Tuesday, June 26, 2012

One-on-one with a Sydney watch collector Part 1

One of the most common questions asked of watch enthuisasts is 'why watches?', so for both those who are already into watches, and those who are puzzled by the whole thing, we thought we'd have a one-on-one interview about this, and many other things, with a local long time collector. He wishes to be anonymous and will be known simply as 'Sydney Watch Collector' (SWC).

TheSydneyTarts: Thank you for joining me today.
SydneyWatchCollector: No worries. It's my pleasure.

TST: Let's start with an obvious one. How did you get started in watch collecting? Why watches?
SWC: To be honest I wouldn't really call myself a watch collector. I don't 'collect' watches so to speak. I buy watches (and I sell them). There is no theme nor a structure to my 'collection'. So, I'd say I'm more of a person with an abnormal appreciation for watches! Having said that, I think my interest in watches began when I was selling them, as my first job out of uni. There were a lot of down time, so I read up on watches to pass time and also to know more about them so I would be a better sales person. The more I read, the more I became fascinated with them, Then I discovered watch forums on the internet, and that was the beginning of my downward spiral. It began cheap - with a Swatch Irony Chrono which I still have, followed by a Longines, then straight into the deep end (at the time) with a purchase of a watch for over 4 figures.

The Swatch Irony chrono. It originally came on a bracelet, but has been swapped onto a strap

TST: Now you mentioned that you also sell. Are there watches that are off limits, or is nothing sacred?
SWC: I tend to hold on to watches that has a story attached to them. For example, that first Swatch Irony I still have. Although I don't really wear it any more, to me that watch was the start of my watch obsession, and it's the first watch I bought for myself (all the watches I've had before this one were all mostly el cheapos that were given to me). That first watch over 4 figures, also had a great story, and another one of my earliest acquistions, a Fortis chronograph I bought in New York, also had great stories to it too. So, watches like these I will keep. It's not a strict rule, but generally speaking those are the ones I keep. Well... there are also other ones that I keep simply because I can't sell them, unless I take a huge hit on the price!

The Fortis bought in New York. It was also the first automatic chrono in the collection. SWC feels he paid too much for this

TST: So it sounds like you have sold watches that had stories attached to them? (SWC nods) Do you regret selling any of them?
SWC: I like to think I only buy watches I like, so it's always very difficult to sell. There are various reasons for selling, of course. It could be because I needed the money to fund another purchase (usually a step up in price) or maybe because my tastes have changed. At other times it has been purely strategic, or taking advantage of an opportunity. But don't get me wrong. I don't buy watches to sell. All the watches I've bought were with the intention to keep. There are people out there that treat watches as an investment. It's not really. At best it's speculation. With watches you need to have the understanding that you WILL lose money on this. In extremely rare cases you make money, but let's just say if I break even over all on this hobby I'm laughing. But I digress. Back to your question, I don't regret selling any of my watches. It's difficult to decide to sell, but once it's gone, it's gone. I've had the opportunity to own it, and it's time for someone else to enjoy that ownership.

TST: Talking about regrets, are there watches that you regret buying?
SWC: Oh where do I begin!!! Since I was new to this whole thing I've been learning and as you learn, you make mistakes. Mind you I'm still learning and making mistakes in this watch thing. The worst ones would have to be the two Invicta watches I bought. I went through a phase when I thought as long as the movement is good, doesn't matter what the brand is. Less well known brand means cheaper prices for good movements, ja? How wrong was I! The quality was shocking and it was so hard to try to offload them. I still have one of them. The only saving grace is that now I have a perfectly good Valjoux 7750 movement that I'm planning to do a project watch on. When that'll happen I have no idea.

One of the Invictas. SWC believes that it's not bad looking, just poor quality. The dial says "Invicta-matic" but when you look through the case back that it's not "matic" of any sort... 

TST: So you've made some 'shocking' purchasing decisions. What would be your 'best' buy, or the purchases you were most happy with?
SWC: Two come to mind. One is the Omega Deville Co-axial chronograph and the other, much more recent, is the Swatch Automatic Chrono. Not only did I manage to get both pieces at really good prices, both watches are significant milestones in each brand's history. The Deville Chrono is Omega's first co-axial chronograph movement. This is the one they had quite a fair bit of issues with in the beginning and if you search the forums for issues on the Omega 33xx calibres, you'll find posts to last you many, many nights of bedtime reading. The Swatch auto chrono is Swatch's very first automatic chronograph. It's a new bargain basement auto chrono from ETA loosely based on the classic Lemania 5100 and exclusive to Swatch and Tissot so far.

Omega DeVille Co-Axial Chronograph

Swatch automatic chrono

TST: Do you have a 'grail watch'?
SWC: The term 'grail watch' has been bandied about too much it's lost all meaning. For me, the 'grail' is something that is almost un-gettable. It should be something that I would be willing to give up all the watches I have, just to obtain it. It would be the watch to end all watches. The one watch that I would be happy with for the rest of my life. So... no. I don't subscribe to the view that once you 'get' your 'grail' watch you move on to the 'next' grail.

TST: So in light of this, what's on your shopping list?
SWC: My shopping list right now:
  • Omega Seamaster GMT "Great White" 
  • AP Royal Oak 15300ST 
  • Dornbluth & Sohne 99.1 
  • PAM 372 
  • IWC Portuguese 7 Days 
and pending a real life sighting, Tudor Pelagos.

TST: That is a very diverse list!
SWC: I like a bit of variety. There is something good from everyone, so I don't want to limit to just a particular brand or style.

Stay tuned for part 2: Join us as SWC shares with us some of his favourites from his collection.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

At auction : Elvis Presley's Omega Constellation

Photo from Antiquorum

So we brought you John Wayne's Rolex King Midas and Clark Gable's Rolex Oyster which went for USD23,116. Now Elvis is in the building. An Omega Constellation that previously belonged Elvis will be up for auction at Antiquorum’s New York auction on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. 

The Omega Black Dial Constellation Calendar watch belongs to Elvis' longtime friend and Charlie Hodge, a musician who played with Presley and who himself was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Hodge recalls, "... several times I told Elvis how beautiful his watch was ... and he took it off his wrist and gave it to me." 

Elvis' Constellation Calendar dates from about 1960. At 35mm and 12mm thick, it is pink gold-capped with a black dial featuring baton indices, applied pink gold Omega logo and applied pink gold star at 6 o’clock. The dauphine hands are luminous. Inside is the M.Cal. 504 movement. The dial, case and movement are all signed. The watch’s strap has a gold-plated Omega buckle. 

 Photo from Antiquorum

The caseback is stainless steel with an applied pink gold-plated Constellation logo. 

It is expected to sell for $10,000 - $20,000, and the successful bidder will get a letter of attestation signed by Hodge. Elvis had a well-known relationship with Hamilton Watches, so if you’re an Elvis fan, having a watch owned by him that’s not a Hamilton probably rates more highly. 

The collection will be previewed in New York from June 9 – 11 but you can see the catalogue here and place an absentee bid if you wish. Happy bidding!


Thursday, June 7, 2012

"The Elephant and the Snake" - a 19th century Bovet pocket watch

 Photo from Antiquorum

Born in Fleurier, Switzerland, Edouard Bovet (1797–1849) was the son of the watchmaker Jean- Frédéric Bovet. He One of five brothers and a sister, he studied art with his father. In 1814, as a consequence of his stance against Neuchâtel's return to Prussian rule after the fall of Napoleon, he left, with his brothers Frédéric and Alphonse, for London to study watchmaking

After studying in London for a few years, his employer Magniac sent him to what was then Canton, China, in 1818. Almost as soon as he arrived he was able to sell four watches for the equivalent of USD 1 million in 2008 currency. 

Clearly he took to living in the port city; in 1822 he founded, with Alphonse and Frédéric (still in London) and Gustave, who was a watchmaker in Fleurier, a company for the express purpose of selling timepieces to the Chinese market. The company was based in London and production soon transferred back to Fleurier. 

Five changes of ownership after its birth, the current manifestation of Bovet is quite a different beast, but the occasional appearance of an early Bovet timepiece at auction is always a good reminder both of the history of the brand, and the fact that ‘the Chinese market’ is not a new one, horologically speaking.

 Photos from Antiquorum

Coming up at Antiquorum’s “Important Modern & Vintage Timepieces” auction on Tuesday June 12, 2012 in New York is one of Bovet’s beautiful pocket watches made for the Chinese market, from circa 1870. “The Elephant and the Snake”, contains an intricate and gloriously colourful enamel painting attributed to P.-Amédée Champod (1834-1913) who specialised in hunting scenes and was awarded a silver medal at the Paris Exhibition of 1900. The pocket watch is 62mm, gilt brass with painted on enamel back, pearl-set bezel, pendant and bow. The dial is white enamel with Roman numerals and Arabic numerals at each 15-minute marker. The hands are blued steel. The movement is described as “M. 54 mm, fully engraved gilt Chinese caliber, free-standing barrel, Jacot duplex escapement, three-arm steel balance with gold screws, blued steel fl at balance spring, index regulator” and both the case and movement are signed ‘Bovet’ in Chinese characters, with the movement signed Bovet Fleurier. 

Oh and yes, it has its key. 

Estimate: 20,000 USD - 30,000 USD.

Happy bidding. 


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hands-on with the Sothis Horus chronograph

Wolfgang Steinkrüger, the creative mind behind the watch brand Sothis, died recently, his legacy a series of highly recognisable and playful watches with an Egyptian influence. Although the brand started under another name, its founders Wolfgang and Karina Steinkrüger changed its name to Sothis, the Egyptian name for the star Sirius, in 1999. 

In this post we look at one of his most well-known models, the Horus.

Horus was the ancient Egyptians’ patron god, usually depicted as a falcon-headed man wearing a red and white crown. The Horus chronograph was produced in three versions – with an ivory/ silver dial, a matte black/ anthracite, and silver guilloche, each in a limited (numbered) edition of 200.

This is one of the ivory/ silvered dialled iterations (featured on the cover of Wristwatch Annual 2007). The black/ anthracite and silver guilloche versions are slightly more dressy. 

With the time indicated via a single 24-hour hand tipped at the ends with a sun and a star, the Horus has a quirky way of indicating both time and day/ night. The hand indicates the time and the star or sun indicates night or day. Time is shown in 5 minute increments and it takes 24 hours to do one complete revolution.

In addition, the star on the dial rotates with the running seconds.

The crown has a distinctive engraved hieroglyph for ‘Sothis’. 

Unlike the hours and minutes display, the chronograph is more traditional.

As you can tell from the specs below, this is a watch with a decent amount of height to it. With the bracelet, it weighs 175g. It’s not uncomfortable, but with the thickness, you can definitely feel every bit of its 44mm size.


Reference: 026001-W 
Movement: Automatic Valjous ETA 7750, customised by SOTHIS, engraved gold plated rotor 
Functions: hours, minutes, date, chronograph
Case: Stainless steel L 316 
Crystal : sapphire on both sides 
Water resistance : 5 atm 
Size: 44 mm.
Height : 13.9 mm 
Dial: matte black/ anthracite, ivory/ silver or silver guilloche 
Strap: leather strap with deployment buckle, stainless steel bracelet or set 
Limited edition: 200 pieces 

With its distinctive design, this watch may not be to everyone’s taste, but if you’re looking for a fun quirky chronograph from a brand that likes to do something different design-wise, it is still possible to find some of these, even in Australia, where they have an AD. 
The future of Sothis is still uncertain; Karina issued a press release about it that you can view here