Monday, November 22, 2010

Hands-on with MeisterSinger's No3 - PVD

For a company that has only been in existence since 2001, MeisterSinger has managed to do quite well, picking up awards here and there for their designs, and becoming arguably the most well known modern proponent of single-handed watches, also known as the watch to have when being accurate to the minute really isn’t a priority.

I shan’t go down the Wagnerian reference route, suffice to say the company’s name  and musical influence is dealt with on their website as follows :

"The harmony reflected in a well-balanced piece of music, the fine drama of a good act and the ability of music to set aside time, these are all as well inherent qualities of a MeisterSinger watch. Therefore the MeisterSinger logo carries the fermata - the sign of silence in music.”

2010 has seen a special sporty addition to MeisterSinger’s No.3 line.  The No.3 AM911 has only just hit the retailers in Australia, and is not even on their website yet. An all black PVD affair, the five minute markers are in red, the colour theme continuing onto the ‘No.3’ and the stitching in the leather strap.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Vacheron Constantin Royal Chronometer


The term ‘chronometer’ was coined by English watchmaker and writer Jeremy Thacker in 1714 in his pamphlet ‘The Longitudes Examin’d’ for clocks used to calculate longitude on marine voyages.  He invented a marine chronometer, a clock encased within a vacuum chamber that protected the movement from the inevitable effects of humidity and atmospheric pressure.

Thacker's Chronometer

Unfortunately, it was a failure as a chronometer.

Accurate to six seconds a day, it fell somewhat short of the three seconds a day required to win the £20,000 first offered by the English Board of Longitude in the same year (1714) to anyone who could solve the problem of establishing the longitude of a ship at sea.

Thacker was thus condemned to the historical shadows of John Harrison, who also managed to score a ranking of 39 in the BBC’s 2002 poll of ‘100 Greatest Britons’ for his achievements, something which I am sure, had he been able to discover this from an alternate universe in which he was still alive in 2002, would have mollified him somewhat for his lifetime’s worth of horological trials. 

Clockmaker John Harrison (24 March 1693 – 24 March 1776) presented his first attempt at a marine chronometer in 1730. It was his H5 ‘pocket’ chronometer, produced in 1772, and accurate to one-third of a second per day, which solved the problem of establishing the longitude of a ship at sea, thus revolutionising and extending the possibility of safe long distance sea travel, and earning him the title of ‘The Father of Longitude’.

By the time of the H5's public unveiling, he had been working on the chronometer problem since 1730.

Harrison's Chronometer H5
(Collection of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers)

In 1773, Harrison received £8,750 from Parliament for his achievements, after the direct intervention of George III.  He appealed directly to the King, and in 1772 Harrison's son William was summoned to an audience with the King. George III is reported to have said: "By God, Harrison, I will see you righted!".

Until the advent and implementation of global satellite navigation, an accurate chronometer was essential for marine and air navigation.


Controle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC) defines a chronometer as “a high-precision watch capable of displaying the seconds and housing a movement that has been tested over several days, in different positions and at different temperatures, by an official neutral body (COSC).”

Since 1973 the term ‘chronometer’ has designated a watch having successfully passed the COSC trials.

Launched in 1907, Vacheron Constantin’s Chronomètre Royal has most notably been recognised in recent years through VC’s celebration, in 2007, of its centenary with the Chronomètre Royal 1907.

For a comprehensive history of Vacheron’s Chronomètres, see Alex Ghotbi’s brilliant post at The Hour Lounge.

The example below dates from the 1960s.  In 1962 VC’s manual calibres 1007 and 1008 were replaced by calibre 1072, making it Vacheron Constantin’s first automatic calibre with COSC certification.

Cal 1070: automatic with small seconds, no date
Cal 1071: automatic with central seconds
Cal 1072: as cal 1071 but with date
Cal 1072/1: as 1072 but with Gyromax.

 Vacheron Constantin "Royal Chronometer”


Caliber : 1702
Jewels : 29
Metal : 0.750 18ct WG
Case :  Two-body, solid, polished and brushed, screwed-down case back, horn lugs, caseback engraved with the Maltese cross and "Chronomètre Royal".
Dial : Original silver dial with diamond set in Maltese Cross
Diameter : 35mm
Thickness : 12mm

Although 35mm is small by today’s standards, where a minimum of 40mm seems  almost de rigueur, the Ref. 6694 does not seem particularly small when worn. 

The idea behind the Chronomètre was that of a legible precision instrument robust enough for everyday use. With its distinctive case design clearly indicating its 1960s origins, this uncommon watch is a deceptively elegant functional piece, with a wink to frivolity courtesy of the discreet diamond in the Maltese Cross. 

When I first saw this watch (which has some signs of age discolourisation on the dial) I admit that it didn’t grab my attention in quite the way that it grabbed its owner’s, but as I spent some more time looking at it, in reading about the history, and in looking back at the photos, I was struck foremost by how much I missed in terms of appreciating the design of the case and secondly, of its historical interest as a timepiece. I suspect I'd like it a bit more if it didn't have the diamond, which I find a bit incongruous.

Like it though I may, if presented with the choice of two chronometers, this Ref. 6694 and a Chronomètre Royal 1907, I have to confess that I’d chose the latter in a heartbeat, I can't resist a beautiful 'red 12'!

A final thought - over a million official chronometer certificates are delivered each year, representing only 3% of the Swiss watch production.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Acacia Modern Japanese Dining

Shop 6&7 GPO Building
741 Pacific Hwy Gordon
02 9499 5214

The redevelopment of Gordon’s GPO building was completed quite a long time ago, with a lot of the building remaining empty. It took ages for the pizza place to open up in what used to be the Gordon post office. It was only very recently that another restaurant opened up in the building.

You can’t see this restaurant from Pacific Hwy, which may or may not be ideal. But if you’re like me, and take the train everyday, then yes, you can see the restaurant from the station side. Acacia is a modern Japanese restaurant, but really, it’s more of a Japanese/Western fusion, but with a lot more Japanese influence, but served in a Western style.

The décor is very modern, clean and the seats are comfortable. One issue I have with the décor is the noise suppression aspect. Or, should I say, the lack of it. It’s a fairly busy restaurant, meaning that the noise level can be quite high, almost to the point of lunch time yum cha levels. It is not at all romantic, as suggested by the restaurant’s advertising material. This is quite unfortunate.

It is also a very new restaurant, with the wait staff still learning the ropes and hence service is friendly, but inconsistent. Sometimes you get the feeling that the staff still aren’t quite sure about what to do, and  they can look a bit hesitant at times.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Vendôme Woollahra teaser

A little while ago, we mentioned a new boutique that was about to open in Sydney - Vendôme Woollahra. After they'd been open but a week, I was invited to pop by for a visit to meet Alex Simon and Grant Breen, and to get a glimpse of this new luxe shopping destination, which stocks a number of brands making their Australian appearance for the first time.

Here are a couple of teaser photos:

Hautlence HLS 02

Specifications :

Case : Ti2
Movement : Hand wound. Caliber HL. Power reserve 40hours. Jumping hours, retrograde minutes.
Bezel & Bumpers : DLC scratch-resistant, polished steel
Bezel flange : Brushed 18 carat pink gold.
Screws : Ti5
Oscillation: 21600 bph. 
Diameter : 45mm
Thickness : 12.5mm 
Water Resistance : 5ATM
Bracelet : Rubber, folding clasp
Limited edition of 88

Hautlence HLQ 08

Specifications :

Case : Titanium G2 case with polished crown
Buckle : Ardillon, Titanium G2
Dial : Black opaline with hand applied "HAUTLENCE" lettering.  Intermmediate dial with laser cut minutes.
Movement: Dedicated Calibre HAUTLENCE HLQ. Jumping date, Jumping hour, retrograde minute and running second.  Manual winding mechanical movement.
Power reserve : 40 hours
Oscillation: 21600 bph.
Diameter: 43.8mm 
Thickness: 10.65mm
Water Resistance : 30m (3ATM)
Caseback : Fine brushed galvanic treatment black gold. Manually angled bridges.  Identification and numbering plate on the back. Black varnish in the engraving.
Limited edition of 88

Romain Jerome Moondust DNA

Model: Steel Mood MG.F1.11BB.00.BB
Calibre:  C22RJ51
Bezel: carbon fibres evoke solar panels of spacecraft – Steel comprising fragments of the Apollo XI spacecraft,  5N pink gold
Case: Steel
Dial: Mineral structure containing moon dust - silver

We are hoping to have a small evening there soon, and I will share some more photos of the event and their watches in particular, afterwards.

In the meantime, do pay a visit to the very personable Alex and Grant at Vendôme Woollahra. I spent a really enjoyable hour or so there looking mostly at watches, but also at the Roland Iten belt buckles. They have also just launched their facebook page if you want to see some more photos and sign up to keep updated about their incoming goodies.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hands-on with Seiko's Quartz Astron

December 2009 was the 40th anniversary of the world’s first Quartz wristwatch, the Seiko Quartz Astron 35SQ. Based on a quartz crystal oscillator (an electrical signal with an extremely precise frequency), its importance is acknowledged by its registration on the IEEE Milestone list as a major advance in electrical engineering.

Seiko marked this anniversary by the commissioning of 40 new watch designs all based around the original Quartz Astron design, which were exhibited in the ‘Seiko Power Design Project’ in Dec 2009.

The culmination of Seiko’s commemoration was the new Quartz Astron, powered by the SEIKO quartz caliber 9F62, accurate within 10 seconds a year, and with its date change completed in an astonishing 1/2,000 of a second.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Peter Speake-Marin 2010

How time flies. Just a year ago we'd been fortunate enough to meet Peter Speake-Marin, wondering whether he would even come to our shores again, only to receive an email from him about his impending return to Australia.

Our new friend RJW has already posted on Purists about the dinner at Buzo Trattoria (many thanks to Traci, Roddy and the Buzo team for their always amazing hospitality) so here are just some photos taken on the night.  Much has already been said about the horological star of the evening, the Thalassa, so we shall not repeat the plaudits it has garnered, but direct you to this wonderful interview of Peter by AndrewD in Melbourne as a must-read.

Tony, RJW, Peter.