Friday, January 30, 2015

Top 7 Thinnest Ultra Thin Mechanical Watches

It looks like ultra thin is still very much in vogue, and given our love of listicles these days, we thought we'd do one based on ultra thin watches. However, we're not going to be lazy like some websites out there and just give you a random selection of so-called ultra thin watches just because they looked thin or might have the terms "ultra" and "thin" in the name of the watch. No. The Tarts readers expect more. Hence the reason why even though we really wanted to do a top 10, we couldn't find 10 watches that fit the below criteria.

So what was our criteria for choosing the ultra thin watches for this list? Well, they all have to be powered by a mechanical movement, be Swiss or German made, and are simple, time only watches with the only complication being that it's thin. How thin is thin, you ask? we needed to draw the line somewhere, so we chose 6mm as a limit for the thickness of the watch case. Granted, had we raised it to 7mm, we might have found 10 watches for a proper top 10 list, but then that's just being too all-inclusive isn't it?? and 7mm?? That's not ultra thin.

Here we go, starting from the *ahem* thickest:

A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin - 5.9mm

The "thickest" watch on this list is also the only watch from Germany.

Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Ultra Slim - 5.8mm

The only watch on the list that uses an outsourced, albeit very reliable movement, and the only piece with a pricing in the four figures. Low four figures, mind you... (the steel version that is. below image is obviously of the gold variety...)

Breguet Classique ultra thin - 5.4mm

Probably the most classical looking watch of the bunch. Featuring prominent Breguet design cues such as the hands and the guilloche dial

Bvlgari Octo Finissimo - 5.0mm

The only watch on this list featuring a running seconds hand. YOu gotta give them that. It takes up additional height to have an extra subdial with an additional hand. This is also the only watch that features a complex case (ie, not round).

Vacheron Constantin Historique 1955 - 4.1mm

It wasn't that long ago this Vacheron held the title for the thinnest mechanical watch in the world. How quickly times change and records tumble!

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin 1907 - 4.05mm

To show how quickly things change, JLC barely held the title for the thinnest mechanical watch (less than a year).

Piaget Altiplano 900P 3.65mm

Still the thinnest at the moment. I know I wondered whether it was possible to get any thinner. I didn't think it was. However, sources close to the watch industry suggests this record may be broken sooner than we think...

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

SIHH 2015: Ralph Lauren Sporting Automotive Skeleton

OK... I think I'm in the minority here. But I quite like the new Ralph Lauren watches with the wooden bezel. Amboyna burl wood to be precise. It feels like they have finally found their "calling" and designing watches inspired by Mr Lauren's expansive vintage car collection. I believe this whole wooden thing is inspired by the dashboard of his 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe.

Granted, the massive RL initials logo is a bit of an amateurish attempt at an LV style logo and it doesn't work. (I'd much rather the simpler Ralph Lauren spelt out) I'm pretty sure I have a polo short from RL where the RL isn't overlapping. Even that was better. But having said that it is nice to have some sort of a logo at 12:00. Actually, scratch that. I'd rather a massive Arabic numeral 12 (like the khaki range). See that oversized 12 could almost become a design feature, along with the wooden bezel and the 6 bezel screws. and the designer lugs.

The overall look (I can't quite say feel since I'm only basing my very subjective judgement from images) is very clean and I like the colorway. It's powered by a lovely movement from IWC, just a shame that most of the target market of said watch won't care. It's a pleasant surprise from Ralph Lauren. Now I just need to find out if people actually bought these watches...

Friday, January 23, 2015

SIHH 2015: Cle de Cartier

The Cle de Cartier (Cle - French for key) is one of the nicest, cleanest designs I've seen from Cartier since the Santos Dumont. I believe the jury is still out of the use of the "key" rather than the "Crown" but given their whole line is named after said key, I'm sure their R&D department has thoroughly tested the idea to make sure it works in everyday situations. But then again, not everyone wears a different watch everyday and given that it's an automatic, I suppose you set it once and off you go. no need to touch the key again till the shorter months where you'll need it to advance the date. Plus, I'm sure the target market for this watch will have some sort of watch winder at home. whether that be an actual mechanical devise or someone you pay to wind the watch for ya.

I like these oval shaped cases. A nice through back to the sixties and seventies where these sort of cases were all the rage. Omega (Constellation, Seamaster) and IWC (Yacht Club) comes to mind immediately. It's a shape that's worked extremely well in the past I don't see why it won't work again today. It's distinctively Cartier, thanks to the Roman numeral hour markers and the blue sapphire used on the crown, sorry, key. Perfectly balanced and retains the classic Cartier elegance and design elements that we are so accustomed to.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

SIHH 2015: A Tale Of 2 Ultra Thin Chronos

So it looks like thin is still very much in vogue this year, with 2 companies both coming out with a thinnest of sorts. Piaget with their thinnest hand-wound flyback chronograph and Vacheron with the thinnest automatic split-second chronograph.

Here are the specs before we move on:

Piaget Calibre 883P:

Movement Height: 4.65mm
Watch Height: 8.24mm
Manually wound, 50 Hour power reserve

Vacheron Calibre 3500:

Movement Height: 5.20mm
Watch Height: 8.40mm
Automatic (peripheral oscillating weight), 51 Hour power reserve

That's pretty close, not much in it, although I think Vacheron managed to cram more into a similar watch height. (extra hand and automatic winding)

Hey no matter which way you cut it, it's damn thin. this is about half the height of your average Valjoux 7750 powered chronograph. Actually most 3 handed watch on the market are thicker than this pair. If you think about it, that's pretty impressive engineering and craftsmanship.

SIHH 2015: Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph

Yes it's yet another Montblanc piece from SIHH. What can I say? I am very impressed with their offering. And their price points. ridiculous. How ridiculous? I mean, this is a brand that is offering a tourbillon and a chronograph (albeit a pretty useless one), with date in pink gold case for around about $55K Aussie. Although that amount may move up slightly no thanks to the strong Swiss Francs and the weak Aussie ruble.

My pals on the ground at SIHH mentioned that the finishing of the Montblanc isn't quite up there yet. I think they will get there. In time. Granted, if you're paying the price of a nice Mercedes A250, you'd want better finishing on the movement (yes, this can be seen thanks to hi-res images these days. Have a close look at where the tourbillon is). But this could be because the watch is a prototype, but even then, this sort of price for a tourbillon from a Swiss Manufacture is quite unheard of.

With the sort of style and pricing and marketing push I think their inhouse silbing, closest in terms of price point, ie, Baume & Mercier could be in a little bit of trouble. I don't think JLC will have issues... just yet...

So let's have a look at this Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph. I wondered about the double sided hands of the chronograph. When the hands are pointing at 12, the other side would kind of just hang off the stepped dial and kinda be limboing in mid air. Not sure how well that would look. The balance itself and the thick bridge across the top of the tourbillon looked a little... inexpensive from the hi-res images. Other than that, it's a beautifully designed piece, perfectly symmetrical and layout is proportional. Plenty to love.

MSRP: 38,000 Euros

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

SIHH 2015: Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Ultra Slim UPDATED!!

Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Ultra Slim

I wish Montblanc would offer more information on this piece. I think this is definitely the pick of the show for my kind of budget. I heard from the grapevines that the retail will be around about $2500 for the stainless steel version. Who cares about all the over the top complications and straps that hooks up to your phone?? I want this!!! A simple, elegant 2 handed manually wound watch, perfectly sized at 38mm in diametre and a very very svelt 5.8mm in height, this is an ultra thin watch in every sense of the word. OK, maybe not JLC/VC/Piaget thin, but none of them retails at low 4 figures. 

Montblanc has continued to impress in terms of design and pricing. Yes yes I know the designs kinda came from a photocopier but this is the way a lot of brands, in a variety of industry has done in order to cement a foothold in the market. Take what you know to be working, and price is juuuuust right, and voila, instant market share. Don't laugh. Have a look at what Lexus did back in 1989 to break into the luxury car market. Look where they are now. I'm sure Montblanc won't take as long.

I'm sure more information will surface as time goes on, but for now, just the one PR image from MB, and not much info. But it will take a lot to dislodge it (the steel version) as my pick of the show. Really.

UPDATE: Thanks to the interwebs we now know the movement is a Peseux 7001 (well, ETA 7001) minus the small seconds at 6:00. This is a very reliable movement having been in production since 1972 and it is a fairly slim movement at a not-too-shabby 2.5mm thin. Added to my shopping list...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

SIHH 2015: MontBlanc's Tribute to Jaeger-LeCoultre and A.Lange & Sohne

As we all know the Swiss watch industry is small. So small that sometimes it feels a little incestuous. Why incestuous? Well, when brands within the same group jumps in bed with each other (or maybe just the designers??) they come up with quite, erm, similar looking watches which may or may not be a pillow talk too far after one too many St Moritz at Grand Hotel Kempinski.

I suppose when it's within the same group it's ok, whereas if it's from a competitor, you can be sure high-priced lawyers are on the ready. This SIHH,  we have the new MontBlanc Dual Time, which takes the case from JLC, mate it with dial and hands from Lange, slap on the nunber 12, and call it a day. Oh, and of course, undercut both brands in pricing.

Look I know I'm being a little mean here. There is nothing wrong with taking the best of the designs and something that's worked, and refine it for a different market. Everyone needs to make money, and Jerome Lambert (who's hand a HUGE influence in making JLC what it is today and I believe, have also had a hand in directing Lange) needs to bring up the watchmaking side of MontBlanc, cuz as we all know, people don't much use pens these days...

Taking inspiration from models that are known to work is a short cut to success. These watches are designed to appeal to first time prestige watch buyers. Someone who's not able to afford a JLC or a Lange just yet, but loved the look, and knows the brand.The picky anal watch collectors are collectively shaking their heads at MontBlanc watches, but seriously, Jerome wasn't given that role for no reason. I'll say give him another 5 years and you'll see. MontBlanc will no longer be known as a penmaker with a bit of wallets on the side.

MontBlanc Heritage Chronométrie Dual Time Specs

Calibre MB 29.19 with Manufacture complication

Power reserve Approx. 42 hours

Case diametre: 41mm

Case height: 10mm

Price: 3990 Euro

SIHH 2015: Panerai PAM 604 Radiomir Firenze 3 Days Acciaio - Tribute to Magrette Moko...

So.... in the not too distant past, Magrette Timepieces were politely "accused" of copying Panerai's cushion case style. To me, I feel their styling more closely resembles that to Anonimo, a company which kind of grew out of Panerai. But in any case, Margrette had their own kiwi identity, as seen on the Moko model, where the case is engraved with a contemporary Maori tribal art design, one that is so popular today, not just on watches, but on human canvases. (Thanks for that term, Inkmaster...)

In SIHH 2015, we see Panerai returning the favour, and introducing their own engraved case Radiomir, with all engraving done by hand by expert Italian craftsmen. The design motif? Panerai says they're important emblems such as Florentine lily, from Tuscany's most important city. That's really just the Italian version of the Maori tribal art ain't it?

Having said that, it's a gorgeous piece, and of course, like all highly sought after models, these are geographically limited to one boutique in Florence. Unless you have connects, in which case, hit them up. Hit them up hard.

The Panerai PAM 604 Radiomir Firenze 3 Days Acciaio is powered by the trusty inhouse P3000, as used in many other models that precedes it. Should run ok.