Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Put A Cork In It!!

Vegetarian? Not only do you not want to eat cows, you also don’t want to use items made from cows? You’re also an environmentalist and believe in renewable resources? But you don’t like to wear watches on steel bracelets, and you also have certain allergies? Well, we have a solution for you. You can now wear your watch on a strap made from all natural renewable sources, as well as being completely hypo-allergenic.

(c) Espiral do Tempo/Miguel Seabra - strap fitted to JLC Master Compresson Extreme 
“The cork industry is generally regarded as environmentally friendly. The sustainability of production and the easy recycling of cork products and by-products are two of its most distinctive aspects. Cork Oak forests also prevent desertification and are a particular habitat in the Iberian Peninsula and the refuge of various endangered species” – Wikipedia

If you’re like me, and only know cork from wines, well, you'll find that they’re also very commonly used as flooring, acoustic and thermal insulation, holding together woodwind instruments just to name a few.

(c) Espiral do Tempo/Miguel Seabra
Cork as a material is extremely durable (otherwise you wouldn't use it as flooring). The cellular structure of cork comprises of hollow, 14 sided cells joined together in a honeycomb like arrangement. These cells have extremely strong yet flexible cell walls. Moreover, cork has suberin in its chemical composition. This is a waxy substance that functions to prevent water from penetrating the cork tissue. Cork also repels insects and mould; it resists rotting, and also fire.

(c) Espiral do Tempo/Miguel Seabra
So what’s the sudden interest in corks? No I wasn't looking at the cork whilst enjoying a glass of cab sauv and decided that it would make for a great strap. Have a look at the post here (use Google translate as it’s in Portuguese) and thought it simply looked brilliant! And cork as a material is relatively inexpensive, meaning you'll get a fantastic looking (to me anyway) strap for not a lot of dough. You can pick one up with a buckle for under 30 Euro, in sizes ranging from 18mm to 24mm at the lugs.

 Nike LeBron X - in cork!

With a gratuitous shot of LeBron's AP Royal Oak Offshore limited edition
And who knows, cork might be making its foray into mainstream material usage… you can also get LeBron’s shoes in cork, and I've seen bags made from cork… Maybe we'll see a completely corked watch? You read it here first! I mean, why not, there are already watches made with a cork dial…

Image from American Apparel
Trust me, the idea is NOT as strange as concrete watches...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Longines Ladies Dolce Vita - ETA 980.153 Battery & Strap change

Time for another battery/strap change!

Longines Ladies Dolce Vita
This time on the Missus's Longines Dolce Vita. The Dolce Vita is an extremely popular watch for ladies, being fairly well priced (at the retail level) and it is a very elegant and classy watch, at the same time very versatile. You can dress it up or down and comes with many different dial colours and styles. Hers is the beige dial with black roman numerals, giving it a hint of Cartier...

Yes - Dick Smith battery. The size was common enough and I couldn't be bothered buying the battery on ebay then waiting for it to be sent over from China.
The Dolce Vita has a snap-on case back, so fairly easy to open with the right tool. It is very tight (as it should be) so best to leave one side of the bracelet on the watch, as the end link gives you some leverage to pry open the case back. (Otherwise the case back sits very flush with the case, and you risk damaging the case/scratching the case/deep gouges on the edges which are all big no-nos when it's the Missus's watch. Even if it is already scratched to buggery...)

Leave one side of the bracelet on to use as leverage

Once it's popped open, all smooth sailing from here. As most other quartz watches, there really isn't much to see. Simple plastic casing ring with a Longines L178 movement, aka ETA 980.153. What I do find interesting is that Longines has also signed the movement with name and calibre. (Tag Heuer didn't do this with their quartz movement) I'm pretty indifferent about this aspect. It's a quartz movement that in general consumers don't see, so... meh... Battery size fitted here is 379, but according to the manual a 317 will also fit. However you'll find that the 379 is much, much more common...

Very basic movement with plastic casing ring. Nothing to write home about.
The movement is again very common. If you see a ladies watch with 3 hands, small seconds at 6:00, More likely than not this would be the movement. Haven't heard anything bad about it, so I'm going to assume that it's reliable enough. As a smaller movement it is not much cheaper to replace, a quick glance over the interwebs prices the movement at around about USD25-35.

Snapping the case back in place takes a bit of pressure but easily done. The Dolce Vita unfortunately has a less-common lug width (outside the norm of 14mm, 16mm, 18mm 20mm, etc) at 15mm across, meaning it can be a little more difficult to find aftermarket straps to fit. As the watch is quite small, a 1mm difference can be quite huge (unlike, say, squeezing a 24mm wide strap into a 23mm lugth width which would be ok...)

The versatility of the watch comes into play once again with straps. You can fit almost any colour strap to the watch (provided you can find them in 15mm width) Here it is with a lovely white strap to give it that summer feeling.

Yes- again, this is not taking into consideration the water resistant ability of the watch after the battery change. But it's not really a watch you'd stick in water anyway, and as it is, a bit of rain will not cause damage. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ladurée Macarons Vs Generic Macarons

Now, I have a Confession. Going into writing this I was hoping to reach a controversial conclusion.  Akin to saying something like a Toyota is better than a Porsche. No. For those who can't be bothered reading (why are you here?) the result is as expected. The Ladurée macarons are better than the el cheapo generic ones. No surprises there. I was hoping, really hoping that the generic ones would shine through, but that hope diminished the moment I saw the generic ones in the counter. (made the mistake of buying the Laduree ones first).

Laduree Macarons

Another confession. I ain't never heard of Ladurée until I saw the lines in Westfield. Yes I have heard of macarons (thank you mr/s cynical - I won't even go into macaron vs macaroon...) Tasted them even. But I'm not what you would call a connoisseur. So I'm looking at these little overpriced sweets from a layman's point of view. As in, would someone like me tell the difference between an 80 odd cent macaron and one costing $3.20? Sadly the answer is yes. And the difference I would dare say is more than $2.40 worth. Not that I think $3.20 a macaron is worth it. But bear with me.

No one expected the lines at Ladurée to last forever but the fact that there's a line at all us somewhat of a miracle in this economic climate. There is a great article here about masspiration. And these macarons, like your LV bag and Rolex watch is an aspirational purchase. It makes you feel good inside to enjoy a little bit of "luxury". And if you look at it this way - $3.20 in exchange for say, 30 seconds of luxury? How do you price 30 seconds of bliss? (well, actually that would depend on the flavour but we'll come to that. ) but enough with the philosophical thoughts and let us get into the actual macaron comparo. I did want to include zumbos but there was no easy way for me to get them...

Even Laduree Macrons aren't perfect... But I'm nitpicking here...

Appearance wise the Ladurée macarons are much more consistent in look, feel and size. Although they are by no mean perfect. Some fillings are thicker on one side making the macaron look lopsided. Some crusts are also cracked but I suppose they've come a long way (from Switzerland) so that's to be expected. The colours are vibrant but I'm not sure if that's a good thing health wise. However the vibrant colours does make them look much more appealing.

The generic macarons. Much more inconsistent

The generic macarons are anything but consistent. You get a variety of sizes and thickness. You kinda wish they would pick out the thicker ones as you get more filling! The colours are softer as if they been through the wash once too many. Advertised as freshly baked on site but you'd be hard pressed to see the difference.

Side by side comparison between the Laduree and the generic

Taste really comes down to what you like as some flavours of the Ladurée macarons appealed less than others. But majority consensus seem to agree -salted caramel is da bomb. I didn't much care for the strawberry nor the chocolate but thoroughly enjoyed lemon, coffee and pistachio. The filling is amazing. Even more so when compared back to back to the generic macarons. The texture is smooth, thick and chewy, and tastes like what it says on the signs (as opposed to the generic ones which is more just a sugar hit with colouring. You can Jussssst taste what the flavour is but not much difference between the various flavours). The Ladurée crust also holds together better than the generic which tend to crumble with each bite.

Incidentally we passed by Pattison cafe and they were also selling macarons at $2.50 a pop. These are very close in quality to the Ladurée ones. Minus the fancy packaging. Which would run towards a dollar at least. From a layman's perspective the $2.50 Pattison ones are more than adequate. Plus they also make the all important salty caramel flavour.

Pattison special - 2 for $4. Not too bad at all

So it comes down to this. I wouldn't get the generic ones again. Ladurée and other name brands are just that- you're paying extra for the name. Or if you want to impress someone. I think you can easily get really good macarons freshly baked well in the $2 to $2.50 region. Practically speaking. But at the end of the day it's more than just simply the macarons. Isn't it?

Although the macarons by themselves are pretty good it's more about the whole experience in which you enjoy them. Eating by yourself next to a dumpster and they won't taste quite as nice as if you had great companions seated in a gorgeous cafe looking out into the sea with soft Spring breeze caressing your skin. It really is about the experience and that is something which cannot be priced. But it's yours for $19.95 plus tips.

The experience is priceless and that is ultimately what you're paying for. And that little bit of luxury escape before waking up to reality once again...

Ladurée on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bond 50th Anniversary - Christie's Charity Auction

Bondmania is well and truly alive.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Bond movie franchise, Christie's held a charity auction, offering up memorabilia from the Bond films from Dr No to the latest blockbuster Skyfall releasing this year.

Notable results from the auction? The Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean as worn by Craig Daniel in the movie Skyfall went under the hammer for a smidgeon over a quarter of a million dollars. (157,250 pounds) You might think this is a lot to pay for a second hand watch that just tells the time! Its hammer price is even higher than that for the BMW Z8 as featured in "The World Is Not Enough" (albeit a pre-production replica), which went for "only" 70,000 pounds.

The Omega Planet Ocean as worn by Daniel Craig in Skyfall - image from Christie's

However, if you read the fine prints, this particular Omega is a one-off (piece unique) made for the film, in titanium (regular production models are in stainless steel). So I guess this makes it a better value than that second hand piece worn in the movie Casino Royale, complete with dirt, which went for 250,000 CHF ($260,000) at the Antiquorum Omegamania auction a few years back... and it's only on a rubber strap...

The Omega Planet Ocean from the Antiquorum Omegamania - image from Antiquorum

If you want a piece of Bond timepiece, you have the choice of the Skyfall limited edition Planet Ocean, or the Bond 50th anniversay Seamaster Professional, or, if you just want the look without the Bond connotations, there are also regular Planet Oceans and Seamaster Professionals available at your local authorised Omega retailer...
Skyfall limited edition

Bond 50th Anniversary limited edition

James Bond was first issued the Omega Seamaster Professional Quartz in the movie Goldeneye. He then was upgraded to an automatic version in the subsequent missions. When Daniel Craig took over Bond duties for Casino Royale, he wore both the Omega Seamaster Professional and the Planet Ocean. In his latest assignment Skyfall he upgraded to the latest Planet Ocean model powered by the Omega's inhouse movement calibre 8500.

1st Omega Bond watch - screencap from Goldeneye