Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Ultimate Shill

“As a collector myself I may buy for my museum but, it is a private deal. We are not manipulating the auction market.”
So says Philippe Stern, but Patek Philippe has been supremely successful in conjuring a frenzy for its line of current wristwatches. What has Patek Philippe allegedly done specifically? Well, at the start of the 80s, Patek started aggressive buying of their vintage pieces on the second hand market "for their museum". A strategy allegedly proposed and developed by Alan Banbury (acclaimed horological expert who was a personal consultant to Philippe Stern during the creation of the museum collection) to reawaken interest in the brand. Crucially they also made sure the results were loudly accounted in the press as evidence for the mounting value of old watches. Remember up until this point, that watches were really not bona fide collectibles. That all changed, particularly when the Calibre 89 fetched $3.7 million. Suddenly, this event created a market among collectors for wristwatches.

Apparently, many of the pieces in that 1989 auction were ones bought previously at auction for many times less some years before. Had Patek Philippe bought and held them for the 1989 auction or were they from private owners? Either way, this had the effect of pushing up prices steadily; for both vintage, but more importantly, for their continued new product. All in all, a finely judged marketing strategy that has paid dividends for the company, as well as certain auction houses.

And you only have to look at the PP magazine to see regular direct or subtle references to the performance of their watches at auction implying the constant investment potential of practically any piece with Patek Philippe on the dial.

So when the company seems vague or keeps shtum about whether a particular line is due for the chop or not, they are just continuing their strategy; let rumour do the rest. As an example, take the latest surge in 5070 (you know, the one that’s basically a finely finished vintage Speedmaster) and 3712/1a (a 5055/5085 movement in a Nautilus case). Strategically placed rumours, certain high profile and arguably ludicrous sales at auction (when the pieces are still in dealers if you bother to look) works wonders.

Of course, the huge jump in prices is a function of the interaction of buyers AND sellers. Has Patek's "so called" manipulations benefited the brand? Yes, certainly, but has also benefited some of the lucky owners of Pateks by luck or judgement.

Question is, PP seem so far below the supply-demand equilibrium point, with so many wait listed watches on deposit in dealers. Why not produce more? I think the answer is two fold. Back to Mr Stern:
“The first thing we look at is in creating demand and adjusting production. The worst thing is to over-produce. We currently do not have the resources to increase production significantly. This will only be done if we find the right watchmakers. Our limitation is in finding the right people. After that, the challenge is in ensuring the quality and good reputation is maintained. We will be increasing volumes slowly though.”
I agree there is a resource limitation, but there’s another issue. The usual rule of luxury goods production guidelines is always produce one item fewer than demand, but I don’t think this applies so simply here. A Patek Philippe must remain a dream, an elusive and exclusive piece so it will never hit supply/demand=0.99; more like 0.5. Otherwise their ability to charge a premium would disappear disproportionately quickly in relation to the closeness to the market limit - in an irreversible flash. I’ve seen this in the car industry, it’s a won way ticket of brand suicide.

Mr Stern is no fool and is in the game for the long run, through ups and downs, boom and bust, operating at this level gives huge protection against the impending burst of the watch bubble.

And in their defence? Let us not forget the lucky (or smart) who reap the benefits of this alleged situation.

In addition, Patek are one of the few who are trying to do something about limiting production and feeding secondary markets at least on the serious pieces.

At least unlike so many pretenders in the luxury market, Patek is backed by real history and substance and the indisputable quality of their products relative to what else is available and comparable.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

F. P. Journe Limited Editions Still Around. Why?

On my recent travels I got a chance to handle two highly sought after limited pieces still strangely languishing in dealers at list price. Why people will pay silly auction money for these when they're still in dealers dying to shift them is a mystery to me; discounts were discussed.

Wicked idea illustrated on the F.P. Journe forum.

Surprisingly heavy, for its diminutive size and 1/4" thickness, the Vagabondage, in platinum, is one of Journe's undoubted technical masterpieces and 'still' pictures don't do it justice. So it shows its stuff above in the excellent animation from ThePuristS. Only the rope style crown really gives a clue as to its identity as it's so different from any other Journe. Still for sale, but not even on display in the dealer I visited....
"'Vagabongage' is the name chosen by F.P. Journe, and suggested by the French collector Jean Aube, to express the wandering of the revolving frame, which captures the hour and keeps it, while continuing its journey around the dial, to indicate the minutes."
The Zodiaque (Zodiac) is seriously cool with the rotating month ring and as Bernard Chong points out:
"Not only is it the last of the first Octa series, and also the last of the first series of ltds editions...but to add a distinction, it is also the only ltd edition Octa that has a conventional sparkling Rhodium plate finish that is found on the Octas and not the dark grey Rhuthenium finish."
But it's crying out for some more colour (pink gold, for example as the recent one-off, would make such a difference) and it has the oddest spring bar location for its lug position in any watch I've ever come across.

Someone needs to tell FPJ that blue on grey does NOT work.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Réveil

Click the thumbnail to get the bigger amazing pictures from AlbertoS at ThePuristS.com

One of this year's favourites, I have to say I was on the edge of my seat to try this as a 40th birthday pressie contender and finally did so today. The 43mm unmistakeably JLC shaped case fits even my slender wrist because of the clever JLC lug design, but it is one thick watch; nearly as thick as a Gyrotourbillon....

The dial is attractive and value can be high as there is a stainless option, but my two biggest disappointments revolve around its USP - the alarm.
  1. The alarm is not loud enough if sat close to your wrist, but it'll wake you if on your bedside table.
  2. In vibe mode, you'll be lucky to feel it go off. Yet it's also strangely too loud in vibe mode, kind of defeating the purpose of it.
For those unable to afford the (slimmer and precious metal) 8 day perpetual, the s/s version makes for a bargain; low power reserve notwithstanding, at least it does have the alarm feature.

I really hope there is a black dial version and also the option of a bracelet and it might still be a contender. Further press release highlights here.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Patek Philippe 5970 - Pasta Timer or True Chronograph?

What? What's the problem? Well, you simply cannot rapidly and accurately read the stopwatch time between 27 and 33 seconds as the calender cuts in to the stopwatch scale. 0/10 for function Patek. Sorry, but it's just not acceptable to make GLARING FUNCTIONAL ERRORS on watches this expensive. However, it is becoming more and more common through the industry. I can quote other examples but why bother? Nobody seems interested. These type of watches remain sales successes with the general public and get worshipped even by the cognoscenti. Here's the 5970 and question is, what's the stopwatch time?

Oh no, my pasta's overcooked!

I found that even looking down into the crystal between 27 and 33 seconds it is hard to see to the nearest '1/5' what the stopwatch time is. The second ticks are only bolder, (critically) not longer - compare 3970) and for me they get mingled with the 1/5ths; well with my eyes.

It's not important elsewhere on the dial (i.e. between 33 and 27 thru 60) because you have the inner track of seconds making it clear as day. Omega made a similar 'error' of such ticks on one of their Speedmaster day-date dials (still do in fact) and I know of at least one person who returned theirs as 'not fit for purpose' on that basis (not prompted by me either, LOL). I know the 5970 is not supposed to be a mission critical chronograph and arguably who needs 1/5s timing? but come on Patek, this costs $000s....

Patek Philippe 5959P - Chronographs, Where Next?

Whilst I loathe the Officer's style case, and the piddly unfashionable (even for me) 33mm dia., I have to like the movement in the the new 5959P rattrapante just a little. Up to now, Patek Philippe had used a Nouvelle Lémania calibre, but this is finally its own; totally designed, developed, and produced in-house. Allied to being the thinnest at 5.25 mm (for a column wheel movement), with rattrapante functionality and continuously advancing minute counter, it employs Patek's interesting patent for chronograph wheel teeth

where the centre chronograph wheel has the teeth profile at the top of the diagram and the intermediate wheel has the profile of the teeth at the bottom. This allows smooth engagement and minimises the jumping of the chronograph seconds when started and stopped.

Calibre CH R 27-525 PS. Patek's first chronograph movement?! Finally totally designed, developed, and produced in-house.

Of course if they employed a vertical clutch design, like the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Cal 75x, they wouldn't have had the problem to solve anyway.....

The very best picture on the internet of this $300k beast is taken by Suitbert Walter of ThePuristS

Whilst it is laudable to miniaturise such a high complication I believe it would have been better to take advantage of the growth in case sizes and push the capability of the watch further, for example, on spring barrel or balance wheel size* or incorporation of further complication, let alone adoption of 28,800 vph (or more), their silicon escape wheel, or their new escapement. Whilst not following these paths, I hope we may yet see their foudroyante patent, say 2006?

Meanwhile, for those without $300k, the current Patek Philippe magazine is offering the chance to get a free lithograph of the movement. But stocks are limited so hurry....

*Interesting to note that although Patek make a big thing of the "remarkable proportions" of the Gyromax balance wheel, it is, in fact, a modest 10 mgcm2 inertia (compare Jaeger-LeCoultre and Rolex at 14 and 15 mgcm2 respectively).

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Patek Philippe 3712/1a Discontinued Already

So it's official, the subject of many an internet rumour, the 3712/1a is finished before it really started. It's only been out since about June.

Regarding the Ref. 3712/1A, we regret to inform you that this model is discontinued and is not produced by our company anymore. This reference will be replaced by a new reference which will be launched during the year 2006.
Many people may find this surprising, but I don't. What with the anniversary of Nautilus coming up, it makes sense to clean the slate for a bevy of models. The 3712/1a was nothing more than a stop gap with the flaky poor winding, sudden-death prone 240LU movemement, a cynical low investment parts bin revamp and it was never going to last long in the range. But as is the way with short run PPs it will be the subject of speculation about sky rocketing auction values and frankly it doesn't deserve it. But look at that statement "replace by a new reference."

I'm sure Patek have major explosive plans for the (30th) anniversary. I imagine a whole new range going head to head with AP RO(O). I can see big cases, chronos, dual times, and yes, a better replacement for 3712/1a.... and because of that I actually struggle to see why 3712's value is going to skyrocket as predicted by some.

Update: Nov 13 2005. Unconfirmed but apparently the watch as a design will continue but will have an upgraded movement; apparently replacing a part or something ('bout time). More on this as it develops. Hmmmm, looks like the value of 3712/1a is going down not up.....

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Jaeger-LeCoultre Balance Wheel

Measured the dimensions of a JLC Autotractor balance wheel the other day. Not sexy, rather perfunctory, but undoubtedly accurately made.

Ballpoint pen tip at the top
Outer diameter: 9.3 mm
Rim height: 0.60 mm
Spoke thickness: 0.20 mm
Rim width ~ 0.4 mm
Moment of inertia: ~14 mgcm2

For comparison, the Rolex 3135 movement (in the Submariner etc) balance wheel is 15 mgcm2 and the JLC 8 day balance wheel is 3.8 mgcm2.

Omega Speedmaster 2998 on Mesh

19mm lug owners know how hard it is to find a bracelet for a 2998 (and the like), but that problem seems to have been solved by Jeff Bagnall. Not quite a NASA issue astronaut's Jacoby Bender but it'll do for the mo', I just got this 19mm Kreisler 60's NOS mesh for my 2998-6. Nearly as comfy as the NATO RAF pattern strap, but not quite.

Ebay's global trading village strikes again. What on earth did we do before?...........

It fits fine and the 19mm width is spot on, but in the end it is a 'universal' fit style and some may not like that. There is a 2mm gap to the case and it relies on tabs on the back of the end pieces that touch the caseback - you know the sort of thing. The curve of the end piece is a perfectly correct radius though.

Compare the real deal:

Saturday, November 05, 2005

AMVOX2 Worth its wait?

More coming as the news breaks. For the mo', see more on the Jaeger-LeCoultre website under - what's new, events, but you won't find anything sharper or larger.

And where's the VOX function?

As predicted it's a chronograph without conventional pushers. Talked about here and here and here

Friday, November 04, 2005

Velociphile's Wristwatch FAQ

If you're new to posting on any watch forum, to save the regulars' sanity, it's only polite to look through their archives first. Or, please check these FAQs before posting on any of the following topics. You may find what you're looking for without looking an idiot.

What kind of discount can I get?
Which dial colour - Black or silver?
Can I wear a brown strap with a black dial?

Is this fake?
Which Rolex should I get?
Authorised dealer or grey market?
Which beater for under $5000?
Disgusted! Found a spec on my dial under 30x mag.
My relative left me this, is it worth anything?
How do I post pictures?

Are watches getting too big or is it just me?
My minute tick marks don't line up with the seconds when they're at zero - help!
Must buy a watch by end of week - Advice please

Does this look too big on my wrist?
If you had to have only one watch - which one?
Can I wear a 44mm watch on a 6 3/4" wrist?
My boss gave me a watch I don't like, should I wear it?

How to remove caseback?
Am I nuts for wanting a quartz?
What's the cheapest place to buy?

I heard that Rolex is the best - is it?
Which is the best watch forum, ThePuristS or Timezone or Watchuseek or...?
I don't like it much, but is the 5792R a good investment?
I can't get my caseback on?
What does "in-house" really mean?
Is Patek Philippe the best?
I've got the same watch in all dial/case combinations.

Golf - Can I play it with my watch on?
Need help on identifying this.
Can I swim with 25m W.R.?
My deployant buckle is more comfy reversed - should I leave it there?
My watch makes a horrible graunchy noise - is it OK?
Can I swim with 50m W.R.?

Keeping perfect time, but should I get my watch serviced?
My watch makes a funny whirring sound when I move it - is that bad?
I got caught in the rain with my SeaDeep1000m, what should I do?

Will people get annoyed if I post the same pictures of my limited collection over and over again?
I sold a watch and now want it back - am I normal?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Speedmaster Jumps the Shark

Michael Schumacher takes time from his hectic schedule to judge the graduation prize entries at the new Magali Metrailler Flik-Flak Watch Design School.

Yep, just so, so gob-smackingly, jaw-droppingly awful I am lost for words (rare moment). Here's a bit of stretchy image manipulation:

Homework assignment: Do the red one on the end yourself, I couldn't face it.
As Chuck says, this is the moment when you'll remember Speedy jumped the shark

Co-Axial Speedmaster Lands - Nearly

What's Cinders got?

Cinders has to use two hands to hold up the new 44mm (Yikes!) case

That'll be her new Co-Axial Broad Arrow GMT. So, for those waiting to find the Daniels' Co-axial finally bolted into the Speedy shape case, the good news is the wait is nearly over. It's landing this autumn/fall. With a nifty useful GMT function, 100m W.R, and a display back, it just needs a baton hand, 42mm version and it would be game-on at 40% off........ Hopefully the well documented problems with this movement are solved. ;-)

Space this watch......