Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Morning Commute

I hopped on the 8:06 to Town Hall as I do every day. (I've always wondered about this way of saying a time and a destination. Wouldn't this be different for everyone depending on which station you board the train from? Or is it the 7:45 from Hornsby? Would that make more sense?) Most of the time it's close to 8:09 or even 8:12. They're just that punctual. Maybe they need their watches serviced?  Although I don't mind it much. Sometimes it's nice to breathe in the crisp morning air, and listen to the dissonant cacophony of birds tweeting, cars honking, air brakes braking and children laughing. Yes I look at my watch that closely not because I'm concerned about being on time, but because every time I look at the time I get to admire this thing of beauty that sits on my wrist, held securely by the skin of a generous animal which gave its life for a worthy cause.

The Grande Reverso Ultra Thin, while long in name, is as simple and elegant as it gets for a watch. There are only 2 hands. I don't need to know the time down to the second. And a two-handed watch has that serenity you just don't get from a three-handed watch. It's as if your time is standing still, a nice bit of white lie and a stark juxtaposition to the ever-rushing world. The watch is taking the time to smell the roses and reminds you that you should also. The dial too, is elegantly crafted. Simple, black no-nonsense Arabic numerals on a silvery white background. Distinctive, high contrast, and easy to read. The brand, subtle yet prominent sits below 12:00 on a vertical guilloche decoration.

It's difficult to imagine the Reverso as a sports watch, and yet therein lies its humble, but significant beginnings: as a sports watch for Polo players who seemingly cannot control their wayward flying balls and forever getting their poor timepieces smashed in. The Reverso "reverses" over on itself so the hard metal back protects the watch during the game, and all the player had to do was flip it back over to see how much more time before the chukka ends. The piece on my wrist is a direct descendent of said pioneering sports watch. Manually wound and solid case back for when I do pick up the game of Polo. Ultra-thin? I suppose... It's the thinnest watch I have.

As I was staring at my watch I wondered what other people in the same carriage are doing. Is there any truth to the myth that 90% of the people just bury their heads in their smart phones/tablets? Surprisingly it's not 90%! A cursory glance around the carriage reveals 45 possible seats. 10 empty. Obviously all of them are of the middle seat in the 3 seater section. 2 girls are putting on their makeup. 3 guys have their heads against the window; resting I assume. I can't see their eyes. Surprisingly again only 5 has earphones on. Ok. One of them has an audio technica headphone. No dr dre beats here today. Ratio of guys to gals is 3:1. Half the guys are in suits. 3 people are reading actual books! As in made of paper! Only one person looked up to admire the view as we cross over the Sydney harbour bridge. Granted I was seated in the lower deck so the view does get obscured. 2 guys are on their laptop. Presumably working/emailing. From what I can tell only a handful have their heads buried in their phones. I bet no one stares at their watch for half the trip. There is one young couple deep in whispers. So sweet. The rest of the passengers seems to be just in a daze. Blanked out.

I also wonder what is on the minds of people who get up to stand at the door 45 seconds to a minute before reaching the station. Were they traumatised from a missed exit experience?

"Ladies and Gentlemen. Next stop Town Hall. Please be reminded to take all your belongings with you and thank you for travelling with Sydney Trains."

One more glance at the watch before I struggle out of my seat and walked through the carriage towards the doors. Glancing down as I pass by the other passengers to check out what's on their screens, I was dismayed to find no one was playing candy crush.

After "Big Sister" Opal reads my card and send crucial private information to the gummy mint the hard plastic gate creaks open and my access to the daily grind is granted and thus begins another day in the rat race. The upside? I get to stare at this beauty all day. And that makes it all right. As I stand in the lift that takes me to my day cell, I top up the juice by winding the buttery smooth crown and listening to the soft clicks as the spring inside the barrel tightens, I knew everything was going to be all right.

**No… I didn't take pictures of the view in the carriage. That would be plain weird and creepy. Let's just let the imagination run with this one.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Top Gear Season 21 Wrist Watch - Richard Hammond's Tag Heuer Grand Carrera Chrono

We briefly touched on Richard Hammond's Grand Carrera back in 2009, but that was with a dodgy low-res screen cap and it was more of a point-and-identify exercise than an in-depth look at the watch. Whilst watching the latest episode we FINALLY get another close up of the watch during the 'news' segment of the show, and this inspired me to do a proper post on it.

So as we have identified, the watch on Hammond's wrist is the Tag Heuer Grand Carrera Chronograph, Calibre 17, an officially certified chronometer. This is one of my favourite Tag Heuers. No, really. I've loved it ever since it was launched back in 2007 and I do think it is one of the most successful Grand Carrera models they've done. So successful in fact that here we are in 2014, and it is still part of the range. The reason why it is so successful? The disc system (where rotating disc display the chronograph minutes and the running seconds) rather than the more conventional hand display, and the perfectly balanced and symmetrical dial. Trust me. Balance and symmetry in a watch does wonders.

It also helps that there are some very well thought out design features. The bezel is very thin, which makes the dial look bigger, which I like. The shape of the double sapphire crystal in the back case is a nod to the two window cut-outs on the dial revealing the rotating discs. The minute hand that reaches the minute tracks!! This is something lacking in Tag Heuer's latest masterpieces and I really wish they'd kept it up.
The Grand Carrera was actually a brand new range of watches for Tag Heuer, and this range was designed to raise the, err, luxuriousness of the brand and move them higher up in the price bracket. In some ways this was done quite successfully, but it did take sometime. Keep in mind that it is always much more difficult to move up a price point than down, especially since the range didn't have any in-house movements to 'justify' the price. The movement powering the Grand Carrera Chronograph is an ETA 2824-2, which is essentially a 2892 movement with a chrono movement on top of it. Nothing spesh, sure, but it works perfectly fine.

And yes, I love it so much that I did end up picking one up myself. On the leather strap. But I really should've bought one on bracelet, since they're so expensive to buy as a spare part...

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Zenith Watches Signs NBA Star Russell Westbrook

O to be Russell Westbrook. He gets paid to wear Jordan sneakers. He gets paid to wear Zenith watches. I'm sure there are other perks as well from being Russell Westbrook but I'd be very happy with these two. This new partnership will no doubt raise the profile of Zenith but hopefully this doesn't mean the return of the Defy range. Actually I don't mind if the Defy name comes back. It was part of the Zenith history but as long as they don't come back looking like they did in the early 2000s... Ahem. 

I think it could be a good move to bring back the sports line or a "rugged" line of watche for Zenith. Most Of the brands these days have concentrated far too much on making pretty dress watches for a certain market but there is a place for sports watches too. Not everyone wears a suit every day. Plus a gold dress watch doesn't quite go with Jordans. At least I know I can't pull off that combo. 

The Zenith Defy... erm... Hopefully we don't see a return of

Russell joins an elite list of NBA stars already sporting fancy Swiss watches. LeBron, Kobe and Wade to name but 3.

Anyway I think Westbrook will be really good for Zenith. They definitely need some exposure after the off period and rebuilding the brand image again. Although they did quite well with Felix Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos project, but I feel that Red Bull seem to have gleaned most of the attention out of that exercise. It's in the name for starters. I doubt in a few years' time people are going to remember what watch was strapped to Felix's wrist. Hang on, he had a watch on? A mechanical, 36,000 vph mechanical automatic chronograph? My point exactly.

Here's to the Zenith Defy Westbrook. Let's just hope there ain't no bling on dis thang.