Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Chinese outbound tourism spending expected to reach $55 billion

One of the most consistent themes in the world of luxury watches today is the importance of the Chinese market. I have written about it here, and mentioned the importance of this market both domestically, and in terms of the tourism dollar. You get the feel of it even ‘on the ground’ here in Sydney, and it seems that the PRC outbound tourism dollar is going, as expected, from strength to strength, with 2011’s spending expected to reach some US $55 billion, according to the World Tourism Organisation.

In 2010, Chinese tourists took just over 57 million trips, spending US$48 billion. They are now the world’s fourth largest spenders in international tourism.

According to the China Tourism Research Institute, the total number of trips for 2011 is expected to be about 65 million. Outbound tourists numbered 10.4 million in 2000, 31 million in 2005, and 57.4 million in 2010. With the number of tourists estimated to reach 100 million by 2020, this means that Chinese outbound tourists are the fastest growing market for international tourism expenditure.

The reason for this? Relaxing visa restrictions, a strengthening yuan, and better prices and selection for luxury goods are some of the major factors pushing outbound Chinese tourism. This growth has made mainland Chinese tourists among the most coveted international tourist demographics in major destinations.

Earlier this month Richemont, the world’s second largest luxury group, announced that it is going to develop a 2,250 sqm luxury watches mega store in Paris directly targeted at Chinese tourists. Estimated for completion by Christmas 2012, the group’s investment of 70 million Euros shows both their acknowledgement of the importance of this market, and their faith that the numbers can only go up. How it will pan out with regards to the availability of models (will the mega store get priority?) will be interesting to see.

So what about Australia?

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, visitors from China for the first nine months of 2011 jumped 23%, nearly offsetting losses from the US (-10.6%) and Japan (-16.3%), and Tourism Australia recently noted that in 2010, the China market brought in $3.26 billion (US$3.37 billion).

If Australia continues to remain an attractive destination, this figure is expected to reach between AU$7 to $9 billion by 2020. That many tourists are here simply to shop is not lost on many, and the Australian tourism bureaus have noted that both a shortage of Mandarin-speaking guides and that some retailers have been slow to employ Mandarin-speaking staff, are issues that need to be addressed.

From my own observations, the Chinese tourism dollar is already an important one in the luxury watch market in Australia, and a number of major retailers do have bilingual staff, but what do the stats say about the current state, amidst this year’s international economic woes, about the Swiss luxury watch market in Australia?

According to the FHS: Federation of the Swiss Watch industry November 2011 report on the world distribution of Swiss watch exports, Australia is ranked at 19. Interestingly the value in millions of CHF has gone down over the last year. The figure was 13.3 million CHF in 2009, 17.1 million in 2010 and 16.6 million at the date of this report for 2011 i.e. -2.9% for 2010/ 2011, but +24.5% for 2011/ 2009.

For Oceania as a whole :

Units 24,836
Value in CHF 13,816,010

Units 37,457
Value in CHF 18,597,571

Units 23,879
Value in CHF 17,559,772

In percentage terms:

1. 2010/ 2011, units were -36.2%, and value in CHF -5.6%
2. 2011/ 2009, units were -3.9% and value in CHF +27.1%

Food for thought.

As this is the final post for 2011, I'd like to thank everyone for visiting the blog and reading our posts this year. All the best for a happy and watch-filled 2012!


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Red Pepper

Red Pepper
14 Bourke Street
VIC 3000
Ph : (03) 9654 5714
Licensed (Until 11pm)

Open : Mon to Fri, 9am-3am; Sat to Sun, 11am-3am

Nowadays, the idea of a story, a narrative, is seen as an important part of promoting a brand, product, or business. A compelling or engaging story can draw people in. It was a personal and engaging ‘story’, of sorts, that lead to my desire to visit Red Pepper. Unbeknownst to me, it is also a regular haunt of my sister’s (whom I was visiting).

Our visit was on a stonking hot and humid Melbourne day, and I ordered a mango lassi ($4). It was quite thick and very filling, and not bad at all.

As a starter, two samosa ($7). Piping hot, the shell was thin (not stodgy) and cracked open beautifully to reveal an interior packed with spicy filling that had a good punch of heat.

You can choose to have either two naan/ one naan and a small rice/ rice only with all the main orders.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Cartier Grand Complication Skeleton pocket watch

In recent years Cartier has unveiled a “grande complication” for each SIHH, featuring a tourbillon, perpetual calendar and monopusher chrono. In 2012, Cartier’s piece won’t be a wristwatch, but a pocket watch.

Visually similar to both the caliber 9362 MC Rotonde Grand Complication Skeleton (LE of 30) and the Calibre de Cartier case platinum Rotonde Grande Complication (LE of 25) but with the cut-out Roman numerals used in other models in Cartier's “Fine Watchmaking” collection, this utterly extravagant 59mm pocket watch powered by the hand-wound Calibre 9436 MC is white gold and will be made in a limited edition of ten pieces (five diamond versions will also be produced later next year).

The pocket watch uses the same movement that was used in the (45mm) Calibre de Cartier Rotonde Grand Complication. The Calibre 9436MC movement by Renaud & Papi consists of 457 parts, requiring around 212 hours of work to complete. The C-shaped tourbillon bridge is, of course, the Cartier signature.

The Roman numerals are machined from a single block of white gold then hand finished, with over 300 edges of the numerals bevelled by hand. Reportedly, it takes a staggering three weeks to complete them.

If you don't feel able to pull off a pocket watch, or feel that at 155.05 grams, it's too heavy for you, it comes with an obsidian and rock crystal stand.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about what the outlay might be to own this pocket watch, the calibre 9362 MC Rotonde has a price of USD510,000, the Calibre de Cartier version, USD490,000.

The white gold grande complication pocket watch? Well this will set you back EUR500,000 - that makes it around USD652,100 as I write this.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Pre-owned watch shops : Melbourne

Recently in Melbourne for horological and other assorted activities, visits to the main pre-owned watch dealers were, of course, on the agenda.

Unlike the compilation of my Hong Kong list of pre-owned watch shops, this was an easy task, as there are three main dealers, two of whom are conveniently located in the CBD, within short walking distance of each other.

Antiquorum (also known as Watchtime), is situated in Melbourne’s most well-known (and heritage listed) shopping arcade. Designed by architect David C. Askew, who has been asked to find his inspiration in the Galleria Vittoria in Milan, the beautiful Block Arcade took two years to build, and was finished in 1893. Originally known as "Carpenter's Lane" (the precinct was referred to as "The Block"), its current name was as a result of a successful petition by local shopkeepers. Antiquorum stocks a mix of both new and pre-owned pieces, and its website is kept up to date.

Shop 15, The Block Arcade
100 Elizabeth Street
VIC 3000
Phone: +613 9650 3936

A matter of minutes away is The Watch Gallery, which is quite a different watch beast to Antiquorum. Physically a smaller shop, but with more watches on display, it deals solely with pre-owned, both modern and vintage, and has proven to be a source of the odd vintage Omega for many a person. Their website is also kept up to date, with new arrivals listed.

337 Little Collins St
VIC 3000
Phone :+613 9670 4233

A brief train or tram ride will take you to Armadale Watch Gallery in South Yarra. Having visited their previous premises once, their current premises is a lot larger and brighter. Shonie at Armidale was very engaging, so we ended up chatting for a while, and he was happy for me to take some photos. He stocks a wider range of pre-owned (vintage and modern) watches than the other two dealers, and has a newsletter that you can sign up for.

Shop 1, 209 Toorak Road
South Yarra
Vic 3141
Phone: +61 3 9827 5695

An outer Melbourne dealer that I did not get the chance to visit is Ferntree Gully Watch & Clock, who specialise in vintage pieces, often military, but whose online stock is much smaller than that of the other three.

As was the case when I did my Hong Kong post mentioned above, I do want to note that I haven't personally bought any watches from any of the dealers I have visited, so don’t ask me about my own experiences. However, unlike Hong Kong, I do know people who have purchased from all of these Melbourne dealers.

Happy watch shopping!

PS: Dear Melbournians – as my knowledge of Melbourne is still a bit scratchy, please do include any dealers I have inadvertently missed out in the ‘comments’ section.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Café Vue CBD

Café Vue
430 Little Collins St
VIC 3000
Ph : (03) 9691 3888

The Vue empire consists of not one, but four Café Vues; Little Collins Street, St Kilda Rd, Heide, and the airport. It was to the first of these that I was headed, with just one thing as my goal – French onion soup.

I’d had an incredibly good one half a year ago but none in between, so given the good reputation of all the Vues, the anticipation was great.

Café Vue consists of a compact inside area with a nicely designed bench section that has privacy partitions every two seats, and a large covered outside seating area, which is where we sat.

French onion soup with gruyère croutons ($9)

Perhaps the anticipation was too great. I’d have enjoyed it more if there’d been a richer broth, more gratinee…ah well.

To go with the soup was the smoked trout brioche roll ($8.50), a delightful summery combination of a great little brioche and nice amount of wonderfully fresh smoked trout. In a way it seemed as though it was an extension of the lobster roll I’d had at Golden Fields the previous night – the same enjoyable brioche and seafood combination. Why don’t we eat it more often? I’d order this again.

My Melbournian lunch companion had the warm coconut chicken wrap with potato crisps ($10), presented on the inevitable cutting board. The in-house made crisps made seemed more decorative than anything. Reports were positive about the coconut chicken.

Café Vue, staffed by friendly professional folks, is clearly a very popular CBD location. Although I was a bit disappointed by the soup, the brioche's quality, plus the other interesting items listed on the menu, are enough to tempt me to re-visit if I am in Melbourne again.


Café Vue on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

TAG LINK smartphone - yours for $6,400

Announced in July, TAG's entry into the pricey-smartphone market, the LINK, has just been relased in Australia with a starting price of a whopping $6400 and yes, one has been 'sold'. The presence of TAG brand ambassador Di Caprio in town on the set of "The Great Gatsby" has lead to the inevitable rumour that he might be the phone's owner. Nothing like a free bit of publicity, is there?


Size: 118mm (H) x 67mm (W) x 16.6mm (D)
OS: Android 2.2
Weight: 200 grams (including battery)
3G Talk time: 6 hours 30 minutes
Standby time: up to 330hrs 

SMS / MMS / Email (Predictive Text Input XT9)
Image formats supported: JPEG / GIF / BMP
Sound formats supported: MP3 / AAC / AAC+ / RA / WMA

Stereo Bluetooth
Compatible with any SIM card

Edge & HSUPA (3G)
4 Band GSM/Tri Band WCDMA

Music / Photo & Video
Internal memory: 256 MB
Memory card: 8GB
Music play time: 11 hours

Photo & Video
LCM Screen: TFT 3.5”
Screen resolution: 800*480 pixels — 16 millions of colors
5 Mega Pixel Camera Auto Focus
Video player and recorder

Android Market with up to 250 000 applications such as:
Adobe Flash Reader
Google Search, Google Maps
GMail , You Tube , E-Blogger

Phone Materials
316L Stainless steel, Gold, Diamonds, Black PVD, Titanium, Rubber, Calfskin leather,
Carbon leather, Alligator and Lizard

Here it's AUD6,400, but its entry price is listed as 4700 Euros.

If you want to look at the 1007 2.53 carat diamond encrusted version, you can see it at this link. Or if you only want to spend six and a half thousand, here's a video for the entry level version :

The phone comes with built-in mobile security by Kaspersky Lab, which keeps GPS tabs on your expensive phone and both stores and backs up everything in encrypted folders.

This is all very well and good, but does it survive the odd fall? For that much money, I'd hope so.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tech Talk No. 6: Titanium vs. Steel

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I thought I'd write about Titanium vs Steel (316L stainless steel). I thought it would be easy and be done with within minutes. How wrong was I!! After weeks of on-and-off research, I could not find anything simple and definitive. Instead, I've found vastly conflicting reports, anywhere from information that titanium is three times stronger than steel, to something along the lines of "nothing is tougher than steel".

What I realised is that we need to narrow down exactly what we are asking when it comes to titanium vs steel in terms of usage for watch cases and bracelets. And it is also highly dependent on your definitions of certain words.

So, I will do my best to break it down for you here. Feel free to chime in on the comments below if I get anything wrong, or if you have anything to add!

Titanium crystal bar - from Wikipedia

Pretty much all the watch companies will use grade 5 titanium, but does anyone know what grade 5 really means? No, it doesn't mean it's the best grade. All it means is the most common titanium alloy used. Pure titanium is hard to come by. So next time use see a watch company saying "grade 5 titanium" you will know what that means.

Here's a little quick breakdown of the different grades of titanium

American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) defines a number of alloy standards with a numbering scheme for easy reference :
  • Grades 1-4 are unalloyed and considered commercially pure
  • Grade 5, also known as Ti6Al4V, Ti-6Al-4V or Ti 6-4, is the most commonly used alloy
  • Grade 6-38 are various other titanium alloys, all with slightly different chemical composition – for more detailed description please google titanium alloy grades and click on the first result.

Titanium is stronger than steel in terms of strength to weight ratio. That is, for the same weight, titanium is stronger than steel. (Ti is about 45% lighter than steel).  But in terms of watches, for the same model, the Ti version is almost always a lot lighter than steel, meaning the two will have approcimately equal 'strength'. Titanium, however, it is also more brittle, and harder to work with than steel. This doesn't mean that titanium won't scratch. It may not scratch as easily as steel, but it will scratch. And due to it being a harder metal to work with, the scratches will be a lot more difficult to polish out.

There are good points about titanium - it is non-magnetic, hypoallergenic, light and has a distinctive colour - in watches at least, it tend to be darker. It is also highly resistance to corrosion and chlorine, and especially in salt water.

Further, titanium's yield strength, tensile strength, and thermal conductivity are better than those of many steel, but not all. 

So what does that mean for you and your watch?

If your skin is highly sensitive, and you don't like having something heavy around your wrist but still need to tell the time from something that's not plastic, ceramic or a phone, swim everyday, and tend not to look after your watch all that much, then a titanium watch is for you! Or then again, maybe you just like the look of it…


Friday, December 16, 2011

Golden Fields

Golden Fields
157 Fitzroy St
St Kilda,
VIC 3182
Ph : (03) 9525 4488

I try to avoid reading much about hyped up restaurants, as there is a point at which the same superlatives seem to be used, the same dishes eaten, and it all becomes a big overexcited blur. I also have a tendency to veer away from restaurants with too much early buzz, mostly because of natural caution towards laudatory excess.

Nonetheless, I decided to visit Golden Fields, hype and all. Situated amidst the noise and restaurant overload of Fitzroy Street, they do not take bookings, so we arrived at just 6.15pm or so to find that it was still fairly empty, though it reached table (but not bar) capacity up later on that evening.

Golden Fields is large, filled with shiny sleek surfaces that exuberantly inflate the noise of a full house; if you want a quiet conversation over a meal, don’t come here.

It took a little while for things to get started in terms of being able to get anyone’s attention, but after we placed our order, the first in what turned out to be a trip down taste memory lane arrived – pumpkin seeds.

If I had to describe these with one word, it would be ‘salty’. Initially they seemed too salty, but the reptitive motion of picking one up and putting it in my mouth became strangely addictive, and I can see how they would work well with a beer.

Inevitably, we ordered the New England lobster roll, hot buttered bun, cold poached crayfish, watercress and Kewpie ($15).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

An early Omega Bumper

Amongst many vintage watch enthusiasts, Omega has a strong hold both aesthetically, and because of the mechanical innovations made by the brand. One of these is the calibre 28.10. Introduced in 1943, it was Omega's first commercialised automatic moment, and is considered to be one of Omega’s legendary calibres.

The term “bumper” refers to the automatic winding movements from Omega (but not exclusive to the brand) which were very popular in the from the 1930 to 1950s. 

When the weighted hammer to wind the mainspring (swinging in a pendulum fashion), reaches the end of the distance it can travel it bumps into a spring and stops. This bumping can be felt by the person wearing the watch, thus these watches are often referred to as "bumper automatics". Beginning with the 28.10, the “bumpers” went through to the cal.355.

This is a 1946 (10M service number) 18kt solid gold Omega with bumper automatic movement Calibre 28.10. There is a watch identical to this one in the Omegamania catalogue, called the "Ambassador" model.

This as-pristine-as-you’ll-ever-find-a-watch-from-1946 was purchased from the original owner with case, movement and dial in amazing condition and totally untouched, which is quite rare for this age of watch. Bumpers may be fairly easy to get, but ones of this vintage and this little worn, are not.

The calibre 28.10 was renamed cal.340 in 1949 and became the basis of of the cal 34x and 35x bumper movement. There were different iteration of the 20.10, with 28.10 SC being the centre second. Calibre 28.10 was unidirectional wind whereas the cal 34x and 35x had bi-directional wind. Interestingly, the cal.35x had a swan-neck regulator not found on the calibre 28.10 or cal.34x, and I believe these swan neck regulator movements were certified chronometres.

A prototype self-winding rose-gilt movement with triple-calendar developed in 1944/ 1945 but never commercialised. This movement was based on calibre 28.10 (340). Had production of this movement gone ahead it would have been the world’s first automatic wristwatch with triple-calendar.

Apart from being used in the vintage automatic line, the first Constellation in 1952 also used the 28.10 movement.

[AP & initialjh]

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Estelle Bar & Kitchen

Estelle Bar & Kitchen
243 High Street
VIC 3070
Ph: (03) 9489 4609

Wednesday 6pm till late
Thursday – Sunday 12pm till late

Most of the time, my memory is vaguely intact, and decision-making processes remembered, but apart from a general idea that I somehow surfed my way there online, I can’t remember what it was that brought me to Estelle Bar & Kitchen.

Whatever it was, I am thankful that I made the decision, as it turned out to be my favourite meal of the trip. It was also the one involving the least amount of decision-making required, as dinner at Estelle amounts to making one of three choices from the chef’s tasting menu :

3 courses for $50pp (with matching wine $70)
5 courses for $70pp (with matching wine $100)
7 courses for $90pp (with matching wine $130)

In addition, you can select from a range of charcuterie (including terrines and parfait) and oysters from Cloudy Bay and Coffin Bay.

The menu on the night of my visit, Saturday 26th November 2011, was as follows :


Cauliflower sausage, cous cous & curry oil
Beetroot & ashed goats cheese
White asparagus, 63 degree egg & brioche

Smoked eel, carrot & camomile
King salmon, baby peas & shiso
Yellowfin tuna, red cabbage & horseradish

Pork, cheek and ear
A taste of spring lamb and heirloom carrots
Kangaroo loin, celeriac & black mushroom

Sweet stuff
Rhubarb, rose & musk
Strawberry, vanilla & basil
Sour cream, pumpkin & salted caramel

The diner only has to choose how many courses they wish to have and to list any allergies or food that they can’t eat. After making that one (food) decision the kitchen, manned by Scott Pickett and Ryan Flaherty, will take control. It's great for those who find themselves paralysed by indecision when given too much choice, and an exercise in letting go for those who like to carefully compose their meals and want to know what is coming next.

It is also interesting to see what other tables are having, as the chances are high that you will get a different series of dishes to your neighbours.

Sardine 'fossils' and chickpea chips

We chose to have three courses, and these were preceded by two amuse bouche.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Oyster Bar & Bistro

Albert Park Hotel
Cnr Montague St and Dundas Pl
Albert Park
VIC 3206
Ph: (03) 9690 5459

After seeing so many tweets about the Albert Park Hotel in the past year or so, a short trip to Melbourne saw me there for my first meal, lunch. As became a common theme during this trip, I chose to go with a selection of small items to share from their “Asian street food” and “Latin street food” sections.

First to arrive was the Balmain bug laksa with lime leaves ($16).

This took the three of us by surprise because of its size, and because this interpretation did not contain any noodles. I took a sip of this, just to taste. It was rich, the flavours dense and aromatic, the lime packing a wonderfully pronounced (but not overly strong) punch. It was a great soup, the bug was fresh, juicy and sweet. The problem being, is a laksa still a laksa without noodles? We had expected there to be some, and wish that there had been.

Next up were the Korean fried soft shell crabs with seaweed and sesame mayonnaise ($15). Presented like a salad, nicely crunchy crabs were mixed with a variety of vegetables, the mayonnaise quite subtle. The unexpected accompanying salad cut through some of the richness of the fried components.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Diving Alarm Navy SEAL

In 1959, Jaeger-LeCoultre launched the Memovox Deep Sea, the first diving watch to be fitted with an alarm that would alert the diver when the oxygen level was low, so that the diver would know when it was necessary to go back to the surface. Approximately 1,000 of these were made between 1959 and 1962.

This historical relationship with the Navy SEALs was affirmed when, in 2008, a partnership was announced between the SEALs and Jaeger-LeCoultre, with the unveiling of the Master Compressor Diving Navy SEALs collection.

The Master Compressor Diving Alarm Navy SEALs was made in a total limited edition of 1,500. As well as the largest ‘quota’ of those in titanium such as this Ref. 183T470 that I was recently fortunate enough to see, there are other variants, namely two Beverly Hills boutique iterations, and 30 made for Spain. The Beverly Hills Incursion Editions consisted of 19 pieces in black titanium (with yellow) and 62 models in gray PVD titanium (with orange) - 1962, the year of the Navy SEALs’ creation.

Encased in grade 5 titanium, this timepiece has a fabulously textured micro-beaded ceramic bezel. The titanium/ ceramic combination really works for me. I find they flow well together, making the watch understated and almost stealthy. I don’t really understand the pink gold option for some of the Master Compressor Navy SEAL models. Why would you want a diving watch in pink gold? Obviously, JLC aren’t the only perpetrators of this bewildering metal/ watch-purpose combination, the pink gold Blancpain Fifty Fathoms models just do my head in.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Universal Genève Polerouters - Cal.69 and Cal.138

Polerouter Date cal.69

UG was founded in 1894 as "Universal Watch" by Numa-Emile Descombes and Ulysse Georges Perret for the "production of watch-cases, domes, watch dials, movement, fitted boxes and packaging for watches". Descombes died at age 34 in 1897, and Louis-Edouard Berthoud joined Perret, briefly trading as Perret & Berthoud until Perret died in 1933. The name of "Universal Watch Co. was registered in 1934 and "Universal", in 1935.

Shortly after the inauguration of the new factory in Geneva in 1954, the model "Polarouter" (with a Cal.138SS Bumper movement), later on renamed to "Polerouter" in 1958, was launched. The watch became renowned for being used by the SAS pilots during their polar flights. The Polarouter/ Polerouter was designed by the late Gérald Genta at the youthful age of 24.

The movement used in the early Polarouter model was the cal.138 SS. It was introduced by UG in 1948, first as cal.138 with a subsidiary seconds and then with a central second as cal.138SS. The cal. 138 SS measures 28.2 mm in diameter and is 5.55 mm thick.

Cal.138 Polarouter

On the second of March 1955 Universal Genève patented the calibre 215 "Microtor", a new form of an automatic calibre with the rotor mass incorporated in the movement.


UG first introduced the micro-rotor movement in 1955 in the guise of cal.215 in the renamed "Polerouter". This innovation was to create an automatic movement with a thinner profile. Interestingly, the Buren watch company was working on a similar concept around the same period.

The cal.215 was superseded by the cal.218 in 1960. As the winding mass is off axis, winding efficiency is decreased. This necessitated using a heavier winding mass and more efficient winding system.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

SalonQP 2011 – a #watchnerd round-up for Down Under

Our horological friend #watchnerd kindly agreed to share some of his thoughts about SalonQP 2011 for Australian readers.

Apologies for the delay in writing this for you – your hosts asked me shortly after SalonQP ended, but I’ve only just got round to putting fingers to keyboard.

I’ve no doubt you’ve already seen some coverage of this event online, on Twitter or even in the press. In my opinion, it was phenomenally successful, capturing the spirit of QP in an environment (the Saatchi Gallery in London’s Chelsea) that seemed to breathe life into everything on display.

The list of exhibitors really was quite extraordinary – there were many brands that had never before displayed in the UK, and it included everything from the hand-made (Dr George Daniels’ final pieces) to the ultimate in haute-horology, MB&F and De Bethune. All in all, it was a very, very good weekend. Apologies for the brief canter through the halls, but here are five of my highlights:

First up, a brand that has been getting a lot of press recently, following its Aiguille d'or at the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève: the De Bethune DB28.

This space age, Star Trek-like piece seemed to capture the imagination of many visitors who were enamoured as much by its look as for the opportunity to closely admire the perfectly formed platinum and blued-steel moon phase rotating on its own axis below the dial.

Secondly, a new name: Heritage Watch Manufactory. Exploring the many patented devices that watchmaker Karsten Frässdorff has developed as part of the TENSUS and MAGNUS watch movements, while handling the beautifully designed Eric Giroud case, was pretty much as good as it gets in terms of watch-geekery. Whether it was the discussing the SEQUAX escapement or the VIVAX movement, I was pretty much out of my depth from the start, but found myself swimming in that huge balance, admiring the perfect weight of the movement. At one point, I think I forgot to breathe for about a minute…

Thirdly, the incredible Legacy Machine No1 from MB&F. For me, this is pure steampunk. I know it’s an overused word, but surely, if there’s any watch that deserves the moniker, it’s this one. Max Busser asked his friends a question: what watch would they be making if they’d been born 150 years ago, but had the knowledge and technology available to them today. The answer is the LM1, a truly astounding piece that elevates (quite literally) the balance wheel to the pinnacle of horology. Spinning away, it hovers like some tiny little UFO above the dial. A vertical clutch shows the power reserve, while the whole face of the watch is encased in a highly exaggerated domed sapphire crystal that reminds me of the glass cases in which specimens are sometimes displayed. Truly unique. Truly lovely.

Fourthly, the never-before-shown Spirit Pioneer from Peter Speake-Marin. The Pioneer is, perhaps, best described as an entry-level PSM. Built around the last of Peter’s FW2012 movements, the watch is quite different to any other model I’ve seen previously. On the wrist, it looks far more masculine than I expected – and the military influence comes through very strongly, whether it’s in the massive roman numerals, or the oversized, highly lumed hour markers. Of course, the fit and finish is superb as always, with the topping-tool-inspired rotor clearly visible through the display back. Hurry – I hear they’re nearly all gone.

Finally, and my favourite piece on display, the Ressence Series One, Type 1002. I first saw this model reported last year, and absolutely loved the concept. I therefore emailed the creator of the Ressence – Benoît Mintiens – before QP to secure some time talking to him. The concept is relatively simple: a watch without traditional hands, that prioritises the language of time. The hour “hand” (in fact a rotating dial) is top-left in the photo, subservient to the large minute indicator, with a small, sub-seconds dial turning constantly below it. 

The whole face of the watch revolves within the subtly curved sapphire, creating an illusion of orbiting moons, or planets. I found it fascinating, and not that difficult to read at all. Powered by an ETA2824, the dials are mounted on geared wheels and ceramic bearings to allow for smooth passage around the module. There’s been mention previously that this watch is “only” an ETA, but, like PSM, this merely provides power to the watch. Personally, I loved the 1002 model, with its anodised titanium dials. The lugs have been slightly modified from the original prototype and now grip the wrist in a far more welcoming manner. The softly curved, convex sapphire back is also remarkably sensual to wear and touch. It’s probably not for everyone, but it’s certainly for me.

Friday, December 2, 2011

flour and stone : when baking meets horology

I've become a fan of flour and stone, and have visited them a few times since these two visits. One of the reasons behind one of these subsequent visits was to put in a special order - pocket watch gingerbread.

My only requests were black Roman numerals, white dial, blued hands, and 10:10. Nadine did some research online, and this is was the fabulous result.

A dozen of these travelled with me down to Melbourne, where they were given out to my watch friends at a GTG. Needless to say, they were a hit.

Many thanks to Nadine and the Cookie Couture/ flour and stone folks for some very cool gingerbread. 

Oh and yes, I did keep one or two for myself.


Flour and Stone on Urbanspoon