Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Self-Winding Tourbillon Chronograph

The innovative and visually dramatic Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph features a dial-mounted peripheral rotor, Tourbillon and column-wheel chronograph in a forged-carbon case.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Self-Winding Tourbillon Chronograph, ROO STC

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Self-Winding Tourbillon Chronograph, ROO STC

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Self-Winding Tourbillon Chronograph, Royal Oak offshore 26550AU, ROO STC, ROO 26550AU

The one working production model unveiled at Watches & Wonders Hong Kong has already sold, so in the meantime, enjoy this exclusive video:

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The Odd, the Unusual, and the Uncommon

Paul Delury

Here is an eclectic selection of timepieces that offer something different in design, technology, function or scarcity. Whatever the category, I venture that none are likely to be seen all too often.


THE ODD.

Wyler Incaflex demonstrater.

Here’s a somewhat odd one to start, a Wyler Incaflex demonstration or display piece. It’s quite large, 60mm in diameter, with a chromed case and large acrylic crystals back and front. A wristwatch-sized crown is provided at the 3 o’clock position for winding and setting the hands as per normal. I expect the piece originally fitted into a larger display, but I have yet to see an example.

Incaflex, Paul Wyler, shock-protecting balance

Paul Wyler invented the Incaflex shock-protecting balance in 1896 and it was patented in 1927. The brand name was apparently first applied in 1932 in Switzerland and registered as a US Trademark in 1949. In 1956 a public demonstration of the effectiveness of the Incaflex system was made when two Wyler watches were dropped 300 meters (almost 1000 feet) from the top of the Eiffel Tower and verified to be running afterward. A similar test took place in 1962 when six Wyler watches were dropped 318 feet from the Seattle tower in Washington USA and verified to be running afterward.

The 1957 newspaper ad below from The Star, Washington, refers to the Eiffel Tower demonstration.

Incaflex, Paul Wyler, shock-protecting balance
(Image via http://str.stparchive.com)

Here is the display back. The movement appears to be based on an ETA 12 ligne movement from the cal. 1100 family. You can find movements with Incaflex balances in many of Wyler’s watches, but I’ve yet to see another demonstration piece such as this.

Incaflex

The “Incaflex” name relates to the type of shock protected balance-wheel introduced by Wyler. Below you can see a close-up picture of the balance cock and balance-wheel area of the movement. Note that there is no shock protection unit, such as Incabloc, on the balance cock for the balance-wheel cap jewel as you would expect to find on a 1950/60s wristwatch movement. Wyler transferred the task of shock protection to the balance-wheel itself, and you can see the helical balance-wheel arms which were designed to flex and allow the wheel to move on the staff to a degree without damaging the pivots.

Incaflex

Omega Megasonic.

The oddest of the tuning fork movements – the Omega Megasonic 720 Hz. It’s really a mix of odd and uncommon – odd in its movement design and uncommon in that not all that many were produced. The watches were introduced in 1973 and the movement was designed by Max Hetzel of Accutron reknown. It differed from his previous tuning fork designs in a number of ways. Importantly, the index wheel mechanism has no physical connection to the rest of the movement. The index wheel is a disc of magnetically polarised material that is housed in a separate sealed “micromotor”. This is magnetically connected to a coupling wheel below and movement is thus transmitted to the gear train. The fork vibrated at 720Hz delivering an accuracy of 30 sec per month, twice that of the Accutrons.

Here’s a 1973 Geneve cal. 1220 example.

Geneva 1220
(Photo by Rob B).

I don’t think the Megasonic movement would win too many beauty contests but some very innovative thinking and technology went into this design. You can see the micromotor in the image below, indicated to the right of the movement.

Megasonic, Omega Megasonic, Omega tuning fork

The micromotor was innovative engineering on quite a small scale. Below you can see the micromotor (1) attached to one tine of the tuning fork. The asymmetric design of the tuning fork also used significantly less power than previous Accutron-derived models. That’s not a nail next to the micromotor at (2) in the pic below, it’s a normal size pin for comparison.

Megasonic, Omega Megasonic, Omega tuning fork

Rob B fitted this Geneve cal. 1230 (day/date) with a new old stock case of the correct style, the dial and movement already being in very clean condition. It presents as very close to how such a watch would have left the Omega factory in 1973.


(Photo by Rob B).


(Photo by Rob B).

Bulova Thermatron.

The Bulova Thermatron was a failed venture that used body heat to generate electricity to power a quartz movement. A thermatron is a small thermo-electric generator. As little as 1 degree difference between the body heat and the insulated portion of the movement produced power which was stored in a 1.1V Leclanche storage cell. Bulova touted the Thermatron to last almost indefinitely. Well, it doesn’t look like mine did. The watch is in New Old Stock condition cosmetically, but is not running.

The Thermatron movement was developed in the early 1970s and the watches were first marketed in 1982. This particular watch carries the Bulova date code “P2”, for 1982.

Bulova THermatron, Thermatron

My research indicates that the Thermatron watches proved to be unreliable and were not successful. I have read that the Thermatrons initially sold for $2,000. Bulova sold the technology and equipment to a company called STW who continued to issue the watches with their logo for some time. Power reserve seems to have been an issue with the original Bulova product as STW apparently modified them with the addition of a condenser to permit a longer power reserve and a new caseback with access to the condenser. Wearing the STW version for 6 hours was supposed to store sufficient power for 18 hours of running. Notwithstanding any improvement it apparently wasn’t enough to save the watches.

Seiko also later ventured into the thermoelectric field with their body-heat powered Thermic watches, introduced in 1998. It appears Seiko was more successful with the concept than Bulova.

Voumard 2000 and Bulova Accutron 214.

These watches both share a feature that has been played with by companies over the years but never really caught on – back setting – where the means of setting the hands is transferred from the conventional crown on the side of the wristwatch case to some form of device on the back of the case. There have been design and technological reasons for such placement, it having been used on mechanical as well as electric/electronic and quartz movement watches. It can allow for a cleaner shape to a watch, and there was the belief with the coming of the more consistently accurate technology that re-setting the hands would not be required so frequently and thus this function could be placed out of the way. Whatever the reasons it has been used only infrequently on wristwatches in any major way.

The watches shown are a 1970s Voumard 2000 cal. VM2500 at the top and a 1967 Bulova Accutron cal. 214 at the bottom.

Bulova Accutron 214, Accutron 214

The Accutron cal. 214 tuning fork electronic watches were a notable exception as they were all backset. The Voumard movement is not only backset but also backwound as it is a manual-wind mechanical. The Voumards were also produced in fairly limited numbers compared to watches from major companies.

Accutron, Accutron 214

The image below shows the Accutron crown flipped up for setting, and the screw battery hatch open.

Here you can see the inside portion of the winding and hand-setting mechanism in the rear portion of the Voumard’s case. In the normal position the crown winds the movement. Pulled-out it sets the hands. The 17 jewel cal. 2500 appears to have been of Voumard’s own design.


THE UNUSUAL.

Jaeger LeCoultre 8-day inline clock.

A vintage Jaeger LeCoultre 8-day clock with their interesting 16 jewel cal. 210 baguette inline movement. This movement was introduced in the mid-1930s and JLC made use good of it a wide range of clock designs into the 1990s. That’s an impressively long use for any movement. This clock measures around 10cm x 12cm, and is wound from the rear, (back of the mainspring barrel).

Jaeger LeCoultre 8-day inline clock, JLC inline clock, Jaeger-LeCoultre inline, JLC 210, baguette movement

Jaeger LeCoultre 8-day inline clock, JLC inline clock, Jaeger-LeCoultre inline, JLC 210, baguette movement

Jaeger LeCoultre 8-day inline clock, JLC inline clock, Jaeger-LeCoultre inline, JLC 210, baguette movement

Citizen Ana-Digi Temp.

Circa-1980 Citizen JG200-59E Aaa-Digi Temp, cal. 8980. The Ana-Digi Temp line were the first digital watches with an integrated electronic thermometer. They were made in a variety of models from 1978 up to the early-2000s. The measuring range of the theremometer is -9.9C to +59.9C or (14F to 139F). I don’t know about you, but that covers my climatic needs pretty well 🙂 The watch also features an automatic calender covering the years 1980 to 2019, dual time function, alarm and hourly chimes, 1/1000th sec stopwatch, 12/24 hour display switching, illumination lamp and battery life indicator, all in a case measuring 39mm x 33mm. Not bad for 1980. A geek’s delight.

Zenith 8-day dash clock.

Here’s a Zenith 8-day dashboard clock. These were made from around the mid-1920s up to as late as the 1960s and found service in cars, buses, and other forms of transport. The well-finished 11 jewel movement has a power reserve indicator that displays a red dot on the dial when the reserve has 24 hours left. Winding the clock is achieved by turning the bezel and to set the hands the bezel is pulled up and turned – a convenient method when mounted on a dashboard.

Zenith 8-day clock, Zenith dashboard clock, Zenith 8-day dash clock

Zenith 8-day clock, Zenith dashboard clock, Zenith 8-day dash clock
(Movement photo by TomG).

Seiko Nooka.

This unusual watch was released by Seiko in 1999 but the designer, Matthew Waldman, was apparently not pleased with Seiko’s interpretation of his design and Nooka watches are now offered by a separate company. Seiko didn’t market their Nookas very well and they were discontinued quite quickly. The novel LCD time display consists of a bar display for the hours, large window for minutes, and smaller window for seconds. In this photo the watch is displaying the time 10:12:40pm.

It is quite a large watch, with a stainless steel case measuring 38mm x 36mm, (less lugs and pushers), and is 12mm thick. The leather strap is a hefty 30mm wide with a double tang buckle.

Smiths Sectric tuning fork clock.

This clock had hung on the kitchen wall of my parents’ home for as long as I could remember. It was always there whilst I was growing up and I would occasionally replace the battery in it, and it shows the state of my horological awareness all that time that I never thought twice about it being anything but just another wall clock.

After replacing the battery one time I took a good look at the clock and realised that the seconds hand was moving smoothly, just like an electric clock. However, this was just a battery-powered quartz clock, or so I had thought, and I would have expected it to tick in one-second increments. Then the tuning fork symbol on the dial finally penetrated my thick skull and it dawned on me what this was – a tuning fork clock! Looking closer at the movement, covered in the dust of decades, sure enough there was a big tuning fork humming away. Smiths introduced these Sectric tuning fork clocks in 1971 and over the following years quite a range of different designs were issued. Whilst the movement uses a tuning fork it does not use an indexing system like the Bulova Accutron, but rather has a magnetic escapement.

In the picture below you can see the large tuning fork, the bottom curve indicated at (1). The lower tuning fork tine carries a cylindrical magnet that vibrates within a coil (2). The upper tine carries a horseshoe magnet at the right end that impulses the mu-metal escape wheel, driving it at 300Hz (3). Thus there is no mechanical connection between the magnet and the escapement. As they post-dated Bulova’s patenting of the Accutron there was the need to obtain licensing from Bulova. You can see “Lic. Bulova” on the regulator cover to the right (4).

The movements will not self start but require a slight the movement of the setting mechanism (indicated) to set them in motion. This spins the escape wheel into motion and thereafter it is locked to the vibration of the horseshoe magnet. Obviously, judging from this clock’s sterling performance over so many years (with no servicing), the system works very well.


THE UNCOMMON.

Vacheron Constantin 222.

A very uncommon watch as apparently only 120 of this steel/gold 34mm model of the Vacheron Constantin 222 were produced, (there were only approximately 720 examples of all 222 models made during their production period of 1977 to 1985). The 222 was VC’s entry in to the “sport luxury” market competing with AP’s Royal Oak, Patek’s Nautilus, and IWC’s Ingenieur SL. At the time (1977) VC had been in continuous operation for 222 years and thus they chose to commemorate this with the “222” model reference. The 222 lead to the VC “Overseas” line of watches.

The movement used in this 222 version is the VC cal. 1124, based on the JLC cal. 889. The rotor rim is in 21kt gold.


(Movement photo by TomG).

Although often thought to have been designed by Gérald Genta it has been ascertained that the 222 design was actually developed by Jorg Hysek, with a definite appreciation of Genta’s designs incorporated. Nevertheless, below I have pictured the 222 with stablemates of Genta design – an IWC Ingenieur ref. 3521 and an AP Royal Oak.

Audemars Piguet Jubiläumsuhr 1875 – 1995.

The AP Jubiläumsuhr (“anniversary watch”) 1875 – 1995 cal. 2121/3 was released in 1995 to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the manufacturer. A limited edition of only 120 examples were produced, this one being No. 110 as numbered on the caseback. The stainless steel case is 36 mm in diameter. A very elegant watch with a stunning guilloché work dial.

The cal. 2121/3 is based on an ebauche developed by JLC in 1967, (the cal. 920). It’s a very thin automatic movement, measuring only 3.05mm in this version with date display. The rotor rim is in 21kt gold. You can find an article on this excellent series of movements here.

International Watch Company “Jumbo” Ingenieur.

The 40mm “Jumbo” Ingenieur SL models were introduced in 1976. The “SL” stood for “Steel Line”, often later thought of as “Sport Line” as the watches fell into the sports luxury watch field. The design was by Gérald Genta. This example in steel and gold was manufactured in 1979.

Jumbo Ingenieur, IWC Ingenieur SL

Jumbo Ingenieur, IWC Ingenieur SL

An interesting aspect is that the ref. 3003 was a quartz version, but this particular one carries the cal. 8541ES automatic movement. The cases were the same for both the quartz and automatic versions and IWC converted a number of the quartz models to auto due to market demand.

Jumbo Ingenieur, IWC Ingenieur SL

Jumbo Ingenieur, IWC Ingenieur SL

Bulova Excellency.

What’s this 1973 Bulova Excellency doing here in the “Uncommon” section? Well, I though we needed some light relief 🙂 I have no idea how may of these they pumped out and it’s not an iconic model in any respect. It is, however, quite ugly. It’s also a new old stock example and I reckon you’d probably need to look long and hard to come up with another in this condition. I doubt too many have survived the decades. In fact, this one probably only survived in this state because it was so ugly, (even for the 1970s!) that it didn’t sell when new.

Bulova Excellency

The watch came complete with outer cardboard box (not shown) and this elegantly crafted plastic octagonal box proudly extolling this to be one of the “Excellency Collection”. This was a a long-lived line of watches for Bulova, many significantly more palatable in design than this one.

Inside sits the watch with its original leather strap permanently set into a curve from sitting like that over four decades. The hang tag indicates it the model reference is 11530-W and the price tag shows $70.00, which was around average for a Bulova steel watch of the time.

The cal. 11ANAC automatic movement is nicely finished. A very decent movement hidden away in that homely case for all those years.

Audemars Piguet Ultra-thin.

The cal. 2003 ultra-thin movement was developed by JLC in conjunction with AP and VC and was introduced in 1953. The movement had long usage with AP up to the early-2000s. Whilst there were many watches made using the movement the model shown here is quite uncommon.

Audemars Piguet Ultra-thin

The movement is only 1.65mm thick. The 10 cent piece is roughly the same size as a US dime.


Watches and clocks from the collections of Rob B, TomG, and myself.

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topic locked. The other active SIHH thread is below

AP CEO Francois-Henry Bennahmias said in our interview a year ago that AP was focused on “Fewer, Bigger, Better”

That translates to getting the most out of a concise and powerful representation of the brand, from the boutiques to the retailers, from number of watch references to ambassadors.

Fewer, Bigger, Better.

In 2012, upon the 40th Anniversary of the Royal Oak, AP mounted a massive exhibition of over 100 timepieces reflecting the history of the iconic design, an exhibit that toured a number of cities around the globe.

The Royal Oak collection was revised that year, and the result was a more cohesive, “family-like” feel to the pieces and their common dial details, bracelets, clasps, etc. In addition, the 39mm 15300 Royal Oak became the 41mm 15400 Royal Oak, and the Royal Oak Chronograph also made the same transition in size, which combined with the new elements gave the Royal Oak line a bit more sporty feel.

They said this past year that the 2014 collection would also be a strengthening of the core pieces, as they aim to keep model references in the collection for 10 years or more. Fewer, Bigger, Better. AP wanted to fortify the Royal Oak collection for 2014, and will make 2015 a year of expansion.

The Royal Oak Offshore is this year’s primary focus, and the 42mm Offshore line–as we’ve already seen in a couple of earlier posts–received some design inspiration directly by the original Royal Oak Offshore from 1993.

There are four new references in stainless steel, and two in rose gold. These pieces replace the current line of 42mm Offshore Chronographs, which are now discontinued.

The new 42mm Royal Oak Offshore models will officially launch the 8th of April, at which time all of them will be available for sale.

The angles are crisp, the precision in the production quite evident.

The pushers and crown which have been rubber for 20 years are now presented in ceramic.

A new version of the Safari is here. Refined, with a very expressive dial

And a new version of the Navy, with its orange accents similar to those found in the 39mm Royal Oak Chronograph

In stainless steel, the new 42mm Offshore is $26,000 on a strap and $25,600 on rubber (Navy)

**ALL 42mm Offshores now come on AP tang buckles

The new 42mm Rose Gold Offshore models have a stunning dial

And the bracelet has been reworked into a thinner version closer to that found on the Royal Oak Chronograph
So in 2014, the Royal Oak and Offshore lines have truly solidified into a cohesive feel throughout

The new 42mm RG Offshore pieces are, respectively, $40,700 on a strap; $69,200 on rose gold bracelet

AP continues to further its exploration into materials, and has focused on achieving the ultimate level of finishing in ceramic

Does anyone see a parallel to the original Royal Oak introduction in 1972, a stainless steel watch with the finishing complexity of a precious metal? And here in the Offshore, a contemporary response to the role of protection expressed since 1993 by the visible rubber seals, pusher and crown. But AP being AP, they use a material only when they can elevate it to the level of fine artistry. Which is precisely what we see in the Offshore Diver in white ceramic

First, we saw the Diver in stainless steel
Then in forged carbon
Last year introduced in black ceramic, which is 7 times harder than steel
And this year in white ceramic, which is an impressive 9 times harder than steel. When you see these pieces in person, it’s hard to fathom the finely brushed bezels, which take 8 hours to finish by hand

With an exhibition case back, as all 42mm Offshore chronograph models now have.

Like the black ceramic model, the white ceramic piece will be boutique-only, and at the same $23,900
It is expected to become available in June

Pictured here with the 44mm Offshore Chronograph in white ceramic ($41,700)

And a 44mm Offshore Chronograph in black ceramic, which is updated from last year’s model

Next of the new pieces for 2014 is the AP Royal Oak Concept GMT Tourbillon in titanium with a white ceramic bezel
We’ve seen the Concept piece evolve since its introduction just over 10 years ago, and it is now treated to the leading edge of
AP’s materials exploration

With a spectacular new 2930 movement from AP, and its hourglass-shaped bridge

Next is the Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph, which was previously available in rose gold with a forged carbon bezel
With a 10-day power reserve, we now have the piece in platinum with a ceramic bezel

And a slightly different case than the rose gold

Finishing out the men’s 2014 Novelty Collection is a magnificent piece made available in 2012 for the 40th Anniversary of the Royal Oak
Then a platinum model in a limited edition, here is the Royal Oak Openworked Extra-Thin now in Rose Gold

Hope you enjoyed these, and a special thank you to the team at AP for all of their help in bringing these to Timezone.

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From SIHH: Photo report of the Audemars Piguet 2014 Novelties by HOWARD PARR

AP CEO Francois-Henry Bennahmias said in our interview a year ago that AP was focused on “Fewer, Bigger, Better”

That translates to getting the most out of a concise and powerful representation of the brand, from the boutiques to the retailers, from number of watch references to ambassadors.

Fewer, Bigger, Better.

In 2012, upon the 40th Anniversary of the Royal Oak, AP mounted a massive exhibition of over 100 timepieces reflecting the history of the iconic design, an exhibit that toured a number of cities around the globe.

The Royal Oak collection was revised that year, and the result was a more cohesive, “family-like” feel to the pieces and their common dial details, bracelets, clasps, etc. In addition, the 39mm 15300 Royal Oak became the 41mm 15400 Royal Oak, and the Royal Oak Chronograph also made the same transition in size, which combined with the new elements gave the Royal Oak line a bit more sporty feel.

They said this past year that the 2014 collection would also be a strengthening of the core pieces, as they aim to keep model references in the collection for 10 years or more. Fewer, Bigger, Better. AP wanted to fortify the Royal Oak collection for 2014, and will make 2015 a year of expansion.

The Royal Oak Offshore is this year’s primary focus, and the 42mm Offshore line–as we’ve already seen in a couple of earlier posts–received some design inspiration directly by the original Royal Oak Offshore from 1993.

There are four new references in stainless steel, and two in rose gold. These pieces replace the current line of 42mm Offshore Chronographs, which are now discontinued.

The new 42mm Royal Oak Offshore models will officially launch the 8th of April, at which time all of them will be available for sale.

The angles are crisp, the precision in the production quite evident.

The pushers and crown which have been rubber for 20 years are now presented in ceramic.

A new version of the Safari is here. Refined, with a very expressive dial

And a new version of the Navy, with its orange accents similar to those found in the 39mm Royal Oak Chronograph

In stainless steel, the new 42mm Offshore is $26,000 on a strap and $25,600 on rubber (Navy)

**ALL 42mm Offshores now come on AP tang buckles

The new 42mm Rose Gold Offshore models have a stunning dial

And the bracelet has been reworked into a thinner version closer to that found on the Royal Oak Chronograph
So in 2014, the Royal Oak and Offshore lines have truly solidified into a cohesive feel throughout

The new 42mm RG Offshore pieces are, respectively, $40,700 on a strap; $69,200 on rose gold bracelet

AP continues to further its exploration into materials, and has focused on achieving the ultimate level of finishing in ceramic

Does anyone see a parallel to the original Royal Oak introduction in 1972, a stainless steel watch with the finishing complexity of a precious metal? And here in the Offshore, a contemporary response to the role of protection expressed since 1993 by the visible rubber seals, pusher and crown. But AP being AP, they use a material only when they can elevate it to the level of fine artistry. Which is precisely what we see in the Offshore Diver in white ceramic

First, we saw the Diver in stainless steel
Then in forged carbon
Last year introduced in black ceramic, which is 7 times harder than steel
And this year in white ceramic, which is an impressive 9 times harder than steel. When you see these pieces in person, it’s hard to fathom the finely brushed bezels, which take 8 hours to finish by hand

With an exhibition case back, as all 42mm Offshore chronograph models now have.

Like the black ceramic model, the white ceramic piece will be boutique-only, and at the same $23,900
It is expected to become available in June

Pictured here with the 44mm Offshore Chronograph in white ceramic ($41,700)

And a 44mm Offshore Chronograph in black ceramic, which is updated from last year’s model

Next of the new pieces for 2014 is the AP Royal Oak Concept GMT Tourbillon in titanium with a white ceramic bezel
We’ve seen the Concept piece evolve since its introduction just over 10 years ago, and it is now treated to the leading edge of
AP’s materials exploration

With a spectacular new 2930 movement from AP, and its hourglass-shaped bridge

Next is the Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph, which was previously available in rose gold with a forged carbon bezel
With a 10-day power reserve, we now have the piece in platinum with a ceramic bezel

And a slightly different case than the rose gold

Finishing out the men’s 2014 Novelty Collection is a magnificent piece made available in 2012 for the 40th Anniversary of the Royal Oak
Then a platinum model in a limited edition, here is the Royal Oak Openworked Extra-Thin now in Rose Gold

Hope you enjoyed these, and a special thank you to the team at AP for all of their help in bringing these to Timezone.

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Live at SIHH: Audemars Piguet 42mm Offshore Chronographs

As I mentioned below, there are 4 new Offshore Chronograph references in stainless steel. We’ll talk about these more in the weeks to come, but suffice it to say that this year was one of organic evolution for AP. You may recall in the interview I did with company CEO Francois-Henry Bennahmias last year that AP would focus heavily on fewer yet stronger. A quiet–or what Octavio Garcia referred to as “restrained”–year in 2014, and then some more expansion in 2015. AP has done an exceptional job this past year in fortifying the core line, concentrating on necessary production and support of existing models, and this year bringing the Offshore line closer to its roots.

2012: The Royal Oak became a ‘family’ collection, with bracelets, clasps and dials that brought the line into a more harmonious and consistent design throughout. Whereas the 15202, 15300 and Royal Oak Chronograph previously walked separate paths, they were suddenly as of 2012 (the 40th Anniversary of the Royal Oak) relatable to one another. The Royal Oak also gained clarity by now having only the 15202 and 15305 skeleton as 39mm models, and the 15400 and Royal Oak Chronographs were brought to 41mm. In simple terms, a gentleman’s watch infused with a bit more sport presence. Based on the extremely strong demand in the market, the changes were welcomed.

The other thing that occurred was a tightening of the corporate message. New advertising campaigns for men and ladies, and a lot of effort to make sure the end client–that’s us–was getting a consistent message and experience of the brand. They will continue to strengthen this effort, but it has certainly become crystallized in the last couple of years. From the brand retail corners and boutiques to the information passing from AP through me to you, there is a lot more clarity. Not easy to do when your representatives and information sources are scattered throughout the world. However, that clarity has been carried through to this year’s collection, and that’s why I found it so impressive.

We see a simple and natural massaging of the Offshore line, as though it is refreshed without a 20-year existence. Its history is condensed into a clear and concise message: It is, first and foremost, a Royal Oak.

The 2014 collection is a manifestation of AP’s introspective brand clarity. Whereas the Royal Oak adopted a dose of sport presence in 2012, the 42mm Offshore line this year gets an elevated dose of refinement. They are sporty as ever, but the additional contrasts in the dials, the ceramic (not rubber) pushers and crown, the sharp lines of the pusher guards…these all help add a little more expressiveness to the line. And all of them with exhibition case backs. They effectively link the contemporary with the familiar, the Royal Oak and the Offshore having taken each a small step toward one another.

The relationship between the models is stronger than ever, and once we have looked at the collection as a whole, you can see the residual effect of one reference to another. It’s as if they all fell out of the same mold. And they did…the Royal Oak.

Right down to the redesigned bracelet of the new Rose Gold Offshore. It’s thinner than in the previous version, and now closer to that of the Royal Oak Chronograph.

Clearly, the family has been harmonized even more.

Enjoy….

More to come!

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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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A TimeZone Interview with Audemars Piguet CEO François-Henry Bennahmias

An interview in February 2013 by Howard Parr

In conjunction with the 40th Anniversary of the Royal Oak last year, Audemars Piguet set out to do some deep self-examination. That may sound complex, but in truth the result was a simplification of the message. From a revamped logo and new marketing tagline (“To Break the Rules, You Must First Master Them”), to consistency across the range of the 2012 novelties, and heightened effort to solidify the customer experience.

The brand has been noticeably clarifying its message and its product.

This year we saw a reduction in the number of pieces introduced at SIHH, which follows this same tact. We were also left with a number of questions, which became apparent Internet-wide. In light of much speculation floating around the Web, I requested an interview with AP in order to clarify the goings on.

Newly appointed CEO François-Henry Bennahmias invited me to meet with him this week in New York to address those very questions, and here is that interview.

TimeZone (TZ): You have recently moved from CEO of the Americas to CEO of Audemars Piguet. Congratulations again.

François-Henry Bennahmias (FHB): Thank you

TZ: Audemars Piguet has been working hard on clarifying the message from headquarters to the end client. It shows up in the marketing, the appearance of displays, boutique branding, and the watches themselves. Perhaps you can comment on how this carries forward under your direction.

FHB: I could summarize it in three words: Fewer, Bigger, Better. Which means over the last 5-7 years, we became a little too easy on ourselves. Too many Limited pieces, too many similar watches. So, we have had to do some serious homework. We decided to slow down, reduce the number of references, reposition the collection, and look at which models could sustain for the next 10 years or more.

A pattern developed. We would see a big buzz on new watches, and then people were waiting for the “next big one” a year or two later. We want to build business by being more consistent with the message, the models, the collection itself. It’s certainly not a blank page, but rather more of a cleansing.

We’re doing something unique among manufacturers. We are buying back inventory that has not moved in a while from the retailers, which will help strengthen their existing inventory. We have also lowered prices on some of the precious metal pieces. Over the last 3-4 years, the cost of precious metals has increased dramatically. Consequently, so have all costs. We expect to sell a watch for more than a few years prior, but there is a point where it’s too much, and it doesn’t work.

TZ: It seems to be working really well now, no?

FHB: Now, yes. But there is a point where you have no room for sustained growth. Not just in terms of price, but in terms of the significance of the models. You don’t want to leave a watch insignificant, and the planning and solutions need time to play out.

There are possibilities for growth specifically in precious metal sport watches. And to play effectively in the marketplace, we have to make some adjustments. We determined it was best to do this now. This affected only a small number of references, and on an average there was a 15% reduction on those models. Some more, some less, but that is the precise average.

TZ: And it does not include any Limited Editions?

FHB: No, we didn’t touch those.


Royal Oak Offshore Michael Schumacher LE in Rose Gold

TZ: Some have asked about accommodations for those who recently bought these pieces.

FHB: People have to do what they think is right, period. We are not the only ones who sell our watches. We have some solutions for our own boutique customers–we know what they paid for the watches–and retailers know what they need to do with their customers. They capably handle their own businesses A-to-Z, just as they always do.

TZ: So the goal is specific, not speculative?

FHB: We had to look at last year’s launch of the 37mm Royal Oak, the 41mm Royal Oak, the Royal Oak Chronograph, the Extra Thin Royal Oak. The overall reception was unbelievable. Except, with feedback from clients and retailers, we took a close look and agreed that a number of precious metal pieces were high enough that we could see 2 to 3 years down the road having to introduce new models just to maintain momentum. Not good for anyone. These models were very well received. They have lasting power. We don’t want to replace them so quickly.

Don’t forget, every time we stop a model every 2 or 3 years, the cost of re-tooling a new model, new hands, new crown, new dial, etc. is outrageous. When you consider that the Royal Oak has grown for a 40 year period, it’s crazy to turn through models so quickly when a great 41mm watch has every right to be in the collection for 10 years or more.

Of course, there is room for a special Offshore, or 40th Anniversary Royal Oak, but the core collection is an enduring one, and we need to support it. We are committed to a message of quality and consistency, so this is integral to what we are doing.

TZ: You could see this in this year’s novelties. Some beautiful Ladies models, a few Grand Complications and only a couple of new Offshores.

FHB: Fewer. Bigger. Better. Which is why in 2014 we’ll see fewer Offshore models, and will continue to reduce the number of references. We have to be able to deliver the watches to our customers, and some struggle to find them because we simply have too many references to maintain consistency.

We have two years of “cleansing”, if you will, and come 2015 we’ll be in a good position to stretch a bit.


Royal Oak Offshore Michael Schumacher in Titanium with Cermet Bezel

TZ: Does this include discontinuing the Rubber Clad?

FHB: The Rubber Clad will continue for a little while, and then we’ll see it re-imagined. It has been very successful for us, but it’s been the same watch for a long time. It’s going to be time to do something a bit different, and so in time we’ll see this.

TZ: How about the blue dialed 41mm Royal Oak and Royal Oak Chronograph? Are they now boutique-only?

FHB: Yes, confirmed. And for a simple reason. We cannot make the exact same quantities of the three dials, because of materials access, production scheduling, etc. We simply can’t. So we chose to maintain standard production of the black and white dial models, and instead of going through the process of choosing who gets what from a lower production of blue dialed models, we are simply selling the blue dial versions through the boutiques.


Royal Oak 15400

TZ: And what about Forged Carbon? We’re told no changes for 2013, and keep posting this, but the word ‘discontinued’ keeps popping up around the Internet

FHB: I don’t know where this came from. I can officially say that Forged Carbon is not going anywhere. It has been a very successful material for us. We were first to market with it. We are not stopping Forged Carbon.

And we are always looking at other materials, which leads me back to the “Better” part of our goals. Forged Carbon has been important for us, and it will remain so.


Royal Oak Offshore Diver in ceramic

TZ: How does your goal of “Better” affect your relationship with the retailer network?

FHB: Same as the watches. We have been dealing with quantity over the years, and we need to focus on quality. At every level, and in everything we do. It’s a huge challenge, but this also puts the retailers in a stronger position. We’re spending an extraordinary amount to buy back inventory that has not moved for them. The pricing is positioned for sustainability, and moving forward we are more competitive.

There are maybe 5 to 7 brands who can generate more than $2 Million in annual revenue per door (point of sale), and we are one of them. The concept is proven, and thankfully we have many wanting to become Audemars Piguet retailers. Looking ahead 10 years, we will bring the brand to another level as we have the past 10 years, and the retailers will be pleased. We are not going away from the retailer network, and we could even open stores with the retailers.

The bottom line is we care more about this partnership than ever before, and it means looking ahead. Not just for a sale, or this week. A year, 5 years, 10 years. We are all answering the same question. “Who are we marrying for the long term?”

TZ: Quality over quantity, with the collection and your relationships?

FHB: It’s always about relationship. Always, always, always. And we can improve the collective benefit if we are working toward the same goals.

In 1999, I came to the US and we were doing $6 Million in revenue, with 95 doors (points of sale). We are now at 39 doors, and we just broke $100 Million in sales for the year. What does this say?

TZ: Quality product, sold by quality people, spells luxury.

FHB: REAL luxury. True luxury is the experience that goes with the product. It is not an amount.

TZ:Thank you very much for taking the time to address these questions , and congratulations again on your new role at AP.

FHB: Thank you!

© Timezone. All rights reserved.

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Two big releases this year come in ceramic.

First, we see the Offshore Diver in ceramic.

And for the first time, with exhibition caseback…and still rated to 300 meters

Then, Audemars Piguet presents a 44mm Offshore Chronograph in ceramic

See also FEATURE ARTICLE: Audemars Piguet at SIHH 2013 by HOWARD PARR and PAUL BOUTROS

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2013 is the 20th Anniversary of the Royal Oak Offshore, and there are a number of notables in this year’s releases.

Two big releases this year come in ceramic. The brand has been interested in working in ceramic for some time, but it was not until the level of finishing achieved with the Legacy LE (the last of the Offshore series with Schwarzenegger) that encouraged them to bring the material to production models.

The Offshore Diver first appeared in 2010, in stainless steel.

A forged carbon version was introduced last year.

This year, we see the Offshore Diver in ceramic.

And for the first time, with exhibition caseback…and still rated to 300 meters

As well, a 44mm Offshore Chronograph in ceramic

The forged carbon equivalent models will fully transition to their ceramic counterparts, but all forged carbon pieces currently offered will continue production in 2013

We’ve seen one-off editions of the Offshore Perpetual before, including the limited Restivo. This year, we see a limited series of three pieces, with some new dial design elements.

In Titanium:

In Rose Gold:

And in Platinum:

PT and Ti together

Since its founding in 1875, Audemars Piguet has made a Grande Complication every year. Even in the leanest years of a worldwide Depression, when in 1932 they produced exactly one watch, it was a Grande Comp. Every Grande Comp produced at Audemars Piguet is assembled three times before delivery.

First, the movement is assembled for functionality. Once all functions are tested, the movement is disassembled and then hand-finished. It is re-assembled and again tested for operation, as well as confirming the visual qualities of the finishing. It is disassembled again, more finishing is done, and the 648-part watch is at last fully assembled and tested once more. This entire process takes one watchmaker approximately six months.

For 2013, we see the skeletonized Grande Comp, which combines a Perpetual Calendar, Minute Repeater, and split-second Chronograph.

In Titanium/Ceramic and Rose Gold (not pictured):

Also new for this year is a complication trio we have previously seen in the Jules Audemars line, and now in the Tradition model line. Audemars Piguet is possibly the only company to combine a Minute Repeater, Tourbillon and Chronograph, a combination requiring complex movement design due to the amount of space occupied by the Tourbillon.

This year’s SIHH offered a remarkable number of releases in Ladies watches. Audemars Piguet and several other brands concentrated significantly on them, with a number of new pieces in both the Royal Oak and Jules Audemars lines.

Jules Audemars Ultra Thin with diamond set

Powered by the legendary 2120 movement

This 41mm piece has been offered for the past couple of years in both white and rose gold, and many of its buyers have been women.

Jules Audemars Automatic

With the superb 3120 movement:

Several manual wind Jules Audemars pieces:

Tradition with Mother of Pearl dial (also offered in Rose Gold without diamonds):

Hope you enjoyed!

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Here’s three of ’em.

(Watches as owned by TomG).

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Here’s a shot I like.

(Watches owned by TomG).

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Viva México: the 2012 SIAR Watch Fair

Howard Parr

7 October 2012

Earlier this week, I went to the SIAR (Salon Internacional Alta Relojeria) in Mexico City. This was the 6th Edition of the watch fair, and included the most exhibitors yet…44 brands!

Most of the brands had scheduled presentations throughout the show, and I was asked to moderate the presentation from Audemars Piguet. Company board member (and founding family descendant) Olivier Audemars came from Switzerland along with Chief Artistic Director (a/k/a head of AP’s watch and branding design) Octavio Garcia. Rather than give a talk, they preferred a more relaxed and informal open interview, as it were, so I was asked to facilitate this. More on the presentation can be found on the AP forum HERE

First off, let me just say that anyone who can attend the SIAR Watch Fair really ought to go. The intimate Salon is held on two floors of the Four Seasons Hotel in Mexico City. Stay there, enjoy the overwhelming hospitality of the staff, and some of the world’s finest watch browsing is literally an elevator ride from your room.


The brand executives at the opening of the Salon

I made a point of visiting every manufacturer several times, and they were universally jubilant about the SIAR, with one brand exec going so far as to say it is one of his favorite watch fairs in the world. Why? “Because every request in terms of our setup is accommodated. And because the public is so knowledgeable and engaged.”

*And it should be noted that all entrance fees for the fair are donated to the Red Cross.

Some brands shared suites, others created a virtual brand boutique on their own. Two entire floors of the hotel were transformed into one very intimate setting. Want to speak with Richard Mille? Right through that door. Mssr. DeWitt himself? Why not? Olivier Audemars? He’s here too. The worldwide head of Marketing for Jaeger-LeCoultre? For Vacheron Constantin? For MB&F? Yes, yes, and yes…all were in attendance. And all primed for a conversation.

And with the extraordinary history and culture of Mexico City surrounding you, a full week’s visit is a must!

The press came from all over Latin America, and were nothing short of voracious in their approach to the many interviews conducted throughout the week. Numerous interviews a day with the various brands, and you couldn’t tell the writer from the WIS, because whether from Vogue, Esquire or a watch-specific magazine, they were first and foremost passionate about watches.

I had the wonderful opportunity to dine with quite a few of the press, and none appeared to be there for a job. Sure, they were working. All day, every day. But what came through most is that they were simply head over heels for watches.

In fact, after dinner I watched as six journalists had their 40th Anniversary Royal Oak books autographed by AP’s lead designer Octavio Garcia, who sketched a Royal Oak in each of their books. Octavio’s parents hailed from Mexico, so he was welcomed at the fair as a star returning home.

Throughout the week, the SIAR Watch Fair showed why it is such a powerful fair, and why Latin America has become so important to the many brands in attendance. First and foremost, watches sell BIG in Latin America. And big watches–and we’re talking perpetuals and Grande Complications–sell BIG in Latin America. From Mexico to Argentina, and all countries in between, watches are extremely popular.

Second–and this is why you ought to think about attending next year–the SIAR shined specifically because of what was missing from the week. It took me a couple of days to figure out what it was.

There was absolutely no sign of “been there, done that” jadedness that is an almost guaranteed foe if you’re in this hobby long enough. At some point, something is bound to trip you up. A brand is too fashion-y, you hit a blip in service, fancy events and ambassadors leave you wary of the value of the watches, too few independent brands, they’re only in it for the money, watches are too big and gaudy, and so on.

These truths aren’t universal. Hell, they aren’t even truths. But they live like truths for us. Potentially insurmountable walls, when suddenly the purity of our endeavor is gone, watches are no longer the person we married, and we fight cynicism with everything we’ve got. We change brands, we buy a new watch, we take a break…whatever we can muster to try and regain the love for the tic-toc we so deeply fell in love with years earlier. Just what can we do when we become resigned with all of this?

2013, you go to Mexico. That’s what you do. Because if you want to be fully immersed in everything you fell in love with over watches, the SIAR Salon is for you.


The Courtyard (image by Four Seasons, Mexico D.F.)

Collectors and watch enthusiasts came from all over Latin America to enjoy this intimate experience. They were curious, almost anxiously so. They couldn’t get enough of the watches and the conversation about them.

More good news for the future: if you’re one who fears the cell phone will kill any chance of the next generation wearing watches, the SIAR is for you. Many children came to the Fair, sporting a vintage Tag or Omega, or standing eye-level with the watchmaker’s bench as they were shown the inner workings of a Minute Repeater

…or a loupe view of a skeleton.

There were young company execs looking for the next tourbillon, others attending a Master watchmaking class from Jaeger-LeCoultre, and many of them women.

If anything was clear this past week, it was that service and family come first in Mexico. And that was the prevailing feeling at the SIAR. You weren’t coming to a watch fair. You were attending a family reunion, and the theme was watches.

So, let’s get to them.

Despite having taken well over 1000 watch images of every brand present, some of the suites were just too problematic for pictures. So I’ve spared the glare, and dumped those too harsh to post.

That said, here you are…

AP’s suite re-created the theme of its 40th Anniversary Royal Oak Exhibition, which makes the final stop of its world tour this week in Singapore.

And an original Royal Oak from the AP Museum

Cartier

Vacheron Constantin

Montblanc

MB&F

De Bethune

A. Lange & Sohne

Urwerk

Richard Mille

Franc Vila

Jaeger-LeCoultre

LUNCH TIME!

Hop in the sponsor’s car…

Or maybe just take the elevator downstairs for some fresh tacos…

Will you look what time it is?!

Back to it…

Concord

Dewitt

Piaget

Zenith

One of my favorites from the show. A new ladies, cushion watch from Zenith. Diamonds so elegantly tucked into the corners of the case only.

Hublot

Girard-Perregaux

I visited with Mike Margolis for quite a while. Thanks for opening the cases, Mike. It’s trouble trying to shoot all of these pieces from outside the glass.

Beautifully adorning Mr. Margolis’s wrist…

And so it is written…

Mexico and the 2013 Salon Internacional Alta Relojeria…VAMOS!!!

Congratulations to AP on their award for the 40th Anniversary Royal Oak.

And thank you for including me this week at the amazing SIAR Watch Fair.

Hope you all enjoyed the Fair!

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Last night was closing night of the Inside Basel Geneva 2012 tour. The event was held at the Beverly Hills Hotel and included over 40 brand exhibitors and watchmakers. Some photos of this year’s novelties, exhibitors and attendees:


During the cocktail reception, Jeff Kingston shared a wrist shot of his new Breguet perpetual calendar

Audemars Piguet

Antoine Martin
The brand “Antoine Martin” is master watchmaker Martin Braun’s second act. We’ll follow-up with more details from our dinner with Martin, later.

Kari Voutilainen

We’ll follow-up with more details from our dinner with master watchmaker Kari Voutilainen, later.

Piaget
Piaget presents the world’s thinnest watch and the world’s coolest 3D watch display

Badollet
I haven’t seen Ed (edgy) this excited over a watch in years. And I’m glad he pulled me over to see the drop-dead gorgeous Ivresse with its elegant curved case, and utterly stunning curved movement!

Maîtres du Temps
We’ll follow-up with more details of these masterpieces, later.

Richard Mille
The new RM 037 with in-house calibre CRMA1 and other novelties, like the RM 029, RM 039, and the new aviators

Vacheron Constantin

Carl Bucherer

The lively Ron Stoll, President of Carl Bucherer NA. We’ll follow-up with more from Carl Bucherer, soon.

Panerai
A watchmaker flew in from Dallas and was on hand assembling and disassembling some of the Panerai in-house movements.


In-house P.2004 (column-wheel chronograph with three barrels) and P.2002 (horizontal 8-day PR indicator and three barrels)


A mini-Risti GTG with the watchmaker’s PAM 111 and La Jolla PAM 465

A. Lange & Söhne
The new Datograph Auf/Aub and Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar

Breguet

La Tradition GMT 7067

Heritage Phase de Lune Retrograde 8660

A piece unique baguette Hora Mundi

Blancpain

Glashutte Original

Jaquet Droz

The second part of the event was an opening greeting by Watchtime’s Editor-in-Chief Joe Thompson, followed by an informative and engaging presentation by Jeff Kingston:


Jeff explains that the new Breguet 10Hz will not have the red dial lettering in production


Some of the TZers at our table – Ed, Kevin, Key & Mike

Thanks to Joe Thompson & Jeff Kingston for hosting a lovely evening. See you again, soon!

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