Sunday, July 31, 2011

A rare Panerai - the PAM 103

A hard to find limited edition Panerai, the rose gold Radiomir PAM103 is today’s rare beast. Made in a limited edition of 500 in 2002 (D and E series), this is an unusual Panerai for several reasons.

First of all, its size. At 40mm and 11mm thick, it’s significantly smaller than the current 45mm and 47mm Radiomirs.

Secondly, the PAM103 has appeal to even non-Panerai fans who make comments about the movements inside many of the brand’s watches. Inside the PAM103 is a Zenith movement - the automatic Calibre OP VII, base Zenith Elite 680. This is not the only Panerai with a Zenith movement however, the Zenith El Primero was used in various models such as the PAM52, PAM60 and PAM108.


Movement: Panerai OP VII calibre, base Zenith Elite 680, 11 ½ lignes, 26 jewels. Glucydur balance, 28,800vph. Incabloc anti-shock device.

Power reserve: 55 hours

Dial: Luminous Arabic numerals and applied pink gold indices. Luminous pink gold baton hands.

Case and bezel: 40 mm, pink gold with removable wire loop strap attachments.

Caseback: Transparent sapphire crystal. Pink gold rotor with special Officine Panerai decoration

Water-resistance: 100 meters.

Strap: Alligator with a “PANERAI” signature buckle.


Friday, July 29, 2011

Hands-on with a vintage Doxa Grafic

Doxa was founded in 1889 by 21 year old Georges Ducommun to create fine pocket watches, gradually progressing to fairly conservatively styled wristwatches and garnering a reputation for being a bit of an innovator, through developments such as his patenting of an 8-day watch movement in 1908. Interestingly, Bugatti used the Doxa 8-day movement instrument in its iconic Type 35 Bugatti.

On the death of Ducommun in 1936, the company's ownership moved to his son-in-law Jacques Nardin, grandson of another famous watchmaker, Ulysse Nardin. It was Nardin's stewardship which lead Doxa to diving watches, for which the brand has become most widely known in the modern era, most famously for its association with Jacques Cousteau and U.S. Diving Association, which lead to their first groundbreaking diving watch, the Sub300t, launched in 1967.

The advent of the quartz watch revolution hit the brand hard. Attempts to survive failed, and it ceased operations in 1980, only to be purchased by the Jenny family, and revived.

Against this background, it is almost a little odd that what has become one of its  iconic watches was, in fact, not only unusual for the brand, but also for its time. The Grafic of 1957, with its stark dial with a scaled down starburst pattern, was a Bauhaus influenced design born of Pierre Henry's (Doxa’s Advertising Manager) keenness for a thin, square cased dress watch that was non-angular. The trend at the time had been very much for round cases. 

Instead of positioning the brand name squarely at the centre of the dial, it was decided to place it at the lower right-hand corner, to give the design even more distinctiveness. The design proved immensely popular, leading to the production of a ladies’ version. Its longeivity was proven when it was re-issued, by popular demand, in 1995. It sold out. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The "I'm Watch" smartwatch

White gold version

A few steps up from the LunaTik iPod watch conversion kit, Milan based Blue Sky s.r.l. is about to release the "I'm Watch", promoted as the world's first smartwatch. Designed with Android-based phones in mind, but apple (Blackberry to follow) compatible as well, it connects to your device via Bluetooth.

The smartwatch is divided into two distinct production lines, the more expensive "I'm Jewel" and the (still not inexpensive) "I'm Color".

Priced between US$840 and US$16,833, the "luxe" version will be available in white gold, pink gold, yellow gold, black gold or titanium finish with encrusted diamonds.

Yellow gold version

The "I'm Color" collection will be more basic, available in white, blue, green, yellow, red, pink and black, and priced at US$349.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Il Rustico

Il Rustico Rosticceria Siciliana
28 William St
Potts Point NSW 2010
Ph : (02) 9331 1196
Open daily until 10pm

Situated rather incongruously on Williams St just across the road from the Coke sign, Il Rustico has only been for open a couple of months, but word of mouth has meant that it already has fans and regular customers. On the day of my first visit I overheard someone telling the owner that a friend  had already eaten there three times that week.

It is a small casual establishment (seats twelve at three wooden benches and tables) and as well as dine-in, does a good trade in takeaway coffee and food. The menu and food available at the counter was reduced by the time of my second visit (no salads and fewer sweet items, for example), but whether this was temporary or a permanent fixture due to lack of customer demand, I don’t know.

What I do know is that their pizzas are not only good, but they are a bargain in Sydney terms. Ranging from $9 for a Margherita to the Parmiggiana (pomodoro, Mozzarella, eggplant, ham, marscapone, prosciutto) which is $12.50, the pizza menu is a compact eight items, of which five are vegetarian. As well as pizza, there are Foccacia (five types, by portion or by kilo) , Pidoni, Garibaldini, Pizzette, Panini, freshly made Arancini and Calzone (to order), and Lasagne.

The Pizza Margherita ($9) – at its best, simple and satisfying. At its worst, utterly boring. I’ve already blogged previously about some Margheritas in Sydney, and Il Rustica provided yet another different experience and rendition of this topping.

The thing that you first notice is the absence of basil leaves on top. As I was clearly able to taste basil, I wondered whether they were in fact using dried basil (there is dried oregano on top, as well as drizzled olive oil), but a query elicited the response that there is fresh basil used in the tomato base.

This was a good pizza, the crust thin, just as I like it, the edge crisp and puffed, the topping full of flavour. Would it have been improved by the basil being on top as well as incorporated into the sauce? I think that perhaps it would, but I’m actually not yet fully decided about this, as I really enjoyed it for what it was, especially the unexpected addition of the oregano. It is a pizza that I will eat again.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Space Invaders watch - the price of nostalgia

Romain Jerome, ever the brand searching for something that no-one else will do, whether this be the Titanic, the moon dust or the Eyjafjallajökull (yes I can say it, it’s my sole party trick) watches, has come up with yet another attention-grabbing model, though in this case, one that is probably far less controversial and with greater broad appeal.

Aimed clearly at the Atari generation, Japan’s TAITO Corporation has agreed to a partnership with Romain Jerome for a two limited edition series of Space Invaders watches. As a member of that generation, and a Space Invaders addict when it was released, this collaboration intrigued me by virtue of it being so unexpected. Then again, with Space Invaders adorning everything from shoes (Vans) to biscuit tins to ice trays nowadays, perhaps it was inevitable that a luxury watch was inevitable.

Using their Moon case (not just the shape, but the same case that has the Apollo 11 fragments), Romain Jerome’s two limited edition Space Invaders watches will only have a production run of 78 each, the number chosen to commemorate the year of the game’s birth.

The engraved plate on the caseback is made of what they call “Moon SilverRJ”, a silver alloy with an extremely low oxidisation rate, and incorporating moon rocks.

The distinctive part of these new watches is of course the dial. It is made of three layers of pixelated and shot peened dies featuring hand-drawn file strokes. Each of the Space Invaders is 3.5 mm, and lacquered in different colours (day version) or coated with Superluminova (night version).

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Katzy's Food Factory

Katzy's Food Factory
Shop 2
113-115 Hall St
NSW 2026
Ph: (02) 9130 6755

Sometimes I go through a sandwich phase. It's as though I can't get enough of bread filled up with whatever I crave at that time. It had also been a little while since I'd eaten at Bondi, so it was off to the well-established Katzy's Food Factory to satisfy a bit more of the sandwich "need".

I was there for the "Hot Beef on Rye" ($16.95), which you can order with salad or chips.

There was an oddly endearing quality to the partially missing crust, and the rather large serving of chips were also somewhat appealingly varied in shape, though a little on the dry side, tastewise. This  sandwich comes with a generous serving of chopped up pickles, which you can see behind the pile of chips.

The hot beef was generous in quantity, the bread coated in a thin smear of Dijon mustard, and this was the sort of sandwich that is pure uncomplicated comfort food. Nothing elaborate about it, but I enjoyed it sufficiently that I went back a week later and had another one.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The making of a Panerai

The Science Channel's How it's Made program, which shows how everyday things are created, recently took a horological bent, with an engaging and educational look at how a watch (in this case a Panerai) is made. Even for those of us who are Panerai owners it was still really interesting, as I had never seen footage of many of these processes.

Take a look. It's fascinating, regardless of whether you're a watch person or not, to see each step and to find out how much of this particular creation is automated and how much is done by hand.

Part one -

Part two -

Now tell me how you can watch this and NOT immediately want to go out and buy a mechanical watch?


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Lange Zeitwerk piece unique for Kidz Horizon

For many watch enthusiasts, it is a quiet sort of a hobby (or obsession, in some cases), and in the pre-internet days, this was even more so. The creation of the WWW provided a boon to people interested in watches in terms of acquisition, sale, and meeting others of a like mind.

I was late to the online watch fora party; it wasn’t until early 2007 that I took the plunge into this mad world. The forum into which I first dipped my horological toe was Horomundi, now called Revolution Online. I can’t remember my reasons for choosing it, but I do remember that one of them was that compared to most other fora, it was still a relatively new and small community, the latter being important to me. I was welcomed, and I became a regular forum member.

It was on HM that I first came across Duncan Wang, who was not only one of the Mods but also one of the people behind the its founding. He was always welcoming to new members, happy to share his knowledge, and crazily generous to the forum. The backbone to the original HM community in many ways, his generosity to charities both in Singapore and abroad, especially children’s charities, was well known.

Over the next few years, Duncan became not only a “watch mentor” to me, but a dear friend as well.

Despite his not insignificant collection, he was low key about his watches, and would always show an interest (and a sharp sense of humour) in whatever new acquisition I’d bore him to tears with, even the US$29 1970s watch I got on ebay. Our tastes overlapped a bit, but not so much that we couldn’t engage in vigorous discussions about the merits (or otherwise) of various watches.

In 2009, I booked my flight to visit Duncan and other friends in Singapore. I was a week or so too late. I decided to continue the trip to Singapore, and to remember him in my own way; to eat at some of his favourite places with some of his friends, to visit a few watch shops and yes, I even bought a watch.

Shortly after he passed away, Duncan's parents in the U.S. requested that his friends in Singapore find a fitting way to remember him each year, based on the two things that he was most passionate about - watches and his favourite charities. 

So it was that in August last year, the first "Duncan watch" was auctioned for a children's charity in Singapore that he had supported : the Kidz Horizon Appeal for children with chronic illnesses such as cancer or HIV.

There was a bit of history to his involvement with Kidz Horizon. In 2007, Duncan's bid for a Vacheron Constantin timepiece had helped to raise S$75,000 for this cause.

"On this piece, the Singapore flag was hand-painted onto the rotor creating a truly memorable piece. Personally, I have always had a tremendous affinity for the Republic of Singapore and have spent much of the past 10 years living there. The opportunity to own this special piece and help a worthy cause was irresistible. As a person with considerable involvement with charities, I always respect companies that demonstrate a true commitment to giving back to the community and Vacheron Constantin has been a tremendous supporter of charitable purposes, be them organizations assisting the less fortunate or those supporting the arts. Not only does the company produce the highest quality timepieces, but it also sets a standard for civic mindedness that I admire and hope other organizations will emulate."

(Duncan Wang, May 23 2008 --- [])

The 2010 Vacheron timepiece raised S$60,000. Fittingly, since he was a native New Yorker, this watch was the re-issue of a timepiece that Vacheron Constantin first made for the American market in 1921.

This year, the brand is A. Lange & Söhne, who have offered to the Wang family a piece unique white gold example of their stunning and desirable (can you tell that I want one?) Zeitwerk as the “Duncan watch”, to be auctioned on August 27, 2011. This is the first Lange watch to be specially produced for a charity in Asia.

The Zeitwerk, features the movement caliber L041 and of special note because it was the first ever large digital display for a mechanical wristwatch.

These two inscriptions on the caseback “1/1” and “SGP 2011”, are highly unusual for A. Lange & Söhne, which rarely takes special requests for limited editions, and almost never with an inscription indicating that it is a pièce unique, or with the name of a city and year. The special exception was made by Lange CEO Wilhelm Schmid as a recognition to Duncan as a collector and friend of the brand.

The main differences between the regular Zeitwerk in white gold Ref.140.029 and the one-of-a-kind Ref. 140.049F are as follows:

On the left, is the Ref. 140.029, and on the right, is the one-of-kind Lange Zeitwerk made for this year’s Kidz Horizon Appeal Charity Ball.

1. The regular white gold case has a black dial. The special watch has a grey dial.
2. The regular white gold case has digital sub-dials in black Arabic numerals on white background. The special watch has white Arabic numerals on grey background.
3. The special engraving at the rear bezel: "1/1 SGP 2011" is unique to this special watch.
4. The regular white gold case has a pin buckle, while this piece unique is fitted with a fold-over clasp.


Reference: 140.049F
Movement: Lange manufacture calibre L043.1, manually wound, crafted to the most exacting Lange quality standards, decorated and assembled by hand; precision-adjusted in five positions; three-quarter plate made of untreated German silver; balance cock engraved by hand; jumping minutes; constant-force escapement
Number of movement parts: 388
Jewels: 66
Screwed gold chatons: 2
Escapement: Lever escapement
Oscillation system: Shock-resistant Glucydur® balance* with eccentric poising weights; superior-quality balance spring manufactured in-house with patent-pending attachment system (balance spring clamp), frequency 18,000 semi-oscillations per hour, precision beat adjustment system with lateral setscrew and whiplash spring
Power reserve: 36 hours when fully wound
Functions: Jumping hours and minutes, small seconds hand with stop seconds, power-reserve indicator
Case dimensions : Diameter: 41.9 millimetres; height: 12.6 millimetres
Movement dimensions: Diameter: 33.6 millimetres; height: 9.3 millimetres
Case: White gold
Dial: Solid silver, grey
Time bridge: German silver
Hands: Rhodiumed gold
Glass and caseback: Sapphire crystal (hardness 9)
Strap: Hand-stitched crocodile strap, black
Buckle: Lange folding clasp in solid white gold
Edition: 1, with special engraving: “1/1 SGP 2011”

He was a man of strong principle, fierce loyalty and above all, a man with a big heart and generous spirit. The usual price of the white gold Lange Zeitwerk is $84,900, but I am certain that the auction will bring in an amount above this, for a worthy cause.

Duncan always believed that a watch should not be a safe queen, but used for the purpose for which it was created, so happy bidding, and may the watch will go to a home where it be will worn and enjoyed.


(Many thanks to KC for the use of the photos and information about the auction)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

An interview with Eva Leube

A few weeks ago I blogged an introduction to Eva Leube and her first watch. Here is part two, an interview with Eva, in which she talks about how she came to live in Australia, and more about how she created "Ari".

AP : Manly is a very unexpected place in which to find a Swiss trained independent watchmaker. How did you come to end up in Sydney?

EL : While on a Rolex vocational training course in Geneva in ’99, I was offered work within the company in Sydney. I arrived in Australia in 2000 for the first time. 2004 saw me going back to Switzerland once more to work for Ulysse Nardin and Thomas Prescher, during which time I also married my Aussie boyfriend. He found it too cold in Switzerland so by the end of 2007 we were back in Sydney with our new son Ari and I started my own business.

AP : You worked at Thomas Prescher for a few years. To what extend do you think that period has influenced your approach to watchmaking today?

EL : My watchmaking career started off with many years of repair and restoration work for Antique stores as well as for Ulysse Nardin, Rolex and other workshops in different parts of the world. These were great years, also very educational and important in forming a good foundation. But in 2005 Thomas Prescher introduced me to all aspects of the very different world of independent watch-manufacturing. 

From the start, Thomas has been very generous and open sharing his knowledge, experience and his new ideas. We built his complex mechanisms, including double-retrograde time indication and multiple-axis flying tourbillons part by part, all by hand. I learned a lot from him and went home every night with a great sense of achievement. It gave me a whole new appreciation for traditional watchmaking of the past and for the old masters that have paved the way with their inventiveness and their fantastic work over the past centuries.

AP : Have you always wanted to be a watchmaker?

EL : I always wanted to learn a craft. My mother told me that, growing up, she had often visited a watchmaker near her family home. I immediately liked this idea. Her father must have given us the technical mindset. He was a physicist who told us that we will be able to understand any sort of mechanism if we just looked at it long enough. He had a wood turning lathe in his house and showed me how to use it when I was little. We used to make things like candle holders and nutcrackers together.

I started my apprenticeship when I was 16 years old, gained my masters certificate in watchmaking at the age of 23 and find that I still love my profession, with its technical challenges and creativeness. Watches tell not only the time but also a story about the period they were built in; about the technical advances and fashions of that time. 

AP : I alluded earlier to the unexpectedness of there being an AHCI candidate in Sydney (or Australia, in fact, as we are not known for being a “horological hotbed” as it were). Do you think that the “tyranny of distance” is an issue nowadays, or does the internet, social media etc mean that distance and where the watchmaker is, are no longer issues?

EL : The internet and social media certainly help to market a product. They quickly got me in touch with many international watch enthusiasts which might have been a drawn-out process ten years earlier.

Concerning the manufacturing process, I would have had more outside help available if I lived in Switzerland or Germany. But the positive side of building my watch here in Australia is that it turned out very uniquely “me”. Doing my own drawing, milling, turning, case making, etc has been so exciting and rewarding that I probably would have chosen the same path had I lived in Europe. It is the most time consuming but also the most creative way to build watches.

AP : You named your first watch after Ari. Was this quite a natural decision or did you have other names in mind?

EL : When my son Ari was born in 2007 I set up my own business and started building the watch that had long been in my head; he has been my little and yet very important milestone.