Monday, August 27, 2012

Formula 1 and Watches

Being a huge F1 fan and a watch nerd, I'm sadly all too aware of the F1/ watch connection, but there haven't been any recent looks at the watch side of F1 racing that I'm aware of, so I thought that it's time that we had one!

I think we all know about the partnership between car companies and watch companies as it seems like watches and cars get on like Homer and beer.

What is perhaps less talked about in the mainstream media is that there are also a lot of watch companies getting in on the act with Formula 1 racing. The two have become so intertwined that as the top 3 drivers at each race get ready to get on the podium, they all made sure (well, at least someone made sure) that the relevent watch is firmly strapped onto their wrists.

(For those without a watch sponsor... I think I might have just figured out something!!! If you have a watch sponsor, you are more likely to be on podium than if you don't. Think about it...) By this logic, will we see a Marussia driver on the podium soon?

Hublot clock at the Abu Dhabi circuit - image taken from the internet

Hublot is of course, the current official timing partner with Formula One, and has even launched special editions for certain races. However, for each individual teams, and even individual drivers, there are different watch partnerships going on. The prices of the watches spans a great range from three figures all the way up to six figures!

[NOW] Now let's take a look at the most affordable to most expensive watches on the grid, in the 2011 finishing order.

Hublot F1 King Power - image taken from the internet
Red Bull Racing: The watch partner is Casio, and both drivers (Vettel and Webber) wear Casio products. There is an official Casio Edifice Red Bull racing watch, and Vettel also has his own Casio Edifice watch.

Casio Edifice Red Bull Racing - image taken from the internet

Mclaren Mercedes: This is a partnership that is deeply rooted in history and has been going on for a long time.  TAG Heuer equips both Hamilton and Button with wrist jewellery as well as branded timing screens and whatnot in the garage. TAG Heuer branding used to be on the actual cars, but now they're happy to have the drivers as ambassadors instead of having stickers on cars.

Lewis Hamilton posing with his Tag Heuer - image taken from the internet

Jenson Button and his Tag Heuer - image taken from the internet
Jenson, being a bit of a watch lover, had his fair share of different brands on his wrist (depending on if there is a contractual obligation or not). Back in his days of driving a Honda, he wore Seiko Sportura watches, but when he was driving for Brawn in his championship winning year, he had on Jaeger-LeCoultre watches for the first half of the season or so, until Graham watches came on board later on in the year, and that relationship has continued to...

Jenson modeling the JLC Extreme Lab while he was with Brawn GP - image taken from the internet

Mercedes AMG Petronas: Best known for their partnership with Graham watches from their BrawnGP days, they have dropped Graham has the official timing partner, and picked up Thomas Sabo instead for the 2012 season as the official jewellery partner. Nico Rosberg is also sponsored by Sabo, and sports a Thomas Sabo watch. However, this partnership look set to end at the end of 2012 as IWC has signed on as the official engineering partner with the team starting 2013, which makes sense since IWC has a partnership with AMG.

I can’t help but notice the creativity involved in naming the category that the brands are aligned in. Graham was the official 'timing' partner, [WHICH IS] straightforward enough. Thomas Sabo is the official 'jewellery'  partner… ok… still quite straight forward but, IWC as the official 'engineering' partner? Hmm….thinking aloud here, but I reckon SIHH 2013 will see IWC announce a new range of engineering watches inspired by F1… Engineering watches you ask? For those who parlez francaise, you’ll of course, realise that French for engineer is oh… gee… IWC has a line of watches named “Ingenieur”…
IWC Ingenieur AMG collection from 2005 - picture taken from the internet
IWC Ingenieur Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team edition… you read it here first.

Oh. And Schumacher, once a long-time Omega ambassador, has 'upgraded' to Audemars Piguet, who also had Barichello, Buemi and Trulli on their roster until the three drivers were unceremoniously denied drives for the 2012 season.
Graham MercedesGP GMT - image taken from the internet
Michael Schumacher with his AP - image taken from the internet
Barichello, Trulli and Buemi all sporting AP Royal Oak Offshores - image taken from the internet
Ferrari: They recently signed up with Hublot, after a short stint with Panerai, and before that with Girard Perregaux. Let's hope this new partnership with Hublot is more successful than either GP or Panerai. However, this does not seem to extend to the drivers, as Alonso sports a Viceroy and Massa has a Rchard Mille named after him. So even though Alonso has the upper hand in racing, Massa definitely takes the top step in terms on wrist wear...

Hublot Ferrari Big Bang Magic Gold - image taken from the internet
Alonso's Vceroy watch - image taken from the internet
Richard Mille Filipe Massa - image taken from the internet
Oh... and there is also the more 'accessible' range of Ferrari watches which you can buy online from the Ferrari shop...

Ferrari watch- image taken from the internet
Renault: TW Steel jumped onboard during their tumultuous 2009 'crashgate' year, presumably because the space was going cheap after losing a few of their major sponsors after the scandal, but they've certainly made it work. They're big on oversized watches, and Kimi Raikkonen is seen wearing TW Steel. Romain Grojean was wearing TW Steel up until just before Monaco 2012, when he switched over to TAG Heuer.

Ironically, Kimi used to be a TAG Heuer ambassador back when he drove a Mclaren, and he continued to be TAG eyewear ambassador after his switch to Ferrari back in 2007. Past driver and current commentator David Coulthard also has his own  'named' watch in the range.
TW Steel Renault F1 Team - image taken from the internet
Force India: Don't seem to have a watch sponsor at the moment. So... here's an opportunity to add stickers to Force India cars and adorn drivers Hulkenberg's and di Resta's wrists!

Sauber: Certina has been with Sauber for 8 years, and the partnership has been quite subtle, with very small stickers on the cars and the drivers' helmets. They supply not just the drivers but the whole Sauber team with watches to wear.

Certina Podium GMT Sauber F1 Team Ltd Ed - image taken from the internet

Torro Rosso: Again, no partnerships here...

Williams: Oris has had a long partnership with Williams - since 2003 (I remember Mark Webber had his own 'Mark Webber' edition Oris) and this continues for the 2012 Championship.

Oris Williams F1 Day-Date - image taken from the internet

Caterham: no watch partnerships

HRT: no watch partnerships

Marussia: is strangely partnered with a small indie watch brand called Armin Strom. Maybe this is a good way for Armin to gain more brand exposure, but I'd think they'd probably get better returns had they partnered with say... Caterham, since they're consistently the best of the three newcomers to the F1 party...
Armin Strom Racing Chronograph - image taken from the internet

In F1, engineering is an ever-moving goal post, and I think the same goes for (watch) sponsorship... Who knows we might need to do an updated F1 wrist watch next season!


Saturday, August 18, 2012

One-on-one with a Sydney watch collector Part 3

This is part 3 - the final part of our one-on-one interview with a Sydney watch collection. For previous parts see here for part 1 and here for part 2

TST: Do you believe that someone can have too many watches?

SWC: (long pause) Short answer yes with an if, long answer no with a but.

TST: (looks quizzically)

SWC: Yes you can have too many watches if you have limited funds. If you have other more important priorities. You need to keep in mind that this is a very expensive hobby and one that you should not engage in if you don't have the spare slush fund. Of course, there are many levels you can play at. A lot of people collect watches in the lower end of the price scale and there are a lot of fun to be had in this area. You can hunt for all sorts of weird and wonderful vintage watches from many brands that no longer exist. That turned out to be a very long answer... Maybe it's the other way around! So, no, you can never have enough watches if you gots the money! Plus, they don't take up much room, and you could pretty much take your whole watch collection with you in a fire, for example, but you can't take your antique car collection!

TST: Strap or Bracelet?

SWC: Strap. But believe it or not I used to be a firm bracelet guy, but once I found that straps are easily changed, and that by changing strap it gives your watch a completely new look, I've been a strap advocate ever since. It's astonishing just how much a strap can make or break a watch!

TST: If someone who knows nothing about watches but wanted to buy their first 'special' watch came to you and asked you for advice as to what to buy, with a budget of $1k max, what would you suggest?

SWC: Believe it or not, $1k can get you into some pretty decent watches. If you're after a mechanical watch, you do need to also budget for around $300-$500 for a full service every 5 years or so (service interval depends on how well you look after the watch - same as with cars). It is a lot of money to service a watch, so you do need to keep that in mind. Having said that, there are quite a few routes you can go for the that first special watch, but I think also that for the first watch, it needs to be a bit versatile, ie, best to get a watch you can dress up or down.

If you don't mind going 2nd hand, there are plenty of really nice Longines or Oris watches that'll come under $1k quite easily. There's always Aussie's favourite luxury watch, a Tag Heuer. If you want to avoid clashing watches with someone else, why not try something German? You can easily get an Archimede or a Steinhart for well under $1k, and they're excellent watches too, great value for money. However, as there are no authorised retailers/service centres here in Australia for these brands, getting something done under guarantee may take more of an effort on your part. But I still think it's well worth it.

Archimede Pilot Chronograph
But always do your homework. Don't get too carried away on the "brand". Don't rush into it. Think twice before getting a "fashion" branded watch for $1k. Believe me, you can, but really, don't. Try the watches on if you can. See how it sits on the wrist. Don't just go off specs on a piece of paper, because different 40mm watches will wear quite differently depending on the design. Most of all, buy something that really sings to you. Something you love, and not something only to 'show off' to others, as ultimately, you're the one that's going to be wearing the watch, so you'll need to really love it.

In fact, put some funds aside to get a couple of really nice straps. They don't have to be from the same brand as the watch. Just as long as they fit. You can get a very good leather strap for around $100. A couple of these will add versatility to the look of your watch, and you can even match it to different occassions, outfits, etc.

Straps can add to the look of the watch, and putting a new strap on a watch makes it feel like a brand new watch again

TST: Considering that you have been collecting, well, admiring watches for more than a decade, you must have a refined taste in what sort of watches you like. So, what do you look for in a watch?

SWC: I do know my own taste a little better than I did 10 years ago. I guess I'm not really into high complications, not least because I can't afford it anyway! But the main thing I look for is balance and symmetry in the design of the watch. If something that should be balanced and symmetrical, but isn't, that really bugs me. For example, I'm not a big fan of the date window at the 3:00 position because that causes unbalance issues, but it's a minor thing, and the date window at 3 is kind of a traditional placement. Having said that, some really good designs can incorporate the date window at 3 and still make the whole dial look balanced.

If you have to be assymetrical, then really go nuts, but dials can still be balanced and assymetrical at the same time.

TST: Ahh.. you're one of those symmetrical freaks!

SWC: Yeah. the ultimate pet peeve is the numbers/markings on the subdials on a tri-compax chrono. For example, when the watch designer could easily have the 0-20-40 on one side and 10-20-30 on the other and they instead use 0-15-30-45, that just really bugs me. One really good example is the Rolex Daytona. When they had the zenith movement, the subdials were perfect. Then they ruined everything when they switched to their own inhouse chrono. Not only the numbering, but they even moved the subdials at 3 and slightly above the central alignment just so it's harder to fake? Come on. Faking that is easy. Making the watch look slightly off just to ward of fakes? *Shakes head*

But if you look at the Omega Speedmaster Professional, that is a perfect example of how to do a well balanced, symmetrical dial that is timeless and classic. I'm not surprised that it's still doing so well and they haven't touched the design... much.

Omega Speedmaster Professional Cal. 321
TST: And that's the one you'd rather have?

SWC: And I do!

TST: And on that bombshell, we'll end it there. Thank you for your time!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Bao Dao Taiwanese Kitchen Chatswood 寶島

Bao Dao Taiwanese Kitchen (寶島)
Shop 8, 376 Victoria Ave
Chatswood NSW 2067
(02) 9419 6290

Taiwanese cuisine seems to be enjoying ‘du jour’ status at the moment in Sydney, with allegedly Taiwanese themed restaurants/ cafes/ tea places popping up just about everywhere. I say 'allegedly' because not all of them are real Taiwanese. Taiwanese inspired, perhaps. I won’t go into details about what makes an authentic Taiwanese restaurant, as that is very subjective. I’ll head straight into the latest discovery – which I do classify as authentic… (well… as authentic as one gets in Sydney, Australia nonetheless…)

This restaurant opened up not too long ago in Sydney’s other Chinatown- Chatswood. Bao Dao Taiwanese Kitchen is located a short stroll from the station, it is an unassuming lil' place with not much seating at all (maybe about 30 max). The choice of food is also quite restricted (I’m hoping the selection will grow as time goes on) but what you do get is just about the most authentic Taiwanese street food as you can get here.

Chicken floss on rice
Adding to the authenticity is the “Huan Ying Kuan Ling” (Welcome!) greeting in mandarin by the staff which is the exact greeting you get when you venture into a shop in Taiwan. I think they stole this idea from the Japanese “irashaimase”, and it was refreshingly delightful to hear the staff in the kitchen conversing in mandarin with a Taiwanese twang.

Noodle with pork sauce/ soup
The main carbohydrates are a choice between rice and noodle, and you get a selection of side dishes (which appears to be seasonal) to go with the carbs. Pricing is reasonable by Sydney standards. However, one thing I discovered was the amount of chilli present in almost all the dishes. Granted the dishes aren’t hot hot, but there are other seasonings available.

The must-have dish is the Qua Bao – one bite transported me back to my childhood. At $4 a pop it ain’t cheap, but if you’re hankering for a bit of a Taiwanese taste and a plane ticket is too much, this is a good compromise. Calling the Qua Bao “Pork Bun” (which it kinda is) is selling it short. It’s nothing like what you get at Yum Cha. Just trust me on this one and try it. (and no... I'd completely forgotten to take a photo of it... Too eager to chow down...)

"Qua Bao" - Pork Bun - image taken from Bao Dao website
By the way, I LOVE the soy milk here- this is no pre-packaged soy, but freshly made soy milk, so that you get that thick texture with a bit of ‘tanning’ and sugarless. Just the way it should be. Authentic.

I reckon this is the best option for a quick Taiwanese meal in Sydney without resorting to hopping on a plane.

Bao Dao Taiwanese Kitchen on Urbanspoon