Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Top Gear Wrist Watching Season 18 Ep.3

It's only the third episode of the season and already we've seen four different watches on May's wrist, as you can see from our previous two posts … I guess we can assume he changes watches more often than he changes his outfits (I'm not sure if you noticed, but I think that Freddy Kruger stripey jumper is one of his favourites…).

We see in the film clip (screenshot below) where he test drives a hot hatch, that he's wearing a Rado Ceramica Jubile. I won't delve into which model exactly, since well, it's a bit hard to tell, but contrary to popular internet opinion, Rado was using ceramic as a watch case/ bracelet material long before the J12 was conceived.

James May with Rado Ceramica Jubile
Not quite the model James May wore, but you get the drift... 
Didn't realise it was so hard trying to find a good picture of this Rado...

Rado, believe it or not, were almost neck and neck with IWC in being the first watch brands to use ceramic- see our post HERE. IWC was first, but Rado has consistently had ceramic watches on range since 1986. What May is wearing is perhaps one of the most iconic ceramic Rados made - all black and futuristic looking. Especially back in the mid to late 80s. If there was ever a watch to feature in the 'future' in Back To The Future, I reckon this would be it. It goes really well with the hovering DeLorean.

Another good thing about ceramic is that it doesn't scratch easily, and will always look black and shiny, so it'll always hold that blingy look - as long as you don't drop the watch. But then again you shouldn't drop watches. Unless it's a G-Shock. In which case, drop away!

We also get a clearer look at the Breitling Navitimer on Richard Hammond's wrist during the news segment. He has some of the best expressions…

Richard Hammond and a nice close up of the Breitling Navitimer

No prizes for guessing what Jeremy is STILL wearing…


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Telescopic hands - Parmigiani's Toric Ovale

You have probably noticed that I am rather taken by ‘alternative’ methods of time display; jump hours, mystery hands, rotating satellites, the use of liquid...well here’s another watch that has captured my attention for a time-telling difference. It's a two-hander, but a quirky one.

The Musée d'Horlogerie du Locle is located in a small historic country manor house called Château des Monts, about 1km north of the centre of Le Locle, in the canton of Neuchâtel. Open to the public, as well as a general collection of historical timepieces and movements, the museum’s collection also holds three specific collections :

1. Collection Maurice Yves Sandoz – which includes 18th and 19th century Swiss automatons.
2. Collection Henri Jeanmaire – with its focus on marquetry clock cases made by Charles André Boulle during the period of Louis XIV.
3. Collection Alfred Huguenin - focusing on the history of the Neuchâtel style pendule.

One of the pocket-watches that forms part of the Sandoz collection is a circa 1800 oval piece by British watchmakers Vardon & Stedmann. It features telescoping hands which expand and contract to follow the shape of the case, the hands driven by a cam hidden above the centre pinion.

The Sandoz family own Parmigiani Fleurier, and have decided to create a modern iteration of this piece, called the "Toric Ovale with Telescopic Hands". Limited to 30 pieces in white gold and 30 in rose gold, the flame-blued telescopic hands (identical to the original) get longer and shorter as they move around the oval dial, retracting as they approach 3 and 9 o’clock, expanding at 12 and 6 o’clock, and remaining equidistant from the bezel at all times. The use of only four Arabic numerals highlights the pared back look of the dial, with the numbers, markers and power reserve all matching the blued hands.

The dial itself, with a date and eight day power reserve, is an exercise in symmetrically balanced simplicity. The Grand Feu enamel and blued-hands combination is a classic elegant combination that I am drawn to.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Stuzzi Bar

Spiedo Restaurant & Bar
Level 6
Westfield CBD
Pitt St Mall
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph : (02) 8072 9999

If you’re looking for somewhere for a very early (5.30pm) dinner in the CBD that can be completed in a maximum of 1 ¼ hours, there aren’t a lot of options. They tend to be cheap and cheerful, and on this occasion, we were looking for somewhere with a little more comfort.

So it was that we found ourselves at the Stuzzi Bar at Spiedo. We had intended to go for the pre-theatre menu, mentioned on their website as operating between 5.30-7.00pm, but were told by our waiter that it did not start until 6pm. Perhaps a website update is in order.

 Happy hour snacks

Rather than going with just mains, we decided to go for the assaggini, the small shared plates. You can order two for $25, three for $39 or four for $50. We decided to go for four, plus the chef’s salumi selection. In retrospect, given the size of the salumi plate, three plates would have been sufficient.

 A table extension for those times when there's not enough space on the table

What turned out to be the most interesting part of this meal was that with the expection of the salumi plate, which we both agreed was very good, with the servings of soft delicious meat generous (and a nice tartness to the accompanying pickled vegetables), on a more general level we had quite different reactions to the other items.

Salumi selection ($24)

Attractively presented on a recessed tray, the first first two to arrive were the Sciatt’ - fontina cheese in buckwheat and grappa tempura, radicchio ($14) and garfish with Mediterranean dressing ($14).

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Arnold & Son True Beat 88

British watchmakers Arnold & Son have just released a watch with a rarely seen complication. As the name indicates, the new Arnold & Son True Beat 88 features a ‘dead beat’ seconds. Another ‘dead beat seconds’ we’ve looked at is the Grönefeld One Hertz. The '88' in the name is a nod to John Arnold’s earliest known pocket watch, of which the original case bears the number ‘88’.

A wristwatch with deadbeat seconds shows a second hand that ‘jumps’ in one second steps instead of an apparently smooth sweeping action (which is in fact several rapid jumps). You see the second ‘jump’ in quartz watches (and if you want to see a really smooth seconds hand, look at Seiko's Spring Drives), but as a feature of mechanical watches, its popularity has waned.

To backtrack a bit, the number of hourly vibrations corresponds to the frequency of a watch movement. Frequency is a measurement of the number of times that a repeated event occurs per second. The number of vibrations per hour (vph) of a timepiece determines the breaking up of time (the ‘steps’ of a second hand). For instance, 18,000 vph (2.5 Hertz) equals a vibration duration of 1/5 second (i.e. five jumps a second); 21,600 vph = 1/6 second; 28,800 vph (4 Hertz) = 1/8 second; 36,000 vph (5 Hertz) = 1/10 second. Until the 1950s, wristwatches worked mostly at a frequency of 18,000 vph. Today, the most common frequency adopted is 28,800 vph.

The term ‘dead-beat seconds’ is said to derive from the fact that the hand remains dead, or motionless, for as long as the second has not actually elapsed. Thus, the hand indicates that same second even though its exact time has actually passed.

The ‘true beat’ complication in this watch is via the new Arnold & Son 5003 hand-wound movement. Developed for the brand, the movement is 38mm diameter and 6mm thick, and the calibre has an ‘inside-out’ design, meaning that elements which are usually hidden behind the main are now in front, and visible through the skeletonised dial.

Cased in a rather large 46mm case, the size of which will rule it out for most people, True Beat 88’s dial is nicely symmetrical, with the dead beat display at 7 o’clock balanced by a power reserve indicator. The two barrels which generate the power reserve are at the top.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Top Gear Wristwatching Season 18 Ep.2

Following on from my look at episode 1 of season 18 of Top Gear, it would seem that there are different watches to talk about in episode 2 of the 18th season.

No... this is not a watch, but the rev counter in the Mercedes SLS Roadster...

We start off by revisiting a favourite and one of mine, actually, from Jeremy Clarkson: the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean.  As I have mentioned in the previous post, he has been wearing this watch almost non-stop on Top Gear (and one would assume, during off-screen times as well). I reckon this is one of my favourite watches that I have yet to own. One day I will.

Jeremy Clarkson with his Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean

It is a very classically styled dive watch. The design is based on their Seamaster 300 model from the late '60s/ early '70s. It is a tool watch first and foremost, but it's also kind of dressy, meaning you could possibly pull it off combining it with a suit or a tux. Yes I know what purists will say, but some people don’t havethe dough to have a watch for every occasion. Hey, if it's good enough for Bond and Clarkson… (even if Bond does get paid to wear it…)

The Bond version of the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean

The piece Clarkson wears was superseded in 2011, when a newer version of the Planet Ocean was released, powered by the in-house Omega Calibre 8500. However, as with an in-house anything, the price was seriously jacked up. I mean, sure it's nice to have the newer in-house movement, but if you get your hands on the slightly older version, it's powered by a tried and tested Omega calibre 2500B/C/D which is a co-axial version of the venerable ETA2892-A2. It is, however, quite a small movement, so if a small movement in a big case bugs you.. well… just be glad it doesn't have a see-through case back (whereas the newer Planet Ocean with the inhouse 8500 does).

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cumulus Inc

Cumulus Inc
45 Flinders Ln
VIC 3000
Ph : (03) 9650 1445

Cumulus is in a large open warehouse like space with an almost deceptively casual décor. I say ‘deceptively’ because once you sit down and look around, you realise that it’s actually quite a beautiful space with an understated style. With a mix of tables, a front bar and a long rear bar which frames the kitchen, I sat at the latter, and was pleasantly surprised to find bag hooks underneath the bar. A small thing to some, perhaps, but it would be nice of it was the norm rather than the exception.

Dining solo, and with a desire to eat as much as I could on this first visit (and rare visit to Melbourne), I decided, with consultation, on three courses that I thought I could manage. I was offered the choice of having a half-size of the main, but a communication breakdown at some point during the discussions meant that I ended up receiving a full-sized version. Which I finished.

Before that, however, was the complimentary bread and butter, served in a small cast iron 'tray'. The bread turned out to be useful for my first course, foie gras parfait with toasted brioche ($17).

Fortunately, parfaits are light, or I’d have felt, by the end, that I wasn’t going to manage the three courses. I'm not sure how much foie gras was actually in it, but nontheless, it was airy with a strong gutsy flavour, definitely rich enough to share. The bread supplied wasn’t enough, so I used the complimentary bread with it as well.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The good, the bad and the ugly

What’s up with the Daily Mail? Two Rolex stories in a day?

First up, we have the ‘good’, a council cleaning contractor who handed in a Rolex to police after finding it down drain. Arron Large found a gold Daytona in a drain whilst cleaning the streets near Chalkwell train station, in Essex. As he put it, “we are used to finding all sorts of fake gold in the drains so when I initially saw it I was not overly excited…but it cleaned up really nicely and the gold did not rub off, so I realised it might be something special.”

No-one has yet claimed the watch, but Essex Police have tracked down the dealer from where the watch was originally purchased for identification purposes should a claimant appear. 

What if no-one claims it and Arron Large gets the Daytona? He’ll sell it, share the profits with his colleague with whom he was working on the day, and pay his debts.

Secondly, we have the ‘bad’. 

Well that happened at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on January 18, when someone with either mindboggling ignorance as to how many security cameras are in the average American airport (not to mention at a security checkpoint) or with an impressively low sense of self-preservation, decided to steal a Rolex from the tray on which its owner had placed it at the bag screening area.

The Transportation Security Administration captured the entire sequence of the theft as the man took the watch, belonging to Gloria de Regalado. She had accidentally left her watch behind after recovering her other belongings from the conveyor belt trays. By the time she realised, half an hour later, it was gone.

The video show the man grabbing the Rolex and walking away to reorganise his backpack, when he appears to stuff the jewellery inside.

There is a $1,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

Oh and ugly? That Daytona. Sorry, it just doesn’t do it for me.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Top Gear Wrist Watching Season 18 Ep.1

Our Top Gear wrist spotting posts are amongst our most popular, but it has been awhile since we've done one (this is our third). Apart from none of us having had the time to pause and zoom in and decipher what watch is on whose wrist, there's actually been little activity in their choice of wrist wear.

Until now.

A cool shot from Season 18 episode 1

Clarkson may have had the upperhand in being the 'major' host of Top Gear, the one that gets to interview the "star in a reasonably priced car" and the one that usually gets to drive in supercars whilst the other two settle for some sort of public transport on major races, but May and Hammond are certainly 'winning' the wrist war, if there is one.

Jeremy either really loves his Omega Planet Ocean, or he just can't be stuffed changing watches, but he's been wearing that watch non-stop (at least on Top Gear) for the past few years. May and Hammond, however, do seem to change watches a lot more often.

Jeremy Clarkson and his Omega Planet Ocean

I got really excited watching the first episode of this latest season, No. 18, as I spotted quite a few watches not seen on Top Gear before. So to quote each and everyone of the host on the show - here we go!

James May seems to have the most diverse collection out of the three hosts in the watch department. He's been seen wearing everything from a dinner plate Omega to a ceramic Rado, but his latest one took me completely by surprise. I must admit, though, that this watch suits his persona quite well. It's a vintage Omega Dynamic from the '70s.  From the looks of it, it's the automatic one with date.

James May with Omega Dynamic 

A bit about this watch:

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Manifold Clock

After the success of the LunaTik, timekeeping has again hit Kickstarter with the 3D Manifold Clock, which shows the time via constantly changing shapes created by a flexible sheet of Tyvek attached between the hands.

So it looks a bit funky, but what’s it all about?

It turns out that the Manifold is pure maths geek. The idea behind it was to create a clock with a flexible surface based on the mathematical notion of Riemann surfaces.

The two hands are connected with a flexible sheet of Tyvek. The circular movement of the hands causes the surface to move, changing the clock appearance every minute. The surface rotates freely around the hands.

A $45 Kickstarter pledge gets backers a clock, $100 a jumbo-sized version. Interestingly, a $1 pledge is available, for a screen saver version. With over $23,000 raised and ten days to go, the Manifold Clock has already topped its $15,000 Kickstarter goal.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

British Horological Institute honours Roger Smith

The British Horological Institute recently awarded Isle of Man based Roger W. Smith the Barrett Silver Medal in recognition of his “dedication to and successfully continuing the finest traditions of English watchmaking”.

During his acceptance speech, Roger Smith remembered his own studies for the BHI qualification at the Manchester School of Horology almost 25 years ago, remarking that his first day on the course was "the most enjoyable day in education that I had ever had" and from that day, he knew that he "had been gripped by this fascinating and multi faceted occupation of horology".

He originally moved to the island from Greater Manchester in 1998 to work with the late Dr George Daniels CBE, whom he describes as the 'greatest horologist of all time", and who inspired him to take up watchmaking.

Dr Daniels was awarded the BHI Gold Medal in 1981, the highest distinction that the institute offers for his outstanding horological achievement, writing and research.

Roger Smith, awarded the BHI Bronze Medal in 1989 after being voted the most outstanding student of the year at the Manchester School of Horolog, worked closely with Dr Daniels for more than 20 years until Dr Daniel's death in October 2011 at the age of 85.

He made his first pocket watch at the age of 22 and currently has a two-year waiting list for his watches, which start at £72,500.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Assault with Rolex

What’s the hottest Rolex story in New York? Well it could be the recent conviction of “one-legged millionaire Thomas Hartmann”, as the press are calling him, of assaulting Russian stripper-masseuse Sophia Kandelaki with his gold Rolex (on his wrist) after an altercation outside restaurant Baraonda on the Upper East Side.

Kandelaki, who described herself in court as a "gunpoint kidnapping survivor, a reality star hopeful, a stripper, a private shopper, a vegan chef, a singer, a composer and an expert in 'deep, inner tantric massage’”, said that the attack was unprovoked, whilst Hartman stated that what happened was an accident that occurred after he "lost his balance on his prosthetic leg when [Kandelaki] reached in his pants for his giant wad of cash."'

The origins of Hartmann's missing leg and his millions are already a part of New York history. He was awarded more than $19.6 million by a jury after he lost his leg in 2004 when a police officer in a patrol car, trying to catch Hartmann for harassing his then-wife, ran him over.

Hartman himself served a six year custodial sentence in 1992 for stealing a car and setting it on fire and leading police officers in a car chase during a second vehicle theft. He also served a two year sentence just before the car theft, for stabbing a man in the face.

According to trial testimony, Hartmann was having a rather extravagant and exuberant dinner at the restaurant when Kandelaki and a friend joined his table. By all accounts, things went on swimmingly until they left. The subsequent altercation left Kandelaki with a large gash on her face.

The situation was further complicated by Hartman’s defence lawyer stating that Kandelaki called 1-800-LAWYERS from her hospital bed in hopes of a big payout of her own in an ongoing civil case.

Bemusingly, Kandelaki’s professional activities were subject to much court time.

"Men and women are naked," she told the jury at one point, describing her massage technique. "It has to be done really sensual, slow way," she explained.

"And it is a lot of touching, like, all over the body," she added, illustrating the point with gestures.

“Touching the private parts also, yes," she added.

Harman is due to be sentenced on 7 February.

Clearly, the actual Rolex model doesn't seem to be of interest to anyone but me, as I can find no details about it, not even a photo.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Yu-U Japanese Restaurant

137 Flinders Lane
VIC 3000
Ph : (03) 9639 7073

A twitter conversation with @drng about a ‘hidden’ CBD restaurant which he challenged me to find was like a red rag to the proverbial.

Difficult to find? Not a problem.

The key is to know the name of the ‘cross’ laneway. Without that, and the knowledge that you are looking for a nondescript graffiti-strewn door, you are likely to walk past it.

Mistiming how long it would take me to walk there and arriving a fraction before noon to find it closed, I wandered aimlessly for a bit, arriving back at 12.05pm to find it not only open, but already almost half occupied.

On a bright Summer’s day it takes a minute to adjust your eyes to the darkened minimalist styling of Yu-U but once you do, it’s like a peaceful retreat. Dark colours, lighting that is very much ‘night’ lighting.

Most of the seating is at a long L-shaped bar, with a couple of tables to the side, and judging from the speed at which people arrived, this is a popular lunch time venue.

As the menu on the front door shows, there are a limited number of lunch items from which to choose. In terms of process, this manifests itself in a row of prepared trays outside the kitchen, visible to those seated at that end of the bar, ready for the placement of the main dish of choice, before delivery.

My choice? The sashimi, plus some tea which, happily, came with a large pot, and wasn’t powdered or a bag.

A compact no-frills tray with a selection of sweet fresh fish, more rice than I actually needed and a delicate broth that was clearly terribly healthy, but for which I’d have probably like a little bit more seasoning.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Les Univers Infinis - Vacheron Constantin

Vacheron’s "Les Univers Infinis" is their latest Métiers d’Art collection, which highlights the artisanal crafts of enamelling, engraving, Escher influenced tessellation and guilloché. There’s something to be said about watches with a sense of whimsy rather than ultra complications, watches that remind us of art forms that, if we don’t support them, could die out.

The 2012 collection consists of three watches, each produced in a limited edition of twenty : Dove, Fish and Shell.

Each of the watches is 18K white gold, 40mm, contains Vacheron’s automatic Caliber 2460 SC which can be seen through an open case back, has 3 bar water resistance, and is individually numbered.


 Ref. 86222/000G-9774

The dial of the Dove watch features 38 doves in flight, captured by engravers, Grand Feu champlevé enamelling and guilloché work. 'Champlever' refers to how an image is carved out before the enameller fills the cavities. Champlevé is distinguished from cloisonné enameling, in which the images/ spaces are created by soldering flat metal strips to the surface of the object.

For the Dove, the enameller completes the dial by applying a translucent enamel coating to the violet birds and opalescent enamel to the white ones. Once the enamelling is complete, the gemsetter inserts diamonds into one of the doves. Finally, the guillocheur, finishes it off.


Ref. 86222/000G-9689

A shoal of fish created by guilloché work and grand feu cloisonné enamelling commences with cutting the fish and engraving their eyes. The guillocheur then creates tenth-of-a-millimetre symmetrical motifs, curves are added, and the fish covered with scales. The enameller marks out the outline of the fish using a very fine gold wire to separate the various colours. The enamel is placed in each fish and it is then fired in an oven several times, after which the wires are polished down to the level of the enamelling before a final glaze of varnish is added.


Ref. 86222/000G-9685

Shells and starfish are created by the same methods above, with grand feu champlevé enamelling to form an ochre-tinged seabed.

Even if the subject matter of these watches is not to your liking, or you find them a bit too visually elaborate for your tastes, you can still admire the craftsmanship that goes into these dials. Firstly, the engraver traces the shapes on the dial using a drypoint and then hollows out the fields or cavities in order to create a relief engraving using this champlevé technique.

After that is the enamelling work. Firstly, the cavities created by the engraver are filled with enamel. They are then fired them several times at 800° to 850°C. Several firing sessions are required, after which the result is polished, glazed and varnished. At the completion of these, an engraver finishes off the surface of the designs where necessary.

Here is a video from Vacheron about these three new watches that is worth watching.

For more about the art of enameling, read Elizabeth Doerr’s great in-depth piece here


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Hu Tong Dumpling Bar

Hu Tong
14-16 Market Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Ph : (03) 9650 8128

Situated opposite the much lauded Flower Drum, the three-level Hu Tong has become one of Melbourne’s most popular CBD restaurants and Xiao Long Bao destinations. In the mood for some food of the dumpling kind, I made my way there for an early lunch at about noon. Apparently, noon isn’t early by Hu Tong standards, as they were already almost-full, and within about 15 minutes or so after my arrival, they had to turn people away.

Comfortably ensconced at a window table and fairly hungry despite the early hour, I decided to go with old favourites instead of ordering dumplings (no, XLB are not dumplings, 'bao' means 'bun'), both as a point of comparison and because sometimes, all you need is comfort food. Preferably involving a chilli kick.

Xiao Long Bao ($11.80)

Nicely pleated and looking as though they had little skirts, the XLB were borderline scorchingly hot, just as I like them. The skin nicely translucent, the filling juicy, well seasoned, and the burst of a good clear flavoursome broth (with added vinegar) just what I needed. Some of the better XLBs I’ve had in Australia.

Hot and Sour soup ($6.00)

A good sized serving (enough for two bowls), this is what I’d been hanging out for. The balance between the ‘hot’ and the ‘sour’ seems to be a somewhat subjective thing. I suspect I like mine a fraction more sour than most. In any event, this example wasn’t bad at all, with a reasonable amount of chilli, an absence of the too-much-added-cornflour syndrome, and some nice depth to it. Not amongst my top hot and sour soup experiences, but then again I have found it difficult to find a good one in Sydney, and I’d consider ordering the Hu Tong one again if I was there.

Spring onion pancake ($6.50)

More attractively presented than that in many places (though smaller in quantity) and touted as a ‘house special’, the pancake’s layers were light and crisp but not too oily. The amount of spring onions fairly decent; too few and the pancake becomes a tad on the bland side. Not inexpensive, but as it was a lot better than some I've had in the past year, worth it.

All in all, the location of Melbourne’s most popular XLB was a pleasant experience both food and service wise, and I’d be happy to revisit Hu Tong on any future trip to Melbourne. 


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