Monday, April 30, 2012

Top Gear Season 18 Finale

This was a great episode for watch brands to flaunt their wares. Really. Top Gear should really do more of these open top car stories, and have the in-car camera set up directly in front of the watch on the left wrist. The only thing that is perhaps lacking is the camera should be filming in full HD, so that we can see the watches more clearly.

But here's a quick recap:

Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean (Seriously if Jeremy is STILL wearing this watch next season I won't be giving that watch any blog time, as much as I like it)

Richard Hammond and his ever classic Breitling Navitimer

The Hamilton "something something" - this was the one watch I could pick from the first episode "Season trailer". I think that it's also partly because Hamiltons aren't really available here down under (there may possibly be one dealer), so it's not something I see everyday (and I don't flip through watch magazines/forums as much as I would like).

Yet another classic Jaeger dashboard instrument...

... which was fitted to one of these jet engined powered 'cars'...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Would you like to own one of Clark Gable’s watches?

Now what sort of watch do you think Clark Gable wore? 

Well it turns out that he didn’t restrict himself to a single watch, and that he was a man of varied tastes. Two of his watches, both looking lovingly worn, are currently up for auction online. 

First up is Lot 10. This circa 1935 Mathey-Tissot chrono, unexpectedly on a new Patek strap, has case number 84549, measures about 32mm, and is accompanied by documentary evidence of its provenance. The current bid is a $3,146 and you can bid here

Secondly we have Lot 11, Gable’s Rolex Oyster. As can be seen on the dial, it was sold by Brock & Co, and comes with with a provenance direct from Gable’s estate. Circa 1940, it is 14k gold and looks much loved. It comes with two photographs of Gable wearing the watch, including the one at the top of this post. The current bid is $4,189 and you can bid here

There is no mention of the working/ movement condition of the watches, as you can tell from the links, but if you’re interested in them as a bit of horologically inclined cinema memorabilia then you’d better get in quick - the auction ends in two days. 


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Jaeger-LeCoultre's Duomètre à Quantième Lunaire LE

Sometimes, you don’t realise that there’s a beautiful watch that you’ve read about floating tantalisingly nearby. Then someone offers you the chance to take a look at it.

Firstly, what are the ‘Duomètre’ watches?

Introduced in 2007, the basic idea is to separate the normal time keeping function of the watch (hours, minutes, and seconds) from the other function, hence ‘duo’. Traditionally, in a watch with a complication the latter makes the watch’s rate deviate upon its activation e.g. a chronograph as it is switched on, a repeater as it rings, or even a calendar function ticking over. The functions share a common power source - the activation of the complication will lead a reduction in the time function of the watch, due to the use of power, and affect accuracy.

To bypass this, JLC’s Duomètre models feature two independent watch mechanisms within one calibre: one spring barrel for the time function, and another for the operation of the complication. In the case of this Duomètre à Quantième Lunaire, these two are the time, and a moon phase function. Each ‘wing’ of the movement has its own barrel with a power reserve of 50 hours.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A look at a Galante Spring Drive

Seiko has many watch lines at all price points, many of which don’t make it to Australia, and some which do, but only in a very limited form. Launched in 2009, the Galante line/ sub-brand is, like their Spring Drive series, one of the brand’s upmarket lines and, in fact, uses Spring Drive movements as well as mechanical ones. Only sold at a limited number of retailers and Seiko boutiques, there is, in fact, a retailer in Sydney (Sydney Vintage Watches, in the Strand Arcade).

You can read more about the Spring Drive movement here but this movement, introduced in 2005 was viewed by Seiko as their technically most significant development since the quartz Astron.

The Galante watches are immediately recognisable from their very distinctive case design. There are four large mounting screws which connect the round case to a tonneau open case back; out of the ordinary, unexpected, and whether it works or not (especially the use of two shapes) is a very subjective assessment. Does it work for me? I don’t mind the quirkiness, and can admire the thought and skill that went into this, but I don’t know whether the novelty value would wear off quickly.

This is the Galante Spring Drive SBLA037J. It has a large case, quite thick and heavy, and it is not a watch that can be worn by everyone. For many, it is liable to become a ding magnet as they become accustomed to the unusual case design.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Swatch buys case maker Simon Et Membrez

The Swatch Group has bought 100% of the shares in family-owned watch case maker Simon et Membrez in a move that it has described as “a seamless fit”. The shares were previously owned by Simon et Membrez CEO Philippe Membrez, Etienne Membrez and Didier Membrez.

Simon et Membrez SA was created in 1975 in Delémont, Switzerland, by René Simon and Etienne Membrez, the father of the current CEO. The new plant was inaugurated in the summer of 2008 and expanded to its current size in 2011. The company will continue to trade under the Simon Et Membrez name and continue to supply third parties outside the group.

The Swatch Group has had an ongoing relationship with the family company, which employs 250 people and supplies cases for some of the group’s brands, including Breguet and Blancpain.

In addition, the Swatch Group has also bought a 60% stake in case polishing business Termiboîtes. Based in Courtemaîche, Switzerland, it has fifty employees and is a subsidiary of Simon et Membrez.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

IWC 2012 Pilot's watches : hands-on with the Miramar & Worldtimer

At SIHH 2012, IWC’s presence was the most talked about, the rather humbly named ‘booth’ a no-cost-spared (partial) reproduction of an aircraft carrier, complete with flight deck, officers’ briefing room, pilots’ locker room, and even a flight deck control room.

Their booth represented their focus of this year’s releases, IWC's highly successful 70 year old Pilots’ Collection, with a reworking of existing models and a focus on the five new TOP GUN models, especially two 'Miramar' models : the Big Pilot TOP GUN Miramar, and the Chronograph TOP GUN Miramar.

Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (MCAS Miramar) is a United States Marine Corps installation that is home to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing located in Miramar, San Diego. The air station is best known as the former location of the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School (NFWS) and its TOPGUN training program, which relocated to Naval Air Station Fallon in western Nevada and merged into the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center (NSAWC).

Last week, I was given the opportunity to take a look at some of these new IWC models, and two of them stood out for me.

First up is the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Miramar (Ref. IWC501902).

At 48mm and with a height of 15mm, this is not a small watch. The dark grey ceramic case is polished, with a titanium caseback, which is matched in the buckle for the strap. With their largest in-house calibre the 51111 inside, there is a 7-day power reserve, with the display at 3 o’clock.

When the two MIRAMAR models were launched, people seem to be quite divided about how they felt about them. One of the things that has been mentioned has been the size. A 48mm watch sounds far too large for most people but to me, this one seemed to sit smaller than a 48mm, feeling almost like a 46mm. 

The polished case gives it quite a noticeable sheen which perhaps to some degree, is at odds with the rest of the watch; I would probably prefer a matte case, as has been used before by IWC. Another issue that people have been talking about has been the colour scheme on the dial. I found the military-styled dial and colouring of this watch quite different ‘in the metal’ to photos. In fact the colouring you see in this photo looks a bit different to how it looks in natural light. What did surprise me about this model is that I felt more positively disposed to it after seeing it.  It looks better than it does in photos, but it’s not a discreet watch, in terms of size and colouring. Of the two MIRAMAR models, I prefer this one, as the date window on the chronograph is of the three-dates-visible type, which I’m not that keen on.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A single-handed 6-hour watch : who else but MeisterSinger?

We love our MeisterSingers, and own four between us, all single-handed models. Of the current range, the Neo is probably my personal favourite, for its slim elegance.

MeisterSinger have now gone one step further down the ‘slow time’ path with the Soprana N°6 (above), created in collaboration with Vincenza jewellers Soprana. The ‘6’ refers to the concept of a six hour display, which apparently harks back to a 18th century clockmaker called Giambattista Rodella, who made single-handed six hour timepieces, an example of which can be seen at the Quirinal Palace, the official residence of the Italian President.

Giovanni Battista Rodella was born in Venice in 1749 and died in Padua on 19 February 1834. He was a self-taught inventor, mechanic, instrument and clockmaker who, after having worked as clockmaker in Castelfranco, was employed as the keeper of the Specola Padua, in 1780. Rodella was a fascinatingly talented man who built precision and room clocks, pocket watches with striking mechanisms, microscopes, telescopes, surgical instruments, hydraulic machines, Pretorian tables, precision pendulum clocks and even the clock on the Tower of Piazza delle Erbe 187 in Verona.

 Presidential Soprana
(photo from MeisterSinger)

MeisterSinger created a special piece unique Soprana N°6 as a gift to the Italian president to celebration the sesquicentenary of Italian unity, but if you want your own conversation-stopping single-handed six hour display watch, their regular production model is selling in Australia for AUD3,500.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Marking Time - 'The Clock' & a horological workshop

Following an AUD$53 million redevelopment, Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art re-opened, at the end of March, with a new exhibition called ‘Marking Time’. Featuring the work of eleven Australian and international artists, it shows the ways in which they visualise the conception and representation of time through the use of photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, sound and light.

I’ve only spent a brief period looking at the exhibition so far, but intend to return soon. There are some hypnotic works there, but the two parts of ‘Marking Time’ that I’ve spent most time with so far have been a weekly ‘workshop’ run by the Sydney chapter of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, and the Southern Hemisphere premiere of Christian Marclay’s remarkable 24-hour video work, ‘The Clock’, for which he was awarded the Golden Lion for best artist at the last year’s 54th Venice Biennale.

‘The Clock’ comprises of several thousand short extracts from cinema history, each suggesting or referencing a particular time of day or actual time, through the on-screen appearance of a watch or clock, or an utterance. Marclay has created a cinematic collage to form an amazing 24-hour sequence which is synchronised with the viewer’s time - I arrived at 6.30pm and this was the time referenced in the film as I sat down.

To have achieved this was a monumental enough effort on its own, but it is only after watching it for a while do you realise that the scenes were not randomly selected just to satisfy the requirement of a reference to the time in question, but that there are in fact narratives, and allusions to a previously featured film clip, or even a continuation of the clip. I have only managed a few hours so far, but hope to see as much of the entire film as I can. It is being played continuously during the MCA’s opening hours and every Thursday, for the duration of the exhibition, there is a 24-hour screening, with the museum’s café open throughout the night for those doing an overnighter. Last week, there were queues to get in during the late hours, and the cinema was at capacity (with an occasional queue) during my visit.

The free ‘workshop’, which is being held every Thursday evening for the duration of the exhibition, is called ‘Talk and Tinker’. The website describes it as a celebration of the history of time-keeping via an exhibition of clocks and watches, at which there is a master watchmaker for you to chat to, and perhaps show your own timepiece to.

As it turned out, it is not a workshop so much as a small exhibition run by the local members of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, containing items from member collections. I didn’t get to meet the watchmaker, but I did get to chat to one of the volunteers, who told me that they have a very strong local membership, and that their monthly meetings routinely attract around a hundred people. We had a discussion about ‘watch’ versus ‘clock’ people, as it became evident that the focus of the NAWCC is more on the latter, and agreed that they are quite different breeds. He was a very welcoming, educational and friendly gentleman, and I enjoyed the exhibition, but alas my interests probably don’t overlap with theirs.

They were happy for photos to be taken, so without further ado, here are some of the items that are on display :

For more information about the exhibition, visit the MCA’s website here. It's well worth a visit.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Luxury watches bought mainly for fashion - China

I’ve written before about China and her watch market but a new report called the ‘China Top Wristwatch Report’, published by the Shanghai-based Fortune Character magazine, sheds some interesting light on some of the motivations behind the massive growth of the Chinese luxury watch market.

It turns out that 'fashion' i.e. outfit matching, is the main reason, followed by collecting. Telling the time of time was the least stated reason, at a mere 5%. 

The report, the first of its kind in China, and headed by Associate Professor Zhou Ting of the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, surveyed 157 ‘frequent’ luxury watch buyers in China whose annual incomes run into millions of Yuan, as well as 23 luxury watch brand executives in China.

In 2011, luxury watch imports increased 49% to 89,575, according to the China Customs Information Centre. Consumption is forecast to exceed 210,000 in 2012, of which 130,000 are imported, with Shanghai the frontrunner, at 80,000 watches imported in 20122.

Interestingly, in spite of the reputation that Chinese travellers have for purchasing luxury watches whilst holidaying overseas, 59% of those surveyed said that their watches were bought domestically.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bovet celebrates its 190th anniversary with ...

Non horological items produced by watch brands, although still the exception, is not new. Jewellery, cufflinks, pens, mobile phones...Although not the first (that goes to Omega, for the Aqua Terra eau de toilette), Bovet has released a perfume for women to celebrate the brand’s 190th anniversary. To their credit, they do try to draw on the brand’s origins in Fleurier, which is in an area also known as the valley of a thousand flowers, by making it a very floral fragrance.

The perfume will be sold in a limited edition of 190 (of course) handcrafted glass 60 mil or 2-ounce, bottles, as well as a smaller flask of 30 mil, designed in a shape reminiscent of Bovet’s early pocket watches. Each bottle has been individually blown by a Swiss master glass blower and the neck of each bottle has a 0.25 mm gold thread, of which an astonishing five metres are required to complete a single bottle.

The fragrance world has its own terms for the components of each of the elements of each notes, so I’ll let their official description speak for itself :

Top notes:
blackcurrant buds, spirit of magnolia, soul of cassie, veil of Parma violets

Middle (heart) notes:
Moroccan Rose petals, Turkish rose pearls, cream of Iris from Florence, aura of ylang ylang, smiles of Sambac jasmine, rosewood bark

Background notes:
Amber stones, Madagascan vanilla pods.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Padi Indonesian Restaurant

76 Devonshire St
Surry Hills
NSW 2010
Ph : (02) 9211 8777

Situated in the middle of a line of cafes, takeaway places and next to the obligatory Surry Hills Thai is Padi Indonesian restaurant, with its focus on Sundanese food from West Java. This stretch of eating places’ primary business is the Monday to Friday lunchtime crowd, and for those not familiar with the area, it is the more high profile places nearby, like District Dining, which seem to be the drawcard. There may be restaurants and cafes opening up in Surry Hills every other week, but there are also those which just do their thing, are not subject to fad or fashion and, happily for us all, manage to stay in business.

With a small window seating section looking out towards Devonshire St, this is a small low key restaurant that has been around for a few years. I last visited it about two years ago, it’s too easy to forget this stretch of Devonshire. As well as the a la carte menu, there is an additional lunch menu, including a list of half a dozen items priced at $10. 

Yellow fragrant rice with beef Rendang and potato fritter ($10)

The fritter’s interior was soft, the exterior could have been a little more crispy. The Rendang was slightly sweet with a nice depth of flavour, the meat tender but not quite enough to yield to the fork. There was an incongruous addition of a couple of kidney beans, which I would have happily done without. They didn’t ruin the taste or experience, but neither did they add anything to it, and I didn’t quite understand them. The crackers were a welcome crunchy textural addition. Pickles were not large in quantity and quite mild, I’d have enjoyed a bit more of these.

Fried rice with prawns, fried egg and chicken skewers ($9.50)

Although the quantity of prawns was understandably negligible, at this price, what would you expect? The rice was piping hot, with a soy-based taste but with a slight spiciness to it, and quite addictive. The chicken skewers, nicely grilled, were tender and juicy, the egg perfectly fried.

With a short alcohol list, some well-priced ‘group’ meals and a large dinner menu, I hope to return one evening. These two lunch dishes were enjoyable and good value, and for those in a hurry, meals are served pretty promptly. I’ll be back.


Padi on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 2, 2012

Top Gear Season 18 Ep. 5 Breitling Love-in

As the title suggests, we begin the episode with a Breitling love fest. The branding took up about 70% screen time for the first segment. How convenient that it just happens to form part of the story? In fact, it's received more screen time than the main protagonist. In this case, the Skoda rally car. (I say main because it is a car-based show).

All good natured sarcasm/ ribbing aside, we did get to see quite clearly the Breitling watch on Yves' wrist. However, it looks as if it was put on the wrist for the "shot"... Have a close look and see if you can figure out what was wrong with the way the watch was worn...

Yves Rossy wearing the Breitling Chronospace

So dear Breitling... Hope you're reading this. This is a heck of a lot of brownie PR value eh?

Now… to the watch. We'll concentrate on the special guest's watch, since, well, there is nothing much to report from the regular hosts. Clarkson is still stubbornly unwavering in his choice of wristwear, and we've already talked about May's Rado and vintage Omega (both of which we caught glimpses of again this episode) and Hammond appears to be wearing his Rolex (as mentioned here)

Richard Hammond wearing his Rolex- the paragraph on the dial gave it away...

The watch is the Breitling Chonospace, a quartz analogue digital watch. You will notice that ALL Breitlings are subjected to the chronometre certification process COSC (as mentioned on the dial) and I know what you're thinking - Of COURSE a quartz watch is going to pass the chronometre spec right? Well.. there is a separate test for quartz watches, with different parametres and tolerances. Obviously the accuracy tolerance isa little stricter than -4 to +6 seconds a day. It's actually +/- 0.07 seconds a day. See below table for the differences in the COSC standards between mechanical and quartz

COSC Standards
Average daily rate: -4/+6
Average daily rate at 23 °C: ± 0.07
Mean variation in rates: 2
Rate at 8 °C: ± 0.2
Greatest variation in rates: 5
Rate at 38 °C: ± 0.2
Difference between rates in H & V positions: -6/+8
Rate stability: 0.05
Largest variation in rates: 10
Dynamic rate: ± 0.05
Thermal variation: ± 0.6
Temporary effect of mechanical shocks: ± 0.05
Rate resumption: ± 5
Rate resumption: ± 0.05
Residual effect of mechanical shocks: ± 0.05;
200 shocks equivalent to 100 G (981 m/s², 3,217 ft/s²)

Although Breitling does put every single one of their watches through the certification process, at least they don't feel the need to write a paragraph on the dial about it. Unlike certain other brands we know.

Different people feel differently about the COSC process.

Some say it's a way for watch brands to jack up the prices, and that non-COSC watches are just as accurate. All we know is, it helps sell watches.