Friday, May 31, 2013

Top 10 Reasonably Priced watches from Baselworld 2013

You would've already seen/read quite a number of "top 10" lists from Baselworld 2013. But the problem with these lists is that they're quite often without rhyme or reason. Put all the watches on the dartboard and you too can come up with a similar top ten list.

This is why you've come to the Sydney tarts. I didn't put together a top ten list earlier (even though I could have) to cash in on the rush, but then there would be no point. I wanted to think through the choices, not not just most hyped/popular pieces. I didn't want to do a list just because. The list need to serve a purpose.

Granted the list is not exhaustive as Baselworld is massively huge and since I'm not there personally I can only rely on press releases and coverage from people who have made the trek. But out of all that I've seen, I believe these are the best 10 watches from Baselworld this year that are affordable. Relatively speaking. It's easy to cram in ten dozen complications into a watch and charge six figures for it. The problem is that most of us will never ever see them in the flesh let along truly appreciate them as they should be appreciated. Ie, strapped to the wrist. I believe that it is much more difficult to make a truly desirable watch at an affordable price point.

For this top ten list I have set a price ceiling of $5000 as this seems to be the upper limit of what a "reasonable" person will be willing to spend on a good watch. However, majority of the watches on the list cost much less. I've tried to find pricing info for all the watches. Where pricing is not available I've done my best to guesstimate. The list is not in any order.

1. Tissot Luxury Automatic
USD850 on strap, USD895 on bracelet

Beautifully designed. Simple and elegant. With an in-group movement to boot (I say in-group as the Powermatic 80 movement is also used in Certina watches) this Tissot is extremely great value for money. Gorgeous case work, stunning dial, this dress watch delivers in spades. The 80 hour power reserve is very practical, as you can take it off Friday evening after work, and it'll still be running when it goes back on your wrist Monday morning. At 41mm in diametre it is quite wearable and as usual, for an extra $45, get the bracelet variant then stick the watch on a strap if you feel like it to give it that extra dressy look/feel. This watch makes the Fossil way overpriced...

2.Frederique Constant Slimline Moonphase
From 2650 Euro

We've already raved about the watch here. Not much else to add, really. Just a really really beautiful watch with an in-house movement at a great, great price. It's definitely on my shopping list.

3. Mondaine Vintage II Automatic
950 CHF

The classic Swiss railway watch, with a great automatic movement (ETA 2892-A2) at a great price. This is for all those movement snobs who just can't bring themselves to getting the quartz version of the classic Mondaine. But you might have to be quick as these are limited to only 500 pieces worldwide.

4. Hamilton Khaki Pilot Pioneer Automatic Chronograph
USD 1845

Good thing about Hamilton with the might of the swatchgroup behind them is that they are able to offer brilliant watches for very low outlay. I think ETA is also doing more customising for each of the brands within the swatchgroup now that they don't have to produce massive amounts of movements for the rest of the Swiss watch industry. This watch gets a modified Valjoux 7753 to a bi-compax layout and an increased 60-hour power reserve. It's a very well done modernisation of a classic 70s Khaki pilot with the case size updated to a still-versatile 41mm. One small gripe. WHY THE DATE WINDOW???

5. Mühle-Glashütte Teutonia II Tag Datum
From 1790 Euro

This is another clean, simple and elegant dress watch, and great for someone who wants something outside the Swiss Made repertoire. Perfectly symmetrical and balanced dial with day at 12 and date at 6 and powered by a Sellita movement (which is, ahem, Swiss). At least the name is a mouthful, and passer-bys wouldn't have a clue what it is. And that is exactly what you want. Otherwise you would have gone for the Tissot...

6. Alpina 130 Heritage Chrono
Guesstimate $3000

A lot of brands are celebrating anniversaries this year eh? Swatch is 30, Alpina is 130, Tissot is 160, Jaeger-LeCoultre is 180... Anyway I digress. Again, this is another watch we raved about. The more I look at it the more in love I am with the watch. Just goes to show you can make a fantastic looking watch with a great movement (looks like a modded Valjoux 7753) for not a lot of money. And many brands from Basel are doing just that- great value for money is definitely another trend we're seeing.

7. Sinn T1/T2
Approx. 3000 CHF

The ultimate tool watch. The weapon of choice for those of you whom the watch is actually used than babied. This is definitely not a safe queen since that would be just a waste. You can read the in-depth here on Horologium, but the two watches are essentially the same, just differ in their sizes, and you can choose from a leather strap, rubber strap or a bracelet. Extremely legible, by day or by night, and the updated case also makes it much more comfortable on the wrist.

8. Maurice Lacroix Pontos S Diver
2900 CHF

Maurice Lacroix is a highly underrated watch brand and they deserve to be more noticed. This watch could do the trick. It is a proper diver's watch with a compressor case, similar to the style used by Longines in their Legend Diver. Comes with an internal rotating bezel as well as a helium escape valve. Although how often desk divers uses this is up for debate. This is another watch with a very clean dial, the date at 6 makes it more symmetrical, although I would've preferred a white on black date wheel. Powered by a Sellita movement (ETA 2824 clone) it's bound to be highly reliable, and can be had on a soft nato style leather strap or a bracelet.

9. Bell & Ross 123 Sport Vintage
Guesstimate $2800

The 123 Sport Heritage is the one on the left
That's right Bell & Ross makes watches other than those funky square cockpit instrument watches. Even if that's what they're known for these days. The 123 Sport Vintage is a welcome addition to the range, complete with a vintage look/style. It pays homage to the sports watch style of the 60s and I think they've done a brilliant job. Yes there is a date window but at least it's quite subtle, so I don't mind it and it doesn't detract from an otherwise clean dial with great legibility. Instant classic powered by the venerable ETA 2892 movement. There is also a limited edition "Falcon" version of said watch named after the Dassault Aviation model. Based on the pricing of the B&R 123 Original, I'm going to take a stab in the dark and guess the Sport Vintage will retail around about $2800

10. Tudor Heritage Chrono Blue
4200 CHF

The final piece on this list is also the most expensive. Even then it's still a relative bargain. I actually prefer the blue version from this year over the previous black/grey/orange version from a few years back. Partly because I don't have a blue themed watch, but I also think it looks cleaner. The quality should match the previous model, meaning it's very well made. Movement is an ETA 2892 with a chrono module, but you wouldn't pick it from the outside as the pushers and the crown lines up perfectly (module chrono movements tend to have the pushers on a different plane to the crown as the module sits on top). I believe this movement is exclusive to Tudor. And yes, I'm going to mention the dial and date window position. It's perfect. The dial is extremely clean (especially when compared to its big brother's tendency to write paragraphs on the dial, and the repetition of the name in case you forget...)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Formula 1 and Watches Update! 2013

F1 and watches update!

Information are current as of Monaco GP 2013

Since our last post on the relationship between F1 and watches, quite a bit have changed. So just to offer an update, here are where things stand. So, if it's not mentioned here it'll be business as usual as per our previous post.

The most obvious and noticed change for 2013 is Rolex taking over the Formula 1 official timing partner role from Hublot. Hublot of course stays on as partners to Ferrari.

After being dropped or dropping TW Steel, Lotus has now picked up Richard Mille (quite an upgrade, in fact) from the Spanish GP onwards. Richard Mille already provides watches for Massa and the president of the FIA - Jean Todt. So, it's only natural that they also stick their name on the nose of a racing team. However, this deal doesn't seem to extend to drivers as Romain Grojean still wears a TAG Heuer, and Kimi seems to remain watch-less for now...

Richard Mille's Jean Todt Limited Edition
TW Steel had jumped ship over to Force India at the beginning of the year. So it's the first time that Force India has an official watch partner. Perhaps our post had something to do with it??

However, an interesting thought had occurred. TW Steel picked up Lotus (back when it was Renault) right after the spygate scandal and they've now become a force to be reckoned with. Force India is now doing quite well with TW Steel stickers on the car. Perhaps these boys are some sort of a good luck charm to the team? Maybe Caterham should consider getting TW Steel on side?

The IWC and Mecedes GP partnership was mentioned before as IWC launched a complete range of Ingenieur watches at SIHH 2013. But rather than being a watch partner, they're actually an "engineering" partner. However, starting from the Monaco Gran Prix, both drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton will become "Friends of the Brand". This is quite the step up for both pilots, Nico from Thomas Sabo and Lewis from TAG Heuer. They were both given the Big Pilot's Watch to wear as they are both, err, pilots... Team pricipal Ross Brawn can be seen wearing one of the new Ingenieurs.

After losing Lewis to IWC, TAG Heuer picks up Sergio Perez as he partners Jenson Button at McLaren, and as we all know all McLaren drivers automatically becomes ambassadors for TAG Heuer.

Caterham did partner with watch brand BRM from the beginning of 2012 (How I missed this I have no idea, and no one seemed to have picked it up!!) and I'm assuming this continues into 2013 as BRM website currently has the Caterham F1 limited edition watches on their website.

Torro Rosso drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Verne still doesn't have any watch sponsorship...

Everything else remains the same for the time being.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Aston Martin's Centenary Celebration models from Jaeger-LeCoultre

The partnership between Aston Martin and Jaeger-LeCoultre isn't just another cynical marketing exercise. the partnership in fact, began way back in the 20s when Jaeger made speedometres and dashboard instruments for a number of racing cars, including Bamford and Martin (what Aston Martin were known as until 1926).

Edmond Jaeger and Antoine LeCoultre actually met in 1907 when Mr Jaeger challenged Mr LeCoultre to make an ultra thin movement that he had designed. The brand Jaeger-LeCoultre officially came to being in 1937. Before then Jaeger focused on mainly producing various instruments.

Aston Martin and Jaeger-LeCoultre renewed the partnership in 2004, with a specific product line named "AMVOX" which could be taken to mean, "the voice of Aston Martin". The first model, Amvox Alarm, featured dial styling inspired by the dashboard instrument and was an instant success. The Amvox 2 chronograph brought a completely new interpretation on the chronograph function. Rather than having pushers on the side of the case, instead the activation is via pressing the crystal at 12 and 6:00 positions, where the case itself would 'tilt' to engage/disengage the chronograph. We reviewed the Amvox 2 here

For 2013, they've launched 3 timepieces to celebrate both Aston Marin's 100th anniversary. I wouldn't say new as none of the watches are completely new. Improved might be a better term, but I'm NOT going down the "new and improved" route.

First up is a new version of the Amvox 5 World Chrono, in the fancy "cermet" case which is made of a mixture of ceramic and aluminium, coated by more ceramic, making it lighter and stronger than titanium. (extremely scratch resistant and supposedly won't break if you drop it). The dial is very clean and legible and has all the usual Amvox design and style cues. The Amvox5 is a limited edition of 500.

The next two pieces are not from the Amvox line, but have been given enough of a facelift to have a new lease of life as Aston Martin co-branded watches. Personally I am very impressed with the Aston Martin version of the Master Hometime. As you might have realised JLC's Master range is generally produced with a silvery dial for steel pieces and either silvery or beige dial for gold. Black is reserved for limited series or the sportier watch range. But this new Hometime is certainly a home run. A minor re-shuffle of the date window to the 6:00 position and adding the "3" at 3:00, brings perfect symmetry to the dial. The AM badging is very subtle and the polished/brushed finish of the case is very refreshing. The red tip on the skeletonised second timezone hour hand is a welcome touch, and all in all just a very classy looking watch.

The Extreme World Alarm is limited to 100 pieces, and has a special case back engraving commemorating the 100th anniversary of Aston Martin. Apart from the case back, the dial has again very subtle badging - the logo placed on the cities dial where GMT (London) is. The dial itself is inspired by the grille of the car but other than that not much more to differentiate this from the regular production World Alarm.

To celebrate the centenary, Aston Martin is producing a special edition of the Vanquish, limited to 100 cars. The Vanquish Centenary edition features a special graduated paint finish that takes 50 hours to apply, sterling silver badges and door sill plates and glass keys (instead of acrylic).

The British car maker has also built a special one-off car called the CC100 Speedster Concept, with the styling paying homage to the legendary Aston Martin DBR1 race car from the 50s, while also offering a clue to future styling from the brand.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Baselworld 2013 - Fossil Swiss Line Automatic

Fossil watches. It's not really the type of watch one associates with watch collecting. However, if you have a look at their designs, they are quite classy and on point. Better than some of the more established watch brands. The designs are so good in fact that many of them sell out. That's right. Sell.Out. Of course, there is also the argument that they're a fashion brand so they aren't going to produce a lot of something if it's just going to be out of fashion next season. Well, yeah, but stick with me.

Many of their designs are based on proven yester-year styles and of course, the whole 'vintage' look these days is always in. However, up until quite recently, they've only dabbled in the value-oriented, quartz powered watch category. No longer.

At Baselworld they presented the Swiss powered range. And true to their design language the first model off the rank is a classic looking watch, simple time only with date, (with the date wheel colour matching the dial!) clean and no-nonsense with choice of strap or bracelet. At 38mm in diameter it might be considered on the small side in today's size-obsessed world, but 38mm is quite easy to pull off and it is a very versatile size. There's really nothing to not like about the watch, apart from maybe the price, starting at US$895.

The only problem is that people may not be willing to spend that kind of money on a Fossil branded watch, even if it has higher Swiss made quality. Ah, the joys of trying to take a brand upmarket! However, a realistic 'street' price could bring it down to around the $5-600 mark would make it a lot more reasonable, but we shall see how they go.

Movement is the Swiss automatic STP caliber 1-11 with 26 jewels, 28,800 vph and a power reserve of 46 hours. (Yeah I don't know them either, but going off the images the movement looks like an ETA2824 clone)

I believe that there are talks regarding the quality being not quite up to scratch for a supposedly Swiss made product, so perhaps a proper hands-on experience is needed to better judge the product.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Baselworld 2013 - Moonphase trend continues...

We mentioned a trend that was happening during SIHH this year in January - the triple date moonphase trend, and this continues on in Basel with Vulcain AND Maurice Lacroix both releasing a triple date moonphase in the classic layout (ie day and month just under 12:00 and moonphase at 6:00).

Vulcain 50s President's Moonphase have certain done a very good job with it, and personally am very happy to see the slate/anthracite grey dial used on a stainless steel entry level model. The movement is ETA based, with a calendar/moonphase module stacked on top. Given the price range of the Vulcain range, I wouldn't expect the RRP to be all that unreasonable. At 42mm this is quite wearable, and definitely plays well above its price grade. The difficult part would be to actually find one to look at and try on in Oz. Unless you're willing to buy sight unseen... The 42mm case can be had in rose gold or stainless steel, with sapphire crystal front and back, powered by an automatic Vulcain caliber V-58 (base ETA).

Maurice Lacroix's Masterpiece Tradition Phases de Lune offering is also quite conservative and traditional in appearance, however, you do have your choice of colour combinations and bracelet/leather straps. The stainless steel case is 40mm in diametre, with sapphire crystal front and back, 50m water resistant, powered by ML Calibre 367 (base ETA). The dial can be had with guilloche finishing or lacquered mirror finish.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Baselworld 2013 - A Tale Of Two Squelettes

If you're after a skeleton watch, with a diametre of 43mm, powered by a 17 jewel, 18,000vph manual wind movement with a power reserve of around about 45 hours, well, you're in luck! At Baselworld 2013, you have 2 to choose from, depending on the thickness of your wallet. It's been a right royal pain to find pricing information this early on, so I am taking educated guesstimates on them.

Maurice Lacroix
First up, we have an offering from Maurice Lacroix - The Masterpiece Squelette Manual Wind. This is based on the ETA6497 movement, but re-branded to caliber ML134. The skeletonisation is beautifully done, and featuring grand colimaçon (spiraled) decoration and sandblasting on the main bridge, in black or rose gold PVD execution. If the price for previous skeleton watches from ML are any indication, I'd hazard a guess and call this at around the $8000 mark.

Maurice Lacroix
If that's too  much to swallow, how about this offering from Tissot, The T-Complication Squelette? Obviously the finishing is not as nicely done as the ML, but the Tissot does have that industrial feel to it, and I'm sure that will appeal to some more than the fancier ML finishing. Exactly the same basic movement, so I guess some of that extra $$$ could be allocated to the finishing work done on the movement (Labour intensive = more $$$) I'm going to guesstimate the Tissot at around $2000. Not bad for one quarter the price of the ML. Not bad at all.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Cartier's Jaeger-LeCoultre Duoplan Powered Watches - Antiquorum

This Cartier watch lot from the upcoming Antiquorum auction was brought to my attention courtesy of @horologium. It's an interesting lot seeing as you get a whole brief case of nice vintage Cartiers in one hit, most of which will most like need to be sent back to the service centre for a bit of TLC. The James Bond attache case is a nice touch.

Image from Antiquorum- Click on image to expand. The duoplan ones would be the rectangular shaped watches

What really caught my attention was the barely legible text engraved on the plate above each watch to identify it. I managed to make out the word "Duoplan" which struck a chord... what chord???

Well, back in the early 20s, Jaeger-LeCoultre came up with a radical method to shrink the watch movement in a quest to make everything smaller. They came up with the idea of putting the movement on 2 levels, so it's shaped like a brick, but by doing so shrinking the overall size and a brick shaped movement lent itself quite well to bracelet like jewellery watches. The name is literally that- Duoplan.

The Duoplan quickly evolved into the smallest mechanical movement ever made- the Calibre 101. One of the most famous watches made with this watch was the one worn by Queen Elizabeth II during her coronation back in 1953. The Calibre 101 consists of 98 parts, measuring 4.85mm by 14mm and weighs a massive 1 gram(!)

Watches with calibre 101 are still being produced today by Jaeger-LeCoultre, but the Duoplan is not. This might be quite the pick up if only for the Duoplan watches that aren't made by Jaeger-LeCoultre.

Calibre 101 fitted into a Reverso case
The auction is this Sunday, May 12th in Geneva, and the Cartier watches set is lot 340.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Baselworld 2013 - Alpina Startimer Pilot Chrono Big Date

If you loved the aesthetics of IWC's 2012 release Top Gun Miramar pilot's watch, but cannot stump up enough greens for this green machine? Fear not! Alpina has heard your cried and brought their own versions to the Danger Zone. It features a choice of subdued military colour scheme, for (I'm guessing) 2 less zeros in the price tag.

IWC Top Gun Miramar Chrono

Bear in mind that the Alpina range is quartz powered, but then again, when you're in a rush to feel the need for speed, who has time to wind their watch up before blasting past Mach 4? But just because it's quartz doesn't mean it's not a good watch. You still get high quality 44mm case in steel or PVD coated, AR coated sapphire crystal and a highly legible and balanced dial. Don't be such a movement snob. In life, we can at times do without the added complication. But if you must be a movement snob, There's always the Startimer automatic. You just have to go without the military styling. Or hope that Alpina makes one sometime down the track.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Baselworld 2013 - Bell & Ross WW1 Regulateur

I've always had a thing for regulator style watches. Never managed to get one, mind you, but it remains high on the shopping list. (A very long list with constantly changing priorities...) Unfortunately the state of my current watch budget means I'll need to let this gem slide as well. Unless B&R makes one in steel? Pretty please? I mean sure, the steel version won't exude the same elegance as this pink gold version, but the lack of budget is really more of a personal issue than anything else...

This a very classical looking watch, and even though B&R is probably best known at the moment for their flight instrument inspired watches, (that'll be the square cased ones) they also make some very elegant vintage style watches.

I'm loving the simplicity of the design. Round case, 'wire' lugs, and just simple black lines for indicies. I hate to say this but the placement of the brand at 3:00 kind of ruins the balance of the dial. I understand fully that the product needs to be branded, but I'm sure there's a way to do it subtly, and would also prefer if they also had a circle around the seconds display, just to make it even more symmetrical.

Those little gripes aside, it is still a great looking watch with beautifully blued hands and running an exclusive movement from Dubois-Depraz. At 42mm in diametre this might be erring on the side of "too big for dress watches" for dress watch purists, but I think the size is just right. Plus it's limited to only 99 pieces I'm sure they'll sell every single piece the make. So it might be a good idea to register your expression of interest with your favourite B&R AD ASAP...