Sunday, July 24, 2005

Impending Burst of the Watch Bubble?

Pop! Have watches ever been cheaper recently? What's going on? Forget list prices. Even something as new on the block and popular as Omega's Planet Ocean is available easily at 25-30% off. And I'm not talking about from some grey dealer. Even new models like AMVOX1 ss have already hit 30% off, as has Reverso GMT, let alone the punishing established models are taking like Compressor Memovox at 40% off.

After half an hour of jovial, polite but persistent squeeze on and on, against the usual whining "I've got shop rent to pay...etc, etc" and "It's not worth my while...." I've got official dealers to within about 5% of the best grey dealer price I knew of (including customs charges!) And compared to when I was looking last year, I just see watches just generally 20% cheaper everywhere I look. There's just too much of everything around. Even 'hot' watches that you thought were sold out aren't and they're not commanding a premium when you find them either - e.g. VC Les Hist' chronos. AP Alinghi etc.

The number of people asking "which are the best investments" just don't have simple answers. Of course it'’s possible to make money buying and selling watches or there wouldn'’t be any dealers..... but right now....phew, you'd better have a collection made up of things you actually like. Right now the more relevant question is "which is best for value retention." Having had a superheated market, with sky high list prices, out of proportion premiums on complications and the persistent marketing of the myth that because you could buy a watch in 1950 for $1000 and sell it for $5M now, it makes sense to "invest" now, I really believe we're seeing some common sense finally intervene.

As has been said before:
“Well-informed collectors will generally seek those pieces that possess high intrinsic value first, rather than simply high current market value, thereby improving opportunities for the long-term appreciation and value retention."
The eight factors making up intrinsic value discussed in the above article being:
  1. Branding and prestige. E.g. Patek always held in high regard
  2. Historical considerations. E.g. was the watch type used specially like Comex divers
  3. Social considerations Emotional associations like Paul Newman/Steve McQueen
  4. Technical Design. High complications or horological significance. And is it really horologically signifcant? Really really? Ignore the manufacturer's hype and do your own research
  5. Functionality, not high complications but desirable additions
  6. Aesthetics.
  7. Rarity, absolute, relative and perceived. Remember also:Rare ≠ valuable and Limited ≠ rare.
  8. Condition and completeness. E.g box and papers
Personally, I then also try to make an estimate of the real cost and workmanship involved in the manufacture of any given piece based on the movement, case and so on. For off-the-shelf movements, the cost is a matter of record. For an 'in-house' movement, I break it down to parts list level and allowing for the production methods and whatever hand finishing are involved make an estimate for the effort and time taken to prepare the parts and assemble; the cost and complexity in the case, the angles and surfaces and so on. Then I look at the retail price. I only get interested in stuff with what I think is the lowest markup. Difficult? Yes, but put it this way, you can soon sort the wheat from the chaff.

I can think of two nasty examples immediately, an ETA 2824 that costs $40 in a watch retailing for $1400 or a $250 Valjoux 7750 in a watch on sale at nearly $12000. Sound like a good plan to invest in? Nope.....pretty much irrespective of how rare or limited it may be. You never know though, but you'll be lucky to make anything. There are a lot of (re-)emerging brands following this tack, predominantly style over content, relying on you not knowing anything.

Just remember the safest plan is you can never go wrong if you buy it because you like it....

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Virtual and Reality. JLC Cal 875 in bits

Bored with H@lfLife2? Well, JLC have a fantastic game which you can load up on your PC and it allows you to build the Cal 875.

It starts with a fly through the ticking movement.

Then you can begin

You assemble the watch using the mouse. You have to be careful to precisely position the parts and in the right order! Using help greatly speeds the process!

Keyless works going in:

and at actual screen resolution:

The power reserve satellite:

At any time, you can click on a part, zoom in on it and rotate to marvel at it.

Dropping in the Power reserve rack - steady......

Dial side, and the Date wheels recess.

Centre wheel dropping in - easy....

Balance wheel assembly -sadly the animation doesn't include the wheel dropping in and stretching the hairspring!

This is a sure fire winner for WISs. Quite why you can't buy the assembly game of your watch is beyond me.

As for the reality? A lot harder, but a lot more satisfying. Don't do this at home kids......


In progress:

After! Go baby go..... Aye me she ticks. Yep, watch movements are girls.

And for my next trick..... Move over Eric

KronosClub - Is your watch on the Blacklist?

If you haven't seen it, check out the fabulously opinionated and gloves off comments of Kronosclub.

Rolex (Gold) - Well, the reason for this choice is the stunning reaction this Watch has on people. .....Why? Because nothing says, “I have a lot of money and just can’t spend it stupidly enough”, like a GOLD ROLEX. The other place where this Watch becomes useful is in Night Clubs......
Thye even have a hatemail section. Not quite the Sniffpetrol of watchsites, but one step away.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Hildreth Westminster Carillon Memovox Reverso Soixante-Dix Cinquième.

Not official design obviously. Based on photo by SteveG

Ding dong dang dong - dong dang ding ding - ding dong dang dong - dong dang ding dong . . . . .BONG! Imagine that going off in meetings because you forgot to slide the slide to vibrate! Beats Nokia!

Happy birthday Reverso (75) and Memovox (50) in 2006. Midnight blue enamel dial. Westminster half chime with passing hour strike and memovox alarm with vibration feature.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

IWC 80110 Controversy? Nope

Sound familiar? Yep, we've been here before. Remember the whole (still slightly unresolved) controversy about the New JLC Cal 75x chronograph movement looking exactly like the F Piguet 1185?

Well, the new IWC 80110 has been creating a similar situation and got discussed at length here. Luger showed some interesting pictures on his new blog and wrote an interesting piece collating the different views. Luger has pictures; the first time I'd seen them back to back.

Pictures from Luger's blog

However, for me it's a very different story to the case of the JLC Cal 75x, because they were upfront about it from the start:
"Für die Umsetzung dieser Zielvorgaben griffen die IWC Konstrukteure auf bewährte Bestandteile und Fertigungsverfahren zurück und entwickelten daraus ein neues, eigenständiges Werk.
(In order to achieve these aims IWC´s construction team went back to parts and manufacturing process which already were well-tried to work well and developed a new, stand-alone (independent) movement.)

Beim Räderwerk hat IWC auf die robuste, bekannte Konstruktion des Valjoux Kalibers 7765 zurückgegriffen. Dessen Bauart hat sich sehr bewährt und die Verwendung dieser Teile gewährleistet auch in Zukunft die Verfügbarkeit für den Service.
(For the gear train IWC relied on the well-known, robust construction of the Valjoux 7765 caliber. This design is well-tried and using those parts ensures availability of them in the future.)"
The mainplate is also remarkably similar. However it's still unclear whether ETA makes it to IWC's specs or if IWC manufactures it, but who cares, they've already come clean. So, controversy? No, not really.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Rummaging in the Bins of La Vallée de Joux

It sures helps to have an insider. You never know what will surface and fortunately [name witheld], a local is an expert watch spotter and sorts the wheat from the chaff for me. He came on the phone all huffing and puffing (hilly, Switzerland) with excitement as he faxed through the uncrumpled laser print. ......

Looks like someone's been listening to my rant after all, but gone even further. An accurately settable alarm, centre minute flyback chrono, monopusher and half keys. And 1000m depth rating. And we thought everybody had a paperless office these days. Where there's smoke etc...


If you haven't seen it, check the excellent report of Basel 2005 by Alberto Schileo at As much as I like the new 5146, I've been looking at it again, especially having been in e-mail discussion about it and I wonder if we can't go somewhere with it.

Let's get rid of the Arabics, it's just too JLC with them, but not go back to the Romans, yikes! - So, batons then.. Compromise? Noooo....... timeless. Delete the sweep seconds just because I don't like to see time passing - "In order not to simply endure time" (J Deleskiewicz) and tidy up that intrusive box around the date window.
  1. Let's get it sporty: Make that shock proof escapement after all with silicon on ruby but make it water resistant to 100m.
  2. But keep it practical: keep the useful annual calendar (do you really need a perpetual with a watch service every 5 years?) and, come on, sunrise sunset IS useful (RH window)
  3. And make some room for the emotional: Moonphase. (LH window) Or is moonphase practical and sunset emotional? ..........Anyhow, here we are:

And what's that poking out the side? Oh that'll be the strike/silent slide for the passing hour strike.....

Friday, July 15, 2005

Velociphile’s Murky Crystal Ball on JLC 2006

I can’t see JLC doing anything whimsical in the technical line – I mean things like FP Journe have tackled recently like remontoir and resonance, or Dufouresque dual balance wheels, etc, or Breguet’s new detent or Gerber’s escapement or Patek’s ‘shock proof’ escapement. All that fascinating but dubious benefit stuff; it doesn’t fit the brand, but rock solid engineering gains do, so I would expect to see technical improvements ongoing (a l'Autotractor) and even some level of silicon on ruby activity.

Janek Deleskiewicz in his first interview after being released from house arrest.

I see the Compressor line, though stupendously commerically successful of course, as an evolutionary dead end for the long term value of the JLC brand so I see that in essentially limbo for one year. Now that Janek is back from under lock and key, I expect to see new combinations of the sporty, practical and emotional. Understanding this formula is one that JLC (I mean JD) may well be the best at in the world.

I see growing case sizes as an unexploited opportunity so I see no reason not to start packing in the complications everywhere. It’s also high time for some further complications in the ladies range. All this adds up to in no particular order:

Ladies moonphase! I wanted to buy my other half a ladies moonphase and the day/night indicator on the GranSport was close but not close enough. Judging by e-mails I get about my moonphase article on my blog I think the desire for this is underestimated by many watch companies.

‘Master style’ chrono! Put the new Cal 75x to good use – ‘a no brainer’ but, question is, what type of chrono? A rattrapante nicely showcases a company’s precision powers – but is it a bit “me too”. Monopusher? Fashionable, and yet classic. 30 min only? Probably.

Reverso Memovox. Remember it's the 75th anniversary of the Reverso AND the 50th of the Memovox (well the automatic....)

And maybe, just maybe, a (more) affordable repeater, say 1/4h. But I'd like to see even just a passing strike on the hour based on the memovox gong. That would be nice and unique...and with the 50th anniversary..… but oh, the crystal ball's getting misty........

Homework assignment: Write down all the complications and features of watches you can think of. Group them into the three categories: sporty, emotional, practical. Start grouping them in '3s' and see what you get......Following the “sporty/practical/emotional” theme, take for example a chrono (sporty), with 2nd timezone (for practicality) and equation of time (emotional)! Or countdown bezel (sporty), alarm (practical) and moonphase (emotional) Get the picture? BUT, if you come up with Reverso Compressor you've got a detention.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Unusual Watches - Why simplify when you can complicate?

Crazy Corsican (?) Jean-Jérôme Casalonga keeps a website brimmed with unusual watches. As he says, "Why make it simple when it can be complicated ?"

Not shy in deigning his own, JJ won a prize for the design below (my favourite of the entries) in the recent Daniel Roth competition on The PuristS

Hey, JJ, here's one for you to add......

Monday, July 04, 2005

Buzz's Choice - A Breitling Emergency. - Eh?

Have some fun testing your knowledge of the Omega Speedmaster at this funny page by Les Zetlein and find out .......

...... what Buzz thought of his Omega Speedmaster!

"...It was a lousy watch to have on the surface. It just didn't give good numbers as far as a stopwatch type thing. To have gone to all that expense and then to have crews out on the surface with just an ordinary watch, in retrospect, is a mistaken priority somewhere." (NASA debrief)

So what does a heroic pioneering spaceman do when he doesn't need his Speedy strapped on with Velcro to his spacesuit? Well, Buzz was spotted recently on the Muppets wearing a Breitling Emergency. So there you go, Buzz's choice.....