An evening with Blancpain & Timezone

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Blancpain & Timezone co-hosted a holiday party this past Monday, and, as you might expect, a good time was definitely had by all. Of course, how could that be anything but the case when one is surrounded with amazing watches, good friends and perhaps a glass of wine?

The evening was presided over by Blancpain’s US brand manager, Adam Bossi, a career watch guy and all-around great person. Not content to merely let us peruse the selection of watches on hand, he took care to ensure that several of Blancpain’s most significant pieces were available for us to get up close and personal with.

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(Adam explaining the nuance of a flying carousel…)

After allowing guests to mingle and get comfortable, Mr. Bossi took us through a video tour of the behind-the-scenes creation of such masterpieces and the Carousel Repetition Minutes Flyback Chronograph, L’Evolution Saphir Carousel Volant une Minute and even the incredible Calandrier Chinois Traditionnel (the only Chinese perpetual calendar on the market today).

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(This watch is on my Mega-Millions list…)

And then, a raffle!
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(As you can see, I didn’t win…)

To salve the egos of the rest of us, the aforementioned watches were brought out for us to handle in person:
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(Yes, the Calandrier Chinois Traditionnel was there as well, but, alas, I didn’t get a picture of it…)

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(Taking a closer look…)

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(Listening to the chime of a minute repeater…)

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(I might be in this picture…)

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(Service with a smile…)

And yes, they fed us, too:
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(I ate at least five macarons; I’m not proud of myself, but it had to be done…)

And of course, their entire collection was available for any and all to view at their leisure:
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As you can see, it was a perfect evening of watches, wine and conversation. Anyone who knows me knows that that last bit is my favorite part of this hobby, so I thank Blancpain for providing me with yet another opportunity to get to spend time with and get to know my fellow collectors in this fair city.

To everyone who came, thank you, and to everyone who wasn’t able to make it out this time, happy holidays!

Regards,
Adam

PS – Oh, and needless to say, I’ll be thinking about Blancpain the next time I take a sip of Cabernet Sauvingnon:
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(Thank you for the Riedel wine glasses!)

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Loupe System: An Owner’s Impressions

Amr Sindi

17 December 2013

Allow me to share with you the most game-changing horological item I’ve acquired this year, the Loupe System. Like many of you I’m sure, I’ve received my fair share of branded loupes from my AD and brand events over the years. While they do make for nice collectibles and souvenirs, I never use them for the simple fact that the image quality wasn’t satisfying. The distortion, narrow field of view and shallow depth of field were more migraine-inducing than anything else.

During Baselworld this year, I bumped into an old watch-collecting pal at the independents’ pavilion. After catching up and browsing the watches on display (I believe we were right outside the Antoine Martin stand, admiring the massive balance wheel on the Slow Runner) he pulled out a little black case and out came this black rubberized cylindrical object. Judging from the glass, my first thought was that is was perhaps a vintage Leica lens. “But where’s the camera?”

Loupe System, watch loupe, handheld loupe, best loupe

Little did I know that I was feasting my eyes on the single greatest loupe ever made for appreciating watches, the Loupe System. My friend allowed me to give it a try for the 30 seconds or so I had before having rush off to my next appointment, but that was all it took. I placed my order for one as soon as I got back home that night.

Loupe System, watch loupe, handheld loupe, best loupe

A week later I received a mail slip from my local post office informing me that a package had arrived for me. As I wasn’t expecting any other parcels, I knew it had to be the Loupe System. When I got to the post office however, the parcel was much larger than I was expecting. No way my loupe was in there. Perhaps the Mrs. had ordered yet another pair of shoes online?

Disheartened, I took the package and headed home. It wasn’t only after I arrived that I bothered to actually read the shipping label, and it turns out it was from Loupe System after all. The lens came in a sturdy ABS waterproof case with a few accessories like a travelling case, a carrying pouch, a cleaning cloth and an additional changeable top element for the lens. In the carton was also a foam insert with pre-cut slots, allowing the ABS case to double as a 4-watch carrying case. Whoever thought of this has to be a watch collector!

Loupe System, watch loupe, handheld loupe, best loupe

Loupe System, watch loupe, handheld loupe, best loupe

Loupe System, watch loupe, handheld loupe, best loupe

I guess I wasn’t too far off in thinking the loupe System was a lens at firsts sight, as the design and construction is in fact inspired from an 80’s camera lens. Just like that lens, the Loupe System is made of five multi-coated lenses, laid out in a unique arrangement of two doublets with a single lens in the center. The central lens magnifies the image by a factor of 6x, while the two doublets correct any optical distortion produced.

Loupe System, watch loupe, handheld loupe, best loupe

The lenses are housed in a light but rigid black aluminum casing, covered in soft food-grade silicone for added shock resistance and a better grip. The silicone rubber is great because it allows you to get really close to a watch without having to worry about scratching it. It’s a bit of a dust magnet, but is super easy to clean thanks to the removable top and bottom elements than can be washed. I opted for the entry-level model with the central element in black rubber, but this can be had in more exotic materials like carbon fiber and alligator leather.

Loupe System, watch loupe, handheld loupe, best loupe

The result is a lens made specifically for a watch lover’s needs. The field-of-view is wider than any handheld loupe out there, offering a 40mm or 50mm wide view (depending on the top element attached). This offers a view the entire dial or movement of a watch without having to move the lens around. Right up to the edges, the entire view is perfectly in focus. At this level of magnification I find the long depth of field quite spectacular, as you really get to appreciate all the different levels of a movement or dial without having to pan in and out as you would with a standard loupe. Looking through the Loupe System is like looking at a watch in full 1080p HD.

Loupe System, watch loupe, handheld loupe, best loupe

As I mentioned earlier, the Loupe System has a modular construction. Aside from the two interchangeable top elements that allow different depths-of-field and making the silicone rubber elements easy to clean and swap if need be, other accessories are in the works. There’s an iPhone case coming out with a mount that transforms the Loupe System into an on-the-go macro lens. There’s also an illuminating ring attachment in the pipeline for viewing under just about any lighting condition. Heck, they’re even working on an attachable USB video camera!

The only con I’ve experienced with the Loupe System is its ability to turn you off of certain watches. Its ability to dramatize every detail means that rough angles and industrially finished components became nightmarishly vivid. Even in my own collection, the Loupe System has showed me things I wish I had never seen. It’s no wonder than more and more independent and high-end watchmakers like Philippe Dufour and Greubel Forsey have adopted the Loupe System. Proper hand finishing can finally be appreciated to the fullest.

Loupe System, watch loupe, handheld loupe, best loupe

Finally, let’s talk about the price. At $375 for the entry-level rubber model, the Loupe System certainly isn’t cheap. But putting things into perspective, that’s not even enough to purchase an OEM leather strap from a top-tier brand nowadays. If you’re dropping 5 or 6 figures on a watch, then the Loupe System is a small investment to get the most horological bang for your buck.

Thanks for reading.

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Meeting Vincent Calabrese: Inventor of the Corum Golden Bridge

by Jessica

13 December 2013

Corum and Vincent Calabrese recently concluded their “Walk Through The Golden Bridge” tour in New York, Miami and Los Angeles. TimeZone had an exclusive opportunity to spend the day with the Corum team and legendary watchmaker Vincent Calabrese.

Vincent Calabrese, AHCI, Corum Golden Bridge, master watchmaker, independent watchmaker
Master Watchmaker Vincent Calabrese

Vincent Calabrese has always been independent. Born in Naples, Italy in 1944, Vincent dropped out of school at the age of 12 and apprenticed at a small watch repair shop. He earned just enough money to purchase his own tools and then he repaired watches for a number of small watch shops. Throughout that time, Vincent taught himself watchmaking by reading watchmaking books.

When he turned 17, Vincent moved to Switzerland to avoid compulsory military service. While living with his uncle, Vincent found watch repair work at Tissot. He worked at a number of manufactories before settling down at a small watch repair shop.

In 1975, the young watch repairer conceived of an idea to create his own movement. During a time that preceded CAD technology and CNC machines, Vincent spent two intense years developing his movement. The result was a deceptively simple baguette movement with a linear gear train mounted within a faceted sapphire crystal case. Unencumbered by a dial, the beautiful movement appeared suspended. Vincent named his patented invention the, Horlogerie Spatiale (the “Spatial Watch”) and it earned international recognition as the gold medal winner for mechanical watch movement at the prestigious Salon International des Inventions de Genève.

Vincent recalls that time with a mix of pain and joy. The Quartz Crisis of the 1970s was a tumultuous time in Switzerland and it was challenging to find a watch brand to produce his new mechanical movement. Then, he met René Bannwart at Corum and everything changed. A few years later, in 1980, Corum renamed the movement and launched its iconic Golden Bridge. For over 30 years, the Golden Bridge has been in continuous production.

Despite numerous creations and successes, including the flying tourbillon he developed for Blancpain and co-founding the AHCI (Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants), the Golden Bridge remains Vincent’s favourite project. According to Vincent, “The Golden Bridge is my greatest joy. With the Golden Bridge, I was not only a watchmaker, but I also became an inventor.”

Vincent Calabrese, AHCI, Corum Golden Bridge, master watchmaker, independent watchmaker
The first Golden Bridge launched in 1980 (Corum Museum)

Vincent Calabrese, AHCI, Corum Golden Bridge, master watchmaker, independent watchmaker
Golden Bridge, No. 904, circa late 1980s (Corum Museum)

Vincent Calabrese, AHCI, Corum Golden Bridge, master watchmaker, independent watchmaker
Golden Bridge, No. 2755 circa 1990s (Corum Museum)

Vincent Calabrese, AHCI, Corum Golden Bridge, master watchmaker, independent watchmaker
The hand-engraved plate and bridges made from 18-carat gold

Earlier this year, Corum’s CEO Antonio Calce announced a renewed partnership between Corum and Vincent Calabrese. The partnership involves not only touring the world to recall the history of the Golden Bridge, but Vincent Calabrese will also collaborate with Corum’s Movement R&D team headed by Laurent Besse. Already, Vincent and the Corum team have two creative ideas in mind. An official announcement of their major development will be made in the near future.

Vincent Calabrese, AHCI, Corum Golden Bridge, master watchmaker, independent watchmaker
Vincent Calabrese at the “Walk Through The Golden Bridge” tour in Los Angeles

Vincent Calabrese, AHCI, Corum Golden Bridge, master watchmaker, independent watchmaker
(L-R) Jeff Cox from Corum, Ronald Lee and Vincent Calabrese

Vincent Calabrese, AHCI, Corum Golden Bridge, master watchmaker, independent watchmaker
Jeff Cox wearing the Ti-Bridge

Vincent Calabrese, AHCI, Corum Golden Bridge, master watchmaker, independent watchmaker
Heritage Classical Billionaire Tourbillon, Unique Piece
skeleton Tourbillon with sapphire crystal plate & bridges

Vincent Calabrese, AHCI, Corum Golden Bridge, master watchmaker, independent watchmaker
Golden Bridge Tourbillon Panoramique
flying Tourbillon with sapphire crystal plate & bridges

Vincent Calabrese, AHCI, Corum Golden Bridge, master watchmaker, independent watchmaker
Golden Bridge, Unique Piece
645 black baguette diamonds (36.56 carats)

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The Bell & Ross BR126 Blackbird

Edward Hahn


Pilot Brian Shul in the SR-71.

Much has been written about the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird aircraft. Designed in the early 60s, it still remains the fastest manned air-breathing aircraft (at least that we know about), with an official top recorded speed of 2,193 mph. Flying at about 80,000 feet, pilots were required to wear full pressure suits in case of a mishap which depressurized the cockpit.

The aircraft was largely constructed of titanium and composite materials, and famously was designed in such a way that leaked fuel while sitting on the ground, in order to allow body panels to expand in flight from air friction.

The 60s were the height of the Cold War, where the US and USSR continually pressed each other for advantage.

The SR-71 was simply one of a host of incredible aircraft on both sides – one optimized for speed over all else (in fact, the aircraft was limited to 3g maneuvers to avoid engine flameouts). As such it was able to outrun both aircraft and surface-to-air missiles in the Soviet air defense system.


The MiG-25 “Foxbat” air interceptor was unable to catch the SR-71.

The SR-71’s contemporaries were designed to fight a war where bombers would attempt to fly into air-to-ground missile range of enemy territory, whereupon enemy interceptors would scramble in an attempt to shoot them down. As such, these aircraft were all designed to fly faster than twice the speed of sound, and included the Convair B-58 Hustler bomber. . .


B-58 Hustler

. . .the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter interceptor. . .


F-104 Starfighter

. . .and also included experimental aircraft such as the North American XB-70 Valkyrie bomber. . .


XB-70 Valkyrie

. . .and the rocket-powered North American X-15 research aircraft. . .


X-15

Because of the rise of Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles, most of these aircraft went by the wayside, as they were no longer relevant in the new strategic doctrine. Among all of its supersonic contemporaries, only a few others joined the SR-71 in service beyond the 1980s, eventually surviving one attempt at retirement in 1990, and lasting in service until 1998.

In that time, the SR-71 flew tens of thousands of hours, including many thousands of hours above Mach 3.

Even with the rise of spy satellites and drones, there are roles which only an aircraft like the SR-71 can fill, and much speculation exists about whether a classified replacement exists.

In honor of this unique aircraft, Bell & Ross has issued a version of their BR126 line, called the Blackbird, which in turn is special in having central chronograph second and minute counters.

In the early days of Bell&Ross, the company worked closely with German watchmaker Helmut Sinn, and sold several models with the famous Lemania 5100 movement. This movement has garnered several distinctions, including being flight qualified by several militaries around the world, and furthermore having flown in orbit during a Space Shuttle mission.


The Bell & Ross BR126 Blackbird joined by the Lemania 5100 equipped Space 2.

The primary feature of the Lemania 5100 was the the large central minute and second hand counters for the chronograph, which makes the chronograph extremely easy to read.

Unfortunately, the tooling for the Lemania 5100 allegedly wore out just before the millennium, and no more movements are being produced. In addition, the Lemania movement, while very robust and flight qualified, wasn’t the prettiest thing to look at, and in fact contained several plastic parts and stamped pieces that wouldn’t put it on anyone’s list of prettiest movements.

For this limited edition watch of 500 pieces, the Bell & Ross BR126 Blackbird uses a special Dubois-Depraz automatic movement that recreates the four-way stacked hands of the Lemania 5100. In addition, the movement adds a very handy Flyback function – that is, the chronograph can be reset while running, without stopping first.

Flyback or “Retour en vol” is very handy for a pilot using his watch to time flight legs – it allows one to reset the chronograph immediately without having to stop and restart when a new flight leg is reached.

Rounding out the functions of the watch are the chronograph hour counter at 6 o’clock, the timekeeping seconds hand at 3 o’clock, and a 24 hour indicator at 9 o’clock. (Just like the Lemania 5100, this is not independently adjustable from the timekeeping hour hand, and serves as a day-night indicator.) There is a simple window date at 4:30, and a tachymeter scale runs along the outside of the dial.

The 43mm case is made from stainless steel that has a matte PVD finish. The highly-domed crystal is made of sapphire, and is reminiscient of the acrylic crystals of the 60s, but with the benefit of scratch resistance. and the case is water resistant to 100m.

The watch comes with two straps: one in black rubber with a weave pattern, and one International Orange in canvas.

In conclusion, Bell&Ross have managed to create a unique watch that recalls their beginnings as a watch company and in turn have made it a fitting tribute to an amazing aircraft.


Photo credits:
All watch photographs by Edward Hahn © 2013 Timezone.
All aircraft photographs are in the Public Domain, originally taken by US government personnel.

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Anouk and Oliver, co-founders and inspiration behind Revelation Watch Company

Unknown to many a Watch Idiot Savant like you or I but very well known within the industry, Anouk Danthe and partner Oliver Leu – a design duo with decades of experience in wristwatch creation who collaborated on a number designs for some of the biggest players in the industry – embarked on their own personal Horological journey in 2007 to give birth to a unique and revolutionary mechanical marvel – a wristwatch that combined the best of both worlds offered by the traditional “closed” dialled and “open” skeleton wristwatches.


Revelation’s original Double Complication

Fast forward five years and that journey reached its first destination in 2012 with the introduction of two wristwatches. The R01 “Double Complication” and R02 “Haute Horlogerie”, released at Baselworld to critical acclaim, are a series of hugely complex manual wind Tourbilion’s with ingenious case systems that feature a spring loaded, hinged bezel and crystal assembly that effectively ‘hides’ the movement below, achieved through the use of some incredibly smart science. The mysterious game of “hide and seek” played by these mechanical gems is achieved via two polarised sapphire crystals (produced by Swiss engineering guru’s CSEM) whose complex nanostructures – called tridimensional grooving – either block or allow the light to pass, depending entirely on whether the top crystal is in its up or down position. In effect they work like shutters on a window.


Revelation’s R03 Tourbilion Magical Watch Dial at Salon QP

The brand expanded the line-up with two new models released at this years Baselworld. The R03 “Legend Magical Watch Dial Chronograph” and R04 “Tourbilion Magical Watch Dial” both feature a refinement of the ingenious crystal nanostructure system mentioned above. This more elegant solution does away with the spring loaded bezel structure and replaces it with a more impressive gearing system that offers hours and hours of entertainment for the owner. The twisting bezel assembly contains the entire crystal system with one of the crystals directly geared to the turnable bezel – one turn “opens” the system allowing a view of the movement below, another in the opposite direction “closes” the system obscuring the movement from view.



Tourbilion Magical Watch Dial in action

We meet at this years Salon QP at their dedicated stand and I ask Anouk what was the thinking behind introducing such a revolutionary and bold design to the market. “We analysed the industry and saw that you have two basic types of watches; the skeleton watch and the regular dialled watch. We saw that buyers were more and more interested to see the inside of the watch, but when you have a skeleton watch sometimes you lose the readability”, she says, “so we looked for a way to combine the two concepts into one watch that would give the best of both worlds”.


Digital rendering of R03 Tourbilion with closed dial

It took a lot of brainstorming, particularly on Oliver’s part, but he eventually had a eureka moment when he suggested to Anouk that they use polarised sapphire crystals to create the effect of two watches in one. The design is fully patented, and comprises of two sapphire dials laid on top of each other in a sandwich. Each dial has a treatment that the human eye cannot see; a unique nanometric structure gives the smoky effect when closed – “achieved through the absence of light”, says Oliver – and the clear effect when open.


Digital rendering of R03 Tourbilion with open dial

I’m shown both watches, focusing on the chronograph first. This prototype features an ETA movement with a Dubois-Depraz chronograph module piggybacked onto the ebauche that many here will be familiar with. Available from launch is a FlyBack complication that is not shown with this prototype. More impressive, however, is the tourbilion model which features an entirely in-house movement. Anouk explains that, “we wanted our own movement from the outset, we wanted our customers to see something very stunning, very moving, so we decided to do a tourbilion with an unconventional arrangement”.

It certainly is unconventional and definitely visually striking, deliberately so to emphasise just what one is getting with such a novel and unique dial mechanism. The escapement is placed on the bridge, “making something very big and very stunning – we ‘blew up’ the tourbilion, placing the escapement on the bridge so that when you turn the bezel you see something very graphic”, she says. This tourbilion movement is unique to Revelation Watch Company, comprising over 360 parts and featuring a ‘flying mobile bridge’ that holds all elements of the regulation system.

Anouk is keen to impress on me that it would have been very easy to see the mechanism as a simple gimmick without a headline movement underneath, and it is this that explains why there isn’t a “simple” time only model and why tourbilion’s and chronographs are the only models on offer.


Prototype R04 Magical Watch Dial Chronograph in action

Moving on to the case, this is perhaps the most complex in the industry. I was completely unprepared for the sheer number of parts involved in its construction. I have a wild stab in the dark at the number of pieces. “How many parts in this case? Is it four?”, I ask. The response is simply staggering. “71”, says Anouk, “a complication in its own right!”. She’s not wrong – the case is an incredible piece of engineering and really rather handsome. The cases are hand polished which represents something of a challenge to the finisher, seeing as there are a number of complex angles and intersecting parts that create the whole; you’ll see bead blasting meeting bright polishing and satin finishing all in one area of the case.


Wrist shot of R04 Magical Watch Dial Chronograph

The Tourbilion Magic Watch Dial features a black DLC titanium and rose gold case which looks sensational – technical and sophisticated at the same time. The use of titanium helps to removes some of the weight from the watch which is still considerable owing to the complexity of that housed within. “Oliver worked so hard during the five development years because of the interaction we wanted between the dial and the movement below. The case itself was a challenge because to a watchmaker, exposing the inside to the outside world is anathema to what he is trying to achieve”, she says.


Digital rendering of R04 Fly Back Chronograph in pink gold

As designers, Oliver and Anouk didn’t actually build the watches themselves. They handed over their vision to a team of extremely talented engineers – for example CSEM as mentioned above for the unique crystals – and watchmakers, and have arrived at a very, very impressive product. Anouk remarks on this collaboration; “we had the graphic idea and we then handed over the build to a team we knew and trusted to bring our idea into reality. We all worked together to build up the movement from scratch; the engineer to make our vision of a tourbilion real, a watchmaker to design-in ease of regulation and servicing for our unique movement”.

Digital renderings of R04 Fly Back Chronograph with dial closed and open

Fear not about wearing the bezel assembly out through over-use. Even though their watches are something you will continually want to play with because the system is just brilliant in operation, they are engineered for longevity. The pieces which I handled were prototypes which have done the rounds at various watch fairs this past year or so, and both worked perfectly.

They are large watches as is the norm nowadays, but the size isn’t overwhelming. Yes they are masculine, but they aren’t overtly butch or in your face like some current offerings from other new watch companies. Timelessness is key to Oliver and Anouk’s vision, “…although both designers we didn’t want to do a ‘designers’ watch, we wanted an elegant watch. Our background is from haute horology, and at the prices those companies operate at you want something that is more than just valuable in your hand”.

Judging from the products on offer and their unique nature, it’s safe to say that the future for Revelation Watch Company is certainly exciting because the main protagonists are so deeply invested in the project, both personally and professionally. One could say that these are truly a product of love.

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Day Two at the Rolex Factory: Dial Making

We were up bright and early and on the bus by 9am for our trip to the third of the firm’s Geneva factories at Chene-Bourg. Long, but slim, the factory is squeezed between the road & a railway line, and obviously has to follow the contours of the two; resulting in an almost sinuous building.

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The Rolex factory goes back a long way in the company’s history, as it used to be the old Genex factory where Rolex made cases for almost fifty years. But in 1980 it was completely redeveloped and the new factory built on the site of the old one; then, a decade ago it was almost doubled in size with an extension which continued the outline of the building further down the road. Once the new extension was complete the role of the factory changed to that of dial & jewelry HQ for Rolex & that is what we now see.

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We are first shown how the ‘Jubilee’ dial is made, using an engine turning machine, essentially it is a rotary pantograph, a huge three dimensional model of the dial sits vertically on a turntable. As it rotates a pointer ‘feels’ the outline of the pattern; this movement is then transferred mechanically to a much smaller dial blank rotating alongside.

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There are five of these machines sitting side by side, slowly rotating, and producing a dial every 20 minutes or so.

Then, from dials which are produced individually, we move on to the mass production of dials. Almost all start with a thin brass plate, punched out from a long brass strip.

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What happens next depends on what kind of dial it will become; some are silver plated, some have a PVD coating applied and others will have an image applied to their surface by a different PVD process.

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But not all dials are made from brass, any dial which is gem set will be made from gold, as it is easier to use; also the meteorite dials do not need any kind of plate as they are essentially thin sheets of iron (which is what meteorites mostly consist of). The meteorite dials are chemically etched to enhance the appearance of their structure and then rhodium plated, this isn’t done for appearance sake, but to prevent them rusting. Only the ladies’ meteorite dials are made using a brass plate base structure.

Then it is on to one of the more interesting processes, printing the text on to the dial; the TecaPrint machine has three basic components, a steel plate upon which is etched the text & markings for the completed dial; a holder for the dial blank and a semi inflated small blue balloon. A pad comes down & inks the plate, then a wiper moves across the plate & removes any surplus ink from the surface of the plate, leaving just the ink within the void left by the etching. Then the blue ‘balloon’ is lowered on to the plate, its surface conforms around the plate and surface tension lifts the ink on to the balloon. It then moves directly over the dial blank and in one clean motion drops on to its surface. The ink is transferred from the ‘balloon’ to the dial blank and the remaining ink on the balloon is cleaned off when it is lowered on to the adhesive surface of a wide section of Scotch tape.

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As the balloon is lifted from the adhesive tape, the tape advances, the plate is inked again & as a new dial slides into place, the operation starts again. I know I have made this sound completely automated, but, once again, it is a skilled operator sitting in front of the machine who is really responsible for the work.

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On November 12 I had the opportunity to visit the H. Moser & Cie. factory and museum, located in the German part of Switzerland, in the canton of Schaffhausen.
 
I was fortunate enough to spend some time with the new Chief Executive Officer of H. Moser & Cie., the dynamic and youthful Edouard Meylan, and with his enthusiastic senior staff as well.
 
The day began with a very efficient and punctual (it is Switzerland after all) train ride from Geneva to Zurich, where I would board another local train to Schaffhausen.
 
The view from the train was most gratifying as one had the snow-covered Alps on the left, and Lake Geneva on the right. After 3 hours I arrived in Zurich (on time, of course) and a short hop later I was in the heart of Schaffhausen.


 
At the train station I was met by the lovely Yara Ainsworth whose background includes working for GM, IWC and Swaroski. She is the marketing manager for H. Moser & Cie. We then headed to the former home of Heinrich Moser, Schloss Charlottenfels in Neuhausen am Rheinfall.
 

 
That Schloss, or manor, is a heritage building managed by the Schaffhauesen cantonal government. The Moser Family Museum on the upper floor is sponsored by H. Moser & Cie. through the Heinrich and Henri Moser Foundation, which is still run today by Moser family members.
 

 
The Moser family has been in the horological business since the 18th century. Heinrich Moser was the leading Schaffhausen watch manufacturer with businesses in St. Petersburg and Le Locle, and he also helped establish a school for watchmakers in 1856.
 



 
He also supported Florentine A. Jones in the founding of International Watch Company (IWC) in 1868 by providing him with a workshop to create his watches and low-cost hydro-merchanical power thru a transmission system that Heinrich Moser helped design (using the Rhine as its power source).
 


 
Heinrich Moser was a Swiss patriot, and his love for his country is reflected in these four murals he had painted in a wing of his house at Charlottenfels (named after his first wife), depicting the struggles of the Swiss Confederacy.
 



Alas, Heinrich’s only son, Henri, a very colorful character, did not continue in his father’s footsteps and eventually the company was sold. Production continued into the 1970’s under new ownership.


 
In 2005, Dr. Jürgen Lange and Roger Nicholas Balsiger a great-grandson of Heinrich Moser, with the help of private investment capital, again began producing H. Moser & Cie. Haute Horologerie timepieces.
 
In 2012, the firm was acquired by MELB Holdings headed by the former CEO of Audemars-Piguet, Georges-Henri Meylan. His son Edouard, an engineer by background, and a Wharton MBA grad, now heads the firm as CEO. He was a co-founder of Celsius X VI II. Another watch brand owned by MELB Holdings is Hautlence, which Edouard confessed to me, has a bright future ahead. Its new offerings will be unveiled during Baselworld 2014.
 

 
After touring the house and museum, we headed to the Schlössli Wörth for lunch. This restaurant sits on the banks of the Rhine, and one could see, hear and feel the nearby waterfalls, Europe’s largest. On the menu was a delicious plate of boar with a vegetable medley that I quickly devoured, washed down with an amazing Spanish Albariño wine. Yara and I talked about our backgrounds, marketing watches and the U.S. retail market. The good news for the United States market is that Tourneau has been selected to distribute H. Moser watches, which will increase tremendously the exposure of the brand to American collectors.
 

 
We were joined later-on by Edouard Meylan, who was hosting a group of Chinese visitors at a nearby table. Afterwards, the three of us headed to the Manufacture, which is located a short ride away.
 
The facility, a modern looking building in the nearby hills, houses H. Moser & Cie. and Precision Engineering AG, a sister company that produces movement parts for H. Moser & Cie. and other watch companies.
 

Edouard Meylan and Yara Ainsworth

 
The company has about 50 employees on the premises, and they produce most of their components, except for cases and dials (the latter made by suppliers owned by one of the members of the Holy Trinity of watchmaking, a two-initials name…)
 
We began touring the facility by visiting their machine shops downstairs and encountering what would become the norm in the building, talented, enthusiastic and happy employees.
 

 
Making parts for the Moser Escapament Module.
 

 

 
The rotors for the HMC 346 automatic movement
 

 

 
CNC machines and the end product
 

 

 


 

 

 

 
The Interchangeable Moser Escapement Module
 

 
Assembling the movements
 

 

 

H. Moser Perpetual Calendar Golden Edition with solid gold plates and bridges, hand-beveled edges and screwed gold mounts
 

 

 
The Immediate Future aka Baselworld 2014
For the upcoming Baselworld fair staring in March of next year, Edouard was kind enough to show me a very special H. Moser watch. This piece is immediately recognizable as an H. Moser, yet it is different enough to make you utter “wow” under your breath…., you will not be disappointed when it is unveiled.
 
The Near Future
A new line of watches, with a different feel (a new case style), yet still based on historical H. Moser timepieces. The prototype that I saw augurs very well for the success of this model. Also, another complication on its way, this one a very practical one….
 
What is Not in the Future
Candidly, the CEO told me, after I asked him, that H. Moser is not interested in going “down-market” or casing its watches in steel. There would be no purpose in doing that, and they pride themselves in offering the highest quality at reasonable prices. Frankly, their perpetual calendar watch is priced so competitively, that one wonders why other Manufactures charge so much for theirs…
 
And we finished the evening reviewing the current collection of H. Moser watches, with the addition of two very special models. The collection consists of:

Mayu Small Seconds
Technical Specifications:
Case in rose gold or white gold: 38.8 mm diameter, 9.3 mm height
Movement: in-house hand-wound calibre HMC 321,
32.0 mm diameter, 4.8 mm height
Frequency: 18,000 vib/h
Hours and minutes
Off-centre seconds hand
Hacking seconds
Moser teeth for all wheels and pinions
Interchangeable Moser escapement
Original Straumann Hairspring® with stabilised Breguet overcoil
Pallet fork and escapement wheel made from gold
Movement and components hand-finished and decorated
Power-reserve indicator

See-through sapphire crystal case-back
Hand-stitched alligator strap
Solid gold pin buckle, with an engraved Moser logo





A very special Mayu



Monard Center Seconds
Technical Specifications:
Case in rose gold or white gold: 40.8 mm diameter, 10.9 mm height
Movement: in-house hand-wound calibre HMC 343,
34.0 mm diameter, 5.8 mm height
Frequency: 18,000 vib/h
Hours and minutes
Centre seconds hand
Double barrel
Moser teeth for all wheels and pinions
Interchangeable Moser escapement
Original Straumann Hairspring® with stabilised Breguet overcoil
Pallet fork and escapement wheel made from gold
Movement and components hand-finished and decorated
Power-reserve indicator
See-through sapphire crystal case-back
Hand-stitched alligator strap
Solid gold pin buckle with an engraved Moser logo




Monard Big Date
Technical Specifications:
Case in rose gold or white gold: 40.8 mm diameter, 10.9 mm height
Movement: in-house hand-wound calibre HMC 342,
34.0 mm diameter, 5.8 mm height
Frequency: 18,000 vib/h
Big date display
Flash Calendar
Hour and minute hands
Centre seconds hand
Hacking seconds
Double barrel
Double Pull Crown mechanism
Moser teeth for all wheels and pinions
Interchangeable Moser escapement
Original Straumann Hairspring® with stabilised Breguet overcoil
Pallet fork and escapement wheel made from gold
Movement and components hand-finished and decorated
Power-reserve indicator
See-through sapphire crystal case-back
Hand-stitched alligator strap
Solid gold pin buckle, with an engraved Moser logo


Nomad Dual Time
Technical Specifications:
Case in rose gold or platinum: 40.8 mm diameter, 11.0 mm height
Movement: in-house automatic calibre HMC 346,
34.0 mm diameter, 6.5 mm height
Frequency: 18,000 vib/h
Second time zone display
AM-PM indicator
Hours and minutes
Off-centre seconds hand
Hacking seconds
Moser teeth for all wheels and pinions
Interchangeable Moser escapement
Original Straumann Hairspring® with stabilised Breguet overcoil
Pallet fork and escapement wheel made from gold
Movement and components hand-finished and decorated
Oscillating weight made from18-carat gold
Automatic pawl winding system
Double Pull Crown mechanism
See-through sapphire crystal case-back
Hand-stitched alligator strap
Solid gold or platinum pin buckle with an engraved Moser logo




Perpetual Moon
Technical Specifications:
Case in rose gold or platinum: 40.8 mm diameter, 11.1 mm height
Movement: in-house hand-wound calibre HMC 348,
34.0 mm diameter, 5.8 mm height
Frequency: 18,000 vib/h
Perpetual moon phase display
Centre AM-PM hand
Hacking seconds
Centre seconds hand
Double barrel
Moser teeth for all wheels and pinions
Interchangeable Moser escapement
Original Straumann Hairspring® with stabilised Breguet overcoil
Pallet fork and escapement wheel made from gold
Movement and components hand-finished and decorated
Power-reserve indicator
Discreetly convex sapphire crystal case-back
Hand-stitched alligator strap
Solid rose gold or platinum folding clasp, with an engraved Moser logo




Perpetual Calendar
Technical Specifications:
Case in rose gold, white gold or platinum: 40.8 mm diameter, 11.1 mm height
Movement: in-house hand-wound calibre HMC 341,
34.0 mm diameter, 5.8 mm height
Frequency: 18,000 vib/h
Perpetual Flash Calendar display
Centre hand month indicator
Hour and date
Off-centre seconds dial
Power-reserve indicator
Hacking seconds
Double Pull Crown mechanism
Double barrel
Moser teeth for all wheels and pinions
Interchangeable Moser escapement
Original Straumann Hairspring® with stabilised Breguet overcoil
Pallet fork and escapement wheel made from gold
Movement and components hand-finished and decorated
Leap year cycle indicator visible on movement side
See-through sapphire crystal case-back
Hand-stitched alligator strap
Solid gold or platinum folding clasp with an engraved Moser logo







 
The firm’s new marketing campaign states Very Rare Watches, with a production of about 1,000 pieces a year, they are indeed very rare…
 
I would like to thank Edouard Meylan for his generosity towards me, and for sharing with Timezone his insights and new developments. I would also like to thank Nicholas Hofmann, Daniel Zimmermann and Yara Ainsworth for their time and thoughts, and specially Yara who was so kind to act as “tour guide” throughout the day. My thanks as well to Suryia Graf-Hill at Sparkle for making the trip possible.
 
I hope you have enjoyed this “visit” as much as I did.
 
Video

 
Thanks.

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Hi All;

Day One at Rolex Part VI – Raw Materials & How Rolex Smelts its Gold;
Previously we went back from finished watches to parts; now we are going to go even further back; to the raw materials. Unlike any other watch company in Switzerland; Rolex smelt their own gold, enabling them to produce alloys unavailable to other manufacturers. For example, their white gold doesn’t need rhodium plating and their red gold doesn’t ‘leech’ out its red colour when in chlorinated water. When I first visited the factory after its refurbishment around eight years ago, they had one foundry installed; now there is a second one which was installed a couple of years after that visit. Which means that Rolex can now smelt between 40 and 60 kg (around 90 to 130 lbs) of gold at a time; firstly the components of the alloy are prepared, always 75% of pure gold and then the other contents are added and then placed into the furnace.

 photo Casting02_zpsd45cec41.jpg

When the mixture reaches the correct temperature and has become a homogenous liquid, it is poured into a container at the bottom of which is a sheet of graphite with small holes drilled in it.

 photo 05_CASTINGOFGOLDINTHEFOUNDRY_zps1f82e2c6.jpg

 photo Casting05_zpsebad2e0d.jpg

The molten gold falls through these holes and through gravity and air resistance is formed into small spheres.

 photo Casting06_zpsd859a957.jpg

Using presses, these spheres are formed into a bar, this bar is then stamped and a barrel shaped ‘slug’ is created in roughly the outline of a watch case.

 photo 10_MIDDLECASEAFTERSTAMPING_zps1644e375.jpg

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Review: Linde Werdelin Spidolite II Titanium Blue LE

Jorge Merino

27 November 2013

I recently had the opportunity to review the Linde Werdelin Spidolite II Titanium Blue, done in titanium with blue dial. I took it with me to Geneva a few weeks back. Unpacking the watch, my first impression was that it would be too big and ungainly to wear with a suit or a long-sleeve shirt.

But I was wrong.

This watch is probably the most comfortable one I have ever come across. Its light weight (due to the titanium case) and the shape of the case back and the attachment of the strap, make it sit very naturally on the wrist with nary a shift of the case.

My fear that the protuberances of the case would snag on a sweater proved baseless as well, as I had no issues dressing with it.

Visually, the watch is striking, with a very strong “techno” look, though the dial appears a bit more conventional in its design, but that is a slight trick of the eyes and mind, as you start looking at the details on the dial, you realize the cleverness of Linde Werdelin (LW) in designing this piece.

Your first clue is that the “case” appears to be two distinct parts. One is the standard circular case that you associate with conventional watches (the crystal, dial, movement and caseback), then that “case” is ensconced unto a protective “exoskeleton” that gives the watch its signature design. You feel it is “unbreakable” and ready to tackle any environment that you throw at it.

And here are the technical specifications for the Linde Werdelin Spidolite II Titanium Blue:

The case, entirely crafted in titanium (done in a Microbillé satin finish), and made of 19 parts, measures 44mm wide, by 46mm in length by 15mm in height.

It has a titanium screw-in crown, an anti-reflective sapphire crystal, a sapphire display back, and it is water resistant to 100 meters. Crafting the case of the SpidoLite II is a long and laborious procedure that uses the latest CNC machines, though each case is always hand finished. It takes about six hours before a SpidoLite II case is finished and ready to receive the rest of the components (movement, dial, hands, crystals, and strap).

Movement is the Swiss automatic Concepto caliber LW04, designed by Valerien Jaquet, with a power reserve of 42 hours. It has a skeletonised rotor with ceramic bearings for increased strength and a strengthened escapement. On the front and back of the movement, it is finished with circular Perlage and engraved with the Spido logo. The black rotor bears the LW name in orange. All the screws in the movement are blued steel, matching the hands.

The blue dial consists of two skeletonized layers. The Côtes de Genève decorated lower dial carries the LW logo and name in orange and is laser-cut, revealing angular hollows giving depth to the dial. It has diamond-cut galvanic blue treated hands and orange accents in the seconds sub-dial.

The date is an interesting design, with hollowed-out numbers which lie unobtrusive in the background. For those that prefer their date feature non-existant, I think this is a good compromise as you have the functionality of a date, without it “sticking” out on the dial. The finishing of this feature is amazing.

The strap is black textured calfskin with blue stitching and a titanium buckle. It is interchangeable within LW’s proprietary strap system, something I would prefer manufacturers would refrain from doing, as many of us prefer to change straps on an almost daily basis! And we already have large strap collections too. Thakfully, LW offers other in-house straps that you can buy and change at your hearts content.

Overall, this is a most satisfying timepiece, well balanced and supremely comfortable to wear. It is robust, manly but elegant, and full of technical flair.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this review.

Thanks.

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Simon Michlmayr, founder The Meridian Watch Company

You may recall my interview from 2012 with Simon Michlmayr from the Meridian Watch Company where we discussed the founding of the company, the ethos behind his watches and their plans for the future. I was extremely impressed by both the man and the product he debuted at the show, and although large, what with the quality on offer and the hand made feel of his watches while endearing, it was clear for all to see that his company wasn’t in it for the short term.

But a year is a long time in the watch industry. And criticism is something that can either make or break you. Almost every product from every industry on the planet will face criticism when released to the paying public. This criticism can either make or break you, and in the case of Meridian, it looks as if it may have just made them.

It’s now a wet, miserable looking London day in November 2013, and, after dodging the downpour and perusing the wares of countless watch companies at The Saatchi Gallery, the home of Salon QP for the last few years, I wander over to the Meridian stand. I am greeted by a display that shows a degree more polish, a touch more professionalism than last year, a sure sign of confidence and purpose that was missing from the initial launch twelve months ago.


Shot from last years launch at Salon QP of the Prime wristwatch

The watches are stylistically unchanged from last years launch; big and bold, these are masculine timepieces that really grab the attention. Simon is busy talking with a prospective client, and a large gentleman with a suit is handling watches and talking about them as if attached he’s attached to the company – which, as I find out during the course of our chat, he is.

If you remind yourself of Meridian’s model line up from their launch at last years show and my interview with Simon, his watches had a real handmade feel to them which helped lend an air of authenticity to the case back engraving on every Meridian watch, “Made in Britian for the World”. This handmade feel was somewhat exaggerated I should add, by the ultimate lack of polish to critical surfaces, such as the dial and hands.

I mention the word criticism above, and the brand received their fair share in some quarters because of this slight lack of polish. A lot of it was entirely unjustified and what many here would recognise as simple trolling – on one on-line site that shall remain nameless one found entirely simplistic and ignorant comments directed at the brand. Simon is keen to point out however that, “I went away and I read some of the stuff and I thought ‘I need to change this that and the other’, but then I thought, ‘no, I don’t’. I knew I needed to do something with the dial and the hands, but the actual concept, no it was fundamentally sound. I can’t make a watch for everybody, because once you do that, you make a watch for nobody, so you’ve got to stick with what you believe in.”

Continuing, Simon mentions that “…sometimes as a watchmaker criticism hurts, but some of it was legitimate and we had to change a few small things. We have and I know we’re better now”. And he’s right, the step up in quality from year one is vast.


The newest addition to the line up, the titanium cased Meridian Prime

Part of this quality drive is incorporated in a new titanium cased model that Simon hands to me. I instantly try it on: wow. The weight of the watch has been halved, and that wonderful smooth titanium feel one gets from the material instantly returns – it helps that the case machining is flawless. Some here will know that I’m a fan of the metal, having owned a number of watches made from the stuff over the past ten years, so no surprises this iteration of the Meridian formula is a big hit with me. It’s still a large watch at 46mm, but the use of this material transforms the piece.

Simon was concerned about how titanium would look and feel. Titanium, because it is so light, leads many to assume that watches which use it as a case material lack what some perceive as “substance”. This is, as you can imagine, a concern for the maker. But the watch has pulled it off. It has the beautiful smooth finish that titanium watches exude, it’s obviously hypoallergenic, and as I mention above, the weight reduction is dramatic in such a substantial watch.


Wristshot of the Meridian Prime in titanium

There is also something else that’s different from last years model[s] and it’s the dial, which in the black dialled examples is no longer painted but DLC on to the brass blank, and in the white dial models, ink is now used. Both process that are now being used have been chosen over traditional paint because they produce a more consistent and, perhaps more important, a crisper more refined finish.

Simon tells me, “because we use a sandwich dial, when we painted the assembly, the paint would form a meniscus edge which just looked rough and unfinished and I wasn’t happy with the crispness; now we have a lot more sharpness with the ink and with the DLC especially”. The move to diamond like carbon production is something of a revelation with the black dial in the titanium model and key to this perceptual change in overall quality. Whereas before there was a slight muddiness to the overall aesthetic on the visual front, now there is clarity, precision, purpose.


Two working Prime’s, both with dial’s featuring the new production process, and a dummy case highlighting the new power reserve indicator for the 100 Hours model

Simon continues, “with the ink, it sits so much better than the paint, and it is cured with a UV light almost instantaneously and dries quicker, too. With this process we’ve also brought down our rejection rate. The the hands are DLC now, too, apart from on the titanium model where they’re infilled instead of previously being edge painted. We use infilled hands on this model to highlight the case material to the owner”.

He offers up a surprise as we discuss the size of the titanium model. As I mention above, there is no getting away from the 46mm size – its dimensions are similar to IWC’s Big Pilot – and to many that is very off putting. “I didn’t have time to bring the 42mm model with me”, he says, “I’ve done it, but it wasn’t production ready, I haven’t had time to get one to the standards required for the show, so it’s not here”.

I find the news of a more manageable size really exciting. What has driven the need for a downsized model, I ask, knowing immediately what the answer is going to be considering my initial reaction to the watches twelve months ago; “The overriding comment I received was that ‘they’re big, and I’d say yes if they were smaller’ “, he says as I knew he would. But perhaps more interesting is the comments he has received from the Far East, comments that have really been the driving force behind the need for a 42mm model, and which helps to shed light on the inclusion today on the Meridian stand of the man in the suit. The gentleman’s name is Tony Lumbard.

Tony joined the company earlier this year as Sales Manager. Based in China, a fan of watches and something of an entrepreneur, “Tony originally ordered a number of watches”, says Simon, “and went back to China with a couple of watches to show to prospective clients. They loved the watches but were conscious of the sheer size of them. Although they would sell, we would have been restricting our market, so we decided to push ahead with the 42mm and Tony will be taking them with him”.

Revisiting last years interview, I was told about a 100 hours model that would be production ready and on sale for the public by 2013. I can happily tell you that not only is it ready, it had a rather innovative and extremely cool power reserve function that is one of the best I’ve seen in the ten years I’ve been on Timezone.

When I walked over to the Meridian stand earlier in the day, I saw a white dialled 100 hours model with a red nine o’clock marker. Thinking nothing more of it than it having some significance to a team or special cause, I thought it looked pretty cool and walked away to look at another brand, before returning later to chat to Simon. It’s only when I returned did I learn the real significance of that splash of colour.


A closer look at the dummy case, with the more refined dial and the innovative power reserve indicator

After many hours of agonising over how they were going to represent the power reserve of their 100 hours model,”…a guy ordered one from us, and the watch worked fine but we couldn’t decide how to represent the relative power reserve on the watch”. So Simon and his team went through a number of different configurations: an up and down fuel gauge type display was tried which, “didn’t look right”; then a traditional power reserve hand that, “took up too much space and messed the dial up”.

It was then that Craig, Simon’s head watchmaker said, ” ‘why don’t we just change the colour of the number with a disc at the back’ and it was one of those moments when we said ‘yep’ and we knew that was it right”. Taking advantage of the sandwich dial the brand employs, the disc starts off green at full charge, changing to red through amber once the twin barrel system is depleted of energy. It is a brilliantly simple and effortlessly cool touch that suits the Meridian style just so.

Shot of a production ready 100 Hours Prime Meridian with white dial. The power reserve indicator is “in the black” due to the sheer number of handlers winding the watch…

And in true handmade style, Simon will do the indicator in whatever colour you desire. “You want it in blue, green, whatever, you tell me what colour you want and you can have that colour.” The next thing Simon shows me is a DLC case. “I don’t know if you remember from last year, we had some polished cases here”, he gestures for his aide to pass him a couple of cases from the display stand, “and what we found with them is that they marked so easily, literally cuffs were marking the watches. So we decided to DLC them”.

You can see from the photo below the wonderful sheen that the coating gives the case, and of course it is now ultra hard and scratch-proof. “We’ve brought a number of different cases with differing finishings with the DLC coating here today. If you look at that one”, pointing to the case I’m holding, “that one has been finely polished – we spend 4-6 hour polishing these cases to the standard required – and once they’re done, they’re winged away by angels so that there are no marks on them whatsoever when they reach the DLC’ers”. The cases are then treated to an eight hour coating process by a company that is used by a number of Formula One engine manufacturers for their peerless valve stem coatings.


DLC’d coated Prime Meridian with highly polished case

The last year, as for almost every industry on the planet right now considering the financial restraints many are placing on themselves owing to the global economic outlook, has been tough on Meridian, but in Simon’s own words “…we’re getting there. We’re selling watches, but I’ve spent so much of my own money doing this – we haven’t got a bank loan – that we’re still having to do the repair business to fund the watchmaking side. But we’re almost at that point were we can concentrate solely on the watchmaking”.

Simon continues the good news with the announcement of “a diver model coming out soon for which I’ve done an automatic winding bridge that sits on the Unitas base movement, seeing as we don’t want to inconvenience owners with having to compromise the water resistance of the watch by having to manually wind it. As I mentioned earlier we’ve also got the 42 immanent. We also have a vintage cased model on sale. This is DLC’d, but the case is ‘aged’ before the coating process giving the watch a real character”.


Wristshot of the DLC’d and polished Prime Meridian

Simon also tells me that he’s just brought a pad printer that will enable even greater consistency and quality with his handsets. The pad printer will enable the paint or ink that is applied to the hand to be flatter and more even. “My hand luminising is good now”, he says, “but it takes such a long time, so we need to find another way of doing that!”.

Lastly, the biggest news to come from Norfolk in years, is that “in six to nine months we’ll be releasing our own movement. I’ve done most of the work, it’s just a matter of proving the design and getting it ready for production. We’re really close to having some new stuff, it’s just a matter of time”. That word. Time. in just one year Meridian have progressed to the point where they’re almost unrecognisable from the company I was introduced to last year. Given another year, I see very big things coming for the brand. Which, of course, can only be good for those like you and I who love watches.

Thanks for reading,

Alex

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A couple weeks back, we said goodnight to the forever lights of New York City

And rose early the next day for the umpteenth edition of the Timezone Watch Walk NYC.

Let’s get to steppin’

We’ve been leading Watch Walk NYC for five years, and will likely have to stagger groups going forward, as we had a wait list within hours!

We began at Audemars Piguet, where we have the past several years, as the entire boutique staff kindly comes in an hour early just for our group.

They awakened our day with champagne, coffee, and a beautiful spread of breakfast delectables

And the boutique was impeccable

Of course, we tried on some spectacular watches, some of which were brought in for us

The rarely seen AP Concept Tourbillon

The recently launched LeBron James LE in rose gold/titanium

The Royal Oak 15450 37mm in rose gold on the wrist of boutique Manager Goly Noghrey

The Jules Audemars ChronAp with AP Escapement

Millenary 4101 in SS and rose gold

Some of the group were also wearing APs

The Rubens Barrichello 2 LE in Titanium

Action shot

Royal Oak Equation of Time

We were able to handle the brand new Offshore Diver in ceramic, which caused quite a stir. It’s that impressive in person

Next stop, IWC.

If you have not been to the IWC Boutique on Madison Avenue, you must. They’ve constructed what feels essentially like an apartment for a WIS, a watch-lover’s cave on steroids, complete with lifestyle settings that take commodity out of the equation, and leave you with a sense of what it’s like to wear the brand.

You literally have to comb the boutique to be sure you don’t miss a thing. Watches are set between books, pilot gear, and inspirational props of all sorts.

The Deep Two doesn’t get enough airtime on the discussion forums. This muscular Aquatimer is a powerhouse

The Big Ingenieur line is equally as impressive

Some of the group also wore IWCs, including the discontinued hallmark, the 3227 Ingenieur

The forever classic Portuguese Chrono

Next stop on the tour, Girard-Perregaux

Where Timezone’s Adam Craniotes played bartender and served up the mimosas.

And the wonderful staff gave us an up-front look at the watch that just this week took home top prize at the Grand Prix of Watchmaking in Geneva, the Constant Escapement

Any questions? The watch is a marvel.

You can read more this top prize winner here

We were also treated to the new GP integrated, column wheel chronograph, with a close-up tour from the GP watchmaker himself

And of course, to all of the model lines

We continued up Madison Avenue for a visit with FP Journe

Where they too spoiled the group with delicious pastries

And legendary watchmaking

The stunning Octa UTC

Final stop of the day was with our friends at Wempe, where the champagne flowed once more

And we caught a look at the new Nomos World Time made for New York

There we go again, trying on watches

A VC Overseas Chrono with blue dial? Irresistible…

Patek Philippe 5960P

PP 5980…love this one!

A window of JLCs

Glashutte Original

And a leisurely walk home

A big thank you to AP, IWC, GP, FP Journe and to Wempe for so graciously hosting our group. The hospitality was extraordinary as always, and impressed at least one of us to buy a new watch on the way home.

Watch Walk NYC is a very special outing for me, as it helps so many to form lasting relationships with the people who bring us these magical timepieces. A mix of elegance…

And camaraderie

And no one lights that flame better than Adam Craniotes, who also helped organize Walk Walk NYC.

Not too shabby with a pen either…

Thank you for reading, and a special thank you to everyone who came along. It was the best!

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Hi All;

Our first visit was to Rolex Accacia, or Rolex World Headquarters Geneva, which, as well as being the administrative hub for the firm is also where all final assembly and testing takes place.

After our coats were taken, we were accompanied through the vast reception area down to a presentation theatre which arguably looked like the HQ of the villain from a James Bond film; there was a vast circular glass skylight set into the roof and when we were all seated, curved leaves, shaped like the aperture blades of a camera lens silently glided out to seal the opening so that the room was now dark enough for the presentation to begin.

This covered the history of the firm & the challenges it has taken on over the years and how it has succeeded; and then, finally, the visit could begin in earnest. Our first stop was at the movement assembly station; here ‘naked’ movements arrive from the COSC, having been delivered there from Bienne. Each production unit is an autonomous cell of nine operators, each of whom is capable all of the jobs in the group. They are given their targets at the start of the week and they decide amongst themselves who will perform which job and who will do the next. Each person is responsible for checking the work of the person who previously worked on the movement.

The first job is to fit the dial to the movement; this,like many of the tasks performed at Rolex is done with tools and machines designed (and often built) by Rolex. The actual fitting of the dial and securing the fixing screws takes literally seconds, but the subsequent inspection of the dial to remove spots of dust or marks left during the production & transport takes much longer. Once that is done, the movement goes to the adjacent station, where a colleague firstly inspects the movement and dial in great detail and then removes any dust particles that previous operators may have missed and then it is inserted into a unique device which firstly sets the hands (even though there are no hands on the watch) and a sensitive microphone listens for the ‘click’ as the date changes. This tells the machine that the movement is at midnight and so the hands can be attached. The hands are each placed on a plate, and in order, a pneumatic tip picks up firstly the hour hand, places it perfectly vertical on the centre post and repeats the procedure then with the minute hand and finally with the seconds hand.

Then, once again, comes the microscopic inspection; a tool is placed atop the dial at the same level as the underside of the sapphire glass and the hands are rotated several times to make sure that they will clear the glass when they are fitted. Then they are checked to make sure that the three hands are equidistant apart and that they are parallel to the dial. Then, it is on to the casing of the movement.

With the open case inverted, the operator removes the temporary winding stem used at COSC, and then places the movement into the case, screws in the correct winding stem and crown, checks it all over again, screws in the case back loosely and passes it to the next operator.

She unscrews the back and presents the complete auto rotor assembly to the movement, using a torque-sensing screwdriver she attaches the assembly by two screws, and now it is almost a watch.

Now the final cleaning takes place, under quite high magnification every aspect of the watch is checked and then it goes to the next station where a young lady opens the back, and the movement then goes under a microscope, the rotor is moved so that the movement serial number is revealed and that is then photographed and OCR software then enters the movement number into the database. The same happens with the case serial number and now they are linked together for ‘eternity’; if the case is opened at any Rolex service centre, they will be able to call up the serial number and know instantly which movement was originally fitted. Then the back is screwed tight, once again with a torque sensitive screwdriver, which tightens it to the required 5 Newton/Meter tightness.

Then there is the pretesting for water tightness, using a pressure chamber; each watch is subjected to a 4 bar test, this picks up any problems with seals etc before the watch is subjected to the ‘water torture’. What isn’t so well known is that ALL OYSTER watches are tested at their rated depth plus 25% for sport watches and +10% for non sport watches.

The waterproof testing for 90% of the watches is done on a continuous basis, but the Sea Dweller Deep Sea watches have to be tested to 5,000 meters and this requires a very special rig, built for Rolex by their long term collaborators, COMEX.

Looking like the lovechild between a bank vault and a decompression chamber, the testing device is monolithic in appearance and almost doom like in its operation. The door sliding slowly along those huge steel rods closes the chamber, then the circular black seal rotates and the device is ready for operation.

The testing for all the other Oyster Perpetual watches takes place over a period of a couple of days. They arrive at the testing station still in their box of ten; this is then placed on a rack and left for a day, the purpose of this is to ensure that there is no power at all left in the mainspring.

Then they are placed in the ‘arms’ of the machine seen above on the left, it is switched on and the ‘arms’ move in all three dimensions at varying speeds and acceleration for exactly twenty seven minutes. This timing is designed to give the watch enough energy to operate for more than 24 hours. The trays are then unloaded on to the rectangular cabinet seen at the right. As they are loaded, a scanner reads the bar code on the box and a camera takes a photograph of the faces of the watches and then they are silently lowered to a waiting area. Twenty-three hours and fifty something minutes later they are retrieved and exactly 24 hours after they were first photographed, they have their picture taken once more. Software superimposes the two images one above the other and if the images do not coincide because either a watch has stopped or has errant timekeeping, then a red light flashes, a buzzer sounds and the relevant tray is removed and the offending watch goes back to the assembly station to be checked and remedied.

The non diver watches are tested for impermeability by placing them in a pressurized tank of water and then heating the case and rapidly cooling it to encourage any water which might have entered the case to condense on the underside of the crystal. The failure rate here is less than 1 in 1,000 watches.

The final step is the fitting of the bracelet, printing and attaching the tag with the watch details as well as the Rolex Chronometer tag and then placing the final product in its specifically designed shipping container.

So now we have reached the end of the road for a watch at Rolex, soon it will be on its way to a retailer and then on to the proud new owner. But it is not the end of the story for us; not by any sense of the word.

To be continued…

James Dowling

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Messr. Raymond Weil is the company’s founder and remains its Chairman and honorary President. His vision of an independent, family-run Geneva watch company continues through the management by his son-in-law (Olivier Bernheim) and two grandsons (Pierre and Elie Bernheim).

For 2013, Raymond Weil expands its mechanical watch offerings for both ladies and men. The aesthetics lean towards conservative, classical designs. Housing modified Sellita movements, the value priced mechanical timepieces generally range from $1,500 to $3,000.

Freelancer Automatic Chronograph, ref. 7730
The Freelancer collection name is an homage to Messr. Weil’s vision to remain independent. The latest Freelancer Automatic Chronograph features a 42mm stainless steel case, black dial with day-date, garnet red highlights, and stainless steel bracelet with deployment. The timepiece is fitted with the caliber RW 5000, which is a modified Sellita SW 500 automatic chronograph movement (based on the ETA 7750). The 25-jewel movement has a 46-hour power reserve.


Freelancer Automatic Chronograph, ref. 7730-STC-20041


25-jewel RW 5000 automatic chronograph movement (modified Sellita SW 500)

Maestro Automatic Chronograph, ref. 4830
The Maestro Automatic Chronograph is a traditional, elegantly designed two-register chronograph with a silver dial. The 41.5mm stainless steel case is also available with a rose gold PVD coating. The timepiece houses the caliber RW 7230 automatic chronograph movement with 38-hour power reserve.


Maestro Automatic Chronograph


Maestro Automatic Chronograph with rose gold PVD, 4830-PC5-05658


Maestro Automatic Chronograph stainless steel, 4830-ST-05659

Nabucco Chronograph Open Balance Wheel, ref. 7830
TimeZone was given an exclusive look at the sporty Nabucco Open Balance Wheel, a 46mm black-PVD titanium chronograph with a dial window that exposes the movement’s balance wheel and escape wheel. The watch is fitted on an embossed rubber strap. The timepieces houses the 29-jewel caliber RW 5400 automatic chronograph movement with 46-hour power reserve.


Nabucco Open Balance Wheel, ref. 7830-BK-05207


Open dial reveals the balance wheel and escape wheel


29-jewel caliber RW 5400 automatic chronograph movement

Lady Maestro Phase de Lune

The Lady Maestro Phase de Lune is Raymond Weil’s first ladies complication. This ladies moon phase is housed in a unique and patented case with the quickset date pushers integrated at 4 and 8 o’clock. The 36mm stainless steel case features a white mother-of-pearl dial, and a choice of bezel with or without diamonds. The timepiece houses the 27-jewel caliber RW 4520 automatic movement.


Lady Maestro Phase de Lune


27-jewel caliber RW 4520 automatic movement with moonphase indicator

Lady Automatic Open Freelancer

This new monochrome Lady Automatic Open Freelancer features an open dial to reveal the balance and escape wheel at 12 o’clock. The black dial is printed in concentric dots pattern that complements the black diamond bezel. The stainless steel case is finished with a matte black PVD coating. The timepiece pulls together the understated look with a galuchat-like calf strap that utilises Raymond Weil’s patented quick-change strap system. This strap system makes it quick and simple to change straps without tools, and yet the strap remains secure while wearing it on the wrist.

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Just over two months ago, I shared with you my take on the recently resurrected JEANRICHARD brand (and how I think they’ve gotten it right this time around). When I posted that thread, I promised my fellow TZers a closer look at each collection, so today I’m starting with the Terrascope.

The Terrascope is JR’s core collection, with a distinguishable design from which the brand’s other lines are based on. I don’t know if I would call it a sports watch per se, but it’s definitely a smart-casual smart-casual fit for everyday use; even for the more adventurous among us.

It measures 44mm wide but wears more comfortably and slightly smaller than you would expect, as it measures 42mm in length (without the lugs). It definitely wears smaller than say my 45mm Radiomir for comparison.

There’s more to the case than meets the eye. What I thought was a simple case made out of a single mono-block of steel is more complex than I could have imagined.

One aspect JEANRICHARD absolutely nailed are the proportions. Yes, it’s a 44mm wide watch, but the thick bezel and proportionately sized dial (relative to the movement) are spot-on.

The dial is actually on 2 layers, with the minutes track on the raised rehaut around the dial. The chiseled baton hour markers are polished and brushed in the middle, with superluminova on the tips. The signature arrow and losangé hands are back, with enough luminous material to keep you up all night (OK, that’s a slight exaggeration). A small detail I also appreciate is the crown, with its machined wells on the side. It doesn’t protrude too much out of the case, yet is easy to manipulate thanks to its diameter. It’s not a screw-down crown (a plus for me) yet the watch is water-resistant to 100m.

The Terrascope comes in a variety of dial colors. The central piece of the collection (to me at least) is the vertically satin-brushed black dial :

White and grey dials:

Green and brown dials:

A purple/aubergine dial for the ladies (presumably):

And here’s one I unfortunately didn’t get to see, the full stainless steel model with a vertically brushed steel dial on a steel bracelet (photo courtesy of TZ sponsor Al Armstrong):

I often come across complaints on press releases when a watch comes with a display back revealing a common base movement. Seems like the folks at JR echo your sentiments, as the Terrascope comes with solid steel caseback stamped with the brand logo.

In case you’re wondering, this is the Sellita SW 200 movement with a custom JR rotor that is used in the Terrascope and Aquascope collections.

What I really like about JEANRICHARD is the wide variety of available OEM straps. Rubber, calf, alligator, ostrich, or even a metal bracelet, JR have you covered.

I actually picked up the cognac ostrich strap for my blue Terrascope.

Oh and before I forget, here’s a really neat detail in the packaging: instead of a traditional Terrascope or resin box, the watch comes in a leather case with a separate strap, doubling as a camera case big enough to fit the likes of my Canon G15.

The Terrascope is a great collection for JR to have made a comeback with. Whether it’s a first “serious” mechanical piece or just another piece to add to the rotation, I highly recommend giving one a try.

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Breguet officially reopened its Beverly Hills boutique and launched its worldwide Tourbillon Exhibition with a blowout party on Rodeo Drive. To mark the occasion, Breguet transformed the chic cobblestone street at 2 Rodeo Drive into a stylish cocktail party with endless bottles of champagne, signature drinks, gourmet food stations and a sonic sculpture performance by the musicians and dancers of String Theory.

After a welcome speech by Breguet’s Rodolphe Schulthess, Vice President & Head of International Sales, and Michael Nelson, U.S. Brand President, guests were whisked into the elegantly redesigned boutique where the center of attention focused on two extremely rare Abraham-Louis Breguet pocket watches from the Breguet Museum and an exhibition of over 30 exclusive tourbillon wristwatches.

The exhibition remains on display in Beverly Hills until 19 October 2013, then travels overseas before returning to Chicago (24-29 October) and New York (7-17 November).


Rodeo Drive at sunrise


The elegant new boutique concept is the first in the U.S.


A specially crafted tourbillon clock crowns the new Breguet Boutique


The party started after sunset


International reporters and journalists covered the event


Performance ensemble String Theory are known for their large-scale installations


(L-R) Breguet’s Michael Nelson flew from New York & Rodolphe Schulthess flew from Switzerland for the occasion

One of the extremely rare pocket watches on display is Tourbillon, No. 2567. During his lifetime, Abraham-Louis Breguet made only 35 examples of the Tourbillon between 1805 and 1823. This hunter case masterpiece was made in 1812.


Regulateur A Tourbillon, No. 2567 (1812)
Breguet Museum collection

The other extremely rare pocket watch on display is Breguet No. 5. Abraham-Louis Breguet made this masterpiece in 1794. It features a 60 hour power reserve indicator, a moon phase and moon age indicator and a sunken subdial for the seconds. The movement is self-winding (perpétuelle) with a quarter repeater.


Perpétuelle, No. 5 (1794)
Breguet Museum collection


Tourbillon Minute Repeater Pièce Unique, Ref. 1907BA/12


18K White Gold Tourbillon Half Hunter Case Wristwatch, Ref. 1801BB


Platinum Double Tourbillon, Ref. 5347PT


18K Yellow Gold Tourbillon with Power Reserve and 24-hour Indications, Ref. 3657BA


18K Yellow Gold Tourbillon with Hand-Engraved Dial, Ref. 5357BA


18K White Gold Tourbillon with Red Enamel Dial, Ref. 3358BB


Reine de Naples and Crazy Flowers timepieces


Reine de Naples Camée Dragon


(L-R) Breguet’s Lilliana Chen (Public Relations Manager) & Michael Nelson (U.S. Brand President)

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La Dolce Vita
Legion of Honor, Lincoln Park

It’s been three years since the spectacular Cartier and America exhibition at the Legion of Honor. The exhibition was organised by Martin Chapman, curator in charge of European decorative arts and sculpture at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Mr. Chapman also authored the exhibition’s catalogue.

I was so impressed by Mr. Chapman, that when I learned about his Bulgari project, I immediately reserved a seat to attend his lecture, “La Dolce Vita” that he presented two weeks ago. The art history lecture took place at the Legion of Honor’s Florence Gould Theatre and nearly all of the theatre’s 300-seats were filled.

Beautiful objects are Mr. Chapman’s passion. He has a lively manner of communicating the techniques and skills required to craft decorative arts, and he relates engaging stories of the people who owned them.

As Mr. Chapman further explained, the exhibition highlights Bulgari’s trajectory rising from the 1950s, when Italy was recovering from World War II, to the 1960s when Bulgari defined its own identity with the use of cabochon gemstones, predominantly in unusual colour combinations that gave the pieces a sense of volume.


“La Dolce Vita” lecture & multimedia presentation at the Legion of Honor


Marsha Holm & Martin Chapman of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

The Art of Bulgari
La Dolce Vita & Beyond, 1950 – 1990

de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park

A week later, I returned to San Francisco for the exhibition’s opening. The rain started early and lasted until the afternoon. Since September is typically San Francisco’s sunniest month, the storm caught most people by surprise, including yours truly who had to make a detour for an umbrella. The upshot of the stormy weather was plenty of parking at Golden Gate Park and a relatively short wait for lunch at Tartine Bakery, afterwards.

The exhibition of 150 pieces is divided chronologically, into four decades from the 1950s to the 1990s. It further includes many pieces from the collection of Elizabeth Taylor recently reacquired by Bulgari from her estate sale in 2011.

Beginning in the 1950s, tremblant brooches represented Bulgari’s greatest successes in jewellery design. Bulgari reworked these traditional floral sprays with coloured diamonds and set the heads on springs so that they trembled when they moved. This technique, known as en tremblant (“trembling”), gave the diamonds extra sparkle and appeal.

From the mid-1950s, Bulgari began to develop a more distinctive and independent style. Bulgari’s works started to move away from diamonds and more towards coloured gemstones that were rounded, contoured and voluminous. By the 1960s, Bulgari’s opulent style emerged with a prevalence of large cabochons instead of faceted gemstones, unusual colour combinations, and overall sense of volume.

During the 1960s, Bulgari also had another defining moment when it successfully turned the serpent motif into a watch. Spiraling multiple times around the wrist with a watch case placed either inside the serpent’s head, or positioned in the center of the bracelet, the leading watchmakers developed movements for Bulgari’s Serpenti bracelet watch, including Audemars Piguet, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Movado and Vacheron Constantin. Bulgari also interpreted the spiraling bracelet design into its Tubogas bracelet watch.

Works from the 1970s and 1980s were influenced by Pop Art and other contemporary trends. According to Martin Chapman, “The hard-edged designs of the 1970s included a whole range based on the Stars-and-Stripes motif, while in the 1980s the Parentesi collection had a modular architectural presence; both show how the jeweller could lead in new directions with a strong sense of design”.

Photography is strictly prohibited inside the Bulgari exhibit; however, TimeZone was permitted to photograph the exhibition entrance. Below are some photographs; those taken by others include Fabien Iliou, the Bulgari exhibition scenographer in Rome, Paris, Shanghai, Beijing and Tokyo:


The “Art of Bulgari” at the de Young Museum


During the 1950s, Bulgari resembled the delicate style of French jewels


The ‘Seven Wonders’ necklace in platinum with diamonds and emeralds, 1961


The ‘Seven Wonders’ necklace with seven magnificent Colombian emeralds


By the 1960s, the Bulgari style emerges with cabochons in unusual colour combinations
Bib necklace in gold with emeralds, amethysts, turqoise and diamonds
, 1965


Table clock in gold and platinum with lapis lazuli, rubies and diamonds, 1968


Original design sketch for the Serpenti bracelet watch, c. 1960


Serpenti watch in gold with rubies, emeralds and diamonds, c. 1962


Serpenti watch in gold and platinum with emeralds and diamonds, c. 1962


Serpenti watch in gold with coral, emeralds and diamonds, c. 1965


Serpenti watch with Jaeger-LeCoultre movement in gold, enamel and emeralds, 1967


Serpenti watch with Vacheron Constantin movement in gold, enamel and rubies, c. 1967


Sautoir in gold with emeralds, rubies and diamonds, c. 1970


Table clock in gold with onyx, mother-of-pearl, jade and diamonds, 1980


Tubogas bracelet watch in white gold, 1960, and yellow gold, 1972


Tubogas watch with Movado movement, 1972, and Tubogas BVLGARI-BVLGARI, 1980


Star-Spangled Banner Table Clock in gold with lapis lazuli, coral and diamonds, 1975
(Created for the opening of Bulgari’s first U.S. boutique at the Pierre Hotel, New York)


Sautoir in platinum with sapphires and diamonds, 1969
Bulgari Heritage Collection (Formerly in the collection of Elizabeth Taylor)


An interactive display illustrates the glamour of a Bulgari bib necklace


The Save the Children B.Zero1 ring is available in the exhibition store with proceeds to benefit the charity
(www.savethechildren.org)


The “Art of Bulgari” catalogue by Amanda Triossi and Martin Chapman

The exhibition store is worth a visit as it is well-stocked with the important Bulgari publications, including the most recent 176-page Art of Bulgari hardcover catalogue by Amanda Triossi, Curator of the Bulgari Heritage Collection, and Martin Chapman. My sincerest gratitude to Martin Chapman, Clara Hatcher, Cynthia Ibana and the educational programs staff at the Fine Arts Museums for their time and hospitality. The Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita exhibition runs until 17 February 2014.

Photography credits:
Jewellery photos by Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte for © Bulgari, Rome
Jewellery design sketch © Bulgari Historical Archive, Rome
Scenography photos © Fabien Iliou
All others © TimeZone

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In early 2013, The Henri Stern Watch Agency, Inc. (“HSWA”), the U.S. subsidiary of Patek Philippe SA, moved from 1 Rockefeller Plaza to a new office at 45 Rockefeller Plaza. The new headquarters are nearly 33,000 square feet and consolidate a state-of-the-art watchmaking workshop with the administrative offices of Patek Philippe USA.

This is an important investment for Patek Philippe and demonstrates its long-term commitment to the U.S. market. Furthermore, it is also a commitment to New York City’s Rockefeller Center, a complex where HSWA has been located since the late 1930s. TimeZone was invited to visit the new offices and we brought along a camera.

The lobby is a tasteful combination of marble, light blonde wood and brass. The attention to detail is exquisite and in harmony with the Patek boutiques.

Customers are welcomed in a private salon where they can privately bring their repairs. Notice the Sky Moon tourbillon drawings on the wall.

High technology was not forgotten. There are interactive walls in the reception area where customers can read about the history of the brand, look at the catalogue or watch a live-feed of repairs directly from the workshop. There is a camera that feeds images from a watchmaker working on a Grande Complication. Also the reception area is appointed with iPads for customers to use.

We left the reception area to enter the administrative offices of Patek Philippe. In one room is a large kitchen table for the staff to have meetings, as well as entertain guests for an impromptu lunch or drink. In the background, notice the Patek Philippe display case

This display case is used to show retailers what a Patek Philippe Corner looks like. They can have a feel for the colors and dimension needed in the store. They can also see the watch stands inside each window.

We leave the administrative side to follow a long corridor. Notice that the walls are bare because the staff have yet to install artwork.

We reached another kitchen (yes they seem to be bon vivants at HSWA), but this one is mainly for watchmakers. We loved the furniture in this room, a retro 1970s futuristic modern décor. The perfect kitchen to wear a Nautilus.

Then, we prepared to enter the watchmakers workshop. The setup is similar to a hospital operating room. A hospital tries to prevent microbes from entering the operating room, whereas the watchmakers try to prevent dust particles from entering the workshop.

These are lockers for the watchmaking staff and you can notice the white coats that are needed to enter the room. Also, guests must wear shoe protection.

HSWA has dual air controls for both the watchmaking workshop and the administrative offices. There is an air filtration system and also an air pressure system to make the watchmaking area a higher pressure room to prevent external dust from entering.

Within the watchmaking area is the polishing and watch cleaning department, which is obviously separated from the rest of the atelier. It has large open windows. No detail was left unchecked. Patek even poured flooring with an antisatic surface with rubberized properties.

Here, a polisher is working at an extremely clean station. You would barely notice any dust even in this room.

In the adjacent room, you can find the cleaning and sonic machine for watch and movement parts.

This is the main watchmaking area, with a few stations. There are 8 watchmakers and the room can accommodate up to twice as many. You will notice the ease of space and the comfort of the room. The room was designed top to bottom as a watchmakers workshop.

The Quality Control area has its own separate staff. The staff have state-of-the-art equipment to make sure your Patek Philippe watch repair meets the exact standards as a similar repair would achieve in Geneva. The entire room was as quiet as if I was visiting an atelier in a Swiss Village. In the background, the windows overlook Fifth Avenue, one of the busiest and noisiest street in the world. Yet, inside, you can literally hear a pin drop.

HSWA can handle most repairs, except the Grande Complication watches are sent back to Switzerland. HSWA does some vintage watch repairs, but only about 60 pieces a year. Notice the World Timer world clock, above. In the second picture, notice the small ladies movement on the right and a 27-70 fitted in a 5070 on the left.


Grande Complication 5004


HSWA can handle most repairs, including a 27-70 and small ladies movement

The watchmakers seem to enjoy the new atelier, a big difference from their old digs.

Entering the repair safe room. The large walk-in safe has two entrances; one from the watchmakers’ atelier and another for the corporate staff. The safe is attached from the ceiling.

Plenty of storage space for your repairs. There are also parts that will be used to repair the watch. Finally repairs that have to go to Switzerland are also stored in the safe before delivery to the client.

Another safe within HSWA New York. This is the room where new watches are stored before they are shipped to authorized Patek Philippe Agents. You will notice the very limited inventory.

The famous shipping boxes used by Patek for their sealed watches.

To conclude, Patek has created a state of the art facility in the heart of New York which cannot be rivaled. The investment was important and is testimony of its engagement to excellence, as well as maintaining tradition. After 80 years in the Rockefeller Center, Patek Philippe chose to stay there and worked around the difficulties of installing such an office and atelier when the easier and cheaper route would have been to delocalize. The company deserves kudos for this long term commitment, the mark of true understated luxury.

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A. Lange & Söhne Akademie in Napa

Howard Parr


11 September 2013

Every year, a group of collectors and press are invited to participate in the Lange Akademie in Napa, California. My wife and I joined the group this past week, where we were treated to wine and food the equal of Lange & Sohne. As part of the visit, we also had an extensive presentation on the history of the brand, had the opportunity to try our hand at some engraving and servicing techniques, and of course handled many of the brand’s current collection of spectacular watches.

The weather was late summer warm, and off we go….

The lobby of the Meadowood resort was fittingly adorned with Lange catalogs, and some fine watchmaking books

The first night we had dinner at the Napa Valley Reserve, a club whose superb wines are available only to its members.

The setting was stunning, which pretty well describes every moment of the weekend…

Our viticulture education for the weekend was the ever passionate Master Sommelier Gilles de Chambure, who for three days and nights drew easy parallels with Lange watchmaking.

It can take 15 years to yield a suitable crop from a planted field. Patience, passion, perhaps even compulsion.

Here is Gilles speaking about the qualities of French Oak

After the cellars, we had the chance to tour the grounds

And sample some fine champagne

And of course, excellent food

Over the weekend, we visited three estate wineries, which are extremely rare these days. Estate wineries manage the entire winemaking process–planting to bottling–on their own property. They don’t source grapes, crush them elsewhere, or enlist a bottling service. It’s the winemaking version of entirely in-house.

Gilles gave us a history of the Napa Valley which believe it or not produces only 4% of the wine produced in California.
**The state of California produces 80% of the wine produced in the US.

Many a household name owns a vineyard in the Napa Valley.
From Mondavi to Coppola, from the Gambles (of Proctor & Gamble) to the Swansons (of Swanson Foods).

First stop on our tour, Gargiulo Vineyards…

With the annual grape crush approaching, crews everywhere worked to cultivate and separate the best of the crop…

The view was breathtaking

Before the wine tasting, we had fresh grape juice from Chardonnay grapes…

Kick up your feet and sit all day

Vineyard owner Jeff Gargiulo played some blues, with superb accompaniment from our own Dave Vargo and Chris Hislop from Lange.

Jeff has an extensive collection of vintage guitars, and as it happens, he was playing with country music star Tim McGraw the following night.

The wine was outstanding, and of course many of us went home with some.

Imagine waking to this each morning…

Our next stop on the vineyard tour was the Martin Estate, which sits on 12 acres behind an unmarked gate, which itself was the catalyst in their initiation to winemaking.

After their home was completed, the Martins put up a gate that was apparently too high for county regulations on residential properties. So rather than install a shorter gate, they went commercial and became winemakers.

We were toured the beautiful property, with our sommelier Gilles and Greg Martin leading the way…

…as we ate grapes

and circled back their home.

Which can only be described as a living museum

Where the Martins have assembled precious antiques as many as 500 years old.

Swords from the War of 1812

Greg, Petra and their daughter Greta Martin hosted an al fresco lunch for our group. And once again, we were absolutely shocked by the caliber of the food and wine.

Here is Greg with Gilles de Chambure…

As if that wasn’t enough, the Martins then pulled out the stops with a sampling of their Martin Estate Gold, a dessert wine in the vein of a French Sauternes. This was only the third time they had ever produced the wine, which had a natural–rather than syrupy–sweetness, and an earthy quality of a vintage French champagne.

Our final stop was the Viader Winery, owned by Delia Viader, and her three (now adult) children. Delia has more university degrees than most tenured professors, and was the first in the Napa Valley to plant their 100% organic vines up the hillside to track the sun’s path.

Apparently, she was onto something, because Delia–known as the “Queen of Cabernet Franc” placed their proprietary blend in the top-100 wines in the world, according to the Wine Spectator.

Wine and Watches…a natural pairing

Which brings us to Lange.

As many of you know, Lange was founded in 1845, but after World War II, there was a 45-year gap in its existence. From 1945-1990, the watchmaking companies of Glassutte became part of a state-owned company that produced pieces that are nowhere near the caliber of Lange watchmaking today.

For more on the history and evolution of A. Lange & Sohne, you may want to re-visit my report of my Lange factory visit from June.

Tools of the trade…

During our visit in Napa, we had the chance to handle many of the watches from Lange, and frankly there’s not much to say. They’re flat-out phenomenal…

Richard Lange Tourbillon Pour le Merite

Grande Lange 1 Lumen, a 100-piece Limited Edition announced this year

And a Lange 1 reversal of sorts, in the Daymatic. A Lange 1 dial reversed, with day indicator, 1mm larger case, and an automatic movement.

Zeitwerk Striking Time.

Datograph Up/Down

The 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar

The new 1815 Up/Down

The 1815 Chronograph

Saxonia

Lange 1 in Platinum


Lange 1 Timezone in white gold

Saxonia Annual Calendar…my wife is dreaming of this one!

Some very special pieces amongst our group…

The new Lange Perpetual Tourbillon

One from the 25-piece edition of the Datograph in yellow gold

And the now discontinued Datograph on the ultra rare platinum bracelet

Grande Lange 1 Luminous

Zeitwerk Striking Time

I want to thank Master Sommelier Gilles de Chambure for infusing his love for wine as a perfect parallel to our love for watches. As someone in our group said, “Gilles is so passionate he would have prohibitionists drinking wine in no time.”

Thank you to all of the wineries who opened their doors to our group. And to our group itself. We all became fast friends, and this was of course enhanced by the graciousness of our hosts…Lange & Sohne.

To Kate, Chris, Gaetan, Alex, Joanna, Simona and all of the people at this wonderfully friendly brand…THANK YOU!

It was truly a memorable weekend of fine watches and fine wine.

From Napa, hope you enjoyed that!

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