Friday, August 26, 2005

Jaeger-LeCoultre Chronograph Plot Thickens

Diddle iddle eep, diddle iddle eep..... This just in from our Italian correspondent Lyla. Remember the case of the new JLC Chronograph Calibre 75x looking rather like FP1185? Well in L'Orologio Anno XIV - Numero 137, Maggio 2005

We find the following article:

I'll save your eyesite:
"A chi tornerà alla pagina 103 de l’Orologio #77, non potrà sfuggire l’impressionante somiglianza del nuovo meccanismo crongrafico JLC pubblicato su queste pagine con quello del calibro FP 1180 (1185 nella versione a carica automatica). È infatti uno dei calibri attualmente in produzione, da cui i progettisti della JLC sono partiti per lo sviluppo del proprio crongrafo automatico, apportando quelle modifiche che hanno ritenuto migliorative e in alcuni casi necessarie (ad esempio, per l’impiego del sistemna di carica automatica originale JLC)."

"Those who return to L'Orologio #77 page 103, will not be able to escape the impressive similarity of the new JLC chronograph published on these pages with that of the FP 1180 (1185 in the auto version). It is in fact from one of the calibers at present in production, that the designers of JLC embarked on the development of the actual automatic chrongraph, bringing improvements and in some cases necessary changes (for example, the JLC automatic winding system)."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Swiss Made? Trojan Dragon at the Gates of Geneva.

Excellence is undoubtedly coming out of China now, I mean, we've already seen they are right up there with complications. Now, I recently read Luger's excellent primer on "Swiss Made" and looking at the detail, realised that cheap imported parts could in future be making it into Swiss watches. In fact they could be already.

Latest delivery of watch parts in Geneva yesterday.

Let's look at the articles:
Definition of the Swiss watch

A watch is regarded as Swiss:
a. where the movement is Swiss;
b. where the movement is encased in Switzerland and
c. where the final adjustment by the manufacturer takes place in Switzerland.

So far so good you'd think? But wait what's a Swiss movement? Well let's look at article 2.
Definition of a Swiss movement

1 A Swiss movement is a movement which:
a. was assembled in Switzerland;
b. was adjusted by the manufacturer in Switzerland and
c. is of Swiss manufacture for at least 50 percent of the value of all the constituent parts, excluding the cost of assembly.

Hmmmm, so it could contain 349 Chinese parts and 1 part made in Switzerland depending on the 'cost'. So how do you define the cost. Let's look further:

2 For the calculation of the value of the constituent parts of Swiss manufacture according to the subparagraph 1 (c) above, the following rules apply:

a. The cost of the dial and the hands are taken into account only when they are set in Switzerland;
b. The cost of assembly can be taken into account where a procedure of certification provided for in an international treaty guarantees that, by virtue of a close industrial cooperation, there is equivalent quality between the foreign constituent parts and Swiss constituent parts.

Got it? Now, the present definition was written in 1972 and the world has moved on. But wait, the question is, does Switzerland actually want to do anything about this, or is it actually a profit opportunity?

Monday, August 22, 2005

YES! Finally for Accuracy Freaks

Hoorah, hooray, haloo, halay! External regulators!

Click pic to go to ThePuristS JeanRichard thread.

I've been wondering why no-one has done this on a modern watch for as long as I can remember. Kind of reminds me of the fine Advance/Retard thumbwheel on (Lucas?) distributors of old (ask your dad)...........

Click pic to go to IanS's report on the Urwerk 103.03.
Thanks to John A. Frye for pointing it out on the Urwerk

Wow, need to sit down now.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Jaeger LeCoultre 1993 Reverso Tourbillon. More Golden Ratio at Play

Maybe the most elegant Reverso of all time? Why? Well further analysis shows it has many Golden Ratio features. Oddly the hands are not, but it's quite difficult to do sensible hand proportions in a rectangular watch I think.

Compare Hometime and the Reserve de Marche.

Good choice Professor Birkin.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Time Quote of the Week

"Time and tide wait for no man. A pompous and self-satisfied proverb,
and was true for a billion years; but in our day of electric wires and
water-ballast we turn it around: Man waits not for time nor tide."
Mark Twain

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Short Story of a JLC

I was recently showing some industry execs one of our new technology demonstrators. One of them turned out to be someone I’d known for several years and being very happy to see them I gave our demo driver a rest and took to the track with them myself. Sat alternately pinned and restrained in the passenger seat harness answering his questions as the car whooshed through its paces I noticed his wrist on the gear shift sported a JLC. I pointed it out and in his broken English, while still tackling the course, he told me its story.

His best friend had been in an accident and he had accompanied him to hospital in the ambulance. Tragically, his friend had subsequently died and my driver had been a key court witness at the inquest which established negligence on the part of the medical team attending his friend. His friend’s family had given him this watch as a simple thank you for the gruelling court cross examination and as a memento. He wore it everywhere, always. We laughed at the state of his very worn croc strap. He did not know its price and I wasn’t about to tell him, as it was, of course, totally meaningless.

More on the Golden Ratio

It is interesting to hear that,
Janek is a very strong believer of the Golden Ratio, he believes things will look right when golden ratios are used in his designing work.
Because, if we analyse one of last year's designs such as the Hometime, we discover he has departed significantly from GR for all features.

Which may go someway to explaining why I don't like it. However, he appears to have gone someway towards it with the new Master Calendar if only for two features: day/date windows and their position realtive to the dial centre and centre of the small seconds.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Cracking the Deleskiewicz Code

The Golden Ratio, definite mathematical beauty, but too often used and abused, to explain all sorts. They say the Mona Lisa's beauty is based around this mathematical ratio, so I wondered what makes the Jaeger LeCoultre Réserve de Marche into one of the most beautiful watches ever. Let's look at some of the proportions.

The ratio of the hour and minute hand lengths is GR. The centre of the small seconds is placed at GR distance between dial-centre and 6 o'clock marker. Then the date pointer centre is GR relative to the small seconds centre. However, the power reserve pointer centre is very close, but not perfect GR to the small seconds centre.

If I may be so bold as to 'correct' JD's design to perfect GR (left hand pic) you can see the design no longer works because of other influences; the text and the balance of spaces left on the dial in particular. One can also try a different size or further or closer position but still on the GR basis; and it doesn't work. It also highlights how useful it is to understand a design through trying to change it.

If Janek didn't knowingly use GR, then the positioning he chose is an amazing testament to his design feel. Of course there is more to this watch than the proportions of the subdials and their location - compare what Vacheron Constantin did with the same pointer centres in their RDM...... Ughh.

And finally, as the flat catalogue shots of JLC are useless, let's leave you with a proper impression of this watch.

And don't forget your Homework Assignment:. Try and find the golden ratios in any Magsy design.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Mass Market Tourbillon = New 'Quartz Crisis' Ahead

What's going on? Well in case you've missed it, Chinese tourbillon movements have migrated into 'Western' watches (e.g. Uhr-Kraft and Trias). Thus, you now have European law covering warranty, sales, fitness for purpose and so on, i.e. meaningful protection for purchasers. This must inevitably mean more market penetration as buyers don't have to take a punt on some watch with very little redress if it stops in two weeks (although admittedly cheap at <$750). And really you have to wonder why they shouldn't actually be any good in the age of high precision CNC machining.

PTS Resources FD-3031-1 Hand Winding Tourbillon Movement.
One of three tourbillons offered by this company.

Good quality watches have always been available cheap, think Seiko 7s26, and even high complications such as rattrapante and repetition have their cheap functional examples in Western makers (Nivrel, Kelek, ETA etc) and that doesn't prevent sales of more expensive versions. But if the Chinese begin to manufacture complications like this, a) at high volume, b) with super low prices, and critically, c) provide 'Western' companies with these kind of high complication base movements, the question is how do the Swiss maintain a clear "luxury premium" buffer?

At this point, I remembered some thoughts from interview with Philippe Dufour

"Right now we have to be careful of what we are doing. I mean, I'm talking about myself, ok? Doing a complication for doing a complication, I don't like it so much. I prefer to do something less complicated but perfect. You see? Because we have been through everything, you know? We didn't invent anything because everything was done before us. We have to recognize. We have to be modest, some people forget sometimes to be modest (smiling), but everything has been done by our grandfather or great-grandfather. Even the repeater, everything. Now we adapt that to a certain size and so on. Ok, now everything has been done. You come out with a rattrapante; well everybody has a rattrapante. A very cheap rattrapante from ETA and so on. What's the point of doing a rattrapante? Unless you make it classical, you know? With beautiful springs, nice shapes, difficult to do. And you don't add something new in complication but you add something in art, the way it's done. You see? The Aubert or the Piguet from Le Brassus, they were crazy people. When I see what they've done with the tools they had, it's crazy. Now we have some difficulties, we have computers, we have calculators, we have everything. And at the end the product is not as good as before, why? Because we miss something. We miss the feelings, the hands, the workers to do that. We have too much facility now I think. Personally I think we'll return a bit backwards and get more original product, more simple product. Because we cannot go any further. The windows of the shops are full of complicated watches, of chronographs, everything. We cannot go any further. We have to come back to more simple things."

Is it going to be down to hand manufacturing and finishing content? Well, whilst trying to perpetuate the image of 'atelier' and the hand element of their watch manufacturing, the reality is the Swiss have adopted more and more precision automation so they have to be careful there if their future revenues lie in handicraft. However, I believe there is only so much people will pay for finishing in a simple watch and in fact the mass loss of the exclusivity of the execution of complications removes one of their (the Swiss) unique selling points, and a primary reason for charging high premiums for them. This could be likened to the 'Quartz' crisis and the industry survived that, so they should survive this, right? Well, trading on what? Finish, exclusivity, and the emotional? It's not enough in my view. There is a silver lining here. I would suggest that the only direction to go in for the Swiss is to maintain the above three AND to give us a technical renaissance. Not necessarily combining complications much more ( I know this is an unpopular approach) at the risk of finshing up with some kind of Swiss Army knife (ironic), but to truly innovate in new directions; I mean escapements, materials, methods and so on.

Judging by the slow, steady and relaxed pace the Swiss work at, they may yet have the space and time to shift up a gear and tap more earnestly into some of their bookshelved innovations and create more in the longer term. If not, I fear they may disappear in any form other than brands.