, and introduced the lower priced Aikon collection at BaselWorld this year, with no dearth of offerings at the higher end of its range either. The brand has updated the Masterpiece Mysterious Seconds, which debuted in 2013, and added the Revelation suffix to its name. Like the original, this watch tells the time using an off-centred sub-dial at two o’clock, while leaving a large circular space at six o’clock for the display of the seconds in a most theatrical manner.

The highlight of the Masterpiece Mysterious Second has always been its untethered seconds hand, which appears to float around as its two coloured tips alternatingly trace the vertical and horizontal scales. For instance, as the black tip glides along the black hashes to the number “30”, the hand becomes increasingly aligned until the scale and the hand are superimposed. Once that happens, the white tip begins to move leftward towards “45” as it continues to indicate the seconds. Only after the second hand is perfectly horizontal will the black tip come into play again.

The Masterpiece Mysterious Seconds Revelation is so named because unlike the previous model, which has an opaque running seconds sub-dial, it comes with a perforated dial that reveals the workings of the mysterious seconds complication underneath it at certain angles. The watch comes in two options: Classic and Contemporary. They are identical save for their colourways – the former (shown above) has a stainless steel case, while the latter is in black PVD.

Obviously, practicality is not at the forefront of this watch. Rather, this is an exercise in creativity, and clearly demonstrates the multifaceted charm of mechanical watchmaking.

Specs

Movement Self-winding Maurice Lacroix Calibre ML215 with 50-hour power reserve

Case 43mm in steel, water resistant to 50m

Strap Black crocodile with steel ardillon buckle

Story Credits

Text by Ruckdee Chotjinda

This story was first published in WOW.

Review: Zenith Heritage Pilot Café Racer Spirit

Watches from Zenith’s Pilot collection are big and bear a distinctive vintage design with Arabic numerals in a historic font, straight lugs, and a large onion crown. Chronograph models also feature elongated pushers with deep fluting for traction, but they were previously offered with either an annual calendar or a tourbillon. A simple chronograph is finally available this year in the Pilot range, though dedicated to free-spirited bikers – the Heritage Pilot Café Racer Spirit.Zenith-Heritage-Pilot-Cafe-Raccer-Spirit-dial-closeup

The new chronograph has a slate grey dial with a minute totalizer at three o’clock balanced by the small seconds register at nine o’clock. Its chronograph is precise to 1/10th of a second, thanks to the 36,000vph frequency of its self-winding El Primero movement. To create a decidedly vintage vibe, the movement and dial are housed in a 45mm case in what the manufacture describes as “aged steel”.Zenith-Heritage-Pilot-Cafe-Raccer-Spirit-caseback

The retro elements described above were decided on with a particular group of bikers in mind. In the 1920s, young British motorcyclists began a sub-culture that saw adherents customizing their motorcycles to deliver maximum output and enable them to speed from one café to the next – giving rise to the café racer movement. This connection is noted on the titanium case back with an engraving of a speeding motorcycle, which partially obscures the Zenith emblem in the background.Zenith-Heritage-Pilot-Cafe-Raccer-Spirit-crown

The olive green nubuck strap is lined with rubber on the underside to prolong the longevity of the leather and make the watch more wearable on the road. Night riders will find comfort in the blue glow of the Super-LumiNova coating on the hands and indexes, which appear beige in the day.

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 45mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph
  • Power Reserve: 50 hours
  • Movement Self-winding Zenith El Primero 4069 chronograph calibre
  • Case: Steel
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap Green nubuck leather over rubber lining, titanium ardillon buckle

Story Credits

Text by Ruckdee Chotjinda

This article was first published in WOW.

Tracking Time: Longines RailRoad Watch

Rail travel was an absolute necessity before the advent of commercial aviation, and its operations were conducted in a reliable and safe manner only with the help of precision timekeeping. Several watchmakers are known for producing highly accurate timepieces specifically for use by railroad companies and their employees in the past. Longines was among them, having supplied railway operators in countries as diverse as the US, Canada, Italy, Turkey, and China, just to name a few. The brand’s design team did not have to look farther than its private museum in Saint-Imier for an example of such watches, with a particular model from the 1960s serving as the inspiration for the reissued Longines RailRoad.

In this watch, time is displayed via lacquered black hands which point to two concentric sets of Arabic numbers on the polished off-white dial. A peculiar design element stands out at 12 o’clock – “0” is used instead of “12”. This choice is consistent with the 24-hour format where 00:00 is the beginning of the first hour of the day and 23:59 is the end of the 24th hour. Completing the utilitarian look is the no-nonsense chapter ring for the minutes and seconds.

The “R.R” inscription on the dial stands for RailRoad, while “888” denotes the self-winding Calibre L888.2 (ETA A31.L01, produced exclusively for Longines) inside the stainless steel case. This execution is true to the spirit of the “R.R 280” writing on the original watch with its Calibre 280.

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 40mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
  • Power Reserve: 64 hours
  • Movement:  Self-winding Calibre L888.2
  • Materials: Steel
  • Water Resistance: 30 meters
  • Strap: Black Alligator with buckle

Story Credits

Text by  Ruckdee Chotjinda

This story was first published in WOW.

7 Perfect Sports Chronograph Qualities

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

The Movement

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

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

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

Switching and transmission

TAG Heuer Carrera Mikrogirder

TAG Heuer Carrera Mikrogirder

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

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

Rolex’s Calibre 4130 with column wheel and vertical clutch

Rolex’s Calibre 4130 with column wheel and vertical clutch

Quick ticks

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

Further complications

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

The verdict

Parmigiani Fleurier’s PF361 calibre in the Tonda Chronor Anniversaire

Parmigiani Fleurier’s PF361 calibre in the Tonda Chronor Anniversaire

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

Note the two column wheels

Note the two column wheels

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

Making A Case

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

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

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

Metals and coatings

Bulgari Octo Velocissimo Ultranero

Bulgari Octo Velocissimo Ultranero

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

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

Exotic stuff

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

New production techniques

Panerai PAM578

Panerai PAM578

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

The verdict

Oris Williams Chronograph Carbon Fibre Extreme

Oris Williams Chronograph Carbon Fibre Extreme

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

Shock Proof

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

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

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

Suspended animation

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

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

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

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

Gelled up

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

The verdict

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

Surviving Magnetism

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

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

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

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

Rolex’s Syloxi hairspring

Rolex’s Syloxi hairspring

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

The verdict

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

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

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

Visibility In Darkness

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

Luminox Navy SEAL Colormark Nova

Luminox Navy SEAL Colormark Nova

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

The verdict

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

The Bezel

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

Longines Pulsometer Chronograph

Longines Pulsometer Chronograph

The Options

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

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

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

Tudor Fastrider Black Shield with tachymeter on bezel

Tudor Fastrider Black Shield with tachymeter on bezel

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

The verdict

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

The Strap

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

Rolex’s Glidelock fine adjustment system

Rolex’s Glidelock fine adjustment system

The Options

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

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

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master 40 with Oysterflex bracelet

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master 40 with Oysterflex bracelet

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

The verdict

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

Magnificent Seven

TAG Heuer Formula 1 Cristiano Ronaldo with NATO strap

TAG Heuer Formula 1 Cristiano Ronaldo with NATO strap

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

This article was first published in WOW.

Review: Graham Chronofighter Vintage Limited

Graham has taken the aesthetics of classic pilot watches and used it to create the Chronofighter Vintage Limited. Unlike its larger siblings, its case measures a more modest 44mm across and features a stainless steel construction in lieu of the composites frequently seen in the collection. The brand’s signature fast-action chronograph trigger and lever system has been paired with a knurled onion crown here, with a nostalgic mushroom-shaped reset pusher.Graham-Chronofighter-vintage-crown-WOW

The Chronofighter Vintage Limited has an extremely legible dial with Super-LumiNova used in all the right spots to optimise readability in most settings. To allow the time to be read at a glance, less important details are minimised. The running seconds sub-dial at three o’clock, for example, has been shrunken to make it less visually obtrusive. In addition, the markers for three, six, and nine o’clock have been reduced to just dots to support the conspicuous rendering of “12”. Like the 12 o’clock index, the chronograph minute totaliser has also been expanded to make it easier to read.Graham-Chronofighter-vintage-dial-WOW

Powered by Graham’s automatic G1747 automatic chronograph calibre with Incabloc shock protection, the watch has a power reserve of 48 hours. A hand-sewn leather strap completes the package, imbuing the timepiece with rugged vibes. Four different colorways are in regular production. Two 15-piece limited editions featuring chronograph minute counters inspired by military roundels of the Royal Air Force and US Air Force are also available.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 44mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, day, date, chronograph
  • Power Reserve: 48 hours
  • Movement: Self-winding ETA-based G1747 chronograph calibre
  • Material: Stainless steel
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Hand-sewn leather with steel pin buckle

This article was first published in WOW.

Hermes Crafting Time Exhibition Celebrates Horology

The talent of artist Guillaume Airiaud is the subject of much fascination for Hermes, which is an incredible feat considering he is only 32. It is no surprise, then, that the storied fashion house would call upon his expertise for the “Crafting Time” exhibition. It not only unveiled three new exceptional timepieces, but also reinterpreted five key areas that apply to Hermes timepieces. Each one is translated into a series of visually-intriguing sculptures.

Hermes Crafting time exhibition 2016

Crystal art glass

Airiaud’s interpretation of dial creation is a mesmerizing showcase of the processes a “gob” of crystal experiences after it goes through the furnace.

Enameling

In an alluring kaleidoscope of pigments, the exhibit showcases the transformation of glass powder as it evolves into an infinite palette of shades in various degrees of translucency upon repeated firings in the kiln.

Hermes Crafting time exhibition 2016

Engraving

Slow rotating sculptures, combined with graphic art and transparency effects create optical illusions. The sculpture’s double H emblem alludes to the famed Fauborg Saint-Honore store in Paris, a meaningful parallel to the Hermes‘ dedication to high watchmaking.

Haute Horlogerie

Playfully deconstructed numerals appear and vanish in a slow dance between the exhibit’s wheels and gears, mimicking the delicate but destructive mechanics of time.

Hermes Crafting time exhibition 2016

Gem-setting

Airiaud explores the brilliance of precious stones in this showcase, highlighting the facet of a diamond being cut and radiating its sparkle with movement and light.

 

 

Review: Girard-Perregaux Esmeralda Tourbillon

First introduced in 1860, the Three Gold Bridges is Girard-Perregaux’s calling card. Aesthetically, there’s nothing else like it; less a specific movement or even a family of it, the Three Gold Bridges is better described as a design concept: three parallel bridges with arrow-shaped ends, in gold no less, anchoring a movement’s layout. This presents a technical challenge, as the components must also be arranged linearly, which brings the watchmaker’s movement design expertise into play.

Girard-Perregaux has created several iconic watches with the Three Gold Bridges over the years, including a pocket chronometer dubbed “La Esmeralda”, which won a gold medal at the Exposition Universelle of 1889 held in Paris. Ornately decorated with engravings on its case, La Esmeralda’s movement used the Three Gold Bridges layout, had a pivoted detent escapement for great accuracy, and also a tourbillon to iron out positional errors. The watch was reacquired by the manufacture in 1970, and it is now a part of the Girard-Perregaux Museum’s collection. The new Esmeralda Tourbillon here is a reinterpretation of the timepiece, this time in a wristwatch format.

Besides moving from the pocket to the wrist, the new Esmeralda Tourbillon has its Three Gold Bridges on the dial side of the movement. The bridges here support the barrel, motion work, and tourbillon, and exhibit a variety of finishes from mirror polished top surfaces to drawn flanks and hand chamfered edges. This ability of components to be both functional and decorative is echoed elsewhere on the dial. Note the tourbillon, for instance. It spins the escapement, but does so with a lyre-shaped cage – a Girard-Perregaux signature that’s a welcome departure from typical three-arm designs. In the same vein of things, the oscillating weight here is a micro rotor positioned co-axially underneath the barrel. This rearrangement allows the barrel itself to be upsized to extend the power reserve by 25 per cent to 60 hours.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 45mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes
  • Power Reserve: 60 hours
  • Movement Self-Winding Girard-Perregaux GP09400-0004
  • Materials: Pink gold
  • Water Resistance: 30 meters
  • Strap: Black alligator with pink gold deployant buckle

Review: Breguet Hora Mundi Watch

When the Classique Hora Mundi 5717 watch was launched, it stood out with its depiction of the world’s continents on a silvered gold dial. This year, the Breguet Classique Hora Mundi 5727 is introduced with the same complication, but without its predecessor’s visual representation of the continents – the dial bears clou de Paris guilloché instead. More engine-turning work is found on the 24-hour sub-dial, whose upper and lower halves, which correspond to the day and night, show the flame and cross weave motifs respectively.

The new iteration may be powered by the same engine underneath the dial, but it looks completely different, and arguably more wearable in everyday settings.

Breguet holds four patents associated with the Hora Mundi thanks to its unique complication, which is programmed to track and display the time in two cities on demand. When the crown at eight o’clock is pushed, the watch’s hour hand, 24-hour indicator, and date display at 12 o’clock simultaneously change from one preselected time zone to the other. Setting these two desired time zones is easily done by pulling the same crown out and turning it forwards or backwards until the desired city appears in the window at six o’clock.

The previous Hora Mundi, 5717, measures 43mm wide and 13.55mm thick. The new version, 5727, has the same diameter but clocks in at a slightly thinner 12.6mm. It is available in either white or rose gold.

Specifications

Dimensions: 43mm

Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, 24-hour counter, instant time zone jump on demand

Power Reserve: 55 hours

Movement: Self-winding Breguet Calibre 77FO with instant time zone jump on demand; 55-hour power reserve

Material: Rose or white gold

Water Resistance: 30 meters

Strap Brown or black alligator with rose or white gold ardillon buckle

This story was first published in World of Watches.

Story Credits

Text by Ruckdee Chotjinda

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.