Monday, July 15, 2013

Watch Styling Musings...

Look I'm not picking on Omega and Longines. The watches differ enough for people not to confuse one with the other. But, it’s a bit of a sad to see such similar styling cues from brands releasing models so close together. It’s as if they don’t bother any more. Granted you might say that what else is there to given the restrictive amount of space and the basic need to tell the time, without going all fancy and weird like Tokyo Flash?

I think there is still quite a large scope for watch designers (and *ahem* movement designers/engineers) to come up with something that is distinctive and unique. Even if an off-the-shelf movement is used, there are still numerous creative ways to design the dial, the case and the way the time is indicated (notice I didn't use the term ‘hands’). Even the most seemingly minute detail could make a world of difference. One example would be the wave pattern Omega used to have on the dial of the Seamaster range. That was distinctive. I loved that dial. Then they went and made it anonymous.

Another good example was the Panerai tapestry decoration on the movement. It was distinctive and made a generic movement look much less generic. Then it was changed to Geneva stripe, whilst still nice looking, did away with the personality.

As much as the world would like to think otherwise, and the watch industry is guilty of this as well, luxury watches aren't really fashion items. That’s what the “fashion watch” segment is for. They should be viewed more as style icons. Icons last over time. Fashion doesn't. If a watch is built to last and to be passed down through generations, then perhaps best not to design it in a way that it'll look out of date come next Spring, and something the next generation would baulk at?

Ah, but how to design something distinctive with a unique personality, at the same time classic and timeless? I'm just a blogger what do I know? No one said being a designer is easy. Or, the tried and tested method- dig into the company archives and see what can be plagiarised from the past… Just make sure it’s your own company and not someone else’s? Even if companies happen to be under the same group umbrella…

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Pilot Watch Worldtimer Showdown!

Recently we received a letter from one of our readers*. It says, "Dear Sydney Tart, I'm a pilot and I travel the world. What can you suggest in the form of a pilot watch with world time zone functions? "

Well Mr Pilot, I'm very glad you asked that question because we have found not one, but 4 watches that are right up your alley, at different price points, so you're covered if you work for Jetstar or Emirates or you fly your own Cessna. Let's explore further.

For starters, as a criteria, all watches features the pilot watch style, along with a world time zone function. All watches in this list shows the cities from the 24 time zones around the edge of the dial, with day/night indicators. Most of the representative city names for the time zones are the same, with some minor differences here and there. One of the watches runs a manually wound movement whilst the other three are automatic. One runs a heavily modified ETA movement, the others are manufacture in-house movements. Two of the watches features no additional functions apart from date, while the other two adds the alarm function, and one goes further with a chronograph built in as well. It's up to you whether you feel you need the additional functions or you're happy with time and date. Two of the watches also feature daylight saving indications, whereas the other two you'll have to add/subtract an hour yourself. You also need to note that none of these watches show half-hour time zones, so if you're based in New Delhi or Adelaide, ahem...

This quartet of watches not only covers a fairly broad price range, they also cover a range of sizes, from 42mm to 46mm. Some will wear larger/smaller than others so as always, we recommend that you try the watches on if you can. As worldtimers, you're not going to have a clean dial, Although one brand does it quite well. All the other have fairly busy dials. Hopefully this will give you a good idea of what's available, and depending on you needs and wants and thickness of your wallet, you can't go wrong with any of them. But, we do have our pick, which we will reveal after the specs for each model.

Alpina Startimer Pilot Worldtimer

Movement: Automatic caliber AL-718, 
48 hour power reserve
Case Diametre: 44mm
Water resistant: 100m
Limited Edition: 8888 pieces
Price: USD3,450

IWC Pilot's Watch Worldtimer

Movement: Automatic Caliber 30750, 
42 hour power reserve
Case Diametre: 45mm
Water resistance: 60 meters
Price: USD9,650

Vulcain Aviator GMT

Movement: Mechanical manually-wound Manufacture Vulcain Calibre V-10,
42 hour power reserve with alarm function.
Alarm Duration: Approx. 20 seconds
Case Diametre: 42mm
Case-back: triple case-back acting as a resonance chamber 
Water resistant: 100m
Price: USD5,525

Zenith Pilot Doublematic

Movement: El Primero 4046, automatic, 50h power reserve, 36.600 A/h, big date, chronograph, World Time, alarm
Case Diametre: 45mm 
water resistant: 50m
Price: USD14,200

Our pick of the bunch would have to be the Zenith. Yes it is the most expensive watch here but to us it is also the best value for money, given all the included complications. 

*the reader and/or the letter may or may not be fictional. Juz sayin'

Friday, July 5, 2013

Espace Horloger- Great Watchmaking Museum in the Vallée de Joux

Espace Horloger - Vallée de Joux
Grand-Rue 2
1347 Le Sentier
T. +41 21 845 75 45

As a reader of this blog I'm sure you already know that in the Vallée de Joux  there lives a number of high end watchmaking manufactures. Audemars Piguet, Blancpain, Breguet and Jaeger-LeCoultre just to name a few. There are also numerous smaller maisons such as Daniel Roth, movement manufactures such as Dubois Depraz, and a number of parts makers such as Francois Golay. What you may not know is that there is also a very nice little watchmaking museum up in the mountains - Espace Horloger, believe it or not. And it's only a short stroll from Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre.

This was a surprising little gem, and apart from a permanent exhibition on watchmaking and the history of, there is also a section of temporary exhibition which as the name suggests, changes from time to time. The tour guide is well versed in multiple languages, is extremely knowledgeable and very humorous to boot. The building that houses the museum used to be a 'maison' for watchmaking and on the top floor, a section is preserved from back in the days when watchmaking activities were the norm. You get a first hand view on how things were like 200 years ago.

However, don't assume that just because there are a lot of history in the museum, it's all... well... historical. It also utilises some of the fanciest 21st century technology. Ok, the first one, a 3D movie about watchmaking in the Vallée de Joux isn't exactly breathtakingly high tech these days, but the next bit of technology comes almost straight out of the movie Minority Report. You have a huge touch screen table, with a number of 'discs' on the side. Place the disc on the touch screen and it comes alive, with a touch menu extending out of the disc and onto the screen. Choose from the menu and it takes you through a journey right there in front of you. Move the disc and the whole thing moves with it. Personally I didn't think this sort of technology was available to the public! There are also watchmaking lessons on the big touch screen, where you can 'virtually' build your own watch, then email the final product to yourself.

At the moment the temporary exhibition is all about the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, and on exhibition is the extremely rare and sought after Royal Oak A series, amongst others. Over on the more permanent exhibition, there are items ranging from clocks, animatrons, watchmaking tools including an example of the millionometre as invented by Antoine LeCoultre, and various watches on display. I won't spoil it for you. The images here are just a small sample of what's on show. It is a definite must for all watch enthusiasts. Especially if you're already making the trek up the gorgeous sweeping mountain passes (no need for an Aston Martin, a Golf will do nicely) to the Vallée de Joux to visit the various Manufactures.

Oh, and if you prefer to read the old fashioned (proper) way, they also have a ton of various watch literature for sale.

Thanks to my contact in the Vallée de Joux for the images and the heads-up on this place!