Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Last Gasp for the Sinn 903 with Lemania Movements

Back in 2003, I got my hands on one of the last of the handwind Sinn 903s, in fact a rare 24 hr version. Many miss this model, Sinn having been forced to replace it with the unspecial Valjoux 7750 movement when in early 2000 Lemania decided only to sell the 1873 movement to sister companies of the Swatch Group.

The Lemania movement is the basis of the Omega 861 calibre and the case is the Navitimer/Cosmonaute design that Helmut Sinn got rights to along with Albert Wajs when Breitling went as good as belly up in '79. So, the manual wind 903 is like two watches for the price of one. As I wanted both an Omega Speedmaster Pro AND a Breitling Cosmonaute it seemed to fit the bill.

Good news recently though: for die hards, Sinn have announced a final limited run (220?) of the Lemania movement in two watches. I think the 903 H2 is only a 30 min chrono and the H4 shown below (with moonphase) will be just under €3000. I'm a bit disappointed to see the rather inconvenient crown controlled slide rule used in both; it is much easier to simply grab the bezel and spin....

Click to warp to the Sinn pages on these.

However, what I have decided is there is no getting away from owning a Speedy, so my 903 has been sold as I seem to have got the "must have a Navitimer/Cosmonaute" thing through the system, but not the Speedy thing.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Omega Speedmaster 50th Anniversary Edition Specification Thoughts

You may know the huge expectation that is already building around this topic, so I thought it was time to post my views about the specification of Omega's Speedmaster 50th Anniversary Edition due in 2007.

Like I felt about a Jaeger LeCoultre Polaris Re-issue, I think there are several ways of approaching this. Clearly there is nothing to discuss if we look at a no compromise facsimile; just make the original again with everything visually the same. And of course, the movement could not be original,.... or could it?

Picture: Omega Museum

However I don't think this is the right way forward. The broad arrow hands limit readability and anyway Omega have already 'done' it, in the form of their somewhat (imho) cynical 1957 Replica. What do I mean, cynical? Well, sticking broad arrow hands and leaving off the word 'Professional' from the dial of an otherwise serial model doesn't exactly grab me as special.

Ref 3594.50.00 The 'Replica.' Click here for Hi Res. Picture: Omega.

I think the way to celebrate 50 years is to take the functional best of the Speedmaster in the spirit of developed astronaut useability and do something that hasn't been done before amongst Omega's plethora of mostly meaningless 'limited editions' by giving it straight lugs. Then add baton hands for legibility, no 'Professional' on the dial and give the buttons guards.

Regarding the movement, I think there may be a temptation to use the Cal. 33xx, due to its column wheelness, but that would be a mistake. In the absence of the Cal 321, the only watch still qualified for use during EVA (in the vacuum of space) to this day is the Lemania based 187x, Omega Cal 861. For the case size, rather than the original small one, I think it should use the current size as I don't think smaller watches 'fly' right now. For, the bracelet, well I have a preference for the earlier styles and certainly should not be the current one. So we finish up with something looking very much like ST 105.003, the first Omega worn in the vacuum of space. Kind of fitting I think.

Picture of a ST105.003: Chuck Maddox hosted by Robert Jan Broer

Now, can we take some advantage of incorporating new things discretely? For earth bound humans, the ability to operate in the swimming pool is more useful than a vacuum and I see no reason why we could not have WR to 100m minimum. The case might be titanium. Dial should be a replica design: absolutely the same as ST the above; in particular the type face and colour. No stupid words like 'replica' or 're-issue' or 'ltd edition' on the dial. Hands to be exact replica shape. The back to be replica design with 're-issue design feature or words' if necessary. Crystal to be sapphire! So we finish up with something like:

Based on picture by 'nivelacuso'

Now THAT's a 50th anniversary Speedy......

Or how about:

I think that one's self explanatory.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Definition of a Chronometer Wristwatch

It’s less well known, but there are a lot more criteria than the simple "-4 to +6s /day" that are needed to be satisfied to qualify as a chronometer. ISO 3159 1976 sets it out to be precise.

Basically, over 15 days, the watch is tested in various positions at 23 deg C and the daily variations measured. Three are vertical: (6H) crown left, (3H) crown up, (9H) crown down. Two are horizontal: (FH) dial down and (CH) dial up. Interestingly, the watch is never tested in position 12H crown right.

Low and high temperatures (8 C and 38C) on days 11 and 13 also feature. Based on these measurements, 7 criteria are calculated, which must all be met and for movements of a diameter over 20 mm, as follows

1. Average daily rate over the first 10 days at 23 deg C ‘M’: -4s +6s

2. Mean variation in rates ‘V’ is the arithmetic mean of the five absolute values of variations in rates obtained for the five positions of the watch during the first 10 days of the tests. Note: The variation in rate is the difference between two consecutive daily rates in identical environmental conditions.: 2s

3. Greatest variation in rates ‘Vmax’ is the absolute value of the greatest of the five variations in rates with regard to the five positions of the watch during the first 10 days of the tests.: 5s

4. Difference between rates in H & V positions ‘D’ (actually 6H and CH and based on averages): -6s +8s

5. Greatest deviation in rates ‘P’ is the absolute value of the greatest of the ten differences between one of the first ten rates and the mean daily test rate.: 10s

6. Thermal variation ‘C’ is obtained by subtracting the rate at 8 deg C from the rate at 38 deg C, the whole being divided by the temperature difference, expressed in degrees Celsius. : +/-0.6s

7. Resumed rate ‘R’ is obtained by subtracting the average of the first two rates from the last rate.
: +/-5s

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Watch Sizes and Wrist Sizes

I finally managed to find some data from anthropometric tables for wrist sizes. It makes it all the more difficult to understand the dimensions that watches are getting to. Average male wrist circumference is 6.79" (172.5 mm) with a S.D. of 0.19" (4.8 mm).

I thought I had teeny wrists, but it turns out I am above average and there is no way any watch over 42mm looks remotely sensible on me. I'm not "unused to the size," I own and enjoy one watch at 41.5 mm. It's usually a problem with the lugs hanging over the sides of my wrist on some of the designs! Take AMVOX1 for example, it fits me at 42mm precisely because of the clever lug shape.

Of course, there is no objective, consistent and quantifiable position on the case size topic - it depends on the case design, proportions, and the wrist itself not just circumference, BUT also its shape, width, thickness, and fleshy boneyness.

But I think it is a pity that most manufacturers replace their watches for larger alternatives. There is really no good reason why watches have got bigger except for fashion. Another thing is changing the perception of what looks small and what looks big.

When is big too big? Well, I don’t mean to suggest that watches shouldn't be over 42 mm. Certainly even a 46mm dia watch I saw on Stallone the other day is almost too small for him.

However, in light of the data above, I find it unusual that manufacturers and designers would target their designs to mostly fit (and I use the word advisedly) above average wrists. This must naturally reduce sales as the target number of consumers compatible is lower, but in today's market place it is often form over function for many, many products. But as someone said, "A man with pants too short looks silly no matter how tall or short he is."

Let people have their fun; in the end, if people want to buy, with their own money, 60mm let them. When they get tired of it, so will the manufacturers to fill that demand.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Jaeger LeCoultre Launch The Master Calendar

First reported here the Master Calendar has been a long time coming and looks great at first glance following the styling cues of the recent Master 8 days, and Hometime.

At last we also get much better looking black lettering for the day and month rather than hideous but 'traditional' red. JLC also adds a useful if rather over emphasised power reserve feature so sadly lacking on the outgoing model. Personally, I am very sad to see the demise of the dauphine hands (compare them on the beautiful Réserve de Marche model). Frustratingly missing any sort of tick mark for minutes to help accurately set the time just like the old one, it still looks good, but is now up to a fashionable 40mm in diameter which will attract as many people as put others off.

Whilst the new Patek Philippe 5146 Annual Calendar heads towards JLC styling, ironically the JLC Master Calendar nods towards traditional Patek Philippe Perpetuals. It's a shame that JLC didn't follow through the adopted style with introducing at least an annual calendar mechanism like Patek's shown below to save the owner the bind of changing the end of 30 day months but for an annual adjustment in February:

Picture from "Watch day display mechanism" Swiss Patent CH685585

Friday, April 08, 2005

Jaeger LeCoultre Controversy Remains Unresolved

It was one month ago when concerns about the similarity between the new Jaeger LeCoultre in-house chronograph movement shown here:

JLC Calibre 75x

and the F Piguet 1185 shown here:

F Piguet 1185

surfaced on the Internet and I covered this in an article already. Later, someone collated a further set of comments floating around and posted them as a long comment on the blog item. There is a lot of emotion about this and you can find the main thread at ThePuristS.com on this topic. This is probably where it will be eventually resolved. In the meantime, still no word from JLC.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Patek Philippe Massively Improve The ref. 5134. But, No-one Notices!

Old version [L] and new version [R] that mirrors the supremely elegant Platinum type.

With everyone seemingly focussed elsewhere at Basel 2005 on the split chrono and the moonphase Nautilus, PP's quiet revamping of their technically gorgeous but aesthetically hideous gold versions of the 5134 have gone unnoticed. One of my favourites, a manual wind with a simple and useful complication, this watch is deservedly popular in platinum form. For those that prefer gold (for me rose gold) we now have the platinum style at a better price and in the colour we want. Good job PP.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Finally, a Nice Looking Annual Calendar from Patek Philippe - The ref. 5146

Blog readers warning - Opinion ahead......! Yes, finally Patek Philippe have produced a decent looking annual calendar! If you're not a fan of their Roman numeral effort (and I'm not going to waste my webspace reproducing it here if you don't know it....check out the microsite yourself for a comparison) then you'll be pleased to know they've got round to a semi-Arabic version. Actually it looks like it could have been a Jaeger LeCoultre design. LOL!

Funnily sometimes their Roman numeral versions can work e.g. the old 5038, but for me the whole series to date has been awful - well maybe with exception of the 5056P. Of course some reaction to this new 5146 has been poor (Roman numeral lovers), but hey, at least there is the choice now.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Patek Philippe Go From The Sublime to The Ridiculous.

Following on the coat tails of some great innovations from Patek like the silicon escapement wheel, shock proof escapement, Funky hairspring, New winding crown, & Collet as well as a clever new chronograph design comes, well, guess what? Patek have decided to go and do something seemingly insipid like ‘stuff’ the 240 LU movement from the 5055/5085 in the Nautilus case and create the so called ‘new’ 3712/1a.

Moonphase in a sports watch? Well why not? BUT in doing so they have also managed to downgrade the waterproofness to a lowly 60m because of the moonphase adjustment pusher. Some argue, so what, it's not a real sportswatch anyway; more of a tough 'dresswatch'. Hmmmm, some ‘Nautilus’ then, not exactly one that Jules Verne would be very proud of…… You know, for me, this is exactly the sort of thing PP should be good at; solving those kinds of problems, especially at its $20k price!

Click for a super hi res pic from AlbertoS and some more here by Suitbert Walter.

As for the design, well it's a bit uninspired. It looks like a simple, lunchtime, 'what-if' project in Photoshop from me. The location of the sub-dials is awkward with the Nautilus port hole dial shape. Arguably, it's a cynical low investment parts bin revamp..... It'll do, I may even buy one....but how about something genuinely new for the Nautilus PP?

Compare Patek’s original 5085 dial shown above with the new 3712. Which do you prefer?