Friday, September 28, 2012

Lewis Hamilton F1 - The Important Questions... (UPDATED)

The biggest news right now in the F1 paddock at the moment is Lewis Hamilton. He has left Vondafone Mclaren Mercedes and move to Mercedes AMG Petronas for 2013 onwards. But the following important questions remains...

1.What’s going to happen to his character on Tooned? How are they going to write him out of the story? I quite like the characters they have at the moment on Tooned… Maybe Perez will have a new starring role in the show? and

2.How will the IWC Ingenieur look on Lewis’s wrist? (because we know IWC has signed up to be the engineering partner for the team, and Ingenieur (French for Engineer) just happened to be a line of watches from IWC, AND the range is due for a refresh… more speculations...)

And to a lesser extent,

3.Will Jenson be the one telling us a fascinating story about a perfect watch born more than 150 years ago?

Only Time will tell. Pun intended.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

On The Wrist - Longines HydroConquest Chronograph XL

The HydroConquest is part of Longines's renewed push back into the sports watch arena. They were very well known for their sports watches and sports sponsorship in the past but had taken their focus off sports watches in the 90s and 2000s for some reason. This doesn't mean they completely neglected the sports line. They'd just made a half arsed effort… if that.

The decision to get back into the game for sports watches in the middle of the noughties was a very welcomed move and they went all in, launching with a number of lines: Conquest, HydroConquest, Grand Vitesse and Admiral. Some of these names you've seen before while others are new lines.

Longines Grande Vitesse

Longines Conquest

I like the fact that they've come up with very classy ad distinct styling to separate the lines. They have also priced the watches extremely well, making the sports line excellent value for money when you compare them to the likes of Tag Heuer, or even their in-group offerings from Omega.

We need to keep in mind that Longines, prior to becoming part of the Swatchgroup family, was a proper watchmaking house viewed in the same vein as omega. They manufactured in-house movements and were highly respected. Not that they're not respected nowadays but the intra-group structure kinda dictated their positioning…

This particular HydroConquest is rarely seen, possibly due to its size but I'll get to that in a minute. This line is in my opinion the sportiest in styling out of all the Sports collections, but having said that it is still quite versatile, as Longines has managed to add elegance to their sports, which makes sense in keeping with the whole “Elegance is An Attitude” thing.

The HydroConquest Chronograph XL - those two letters at the end gives the game away doesn't it? One would say that 47mm doesn’t warrant the XL tag any more, but this is also quite a chunky watch, and if you fit the non-tapering stainless steel bracelet to it, you could almost use it to tone your muscles. But size aside the overall proportion of the watch is excellent. This is also partly due to the use of the Valjoux 7753 movement, (a tri-compax version of the 7750) giving the dial much needed balance. And the way the lugs are shaped it sits very nicely on smaller wrists. It will look big, but it won't feel like you've strapped a clock/dinner plate onto your wrist.

Speaking of 7753 movements there are a couple of gripes I have with this movement. One, the crown to hand turning ratio is not very high, (setting the time, for example) even compared to the 7750! It’s like riding a bike on the highest gear. You get calluses on your thumb and forefinger from winding the crown so much and yet the hands don't seem to have moved any closer to the desired time.

Two, the external pusher needed to change the date at 9:00 position. Why? What's wrong with 2 positions on the crown? Surely moving a subdial from 12:00 to 3:00 position doesn't warrant that many changes? But, to be fair, you'll only notice this if you don't wear the watch every day... If it's a daily watch then none of this would've mattered... Other than that, it's an extremely reliable movement. It's tough and will last a lifetime provided you take good care of it. I also have no doubts regarding its accuracy. From experience even the cheapest versions of the 7750 are ridiculously accurate. If not, any good watchmaker will be able to quickly regulate it to a very high level of accuracy.

Others will say that the date window at 4:30 is neither here nor there, but this, surprisingly, doesn’t bother me one bit. It’s not an ideal place for it, but definite not the worst.

Ok, back to the watch itself. Case construction is simple, but solid and robust. Love the raised numbers on the bezel, giving it a premium look and feel. The whole watch reminds me of a Rolex Yachtmaster on steroids. The chronograph pushers are flush with the crown guard, which is a big plus, but the way they’re angled does make using them a little tricky. The screw-in case back features a giant medallion-like hourglass-with-wings logo, which reminds me of the Omega Seahorse medallion case back of the planet oceans. Love it. The hands are well balanced and the lume is good enough.

The watch is rated to 300m, and it does have a screw-in crown. However, the pushers aren't and I have my doubts about the 300m. I'm sure it's fine but I'm not game enough to try.

Overall it’s not a watch that will appeal to everyone, but if you like your big watches, you could do much worse. It is striking and attention grabbing. Its 24mm lugs makes it perfect for perennial strap changers as this is the same width as Panerais and the choices of straps for this size is as numerous as the sand on the beach. A fat, thick strap goes especially well with the chunky case, and stops it from being overly top heavy. The watch is shipped with either the steel bracelet or the rubber strap (which is extremely long) but personally I feel a nice aftermarket dark brown strap suits best. At a list price of $3300 AUD it’s extremely great value (yes even at full retail), given the amount of watch you get, regardless of the brand.


Reference: L3.665.4.76.2 (on black rubber strap)

Case: Stainless steel case, Sapphire crystal with a single layer of antireflective coating on the underside; screw-down case-back and screw-in crown.

Diameter: 47.5 mm

Water-resistant to 300 metres (1000 feet)

Movement: L696 self-winding mechanical movement at 28,800 vph, approx 46 hours of power reserve.

Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds at 9 o'clock.

Chronograph: central 60 seconds, 30 minutes counter at 3 o'clock and 12 hour counter at 6 o'clock.

Dial: Silver "sunray" Big "12" Arabic numeral at 12 o'clock and 11 Superluminova luminescent dots. Silvered hands with Superluminova luminescent material.

Monday, September 17, 2012

ETA 955.112 (as fitted to TAG Heuer Link Quartz)

Battery Change on TAG Heuer Link Quartz - ETA 955.112 movement

I find that as watchnerds we tend to neglect quartz movements, even though they power the vast majority of watches out there, and there aren't really all that much information on them either. Previously I quickly posted about the ETA G01.211 as fitted to a CK watch and the response has been better than expected, confirming that people out there do want to know about quartz movements. So, here is a post on another popular and widely used ETA quartz movement, as fitted to a TAG Heuer Link watch.

The watch in question, and brand new battery ready to go
This watch is about 10 years old now, and this will only be its 2nd battery change. That's a pretty good run averaging 5 years on one battery. Although I must admit I'm not sure when the watch stopped! This particular model is powered by the ETA 955.112 quartz movement, which features an end-of-life indication. What this means is that when the battery runs low, the seconds hand will jump every 4 seconds rather than every second, thus telling you it's in need of some fresh juice.

All the tools I need to conduct the battery change...
I prefer to remove the bracelet on one side to have better access to open the case back. I've removed it from the lugs as it is a spring bar. You could also do it from the clasp, but in this case it was a friction pin and I couldn't be stuffed hammering it out...
ETA 955.112 is a very common quartz movement found in gents' watches. It is also one of the most reliable quartz movements you can get on the market today. The movement is easily replaceable, and a quick glance through the interwebs will net you one of these movements for about 25 bucks. So don't worry if your watch dies on you. Just drop a new movement in and you have a brand new watch again! (provided you've looked after the aesthetics side of things, ie, no scratches and dings and what not)

"Friction ball" used to open the case back. This way I won't leave nasty scratches/gouges on the case back in case I slip. BUT, the downside is that it doesn't have enough 'torque' to really fully tighten the case back
The ETA 955.112 is relatively svelte, so it looks small in the case, needing a fairly thick plastic casing ring
Another thing to keep in mind is that to be honest, not many watch companies will "sign" a quartz movement at this price point, especially since you don't see it anyway. So don't be alarmed if you just see a generic ETA movement inside. This is perfectly normal. There are also some smaller companies out there that fit a see-through case back to show a generic mechanical movement anyway, so it's nothing to be alarmed about. An unsigned movement does not a fake watch make. You'll probably find the opposite will ring true for some, as fake watches will try to convince you of their "authenticity" by "branding" the movement and everything else around it...

Movement is ETA stamped, but nothing else
Now, officially the correct battery for this movement is 371, but I have fitted a 395 battery, which has the same diametre, but it is a bit taller. For the movement the 395 will work and it won't damage the movement, unlike many people seem to think. 395 is also a much more commonly used battery compared to 371. Of course if the watch is very thin and there is not much spare "space" best to go with the 371. Other than that you won't find any issues.

395 battery fitted
Obviously the watch is not tested for water resistance since I don't have the tool, and the "grip ball" I used to loosen/tighten the case back doesn't really offer enough "torques" to properly tighten the case back. By right, I  should also change the glass seal and the back rubber seal to guarantee the watch will resist water again to 200m, but I know it's not going anywhere near water, so this doesn't bother me.

Other than that the watch should be good for another 4-5 years before needing the next battery change.

Tech Specs of ETA 955.112 Movement: (=955.114)

Movement Dimensions: 11 1/2 Ligne = 25.60mm
Movement Height: 2.50mm
Number of Jewels: 7
Minute Hand Fitting: 0.70mm
Hour Hand Fitting: 1.20mm
Second Hand Fitting: 0.20mm
Battery: 371/395

This movement is available with centre seconds (3H), or without (2H).
The position of the date can be at 3:00 or 6:00.
The date ring can be changed on this movement.

Different heights may be available.

Approx. US$25


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hublot Atelier "courtesy" Watch

My 2 cents on the Hublot loan watch...

The announcement from Hublot of their new “courtesy watch” offering has sparked heated debate amongst the watch community. I believe this is one of the missions accomplished for Hublot. Keeps people talking about their brand, thus keeping the brand front of mind.

However, after reading through various points of views, mostly from learned watch enthusiasts and the like, mostly expressing the view of “I wouldn’t wear a cheap plastic quartz watch as a loaner even if it’s free”, I think most of the enthusiasts are missing the point.

For me the critical part of the press release from Hublot is the very last sentence: “This  delicate token of attention remains naturally at the discretion of the management of each Hublot boutique.” Let’s take it back a few steps. The loan watch is available ONLY at the Hublot boutiques. And as we all know, the boutique clientele generally speaking, is one of the most- how shall we say it- pedantic clients of them all. They want to be pampered. Attended to. Treated like a VIP. (Keeping in mind that this is a vast generalisation and there are of course exceptions to this.) In my humble opinion, although the loan watch is just that- a loan watch, but believe you me I know people whose ego will still find a way to show off with the loan watch, (as long as the boutique staff manages their choice of vocab towards the client – just like that very last sentence). Now I said “show off” not “wear”.

I have no doubt that every single person that brings in their Hublot into the boutique for a service will receive the loan watch offer. Whether or not they take up the offer, is of course, another story entirely. But let’s also keep in mind that Hublot is still very much a growing brand, and much of that growth will have come from nouveau riche, especially in *cough* middle kingdom *cough*  meaning quite possibly the Hublot IS their first expensive watch, and unlike watch enthusiasts, they don’t have that trusty ‘69 Speedy or ‘74 Datejust to fall back on.

This brings us to another question. Wouldn’t the nouveau riche of the dragon people simply buy another Big Bang Ice Kachang? Only their ego can answer that question.

Just as an aside- swatchgroup offered Swatch watches (in some cases) as a courtesy watch to the most demanding  clients. To keep. And you’d be surprised how many take up the offer.

Monday, September 10, 2012

One-on-one With A Melbourne Watch Collector Part 2

Part 2 of the one-on-one interview with a Melbourne watch collector. You can read part 1 here. In part 2 we talk about MWC's foray into independent watchmaking...

TST: So what led you to the world of independent watchmakers - those who literally "make" the watches? And how did you decide which independent watchmaker to go for?

MWC: I guess part of it is the exclusivity. Anyone can wear a Rolex or an Omega. Other than parting with the money, they take no effort to buy and they're available immediately. I have a modified Seiko diver that I had the hands, dial and bezel changed on, so it's exclusive - no one else has the same one as me. 

Modded Seikos are fine, but I think I've reached the stage in my collecting that I want to wear a watch that very few others can own. I had the great pleasure of attending a dinner with Peter Speake-Marin when he was in Australia two years ago, and while his watches fill the brief - exclusive and beautiful - they're also expensive. So I went looking for a lower cost independent, which is sort of an oxymoron. 

I stumbled across d.m.h., a very small brand made in Holland. One watchmaker (he also does everything else there, from answer emails to making coffee for visitors), who makes about two dozen watches a year. About an 18 month waiting list when I placed my order, which has grown to about three years. 

Here you can see the d.m.h. in the centre of the collection
TST: Other than being extremely low volume and the likelihood to have a unique timepiece, what else attracted you to DMH?

MWC: I think part of it was the pleasure of dealing with the watchmaker, the man who was going to build my timepiece, not some sales guy in a shop in Mody Rd in Hong Kong. 

I was in Holland recently and the opportunity to visit him. A very relaxed, happy man, who's lucky enough to do something that he just loves doing. And he's making the cases on a lathe and a milling machine that his father used, he told me a great story about being 9 or 10, and standing beside his father, watching him use the lathe and wanting to one day do something similar. 

TST: After acquiring your first independent, do you see yourself going down this road?

MWC: I'm not sure, there aren't all that many in the d.m.h. price range, and I'm not quite ready to step up to a Speake-Marin or an MB&F. 

TST: Would acquiring an independent be something you recommend others to do as well?

MWC: Regardless of whether you end up owning an independently made watch, I think it's a fascinating area even if you're "just looking". It's all about the watch and the watchmaker, small businesses, watches literally being made in sheds at the bottom of gardens and not global brands, shift work and assembly facilities in bland industrial suburbs. I guess the independents are putting some of the romance back into the watch industry. 

TST: The romance of the watch industry- something that is often 'sold' but never truly realised. It is quite the experience to talk/meet with the one who literally makes your watch and puts his/her name and maybe yours(!), on the dial.

MWC: If you boil it all down to just the reason for the watch to exist, telling time, then why aren't we all wearing a Timex Ironman? I've got one, wear it cycling and swimming, I can use the chrono when it's wet, lap times, alarm, count down timer, etc. Cost me about $100. 

The rest is the romance. The story. The spin. Is a Rolex "better" than an Omega or a Panerai? As  long as they all keep good time - the Ironman is always spot on - how can one be better or worse than the other? We love to buy into the marketing and sales pitch. You apparently don't own a Patek, you just look after it for the next generation. At this stage my sons seem to be happy telling time with their smart phones, so if I buy a Patek, I can assure you, it's for me!

I can't think which brand it is, but one runs a campaign about how long they've been around. (That would be Vacheron Constantin - TST) So? As long as the quality control is good, how does that matter? Except it does. We want to feel good about that little machine on our wrists (and all its friends in the watch box), and about ourselves for being smart enough for understanding the brand, the message, the story. 

I was lucky enough to meet Fred Dingemans, who IS d.m.h.  He showed me his factory - it's a shed at the bottom of his garden, explained how he goes about making his watches, then we sat at his kitchen table, drank coffee and just chatted about life. Does that make my d.m.h. a better watch? No, but it makes it special for me, I have an appreciation of the watch, and a connection to it's maker that I could never have with a Rolex or an Omega. 

d.m.h. - image taken from the dmh website
TST: There are people out there who buys watches to be seen in. Watches that screams "I've made it" or "I have money!" Do you think they would ever been convinced into an independent watch, given the exclusivity and rarity?

MWC: I had dinner recently with a friend who in the last couple of years, as his business has flourished, has gone from the same TAG he's been wearing for most of the 20 years to owning a number of bigger, flashier watches. He's got a huge Omega Railmaster, and Rolex Deep Sea, the sort of watches that seem to say "look at me, I'm doing well, I can afford nice watches". Without wanting to sound like I'm running him down, I doubt he's ever given movements or the complications a moment's thought. He just likes the watches. Which is fine. 

I wore my new d.m.h., which I'm very proud of, it's something that I'm really enjoying, and having met the watchmaker, even more so. Not a brand that my mate had heard of, so no interest whatsoever. 

TST: And, finally, what advice would you give to someone who is looking to get into collecting/appreciating watches? Are there mistakes they can avoid?

MWC: Mistakes to avoid? Take your time, decide what you like, learn a bit about movements, and  understand sizing. Sounds easy, but quite early on I bought, on line, a lovely LITTLE chrono that was something like 32mm diameter and I was shocked when I received it. It was tiny. 

A watch advertised as rare is a word that is usually the opposite. A rare Seiko? Can't happen. Be a skeptic! 

And if the deal looks too good to be true, it is. Lots of scams out there, so be careful, but have fun ... After all, they're only watches. 

TST: Some great insights and great stories. Thanks again for your time!

Monday, September 3, 2012

One-on-one With A Melbourne Watch Collector Part 1

Previously we brought you an interview with a Sydney watch collector here, this time we have an interview with a Melbourne watch collector. Due to the obvious geographical complications, this interview was done unfortunately over email rather than the much preferred method of over a coffee and/or a whiskey... Perhaps a raincheck on the drinks? As the Sydney collector, this Melbourne collector also wishes to remain anonymous, so will simply remain as "Melbourne Watch Collector" (MWC)

TheSydneyTarts: Thank you for agreeing to the interview!

MelbourneWatchCollector: Thank you for asking me! I've been a big fan of the blog for some time now. 

TST: Well, let me again start with the obvious. How did you get started in watch collecting?

MWC: First of all, to me "a collection" implies some sort of order or logic to my purchases. I'm not sure that describes me, I think I'm more "one of those guys that owns a lot of watches".

About 25 years ago I had some sort of ana-digital watch – I'm guessing a Casio or Seiko – rectangular face, analog hands for time and a digital display at the bottom for date and maybe it had a chrono as well, but I couldn't say for sure. And in the fullness of time the battery went flat. So I said to my father, "Can I borrow a watch while I get the battery replaced?" and he lent me a nice Omega with a chrono.

What I didn't know at the time was I was wearing an early 60s Speedy. And it stayed on my wrist for probably close to 10 years (would you have bothered replacing the battery in the crappy Seiko ana-digital?) until I finally got sick of paying Omega $300+ every couple of years to service it. So, needing to replace it, and not having a clue about watches, I bought an Omega Seamaster Pro .. Yes, the blue dial & bezel model that I'd seen Pierce Brosnan wearing, so that dates the purchase to somewhere around 1998 / 99.

Omega Seamaster Professional, now known as the "Bond" watch
TST: The Seamaster is as good a place to start as any! It's becoming quite the modern classic, thanks to the James Bond connection and the amount of marketing push Omega did with it. What was the follow up to such a classic?

MWC: It took another couple of years until I made my next purchase, an Oris Worldtimer. This is where the problems really began – I realised I could own more than one watch, and you then discover you can own more than you have wrists for  …. And two quickly became a much bigger number. 

TST: Ahh yes the slippery slope that almost all watch collectors goes through and never really gets back up from. After that downward spiral, I find that a stage a lot of watch collectors seem to go through is one of buying junk. Would you say this is a stage you've gone through as well?

MWC: I've bought a lot of junk over the years - crappy Russian knock offs (not copies) of Navitimers, Chinese GMT II's and the like .. Most of which broke and weren’t worth repairing or were simply disposed of.

TST: Do you have any other regrets apart from buying junk?

MWC: The only collecting rabbit hole that I regret falling down for a little while was 24 hour dials – I had three or four at one stage, including a stunning early 60s' Navitimer Cosmonaute, but if you change watches every day they're impossible to read at a glance. They're the only watches I've ever sold.

TST: Now you could say that your dad's Omega kind of kick started your enthusiasm for watches- did the Omega thing stick?

MWC: I've got a good assortment of Omegas – the above mentioned Seamaster Pro, a 60s' gold 3 hand Seamaster, a Speedy with triple date, a gold (plated) 50s' triple date moon, a yellow Schumacher Speedy, and a 70s' Dynamic. Ignoring the cost of early pre-moon Speedys (I still borrow Dad's now and then) and some of the Flight Masters (currently high on my want list) I find Omegas good value compared to the other name Swiss brands.

TST: I believe you don't just stick to Swiss watches either?

MWC: Yes I have a good number of of 70s' Seiko chronos. My first real watch – at age 13 – was a Seiko 6139-7002, and I've added one to the box in the last year or two. I remember being so happy with my watch until a mate who was about 6 months younger got a Seiko LCD watch when he turned 13 (this would have been late '76) and all of a sudden those hands didn't look so good to me. But I'm guessing he hasn't tracked down a replacement of the watch he wore as a teenager

Seiko 6139-7002
I also have a couple of Seiko bullheads, and two or three other Seiko chronos of similar vintage. The designs appeal to me, and the fact that they're cheap (I typically pay $100 ~ $150 on eBay for them) & solid work horse watches make mean I can't see myself parting with them in a hurry. I've also got a few Seiko divers, including one I had modded – replacing the dial, hands and bezel. Again, I like them because I can't break them, and if I do, they're cheap to fix or replace.

TST: Something else that's also fairly tough and unbreakable, albeit at a price, is Rolex. However, this is a brand that polarizes people's opinions. Where do you stand on the Rolex issue?

MWC: It took me a long time to buy a Rolex, more because I didn't like the image of being a "rolex guy" (ie: a dentist) than for any other reason, but I've since fallen for them, with a Sub, a GMT II and an Explorer II all happily living in my watch box. The GMT II is my default travel watch – easy to change time zones, I can swim in it, and fine to wear either in a meeting or out for a night of drinking.

The current Rolex GMT Master II
TST: Rolex, Omega, Seiko- These are all very classic brands with classic watches. You can't go wrong with these. But did you veer off the 'safe' course and try something less well known or something more under-appreciated by the masses?

MWC:I bought a Maurice Lacroix Reviel Globe 7 or 8 years ago that saw a lot of wear – I used to call it my working watch: three time zones and an alarm, but the cost of replacing the strap ($350 - it's an odd size) has kept it in the box of late.  There are some other odds and ends: a Magrette diver (don't really like it any more), assorted low value 70s' divers, a Tissot Navigator chrono that is very hard to read (dial / hand colours are too close) and it needs a new "lobster" bracelet, a pocket watch, and a James Bond Seiko quartz something or other.

At the upper end of the collection is a Graham Oversize Chronofighter GMT Big Date (the name is almost as big as the watch) that I bought in HK maybe 4 years ago, and the spoilt princess of the watch box is a JLC Reverso GMT. The Reverso probably only spends a night a month on my wrist, but it's always wound and ready to go.

Assortment of watches, including a couple of Seiko Bullheads, Maurice Lacroix, Omega, Oris, and Reverso
Stay tuned for part 2 where the MWC talks about his foray into independent watchmaking....