Monday, December 18, 2006

Patek Philippe 5712 and 3712 Spot the Differences

I don't normally blog other blogs, what's the point?, but in this case an exception is due as Kronosclub makes a brilliant comparison of the subtle aesthetics of the 3712 and new 5712.
.....she held them and her first reaction was that they where both the same. The 5712 looked better... but wait! It also feels cheaper... ouch! That "remark" really killed me. ........The 3712 felt thiner and more authentic, when the back of the 5712 felt a bit more... "Seikoish"?
Cheeky Dario's assessment is here. I just wish he had a TV channel.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Patek Philippe Nautilus - 5711 and 5800 Size Comparison

If you're umming and aaahing about which size of Nautilus to get, here is as graphic a demonstration as you'll ever get of why the 3800 stayed on the shelves and the 5800 will too. People often get confused over the dimensions of a Nautilus case what with the ears. Now look above at the real effective cross bezel diameter of the 5800, the vertical dimension: it's a laughably tiddly 33.2 mm. The 5711 on the other hand is 38 mm.

Having discussed wrist sizes, I recently had the chance to compare the 'smaller' Nautilus with the 'large' on my slightly above average at 7.25" wrist . Hmmmm, glad I didn't buy the small one.... "Is that a ladies watch sir?" Note that the 3712/1a and 5712/1a with moonphase are in the large size. Goody.

Ridiculous 'ladies' size 3800 above

Long gone 3711 above

Friday, December 08, 2006

Sylvain Golay hangs up the screwdrivers

Hats off to Sylvain Golay. 65 last week, he officially retires in two weeks time from Jaeger LeCoultre.

The ever patient, generous, gentle watchmaking maestro who I was lucky enough to spend some time with.

Good luck in retirement and thanks.

Here he is with Jerome Berder of the PuristS.

Sylvain, merci et Santé!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Watch Lovers Nine Signs

Jaegermars – A fickle fusspot magpie determined to stand apart. You know and understand much about watches. A man of the world with a sophisticated taste. Competitive and great in bed.

Patestantin - You’re an old man, or a watch dealer. You’re beyond fashion knowing exactly what you want. You take a long time to decide and then stick with it. Safe, reliable, rich and once upon a time a good lover.

Swatchio – Unsure about everything in life, you're desperate for a woman.

Roltier – Insecure and conservative, you seek validation through material posessions by making an impression on people you don’t know. Clingy, you’re rubbish in bed.

Breitmega – Nervous, obsessive, wannabe divernaut with too many watches who can’t commit in a relationship. You’re poor, but one day you’ll be able to afford a proper piece.

Seikizen – You’re poor, but you’ll never be able to afford a proper watch. An accuracy freak you’re annoying. Can’t hold conversations with girls, who remain a mystery.

Vintique – Living your life in rose tinted hindsight with a house full of watches. A lot like Patestantin, but still good in the sack for the moment.

Panimo – Gullible, you like clocks and have a small one.

Sinfortima – Nobody pulls the wool over your eyes. A bit dull, you manage to live life pretty hard. Decisive, you have a big one.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Guide to Buying a Watch Part 3. Going Grey Market

You're probably wondering if the grey market makes sense to purchase from as deals are just too good to be true and the industry has scared you witless that buying from non-authorized sources means fakes, counterfeits, stolen pieces, defective pieces, or worse, no service under warranty!

Well, in fact, in the grandest move of hypocrisy, manufacturers actually encourage the grey market process.
  1. Over producing and forcing product down the throats of authorized dealers, in excess of what they can sell. (So called junk according to one Rolex dealer.)
  2. By selling knowingly to non-authorized channels.
  3. By accepting orders from authorized dealers knowing that these orders will immediately be turned over to non-authorized dealers.
  4. By looking the other way
The majority of the pieces in the grey market are fresh, (ordered as part of a legitimate order by an AD) or the piece was ordered directly by the unauthorized dealer from the manufacturer, and released by the manufacturer directly to the unauthorized seller for a specific market, yet these products make their way to the grey market.

Of course, not all pieces in the grey market originate from legitimate channels. There are also a large proportion of pieces being sold which are truly secondhand with a long and dubious history. Sometimes there are relatively fresh products which just recently came directly from the manufacturer, but there are also pieces which have been sitting in stock for months, sometimes years. A dealer has taken a piece, tried to sell it to no avail, so returns it to the dealer market, where it either sits or bounces around. All the time increasing the likelihood that it was mishandled, but with no visible scars (external or internal), or was actually sold but got returned, still looking like new. And this is all without even worrying about the the chain of custody and title; is there money owing on it?

And of course, fake and counterfeit pieces or even stolen pieces….

If something goes wrong with a purchase from an AD, one has recourse to the manufacturer. Both regarding simply the warranty, but also legal liabilities according to the country or state law.

Is buying from any and all unauthorized dealers necessarily bad? No.

Is buying from authorized dealers 100% and always safe and satisfactory? No.

There are no absolutes, you are always in the hands of chance and making a probabilistic choice. At least with the authorized dealer, you have the manufacturer to fall back on, without question. This is legally protected and assured.

Oh and when you go grey, at least factor the possible cost of having the watch serviced to the total cost of the watch, then decide if it is a deal or not.

Bottom line when working out your deal? And this last point is something only you can answer, for yourself, “What is that "comfort" level of AD supply worth?”

Monday, October 16, 2006

The New Audemars Piguet Escapement

The New Audemars Piguet Escapement, or ApeScape as I like to call it, really looks like a genuine improvement rather than some of the "innovation for innovations sake" we've had lately.

Rather than using silicon to paper over the inadequacies of the lever escapement, create some Heath Robinson assemblage or pretend a detent escapement works in a wristwatch without some serious compromises, AP have actually evolved quite a clever device.

The key issues for me are:
  1. Efficiency comes from the direct acting single impulse (no lever twixt escape wheel and balance).
  2. Timekeeping should improve from the single impulse.
  3. The amount of sliding is 1/8th of that of a lever escapement - so no lube required at current beat rates.
  4. The shock system to disallow incorrect placement of the lever is effective and does not require high precision manufacture to function (compared to the accuracy required to manufacture Omega's coaxial well.)
  5. Like the detent, it self corrects for changes in balance wheel amplitude. If a shock or movement gives a large amplitude to the balance wheel, the following impulse is reduced slightly. If a shock or movement gives a lower amplitude to the balance wheel, the following impulse is increased slightly.
  6. The behaviour of this self correction can be tuned by controlling the inertia of the escape wheel, locking point and angle - easy to do in production.
  7. The double hairspring is a further improvement not a requirement.
  8. The overall height of the balance and escapement is the same as a conventional lever system.
  9. The system inertia is compatible with very high beats e.g. 36000 vph or 43200 vph unlike Omega's coaxial without material innovation.
  10. Silicon parts could yet be employed to take it even further.
AP (via Renaud & Papi) have already had an escapement under durability testing for several years now. Prototypes have been under field trials in that most aggressive of shocking environments; mountain biking. Tests indicate that the escapement is capable to stay within 1 s/d of its normal rate under rough mountain biking conditions. A normal lever could not achieve this.

The only remaining question mark is that of self starting. As a simple impulse device, it cannot be so and the model that I was lucky enough to play with could be stopped at the dead middle of its travel. It didn't take much to start it again though, but it would raise some new questions for how to do a hacking movement with this system.

I believe Daniels' Coaxial was partly compromised by his insistence that a watch should be self starting. Given the other benefits of the ApeScape, I think it's possible to live without that.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Nautilus Irony - 3710 Set to Rise?

Nautilus is great, ra ra ra! So here we are in the post 30th-Nautilus-launch dip. Phew. Time for reflection... So, the 5711 dial is finally looking right with batons and the case sexed up by the chubby teen curves round the gills has worked. And well done PP, the clever trick of getting us scared over prices means we think that the price rise they have pulled off is 'ok'!

But wait, consequences? Well, I've realised that the basket case, crushed Roman numeral 3710 that has long been recognised an aesthetic disaster area is on the up. What?!!

Well, as I've said before it is probably the pure ugliness of this very watch that has led to the hyper prices being paid for the 3700 and compromising souls, who must have one, to the 3800. And it's not just me, most cognoscenti will atest to this.
Negative about the Nautilus was the move to Roman numerals, this was a BIG mistake and is unbelievably ugly. Look closely at the PR photos and it is painful to see how the numerals have been scrunched and pushed into positions where they just don’t belong at all. If you look closely at any original Nautilus with Roman numerals, it looks like the guy putting the numbers on was drunk.
What was wrong with the old dial (batons)? If everybody likes the old face better, why not admit you GOOFED and go back to it?
Roman numerals and the silly power reserve, what were they thinking. Yuk...
With most of us sat on the edge of our seats waiting and waiting for the 5711 and now finally happy Patek seem to have got it right with a homage to 3700, the laughable, but inevitable consequence may be, that as a slow seller, production of the 3710 has always been equally slow to maintain 'demand'. So, combined with discontinuation, the irony is it may well now be an investment piece due to rarity!

As for its place in the aesthetic hall of real greats PP or otherwise - no way.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Watch Collectors' Survey

VelociphileWatch collectors' survey is now closed.
Thanks for your interest and to everyone who took the time to respond.

75% of you responded. About 35% of you are from America and 35% from Europe with about 20% from Asia, with a few Africans and Aussies, oh, and a special hello to our friend in Antarctica.

With a pretty flat and broad range of ages from 23-85 a few of you aside, about 2/3rds are salaried with about 1/3 of you entrepreneurs or business owners. No surprises that it's most of you wedged up movers and shakers that have some pretty serious collections out there with a handful of you having collections more than 3 times your annual income at way more than $1/2M.

For the rest of you, the bell shaped distribution averages around $40k with 85% of you less than $150k, yet some of you with more modest means or perhaps other outlets for disposing of cash don't want to spend more than $1k on any individual piece; fair enough.

The funniest bit? Question 10, where around 2/3rds of you manage to keep the value of your collection unknown to your other half. Boys only show then? Not quite, we had one lady respondent, a singleton, with a pretty impressive collection! Marie was that you?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Tourbillon

Read the in-depth report of the new Jaeger-LeCoultre calibre 978 in the Master Tourbillon by Jerome Berder of ThePuristS and you cannot fail to be impressed. But the most important thing for me was that with its 10 mm diameter balance wheel of 11.5 mgcm² inertia beating at 4Hz (28,800 vph), it may well be the highest power wristwatch tourbillon I can think of. Can anyone suggest a higher power one?

To put it in perspective, its balance operates at 2.7 times higher power than a supposedly racy Richard Mille 10 mgcm2 balance running at 21600 vph. Imagine 2.7 times the power in your car.... In the case of watches, higher power = better timekeeping.

JLC really are going for the throat with this movement - the highest technical performance at the cheapest price. In a market currently full to the brim of hyperbole it's a fabulous technical effort that will be over the heads of most. Can anyone engineer better than JLC? Bearing in mind that 'VOX' need not mean an alarm presence anymore, we can surely expect the tourbillon in AMVOX3 coming soon.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Rolex Glidelock

Rolex have always been criticised over the cheap aesthetic of their bracelet clasps despite more than adequate function. Recent upgrades have been well received, but there is more apparently afoot.

Rolex have been active in this area for some time and there are two main patents on a new type of clasp system. They have also been trademarking the name Glidelock. It will be interesting to see what final form this takes. For your convenience: Patent 1 & Patent 2.

From the patents in Rolex's own words:

..... to improve the closure security of this type of clasp against unexpected opening both on account of a catching and on account of a pulling force in the wake of a blow to the wrist or of violent impacts such as those which may arise when the user applauds or when he strikes his fist on a table, for example. The object of this invention is also to facilitate opening of the bracelet while still making it possible simultaneously to increase the force necessary for separating the attaching elements. A further object of this invention is to allow the branches of the clasp and the bracelet connected to these branches to pivot through at least 180[deg.] in order to obtain maximum opening of the clasp and thus to facilitate the passage of the hand through the bracelet. A yet further object of the invention is to make it possible to have a clasp with a base which is substantially identical when the clasp includes a cover and when it does not include one.

One of the advantages of the proposed solution, in addition to those ensuing from the abovementioned objects, lies in its simplicity and the small number of parts required. Indeed, despite the various improvements of the clasp according to the invention, it may be observed that these are not obtained to the detriment of the simplicity and thus of the reliability of the solution proposed. For the user, handling of such a clasp is characterized by a high level of convenience, giving him a sensation of great security, which is enhanced by the appearance of the clasp, which constitutes a veritable small precision mechanism.
...... it will be noticed that the lever of the clasp according to the invention clearly acts on the elastic return means such as a lever, which allows it to obtain a gearing down of the force exerted thereon to cause the elastic return means to flex. Thanks to this gearing down of the manual force exerted on the lever to open the clasp, the force of the elastic return means can be increased and therefore the force that is exerted on the latching hook can be increased. This force continues to be exerted in the closed position, holding the branches tight against one another, thus taking up the clearances between the branches of the clasp.

The last paragraph is the most telling and the most consistent with the concept of a Glidelock.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Rolex Explorer 114270

It seems that because I wrote this and this, some people seem to think that I hate Rolex. It may well be true that I don't like an awful lot of the watches they make, nor the unfortunate impression and reactions they may create but, in fact, look below and you'll see mine - a 114270.

Velociphile's Explorer runs an unbelievable +0 s/d on the wrist
with enough leeway in other positions to correct it here or there overnight

The iconic Explorer is one of the simplest and classic pieces to fall out of the search for an elegant and understated Rolex. Now that Rolex no longer allow ordering specials without the bugly cyclops, the options are even more limited unless you're adept with a chisel (it can be done by the way). Actually I'd find quite a use for a GMT II, but not with that wart-tastic excrescence of a solution to a non problem thanks.

If I could improve the Explorer, I'd add a stainless version of the old style understated turnograph bezel (not the new turnograph style one that looks like an upturned jam tart case, but the old one) showing 24 hr and elapsed time - subdued but real world useful without the in your face Submariner attitude. Oh, and add a GMT hand. Kind of a no-date Explorer 2 but with a rotating bezel - get the picture? Actually a silver bezel GMT II with no cyclops is pretty close....

Now someone correct me if I'm wrong (I'm certainly no Rolex expert) but, I think the 114270 is the only non-date chronometer watch in Rolex's range but for the Daytona, and the only non cyclops version that's not a gauche sports version.

Upgraded a few years ago, the Explorer now sports the full benefits of a freesprung adjustable mass balance with Breguet overcoil and balance bridge in the form of arguably the most accurate movement Rolex make - the calibre 3130. So far I've been mighty impressed by its timing.

Despite reflective hands, it's readable in a nanosecond because the hour and minute hands are subtly and cleverly curved and filled with great luminosity. It may only be 36mm diameter on paper, but it wears a lot bigger than that and certainly doesn't feel small even after wearing 40+s, but is thin enough to slip under your cuffs and is no hockey puck heft.

The bracelet is a doddle to adjust yourself with a 1.6 mm screwdriver and a spot of Loctite 243 ensures security even in salt water. Critics of the pressed steel clasp I can understand, but it works fine and the whole bracelet complies with the wrist perfectly and without being too heavy nor having the bulk or discomfort of some more complex clasps.

Finally, having handled the disappointingly sloppy setting AP Royal Oak 15300 recently, it is a joy to return to the creamy, precise and slack free setting feel of this hacking movement's crown. In the words of Goldilocks, "It's just right."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Rolex and Strawberry Yoghurt Syndrome

If you look left and think, "Hmmm nice watch, I wonder what Velociphile has to say about that stunner," then look away now and read no further. However, if you toss your cookies at the sight of it read on.

Or maybe you've always dismissed Rolex because you've never seen anything you like or you just feel Rolexes project the wrong impression with its sports watch range in particular. Well, it may yet still be worth your while to spend some time fingering through the pages of the AD's shop catalogue and unearth some real stealth pieces.

Why? Because it would be a shame to have to shun the really impressive Breguet overcoil, freesprung balance engineering, good timekeeping, excellent aftersales and good finishing inside (e.g. the 3130 cal below from Hannes' excellent resource) all for the lack of a pretty visage.

Unfortunately, Rolex seems to reinforce their "two tone datejust" image by populating every page of customer catalogues with these pieces.

Look at what they choose to show on their limited website to represent the face of Rolex - very limited styles and very few watches. Now, I think there is a bit of strawberry yoghurt syndrome going on here. The unfortunate self fulfilling scenario of "Rolex is the best, I want one, ah - so this is what is popular, so that's what I'll have, so that's what Rolex offer" tricks both supplier and consumer. This very real marketing effect created the situation where strawberry was the predominant flavour of yoghurt available in Korea for years - hence the name of SYS.

Impressionable customers who want to be told what to get follow in droves, the rest of us go, "Yuk, I hate Rolexes." So, are they genuinely people's taste, or is it because most people never get any further than the brainwashing and Rolex promote what's 'popular' created by this vicious circle?

Now, rather than the typical fluted-bezel-cyclops Datejust archetype Rolex, through judicious choice of the myriad bezel and dial options, it seems that it is actually possible to assemble some quite elegant looking pieces. However Rolex misses a trick by bizarrely restricting the options.

For example, it's tragic, that it is possible to assemble this piece, (the 15210 on the right with the black dial and fine engine bezel) but Rolex only make such an assemblage available in the ridiculous 'too small' 34mm case of the 'Date'. It's quite odd really. Take a chisel to the cyclops and it's even better ...

Why they 'hide' these elegant combinations I have no idea. Perhaps they are scared of losing their formula for success. It also might be why we never really see anything new from them?

For the moment, if you've ever wondered if there might just be more there than you think to Rolex's range, visit the AD's catalogue, or even better still Rolex, how about a microsite for 'watchbuilding' like Patek had for their annual calendar combinations?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Jaeger-LeCoultre Valentino Rossi Master Compressor Extreme Chronograph Limited Edition

Fortunately limited to only 246 pieces... Well, so the advice goes, "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything."

Ok, here's the silence

That's enough.

Black pimped PVD pushers, a cheesetastic rotating chequered flag seconds, a cornflake packet freebie #46 sticker on the back and some race circuit names on the dial.

I wish I was making this up - sadly, not. I am on the edge of my seat for what other October announcements there may be - here's hoping for some true classic JLC style.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Patek Philippe Nautilus

What with the 30th anniversary of the Nautilus being celebrated this year, it's time to reflect on the Nautilus' origins.

It's worth remembering that the concept of the luxury stainless steel sports watch never existed before the 70's and the genre was pioneered by Genta's AP Royal Oak in 1972.

Patek followed in a leisurely 1976. Always controversial in shape, Nautilus suffers jibes like 'old man's watch' or 'swing-and-a-miss' but both watches come from Genta though it's Stern himself who takes the inventor status on the patent for the Nautilus.

The original 3700/1 has the same 'two hand only' approach as the Royal Oak to create the stillness and calm of the face along with its slimness. Coming from a time when more modest sizes were the norm, the 3800 now appears ridiculously small by modern standards and as a result is available for far lower sums than the one everyone wants, i.e. the 3700 'Jumbo' that's comparable in size to the Royal Oak 'Jumbo'. With only some fine tuning of the bracelet ten years later, the Jumbo stayed on the Patek range as the 3700/11 till 1990 when, foolishly, Patek discontinued it and after a gap of, I think, around 8 years relaunched the later 3710/1 with their own movement which gets seconds and a stupid 'IZR' (power reserve) indication.

With the comet just behind the hand, the winding gauge shows fully wound. The hand advances as the movement winds down. When the watch is being wound the comet zone catches up with the hand. The comet can never overtake the hand. If winding continues, both the comet and the hand will advance together maintaining the same relative position. If the movement is allowed to run down, the hand enters the danger zone at the thin end of the comet. The hand reaches the thick end of the comet to indicate that the movement has run out of power. Simple!

It may only be the fault of the hideous Roman numerals, but the 3710/1 has never been as popular. It is probably the pure ugliness of this very watch that has led to the hyper prices being paid for the 3700 and compromising souls, who must have one, to the 3800. The current 3711/1, may well sport good looks with baton markers and without the 'IZR', but is solid white gold - not exactly 'sports watch' material albeit attractive in its weighty greyness! And then most recently, we've had the surprise of the 3712/1a coming and going in a flash with ensuing speculation of its value.

With the official launch of the new range (allegedly with chronograph, annual calendar and moonphase versions) on Oct 12th 2006, we eagerly wait to see what form the next Nautilus will take and how and whether Patek capitalise on the cult of the Nautilus.

Friday, August 25, 2006

RANT - Flattery Imitation the Sincerest Form Is

Having had a chance to read a few watch magazines of late, I noticed an interesting similarity between some of the articles and subjects that have been handled recently (e.g The Chinese, Swiss Made, even Diego Maradona and his Rolexes) in old blog articles by myself and others. Fair enough I thought, but what was alarming though was that the originating blog articles by myself and other great watch bloggers (see links right) were a) weeks AHEAD of the magazines and b) the gist of the article was lifted from the blog with a bit more comment.

Moral? 1. Read it here first on the blogosphere and 2. magazine editors, please have some ideas yourselves or at least credit us out here - we're doing this for nothing.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Accuracy of Patek Philippe Watches

I contacted Patek Philippe regarding the expected accuracy of their mechanical watches and they were very kind to reply very promptly (within 24 hours).
With regards to your question regarding timing, our current range for a mechanical watch would normally be between -2 and + 3 seconds a day.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any further questions.

With kind regards

Dxxxxxx Bxxxxxx
That places them at 'twice' as good as the ubiquitous and actually quite tough COSC standard of -4 to +6 s/d.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Sinn 6100

If you don't know it, Minutemachines of Michael Sandler has some simply wonderful pictures and is well worth checking out. He recently studied the Sinn Regulateur 6100 and reveals features missed in the official pack shots. See the pics here until he gets time to upload to his main site. Great job Michael.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sinn 903 H2 - The Coolest 903 of Them All

Mirror mirror on the wall who is the coolest 903 of them all? Well in the absence of the long discontinued 24 hour manual wind version.... read on.

The Sinn 903 is a better Navitimer for those in the know. Despite now being based only on the ubiquitous 7750, it beats the Breitling hands down as it stays true to the tool watch ethic at a sensible price. In comparison the Breitling Navitimer is an overpriced lifestyle product and, frankly, jumped the shark a while back.

The 903 could only be improved by the application of Sinn's oil free escapement technology 'Diapal'. However, in the absence of that, Sinn decided to make a few 903s with the last of the manual wind Lemanias available to them and it's a fine move - perhaps even better than the old series.

Now, whilst the 903 H4 version is a fine piece too, it's apparently not a true limited item like the bi-compax 903 H2 (above left). The busy four dial H4 with its moonphase, date and 12hr sub counter is being produced in "low restricted annual volumes" (so called "fortlaufend nummeriert" or sequentially numbered) rather than one never to be repeated, completed run of 220 (which is what we were originally told.)

If you haven't ordered it by now, you're too late, probably, maybe.....

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona 4130 Chronograph Gear Train

Briefly, I already touched on the Rolex 4130 here. I hoped to return to peform a little bit of analysis of the gear train strategy sooner, but got waylaid by other matters. Anyway, I finally got to sit down and review the details and have some comments. You can read a magazine overview of the movement here. Very useful, but it's a bit lacking in technical detail and left me wanting to know a lot more about the novel layout as this movement is promoted on the basis of robustness and ease of maintenance founded on a minimum parts count and simplicity of the chronograph gear train.

To go deeper we need to pull the patents out, and with the following figures, let me give you a fly through the gear train. It's best to sit down with the document of US patent 5793708 as I will refer to gear train numbers, but I have included the figures from these below. My particular concern is that any meshing gear pair is an efficiency loss, so I was intrigued to read Rolex's claims. Let's follow the drive of the chronograph. Ready, here we go:

Figure 2 is effectively Section II from Fig1.
Figure 3 is Section III from Fig1.

Start at the centre wheel and we go to '14' and then '15'. '15' gives the running seconds of the watch. Now '15' meshes '17' meshes '18' to give the chrono seconds. Ok, now go back to '17' and on the same shaft is '27' a finger for driving the minutes and hours counters. So we go '27' meshes '35' meshes '37' meshes '38' the 30 min counter. Go back to '35' and mesh to '40' meshes to '41' the hour counter.

There are actually a total of seven mesh steps to display hrs, mins, seconds on the chronograph if we take it from the running seconds. Now to me, that seems no simpler than any classic chrono form be it the gear paths of any intermediate wheel chronograph, modular chronograph, etc.

What is more interesting though is the transition (sic) fit of the wheels 38 and 41 and their respective shafts. This allows for the reset hammers to operate on the zero cams and respective indicator needles resetting to zero with the chronograph geartrain locked. In addition, reset adjustment is apparently provided by a simple eccentric post ('77') rather than several eccentric stops. Clever stuff Rolex!

But, I'm not sure I buy the claim that "Periodic driving of the hours and minutes..... allows reduction of the power provided by this gear train to drive the chronograph..." as you have to turn the wheels in the end and compared to other chronos with intermittent drive where's the advantage? Also, there are seven meshing steps to overcome. However, the novel packaging approach does lead to a slim movement with good space for spring barrel, balance wheel and winder.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Royal Oak Jumbo vs 15300

I dropped into Bond Street and compared side by the side the Royal Oak Jumbo (15202) and the new Royal Oak 15300. I tried two different types of 15202 - one with the open nameless deployant and the type with AP-PA style bracelet deployant both in the blue dial and three 15300s in differing dial colours.

Well, immediately it's obvious the original Jumbo is the clear winner in the aesthetics department with the thinner body, shallower dial depth, more subtle and thinner bracelet, two hands only and the skeleton rotor on the delicious 2121 calibre. You can see why Genta styled it this way. The watch is also a lot lighter than the 15300; in fact it feels half the weight. Some have argued the dial is congested by the minute numbering, but I didn't find it intrusive.

Now, compare the 15300. It's only slightly thicker in the main case, but has a substantially thicker bezel and deeper dial and fatter screw crown. Allied with the chunky hands and the chunkier bracelet it makes for a much butcher watch - almost an AP Submariner.

Now my first impressions were with the silver/white dial and it looks simply awful accentuating the bezel thickness and making the watch a whole parody - like a bad replica. In fact, at this point having only seen this version of the 15300 I thought it was game over and a knockout win for the Jumbo. But wait, pretty Nicoletta gets out a blue dial version and wow, what a transformation. The thicker bezel is immediately balanced and suits the updated Genta vision much better. The hands are still a bit 'bright' and pudgy though but liveable withable.

I can also see why some have complained about the new clasp, it clearly won't suit the smaller gentleman, not least because the chunkier bracelet also has a minimum radius which is on the limit for me even at a macho 7 1/4"! The Jumbo bracelet is more comfortable but its slightly flaky catch bothers me. I'm being picky, but it also sticks out somewhat and would also forever be grinding the mousepad - how things have changed since '72. The 15300 hidden clasp locks extremely securely, and the whole ambience of the watch adds up to a lot more 'serious sports' than the gentle golfing or tennis 'light sports' implied by the daintiness of the Jumbo.

Despite no claimed gain in water resistance, the 15300 screw down crown is welcome but, the poor time setting behaviour is not. It takes a lot of practice to set the time so that when pushing in the crown the minute hand does not move forward or back up to two, yes two minutes. This is not a one off occurence, there has been plenty written about it on various fora. Each of the three pieces I played with exhibited this and all had different characteristics. It just gives one a bad 'low quality' impression of what is otherwise a storming movement. And the Jumbo was not faultless either, on one piece the hands were not aligned precisely at the hour. Additionally, the winding rotor of this piece exhibited quite a lot of stick, very different from the free running item of the brand spanker. Maybe it had just been stored a while, but disappointing all the same. You wouldn't want to leave the showroom feeling like it needs a service or with "let's see how it goes" ringing in your ears.

Pros: True Genta aesthetics, elegance, thinness, comfort, movement heritage, "yes, it's a Jumbo", two hands slow time passing, an easy to come by 30%+ off.

Cons: Bracelet catch, movement maintenance needs (hanging barrel tool), no seconds! No quick date, no screw crown, only 50 m WR.

Conclusion: Like finding a beautiful NOS vintage watch - wow!

Pros: despite early problems the 3120 movement is a cool piece of kit, screw crown, more substantial bracelet clasp, second hand, proportions saved by a dark dial, more kiddie proof, quick date, hacking movement
Cons: Compromised Genta aesthetics, pudgy hands, time setting takes practice, only 50 m WR, won't fit 'small' wrists well, bracelet is a wee bit too thick, not a Jumbo......

Conclusion: A Jumbo for the naughties in the essential black or blue dial

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 15300ST

AP Royal Oak 15300 ST with black/grey dial. Property of a gentleman.

Apparently it's a common conundrum, loving and hating this piece:
Look at Angelica Houston, or Lauren Bacall; incredibly beautiful and yet with a turn of their head or change of light, somehow strangely ugly at the same time. Some things can be so sensitive to how you look a them and yet you know they can be beautiful - so why don't you like them?
That was me talking about the Gerald Genta designs of Royal Oak, Nautilus and Overseas. Maybe they appeal more with age? Or is it simply because these kinds of watches stand impervious as a lighthouse in a currently rough sea of tasteless dross? Or am I impressed with the carefully conceived and executed 3120 movement (thorough analysis and awesome pics from Suitbert Walter here)?

So, at as good as 40mm, is 15300 the young pretender to Jumbo's throne? Maybe, but surely there's an even larger one in the pipeline in the current climate for b i g watches. Aesthetic hairs may be split over the greater thickness of the 15300 compared to the Jumbo and the gravitas of the Jumbo's older movement, but the sweetest reason I can see for not having the 15300 is to enjoy the stillness of Jumbo's face without a sweep second hand. If you do go for the Jumbo, try to make sure you get one with a free sprung balance version of the movement - just a bit of icing on the cake.

As for the 15300, I may have it, but it may yet turn out to be just a case of beer goggles in the morning.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

New Jaeger-LeCoultre Ellipse Isometer Escapement

For those interested, we've been on the edge of our seat waiting for news of the 'Ellipse Isometer' escapement. Well, Jaw does it again with a teasing glimpse of the new Escapement in the new Triptyque.

Click the picture above to go to the article. More is promised soon.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Patek Price Benchmark? Massive Discounts? What is going on?

2 for 1?

To the point as ever, Dario discusses Patek price/value equation as a benchmark standard here.
There are several "fellows" out there ....... asking real fortunes for a lot of show and very, very little history. I don't question their excellence, but it is inevitable that I compare their price-tag to Patek or Rolex. .........I ...... consider them good points of comparison when it comes to pricing.

......this "meter" of mine seems to be way off lately, because I just can't agree with some of the prices out there.
I agree despite the inevitable hyping of some of Patek's range and the holding up of its brand equity by hook or by crook. However, at more modest levels (say <$30k) It occured to me that in the latest hunt I have been noticing some really eyepoppingly cheap pieces. I have seen things selling for nearly 60% discount. Not just 'unpopular stuff,' you know, NOS fodder of the future, I mean some pretty desirable items. The prices are 'buy one get one free' levels.... Maybe it's a weak dollar or maybe a sign of something else. The 'normal' level of discount seems to have also shifted to around 40% off. Suggests to me that you can open at way less than half price in your bargaining, but you should be doing that already! More intriguingly, even 'just released' popular items are up to 30% down.

I don't think the bubble will burst though, just slowly go soft. I think the market will split into fragments with the high/super-high end continuing up and only the mid range and below (I mean <$30k) will begin to suffer. Only watches with real intrinsic value content are going to see this out and you don't want to be left holding any overpriced fashionabelle-in-the-pan-watch.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Jaeger-LeCoultre Black Dial Surprise

I touched on the sad lack of black dials in the current JLC range here when mocking up a black dial on the Master Grand Réveil. Well someone at JLC's been listening as they now offer two further black dials (albeit on limited editions).

(Left) we have the much improved newly available Master Eight Days in bargain stainless steel. With the far more attractive day-night indicator added to the black dial treatment, it's getting irresistible. Apparently though, it is little different to the Cellini LE already released.... Can anyone provide a pic?

And hurrah and hoolay as a completely new and far more attractive layout breaks cover for the Hometime (below). Transforming it from messy, unbalanced, ugly duckling to Swanesque Patek Philippe 5134 contender, I would hope, and it may be, that the dial layout is used in a revised Hometime layout (without the L.E. black dial though). As ever, don't go rushing out to buy any L.E. at a premium or as an investmnet; buy it if you like it....... Criticism? Ok, why the '60' and '30' on the small seonds (also on the 8 day which the silver dial doesn't have.

Carrying the Cal 975 'Autotractor', more pictures of the new Hometime layout can be found here taken by Spiros.

P.S. If you haven't seen it, marvel at the detailed pull down of the Cal 975 movement conducted by Suitbert Walter here. While you're at it, compare and contrast with the famous Rolex movements reviewed as follows: Walt Odets' legendary controversial review of the Rolex Explorer, and The Rolex Submariner Cal. 3135 by Andrew Babanin

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Rolex Daytona Mechanism Laid Bare

Intrigued by a recent thread on ROLEX and the DAYTONA and not knowing a lot about the innovative chronograph layout employed in the 4130, (yes I live a life with ROLEX filters firmly on) I have been digging around in the European Patent website. For those interested in the full explanation I suggest viewing the European B1 document EP 0772 104 B1 or the US 5793708 available with simple navigation from here:

Note that EP.ESPACENET.COM has finally bowed to pressure and now allows download of complete pdfs (click on 'save full document' in the toolbar). Hooray.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

ETA Movement Grade Differences

ETA movements often come in four (or even five) flavours. It is important to know what you're getting as most manufacturers don't widely make it known to you which they're using. Some are more equal than others so to speak. The five flavours are Economique, Standard, Elaboré, Top and Chronomètre. Various choices of finish are available on all optionally*.

Economique, Standard and Elaboré have pretty much precisely the same components with subtle differences often surrounding shock protection, regulator (standard versus eccentric, etc)*.

However, Elaboré is regulated in three positions to tighter tolerance (see below) than the standard version which is regulated in two positions. The three positions are: dial up, 6H and 9H. Note that this is thus mostly acceptable for a watch worn on the left wrist! Regulation at 9H is not performed for the standard grade.

Top and Chronomètre have precisely the same components and are regulated in five positions (6h, 3H, 9H, FH dial down and CH dial up). Components different to Standard and Elaboré are at least as follows: Balance, balance spring, regulator, shock mounting, pallet stones.

Typical popular ETA movement standards:

Standard (regulated in two positions)
Mean daily rate +/- 12 s/d
Max variation across 5 positions: 30 s
Isochronism (rate after 24H running compared to full wind in dial up or CH): +/- 20 s/d

Elaboré (regulated in three positions)
Mean daily rate +/- 7 s/d
Max variation across 5 positions: 20 s
Isochronism: +/- 15 s/d

Top (regulated in five positions)
Mean daily rate +/- 4 s/d
Max variation across 5 positions: 15 s
Isochronism: +/- 10 s/d

Chronomètre Version to COSC specification.

*You can practice your French looking at an example catalogue of options for one movement shown here for the ubiquitous 2824-2 (pdf file). Also look here (I cannot post the link because it is an https site):

The moral: Contact the manufacurer before you buy to confirm the level of movement. Assuming they are telling the truth.......

Additions and corrections to this are most welcome.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Ultimate Speedmaster (more)

Whilst we are on the subject of Omega, I've long wondered what the Speedmaster would have been like with the arguably more useful and practical diving/timing bezel. (I don't believe a tachymetre was ever any use to an astronaut as it's a bit difficult to find mile marker posts on the way to the moon). Remember, we talked about the Speedmaster 50th anniversary edition for 2007 a while back.

A bezel would have given them 3 separate timing systems, a slow to work out one (hour and minute time), a quick one (bezel) and an accurate and fast one (chrono).

Now being a fan of the ever so easy to read centre minute chronograph, which would surely have been the astronaut's first choice.... I took a picture of the grail Speedy (376.0822) from Chuck's stores (I hope you don't mind Chuck) and bolted it into the Speedy case with Planet Ocean bezel. The result is shown left.

Considering the dross they do produce, I cannot see why Omega cannot make the effort to produce a watch like this. I mean, as Swatch have the keys to Lemania (or whatever B.S. name it has now, they even have access to a centre minute movement i.e. the one that's 'exclusive' to Breguet. Although the Breguet may not be a column wheel design ( --gasp-- whadya mean? all that wedge and no column wheel) it is ready and waiting.

Cristiano Berto was kind enough to remind me that, of course, a timing bezel had appeared before on a prototype (Right). This has been documented at length by the hard working Eric So on his Omega site.

Meanwhile on TZ, tooexistential (Curtis) has been busy with PS and produced an array of alternatives involving 24 H GMT hands and so on, and my favourite is perhaps the one combining both bezel AND tachy (below).

What is stopping Omega producing any of these is beyond my ken.
If only omega would play a bit with ideas like these rather than all the simple dial modifications in their Ltd Ed watches.
Says Curtis. Could not agree more and there's money waiting for this one:

Except I think we can go some steps further: we could add the date at 4 or 6 o'clock a la Broad Arrow. And add the curved bracelet. Oh, and did I mention Co-axial? So that's pretty much all the functions you need and all without looking like a Citizen SkyHawk thingy. Good job Curtis. So come on Omega. Oh, wait what's this?.....


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Return of the Pumpkin - ver 3.0

The Pumpkin is back! Yes! I was so pleased to discover buried in the SIHH/Basel material, Glycine have remade the sought after SST. It's available in a few other colours, and of them, I like the blue, but perhaps the original is the best. Look right and you can just make out the black/grey vertical split between the left and right sides of the dial.

Now, there are two versions: a full blown true 24h version (no not the D24) and the 12h version (shown right). However, in all honesty the 24h may be the purist's choice, but having been programmed from birth to read a normal 12 hour dial in a nanosecond, why fight it? (More on this issue here.) There is also a subtle but important difference between the 12h and 24h versions. The 12h version can track three timezones, but the true 24h can only track two. Why? because the 12H has a separate red GMT hand (one rev per 24h) which the 24H lacks (probably to differentiate it from the D24). Hence, two reasons to get the 12h version - more readable AND with more function.

So, the watch above right reads 10.10 either a.m. or p.m. (you will know which) by its mainhands not 20:10H and 10:10H by the GMT hand - rotate the 24h bezel and bingo, the third timezone is obtained. So, in reality you can track three different timezones perhaps arguably just as easily as the D24 but with a more traditional looking dial.

Despite a solid caseback, Glycine go the trouble to provide their ETA movement in Elaboré spec. You won't see the decoration, but the movement is regulated to a tighter tolerance than the Standard ETA movement.

I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Glycine, offering great value and an authenticity lacking in so many others' offerings. Definitely not cynical marketing and if a bit large, (it's 51.5 mm across the lugs which is just my limit...) this one might even fit me, especially as they have been careful to keep the thickness down and the lugs are curved back to follow one's wrist. Blue or traditional? Hmmmm, but definitely the 12h.

Friday, June 02, 2006

How to make a mint making a Swiss Watch

Cash in on people's innocence and ignorance of horology.
  1. Surf around and identify a defunct target brand preferably with a somewhat fascinating history or USP. I didn't realise how many dormant Swiss watch brands there are that can be purchased for a modest fee and can give you an instant history for whatever you decide to make.
  2. Purchase the rights to the dormant brand. If possible identify existing family/former company owners and get their buy in to your proposal to resurrect it for a cut by involving them in the marketing. It's a really nice touch.
  3. Identify a range of cheap Swiss movements to apply (see 5).
  4. Package it. And as the brand owner you can subcontract the entire process – there are plenty of case makers, dial makers etc and if the Swiss won't play you can make it all in China...
  5. Leverage 'Swiss Made.' Maximise the opportunity given by the lax definition (see 3).
  6. Trade on the internet officially – in fact make it the only method of purchase. 'Limited editions' always sell well and especially if you offer it at a discount despite being the only source.....
  7. Cultivate the gullible/ignorant via a well 'guided' forum. It is useful to drop misleading hints that your watches are comparable to true high end products.
  8. If you really have no shame, it helps to just lie.
As Chris said the other day:
What brands have existed uninterrupted for at least say 50 years, and at no time existed solely as an asset in a portfolio in someone’s file cabinet?
Truly, a register of these would be a great resource. You have been warned.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

ETA 2894-2 Modular Chronograph

You are looking at a small piece of the ETA parts list for the ETA 2894-2 movement. Part 8510 is only available as a one-piece-pre-assembled-no-spares-available MODULE that bolts on the base movement. Quite how that can be perceived as "an integrated chrono" and not "a modular chrono" I don't know. However, one manufacturer is trying to pass this off as "integrated." Fortunately now you know better.

I cannot link you to access ETA technical documents as they are held on an https server. To find them go to ETA and follow the links to the "Customer Service Portal." From there you will find a section "Technical Documents" from which you can select your calibre of interest.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Centre Minute Counter Chronographs Live

Having been brought up on a diet of conventional, illegible, counter-intuitive, arbitrarily subdivided subdials, you get used to accepting that it takes a moment to get your bearings as to how many minutes have elapsed on your chrono. Until that is, you try a centre minute chrono for the first time and BOOM, you never want to go back. The advantages of a centre minute counter are astonishing and you realise the advantages of having a brain programmed from birth to recognise the time by hand position in a microsecond.

Sinn 157 with Lemania 5100.
Read like a regulator in a snap despite the grim jpeg: 1 hour 37 mins 22.5 seconds. Now, compare:

Patek Philippe 5970.
Despite englargement:.....Errrrrr, Friday? Maybe the next generation will have evolved to read this quickly.

Once you've used one, you wonder how it can be done any other way. The problem is there are plenty of vintage options, but there aren't that many about these days new. There's still one source of the once ubiquitous Lemania 5100 in Tutima guise (below L), but not for long. One could also consider GP's Laureato Evo3 with a Dubois Dépraz 2070 module (below R):

or Sinn's recent revamped 142 St II with the same 2070 module (below)

Breguet now also do a centre minute version of their XX (above), though this now departs from the original purist 15 minute counter divided into five 3 minute intervals (see above comments about illegible, counter-intuitive, arbitrarily subdivided subdials) that was continued from the original 50s version requirement to have 5% of an hour.

And finally, if you're really desperate you could always put up with the TAG Aquagraph (ETA + DD module again) but I wasn't going to mention it. If anyone knows of any others I can add, please let me know.

Girls and Watches

Remember Cinders and the problems with her whopping Omega Broad Arrow GMT? Well now, I spotted our 2nd favourite X-Girl Halle Berry has her Versace on upside down.

Come on girls get it together.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Tourbillon Breaks Cover

Long the subject of speculation and inadvertently shown on the MJLC website during a test upload, the Master Tourbillon finally seems to break cover in the site's 'News' section. More here. Funkily, the date jumps forward from 15 to 16 to avoid covering the tourbillon cage. Functionally, it has a useful second time zone (24h), and runs an impressive 28800 vph for a tourbillon. It could only get better if it was available in steel... It is! Price TBA ;)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Chinese Taikonaut Official Watch

Space fans will be pleased I found an excellent review of the Fiyta Taikonaut watch by Ron Engels at his excellent Pilotswatch site. As you can see (right), it has a Japanese Miyota $5 quartz movement. Shame, when they have such great mechanicals available or could have even used one of their own quartz movements. Check out the large plastic spacer, mmmmm.

Seems a real shame when you realise the Chinese can produce tourbillons like this or take the column wheel Venusesque Seagull St19 reviewed by GMF (left) which would surely have been better at showcasing Chinese capability?
(Oysterquartz was the little known and under appreciated quartz Rolex of the last century (in fact made until 2001 I believe - but I digress. Check out GMF's

In the meantime, the current taikonauts are flying with this