Monday, July 13, 2015

Patek Philippe, ARIA And The Celestial Dance

It seems like all the stars have aligned this week as my wife and I found out that we will be attending a Patek Philippe factory tour in September. To celebrate we decided to have dinner at ARIA. As an avid and passionate Patek Philippe collector for around 10 years, this was a welcome surprise. We felt like we had won a trip of a lifetime, that only fellow watch enthusiasts would appreciate the significance of.

The evening was crisp and clear, with a stunning full moon illuminating the night. We were also lucky to look up and see Venus and Jupiter doing their celestial dance and appearing close together even though they are hundreds of millions of miles apart. At first I thought one was a plane until my wife remembered it was the celestial rarity that she had quickly read about on FaceBook. A rarity because most of the conjunctions between these two planets happen during daylight hours.

Enough of the stars, and on to dinner. We decided to have the pre-theatre menu, which offers great value. But first things first we had to choose a wine. After perusing the wine list we decided to have a 2009 Linnaea Rhizotomi Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. We like our Napa Valley Cabernets and this did not disappoint. Great flavour without being too heavy and a fabulous aroma which opened more during the evening.

A concise menu of five items per course, plus an entree extra, made choosing easy. After ordering, an amuse bouche of house made lavosh, topped with broad bean and ricotta purée topped with a little dot of lemon curd was presented to us.

A waitress came with a basket of bread from which we both chose a sourdough roll (from Iggy's Bread) which was accompanied by salted butter and a black garlic and porcini butter (both from Pepe Saya).

My wife ordered Yamba Prawns with smoked eggplant, pickled radish and finger lime (the entree extra). The prawns were roasted with the little bubbles of finger lime pulp and then stacked on the pureed smoked eggplant. Slices of pickled radish and herbs were placed around and on top of the stack.

I ordered Southern calamari with Iberico jamon, dashi custard, and shiitake mushroom tea. The dish was topped with an intriguing squid ink and tapioca crisp.

My wife chose the lamb rump, globe artichoke barigoule, green olives, eggplant and capsicum ajvar. Cooked medium rare, with the small amount of fat on top salted just the way she likes it. We also ordered our favourite side truffle mash, (mash potato finished with truffle oil) so creamy and delicious.

I ordered the Cervena venison loin and sausage, farro, parsnip, grapes  and rosemary. The parsnip came as a finely shaved crisp and puree. This was my first experience with farro on a menu and it is an ingredient I look forward to having again.

Initially we were only going to have two courses but we decided to go for broke and order dessert. Possibly not a good judgement call as we realised later. An interesting sounding tart caught my wife's eye and I chose the cheese plate.

The tart was caramel and cep, accompanied with mandarin wedges and espresso ice cream. The tart had a good depth (about 2cm of filling) and was quite light. The flavour of the cep mushrooms was delicate but was not overpowered by the caramel. The mandarin gave a refreshing burst, and the espresso ice cream was enhanced with the addition of ground coffee, which gave it a bit of grittiness. Cracked hazelnut kernels and a hazelnut ‘soil’ finished the plate.

The cheese selection consisted of Munster and St Agur from France, La Luna from Holy Goat in Victoria and Manchego from Spain. The cheese was accompanied by crackers and fresh grapes.

A plate of varied petit fours was delivered to the table and was duly consumed.

We practically waddled out the door into the chill night air and headed home.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Dazzling Dubai

Deciding to take a sabbatical from the wearisome banking world, I was drawn to go on a personal adventure which would cover Dubai and parts of Asia. My magic carpet ride into this dazzling city was flying on a Qantas A380 in a First Class Suite.
The flight was so pleasant and devoid of any harsh turbulence that it made one feel as if one was on a grand rail journey. Maybe it was the endless flow of Pol Roger Winston Churchill that dulled the senses.
As Dubai is a city of excess this participant was more than happy to further support that notion. A Mercedes limousine quickly shuttled me to a humble corner suite at the Conrad Dubai. One quickly realizes that in a land of oil riches the only way to traverse this vast urban sprawl is via taxi or personal driver.
One of the primary reasons for coming to Dubai was to scale the permissible heights of the world’s tallest building, the iconic Burj Khalifa.
Level 148 at 555 meters is the highest outdoor observatory in the world.
For such an oil rich state the obsession with water is very apparent. Why else with all this available land would one dredge the ocean to build the Palms (Jumeriah and Jebel Ali) along with The World islands and then conceive some of the most astounding aquariums.
Apart from its size, the luxurious Dubai Mall is known as an enthralling watch and jewelry mecca with most major brands sporting their largest flagship boutiques globally.
It always makes one feel good when you visit a boutique before it has been officially opened with this instance being the Hublot boutique which none other than Jean Claude Biver would open the following week.
My watch collecting highlight was when the A. Lange & Sohne team at the Dubai Mall boutique invited me to an exclusive cocktail party that was showcasing the 2015 novelties.

The star of the show was the platinum Zeitwerk Minute Repeater in Platinum.
Here is a watch fit for a Prince(or Emir), the Lange 31, in platinum with baguette diamonds. It is a unique piece that comes in a set of three. The other two in the set are white and rose gold. Wonder where you could wear this in Sydney?

I also got to try the 1815 200th Anniversary in platinum.
The 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar was another standout piece from the collection.
Literally next door to the Lange boutique was Ulysse Nardin and naturally there were a few spectacular pieces on display.
At the Ulysse Nardin boutique I met a pair of Strangers.
Arabian tales are always filled with exotic mystery and wonder, my first journey to Dubai was a definite confirmation.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Baselworld 2015 Wrap Up Part 4 - Seiko Marine Master 1000

Style is a very subjective exercise and the watch world is by no means immune to it. Especially if it involves any sort of alterations to a much-loved style of the past or, a borrowing of styling cues across brands, the online/offline watch community will be vocal in expressing their disdain and not be shy about it. One of the many watches from this year's Baselworld subjected to such heated debate is the Seiko MarineMaster 1000 limited edition. (And you thought I was going to talk about THAT pilot watch...)

Being extremely subjective, I like it. Even that weird part attaching the bracelet to the case. I'm sure it'll sit ok on the wrist. The only thing I'm struggling with (and no it's not the thickness) is the price. It's around USD6800. I think the latent brand/watch snob in me is resurfacing. I can appreciate Grand Seikos, but I cannot bring myself to buy one at their prices, even if their reliability will most likely surpass their Swiss/German equivalent. And this is not even a Grand! It's a humble regular Seiko. (Yes I get that the movement is out of a Grand Seiko, and it's the only high-beat movement fitted to a Seiko).

On paper, the specs are simply impressive. It's a high beat (36000 VPH) automatic movement caliber 8L55 (optimised and adapted for use in a diver's watch). Titanium case at a massive 48.2mm diametre, mated to a titanium bracelet, both of which has a hard coating applied, making it more scratch resistant. The case is monocoque, made of one piece of titanium with no case back. It's close to 20mm thick but that's kind of required to pass the 1000m water resistant test. The crystal is sapphire and has an anti-fog coating. On top of that it's anti-magetic to 16,000A/M. There is nothing in the equivalent Swiss world that even comes close to the specs for the price. But this is like comparing a Hyundai Genesis to a Merc E Class isn't it?

This is the ultimate sleeper though. From the outside very few people would know the pedigree of the watch. Even less would give it a second glance. This is even more sleeper than a Patek Calatrava. The sleeper of the sports watch world. Well, as much as sleeper as a 48mm/20mm watch can be, that is.

Limited Edition of 700 Pieces

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Baselworld 2015 Wrap Up - Part 3 - Bell & Ross Vintage WW1 Edición Limitada

I think after 10 years of flogging their square cockpit instrument inspired watch (yes 10 years. B&R said so. Even released a watch to commemorate this occasion), Bell & Ross is quite possible most known for it. And why not? It is a very distinctive case design, cashing in on the whole "big watch" trend and nowadays much copied. I have nothing against the square watch design. I do like it. But I much prefer their vintage WW1 watch case. A simple, round watch with wire lugs harks back to the days when wrist watches were made this way (soldering wire lugs onto pocket watches and attach a strap to it. I'm guessing here. I wasn't born back then...)

They released something quite stunning this year at Basel, and this is the watch - the Vintage WW1 Edicion Limitada. I truly hope they'll continue on with this series, make it general release and cover up the hole in the dial. The movement is a manual wind 5 day affair and from first glance I don't recognise it. (Lemme know if you do) and I love the sunburst effect of the Geneva stripe. It's much more interesting than regular straps and reminds me of the JLC Master 8 Days movement decoration. Dial is clean and elegant. Oh Gee, look at that! they copied Zenith's numerals!!! (Heavy sarcasm applied here) And whilst we're at it, the watch case too!! straight copy!!

This one is limited to 99 pieces and comes in a cigar case. I reckon I'll put my name down for a steel version, hopefully with a slate grey dial. and vintage lume. That would be sublime. at 42mm case diametre this would make for a great subtle dress watch with a hint of sporting flair. You know, like an Audi S6.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Baselworld 2015 Wrap Up - Part 2 - Trending Blue Watches

Feelin' blue? Well my friend you're right on trend because out of the blue, this year blue is the new black according to the fashion forward set at this year's Baselworld. Blue watches is one of the dominating trends with many brands releasing a blue watch of some sort.

Here at tarts we have curated a quick selection of blue watches in a wide range of price points and varying degrees of complication, suitable for everyone from blue collar to white collar to no collar. That's right. You don't have to be blue blooded anymore to own a blue watch. Why with all these choices there's no reason to sing the blues no mo'. So why don't you take the blue pill and get yourself a blue watch this year?

In no particular order:

Faberge, the egg makers makes a watch

Edox Hydro-Sub

Chris Ward Trident Pro

Breitling Super Ocean

Oris Thelonium Monk Limited Edition

Omega Speedmaster X-33
Frederique Constant World Timer

Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Gravity

Blancpain Fifty Fathom Chronograph The Ocean Commitment

JeanRichard Terrascope Blue

Hublot Big Bang Unico Italia Independent

Sarpaneva Korona Northern Lights

Tudor Pelagos 

Glashutte Original PanoReserve and PanoMaticLunar

Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 007 Spectre

Konstantin Chaykin Diana

Omega Globemaster

Eterna Royal KonTiki

H Moser & Cie Endeavour Perpetual Calendar

Citizen Eco-Drive Divers