Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Ewing 33 Hi White Gum - Lace Swap

Starting today we are bring you the first of a series of posts that focuses not on watches, but rather on sneakers. All of the tarts have other hobbies and addictions outside of watches, and the same sort of addiction (ahem appreciation) applies. Even when it comes to changing the looks. We all know that simply changing the straps on the watch will sometimes alter the look dramatically, and in those times when the wallet/finances just won't allow for a completely change in watch, changing the strap will more often than not give you the feeling of a brand new watch. This method also works with sneakers with just a simple swap of the laces.

Of course a lace swap won't work with every single pair of sneakers and sometimes swapping laces could do more damage than not to the overall aesthetics. Some sneakers these days come with more than one set of laces that enables you to swap them out at your leisure. What I've found is that overall lace choices straight out of the design studios are quite conservative. They're usually tonal to the main colourway of the sneakers and sometimes a contrasting lace colour, or even keeping it in the theme but using a lesser featured colourway from the sneakers does wonders.

The first pair to be featured in the lace swap series was not the first pair that was subjected to the swap, but it was probably one that benefited the most from it, and a pair that was only purchased with the view to swapping out the laces immediately as the effect was quite dramatic after a quick photoshop of images found on the web.

The kicks: Ewing 33 Hi White Gum (2013 Retro)

I've had fond memories of Ewing shoes, as I had them back in high school. Although they were a second choice to my first wish of Jordans. Of course, at the time parents will not and did not fork out the sort of money charged by Jordans for a pair of sneakers so I went with Ewings with similar looks. When Ewings came back, I wasn't too keen on them in the first place, but when they released the Georgetown colourway (navy blue/grey) I was smitten, and given pricing was very reasonable (compared to Jordans) I bought a pair, and could not get over how comfortable they are! I mean, sure, I'm not going to wear them playing basketball, but they were great for casual wear, and offers a  good point of difference to the plethora of Jordans/Nikes out there on the streets.
Lace swap with mustard coloured laces to match the gum sole
Navy laces to give it a bit more contrast

The 33 Hi was the first "in-house" design Ewings (The very first Ewings were pre-existing designs with "Patrick Ewing" slapped on them). The design is very much of the day- huge and chunky with a massively fat tongue. As I mentioned before, the price point was reasonable, and you do get a lot of shoes for your money. However, not all Ewing Retros were created the same. The Georgetown 33 Hi I had were made much better than the White Gum version. In particular the "panel gap" was quite shocking. Didn't line up. Some stitching were off too, and good thing this pair only had gum soles. Some of the other versions where there were colours painted on, they couldn't even keep within the lines! It almost felt as if after the successful relaunch of the brand they rushed to get more shoes out into the market and as a consequence, quality suffered.

Here you can see the panels aren't even cut straight, and there seems to be stitching mistakes
Here the stitching isn't tidied up, and again, what looks like stitching mistakes

In terms of fitting the 33 Hi is made very big. I find the "true to size" a misnomer. All the shoes fit quite differently, and as always, would recommend trying on the shoes for yourself, rather than relying on "true to size" on websites. For me personally, the 33 Hi I'm a US size 11, with plenty of toe wriggling room. As a comparison, I'm a size 11.5 in Air Force 1, and size 12 in Jordan CP3.VI.

The lace swap:

The Ewing 33 Hi White gum originally comes with white straps, making the shoe all white with the exception of the gum sole, and a bit of white painted area on the mid sole. To me, due to the way the mid sole is designed, there are chunky sections of gum, and to me that looked a little weird compared to the all-white top. It needed something to balance it out, and the mustard colour laces off the Ewing Guard was chosen to match the gum sole, giving it a bit more balance colour-wise. Dark navy laces were also trialled for a bigger contrast, and I find myself undecided between the two. For the time being it's on the mustard colour to match #OOTD but I reckon the navy might go on at some point, and I'd also like to try red laces, since white goes with everything.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Swatch SISTEM51 Disposable Mechanical Watch Available Now

Am I the only one who get the feeling that Swatch is pulling our legs on this one? Don't get me wrong. Personally, I love Swatch watches. I have quite a few. But this SISTEM51 model does my head in. Have a good, long, hard, think about it. This is in plastic. Completely assembled by robots and it's sealed. You can't service this watch. What is the point of a throw-away automatic watch? Isn't the whole mechanical thing about longevity and serviceability and craftsmanship?

For my dollar, if they made it completely serviceable, with a capped price servicing at say, $50, and at 10-year service intervals, then for me that will be true progress and much, much more revolutionary.

Right now for around the same money (CHF150) you can get a stainless steel Swatch, no less, with an automatic movement that CAN be accessed and serviced for around about the same price as these. Yes I realise that the design/manufacturing process is a major revolution, but really. Ask yourself what you really want out of a mechanical watch. Because with this model, the romance of that "ye olde world" hand-assembled watch is well and truly dead.

If you must have one- they're exclusively available in Swatch stores in Switzerland for now.

read more here

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Quick Look: Seven Friday

The watches of SevenFriday caught our eyes early on and we decided to feature them in our guide to the top ten Swiss/German mechanical watches under $1000, even though the watches aren't made in Switzerland or Germany (although the company is based in Zurich). That's how much we liked the watches. And finally, just on a year later, we were able to get our dirt mitts on these beauties and finally confirm that yes they do look as good as they did on screen. Better, in fact.

This is a great case study in how to increase brand recognition with zero or near-zero marketing budget. Have a search for SevenFriday on Instagram and you'll know what I mean. It has a massive cult (oxymoron?) following and it does help that the watch design is very distinctive and lends itself well to photos. And although the watch runs a humble miyota movement, the watches speaks to an extremely broad audience, including high rollers who frequently showcase their SevenFridays on Instagram alongside watches easily ten times the price.

The growth and popularity of the brand took everyone by surprise. Even the people that created the brand. (Although I'm sure they had some inkling that they were onto a good thing, as the internet tells us the people behind the brand have plenty of experience in the watch industry.) So I think it's more the speed of the growth, given the brand only came about in May 2012. And they did it without throwing money at it. I really cannot emphasise this point enough!

Now onto the watch. The whole design philosophy is industrial. So the watch looks industrial, the case is an industrial packing crate, but the finishing of the watch is anything but industrial. Pick up the watch and you immediate notice the sort of heft usually associated with a Panerai and the matte/polished finish of the case is superb, easily comparible to the Swiss cases at higher price brackets. I did find it a little difficult to tell the time but no doubt that will come with familiarity. It's a big watch, but due to the lack of lugs (straps attached directly to the case) it wears smaller, meaning more people can pull it off. In fact, on the wrist it feels like a 44mm watch as opposed to the actual 47mm.

One thing I found disappointing is the quality of the straps, which looked and felt cheap. However, this is not a big issue, as you can now find custom made straps just for the SevenFriday! This goes to show how popular the brand has become. You know you've made it when someone makes custom straps to fit your watch!

No thanks to the exchange rate, they're now priced from $1195 for the P1/1 in Aussie Dollars (just above if you claim your tax back), but they're still a bargain and the fact that you can pick one up here locally makes it that much more desirable. The watch comes in a variety of finishing and colours, but my personal favourite is still the original P1 model. Mated to a dark brown distressed thick calf strap and it'll be perfect.

At the time of the quick viewing SevenFriday were looking to start distribution in Australia, and they are now in stores! Check out Gregory Jewellers to see where you can get your hands on one of these.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Quest For Thinness - Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P Pre-SIHH 2014

There is a bit of sibling rivalry goin' on over at Richemont, and rivalry is good! We're talking about the battle to be the thinnest. And what a battle it's been!

First up we had Vacheron Constantin, producing the Historique Ultra Fine 1955 back in 2010, the thinnest mechanical watch at the time, at 4.1mm. Then Jaeger-LeCoultre, being the Manufacture that they are, said, "Oh no you didn't" and released the Master Ultra Thin Jubilee at 4.05mm in 2013, as part of a collection to celebrate their 180th anniversary. Piaget was having none of it. Master of the ultra thin, holder of a dozen ultra-thin records, scoffs, and tells her sisters straight up, "You're doing it wrong! You can't do ultra-thin without thinking outside the 'case'! Step aside. THIS is how you do Ultra Thin."

Vacheron Constantin Historique Ultra Fine 1955
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Jubilee

The Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P

So, instead of going the traditional route of case-glass-hands-dial-movement-case, each adding precious tenths of millimetres to the height, Piaget revolutionised watchmaking by *ahem* taking a page out of Swatch's Skin design book and "combined" all these separate components into one amazing anorexic mash-up. Swatch did this with their "skin" range, which is essentially a one-piece construction. But it's all too easy making ultra-thin quartz watches isn't it? (Swatch's Skin watches measures 3.9mm thin for those of you playing at home)

Swatch Skin
So this is what Piaget ended up doing. The case back of the watch now acts as the base plate of the movement, and because of that, the way the movement is fit together had to be reversed, hence the balance and the gear trains on the dial side. They've also decided to forgo the dial, and instead, have the hands set directly into a slightly recessed part of the movement, meaning there is less clearance needed, and more tenths of millimetres saved. Not only that, any part that can be shaved is shaved. Wheels that are usually at 0.2mm thick is shaved down to 0.12mm. All this brings the whole watch down to a mere 3.65mm, completely decimating the competition like Sebastian Vettel in F1, and wrestling back what is rightfully Piaget's: the crown of the thinnest mechanical watch ever made. (I mean, come on! I have straps that are thicker than this watch...)

Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P

Unlike the competition, Piaget didn't feel the need to emphasise thinness in the naming of the watch. I guess it's just expected that the watch will be ultra thin, which is what the whole range of the Altiplano watches are. In an era when skyscraper architects are adding taller useless decorative bits in order to boost the total height of the building, it is very refreshing to see designers shaving millimetres (and still having the whole thing actually working) in a quest for the ultimate thinness.

There is one concern however. Given how thin it is, and that the case back acts as the base plate of the movement, it remains to be seen how structurally sound the watch is, especially in white gold, and whether it'll be a fragile watch...

Long live sibling rivalry!

**Just in case you're wondering, the world's thinnest watch is the CST-01, a 0.80mm thin flexible wristwatch with an E Ink display housed in a single piece of stainless steel.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Top 10 Best Swiss/German Mechanical/Automatic watches under $1000 UPDATE: 2013

It's been just over a year since our first top 10 Swiss/German mechanical/automatic watches under $1000 was published and the response was overwhelming! We had no idea so many people were interested in high quality mechanical watches under $1000 and that this figure seemed to have really struck a chord. So one year one, we have decided to come up with an updated list of our top 10 Swiss/German mechanical/automatic watches under $1000.

A number of things have changed. firstly, the AUD isn't where it used to be. This meant a couple of watches that were under are now over, so they were excluded. There were also a few watches that people felt weren't really properly Swiss or German, so this year, we have stricter rules and definitions. To be included in this year's list, the watch MUST have either "Swiss Made" or "Made In Germany" on the dial.

German watches again takes up 50% of the slots, but not only that, the watches are so well priced that you could almost buy 2 for $1000. Funnily enough all of the German watches runs Swiss movements! And on with the list:

Steinhart Le Mans GT Automatic - 412 Euro (excl. VAT)

For this year I have chosen Le Mans GT automatic, as it is another of their in-house designs. It's pretty darn obvious from the name and the style what they were going for in this watch. For the price you get an elaboree grade ETA2824-2 movement, and amazing dial detailing AND case detailing. (Spoke of the alloy wheel on the dial, case is the tyre, with tyre grooves on the side of the case and strap, and the case back is the disc brake!) Granted this watch isn't for everyone, but for a motor racing fan, I think it's a must have. You can buy direct from their website.


Stowa Ikarus - from 488 Euro (excl. VAT)

The Ikarus is a stunning looking watch drawing on pilot watch design cues, but with a matte finished grey dial (apparently from galvanisation) and a subtle date window at 6:00. The layout is classic and with a diametre at 40mm, also extremely wearable. The Stowa case quality is top notch (a step above Steinhart) and it is powered by ETA2824-2. You have the option of upgrading a number of items on the watch for extra dough, direct from their website.


Archimede Pilot 42 Automatic - 399 euro (excl. VAT)

On the list for the second year running- their prices have gone up a little bit, but still extremely good value.

One thing Archimede is famous for is the watch case. Their cases are made by Ickler, (who also produces watches under several other brands) and you know when I said the case is good for Steinhart at the price? Well, Archimede watch cases take it to an entirely different plane. I'd rate them alongside many of the bigger 'prestige' brands. Which makes their pilot watch, a pinch at 399 euros, steal of the century.That is, of course, if you like pilot watches. They do have other models in the range, but I think their Pilot line is the most successful. And everyone needs a Pilot watch in their collection, right? It's a classic that'll never go out of style. If you can afford it, for an extra 20 euro, you get a sterile dial ie, no branding, and that gives it a very clean look. And like a decent German car, you can also spend lots optioning up the watch with such luxury items as curved sapphire, custom engraving, bracelet etc. This is also available direct from their website.


Defakto Akkord - from 420 euro

On the list for the 2nd year in a row, we still love the styling and the pricing.
Their watches are also made by Ickler, so you know the case quality is top notch. But the Defakto brand itself enploys very minimalistic, bauhaus inspired designs. Perfect for those who are sick of paragraphs printed on dials. The Akkord is more traditional with 2 hands, (but you can also get 1-handed watches for that extra minimalistic look) and powered by ETA 2824. Available direct from their website. Like their sister brand, Archimede, you can also choose your customisation for the watch for extra dough.


Max Bill by Junghans Manual - USD853

The last German watch on the list, it's their first appearance on the Tart's top 10. The watch style is bauhaus minimalistic, and it is a small diametre watch (at 34mm). However, as the watch is all dial and no bezel, it does wear bigger and it's great for someone looking for a dressy, understated watch. The height of the watch is only 8.8mm, which is really quite thin and will easily fit under the cuffs. The watch is powered by ETA2801-2 (essentially a 2824 without the rotor) and available direct from the website.


Christopher Ward C5 Malvern Auto/C8 Pilot Mk II Vintage - 396 Pounds

Yes another variation on the pilot watch. What can I say? It's a classic design! Chris Ward is an English brand with watches made in Switzerland. Their watches aren't bad at all, and should be considered if you can get over the awkward branding. CHRWARD just looks awkward.... The watch is powered by Sellita SW200-1 (essentially a 2824 clone) meaning you're not likely to have any issues. A lot of the bigger brands are switching over teo Sellita as ETA slowly decreases supplies to brands outside the swatchgroup and Sellita takes over the slack. You can get them direct from their website


Mondaine Automatic - 439 Pounds (Maybe VAT back...)

Mondaine are known for being the Swiss railway clock. The distinctive dial is highly legible and can be accurately read at a distance, thanks to its high contrast colours and simplicity. In 1986 this design was interpreted into the wristwatch form and they haven't looked back since. Most Mondaine watches are quartz, but they do have a small collection of automatic watches, aptly named "automatic". They come in 40mm case diametre and are powered by the Sellita S220-1 with day-date functions. See the watch here and maybe purchased here:


The final 3 watches on the list are all part of the giant conglomerate the swatchgroup. Being big has its advantages- price advantages. They are able to offer extremely good value and the following are just the tip of the iceberg.

Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto 38mm USD870

To be honest, this watch just might have the best bang-for-your-bux at the under $1000 category. It is the only watch powered by the ETA 2892-A2 movement, and this is a much more "premium" movement compared to the ETWA 2824-2. Nothing wrong with the 2824. Mind you, it's probably one of the most reliable, but you generally don't see the 2892 fitted to watches under $1000. Keep in mind that the same basic movement is used in Omega as Calibre 1120, and was also used as a base for the very first versions of Omega's co-axial movement, the Calibre 2500. This Hamilton, although only 38mm in diametre, it wears much bigger thanks to its all-dial-and-no-bezel design. It really really is a shame that Hamilton isn't sold in Australia. I'm sure they'll do extremely well here.

Tissot Heritage Visodate from 2012 USD650

The Visodate is inspired by 50s Tissot watches of the same name and it really is a great modern interpretation of a classic. For those who must have both the day and the date on display, this is a great watch. Go with the white dial though. I can't stand the day/date disc being in different colours to the dial. Just can't. I also really like the ye-olde-style Tissot logo on the dial. Powered by the ETA 2836-2 (Basically day-date version of the ETA2824) you can't go wrong and it's a gorgeous classic looking watch. I'd take this one if you can't get your hands on the Hamilton.

Swatch Automatic - $220 (at your local friendly Swatch retailer/boutique)

There are plenty of Swatch Irony automatics you can choose from, and seriously? If you want something Swiss, automatic, and in steel, and don't have a big watch budget, this truly is the way to go. And yes, you can service these and yes, a great watchmaker will be able to regulate the watch to within COSC accuracy (ie -4 to +6 seconds a day), and yes, really for around $220 Aussie. I'll be honest, there won't be much (if at all) of those old-dude-in-a-white-lab-coat involved in the making of this watch, but really... I don't think that's a factor at this price point...

Hopefully this list have introduced you to some watches that might now be up for consideration, and it's actually really not that pricey to get into a proper Swiss/German mechanical watch. My picks of the bunch would be the Hamilton for dress watch and the Archimede for the sports watch. C'mon. You can't have just the one watch. Seriously. It just won't work. Same as you can't have just the one knife.