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Moonwatch Only a book review1>
Once upon a time, in a faraway land called Switzerland, lived watchmakers who created a watch called the Omega Speedmaster. The NASA fairies selected the watch to go to the moon and the myth around it became legendary.
The new book Moonwatch Only written by Grégoire Rossier and Anthony Marquié with forewords from Omega CEO Stephen Urquhart and NASA astronaut Captain Eugene Cernan is exactly the opposite of a fairy tale. Instead, the authors, a Swiss biologist and a French Aeronautical engineer used their scientific skills to write what is certainly the most definitive work about the Speedmaster.
The authors faced a huge challenge to classify and codify a watch that has been in continuous production since 1957 with 125 different models. They created a methodology which not only makes this book an important reference for Speedmaster collectors around the world, but also for future watch book writers who could use Moonwatch Only as a template for other important watches with a multitude of models that may deserve the same recognition as the Speedmaster Professional.
After an introduction to the history of the Speedmaster and a presentation of the watch, we learn to decipher the watch reference codes. The two main chapters of the book follow.
The first main chapter entitled, “Main Components and Accessories” is an analysis of the multiple component of the watches such as the movement, case, dial, bezel, caseback, etc. and their respective modifications. This is a very detailed chapter and each component is beautifully photographed and compared. Each subchapter for every component concludes with recommendations from the authors about what to do before buying.
The second main chapter entitled “The Models” is a chronological presentation of each model in standard production, followed by special and limited series, and concluding with projects and prototypes The authors present each watch a similar way starting with productions years, movement numbers and list each and every modification for each component. This can easily be cross referenced with the preceding chapter.
The book concludes with a chapter dedicated to purchasing your perfect Moonwatch. There is a one page recap for each of the components featured and finally an identification tree that could be used as a tool to identify a Moonwatch.
The book has an extremely short bibliography listing mostly books about watchmaking and the Omega saga and I am skeptical that the authors wrote such a compelling work without looking at other important contributions on the Internet, the other Omega books, the Omegamania auction catalogue and, perhaps, most importantly the surprisingly missing book in the bibliography is the Kesaharu Imai reference entitled “A Time Capsule Omega Speedmaster: The Story of the First Watch in Outer Space”. I have a hard time believing that the authors did not have a pick at that book originally written and published in Japanese and later translated by World Photo Press.
Moonwatch Only is certainly one of the best books ever written about a single watch model. The work is schorlaly, and its importance is far reaching in the niche world of watch book writers. We are continuously bombarded by books often written at the express demand of a brand, and these books are more fairy tales glorifying a brand than genuine academic work. Roissier and Marquié gifted us with a wonderful book and a clear framework for more such work to come.
Excerpts from Moonwatch Only with permission of the publisher:
Timezone Features December 15, 2014
Timezone Features December 5, 2014
A TimeZone Interview with Maria & Richard Habring
about the Habring² Kaliber A11
An interview in November 2014 by William Massena
TimeZone (TZ): Maria & Richard, you have recently launched your in-house movement. What has driven you to become completely independent?
Maria & Richard Habring (H²): Well – it has never been a secret that we were using in the beginning ETA-movements (the 6498-1) and later ETA-components (from the 7750) to create our watches. With the years we started to do more and more on the movements ourselves including developing functional modules on the ETA-train gear which we’ve been supplied with since 2009. In 2011 we received a letter from ETA stating that they do not supply any parts to us anymore based on their mother companies (Swatchgroup) former and well known strategically decision.
TZ: How was the feeling in this moment?
H²: One would have been very naive by thinking that ETA will not move forward with their groups strategy but it was obviously quite interesting to see that they did not only have those bigger brands (Mr. Hayek called them the opportunists) in focus but as well the very tiny ones which can never compete with SG’s own brands. The question for us in this very special moment in 2011 was: What to do with Habring²? Going completely independent or letting it die?
TZ: So you decided to survive?
H²: Right! And not only to survive, to survive without any dependence to a major supplier like Sellita. Our strategy in the past 3 years was to found a network of small family owned companies in Austria, German and Switzerland to supply single components produced after the drawings we provide. It took us about 2.000 hours – a lot of weekends and holidays – to have everything ready this year 2014 to start production of components
TZ: What is the difference between „movements“ and „components“?
H²: If we say „movement” we mean the entire and functioning motor of a watch. In case of ETA-movements entirely produced and assembled at ETA, sold to one of their customer brands. When talking about „components“ we mean all the single parts inside a watch movements, the wheels, the levers, the barrel, the escapement, the balance wheel etc. which are in addition a group of parts with need for separate assembly before being used inside the movement.
TZ: Just for our understanding: You bought wheels, escapements, balance wheels etc. at ETA before they stopped supplying and integrated those parts inside your movements?
H²: Correct! This strategy was necessary to allow us to further develop our watches the way we wanted to. About 80% of our watches are non-chronographs. It does not make sense to buy a chrono-movement, taking it completely apart, and putting the wheels back into own plates and bridges. It’s a waste of time and material. The funny aspect was that the single components out of the 7750 been in total more expensive than a completed movement with 4 times the number of parts inside. So ETA made good profit by this strategy while we had fully flexibility.
TZ: There is this still pending case at Swiss COMCO/WEKO (competition commission) which sentenced ETA and Nivarox to supply further movements and parts. Why did this not include your interests?
H²: Simple reason. The main case turns around completed movements, when it comes to single components than this means the escapement parts from Nivarox. We bought single components from ETA and have never been customers at Nivarox. So our interests are just simply not part of the case. To be involved party in this case one has to file approach with lawyers etc. This costs much more in the end than it brings benefits. ETA and Nivarox are sentenced to supply their former customers at least some percentage of the past volume but they are not obliged to accept new customers.
TZ: But this all is history now. How would you explain the difference between the movement based on the 7750-parts and the A11, your in-house movement?
H²: Some critics say the A11 is a copy or a clone of the 7750 but this is not right. The 7750 is and remains a chrono-movement while A11 is a mainly manual wound rather basic tractor to build our well known attractively priced starter models or our dead beat seconds. Of course the A11 has some design similarity to the basic train gear of the 7750 but this has been necessary to maintain the majority of our production while implementing the new basic movement into the entire existing line. Take our dead beat second or our foudroyante as examples, or at the chrono side our COS, the Doppel both ideally with in-house 60-minutes counter from the center. All those functional modules have to be driven from several links to the basic movement.
TZ: So your approach was rather pragmatic than artistic?
H²: By creating something completely new we would have lost all those functional modules we were working on since 2007. It’s tough enough for a small family company like ours (7 persons including the two founders and three apprentices) to be confronted with such a problem, but it can’t be that a group like SG influences the strategy of a private company and small brand. In addition we do not have the guarantee in the future that ETA further continues to provide spare parts for the movements build with their components in the past years. By being rather near at the former base we will be able to produce our own spares and further guarantee 30 years spare parts supply if necessery.
TZ: Coming back to the question: Copy or clone?
H²: Evolution! The 7750 has been and is one of the most accurate and reliable watch movements but it’s mainly industrial in it’s approach even though Edmond Capt, the man behind the 7750 did an incredible job. The A11 is developed further, in several details as well as in the making. It‘s optimized to be produced and assembled in smaller quantities with even higher quality. Some parts can be exchanged between 7750 and A11 but far not all. Let it be father and son, mother and daughter rather than being twins. We are using different mainsprings, shock absorbers, dial fixation, fine timing device. Our finishing is much more refined even though not being on very highest level. Let’s say it’s on a Volkswagen-level rather than Bentley.
TZ: You write that „A11 sets new benchmarks in watch business when it comes to the hand work involved“. What does that mean?
H²: Therefore, we have to go a little deeper into watch industry: A watch in our usual price range between Euro 4K to 6K is usually industrial made which means high volume, quite some automatisation, of course hand assembled but the production of the parts is high-tech. Take, for example, a single pallet fork or the balance wheel which are produced by machines, assembled by machine, and – at the balance – poised and timed by machines including bending the terminal curve at the hairspring. The parts for our pallet forks and balance wheels are crafted by machines too but then the entire assembly, adjusting etc. is made by hand. Every single hairspring at the A11 is entirely hand finished. Every pallet in our A11 is manually positioned to ensure perfect performance. Much, much more production steps are handmade , as well the central drilling of our train wheels and the final riveting on the axles.
TZ: There are watches on the market using the argumant „hand made“ but compared with yours they are usually much more expensive. How come?
H²: The manu facta (Latin for „handmade”) like we call it at Habring² is not made on purpose to increase the prestige of our products. It’s a simple need in order to survive as company and brand in the global competition. We do of course not dare to be compared with the premium handmade pieces like a Philippe Dufour or a Roger Smith. This is complete different league. We do hand work to safe costs and investments. But our understanding of the word „manufactory“ is more influenced by the „manu“ than the „factory“.
TZ: How to finance an in-house movement?
H²: If one is situated in Glashütte and wants to invest in machines for the industrial finishing of balance wheels he asks the government for public support and/or co-financing. Why has Glashütte grown so quick and so prosperous? Because the government and the European community pumps huge money into the local economy, mainly watch industry. We don’t have such possibilities her in Austria. We do have in addition no investor in the background. We are working with our very own capital, we do not own a villa or apartment. Our company car (we call it director’s limousine) is a Smart-car. Both – our home and the company – is rented to have the opportunity to work with our own limited money. Our pension fund lies in watch parts on our stock. We are working with the limited resources we have and try to make the very best out of it.
TZ: How do you produce all the parts and in which quantities?
H²: Our bridges and plates are CNC-machined like others as well. The difference comes in the details where, for example, the circumference of our main-plates are again reshaped, the drilling for the winding stem is made and all the rubies and pins are set, all by hand. A usual series of plates and bridges with us contains 50 to max. 100 pieces. Turning parts like wheels, pinions, axles are made on common machinery in lots of max. 500 pieces but again finished and assembled by hand. All this reduces the necessary pre-investment for parts. The highest quantity we have in screws since we managed to limit the number of different screws inside A11 to only 3 different sizes. Our shock absorbers are made by KIF because they supply small quantities too differently to Incabloc. Of our fine-timing device we had to buy 2.000 pieces at once, so we have enough for the next ten years. Why? The producer belongs to Swatchgroup and we’ve been forced to buy that quantity or refrain, but we did not have an alternative. This is the only part of the entire 99 in our A11 which is from Swatchgroup-origin.
TZ: But in small quantities the parts are always more expensive?
H²: Yes of course and this dramatically! We are facing costs between three times and eight times compared with similar ETA-components without counting the hand work yet. The positive fact is that quality wise our small series production is on higher level than the standard ETA-production. Our parts are more precise, better in finishing and they are creating jobs for human beings.
TZ: The higher costs and quality will probably lead to price increase on several of your products?
H²: Unfortunately yes. The costs of the movement are too high to be compensated with minor annual increases. We will have to increase the prices of all our existing non-chrono models with the use of our in-house movement for about 40%. The current starter model (Time-Only) costs Euro 2.850,– (about US$ 3.550,–) By beginning of 2015 recently introduced „Felix“ will be our new starter model for Euro 4.450,– (US$ 5.550,–). Over the last ten years Habring² has generated an image as „affordable independent“, we will try to maintain this even though on a higher price level with more exclusivity due to the in-house movement. We would love to continue our strategy with moderately priced pieces but we can’t under these circumstances inside the industry.
TZ: What about the Chrono’s in your range?
H²: The Chrono’s will remain for the time being on ETA-wheelwork. As mentioned: only about 20% of our production are chronographs so we are able to reach out a little longer with the movements on stock. Later – in the coming years – we will use the A11 train gear as well for our COS and Doppel’s. Step by step.
TZ: Higher production volume would decrease the prices for your movement and it’s components probably?
H²: Definitely! But we do neither have the intention to go for mass production nor see serious potential for selling our movement to other companies. A11 might be industrialize able if somebody would be interested by doing so, but we don’t. The reason is simple: In watch business everything gets compared with ETA. To provide same prices for movements like ETA did in the past you need to produce same quantities otherwise you will always be more expensive. And then again investment in machines might be necessary and we would need to change our company structure entirely. And at the end of the day each movement buyer would ask why the movement is more expensive than an equivalent ETA. If you argue „because of the lower volume“ everybody will say: „Produce more!“ So you end up with the economic risk. Another option would be to move to China at least for the production of several components like it is common use in watch business. But this is no option for us since we feel a need to safe jobs here in Austria and it’s surrounding and we need the full control about the quality of our components. Even our boxes are made locally here by a carpenter in the neighborhood. It costs a fortune – compared with the common “made in China” – but it’s worth every single cent since we have a social role as entrepreneurs here in our region.
TZ: There are ideas around to offer watch movements “open source”, what about that?
H²: The basic idea behind “open source” is great but we are too far already since we have are able to produce now everything under our direction. If we would open our drawings to others and name our suppliers others would benefit by saving the development costs we had to invest in the past three years plus the investments for tooling. We would not have a benefit aside buying some components a littler cheaper, maybe. Open-source might make more sense for specialized parts producers who do only concentrate on their very own domain. Somebody who makes balance wheels, for example, like it’s been decades ago in Switzerland.
TZ: You are currently producing about 150 pcs. a year with your team and structure. Where is the ceiling in annual production for Habring²?
H²: We are not sure yet but we think the possible maximum will be somewhere between 200 and 300 pcs. This includes that the both of us are part of the production and assembly process, every single watch goes through our hands. Of course more might be possible but then again we would need to reorganize our company aside the growth and giving up jobs we like to do ourselves. The maximum of 300 comes from the past experience, however since we started to assemble our own pallet forks and producing our own balance wheels it is more likely that we will remain on our current level rather than growing in the coming years. And finally we want to keep Habring² being something special and rare. It’s an affordable, but still exclusive, mainly handmade watch from a small independent family owned company.
Richard & Maria Habring
See also Independent Horology Forum Habring2 Felix 10th Anniversary – The Workshop Tour
Photos: Stefan (Barge)
© Timezone. All rights reserved.
Timezone Features November 23, 2014
James goes to Japan: Seiko Factory Part 1
Seiko was founded in Tokyo, it was the site of their original factory and the firm is still headquartered there, but their factories are all several hours away. The reason for this is that during WWII Seiko was producing not only watches, clocks and cockpit instruments but also timing devices and their sole customer was the armed forces of the Japanese Empire. Once the US Army Air Corps began bombing the Japanese mainland on a regular basis it became essential to move production to safer locations; which is why the production of mechanical Grand Seiko & Credor watches is carried out in Morioka 540 kilometres north; it would take around 6 hours to drive but the Hayabusa Bullet train covers the distance in 2 hours 11 minutes. And that was how I made my way there, relaxing in a comfy seat and browsing TimeZone courtesy of the free on board WiFi.
The area around Morioka is mountainous & heavily wooded, but the city itself sits in a plain at the junction of three rivers. Even though the area around the city was spared most of the WWII bombing, the Seiko factory is around 30 minutes outside town; set, almost invisibly amongst trees, a few hundred yards from the main road.
As the taxi pulled up, several of the management came out to welcome us, we walked inside, removed our shoes and donned slippers and then retired to a meeting room for a quick briefing on the plant, their history and what they do there; I learned some very interesting facts:
Here is a scale model of the factory to give you an idea of the mammoth scale of the place.
Then it was time for the real purpose of my trip, a guided tour of the factory. The really interesting thing for me is the dual purpose of the factories; on the ground floor is a mammoth production area devoted solely to the production of quartz movements; they make several dozen thousands a day. But they are NOT Seiko movements, rather they are signed ‘Time Module’ and are sold to watch firms all over the world who install them in inexpensive watches and then put their own names on the dials.
In contrast to this industrial behemoth, one floor up is the area where the mechanical Grand Seiko and Credor watches are made. On the wall outside the area are photographs & certificates for all the workers therein, sorted by the three grades into which they fall.
The area is quite small probably 100 yards by 20 yards and less than a hundred people work in an area split into four or five rooms; it has a glass wall on the long north side, looking out on to a tree covered landscape whilst the south side is also a glass wall with a corridor where visitors can see the artisans at work; fortunately I was allowed inside.
Here you can see the view from the corridor into the assembly area and out on to the view of the woods.
Here you can see the corridor with a raised platform so that visitors can get a good view of the workers.
The first room we entered was the testing room, the first thing that I noticed was the preponderance of binocular microscopes; which were used much more than in any Swiss factory I have ever visited. The testing of mechanical GS watches makes a mockery of the COSC tests; every movement is tested for 17 days and then once the watch is finally assembled, the completed watch is then tested for a further 14 days.
Then, it was time to enter the ‘holy of holies’; the actual assembly area; in order to do this, we had to don full protective gear, anti static overall & cap, protective bootees over our shoes and then enter an airlock where strong blasts of compressed air blew off any dust clinging to us. The other purpose of the airlock is because the assembly area is kept at an overpressure to the rest of the factory, meaning that if a door is opened; air will rush out, not in & so no dust can enter. Once you enter the area your first couple of steps are onto a sticky mat, so that anything, which had adhered to the soles of your bootees, will be removed. The level of cleanliness was somewhere between a surgical operating room & a microchip production facility.
The sight that greeted me was almost domestic in scale; around 40 workers sat at identical benches bent over microscopes.
Each worker sat on a very expensive Herman Miller Aeron chair at a bench which had been built to their specific requirements & physique; the benches were made by local craftsmen from a really beautiful dark local wood, which bore more than a passing resemblance to ebony. Each bench bore the name of the person who worked on it.
The system used here is that one person is responsible for the assembly of one movement from start to finish & their name is kept with the records of that movement, so that if a watch comes back for service, then the person who built that movement will be the one to service it; a level of responsibility I have never previously encountered. I was then allowed to see one of the craftsmen assemble a GS automatic movement from scratch.
I was pleased to see that the gentleman assembling the watch was wearing one of his own.
This current GS Automatic movement, the 9S, was introduced in 1998 but has no relation to the previous GS automatic from the 1970s. But whilst the focus was on GS, I was actually more impressed by the Credor movements made in the same room; if the GS ‘production facility’ was quite small, the Credor one was miniscule, only two watchmakers work on these and produce just a few hundred movements a year. But what movements they are; measuring just 1.9mm thick, it is genuinely amazing to look at.
This is one of the movements compared to a Japanese coin; it is about the thickness of a US 5c coin.
What I love about it isn’t the decoration or the skeletonization of the movement, rather it is the layout of the plates and bridges, there has been some obvious respect for the aesthetic aspect of the movement design, in many ways it reminds me of the movements that Patek made during the 1950s and 1960s. Nowadays too many movements are designed with no thought for the way they look.
The next room is where the assembled movements are cased; the cases come from an associated Seiko company nearby. Here are some Credor cases, awaiting the super slim movements I showed earlier (the script at the bottom of the dial reads ‘UTM’, meaning Ultra Thin Movement)
Once cased, it is time for more testing; as I said earlier, the completed GS watches are then tested for fourteen days; the first job is to place them in a box which winds all the automatic watches.
The next room was quality control; parts arrive from other divisions of the firm and are then checked for quality and consistency.
Then it was back downstairs to visit a little room, much too small to be called a museum, but one that contained some of the most interesting exhibits of my entire visit. I don’t know how many of you know about Seiko’s success in the Swiss chronometer trials of the late 1960s. These were competitions between manufacturers using specially designed and constructed movements to see who could make the most accurate watch. In 1969, Seiko dominated the results beating all the famed Swiss makers with this movement, nicknamed the ‘Potato’.
As with all chronometer test watches, it had a remarkably unassuming dial.
I believe it was part of the chronometer rules that this style of dial had to be used, compare it to my Longines 30Z made a little earlier for the same competitions.
Then it was back downstairs to put my shoes back on; as I looked up from tying my shoe laces I saw something strange from the corner of my eye and wandered over to have a look; it was, without doubt, the strangest Seiko timepiece I have ever seen.
It was made by the factory’s employees in their spare time and, more than anything, disproves the idea that the Japanese do not have a sense of humor.
This is the end of the first factory visit report; so, if all you are interested in is watches, then goodbye. But, back at the station, I saw something really interesting, so I thought I might share it with the rest of you. Everyone knows that the Shinkansen (bullet trains) are always on time, not only that, but they stop EXACTLY where they should. We were in car 9, so this is where we had to stand.
A few minutes early, our train pulls into the station and sits there with the doors closed, so I wander down to the end of the train to have a look.
The Hayabusa Bullet Trains have almost impossibly long noses, as part of their aerodynamic design and the front and rear are identical.
As I got to the tail, there was a whirring noise and the extreme tail of the train opened up like a clamshell to reveal some strange machinery.
A moment later another Shinkansen came in on the same line, with its front clamshell doors open.
It came within six feet of our train before stopping, then a railroad employee signalled the driver and it inched slowly forward until they touched and the two blocks locked on to each other.
Later, I was sent this image from a Seiko employee of Rob Wilson from Seiko International & I looking at the ‘mating’ and I realised that the hatched outline on the floor marks the point at which the trains connect.
If you want to see a video of the ‘mating’, here you go:
If you have read this far, thank you & stay tuned for part II, where I visit the Suwa plant where all the quartz & Spring Drive Grand Seiko & Credor watches are made. Part III will be my lengthy interview with Mr. Hattori and a visit to the Seiko Museum, whilst the final part will be Mr. Hattori’s answer to our readers’ questions.Read more
Louis Vuitton Tambour Twin Chrono Match Racing
Hamdi Chatti, Yves Klein and my amazing new watch
For most folks who attended, Baselworld 2013 will be remembered for the amazing brand new hall and the opening concert by Lana Del Rey. But for me it was the show where I ordered four watches, the most I have ever done.
There were two from mass manufacturers, one from an independent and one from a firm somewhere in the middle. I was wearing both the pieces from the major firms within six months of the show closing & am still waiting for the independent to tell me he has begun work on my watch, which leaves the one somewhere in the middle. That is the one I want to talk about now.
Just over two weeks ago, I boarded the Eurostar train at London’s St. Pancras station and a little over two hours later found myself in Paris, I jumped into a taxi and made my way to the Place Vendôme. Some people say that Geneva’s Rue du Rhône has the highest concentration of watch stores in the world. I have responded by declaring that the shopping mall beneath Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands complex makes the Rue du Rhône look like a developing country. However, both opinions are ultimately wrong since the world’s watch-shopping HQ is the Place Vendôme.
The list of brands covering three sides of the square (The Ritz Hotel occupies an entire side) read like a ‘Who’s Who’ of the watch business; Patek, Dior, Hublot, Chaumet, Piaget, Blancpain, Van Cleef & Arpels, Boucheron, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Rolex, Louis Vuitton and Cartier, with just two interlopers, J.P. Morgan and Swatch. The keen eyed observer will have noticed a preponderance of French or French owned brands, and it was to one of those French brands that I was heading.
Louis Vuitton have boutiques all over Paris and the one on the Place Vendôme is probably their smallest and, perhaps, their most exclusive because there are no handbags or shoes in this boutique. Rather, its Place Vendôme boutique is exclusively high-end watches and jewellery, and it was at Place Vendôme where I met with Hamdi Chatti, President of Louis Vuitton Watches & Jewellery.
A little background on Hamdi is useful here. Prior to Louis Vuitton, he ran the watches operation at Montblanc, where he supervised the renaissance of the Minerva brand and its high end Villeret operation. Before Montblanc, he ran Harry Winston where he supervised the Opus co-operation with independent watchmakers. Since his background is working with firms who have little or no profile in the watch business and turning them into high end powerhouses, it is easy to understand why Louis Vuitton wanted him.
All this leads us to the Louis Vuitton Tambour Match Racing Twin Chrono (the “Twin Chrono”). What I loved about it from the moment I saw it was firstly the dial, a sensational blue enamelled guilloché one with red and white print. And even more attractive was the new complication it presented, which was nothing less than a complete reimagining of the split seconds chronograph.
A conventional split seconds chronograph has three buttons which must be pushed in a strict order in order to time two consecutive competitors and when the second one has finished you need to perform an arithmetical calculation to determine the time difference. The Twin Chrono reduces this to one button and zero calculation. The lower dials start instantaneously and simultaneously when the button is pressed, when the first competitor crosses the line the button is pushed again and the lower left register stops whilst the lower right one continues to time the other competitor and the top dial also starts. As the second place competitor crosses the line the button is pushed again and both the running registers stop, with the lower right one reading their time and the top one showing the difference between the two. One other difference between the Twin Chrono and normal chronographs is that the sweep central seconds hand is not part of the chronograph mechanism, just a normal sweep seconds.
The watch was introduced to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Louis Vuitton Cup, the trophy awarded to the victor in the run-offs to decide who will be the challenger to the holder of the America’s Cup in yacht racing. Which goes some way to explaining why it is designed to time two competitors (the run offs are always just two boats) and why only thirty examples were made.
Whilst the watch is much simpler for the user to operate, this is counterbalanced by the complexity of the movement; essentially there are four separate movements inside the case; the main timekeeping one and three individual ones for each of the three registers. All these need balance wheels, escapements and shock protection; it might well be the ‘densest’ movement I have ever seen, there seems not to be a cubic centimetre of space within the case.
You can see the three balances for the registers around the outside of the movement and the timekeeping balance near the centre. You can also see the exquisite level of finishing on the movement. A conscious decision was made not to use traditional perlage and Côtes de Genève style finishing on the movement, but instead to use an equally delicate but more modern radially brushed finish. The anglage, the polished screw heads and other trademarks of quality workmanship are still visible in the image below.
The most intricate component in the entire watch is the column wheel which is the ‘brain’ of the watch. Here it has three levels, or steps, and it is these three levels which control the chronograph functions. It is, in itself, a work of art.
The column wheel is, in itself, a work of art
Hamdi told me that setting up this wheel and doing the final ultra precise machining to make sure that all the registers start, stop and reset in their correct order is as complex as fine tuning their minute repeater and goes a long way to explaining why it has taken almost 18 months to produce the thirty watches in the series.
There are lots of lovely little touches in the case too; the upper crown winds and sets the three hands, whilst the lower one winds the barrel for the three registers, they are not identical, whilst the upper one displays a recessed “LV” motif.
The lower one bears the logo of the Louis Vuitton Cup.
So, the question you are probably asking is, “How did LV go from making very expensive luggage to making cutting edge watches?” The answer is simple, they bought in the expertise. Over the last few years they have purchased the boutique watchmaker, La Fabrique du Temps and the two dialmakers ArteCad and Léman Cadrans. La Fabrique du Temps was one of those small operations, with less than 50 employees, who work silently behind the scenes for other manufacturers. For example, La Fabrique du Temps build the sensational Laurent Ferrier Galet Double Spiral Tourbillion which won the 2010 GPHG on its introduction; all of Ralph Lauren’s tourbillions; watches for Manufacture Royale; plus, several other firms who like to pretend that they do it all in-house.
Thus far, I haven’t mentioned the thing which drew me to the Twin Chrono in the first place – the dial. Simply put, the enamel dial is sensational. Using a white gold base, which is then engraved in a grid pattern of 1mm squares, a coat of blue enamel is then hand applied, fired and then repeated several times until the blue is deep enough that you feel you could dive into it. Then the registers and the text are applied before a final firing. I have always loved enamel dials, ever since my first Rolex Oyster cushion. Indeed, after 30 years, the Patek 2526 remains my favourite Patek Philippe. Yet, I have never owned a coloured enamel dialled watch.
Something instantaneously drew me to Twin Chrono dial and, it was only after I had owned it for a week, that I realised that the dial seems to continuously change shade and tone under different light. Indeed, although the dial and the rehaut are the same colour, because they are at different angles, they often seem to be different colours due to the way the light hits them.
But the most frequent colour I see reminds me of International Klein Blue, an intense blue developed by French artist Yves Klein. Yves Klein started out as a surrealist following in the footsteps of Duchamp. Here is his famed performance piece, The Void:
Later, Yves Klein focussed all his energies on his monochrome paintings in the colour he trademarked as International Klein Blue. International Klein Blue is a stark, intense blue with a visual effect that must be experienced in-person since it is impossible to reproduce the colour in print:
Before you start to laugh at the conceit of a painting in just one colour, consider that Klein’s paintings have sold for as much as $36 million, which makes the €50,000 (plus tax) I paid for the Twin Chrono seem extremely reasonable.
There is one nice little touch about my watch, it is numbered 30/30. When I got the press pack for the opening of Louis Vuitton’s new factory, included therein was a thumb drive with the factory images, including this one showing the final casing of my watch:
The Twin Chrono has been almost constantly on my wrist since I got it and every time I glance down at it, it makes me smile; which is my test of a ‘keeper’ watch.
If you have read this far, thank you.
– James DowlingRead more
Timezone Features October 6, 2014
A. Lange & Söhne Lange 31
More Complicated than Meets the Eye
Originally published on TimeZone in 2007.
A watch which runs at a constant rate for 31 whole days without winding? Impossible, say some…Can be done, says the incredible team at Lange. The result – the Lange 31. A very handsome watch, with a simple dial, but hiding an incredibly complex mechanism to crack the 31 day running train.
Not only does the watch run without being wound for 31 whole days, it does so with a constant amplitude… keeping 270 degrees on the balance wheel throughout.
Available only in platinum, and on a forecasted delivery date of 2009, this watch was revealed in a special Press Conference held in Dresden and Glashutte on March 15, 2007 – a date well chosen to demonstrate the incredible prowess of this watch – exactly 31 days to the start of the SIHH 07 in Geneva.
The watches shown were running, working timepieces, and all but one piece was not finished, and all are still subject to design and aestetic changes. The watch as it was presented is the final design, but one never knows.
The dial side of the Lange 31, shown below…a typically teutonic dial with Lange DNA. The nomenclature “monats-werk” indicates that the movement runs for a month.
This is a large watch, measuring some 46mm in diameter, and 15.8mm in height, it weighs an impressive 230g (about half a pound) in its platinum case.
I wore the watch over the duration of dinner – some 4 hours on my wrist – and when I had to return the watch to Tony de Haas at the Bulow Residenz bar, it was with some regret as the watch felt so natural and at home on my wrist. I don’t think the large dimensions of the watch are to be feared and, these days, might even be considered trendy.
A wrist shot on my 7.5-inches wrist and it sits very well
Another shot on a smaller wrist than mine; see that the watch sits quite nicely
But the reason for this large size is not due to trend, but for a more technical nature since the space required is to house the huge mainspring and the clever mechanism to tame the torque.
The watch is powered by 2 mainsprings, each 1.85m in length, and at max power providing 20 N-mm of torque. As a comparison, the twin barrels on the Lange 1 provides 5 N-mm of torque.
Lange 31 – Too Much Power?
Great power can be achieved by making more powerful mainsprings. Stacking two large mainsprings to achieve long power reserves is not only inelegant, but also presents its own problems. At 20 N-mm, the power from the mainspring driving the drive train would cause instant and extremely severe overbanking of the balance – there is just too much power for the balance to handle. If one makes the balance sufficiently strong to handle the power, it would be very large, and due to this, its inertia would cause it to consume the power from the mainspring quickly, and not able to last the intended design power reserve.
Further, a spring discharge is not provide constant torque, but one which obeys the laws of physics, and discharges according to a reverse s-curve like shown in the picture below. I will be using a series of photographs used in the presentation to explain the theory behind solving this problem. Please excluse the less than perfect pictures – but I think they capture the spirit of the presentation with Tony de Haas pointing and gesticulating, and shows the theory well:
One possible to get as close to this theoretical constant discharge curve is to provide a weak spring which discharges completely at short intervals, but is capable of recharging after each discharge on its own. Next imagine the large mainspring barrels to power such a weak spring. This is the principle of a remontoir – a spring within the power train, which charges and discharges periodically by the power of the mainspring, and hence able to provide a more or less constant force to the escapement.
In the case of the Lange 31, this chosen interval is 10 seconds. I will explain why 10 seconds later.
Such a spring would provide a discharge curve over the 10 seconds like so, and repeats itself every 10 seconds.
The way Lange went about to solve the remontoir is both elegant and complex. The engineers devised a remontoir mounted between two fourth wheels stacked on top of each other, and connected only by the spring of the remontoir. The remointoir recharges once every 10 seconds.
As in a typical watch, the third wheel drives the pinon of fourth wheel directly which makes one revolution every minute. The Lange 31 has 2 fourth wheels. Each is stacked on top of each other and connected only by the remontoir spring in between them. Both are able to move independent of each other and only bound by the limits caused by this remontoir spring. Both fourth wheels makes one revolution every minute, except that a special escapement – the remontoir escapement causes the bottom one to be locked for 10s. It then is released and jumps in spurts once every 10 seconds, while the other fourth wheel moves like that on a normal watch.
The remontoir escapement shown in detail right below. The pinon of the remontoir escapement is driven by the third wheel, and in turn, it drives the lower fourth wheel. A special one toothed escape wheel mounted rigidly on the remontoir escapement pinon wheel receives an impulse once every 10 seconds and is unlocked. This allows power to be delivered once every 10 seconds from the third wheel to the pinon of the remontoir escapement, which then drives the lower fourth wheel. This causes the lower fourth wheel to advance and rewind the remontoir.
When the one toothed wheel is unlocked it releases the full power of the mainspring, and rapidly jumps half a revolution only to be locked by the other pallet. As it is jumps, its pinon drives the bottom fourth wheel which winds the remontoir connected to it. The speed of advance is the relative power difference between the mainspring and the remontoir spring…which is a huge mismatch in power, thus the power train jumps once every 10 seconds. One can observe this in the movement, and also in the minute hand which, being attached to the second wheel, is released once every 10 seconds, and jumps once every 10 second block.
The impulse to unlock the remontoir escapement is provided by the top fourth wheel, which, working on the power of the remontoir spring moves like a normal fourth wheel. It only operates within the small power band of the remontoir spring, imitating a constant force. Mounted rigidly on the top fourth wheel is a cam shaped like an equilateral triangle with three curved sides.
Around this cam is a specially designed lever with two ruby teeth in contact with the cam, and the other end which engages on the special one toothed remontoir escape wheel. This lever is pivotted outside the power train, and is able to move from side to side controlled by the rotating cam. At any one time, one of the two pallets on the lever is engaged with the one tooth wheel, and locks the escapement. But as the cam rotates, it causes the lever to move from side to side, and this action causes the pallet holding the one toothed wheel in place to unlock, and the other pallet to move into position to catch the tooth as it spins across to the other side. At this precise unlocking angle, the third wheel to deliver its power to the bottom fourth wheel. This phenomena is known as escaping in horology…the power of the mainspring is allowed to escape, in a controlled rate by the escapement mechanism. The power flows from the third to the lower fourth wheel, via the pinon of the remontoir escapement is used to reload the remontoir spring, and due to the great strength of the mainspring barrels, occurs almost instantaneously. However, this unleashing of power is short lived, as the cam would have moved into another position which then engages the other pallet of lever to lock the one toothed wheel. As the cam is 3 sided, it causes this to occur once every 10 seconds, and achieves the remontoir escapement.
The remontoir escapement is a complication which is as difficult to adjust and regulate as a tourbillon escapement, and hence the equivalent pricing strategy.
Detail showing the remontoir escapement and the engaging lever and the cam
Lange 31 – The Key System
The remontoir spring is never fully depleted, and is pre-tensioned, this allows the watch to restart when it is stopped under the tension of the remontoir. A stop-clock mechanism is also fitted, to allow the watch to be stopped for precise time adjustment. Note that the movement is an unfinished movement which works perfectly, but without final finishing:
Tony de Haas showing where on the movement the remontoir is located
The mainspring is so powerful, that it presents another problem…winding it would be a chore…if the gearing of the crown is high, it would take a very long time to wind the watch. Using a ratchet wheel to keep the winding power similar to a Lange 1, it would need 150 turns to completely wind the mainspring. Not very practical. Or one could device a low gearing, and require a few turns. But the power to wind this crown would be impractical.
The Lange engineers came up with a twist to solve this…they chose a low gearing – only 31 turns required to fully the watch. A special key is designed with a large thumb crown to afford the leverage to wind it.
Like the rest of the Lange 31, there is more than meets the eye with this key. The design is complex because it incorporates a ratchet mechanism and torque limiter.
The key is machined out of stainless steel, and like a typical Lange product, is beautifully finished. Two keys are provided.
Picture below shows the key next to the Lange 31. In the background is the Datograph, as a comparison of size.
Detail showing relative locations of the remontoir (A) and the key (B)
Lange 31 – Dial Design and Layout
Numerous dial layouts were tried out. Shown below are 3 discarded designs:
And finally arriving at the design proposed as the Lange 31:
Some more pictures:
Movement view, showing final finishing with Glashutte Ribbing, and anglage on the bridges
Axel Bobe – movement designer, examining with great pleasure his creation
Axel’s brother Tino (right) who was involved in the design concept, with Tony de Haas – Technical Director
Photos © Peter Chong for TimeZoneRead more
Timezone Features September 24, 2014
Timezone Features September 22, 2014
Timezone Features September 16, 2014
Timezone Features September 13, 2014
Timezone Features September 8, 2014
Timezone Features September 2, 2014
Timezone Features August 25, 2014
Timezone Features August 20, 2014
Timezone Features July 30, 2014
Watch 101: Power Reserve Indicators
One of Horology’s Most Useful Complications
This article originally appeared in Our Minutes.
Today, we take a deeper look at one of the most important elements of a mechanical watch: its reserve of power. The mainspring (a metal coil) is what powers a watch movement: when it’s tightly coiled, a watch has reached peak power and, in fact, can’t be wound any further. Whether they’re hand-wound or automatic, watch movements run most accurately when fully wound, losing precision over time as the mainspring’s tension is released (or the coil “loosens”). In order to run at a regular rate, a watch should retain approximately 25-30% of its mainspring tension.
A variety of factors can impact how long it takes for a mainspring to unwind, slow down, and eventually stop a timepiece from running. The longer a mainspring is, the longer it will take to loosen and thus, the longer its power reserve. A standard mechanical watch will maintain power for about two days, or 40-50 hours. Many watches include something called a power reserve indicator, akin to a car’s gas gauge.
In general, it’s good practice to wind one’s hand-wound watch once a day, whether or not the timepiece has a power reserve indicator. Some might say that a power reserve indicator is more helpful on an automatic watch, though—in theory—it won’t stop running as long as it makes a frequent appearance on the wrist. However, we live in an era in which our most vigorous daily activity might involve typing out a heated email. This type of wrist movement isn’t necessarily enough to keep an automatic watch at optimal power. An indication of lower power reminds the wearer to get up from his or her desk and take a literal power walk.
Though power reserve indicators are among the most pragmatic watch complications, they’re also often very creatively executed. Below, we take a look at a few noteworthy examples.
JAEGER-LECOULTRE 481 CALIBRE
In 1948, only two years after adding an automatic movement to its collection, Jaeger-LeCoultre brought out the first watch in history to combine this function with a power-reserve indicator, the Jaeger-LeCoultre 481 Calibre. When the power gets low, the numerals in the window under the 12 turn red.
First automatic watch with power-reserve indicator. Photo: Jaeger-LeCoultre
PANERAI LUMINOR 1950 8 DAYS GMT
The iconic 233 is a highly coveted model for Panerai enthusiasts. Its in-house, hand-wound movement offers a variety of impressive features, including day/night and GMT indicators. Its ability to store power for eight days (or, for those keeping track, quadruple the standard) is remarkable—and justifies the appearance of that compelling linear power reserve.
Panerai 233. Photo: Martin Wilmsen
A. Lange & Söhne refers to the Lange 31 as an unrivalled masterpiece, and as the first mechanical wristwatch with a power reserve of 31 days, it’s a spot-on description.
LANGE 31. Photo: A. Lange & Söhne
Featuring a patented constant-force escapement, the timepiece offers a high rate of stability and consistent accuracy for a month at a time. Though longer mainsprings offer larger reserves of power, there is also a more noticeable loss of torque as the spring relaxes (which affects the’s watch accuracy). This constant-force escapement re-tensions the spring by 60 degrees every ten seconds to assure that a uniform amount of torque is delivered for an entire month.
Calibre L034.1. Photo: A. Lange & Söhne
Accompanying each Lange 31 is a stainless steel winding key, which generates much more torque than would be possible with a winding crown. Thus, fewer revolutions are needed to fully wind the watch.
Lange 31′s winding key. Photo: A. Lange & Söhne
MB&F LEGACY MACHINE N°1 XIA HANG
By winding a mechanical watch, many would say you’re breathing life into it. In a clever touch, MB&F’s new Legacy Machine N°1 literally adds this metaphor to the watch’s dial. MB&F is known for its wild creativity, and maintains a collection of rebellious art on view and for sale in Geneva, Switzerland at its M.A.D. Gallery. Beijing sculpturist Xia Hang, whose work is on display there, tackled the design of the 45-hour power reserve. One of his so-called “comma men” sits straight up when fully wound. As power diminishes, the comma man bends his back and gradually slumps over.
Legacy Machine N°1 Xia Hang. Photo: MB&F
Xia Hang’s “comma man”
HUBLOT MP-05 LAFERRARI
The MP-05 “LaFerrari” takes the idea of the power reserve as gas gauge to an entirely new level. Its unprecedented 50-day (read it again: that’s days, not hours) power reserve appears on the left side of the dial.
MP-05 LaFerrari. Photo: Hublot
With another exceptionally long power reserve (which would entail an unbearable amount of hand winding), Hublot provides an ingenious winding key, similar to the electric drills one might encounter on a speedway.
MP-05 LaFerrari winding key. Photo: Hublot
MP-05 LaFerrari 637 components. The power reserve appears at center left. Image: Hublot
Katie Wudel is the Managing Editor of Our Minutes. Katie is a timepiece enthusiast and freelance writer contributing to such distinguished literary journals as McSweeney’s, Tin House, Prairie Schooner, and more.Read more
Timezone Features July 21, 2014
A private collector graciously allowed me to play with some of his timepieces to photograph and review for TimeZone. He owns 16 exceptional timepieces and regularly wears each of them. He considers the platinum Invention Piece 1 to be one of his favourites for its creativity, craftsmanship, exclusivity and remarkably good looks.
Announced in 2008 with all 11 pieces long sold out, the Invention Piece 1 pays tribute to the atelier’s iconic Double Tourbillion 30° mechanism that took Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey four years of research and development to realise. The dial architecture, indications and aesthetics are all modified and redeveloped around the original DT30°.
Invention Piece 1 in platinum (No. 11 of 11)
The Movement: A Technical Milestone in Horology
The patented Calibre GF02N is a robust and accurate mechanical movement. The 38-jewel hand-wound movement comprises of 338 component parts, including a double tourbillon regulator and lever escapement. It is powered by two mainspring barrels with a 72-hour power reserve oscillating at 21,600 beats per hour.
The movement finishing and decoration are superb, with hand-bevelled tourbillon cage pillars, a solid gold counterweight plate, gold chatons and hand-polished screws. Not only is the GF02N a pleasure to look at, it is also a precision instrument.
The Double Tourbillon 30° mechanism derives its name from the 30-degree angle between the two tourbillon carriages, a one-minute tourbillon mounted inside a larger four-minute tourbillon. The double tourbillon was conceived specifically for the constant movements associated with a wristwatch and designed to improve the beat rate in all six positions.
Notably, when Abraham-Louis Breguet patented the tourbillon regulator over 200 years ago on 26 June 1801, the mechanism was designed to offset rate variations induced by shifts in the physical position of pocket watches. The tourbillon’s continuous rotation counteracts the effects of gravity on the balance of a pocket watch in its normal vertical position. However, once the pocket watch was removed from the vest pocket and laid flat with the dial up or down, the entire effect of the tourbillon was voided with no affect on the rate.
The philosophy behind the Double Tourbillon 30° is to average out positional errors on the oscillator by addressing the changes of rate from the horizontal and vertical positions. Indeed, Greubel Forsey found that the combination of the 30-degree inclination with the different rotational speeds of the two tourbillons improves timekeeping and chronometric performance when compared to a classical single-axis tourbillon or timepiece without a tourbillon.
In 2009, the Double Tourbillon 30° earned the Prix Gaïa for “Entrepreneurship” and, in 2010 it earned the Aiguille d’Or for best overall watch at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. Then, in 2011, the Double Tourbillon 30° was put through the ultimate accuracy and reliability test and proved its superior chronometric design by winning the International Chronometry Competition. During the rigorous competition, the timepiece was subjected to 15 days of tests at the Observatory in Besançon, France, then 15 days of tests at the COSC laboratory in Bienne, Switzerland, followed by exposure to a magnetic field and repeated shocks before undergoing yet another 15 days of tests at the COSC laboratory in Bienne. Overall, the Double Tourbillon 30° scored an exceptional 915 points out of a possible 1,000.
To this day, Greubel Forsey remains the only watch brand to have won these three prestigious awards.
The level of hand-finishing is executed to the highest level, with a combination of frosted surfaces, straight-graining, flat black-polishing and bevelling that contributes to the dial’s dramatic visual effect. The exquisitely finished dial features a red triangular hours indication and blue triangular minutes indication that rotate in stacked, concentric circles to create a voluminous, three-dimensional architecture that showcases the Double Tourbillon 30° mechanism at the centre of the dial. The subsidiary seconds and power reserve indicator are located at the the top of the dial as if orbiting the double tourbillon cage.
The dial architecture, indications and aesthetics accentuate the craftsmanship and hypnotic beauty of the double-axes tourbillon mechanism:
The massive platinum case measures 43.5mm and is finished with brushed and polished surfaces. The curved lugs are exceptionally comfortable on the wrist. The case is fitted with domed sapphire crystals that are treated with anti-glare on both sides. The sapphire crystal display back is secured by six screws for a water resistance of 30 meters.
The caseback is hand-hammered in bas-relief engraving with a “Message from the Inventor Watchmakers” that recounts the history of the Double Tourbillon 30°.
A “Message from the Inventor Watchmakers” is hand-hammered in bas-relief engraving
The Fine Details
The timepiece is completed by a hand-sewn alligator strap with a platinum deployment clasp that is perfectly finished with mirror-polished and polished surfaces.
The hand-engraved “GF” initials on the deployment clasp
Steven wearing his Invention Piece 1
Timezone Features July 8, 2014
The Odd, the Unusual, and the Uncommon
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
(Movement photo by TomG).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.Read more