We are only a few months away from the launch of the much anticipated Chronometre Optimum.

The watch is expected to be FP Journes’s most accurate timepiece to date – bringing together all his years of experience and knowledge.

If you thought the CS was a precision chronometer then imagine a CS on steroids.

Here’s a teaser for you courtesy of Montres Journe.

Read more

Hi All;

Well, in Chronometer tested movements anyway! The 2011 numbers are really interesting.

Rolex: 751,285 (23% improvement on 2010)
Omega: 509,301 (49% improvement on 2010)
Breitling: 154,456 (26% improvement on 2010)

I am amazed at how much Omega has improved on their numbers.

– James

Read more

The Breguet Classique Hora Mundi Ref. 5717 is as functional as it is beautiful.

The Calibre 5717 can memorise cities in two different timezones, and changing the dial display between the two is as simple and intuitive as pressing a button. The crown-pusher at 8 o’clock activates the instant-jump timezone and synchronises the time, date, day/night indicator and city indicator.

A 44mm coin-edge platinum case frames a hand-guilloché dial decorated with a translucent blue lacquer ocean. A polished gold map is applied on the lacquer and represents Asia and Oceania. At 3 o’clock, a solid gold sun and moon rotate above a lapis lazuli sky with pyrite inclusions that represent the stars. A hand-engraved gold cloud covers the day/night indicator and is attached to the dial with two heat-blued screws.

Breguet also collaborated with the Italian pen manufacturer Montegrappa to craft fine pens inspired by Breguet’s signature coin-edge cases, guilloché dials and heat-blued pomme hands. The sterling silver barrel and cap are hand-engraved on a rose engine and accented with sterling silver fittings. The sterling silver clip is finished with a blue sapphire.

Read more

I was talking to a friend and fellow collector the other day, and as is often the way, we fell to chatting about how collections are formed. After an hour or so and more than a few glasses of wine we failed to come to any kind of agreement. Nevertheless, it perked my interest enough for me to set down my thoughts here.
Please remember, they are MY thoughts and, as such, worth no more than anyone else’s.

1. For your first collectable watch, buy something you will wear on a regular basis.
2. Every collection should have a focus; because, without a focus, it is just a bunch of watches you like (although there is nothing wrong with that)
3. If you can afford it, everyone should own a pre 1970s Patek Philippe at some time.
4. Despite item 1, do not buy watches only because you like the style.
5. Do not ignore quartz and/or Japanese watches
6. Never buy a watch just because you think you can make money on it.
7. Just because no one else collects something should not stop you, everybody has different tastes and yours is just as valuable as anyone else’s.

Choosing a collector’s watch
There are three things to contemplate when choosing a collectable timepiece: budget, source & make. I make no apologies for putting budget first, it is always the major limiting factor and as collector’s watches are available at prices from $50 to $50,000 it is always a good idea to know in what area to start looking, so as to avoid undue disappointment. I shall choose to divide the market into four distinct areas; the first $50 to $500; the second $500 to $1,000; the third $1,000 to $2,500 and the final one all watches above $2,500.

The first group will be older models of watches you will probably never have heard; however there is nothing wrong in this. However when buying any watch it is important to make sure that it has been recently serviced. Any dealer offering a guarantee on their watch will have had to have the watch serviced; but you must realise the cost of servicing a $50 watch is, more or less, the same as servicing a $5,000 watch. So there will be very little value left in the watch; it is for this reason that we do not recommend buying in this area.

The second group will include many names you have heard of in steel, silver and sometimes in gold; most watches (particularly in the higher end of this price bracket) will be perfectly usable daily watches with just that bit more style than a new watch at the same price. Therefore this is where any collector should begin; putting it simply you can afford to make mistakes in this area (not that many, I will admit). So my suggestion is that you should try and buy your first watch in the lower levels of this band.

Buy your first watch in the third group only if you are very specific about the way your collecting is going. If, for example you admire a friend’s Patek or Rolex collection and have decided this is the way you wish to go. Frankly I do not recommend it because collecting is about your vision, not copying someone else’s.
Anyone who chooses to begin their collection in the fourth (and highest price) group has, quite literally, more money than sense. Any collector will make mistakes when starting and making mistakes at this level is going to cause considerable fiscal pain. Also the other point worth considering is that starting at this point leaves you very little room for upward expansion.

I will cover the question of sources & makes in a later posting (if anyone cares!!)

Read more

Hi All,

Edouard Mignon is the director in charge of Cartier’s watchmaking innovations, and a passionate watch guy.

During last month’s ID Two event, he was wearing this rare Collection Privée Santos Dumont in platinum…

Check out how thin it is! It’s fitted with the Cartier caliber 21, based on the F. Piguet caliber 21P measuring just 1.73 mm thick….

Edouard explained how difficult this watch was for Cartier to manufacture due to the extreme thinness and the challenges of working with platinum. The caseback is fitted with a platinum frame to secure the movement, and each arm of the frame was hand soldered. For every one case completed, one was discarded due to damage. As a result, according to Eouard, Cartier lost money on every one of these watches they sold.

Although a bit small for today’s tastes – its dimensions are identical to the original design from the early 1900s – I think it’s fantastic.

Best,

Paul

Read more

One of the things I love about watchmaking is that it is such a ‘broad church’; it covers such a wide spectrum of craftsmanship and design. In Geneva this year I met up with two gentlemen whose own eponymous brands but, whilst they both happily reside at the top of the watchmaking ‘tree’, they exemplify completely different styles.

I am talking about Laurent Ferrier and Richard Mille; it isn’t just their watches which are different, so are the men behind the brands; M. Ferrier is avuncular, bearded and bears more than a passing resemblance to Santa Claus on his days off, whilst M. Mille, is stylishly dressed, clean shaven and perfectly turned out. It is amazing how their personalities are reflected in the watches bearing their names.

Laurent Ferrier
I had the good fortune to be given a private tour of their atelier; although that might be too important a word for the place, it is a small family house, in a residential street not far from Geneva airport.

But inside, you would never know; upstairs there are three rooms, a small meeting room where I sat with M. Ferrier and his translator.

And two further small rooms where the actual watchmaking is carried out.

There were three watchmakers hard at work on the Gallet Tourbillion, LF’s first watch & probably the most beautiful movement in the world (IMHO).

Here is the underdial work, as beautifully finished as the visible side of the movement.

If you look closely, you will see that the tourbillion bridge has been removed and is sitting above the movement to the top left. Here is the other side of the movement.

Where you can see that not only is the tourbillion bridge missing but the entire tourbillion cage has also gone, and there is a reason for this. You can’t regulate the tourbillion until it is completely finished and the regulation involves timing it in several positions and then removing it to regulate it, returning it to the movement and repeating the same procedures over & over again until the desired accuracy is achieved. However, every time you remove it from the movement, or replace it back there is a chance that you could damage or scratch the movement or the delicate bridges. So they do it rather differently at LF, they use an unfinished movement to time the tourbillion cage…

… where the odd slip of the screwdriver will not require a movement to be either refinished or scrapped.

What I love about these watches is the fact that although M. Ferrier didn’t launch his brand until the second decade of the 21st century, his watches look as if they could have been made 100 years ago, until you look closely at the movements and realize that even if the styling and finishing are classic, the technology involved is very much of the moment. This is a watch which could never have existed before the invention of electro discharge machines and CNC controlled multi axis drilling machines. Meaning that these are watches which are very much of the moment, but paying a perfect homage to watchmaking’s past.

Richard Mille
The day before I met M. Ferrier, I spent an afternoon with the new watches from Richard Mille; and, if one watch exemplified the entire brand, it was the new RM 056 tourbillion with a case completely machined from sapphire.

If M. Ferrier’s work can be described as ‘classic’; then M. Mille’s pieces (and this one in particular) can best be described as unrelentlessly ‘modern’. Modern, not just in its design, but in the use of cutting edge materials such as titanium in the baseplate and even aluminium in the central bridge, all of these in the effort to reduce weight. This is of course without even mentioning the entire case manufactured from sapphire.

The movement is a split seconds three register chronograph with tourbillion, in other words, just about the most complex mechanical movement it is possible to make.

Made in a series of only five pieces, at the Salon there was much discussion about how it would take a year to manufacture those five cases and how much the watch cost (CHF 1,500,000, around $1.65 million US); to me the most interesting fact was that four of the pieces were sold within an hour of the Salon opening and the only reason that all five were not sold was that M. Mille held back one of them for a good client who couldn’t make the show until the next day. The client arrived as the show opened the following day and within an hour, M. Mille confirmed that now all five had found patient, but obviously wealthy owners.

What intrigues me about this watch is not the technology behind the case, or even that involved in the movement; what is interesting to me is that there are people prepared to pay these sums of money for a watch which only they will know is special (above and beyond the ‘normal’ split seconds tourbillions, of course), as to almost the entire world, it looks as though it is made of plastic.

I don’t think that you could find two more different examples of the watchmaker’s art; yet both can find a place, both can succeed and both show that 21st century watchmaking is in safe hands.

Read more

Hi All;

I have been working on the Fourth edition of our book for the last few months, but the deadline is getting REALLY close (it has to be with the publishers by the end of this month), so I have had to concentrate on it to the exclusion of just about everything else.

However, today I got a break from the computer, I went to Rolex HQ with my photographer to get this Sky-Dweller shot for the cover. It is the only working one in the country at the moment, they should be hitting the shops in October/November of this year, and Rolex have been amazed at the orders they have for the piece.

Read more

  If you believed they put a man on the moon, man on the moon.
  If you believe there’s nothing up his sleeve, then nothing is cool.
– R.E.M.

Simple moon complication, and a special balance spring in each watch. Very similar on paper but a very different rendering of an obscure complication with a technical twist on each watch. The German influence on the Moser is apparent, as is the French influence on the De Bethune. I like to build on these “micro themes” within my collection and then move on to something else. It creates a trace of my enthusiasm for a peculiar aspect of watch collecting which may languish for a while, or disappear overnight. The watches within the collection are what is left after the infatuation is gone. A lasting reminder of a past obsession.


De Bethune DB25L and Moser Perpetual Moon

Read more

Hi All;

At the end of the 1970s, Lemania made this manual wind two register chronograph and sold it to the Swedish & the South African airforces.

It is quite a rare model (less than 1,000 made) and it took me a few years to find this one to add to my collection of military watches.

Guess what turned up last week?

Absolutely identical, down to case movement & dial (apart from the brand name, of course); I have to assume that Lemania had some left over and sold them directly to Tissot, who simply printed their name on the dials.

Read more

Some favorite chronographs:

Patek 5070G, Patek 5960P, FPJ Centrigraphe, Lange Datograph, Patek 5070J

Read more

Not many of these vintage Girard-Perregaux around, and certainly not in such fine original condition. For this model, Girard-Perregaux used the Valjoux Calibre 72C, an especially desirable manual-wind chronograph movement with column wheel construction and triple calendar.

Girard-Perregaux also collaborated with the Italian pen manufacturer Montegrappa to craft fine pens inspired by the iconic Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges. The marbled celluloid barrel and cap are accented with sterling silver fittings. The sterling silver clip is attached with gold screws and finished with a natural ruby.

Read more

TZ forums update

Blogs July 18, 2012

For over a decade, Timezone has run the same forum software. Our server host mandated that Timezone update our software. Effective today, we relaunched our forums and Timezone is now entirely relaunched. We have a new look and new features, some good & some still require fine tuning.

We continually strive to improve the website and are working hard to make the transition as comfortable as possible. In the meantime, please continue to report any glitches. Although we may not reply, we try to read everything and take every report into consideration.

Read more

TimeZone is committed to our community. Job Listings are an effort to support job creation. This new section can be found in the drop-down menu bar under “Community”. Here you will find open job positions within the watch industry. Feel free to search Job Listings for your desired position.

Every year, TimeZone is read by millions who represent a broad range of professional experience and trade skills. Whether the position is in the field of watchmaking, sales, construction, engineering, IT, operations, finance or management, we invite the watch industry to submit all employment opportunities on this board.

Job Listings are a free service. Only one job description per job listing. Please note that TimeZone reserves the right to accept or reject submissions. To post a job listing on TimeZone, please submit the job description to: jorge@timezone.com.

Read more

A friend shared this video he took at the Musée International d’Horlogerie in La Chaux-de- Fonds, Switzerland.

It is at once a clock, and a series of clocks, changing time from 14:43

Read more

Cartier are the flagship brand of the Richemont group, with the biggest stand at the Salon (actually two of them), yet they seem to garner little interest on the forums or very much respect from Watchnuts. And I think I know why; their product range is so wide and diverse that it is difficult to get any focus. When we talk about Patek, we think about complicated watches, when we talk about Rolex we think about Datejusts and Submariners, but when we talk about Cartier, some will think of Tank watches, others of the two tone Santos which was ubiquitous a decade ago whilst others think of the high jewellery ladies’ pieces. And whilst this ‘lack of focus’ may seem a problem to some; to me it is the reason to make them my brand of the year.

Putting it simply, there is no other brand which makes and sells watches across such a broad spectrum; many of their watches are in direct competition with watches like the Rolex Datejust, Ballon blue, for example whilst some of their high horology pieces are viable competitors for folks like Greubel Forsey. Name me another watch brand who could even attempt to make a similar claim?

And that is without taking into account their high Jewelry work, which this year was even more amazing than ever before. This year, maybe because of the interest aroused by the film ‘Avatar’ they seemed to emphasise the three dimensionality of their jewellery pieces. Have a look at some of the images below, by Tony P shot exclusively for Timezone at the Salon.

How’s this for three dimensionality? The little bear slides along hidden rails, either revealing the watch dial or by covering it, making the watch into a bracelet.

But, if high jewelry is not your thing, how about high horology? Have a look at this crystal pocket watch.

One of Cartier’s signatures is the panther, they have used the big cat in everything from brooches to bracelets; but have a look at this watch.

But then look what happens when you move your wrist.

The panther floats around the inner perimeter of the bezel, as if it were getting ready to pounce.

I have always found it rather ironic that we watchnuts love to talk about craftsmanship and respect for old traditions when we talk about watchmaking, but immediately turn up our noses at anything that looks like jewelry. Here’s the thing, though; there is as much craftsmanship & use of dying arts in making a cloisonné enamel dial as there is in a minute repeater. Just have a look at the workmanship in this Koala dial.

Any idea how it is made? It is marquetry, but rather than using strips of wood in the conventional way, here the artist uses straw made from the stems of rye grass.

Want to see some more innovative watchmaking, have a look at this Annual Calendar, I love the use of all the differing levels here.

But Cartier haven’t forgotten their most iconic watch; the Tank, this year there were three introductions, here is my favourite, a revised version of the classic in a very slim case, only 5.4mm deep using a 2.1mm thick Piaget movement.

Undoubtedly the most popular introduction on the Tank range, this year, was the completely new Tank Anglaise (English Tank), which completes the trio of nationally named models after the Tank Francaise and the Tank Americaine. The relevance of these three countries is that they are where each of the three Cartier brothers owned a store, Paris, London & New York.

And in the ladies’ versions is what seems to be the offspring between the Tank and the Crash, the Tank Folie.

But, if you are bored with looking at diamond watches once again, how about this:

But I will close with what I think is the most amazing piece of work, a Santos XL with a dial showing horse’s head executed in multi colour micro mosaic.

You can agree or disagree with me over my choice of Brand of the Shows, but I don’t think you can call these watches anything other than exquisite craftsmanship.

In closing, I want to extend my thanks to Tony P who shot almost all of the gorgeous images you see, exclusively for TZ.

Read more
Guess where I was yesterday? by JAMES DOWLING

Hi All;

I was on a flight at 7am yesterday, then a 45 min train ride through some stunning countryside.

Past some amazing scenery.

Then a short walk around a medieval town.

I had been here on quite a few previous occasions, but i had never before noticed this.

Oh yes, and I had lunch with this fine gent.

Got to play with his watch.

Then a little later got to play with this one.

Keep an eye out for my full blog post about the visit.

Read more

Surprising: Rolex Sky Dweller

The first, and surely the biggest surprise is that Rolex have made an Annual Calendar watch. I can’t even begin to list the number of times I have heard Rolex folk tell me that they had no interest in this market; that they knew what they were good at, and they were happy to cede that business to the specialists.

Rolex are famously tight lipped about forthcoming introductions & they took no chance that information on this new watch would slip out, even moments prior to the official Basel launch, just have a look at their stand 45 minutes before the launch. Not only is the area near the windows secured with barriers & tape, but the actual watches have little cloth condoms on them, and the name plates are inverted, so that the face is on the bottom of the vitrine. Nothing was left to chance.

But detailed investigation shows that the annual calendar has been in the Rolex gunsights for almost twenty years, the first patent they bought for this complication was initially filed in 1996. Then they developed this patent further with improvements and adaptations, subsequently filing patents in both 2003 and 2005. But the real genius move from Rolex was to take these innovations and combine them with the ‘Ring Command System’, first seen on the Yachtmaster II, where the rotating bezel becomes an important part of the setting system of the watch.

This enabled Rolex to offer an annual calendar without any of the push pieces normally needed for setting such a complicated watch, thereby ensuring that the watch would have the same level of depth protection as the rest of the line.

But, to me, what was even more surprising was that the watches I saw and handled at Basel were fully working models. I can hear many of you going ‘Huh?’ at this revelation, but the truth is that Rolex only ever show non-working display models at Basel, always set to 10:10:28 on the 28th of the month.

I assume that these display pieces have movements inside them because they weigh the same as the production pieces, but after almost two decades of visiting the Rolex stand at Basel, I had never seen a working watch previously. And this wasn’t just a working watch, it was the most complicated watch that Rolex have ever manufactured, and every one of them on the stand was not only working, but was being put through all of its functions several times every hour, in order to demonstrate it to the eager clients and the press.

The watch has met almost unanimous praise, the few criticisms centring on the price; come on folks, did anyone think that it was going to be cheap? Others have commented that they don’t like either the decentred 24 hour ring or the mix of Arabic and Roman numerals. Frankly I fail to see their problems, the applied Roman figure dial has been in the Rolex catalogue for years, so are they suggesting that the 24 hour ring should also be in Romans? Anyone here know what 23 looks like in Roman, it’s XXIII, plenty of space for that on the little hour ring; right! As to the decentred hour ring, no-one complains when Breguet or A. Lange makes it an integral part of their design. I am sorry but If that is all that folks can find to complain about, then it looks like Rolex have really got it right this time; which ISN’T surprising.

Read more

Today I saw two more women wearing Daytonas in Everose, one with the new ceramic bezel and one conventional one.

And it suddenly occurred to me that I haven’t actually seen one of these on the wrist of a man, but on probably 20 or more women’s’ wrists.

Anyone else noticed this?

Read more

Hi All,

I am wearing a tennis player watch.

It is truly unbelievable just how light this watch is, I think if I dropped it in the bath, it would float.

Please forgive the rather imperfect wrist shot, there was more than the normal amount of one handed camera shake today.

RM027 Rafael Nadal Tourbillon

Read more

From his workbench in Santa Barbara, master clockmaker David Walter provides TimeZone with an exclusive first look at his latest precision masterpiece – a Double Pendulum Clock with Perpetual Calendar. This precision clock has a double pendulum. When two pendulums hang on the same, non-rigid mounting frame, they swing in anti-phase (ie, swing in opposite directions) and slight errors in the period of oscillation of one pendulum are corrected by the other. The result is amazingly accurate timekeeping.

Further details to follow these brief descriptions and early photographs. In the meantime, please enjoy:

Below are photos from the workbench of the parts that comprise the George Daniels patent, including the individual component parts, the assembled parts and a side view of one of the movements.


The perpetual movement components, separately


The perpetual movement components, assembled

The Instantaneous Change work comprises of: 5 cocks, 2 levers, 3 pivoted ratchets, 5 steel springs, 18 screws, 6 jewels, 1 cam, 3 ratchet star wheels and 1 eccentric banking screw. The movement side view shows a little more perspective of how the Instantaneous Change work is fitted and finished, this is all on the right hand side of the movement. The steel cam for lifting and changing the date can be seen through the opening in the plate at 6 o’clock.

Thank you, David! See you soon.

Read more

Hi All;

A while ago, I wrote about why I go to Basel, the post is just below.

I realised this year that this was my 16th or 17th Basel, my visits have expanded from my initial two-day jaunts to six days this year and I began to question to myself ‘What is the point, anymore?’

When I first began going, the job was all about being there for the first moments of opening day, dashing to the Rolex, Patek & Omega stands, grabbing quick digital photographs, picking up the press packs and running up to the Press Room, hoping to score one of the half dozen or so internet enabled computers and posting the news here on TZ. But now the news is available on the brands’ websites the moment the show opens (and sometimes even before then), they all send full press releases to Jorge and better images and more detailed technical information often appears on TZ before I can have my first meeting. So, why bother?

The answer is ‘Because of everything EXCEPT the stuff in the press releases’; by which I mean the chance to exchange information/rumours/gossip with insiders, who range from company CEOs and brand suppliers, to other journalists. Obviously company CEOs are hardly likely to gossip about their own brand, but as they are well ensconced within the industry they are often the best source of info on their competitors, whilst suppliers can tell you who has increased or reduced their orders and so provide confirmation of rumours whilst (let’s be honest here) the journalists are always the best sources of rumours, gossip & scandals.

One of the other reasons to go to the shows, especially Basel is that it is the best place to stumble across stuff you never even knew existed from firms that you have never heard of. Proof of this is that my watch of the show is made of plastic, sells for under €200 and comes from a firm I had never heard of before I stumbled across their booth whilst I was looking for another firm.

The final reason to go is that it is only by attending the shows that you can get an overview of the industry, to spot rising trends, to see which brands are on the rise, and whose star is on the decline. But more than anything, being there allows you to see the reality behind the press releases, to handle the watches themselves and not be swayed by the photoshopped images the brands provide. Handling the watches is really important, as no matter how much we try and rationalise our purchasing decisions by talking about ‘heritage’, accuracy and ‘craftsmanship’; the truth is that we buy watches with our hearts not our heads and it is only by putting a watch on your wrist that you can feel any connection with one. And it is important for you to know that this connection will work differently with every person and every watch, so a watch I consider to be one of my favourites might well be one you hate. So my subsequent reports on the shows are simply my opinion and, as such, worth exactly what you paid for them.

So, bearing all this in mind, I am writing my reports on both shows and breaking it down into five categories:

Superb; things that just knocked me out
Surprising; stuff I never expected
Serendipitous; the ‘stumbled upon’ stuff
Same old same old; what more needs to be said
Stupid; see above

That was my post of a few weeks ago, so here I go with the first of my reports, this one is on the new watch from Roger Dubuis, the Pulsion.

Superb: Roger Dubuis Pulsion.

At the SIHH they launched a new model called the ‘Pulsion’, a sporty chronograph utilising the new movement introduced last year in the Monagasque. I can hear you all thinking, “Well that sounds more like ‘Same old, same old’ than ‘Superb’”, but hear me out. Whilst the movement in the Pulsion may be last year’s news, the rest of the watch certainly isn’t; it is little less than a total reimagining of how you build a watch.

Looking at the image above, it is difficult to understand what I am talking about, it looks pretty much like any recent Roger Dubuis chronograph, but instead of the straight on shot, have a look at this side view.

And you realise that it has neither a dial nor a bezel, the tachymeter graduations are on the underside of the sapphire crystal and the 12 and 6 numerals are actually attached to the main movement plate. The sapphire crystal is attached to the case by six ‘Tork’ screws, (the same type as used by Richard Mille), enabling the watch to be made waterproof to 100m despite the absence of a bezel. The most bizarre fact about the watch is that because the numerals are applied directly to the movement they have to be finished to the same Geneva Seal standards as the rest of the watch. This means that the numerals need to be finished with anglage, perlage and Cotes de Geneve before black PVD is applied and then they are screwed on to the movement plate.

Speaking of the Geneva Seal, Dubuis are still the only manufacturer whose entire output is Genva Seal certified.

Turning my eyes to the case, it is an amazing assembly of surfaces and finishes, it is a three piece design, with the matt upper section fitted into the polished case centre, the sapphire fitted above them both & the whole thing held together with the Tork screws, which form an important part of the case design. Note how the pushers are integrated into the crown protecting shoulders and how the shoulders are mirrored on the other side of the watch but in a slimmer form. Not so easily seen is how the 0 to 60 numbers are engraved into the reverse of the glass & then the resulting void is filled with Superluminova. I particularly like how only the arrowhead tips of the hands are luminous, with the main body of the hands being open, this allows the subsidiary registers to be read clearly no matter where the hour and minute hands are on the dial, thereby solving one of the main problems with analogue chronographs.

I had the good fortune to sit down with Lionel Favre, who is the head designer for the firm & whose initial drawings for the watch are shown below.

Looking at the drawing you can clearly see the multi layered three-dimensional effect of the various levels, which give the watch great presence, I also like the way the rubber strap is integrated into the overall design of the watch and how it is moulded to give the impression of a metal bracelet formed from links. It is the spacing between these ‘links’ which enables an otherwise quite thick strap to be very flexible and conform to the wrist perfectly. The way the rubber strap fits into the case pays homage to the three lug design of the previous RD designs, it is little, easily ignored, details like this which carry the ‘Brand DNA’ from the old designs to the new.

Go back and look at the drawing again, notice something really unusual about it? It is a drawing NOT a computer rendering, which makes this watch (and all of Dubuis’ new models) very different from almost all other current watch firms; Lionel designs his watches the old way, with a pen & a pad, not on a screen, unlike the movement department, who utilise the latest technology.

It is this mixture of old fashioned craftsmanship, remember what I said about every watch they make being Geneva Seal certified and the very latest in technology, (having spent a couple of days at their factory I can affirm that it is one of the most technologically advanced ones I have ever seen) that makes Roger Dubuis unique in today’s horological world.

The watch is 44mm diameter, but wears smaller when on the wrist & the very flexible rubber strap and the titanium case combine to make it a very easy and comfortable piece to wear; considering the quality of workmanship in both the case & the movement, it is comparatively inexpensive at 35,000 Swiss francs for the titanium model. In a lengthy interview with George Kern, the firm’s CEO, he said that the only way for Dubuis to survive was to charge the same price as the other high end Swiss companies, but offer a lot more. And this watch certainly does, with its in house Geneva Seal automatic chronograph movement and unique case construction; it isn’t a watch for everyone, and (in truth) I probably wouldn’t wear one, but that doesn’t stop me admiring the watch & what Richemont are doing with the company now and that is why it is one of two watches this year that I will file under the heading ‘superb’.

Read more

To anyone who has heard of the Battle of Britain, the name Biggin Hill airfield will strike a chord and I am sure that with its aeronautic connections it was no accident that Breitling chose this particular airport from which to transport a few English based watch writers to their factory last week. I was fortunate enough to be included in the group and the following is my report on a day out with Breitling.
I arrived at the terminal of Jet Aviation (incidentally, a Geneva based firm) around 7am; somewhat early for our planned 8:15 departure and, by 7:30, the rest of the party had turned up and, looking out the window we could see our plane being readied.

We looked longingly at the big executive jet, but knew already that it was the small twin turboprob Beech that would be carrying us to Switzerland. However, I have to emphasize that the choice of plane was not because Breitling were trying to save money, rather it was because they were trying to save us time. The normal way to get to the Jura based watchmakers is to fly to Geneva and then a two hour drive to the Jura. But there is a small airstrip called les eplatures which is less than a mile from Breiling’s factory (and Patek’s and Panerai’s and Catier’s and Tag Heuer’s and………… well, you get the picture). So that was where we were heading.

Taxiing out to the runway, we passed this Avro 148 jetliner.

Note the F1 logo on the tail, it is Bernie Ecclestone’s personal plane

The idea of a private plane is perhaps more alluring than the reality, as essentially it was like being in the back of a VW Golf for 2 hours, albeit with the occasional glass of champagne.

But, after what was a remarkably swift and smooth flight, we landed at the strip, which is one of the highest in Europe, situated as it is amidst the Jura mountain range, separating France from Switzerland.

When we deplaned, what was the first sight to catch our eyes?

And, as we walked to the terminal, we passed a small hanger; I (of course) could not resist poking my nose inside.

Once in the terminal we had to wait whilst the Swiss immigration & customs guys checked our passports and phoned HQ to make sure that we were not persona non grata, then it was into our waiting minibus and a 2 minute drive to what looked like a deserted farmhouse where we were decanted. We tried the door but it was locked tight, so I wandered around and took a few images.

At the other end of a huge meadow were a few industrial building:

When I zoomed in on them, I was able to see a sign the same colour yellow as the field of dandelions.

Then we were summoned inside the building, which was now open; we stooped to enter through the low door and found ourselves inside a quite small but very, very high room, with an open fire against one wall.

There was no actual chimney, but high above the fire was an opening in the ceiling.

Then a gentleman in what can best be described as a colourful outfit joined us and explained (in French) the history of the building.

He explained that the lack of a fireplace and chimney was due to the fact that the room was used as a smokehouse, to preserve meats and cheeses made during the short summer to be eaten during the long cold winters. He then began to play on an instrument that he just happened to have with him.

After a couple of Swiss tunes, he then surprised us with the Sinatra tune, ‘Strangers in the Night’ and when he had finished he pointed us to the table in the middle of the room where an implement almost as strange as his alpenhorn was sitting there.

It was a device for filling four absinthe glasses at once; yes, absinthe at 11am (although for us Brits it was actually 10am), I had a sip or two, not wanting to ruin any more of my brain and realizing that I had a factory tour and an interview ahead of me. After the rest of the party had taken refills we wandered through to another room in the house where Jean-Paul Girardin, whose title is Vice President of Breitling, but who is (to all extents) the COO of the firm, responsible for the day to day running of the business.

We sat round the table with him and whilst an excellent four course lunch was served, with copious amounts of wine, the food played second place to the Q & A session with M. Girardin. We got a lot of information from him about production numbers and plans, but the stuff I loved were the almost incidental anecdotes he told us. For example did you know that Breitling was a major supplier to the RAF during WWII, but not for watches; rather for cockpit clocks, during the six years of WWII, they provided over 100,000 of them. Delivery was not to the UK, but rather to a long torchlit meadow adjacent to the factory where RAF Mosquitos would land on moonless nights. Factory workers would carry boxes of clocks on stretchers down to the waiting planes where they would then be loaded into the empty bomb bays and then the Mosquitos would scoot back across occupied France, too fast for the German night fighters to bring their precious cargo to UK.

This is one of those cockpit clocks, although supplied by Breitling’s US importer to the US Army Air Corps during WWII.

Most watch firms have a design department that deals with the look of the watches and a marketing department that handles all the retail and advertising images. Breitling has both functions handled by one person, Theodore (Teddy) Schneider, the owner of the company and so retains a consistent image.

Like most brands, they are heavily into Boutique openings, but unlike most brands with Boutiques, they have decided NOT to do high end limited editions, which means that their co-operation with Renaud & Papi (who made all the tourbillon Bentley watches) is now at an end. Although the Breitling by Bentley line DOES continue and new models for the line are planned.

They currently make around 150,000 watches a year with about 40,000 of them having their in house calibres, the plan is to bring this up to 50,000 in the next year or so and to double this number in two or three years.

Then it was time to head back to our minibus (and M. Girardin to head to his Porsche) and for is all to visit the factory; which was around a kilometer away.

Inside we were greeted by the bizarre sight of three busts of Leon Brietling, the firm’s founder in contrasting pastel shades.

We were then ushered into a small conference room where the walls displayed the history of the brand, both in vintage advertisements and examples of the actual watches in those adverts.

The most interesting advertisement to me was this one, dating from the 1940s, showing a range of Brietling chronographs and their chronometer certificates.

I knew that currently Breitling submit all of their watches for COSC certification, but I was utterly unaware that they submitted them over 60 years ago.
We were ushered down the corridors, which were decorated with aviation themed art on the walls, to the actual watchmaking area.

As is normal with every factory visit I have been on (with the notable exception of Seiko) we were not allowed to take any photographs during the tour of the watchmaking, testing and assembly areas. So the best I can offer is this image of M. Girardin in the stores area.

The large blue boxes contain parts from either suppliers or from other factories within the company; one of the most amazing things I learned about the firm is that they have designed their own containers to transport parts, modules, movements and watches between departments and factories.

This unremarkable yellow box, splits into two to reveal shelves each capable of holding interchangeable holders.

You can see how the little modules inside the frame/shelf are of different sizes and configurations so as to accept the different parts, and as the modules can click in and out of the frame/shelf, it means that each part is perfectly located and secured during transport.

Once the two parts are clicked together, the yellow wheel in the centre is turned to lock them together. If they put this much effort and ingenuity into a box to hold parts, just think about what goes into the watches!

M. Garardin placed much emphasis on the extra effort needed to get a movement through the COSC tests and how this extra effort has enabled the firm to give all their new watches a five-year warranty.

Small local suppliers supply all the dials, hands, bracelets and cases and Breitling makes a point of at least double sourcing every one of these, so that a problem with one supplier will not result in a halt in production.

Despite the fact that we were not permitted to photograph anywhere during the factory visit, I saw nothing that could not have been publicly displayed, the attention to cleanliness was as impressive as any factory I have seen and the testing area was one of the best. Their use of the latest technology; multi axis drilling machines, automated parts delivery and high magnification video for balance wheel checking were amongst the most advanced I have seen.

I was thoroughly impressed with everything I saw, and one thing in particular made me smile; I have never seen as many Leitz microscopes in one place in my life, and they weren’t there for show, at least 50% of the ones I saw were in use by workers checking parts for consistency. This is obviously a company who want to be 110% sure that a watch is perfect when it leaves the factory.

Then, it was back to the minibus and the airstrip where our trusty Beech awaited us, however parked next to it, like a guard of honour, was one of Breitling’s fleet of aerobatic planes.

Read more

Hi All;

There was Edward Heuer (Jack’s father) and this Valjoux powered chronograph was made under his reign, most likely just after WWII.

Read more

Hi All;

The downturn in orders from the Far East is starting to have an effect in the Swiss watch industry, today two of the smaller suppliers, a dial maker and a bracelet maker announced layoffs. The totals involved are less than 20 employees, but the smaller suppliers are at the bottom end of the ‘food chain’ and the first to feel any effects when the brands (who are their clients) start to reduce their production estimates.

James

Read more
A Moment with Dominique Fléchon, Author of ‘The Mastery of Time’

A conversation in May 2012 by Jessica

The Foundation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) recently hosted a cocktail reception to launch “The Mastery of Time” by French author Dominique Fléchon, an historian and expert in antiquarian horology. The 456-page tome divides the major breakthroughs in watchmaking in six thoroughly researched chapters. During the book signing, and with the assistance of his translator, the author shared his thoughts about his latest project.


Dominique Fléchon author of ‘The Mastery of Time’

TimeZone (TZ): It’s a pleasure to meet you. Having read several of your books, it seems ‘The Mastery of Time’ is your opus. How long did it take to write the book?

Dominique Fléchon (DF): Thank you. Yes, it’s a big story. The fundamental parallel between human progress and time-measuring progress, this was no small undertaking. It is the result of six years of research.

TZ: Sounds like a tremendous effort.

DF: No other work has been published on the topic since the 1950s.

TZ: Although it’s newly launched in the US, I understand that ‘Mastery’ has already been cited in American proceedings as a reference.

DF: I’m not surprised at all. Since its publication, I’ve learned that it was used as a reference in legal proceedings in Geneva. It has been well received by all accounts.

TZ: And this is not merely a history book or treatise. There is a philosophical theme about humankind in relationship to the concept of ‘time’ itself. Is this right?

DF: Definitely, yes. It’s a story of where do we come from and where are we going. In the first chapter, we begin at a point where time measurement is simply consciousness of a determined moment of the day. Then we see humankind’s progress and the unfolding of civilisation. Since the first civilisations were agricultural, time measurement is with non-mechanical tools; astronomical devices that rely upon celestial bodies such as the sun or moon. Then we see a succession of scientific discovery and invention of time devices that sometimes directly help human progress.

TZ: It’s about us trying to make sense of the world?

DF: [laughs] Yes, exactly.

TZ: So time measurement began with the origins of humankind?

DF: We can say that time measuring began to exist at the moment humankind became aware that it had a past, present and future. And so yes, the history of horology begins with the origins of humankind.

TZ: Fascinating. Thank you very much Dominique. We have a TimeZone tradition to enquire about the timepiece being worn. May I ask what are you wearing?

DF: Yes, when the FHH was founded, we had these pendant watches made. I often wear mine on my lapel. And I am also wearing a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso chronograph.


Dominique Fléchon signing ‘Mastery of Time’ at a cocktail reception at Adour Alain Ducasse


The FHH pendant watch styled after a vintage cyclists watch


Dominique Fléchon shares a TimeZone wristshot of his JLC Reverso Chronograph Retrograde

About the book 
Mastery of Time
ISBN-10: 2080200801
ISBN-13: 978-2080200808
Dominique Fléchon, Author
Franco Cologni, Foreward 
Publisher: Flammarion (January 10, 2012)
456 pages with 400 colour illustrations 
Printed in Italy 
List price $100.00

Read more

I should begin by confessing my earliest admiration for François-Paul Journe’s work, although this is no secret to anyone here who knows me. I first enjoyed a teaser sampler of François-Paul’s “Steel Time” collection in New York City back in late 2005, timed to coincide with the world-wide launch of the Sonnerie Souveraine (the first Journe steel watch and the Grand Prix d’Genève “The Golden Hand” top prize winner in 2006-to be followed in 2008 by the introduction of the Journe steel Répétition Souveraine). I admit that back then, the Sonnerie Souveraine stole the show and most everyone’s attention, but I never forgot the impact of the Steel Time examples displayed, thanks in large part to the Journe commissioned hard cover book written insightfully by renowned watch/clock historians Jean-Claude Sabrier and Georges Rigot to accompany the collection. It is a thoughtful and informative tome about the epoch and these watches, illustrated vividly with photography. Yet, as any watch collector knows, there is nothing like seeing a watch or a collection of 200 (many are unique pieces) in the flesh, or in this case, (pun intended) gunmetal.

The exhibit traces the apparition of these watches flowing from the exploitation of the newly discovered cutting-age material of that day, mislabeled gunmetal by the English. The highlights include historical creations, including, for instance, the engraved military academy watch of Captain Alfred Dreyfus.

– Marcel Philippe

Read more

The 2011 TimeZone Watch of the Year is the Grönefeld One Hertz

Finalists for the award represent a selection of the best timepieces of the year as chosen through a two-step voting process by TimeZone moderators. The winner is chosen exclusively by the TimeZone community, the world’s largest community of wristwatch enthusiasts. Voting commenced on February 11, 2012 and concluded at noon GMT on February 28, 2012. The TimeZone community selected the Grönefeld One Hertz as this year’s winner. To see how the community voted, please visit the 2011 TimeZone Watch of the Year Forum.

TimeZone Watch of the Year, Grönefeld One Hertz, world's largest wristwatch community, largest watch forum

TimeZone Watch of the Year, Grönefeld One Hertz, world's largest wristwatch community largest watch forum

Dutch watchmakers Tim and Bart Gronefeld presented in 2011 the “One Hertz”, the world’s first and only production wristwatch with independent dead seconds (secondes morte in French). The One Hertz features Grönefeld own proprietary movement and indicates hours and minutes on a sub-dial at 2 o’clock; large sub-dial for the dead seconds; power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock; and an innovative setting-winding indicator at 3 o’clock. Setting-winding is ergonomically selected by pushing the crown in rather than pulling it out. Dead seconds – where the second hand advances in full steps of one second instead of an apparently smooth sweeping action. The Grönefeld “One Hertz” is unique among wristwatches in that its dead seconds are powered by a secondary gear train independent of the gear train for the hour and minute indications.

Specifications
Case dimensions: 43 mm x 12.5 mm
Sapphire crystals: top domed with antireflective treatment both sides, display back with antireflective treatment inside.
Water resistance: 3atm/30m/100 feet.
Crown: Stainless steel or rose gold with engraved “G” logo
Dial: hour and minutes subdial, raised seconds sapphire subdial
(transparent over the hour and minute subdial), power reserve
indicator, setting-winding indicator, Grönefeld logo and model name on individual screwed down nameplates.
Movement: Calibre: G-02, mechanical hand winding, independent dead seconds, power reserve Indicator and setting indicator.
No. of parts: 285 parts
Power reserve: 72 hours
Dead seconds mechanism: independent mechanism, cam with 30 teeth on the going gear train on the second’s wheel, escape wheel on the seconds wheel of the independent gear train, double lever with jewelled pallets.

Read more
Interview with Jan-Patrick Schmitz, President of Montblanc N.A.

MS: Michael Sandler – TimeZone.com
JPS: Jan-Patrick Schmitz – Montblanc

MS: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. Would you please tell us a little about yourself and your background in the industry, and how you came to Montblanc?

Jan-Patrick Schmitz
JPS: I joined Montblanc in Hamburg in 1994 as the Controller for Asia Pacific. I moved to Asia in 1996 and became the President and CEO of Montblanc Japan. I had an appreciation for timepieces, but I would not describe myself as having been a watch collector at the time. With my first salary, I bought my first quality watch, from a German company – a Chronoswiss Regulator.

In 1997, while I was in Japan as President and CEO, we launched our watches. I stayed in Japan until 2002 and, in 2003, I moved to the Unites States to take over the position I am in today as the President and CEO of Montblanc North America.

MS: For a long time, Montblanc has been known as a writing instrument brand. How was the decision made to evolve the brand to the point where you were producing watches as well?

JPS: You asked me to speak a little about brand evolution. When I go back in time to 1994, prior to timepieces, when we were primarily a writing instrument brand, we sat down and had a global strategy meeting where we developed a strategy called Concentric Circles, and looked at where the brand wanted to go. The reason for this was actually quite simple. We were already a global market leader in writing instruments, but the writing instrument world had changed from being purely a tool which was used in the office every day to an accessory used to write notes, etc., since you would no longer hand-write letters and memos. As a market leader and in order to grow, we knew that we had to expand our line beyond writing instruments, while also strengthening our premium writing instrument positioning.

As part of the Concentric Circles strategy, we wanted to develop our product portfolio and widen our distribution to products that made sense for us. So the next step was to go into desk accessories and products focused around writing. Being that we were a masculine brand (which is not a male brand…there is a big difference; a good comparison would be Porsche, which is a masculine brand with powerful luxury cars, but women love it just as much as men do), we added products like cufflinks. Then in 1997 came the big second pillar, watches. Watches have a lot of product DNA similarities to writing instruments. Both are precious. Both are tools. Both are analog. Both are traditional technologies crafted by hand. Both are collectible items. Both are purchased or received to commemorate significant moments. And finally, both writing instruments and watches are handed down to the next generation and can be appreciated for many lifetimes. This is why we made that decision.

In 1997, the Swiss watch world was looking at us regarding this decision. I remember a joke from SIHH, when the watches were introduced. The President and CEO of Montblanc Worldwide was asked by a journalist: “Where do you put the ink?” and everyone in the room laughed. But we knew we were on the right track for all of the reasons which I discussed before.

Also important is our brand heritage and the fact that we are a craftsmanship brand. This is, of course, the same with watches. Although we are part of the Richemont Group, we decided to set up our own manufacturing. We certainly learned a great deal from our other colleagues and brands about watch making, but we started this endeavor not just to have watches with our name on them, but to become a watch brand and to learn how to make fabulous watches.

MS: As you moved into watches, what was the evolution from the early pieces to the point where you were producing watches more as a true manufacture, using in-house movements?

JPS: The first pieces we produced really looked like a Montblanc pen, as though you took the pen and brought it into the shape of a watch. There was some criticism from watch collectors, at that time, that our watches were too much like our pens. This was not by accident, though, or because we had a lack of creativity, but rather it was done because we knew we had to speak initially to the Montblanc enthusiast. At the beginning, strategically, we were not looking to inspire watch collectors but, rather, we were working to inspire Montblanc collectors. By getting them on to the wrists of people, we created some initial momentum, and we have gradually grown over the years to become appealing to a broader audience.

From the beginning, it was always our desire and our strategy and our focus to come out at the right time with our own movement. So we started this knowing that one day we would have our own movement and our own watch, which is the Nicolas Rieussec. When people think of the brand, we want them to know that this is genuine European craftsmanship, with a pure philosophy.

We knew we had a couple of years’ time before we actually had to come out with our own movement. As time progressed, a big and important line for us was the TimeWalker line, which we launched in the early 2000’s. That was probably the first one which, in America, stood out in terms of recognition, from an aesthetics point of view. We created a recognizable face. If you look at watch brands and at watches in general, you really see two broad areas. One is the whole notion of complication and movement and this is, of course, where you find the collectors’ focus and the TimeZone readers’ focus. There is also the area of brand and aesthetics, and buying a quality, nice, great looking, reliable Swiss watch.

This, as I mentioned, was all continuing while we prepared for the Nicolas Rieussec. We knew that this watch would be one of the few historic milestones that any watch company can have. For example, when in 1924, we introduced the black Meisterstück pen and, 85+ years later, it is still here. We knew that in a hundred years, when our great grandchildren are standing at SIHH, that piece will be the one that people will see in the historical showcase. We also wanted to create a design which is definitely unique. This is another thing we especially believe in. If you take any successful watch brand out there, aficionados and collectors will associate a piece with that brand. Think Cartier, close your eyes, most will see the Tank Francaise visually, despite the fact that there are many other beautiful and well selling Cartier watches. The same is true for any other brand. So we knew that from the topic of the dial and the aesthetics which would be part of the DNA that is carried forward, we had to do something unique. That is, for instance, where the smiling bridge came from. We knew we had to create a link to the roots of the brand. We are the world leader in writing instruments. We are a craftsmanship brand. We are a manufacture brand in all the various aspects in which we operate.

Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph, hand-wound
Click image to see full-size
We did a lot of research and then we came across the wonderful facts around the invention of the chronograph and Nicolas Rieussec. Of course, the term chronograph (chronos – time; graph – writing), “time-writer”, is an emotional linkage between pens and watches. And that’s where we knew the conceptual basis for the watch. From there, once we had the concept, we moved into the technical part of it, where we had to develop our own movement, and we wanted it to serve a function. So we looked at things like the twin barrel and how to add useful functionality to the watch, even though at the time we did not want to go into the ultra-high complications because it is a milestone which would endure for hundreds of years. The chronograph, in addition to its linkage to writing, is a practical and sought after complication.

We developed the movement and we developed the design. We tried to make it a coherent watch which fulfills all of these aspects and which would “Wow!” everyone. It would be a watch we could be very proud of, the same way we are proud of our Meisterstück pens.

Montblanc Caliber R100 (manual winding) and R200 (automatic winding)
Click images to see full-size

MS: You also have, as part of your collection, the beautiful Villeret line. Can you speak a little about that particular line, and the Minerva acquisition?

Minerva Caliber 16-29
Click image to see full-size
JPS: In life, as well in business, in order to be a success, you need a few ingredients. One is determination. Another is a strong plan and to focus on it. The third component is luck. That luck really appeared when the Richemont Group had the opportunity to acquire Minerva. I was personally not involved, so I cannot speak about all the intricacies involved in that. As I mentioned, we had started our brand evolution in the 1990’s. Given the nature of our company and our history, we also wanted to play in the league of the best. So when we were able to acquire Minerva, from the beginning, we knew and fully understood the philosophy and the character of the manufacture.

Villeret Chronographe Email Grand Feu
Click image to see full-size
Looking at the history, the assets, the people, and the skills…they were a special manufacture. The skill level is second to none. Knowing that, we had a match. From the beginning, it was very clear that we respected and wanted to maintain the history. Therefore, we made a couple of very important decisions. The first was that every movement reads “Villeret”. The case reads Montblanc as well as the dial; all the emblems on the watch read Montblanc and it became the Montblanc Villeret collection, but the movement says “Villeret”.

As you know, in Villeret, we make over 90% of all the pieces that go into these watches. They are actually done in-house. There is a tremendous amount of skill there but we have to be sure this continues. You have to sit down today and plan for the future by understanding where the manufacture will be in eight years, or fifteen years, so we are actually prepared for the future. That was the second step, after we made the decision to maintain the history. We speak proudly of it and communicate it. After all, it is a wonderful, pure manufacture, which specialists and collectors know about but which everyone should know about.

The third step is that we want to show innovation, as we are doing today in our writing instruments. We want to bring amazing new movements. We want to inspire and excite and to maintain this heritage by showing new technical ideas. So why do all this? At some point in the not-too-distant future, watches will actually be the biggest part of our business.

MS: Would it be possible for you to give us some information about your total annual watch production?

JPS: I’m afraid we do not publish those numbers. We have two manufacturing facilities, in Le Locle and in Villeret. Le Locle is already going through its third expansion. It is where the Rieussecs are produced, along with the TimeWalkers and the other collections. And then, of course, we have Villeret, where we have done what we can to respect and maintain what was already there. If you go there now, you will see that we restored what was there. We preserve the place and, at the same time, train new generations of people who craft these watches, in the same way it was done back then.

Montblanc facility in Le Locle
Click images to see full-size

MS: What is your view of the U.S. Watch market? Do you see this market, and it’s appreciation for high end watches, growing? Do you see the market becoming more aware of the higher end watch brands like Montblanc?

JPS: There are a couple of really important points here. If you look at the really big picture, there are some fundamental differences in the markets. If you take Europe and America….in Europe you have what I call a lot of “inherited understanding” of luxury things. It means that people grow up in families where there is already familiarity. For example, my great-grandfather had an IWC pocket watch from the 1920’s which he then handed down; you grow up over generations with people having that exposure. There’s a culture of inheritance.

If you look at America, it is more a culture of achievement. There are people here who, when they are successful, they start appreciating fine things. They will go out and try to find what they can enjoy with the achievements they have made. There are a couple of implications. The first is that we have a much higher need to educate the consumers here. I knew what IWC was when I was four years old. Obviously, I didn’t appreciate the value, but my grandfather had one, and my father had one, and they told me that one day I might have one. Here, I think that element is missing.

Then you have the pricing issue. Prices are only a big issue when there is a lack of understanding of the value behind them; the value of creation; the value of history; the value of craftsmanship, etc. This creates an environment in need of education more than in most other markets.

There ultimately is a strong development of pure symbolism. So what does that mean? If you take the Swiss watch market by and large, you have the sophisticated collectors (like the TimeZone community) and then you have the brand-minded consumer. I don’t mean that disrespectfully in any form or shape. These are people who want a good product which is recognizable and understood and is of great quality. They buy it as a symbol of achievement. They don’t buy it because they are fascinated by the mechanical movement which has hundreds of pieces that are made by hand. This is the type of consumer that is in America. For the most part, the proportion of “brand buyer” versus “collector” is larger in America, and I believe that it will be so for a long time.

If you look at the collectors, America is also special. When you look at only that group, the American collector base is, by and large, much more knowledgeable and much more serious than most others. Once they get into it (and that’s the result of all that education), they are very intense. Asia is very different because it always had a high appreciation for craftsmanship, both in the Chinese and Japanese cultures. There is also a lot of brand consciousness there as well. In America, over the last forty to sixty years, our society has turned somewhat away from manufacturing and has become more service- oriented and high-tech oriented. The level of appreciation for sophisticatedly creative things (for example, fine furniture with beautiful wood joints, where not a single nail is used, etc.) is not there for the average American.

To finish this thought…if you look at the total population, wealth and potential, America is a vastly under-developed market, not only for us, but as an industry. The second thing, of course, is that the balance between the collector watch customer and the brand watch customer is very focused on the brand, and this creates a large potential as well. Once a customer understands and appreciates what goes into it, then Americans are the best customers to have. They are very loyal and willing to spend money. There is a thirst for information, which helps shape the customer.

MS: Given that Montblanc is part of a larger organization, Richemont, can you speak to what you see as the advantages and disadvantages of such an arrangement?

JPS: I will speak candidly here, even though it might not sound like I am doing so. I truly believe, irrespective of the fact that I am on the payroll, that Richemont has a close to perfect setup. The leadership of Richemont often speaks of the need to maintain the heritage of the companies and brands, and to actually avoid too much talk about all of our “family ties”. Of course, if you are a collector or very knowledgeable about the industry, then you immediately know about all these family ties; we don’t promote them. The overwhelming majority of customers, outside the collectors, don’t know how we are connected.

That is really important, because people buy a brand when that brand is pure and true. A Montblanc really looks like a Montblanc. A Montblanc really feels like a Montblanc. It is a Montblanc, and it is a little Teutonic. It is communicated that way. It is part of the heritage of our brand. The Swiss brands and the French brands have their own DNA as well.

The companies are like brothers who truly love each other, but we are competitive; that is part of our culture. At the end of the day, we have a drink together and celebrate our success. We do compete but there are tremendous advantages to being a part of a big group.

MS: What about the sharing of technical resources, new technologies, and/or talent? Does this happen within the Richemont group of companies?

JPS: I’m personally not that closely involved in that side of the business, so I can’t fully say. I know we have a friendly relationship, and that people move across brands and, of course, their knowledge goes along with them.

From a market point of view, I can tell you that we’ve consolidated all our customer care and after-sales services here in America. So you can see a very interesting structure of synergies and separatism at the same time. Certain parts are synergistic in terms of finishing, polishing, etc., but then you see teams of people who only work on the specific brands. For example, there is the head watchmaker for Montblanc and his team of watchmakers, and then there is a different team for IWC and all the other brands respectively. Of course, since they sit near each other, they talk and share their knowledge informally, even with the brand focused set-up and the training which goes across the brands.

Watchmakers at Montblanc in Le Locle
Click images to see full-size

In terms of distribution, we don’t go in as Richemont to a given jeweler and say: “Look, here is our stable of brands”. I represent Montblanc, and my colleagues from the other companies speak for their brand. Although you may be in the safety of a family, you still have to struggle your own struggle. I think it makes each brand stronger. I think, from a collector’s standpoint, you get a better product, because you get a passionate brand run by passionate people, rather than a big conglomerate.

MS: Given that we’re doing this interview for an internet based watch site, I’d like to ask you how you think the Internet has impacted the watch industry, and also where you think it is going over the coming years?

JPS: Particularly for collectors, it is the ultimate in terms of information distribution and really being able to share your passion. It is an amazing platform for connecting with fellow collectors and being able to exchange information and knowledge that would be impossible without the Internet.

I think all watch brands that care about what they are doing are now engaged in that world and are listening, because you can learn an awful lot from these collectors. This doesn’t always shape what you do, but it brings you into connection with a much larger group of people.

From a retailing point of view, the Internet is lending itself to destroying some of the value I was talking about earlier, and to making everything a commodity. In the end, because you are remote and just looking at pictures and words, it becomes a commodity. When things become a commodity, especially complicated watches which are passionate and emotional purchases, there is something missing. If you just have a picture sitting on your computer at home, you don’t get the full story.

By and large, though, I think the industry is learning to get the most out of it by thinking about how to communicate using the technology. I think there’s actually an exciting opportunity in using the abilities of these various platforms (iPad, iPhone, etc.) to convey information and to educate the customer. If you look at print advertising, it is very one dimensional. We are looking into ways that will allow you to actually dive into the movement, and to help you to visualize three dimensions on the screen. Eventually, to help overcome that lack of value appreciation, I think the power of the educational side can create value instead; but it’s truly a challenge.

I think a lot of brands in the beginning hoped that the Internet would simply go away. But it hasn’t, and they have had to make peace with it. Now it is a matter of making use of it in the right ways.

MS: We have a traditional final question here on TimeZone, so I will ask you as well. What watch are you wearing today?

JPS: This is my favorite watch that I have. It is the Nicolas Rieussec chronograph in rose gold. There are two things that I feel are important about this watch. First, it will be the one that I will pass down to my son one day and, second, it is a piece of history for me because I have been so involved with the brand and this particular watch. I love the uniqueness of both the complication as well as the design of it.

MS: Thank you so much for spending time speaking with me and for so candidly and openly sharing your thoughts with the participants on TimeZone.com.

Read more

A Virtual Preview: Highlights from Antiquorum NY’s 10 March Auction >>> Feb 14, 2011 – 11:23 PM Go to previous message
Dear Friends,

On March 10th, Antiquorum New York will hold its first auction of the year, the “Important Collectors’ Wristwatches, Pocket Watches & Clocks” Sale featuring:

* The star of the show – a unique, previously unknown Patek Philippe Minute Repeating wristwatch from a descendant of the original owner, retailed by Cartier
* Impressive, highly complicated Jaeger LeCoultre wristwatches, including a breathtaking Reverso Gyrotourbillon 2 in platinum and two Master Minute Repeaters
* Several modern and vintage Patek Philippe perpetual calendar wristwatches, including a ref. 3448, a rare ref. 3450/1 on bracelet, and 3940P

Included in this photo report are sound recordings of seven minute repeaters in this sale. Please click the photos below to hear them…

Part 4 of this report includes a selection of affordable and what I believe to be interesting watches available in this auction.

If you’re near an area where an auction preview will be held, I encourage you to make your way to a preview to see these superb watches. There are watches available at nearly all price ranges beginning at under $1000, and Antiquorum provides a welcoming preview environment that allows one to examine and try on so many different watches with no pressure to purchase.

Thanks to Nate Borgelt and Charles Tearle of Antiquorum NY who kindly assisted me in taking these photos for the TimeZone community.

Please forgive the fingerprints, dust marks, and less-than-ideal lighting. All photos were taken hand held using a Canon 5D Mark II, the Canon 100 mm f/2.8 macro lens, and a 580EX flash.

Lot 34: Christiaan van der Klaauw, Astrolabium 2000
Featuring an incredible astronomic dial with magnificent, hand-engraved hands, this highly complicated van der Klaauw indicates:
* Equinoctial time
* Local time
* Months
* Signs of the zodiac
* Elevation and azimuth of the sun and moon on the planisphere
* Diurnal and nocturnal hours
* Phase of the moon, and aspect of the sun and the moon in relation to each other
Made in 2005, the case houses a Jochen Benzinger hand-engraved and modified ETA 2824 movement, and measures 40 mm in diameter, with a thickness of 14.5 mm.

Estimate: $15,000 – 20,000

Lot 35: Manufacture Contemporaine Du Temps (MCT), Sequential One
A mesmerizing and impressive watch by the young, independent brand, MCT. Released in 2009, three years following the establishment of the brand, time is indicated using a complex and unique jump hour mechanism. Minutes are indicated on a 3/4 circle sapphire crystal dial that rotates at the change of every hour. Under the dial’s opening, the hours are indicated on revolving prisms, found at 12 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock, and 9 o’clock. The 18 karat rose gold cushion-shaped case measures 45 mm in diameter, with a thickness of 15 mm.

Estimate: $25,000 – 35,000

Lot 42: Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar, Ref. 5039
The ref. 5039 is an uncommon and discontinued Patek perpetual featuring a bezel that is decorated with two rows of “clous de Paris” engravings, similar to the famous ref. 3919 and ref. 5919 Calatravas. This 18 karat white gold example was made in 2000. The case measures 35 mm in diameter, with a thickness of 9 mm.

The cal. 240 self-winding movement can be seen through the snap-down sapphire crystal caseback…

Estimate: $25,000 – 35,000

Lot 51: Rolex Explorer, Ref. 1016 with “Tropical”, Underline Dial
With a glossy/gilt dial that’s aged to a pleasing brownish color, an effect known as “tropical” to collectors, this Explorer was made in 1964 and is accompanied by its original box, guarantee papers, and chronometer rating. The dial features a highly desirable underline, beneath the “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified” text found at 6 o’clock.

Estimate: $9,000 – 11,000

Lot 74: Patek Philippe, Early Wristwatch
A beautiful early Patek wristwatch made in 1929, it features a white enamel dial (with hairline cracks, unfortunately) with black Breguet numerals and blued steel spade hands. The four-body case with inner cuvette measures 31 mm in diameter, with a thickness of 10 mm.

Estimate: $10,000 – 15,000

Lot 78: Omega Chronograph in Steel
A vintage Omega chronograph made in 1942 with a stunning mulit-scale, multi-color dial. The case measures 37 mm in diameter, with a thickness of 12 mm.

Estimate: $6,000 – 8,000

Lots 95 and 170: Audemars Piguet John Schaeffer Minute Repeaters
Two of three AP minute repeating wristwatches in this sale, these two are housed in a 33 mm by 41 mm John Schaeffer case. The first, lot 95, is housed in a stainless steel case with two apertures on the dial side – jumping hours at 12 o’clock and revolving minutes at 6 o’clock. Made in only three examples in the early 1990s.

Estimate: $27,000 – 37,000

The second, lot 170, is cased in platinum and features a sapphire crystal dial allowing a clear view into the movement’s open-worked bottom plate. Its movement is made of pink gold, and is fully hand-engraved and skeletonized. One of 25 made in 1994. Click the first picture to hear it…

Estimate: $40,000 – 60,000

Lot 99: Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar, Ref. 3940P
Now discontinued, the ref. 3940 was produced beginning in 1985 and is/was considered by many to be the quintessential complicated modern Patek watch. Reasonably sized at 36mm in diameter, with a very slender thickness of only 8mm due in part to the use of the ultra-thin Patek caliber 240 as the movement base. This platinum example dates to 2001, and comes with its original boxes and papers.

Estimate: $40,000 – 50,000

Lot 100: Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso Gyrotourbillon 2
An exquisite and spectacular Reverso by JLC, it features a spherical, dual-axis tourbillon, 24-hour indicator, and a power reserve of 50 hours. The outer cage of the tourbillon rotates at a speed of one rotation per minute, while the inner cage rotates at a speed of one rotation over 18.75 seconds. This example, in 18 karat white gold, is number 52 of a limited edition of 75.

The massive reversible case, which measures 36 mm x 56 mm x 16mm, requires a sliding lock in the band to prevent it from accidentally dislodging…

The escapement’s balance wheel is made of 14 karat gold, and is regulated by a cylindrical hairspring…

Power reserve indicator is on the reverse side of the movement…

Some details of the movement…

Estimate: $220,000 – 270,000

Read more