Tag Archives: timepiece

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.

Review: Tudor Black Bay Dark Watch

The Tudor Black Bay Dark is overwhelmingly monochromic, except for a single line of red text on its dial, and a largely obscured red triangle on its bezel. This is no ceramic watch though, unlike those from Tudor’s Fastrider Black Shield collection. Instead, the standard Black Bay case has been given a black PVD treatment with a satin finish to achieve this cool and menacing look. The steel construction gives the watch the weight and heft one would expect from old-school dive watches.

As a descendent of historical Tudor dive watches, the Black Bay preserves some of its predecessors’ signatures, such as the “snowflake” hour hand. What the modern model may lack in exclusivity or provenance, it compensates with technical advancements in the form of a fresh and efficient movement, Calibre MT5602. Chronometer certified by COSC, this in-house development has a going time of 70 hours which, while not uncommon for newer mechanical movements released in recent years, is still nearly double that of average ones in the market.

Like its siblings, the Black Bay Dark is offered with different strap options. One can choose between a black PVD-treated stainless steel bracelet and an aged leather strap with black PVD-treated folding clasp. The third option of a woven fabric strap with black PVD treated buckle is included as extra for both of them.

The Tudor Black Bay Dark is notably different from the Black Bay Bronze, another show stealer, in two notable areas. Firstly, it retains the 41mm case size of its siblings, unlike the slightly larger Black Bay Bronze, which clocks in at 43mm. Secondly, the dial of this watch has rectangular markers on the three, six, and nine o’clock positions, again like its siblings and unlike the Bronze’s Arabic numerals.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 41mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
  • Power Reserve: 70 hours
  • Movement: Self-winding Tudor Calibre MT5602
  • Materials: 41mm in PVD-coated steel
  • Water Resistance: 200 meters.
  • Strap: PVD-coated steel bracelet or black aged leather, both with PVD-coated steel deployant buckle; additional fabric strap with PVD-coated buckle.

This story was first published in WOW. 

Space Cowboy: Bell & Ross BR-X1 Hyperstellar

Bell & Ross decided this year that space cowboys could use a chronograph to call their own, so enter the BR-X1 Hyperstellar. Its moon-grey titanium case with anodised blue aluminum inserts houses a skeletonized automatic chronograph movement that’s perfect for the journey into deep space.

The movement skeletonization makes sense in this context, as it strips all non-essential mass away to ensure that the spacefarer’s payload is optimised for launch. The black DLC-treated upper bridge is still formed in the shape of an “X” – both a variable and an unknown – and its push-buttons will suit the thick gloves used by astronauts. A rubber grip has also been integrated into the case for greater ease of handling. Application of Super-LumiNova in all the right spots such as the hour and minute hands and indexes enhances legibility. The rim of the minute totalizer, tachymeter, and bezel have all been executed in a distinctive cerulean hue for lonely and homesick mission specialists to remind themselves of the Blue Marble – home.

The appeal of the watch is accentuated by a titanium case back that now boasts a circular aperture, through which the cadence of the balance wheel can be appreciated. To secure the watch to the wrist in zero gravity, a hybrid strap of alligator leather and grey rubber, with a steel pin buckle, is provided.

This advancement of the BR-X1 is technically well crafted, and will certainly appeal to enthusiasts with a penchant for space exploration. It comes in a limited edition of 250 pieces.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 45mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, chronograph
  • Power Reserve: Not available
  • Movement: Self-winding Calibre BR-CAL.313
  • Materials: Titanium and anodised blue aluminum
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Black alligator leather and grey rubber with steel pin buckle

This article was first published in WOW.

Dynamic Dial: Perrelet Lab Watch

A typical watch dial tends not to have much movement, save for the steady cadence of its seconds hand. There are, of course, myriad ways to create a more dynamic scene on the wrist, such as the addition of a whirling tourbillon, or the modification of the seconds hand into a retrograde one that snaps back rhythmically. For Perrelet, the efforts to generate visual interest have created the brand’s calling card in the form of rotors, functional and/or decorative, that sit on the watches’ dials and constantly swing around with their wearers’ movements. The brand has gone with a contemporary timepiece this time; the Lab straddles the sporty Turbine and the dressy First Class collections in terms of design, with a reasonable price point to boot.

Like its siblings, the highlight of the Lab is its rotor; Perrelet has moved the oscillating weight to the front of the watch and modified it into a peripheral one that runs around the rim of the dial. This necessitated modifications to the movement, of course, but the brand has also designed the dial to accommodate and accentuate the rotor. Note the layered dial architecture, for instance – the middle portion of the inner dial is sunken vis-à-vis its rim, while the groove for the oscillating weight around it runs even deeper, before giving way to a steeply sloping flange that finally meets the bezel. Meanwhile, the appliqué hour markers are facetted and raised to further enhance the perception of depth. Although these hour markers appear cantilevered, their outer halves are actually attached to a nearly invisible sapphire crystal ring for greater robustness.

To match the atypical dial layout, the Lab’s case has been designed accordingly. It is cushion shaped, but topped with an octagonal bezel. The overall effect is a balance between angles, straight lines, and curves, both on the case and dial.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 42mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date
  • Power Reserve: 42 hours
  • Movement: Self-winding Perrelet P-411 calibre
  • Materials: Steel
  • Water Resistance: 50m
  • Strap: Black alligator with steel deployant buckle

 

This story was first published in WOW.

Review: Ulysse Nardin Grand Deck Tourbillon

It is the 20th anniversary of the Ulysse Nardin Marine collection and it has expanded the collection with suitably impressive pieces at BaselWorld 2016 to mark the occasion. The flagship for the year’s novelties is the Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon, which showcases the brand’s high watchmaking capabilities.Grand-Deck-Marine-Tourbillon

The highlight of the watch is its time display system. Instead of a minute hand, an aluminum boom – the horizontal spar used to angle a ship’s sail to the wind – points to a graduated arc running across the middle of the dial. Like an actual boom, the one on the Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon is operated by a system of pulleys and wires. For most of each hour, the pulleys at two and four o’clock work together to pull the boom rightwards with a wire. The reverse happens at each new hour as the opposite set of pulleys pull the boom back to the left, in a retrograde motion that takes around four seconds, while the digital display above the graduated arc jumps instantaneously. Naturally, the wire used would be from the nautical world. Known as Dyneema or Spectra, it is a form of polyethylene that’s spun into fibers to create lines, and is used in high-performance products such as parachute suspension lines, climbing equipment, and, of course, yacht rigging.Grand-Deck-Marine-Tourbillon-Ulysse-Nardin-back

Although the boom is the focus of attention on the watch, detailing on the rest of the dial also serves to reinforce its nautical slant. At 12 o’clock, Ulysse Nardin’s anchor logo is flanked by two flags spelling out “UN” according to the International Code of Signals used by maritime vessels. The flange, on the other hand, is decorated with guardrails and grommets. The backdrop of the entire scene is a dial formed by wood marquetry, to recall a sailboat’s timber deck.

Ulysse Nardin has equipped the watch with the manually wound Calibre UN-630 movement, which has a flying tourbillon positioned at six o’clock. Note the index regulation system positioned on the top of the tourbillon itself, with an arm of the tourbillon cage replaced with the lever used to shorten or lengthen the hairspring for rate adjustments. Calibre UN-630 has two separate barrels – one is used solely for timekeeping, while the other powers the jumping hour and retrograde boom exclusively.

Such an arrangement maintains isochronism; by powering the complications separately, the mainspring responsible for timekeeping will not see a sudden decrease in torque at every hour, when the boom arm must be pulled back and the jumping hour is activated, thus keeping the balance wheel’s amplitude more consistent for better timekeeping accuracy. The final points of interest concerns user-friendliness – the hour display can be quickly adjusted independently for convenience, while the barrels are skeletonised to provide a rough indication of their state of wind. The Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon is limited to 18 pieces.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 45mm
  • Functions: Jumping hours, retrograde minutes
  • Power Reserve: 48 hours
  • Movement: Manual-winding Ulysse Nardin Calibre UN-630 with flying tourbillon
  • Material: White gold
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Blue leather with white gold deployant buckle

This story was first published in WOW Magazine.

Review: Frederique Constant Perpetual Calendar

Ah, the perpetual calendar. For this high complication, the name of the game is convenience – assuming that the watch is kept running, its calendar displays will not require any adjustment until 1 March 2100. The devil’s in the details though; like the chronograph, a perpetual calendar can be executed in varying levels of complexity, from modules tacked onto base movements to integrated ones that trade greater complexity for thinness.

As modular perpetual calendars become increasingly common, much of the barriers to entry of owning such a watch have been steadily worn down. With talk of value dominating BaselWorld this year, Frederique Constant’s Slimline Manufacture Perpetual Calendar was a case of perfect timing, as the most aggressively priced perpetual calendar watch on the market yet.

Frederique_Constant_2016_Perpetual_Calendar_Manufacture_white-dial-close-up

Visually, the Slimline Manufacture Perpetual Calendar isn’t a radical departure from the archetypal perpetual calendar, with a typical layout of three sub-dials and a separate aperture to display the moon phase. However, the perfect spacing between these elements – neither clustered at the dial’s centre nor spread too far out towards its edge – hints at a movement specifically developed for the watch, rather than an off-the-shelf solution. Indeed, the perpetual calendar module was developed in-house with a keen eye on the case and dial dimensions to achieve this balance, while also keeping its ease of assembly in mind, according to the brand’s design director Pim Koeslag.

Its development has taken the brand around three years to finalise but it paid off handsomely. A typical perpetual calendar movement that can take upwards of 30 hours to put together, but the assembly of the final calibre of the Slimline Manufacture Perpetual Calendar takes just two days. Quicker assembly naturally translates to lower costs, which has allowed Frederique Constant to offer such a compelling value proposition. With options in both steel and rose gold-plated steel, haute horlogerie has just gotten a little more affordable.

Frederique_Constant_2016_Perpetual_Calendar_Manufacture_white-dial

Specs

  • Dimensions: 42mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, perpetual calendar and moon phase display
  • Power Reserve: 38 hours
  • Movement: Self-winding Frederique Constant Manufacture Calibre FC-775
  • Case: Steel or rose gold-plated steel
  • Water Resistance: 30 meters
  • Strap: Black, brown, or navy alligator with stainless steel or rose gold-plated steel deployant buckle

 

This story was first published in World of Watches Magazine.

Real Steel: Jacquet Droz Grande Seconde Off-Centered

When it comes to watch cases, precious metals have always been a welcome option; who can argue against the warmth of red or yellow gold, each with its own distinctive flavor? Construct the case in good ol’ steel, however, and the material costs of the watch plunges while its technical and design details remain intact. For a manufacture that’s seeking more broad-based appeal, it is a very attractive option, especially given the negligible costs associated with maintaining a few new references within a collection. Jaquet Droz has done exactly that with the Grande Seconde Off-Centered watch this year, by introducing two new variants in steel.

The BaselWorld release of the Grande Seconde Off-Centered timepiece features a slightly busier silver opaline dial, in contrast to its sibling with an onyx dial, which was unveiled a month before. Aesthetically, this makes it less austere and arguably more versatile, although the general design details remain the same – compared to the Grande Seconde collection, movements in the watches here appear to have been rotated within their cases by about 40 degrees clockwise. The crown is thus positioned at four o’clock, while the sub-dials forming the figure “8” are now offset and asymmetric. This quirk in the sub-dials’ positioning is matched by other minutiae, such as how the hour indexes are rendered in Arabic rather than Roman numerals where the two counters overlap.

On the technical front, the new references remain identical to the rest of the collection’s watches. A self-winding movement powers each Grande Seconde Off-Centered timepiece, with two barrels to provide a going time of 68 hours to ensure that the watch is still ticking even after being unworn over the weekend. The balance spring and pallet fork of the movement are made of silicon, and thus impervious to magnetism and temperature fluctuations. For the latter, friction is also reduced with the use of this material.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 43mm
  • Power Reserve: 68 hours
  • Movement: Self-winding Jacquet Droz 2663A.P calibre
  • Case: Steel
  • Water Resistance: 30 meters
  • Strap: Black alligator with steel deployant buckle

 

  • This story was first published in World of Watches Magazine.

Dual Identity: Sinn 910 Anniversary

Sinn may be best known for its over-engineered technical timepieces aimed at specialists such as divers, pilots, and even fire fighters, but the brand has a classier side too. The Frankfurt Financial District collection, for instance, consists of dressier watches with complications that cater to the business environment, such as the calendar week and GMT displays. For its 55th anniversary, the brand has melded influences from both these ends of the spectrum to create the 910 Anniversary, a classic-looking chronograph that doesn’t scrimp on the technical details.

At first sight, the 910 Anniversary harks back to vintage chronographs of yore, with a bi-compax dial in grey and beige punctuated by bits of red, and a total absence of luminous coating. The mushroom-shaped crown and pushers further accentuate its traditional styling, although a closer look will reveal several modern details. Note, for one, how the minute and hour hands are similar to those used in existing Sinn pilot watches, instead of vintage chronographs’ leaf- or Breguet-shaped hands. The double tachymeter scale, which allows rates as low as 30 units per hour to be measured, is also unusual, even for modern timepieces.

Sinn is no stranger to adapting movements extensively to suit its needs. In the EZM10, for example, the Valjoux 7750’s chronograph minute totaliser was modified into a jumping hand positioned at the dial’s centre for improved legibility. For the 910 Anniversary, Sinn pulled off a similar coup by modifying the same movement, but into a column wheel controlled rattrapante chronograph instead. This accounts for the additional pusher at eight o’clock – actuating it stops the split-seconds hand for the intermediate time to be read and recorded, while a second press sends it forward to move in sync with the chronograph seconds hand again.

What would a rattrapante chronograph like this cost, given that it’s also limited to 300 pieces worldwide? The answer is a surprising “not too much”; the 910 Anniversary has a list price that is definitely a bargain for what one is getting.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 41.5mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, split-seconds chronograph
  • Movement: Self-winding modified Valjoux 7750
  • Case: Steel
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Brown leather or stainless steel bracelet

 

This story was first published in World of Watches Magazine. 

Design Evolution: Glycine Airman Airfighter

Price aside, a watch’s value is also determined by factors ranging from its rarity to its technical complexity and movement decoration. In the Airman Airfighter, Glycine has put twists on the complications commonly seen in a pilot’s watch to make it both more useful, and more interesting.

At its heart, the timepiece is simply a chronograph with an additional GMT hand. Such a description is too reductionist though. Take the GMT hand for a start – by adding a rotating bezel with 24-hour markings, which is lockable by the crown at four o’clock, the Airman Airfighter is able to track a third time zone without any modifications to its movement. The chronograph here is also a fresh take on a familiar complication; despite having a monopusher interface, the chronograph is capable of recording cumulative elapsed time for consecutive events, unlike a traditional monopusher chronograph that sequentially cycles through starting, stopping, and resetting. This is accomplished by designing the “monopusher” as a bidirectional trigger – pushing it upwards starts and stops the chronograph, while doing so in the opposite direction resets it.

For the Airman Airfighter’s design, Glycine has opted for an overtly sporty look. The imposing 46mm case is fitted with long straight lugs, and dressed in black, although variants with the bezel in uncoated steel and rose gold are available. The crown, bezel, and chronograph “trigger” all feature generous knurling to ensure that the user has a firm grip on all of them, further reinforcing the watch’s user-friendliness. White indexes and markings contrast starkly with the predominantly black dial, which makes for easy reading of the watch’s indicators at a glance.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 46mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, chronograph, GMT display
  • Power Reserve: 46 hours
  • Movement: Self-winding GL754 chronograph movement, based on the Valjoux 7754
  • Material: PVD-coated steel
  • Water Resistance: 200 meters
  • Strap: Black calf with steel deployant bucket

 

This story was first published in World of Watches Magazine.

Gender Bender: 3 Luxury Women’s Watches

The norm: boys like classics, girls want diamonds. Scratch that. The women’s timepieces we now lust after are neither too complicated nor decorated, but simple, slick and macho enough so the men can wear them too.

Chanel

Wool jacket and silk dress, Saint Laurent. Leather wallet, Isaac Reina.

Wool jacket and silk dress, Saint Laurent. Leather wallet, Isaac Reina.

It was the year 2000 when Chanel last channelled macho design codes for a timepiece. So when the Boyfriend burst onto the scene at the most recent Baselworld, it made headlines naturally – and for all the right reasons. Described by the Parisian house as having “a masculine allure just for women”, the watch has an elongated, octagonal case, a nod to the eight-sided form of the iconic Chanel No. 5 perfume flacon, the Premiere timepiece and Place Vendôme in Paris. Beige gold with alligator strap.

Tiffany & Co.

Jersey dress, Julien David. Cashmere sweater, Eric Bompard. Corduroy trousers, Bally. Leather notebook, Smythson.

Jersey dress, Julien David. Cashmere sweater, Eric Bompard. Corduroy trousers, Bally. Leather notebook, Smythson.

Inspired by the rectangular lines of a Tiffany & Co. travel clock from the ’40s, the East West mini, first unveiled last April, literally turns time on its side with a dial positioned horizontally. This year’s editions are fitted with a single or a new double-tour bracelet, and come with dials painted in three colours: white, dark blue and, our top pick, the Tiffany Blue which never, ever gets old. Steel with alligator strap.

Cartier

Someday calfskin satchel, Berluti.

Someday calfskin satchel, Berluti.

When Alberto Santos-Dumont – Brazilian pilot and friend of founder Louis Cartier – found his pocket timepiece cumbersome and impractical to use during his flights, his watchmaker pal invented a flat wristwatch with a distinct square case and rounded corners just for him to tell the time. Aptly named the Santos, the ticker is, today, one of Cartier’s most commercially successful designs and one of the most instantly recognizable in horology. Pink gold with alligator strap.

Story Credits

Photography Thomas Pico

Styling Roman Vallos

This article was first published in L’Officiel Singapore.

TAG Smartwatch: Review of the Carrera Heuer-02T flying tourbillon

Jaen-Claude Biver’s return to TAG Heuer as its CEO has seen the brand making waves in various areas, from the deluge of new partnerships to the Connected smartwatch. The latest furore that Biver has raised concerns the Carrera Heuer-02T, which serves as proof that there is no cow too sacred for this man in his bid to have TAG Heuer reconquer the mass luxury segment of the watch industry.TAG-Heuer-CARRERA-HEUER-02T--rose-gold-bezel-baselworld

The gist of the matter is this: TAG Heuer has released a tourbillon costing just under CHF15,000 — an unheard of price point well below the next most affordable Swiss-made tourbillon. The variant used here is a flying tourbillon (which lacks a bridge on its upper side), mated to the CH80 calibre that was mothballed soon after its was unveiled in 2014. The choice of the CH80 movement was a logical one. The chronograph is the signature complication for TAG Heuer, after all, and existing stocks of perfectly good CH80 movements were available for the modification, with plans to use the remaining ones as base calibres in future projects.

The tourbillon itself has a lightweight carbon/titanium hybrid construction that affords the Carrera Heuer-02T a 65-hour power reserve despite havinga 28,800vph frequency and just one barrel. To top things off, TAG Heuer has even sent each Heuer-02T movement for COSC certification. Design-wise, the Carrera Heuer-02T resembles the Carrera Heuer 01 , with a busy dial sporting multiple facets and angles that impart a sporty, technical look. To balance the flying tourbillon at six o’clock, the barrel is exposed at 12 o’clock under a V-shaped bridge that is reminiscent of the Monaco V4 Tourbillon. The watch’s case is made up of 12 modular components , and hints at the possibility of future designs with variations in materials or finishing techniques, whether on the case middle, bezel, pushers, or elsewhere.TAG-Heuer-CARRERA-HEUER-02T-rose-gold-bezel-baselworld-closeup

The tourbillon was once emblematic of high watchmaking and remains a visually arresting device (issues of its efficacy aside). Its prestige has been eroding steadily, however, beginning with the arrival of Chinese-made ones on the market, and the ability of increasingly sophisticated CNC machines to manufacture the cage’s tiny components. The arrival of the Carrera Heuer-02T might just open the floodgates for the tourbillon to become mainstream.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 45mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, chronograph
  • Power Reserve: 65 hours
  • Movement: Self-winding Calibre Heuer-02T with flying tourbillon
  • Material: Ttanium
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Black alligator leather on black rubber hybrid with titanium deployant buckle

 

This article was first published in WOW.

Calibre 36: Glashütte Original Senator Excellence

If a single timepiece can epitomize all the talk of value at Baselworld this year, the Glashütte Original Senator Excellence is it. Central to the Senator Excellence is Calibre 36, a ground-up development that took three and a half years to complete.

Conceived with a focus on performance, it features several technical details that improve its precision, stability, and running time. For a start, the barrel’s outer wall and arbor have both been thinned down to create more internal space, which allows a longer mainspring to be fitted. The result is a 100-hour power reserve with just a single barrel, in a movement beating at 4Hz, no less. Of course, the benefits of a long power reserve only come with an efficient winding system. To that end, Calibre 36 is equipped with a bi-directional winding mechanism.

The movement uses a free-sprung balance, where the hairspring’s length is kept constant and rate adjustments are done by adjusting the weights on the balance wheel’s rim. Therefore, the balance is free to breathe concentrically in all positions, which improves the movement’s positional accuracy, albeit with a greater difficulty in regulation. The swan neck device here is attached to, again to achieve maximum concentricity as the hairspring breathes. The hairspring is made of silicon, which makes it immune to magnetic fields and temperature changes, while also improving isochronism.Glashutte-Original-Senator-Excellence-Basel-Report-WOW

To quantify these improvements, Glashütte Original has developed a complete suite of tests. Running the gauntlet takes 24 days, and includes a complete assessment of the 100-hour power reserve as well as timing tests in six positions (one more than COSC’s usual five). Each Senator Excellence is shipped  with a certificate attesting to its movement’s performance, with detailed test results for every individual movement available online or its wearer to peruse. The Senator Excellence also bears Glashütte Original’s seat on its case back, as a mark of the movement pedigree within.

Thought has been put into how Calibre 36 is encased too. The movement is mated to the Senator Excellence via a bayonet mounting system, just like how a removable camera lens is attached to the camera body. This system is more secure and hence less prone to shocks. It is certified DIN 8308, the German equivalent of ISO standards, which requires a watch to remain accurate to +/- 60 seconds a day even after a one-metre drop onto hardwood flooring.

The Senator Excellence is available in three references — a classic and contemporary dial design each in steel, and a classic dial design in red gold.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 40mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
  • Power Reserve: 100 hours
  • Movement: Self-winding Glashütte Original Calibre 36
  • Case: Steel or red gold
  • Water Resistance: 50 meters
  • Strap: Black alligator or calfskin with steel ardillon buckle, or black alligator with red gold ardillon buckle.

 

This story was first published in WOW. 

Review: HYT H1 Full Gold

Arguably 21st century clepsydras, HYT watches are conceived to tell time not with the use of regular hour and minute hands, but with liquids, hence the brand’s tagline “Hydro Mechanical Horologists”.

The H1 – the watch that started it all – has a sub-dial at 12 o’clock, whose singular hand indicates the minutes. The hour hand is absent, replaced by a circular tube that runs around just inside the dial’s circumference. Inside this tube are colored and clear liquids whose relative levels are controlled by the alternate compression and expansion of two piston-driven bellows at 6 o’clock. As the hours pass, the colored liquid advances to mark the hour, while the clear liquid simultaneously gives way to it. Twice a day at six o’clock, the colored liquid undergoes a retrograde motion and returns to its starting position, to begin a new cycle all over again.

HYT had numerous challenges to overcome to achieve such a display system. Obviously, the liquids had to be contained, with no allowances for evaporation or other such losses. The fluid system also had to be governed through autonomous timekeeping, yet allow manipulation when the crown is operated to set the time. Then, there’s the exhausting research required to develop the liquids to have the required colors and viscosities. As if that’s not enough, the entire system needs to be resistant against vibration and temperature fluctuation as well.

The H1 remains in production today, and the HYT has played with it in numerous ways to constantly offer something new, yet familiar. Take materials, for example. The new H1 Full Gold has a case made entirely in pink gold, which is a first for the brand. This 50-piece limited edition also has galvanic coating in the same hue on its minute sub-dial, small seconds wheel, power reserve indicator, and the hour ring to compose a picture of perfect uniformity. Instead of the usual fluorescent liquids for the hours, the one used here is opaque black, which alone required almost a year of experimentation and fine-tuning. In the dark, the Super-LumiNova coating underneath the liquid capillary (i.e. glass tube) emits green light, which the opaque black liquid blocks off accordingly – yet another new detail that wasn’t previously done. The final result exudes seriousness and solemnity unlike any other in the collection.

 

Specs

  • Dimensions: 48.8mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes
  • Power Reserve: 65 hours
  • Movement: Manual-winding HYT caliber
  • Case: Pink gold
  • Water resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Pale grey alligator with titanium deployant buckle

 

 

This article was originally published in World of Watches Magazine

Review: Casio MRG-G1000HT Watch

What’s the appeal of a Casio watch that costs thousands of dollars, a price traditionally the preserve of mid-tier Swiss entries? The answer is an easy one: just look at the MRG-G1000HT Hammer Tone.

The interior of this G-Shock is technologically driven with literally every Casio innovation available, including its proprietary Tough Solar charging system, and the GPS Hybrid Wave Ceptor that calibrates the time via both GPS and radio signals. The rest of this analogue quartz watch is decked out with the usual bells and whistles such as the worldtimer, calendar, chronograph, alarm, and countdown timer.

The exterior of the MRG-G1000HT exudes a level of Japanese craftsmanship that the most discerning connoisseur will approve of. The dimple-like pattern on the bezel and bracelet links is an intricate metalworking technique called tsuiki, where thin metal sheets are hammered into a three-dimensional shape, traditionally for the manufacture of copperware and armour. For this watch, Casio enlisted Bihou Asano, a third-generation master in this technique. Asano’s portfolio of work includes the restoration of the suspended incense burners for the Kyoto State Guest House and the refurbishment of the statues of deities on the rooftop of the Osaka City Central Public Hall.

Casio didn’t just stop there though. The brand applied the akagne (copper) coating on the bezel screws, pushers, and crown to create a distinctive shade for these parts, while also finishing the bezel and bracelet with silver-grey accents of oboro-gin finishing. The watch is overtly masculine, and brazenly bristles with the ruggedness of a tool watch despite these intricate finishing techniques.

The final result? An intricate piece of art that is chock full of reliable, convenient technology, in a package that remains tough and sporty like the original G-shock was conceived to b. A limited run of 300 pieces will be sold worldwide.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 54.7mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, chronograph, dual dial worldtimer, GPS signal, radio wave reception, countdown timer, alarm, full auto-calendar
  • Power Reserve: NA
  • Movement: Casio Tough Solar movement
    Case: DLC-coated titanium
  • Water Resistance: 200 meters
    Strap: DLC-coated bracelet with tsuiki treatment

 

This article was originally published in World of Watches Magazine

Review: Edox Grand Ocean Extreme Sailing

Housed in a 45mm stainless steel case, the Edox Grand Ocean Extreme Sailing Series Edition has blue highlights throughout its dial and bezel to break up an essentially a monochromic color scheme that exudes seriousness. Its design is a versatile one, as it wouldn’t look out of place at office or a casual weekend luncheon.

As the official timepiece for the Extreme Sailing Series, it is well equipped to keep up with its sailors’ demands. This latest iteration incorporates a ceramic unidirectional bezel with PVD coating for scratch resistance, a tachymeter for added functionality, and water resistance to 300m. A workhorse Valjoux 7750 chronograph movement ticks inside this timepiece, which ensures reliability.

Familiar triple-horn lug design aside, the watch has its hands shaped like those on compasses, in a nod at its sailing pedigree. Eagle-eyed observers will also spot the atypical marking for the chronograph minute totaliser’s sub-dial – the first four minutes are denoted in blue to mark the countdown to the start of every Extreme Sailing Series race.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 45mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, day, date, chronograph
  • Power Reserve: 44 hours
  • Movement: Self-winding chronograph ETA Valjoux 7750
  • Material: Stainless steel
  • Water Resistance: 300 meters
  • Strap: Black rubber with folding clasp

 

This article was originally published in World of Watches Magazine