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