Friday, January 23, 2015

SIHH 2015: Cle de Cartier

The Cle de Cartier (Cle - French for key) is one of the nicest, cleanest designs I've seen from Cartier since the Santos Dumont. I believe the jury is still out of the use of the "key" rather than the "Crown" but given their whole line is named after said key, I'm sure their R&D department has thoroughly tested the idea to make sure it works in everyday situations. But then again, not everyone wears a different watch everyday and given that it's an automatic, I suppose you set it once and off you go. no need to touch the key again till the shorter months where you'll need it to advance the date. Plus, I'm sure the target market for this watch will have some sort of watch winder at home. whether that be an actual mechanical devise or someone you pay to wind the watch for ya.

I like these oval shaped cases. A nice through back to the sixties and seventies where these sort of cases were all the rage. Omega (Constellation, Seamaster) and IWC (Yacht Club) comes to mind immediately. It's a shape that's worked extremely well in the past I don't see why it won't work again today. It's distinctively Cartier, thanks to the Roman numeral hour markers and the blue sapphire used on the crown, sorry, key. Perfectly balanced and retains the classic Cartier elegance and design elements that we are so accustomed to.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

SIHH 2015: A Tale Of 2 Ultra Thin Chronos

So it looks like thin is still very much in vogue this year, with 2 companies both coming out with a thinnest of sorts. Piaget with their thinnest hand-wound flyback chronograph and Vacheron with the thinnest automatic split-second chronograph.

Here are the specs before we move on:

Piaget Calibre 883P:

Movement Height: 4.65mm
Watch Height: 8.24mm
Manually wound, 50 Hour power reserve

Vacheron Calibre 3500:

Movement Height: 5.20mm
Watch Height: 8.40mm
Automatic (peripheral oscillating weight), 51 Hour power reserve

That's pretty close, not much in it, although I think Vacheron managed to cram more into a similar watch height. (extra hand and automatic winding)

Hey no matter which way you cut it, it's damn thin. this is about half the height of your average Valjoux 7750 powered chronograph. Actually most 3 handed watch on the market are thicker than this pair. If you think about it, that's pretty impressive engineering and craftsmanship.

SIHH 2015: Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph

Yes it's yet another Montblanc piece from SIHH. What can I say? I am very impressed with their offering. And their price points. ridiculous. How ridiculous? I mean, this is a brand that is offering a tourbillon and a chronograph (albeit a pretty useless one), with date in pink gold case for around about $55K Aussie. Although that amount may move up slightly no thanks to the strong Swiss Francs and the weak Aussie ruble.

My pals on the ground at SIHH mentioned that the finishing of the Montblanc isn't quite up there yet. I think they will get there. In time. Granted, if you're paying the price of a nice Mercedes A250, you'd want better finishing on the movement (yes, this can be seen thanks to hi-res images these days. Have a close look at where the tourbillon is). But this could be because the watch is a prototype, but even then, this sort of price for a tourbillon from a Swiss Manufacture is quite unheard of.

With the sort of style and pricing and marketing push I think their inhouse silbing, closest in terms of price point, ie, Baume & Mercier could be in a little bit of trouble. I don't think JLC will have issues... just yet...

So let's have a look at this Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph. I wondered about the double sided hands of the chronograph. When the hands are pointing at 12, the other side would kind of just hang off the stepped dial and kinda be limboing in mid air. Not sure how well that would look. The balance itself and the thick bridge across the top of the tourbillon looked a little... inexpensive from the hi-res images. Other than that, it's a beautifully designed piece, perfectly symmetrical and layout is proportional. Plenty to love.

MSRP: 38,000 Euros

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

SIHH 2015: Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Ultra Slim UPDATED!!

Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Ultra Slim

I wish Montblanc would offer more information on this piece. I think this is definitely the pick of the show for my kind of budget. I heard from the grapevines that the retail will be around about $2500 for the stainless steel version. Who cares about all the over the top complications and straps that hooks up to your phone?? I want this!!! A simple, elegant 2 handed manually wound watch, perfectly sized at 38mm in diametre and a very very svelt 5.7mm in height, this is an ultra thin watch in every sense of the word. OK, maybe not JLC/VC/Piaget thin, but none of them retails at low 4 figures. 

Montblanc has continued to impress in terms of design and pricing. Yes yes I know the designs kinda came from a photocopier but this is the way a lot of brands, in a variety of industry has done in order to cement a foothold in the market. Take what you know to be working, and price is juuuuust right, and voila, instant market share. Don't laugh. Have a look at what Lexus did back in 1989 to break into the luxury car market. Look where they are now. I'm sure Montblanc won't take as long.

I'm sure more information will surface as time goes on, but for now, just the one PR image from MB, and not much info. But it will take a lot to dislodge it (the steel version) as my pick of the show. Really.

UPDATE: Thanks to the interwebs we now know the movement is a Peseux 7001 (well, ETA 7001) minus the small seconds at 6:00. This is a very reliable movement having been in production since 1972 and it is a fairly slim movement at a not-too-shabby 2.5mm thin. Added to my shopping list...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

SIHH 2015: MontBlanc's Tribute to Jaeger-LeCoultre and A.Lange & Sohne

As we all know the Swiss watch industry is small. So small that sometimes it feels a little incestuous. Why incestuous? Well, when brands within the same group jumps in bed with each other (or maybe just the designers??) they come up with quite, erm, similar looking watches which may or may not be a pillow talk too far after one too many St Moritz at Grand Hotel Kempinski.

I suppose when it's within the same group it's ok, whereas if it's from a competitor, you can be sure high-priced lawyers are on the ready. This SIHH,  we have the new MontBlanc Dual Time, which takes the case from JLC, mate it with dial and hands from Lange, slap on the nunber 12, and call it a day. Oh, and of course, undercut both brands in pricing.

Look I know I'm being a little mean here. There is nothing wrong with taking the best of the designs and something that's worked, and refine it for a different market. Everyone needs to make money, and Jerome Lambert (who's hand a HUGE influence in making JLC what it is today and I believe, have also had a hand in directing Lange) needs to bring up the watchmaking side of MontBlanc, cuz as we all know, people don't much use pens these days...

Taking inspiration from models that are known to work is a short cut to success. These watches are designed to appeal to first time prestige watch buyers. Someone who's not able to afford a JLC or a Lange just yet, but loved the look, and knows the brand.The picky anal watch collectors are collectively shaking their heads at MontBlanc watches, but seriously, Jerome wasn't given that role for no reason. I'll say give him another 5 years and you'll see. MontBlanc will no longer be known as a penmaker with a bit of wallets on the side.

MontBlanc Heritage Chronométrie Dual Time Specs

Calibre MB 29.19 with Manufacture complication

Power reserve Approx. 42 hours

Case diametre: 41mm

Case height: 10mm

Price: 3990 Euro

SIHH 2015: Panerai PAM 604 Radiomir Firenze 3 Days Acciaio - Tribute to Magrette Moko...

So.... in the not too distant past, Magrette Timepieces were politely "accused" of copying Panerai's cushion case style. To me, I feel their styling more closely resembles that to Anonimo, a company which kind of grew out of Panerai. But in any case, Margrette had their own kiwi identity, as seen on the Moko model, where the case is engraved with a contemporary Maori tribal art design, one that is so popular today, not just on watches, but on human canvases. (Thanks for that term, Inkmaster...)

In SIHH 2015, we see Panerai returning the favour, and introducing their own engraved case Radiomir, with all engraving done by hand by expert Italian craftsmen. The design motif? Panerai says they're important emblems such as Florentine lily, from Tuscany's most important city. That's really just the Italian version of the Maori tribal art ain't it?

Having said that, it's a gorgeous piece, and of course, like all highly sought after models, these are geographically limited to one boutique in Florence. Unless you have connects, in which case, hit them up. Hit them up hard.

The Panerai PAM 604 Radiomir Firenze 3 Days Acciaio is powered by the trusty inhouse P3000, as used in many other models that precedes it. Should run ok.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Hands on with the MB&F HM6 Space Pirate

I don't often let my jaw drop. Bad for the bone structure you see. But that one faithful Monday morning, courtesy of The Hour Glass Sydney, I carelessly let mine drop. Twice. The first was upon seeing the MB&F HM6 in the flesh. The second was when I heard the price.

After I picked up my jaw and clicked it back in place, (come to think of it, I probably didn't put my jaw back properly after the first drop, hence the ease with which it dropped a second time...) I gathered my wits about me and admired the creation as the MB&F Head of Communications, Charris Yadigaroglou, sang its virtues. To be honest I was only half paying attention. I was too mesmerised and captivated by the HM6. (Apologies to Charris) The moment I put it on my wrist I knew I wanted one. It was as if the HM6 was made for me. The tourbillon which resides top and centre was the eye, with the titanium shutters its hi-tech eyelids, met my stare and urged me on. "Buy me buy me" it conveyed subconsciously and telepathically to me.

I shook it off and returned to reality. Just the fact that it EXISTS is astounding. I won't go into the details but a few things certainly stood out for me. The turbines being connected to the rotor, at 90 degree angles. The shutters. By playing with it you know it wasn't easy making it work as smoothly as it does. The shape of the case. THAT could not have been easy to do. The shape of the sapphire crystals (count them- 10 of them!) Nothing in this watch is off the shelf. And it's so wearable.

Of course, the HM6 is not designed to appeal to everyone, nor do they want to. If everyone loved it, then to MB&F, it's a failure. And for a 50-piece run, they don't need too many people liking it. This keeps the circle small, and enables the brand to have a more personal contact with each owner. And like Panerai, it seems MB&F owners cannot seem to stop at just one. But unlike Panerai, each machine looks so completely different, whilst retaining somehow, a sense of familiarity. And calling them "machines"? I think that's underselling them a little. Especially the HM6, whose organic form is almost alive. (You cannot tell me the HM3 Frog isn't alive!) Plus I swear it was communicating with me. Something about selling the house. And a kidney.

What's also impressive are the lists of "friends" that corroborated on each project. You feel as though you're part of the family. You can put a name and a face to each part of the project. You know who did what. Just like those Mercedes AMG cars where the person responsible "signs" the engine they built. It's not done by some machine deep inside a factory somewhere inaccessible, like a Bond villain secret base. Each piece has the warmth and sincerity that is missing from today's mass-produced and mass-marketed production line commodity.

As we all know, this sort of craftsmanship, rarity, research and development and skill set all comes at a price. Price might be stupidly astronomical for something that could barely tell the time, and has no diamonds/precious metals but if you're looking at it as something to tell you the time, then I suggest you're looking at it all wrong. It's a collectable piece of art masquerading as a timepiece. And with this in mind, the odd quarter of a million dollars doesn't seem so bad.

Like art and wine, this is an investment. Even if I sold my home (something the wife might frown upon) and gave the bank its share, I'll still be nowhere close to having the funds to afford my favourite MB&Fs (HM4,5,6 and all the Legacy Machines), so here's what I propose. I'm looking for 50 people to buy shares in the MB&F Ownership Investment Trust Fund. $5000 buy in and this gets you a share of days to wear the HM6, (A second investment fund will be set up for other models) and the possibility to borrow against the equity for other lesser investments such as a property.* Leave your name and bank details below. I'll be in touch.

*details to be worked out later.

This is the eye, urging me to buy buy buy