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.