Sunday, December 20, 2015

De Bethune Debate – Are six figure watches necessary?

As a watch collector with somewhat of a rose colored perspective in relation to anything horological, being invited to a watch event ‘Are Six Figure watches necessary?' proved to be possibly confronting.
Ironically the event was held at the State Library of NSW, another potentially archaic institution.
Maybe I’m quixotic but the idea of reading an actual book within a library such as this, is enriching on so many levels that you just cannot compare it with an e-book.
What was of greater interest was that the watch company hosting the event together with the Hourglass was no other than De Bethune. If there is one current brand that has a strong independence aura it is definitely De Bethune.
This is even apparent on the watches which speak for themselves by having no brand signature or logo.
The brand has its own unique design DNA not only from an aesthetic but more importantly in terms of movement architecture and a passion for genuine innovation.
De Bethune almost operates in a different universe to the rest of the industry. It has taken just eleven short years for two watchmaking devotees to build what history will doubtless view as the foundations of 21st century horology.  In 2002, when David Zanetta, a collector with a passion for art, history and timepieces, decided to join forces in founding De Bethune with Denis Flageollet, the son, grandson and great-grandson of watchmakers, they were both keenly aware of sharing the same vision of tomorrow's watchmaking. Their no compromise approach is finally receiving well deserved accolades amongst the industry and collectors.
In a tech driven, globalised world, the rational mind would certainly paint traditional watchmaking as on a path of eventual obsolescence. Luckily the human race is not entirely rational and there will always be a lure to own objects of irrational desire that spark inexpressible feelings deep inside of us.
Are these watches necessary? No! Are they an investment? No, as we will find out in due course! These questions are not just about watches but all things of human passion. To the crazy collector these creative works that symbolize beauty, romance, and exclusivity are not a desire but a necessity. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Perpetual Legacy

Unless you are an individual that does not need to be connected to the rest of the planet, the isolation of Australia, from the rest of the world, has its challenges. One positive is that the tyranny of distance makes the degree of commitment to this market rather obvious.

Most watch brands just pass by hoping for a quick uplift in sales, others have been here for many years with quite successful per capita sales (remember the tourist bonus given the weak $A) but do very little in terms  of reaching out to actual collectors. By inviting the media and rent a crowd, large stage showmanship whilst impressive, may get them a short flurry of headlines but no real connection with the actual end buyer. An experienced player knows this is not how lasting business is done down under.

Luckily there are a few what brands such as MB&F can sense the relatively restrained but deep passion for watches that this country possesses.
True to style it is great to see that this pioneering brand is not only walking a different path in terms of product design but also in terms of marketing strategy.
We have had the pleasure of Max Busser visiting our shores previously and this year Charris Yadigarolou made the special effort for what is to be one of the strategically most important launches for the brand this year (and they have had so many).
Great watch brands are created by a differentiated uncompromised end product that in my view endures and is nurtured by the passionate drive and connected vision of the people.  Upon reflection I have also come to the realisation that a brand is not just about the product but the journey it took to reach its elevated status.  

For a brand to become truly great it has to have been tested at its core. The easy road whilst tempting is never the path to great success. It is this point that makes the launch of the Legacy Machine Perpetual such a compelling story.
I will spare the technical details of this ground breaking watch and rather remark on the fact that throughout the presentation one gained a very strong sense of the drive of Stephen McDonnell and his trails in pursuit of the unconventional that ultimately proved ground breaking.

Legacy Machine Perpetual is the watch that puts MB&F on the map even with the most dismissive traditionalist.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A. Lange & Söhne at Quay Restaurant, Sydney

Two days before our departure for Geneva we received an invitation to the A.Lange & Söhne 2015 Novelty Tour. This event, to be held at Quay in the Rocks, was organized by Watches of Switzerland and A. Lange & Söhne.
The day of the event was an early taste of summer with temperatures in the mid 30’s. As a matter of fact the first few days of October were more like summer than spring.
We were a little disappointed when we got to Circular Quay to see a cruise ship docked at the Overseas Passenger Terminal. Thankfully we soon learnt that it was due for departure around the same time as the event started.

As the boat backed out from the dock, the sun set giving a brilliant display of light over the Opera House.
The dinner was held in the Tower room of Quay which comfortably seated the 30 of us. Mr. Wilhelm Schmid, CEO of A. Lange & Söhne was able to make the long flight down under to be with us for the evening, Mr Eric van der Griend, managing director of Watches of Switzerland was our host for the evening.

Scattered around the perimeter of the room were several display boxes with the novelties for 2015.
Our menus for the evening.
Butter was artfully presented, beats the standard square, triangle or round presentation.
I chose the raw smoked Blackmore wagyu, horseradish, soured cream, fermented rye crisps and raw funghi. Quay has a delightfully, unique way of preparing and presenting food. I was suitably impressed with myentrée and the flavours in it. Very much a modern reworking of steak tatare.
My wife contemplated the marron dish but wasn’t too sure about Dory caviar. So she decided to have the vegetarian entrée of spring ewe’s milk curd, broad beans, caper and freekah crumb, apple, nasturtium and purslane.
The roasted grass fed beef fillet, morel cream, braised mushroom, roasted ancient grains caught my eye. A nice tall fillet topped with all the extras. The flavours were great and the beef was nice and tender. A little bit healthy as well with the addition of the ancient grains.
My wife has been wanting to try the pork jowl after seeing it on the menu on Quay’s website. She was thrilled to see it on the menu for the evening. Smoked and confit pig jowl, scallops, shiitake, Jerusalem artichoke crackling. She said the meat was very tender, the scallops really complemented the pork, a touch of mushroom flavor and she thought the Jerusalem artichoke crackling was pleasing both visually and flavour wise.
Also bought out to the tables were some sides to share, mixed leaf salad, super creamy potato puree and fresh beans.
My Datograph Up/Down alongside the Datograph Perpetual.
For dessert , my wife and I both chose one of Quay’s signature desserts, Quay’s  seven texture Valrhona chocolate cake. Yes the one that has appeared on MasterChef. So rich and tasty!
Inside the seven textures of chocolate.
My wife got to try on the Little Lange 1. A very elegant watch in either pink or white gold with mother of pearl dial, calf skin strap.
Sydney by night is truly spectacular.
We would like to thank Watches of Switzerland and A. Lange & Söhne for inviting us to be a part of this very special and fun evening.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

J Farren-Price and Vacheron Constantin Harmony Collection Dinner

We recently received an invitation to attend the Sydney launch of the 260th Anniversary Harmony Collection watches from Vacheron-Constantin. The evening was to be held in the Kent Street Kitchen at The Langham, Sydney. Of course we couldn't say no!
The Langham, Sydney was formerly The Observatory Hotel, a hotel we had wanted to go to but for some reason never made it down to the Rocks to stay there. Upon walking through the front doors we were suitably impressed. Quite luxurious! Cream walls, marble and wood floors, in some areas the rugs were recessed in to the marble. Beautiful soft pastel shades on the furnishings, wood, marble and glass topped tables, consoles and coffee tables abounded and everywhere huge floral displays, polished brass highlighting everything. 
We made our way into the Kent Street Kitchen, where we were met by the staff of J Farren-Price in a reception area decorated with historical images of some of the vintage watches used as inspiration for the Harmony Collection special editions. A video of the watches and components being constructed and designed was also playing. Very fascinating to see the level of craftsmanship and detail that goes into high end luxury watches
After canapes and a couple of glasses of Dom Perignon, we were taken through to the dining room where a display table with the Vacheron Constantin 260th Anniversary Harmony Collection was set close to the dining table.
A long communal table was dressed elegantly in a crisp black cloth, white linen serviettes, a variety of white flowers and foliage in sparkly crystal and gleaming silver ware.
A relaxed seating/lounging area was also adjacent to the dining area.
Looking at the menu, we saw an interesting and delicious array of food planned for our dinner, with some French wines that we were eager to sample.
First course was smoked ocean trout, escabeche, rocket, lemon pearls, pumpernickel. A very light yet flavoursome entree. The pumpernickel was done as crumbs, rocket presented as a puree with little crispy bits of skin served like crackling. This was served with a Domaine Christian Salmon Sancerre from the Loire Valley in France, a nice crisp wine that matched the fish perfectly.
Two main courses were offered with the first being butter poached West Australian marron, burnt onion and shellfish risotto.My wife was a bit dubious about this as she said that sometimes a seafood stock can be quite strong, however she was very pleasantly surprised as this had quite a gentle seafood flavor to the risotto. The nasturtium leaves gave a nice peppery hit to the dish. Our wine with this course was Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose from Provence, France. The Bandol Rose was a blend of Mouverdre, Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan, some varieties that we aren’t too familiar with here in Australia.  
During dinner there was ample time to chat away with those near you or to examine up close the Vacheron Constantin 260th Anniversary Harmony Collection.  I love the contemporary cushion shape of the whole collection. We were fortunate to see most of the collection including:
  • the Harmony Chronograph Tourbillon Calibre 3200 – which combines a manual winding chronograph with a tourbillon regulator
  • the Harmony Chronograph Calibre 3300 – with a brand new in-house chronograph movement
  • the Harmony Chronograph small size Calibre 1142 – the ladies edition with the old Lemania-based chronograph movement
  • the Harmony Dual Time Calibre 2460DT – the simplest edition of the collection with a second time-zone indication. The engraved rotor is just divine.

My absolute favourite is the Harmony Mono-pusher Chronograph Calibre 3300 as has a very classic (but marvellous) design which took its inspiration from a historical Vacheron Doctor's chronograph from 1928.
This is the first Vacheron to have an in-house chronograph movement. It was time for Vacheron to have its in-house chronograph movement, replacing the Lemania-based movements used up to now.  This Calibre 3300 will certainly not only be seen in this 260-piece limited edition of the Harmony but serve as a base for the new standard manually-wound chronograph calibres.  For the 260th anniversary limited edition the balance cock is hand-engraved with a floral fleurisanne motif that will be absent on the regular production Harmony to be launched in 2016. This makes this current watch even more special and important in the evolution of Vacheron.

We were told that the conception of the Calibre 3300 started in 2008. Developing a chronograph movement is long as it is certainly one of the most complicated architectures possible, as multiple gears, levers, brakes, clutches and wheels have to be designed and assembled very precisely.
In my view this reconfirms the place of VC amongst the top which includes Lange and its more obvious rival Patek. 
The second main course was a twice cooked beef short rib, marrow gelee, parsnip puree, Brussels sprouts. The beef ribs were so tender, the parsnip puree very smooth and creamy, and the Brussels sprouts cooked but still firm, several of the Brussels sprout leaves were nicely crisped, and the bone filled with a herbed crumb. Really a delicious course! Our wine was of course a very nice red, Chateau St. Georges, St. Georges-St. Emilion, France. At 80% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc it was a great pairing with the richness of the rib.
Dessert was apple mousse, honey cremeux and chocolate crumble, a very cute dessert and it was a shame to eat it. It tasted delicious, the green outer glaze concealed the apple mousse, so when you put your spoon in to it, it looked like a Granny Smith apple.
It was a truly wonderful event, in very elegant surroundings, with wonderful food and wine. We would like to thank J. Farren-Price and Vacheron Constantin for inviting us to be part of the night.