Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Quick Look: Baume & Mercier Clifton Retrograde Date

I remember my first retrograde experience. There is something so poetically unnatural in its movement that really captivates. On this particular piece it was a jumping hour with a retrograde minute hand, and i would wind the time forward, advancing the minute hand quickly to close to "60 minutes" and then slow down and watch the hand bounce back to "0 minutes" and starts again. It's more fun than watching the windscreen wipers going through a similar motion (although I must admit as a child I do remember being fascinated by the wipers and I would mimic its function with my hands on a flat surface with water). Why is it more fun than wipers as an adult though? Simply because of the sheer force with which it bounces back and the speed it does it with. This must put quite a bit of strain on the movement, and thus producing a reliable one is no mean feat.

This could be the reason why the retrograde function is not offered en masse, and the ones who can should be applauded for their defiance against natural motion (ie, hands going around in circles).

The Baume & Mercier Clifton Retrograde is a very fine looking timepiece. In fact, the whole of the Clifton range boasts classic styles, if a little reserved, and I think this is where the retrograde balances the range. The oversized arc of the retrograde date screams out for attention like the middle child. It's the watch for those who wants a classic dress watch but doesn't want to be bound by classic proportions and styling. It's for those who needs to confirm due to societal pressures but still wants flashes of personality, like drab grey suits with bright orange socks and pink pocket square. Yes proportions may be a bit out of whack, but it retains a certain balance, with the day sub dial at 9:00 and the power reserve at 6:00.

It is not a small watch with a diameter of 43mm, and I know there are people out there who swears anything bigger than 38mm is too big for a dress watch. Given the national average weight has been on the rise for decades I think 43mm suits just fine. The watch sits well on the wrist, and the lugs do curve down which adds to the fit. The alligator strap is soft and supple and I'm sure will be even more comfortable after the initial wearing-in period. The watch is powered by a ETA2892 movement with the calendar module from Soprod.

Granted it's not for everybody, and the price point (AUD7200) I feel is a little on the high side for a stainless steel watch from Baume & Mercier and it doesn't quite fit into the whole "Affordable Luxury" ethos. However, it is a stand out piece and speaks volumes about who you are, choosing it over a  safe and boring choice of a Datejust.

Monday, May 19, 2014

On The Wrist: TW Steel Slimline

Tw steel were very kind to loan me a watch from their latest slimline collection to wear and review. I chose the gold because people are always telling me that rose gold watches suit my skin tone and I chose the silver dial because the date window doesn't stick out like Ryugyong hotel. (Google it. Personally I quite like it. The building that is. Very sci-fi.)

The first impressions are good. The watch is still very solid as I've come to expect AND a lot thinner than I'd expected. I do wish the hands were thinner and perhaps to match the elegant elongated indices in shape. The croco grain strap is a nice dressy touch but should lose the rivets as it's more of a pilot watch styling cue. But I guess it's to reiterate the TW Steel logo? Also the croco grain is a thin pattern stitched and glued onto the calf strap and I feel that over time it'll start to fray and come apart on the edges especially if it's put on and taken off daily, as the edge will continue to rub against the buckle.

Speaking of the buckle I like it. Looks like someone put a little effort into designing it. Some pricier brands should take note. Even the pin for the buckle is really well made. There is really no excuse for anyone else to still make them on the cheap. I'm sure the price difference is negligible.

I know a lot of watch enthusiasts turn their noses up at TW Steel but these watches are genuinely well made. Apart from the aesthetics which is a very subjective matter, construction wise truly impressive, especially for the price. I'd even go as far and say they're better built than some of the bigger names in fashion watches. Granted if you're dropping 5 figures on watches without blinking this is obviously not the watch for you, but for less than the price of an alligator strap from one of the major Swiss brands it's actually a really good watch! You need something to wear whilst waiting for that 5 figure watch to return from the 6 month long service in Switzerland right? Plus the watch is made from 316L grade stainless steel. This is the same sort of steel as used by the majority of the luxury watch industry. Not Rolex of course they use a different grade called 904L. Whether or not it's better or just different depends on who you ask and what you believe.

Now I don't think people generally go this sort of detail  for a quartz watch but I noticed the case back is screwed in rather than a snap-on. I prefer screwed in and personally I think this is a sign of quality. I'm tempted to open it up to see what makes it tick. Let's see if I can manage it...

(5 minutes later...)

Were you expecting something more interesting? 99.9% of the clientele isn't going to do what I did. And quite frankly this is not unexpected. Open up any quartz watch and you'll likely see something similar. The shape and size of the movement might vary but that is it. And of course, 99.9% of the clientele won't care what the movement looks like as long as the watch keeps time. And it will. And it looks good. And it gets a lot of compliments  And the price ain't bad. (Just over $400 for the gold plated or just under for the steel version) And that's all it matters.

There is also a bracelet version and that would be the one to get. The bracelet looks great and you have the option and versatility to swap it onto the strap for a more formal look. It's like having two watches for the price of one. Overall count me impressed. TW Steel in their Slim line collection has managed to move away from a me-too style to something of their own. It's an evolutionary step in the right direction and still in keeping with the TW Steel identity.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Quick Look: Jaeger-LeCoultre Grande Reverso Ultra Thin Duoface

One of the more popular pieces released in SIHH 2013, The Grande Reverso Ultra Thin Duoface has started to trickle into the Australian market and we were fortunate enough to get a close look at a piece.

From a design point of view, there is very little to fault. You have a vintage looking dial on the front, and a more contemporary black dial on the back, with a pusher on the side of the case to quickly adjust the hour hand on the second face for a second timezone. However, you could just leave both dials on the same time and have two watches for the price of one, as both dials have very distinctive characters. If anything the watch is possibly a little too monochromatic, but that can be easily fixed with a dark brown strap.

This model is part of the new Reverso "Ultra Thin" range, which begain with the Tribute to 1931 in 2011. Jaeger-LeCoultre has managed to shave off as much unnecessary millimetres as they can from the height of the case of the Reverso. Of course, there will always be a certain minimum height to it, due to the extra carrier case to support the swivelling watch case. Having said that, the whole watch is proportioned just right and seems to be a good fit for a vast majority of wrists (as long as you're not Ahhhnold on whose wrist a 60mm watch looks normal).

The watch is powered by a well-proven manual wind movement (yes, one movement powering both sides). The movement has been in service since the introduction of the Reverso Duo, way back in 1994.

Personally, the Reverso is an iconic watch, so much so that it really deserves a place in everyone's collection, just like the Speedmaster and the Submariner. A Reverso with two dials and a two timezone function really is the best of the range, unless you really want to engrave something on the solid case back of the regular one-sided Reversos.


Grande Reverso Ultra Thin Duoface 1931

Mechanical manual wind movement, Calibre 854/1
180 parts
45 hour power reserve
Water Resistant to 30m
Fitted alligator strap with pin buckle.
Case size  46.8mm x 27.4mm, 9.1mm thick
Available in stainless steel (RRP A$11,400) and pink gold (RRP A$20,600)