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.