Sunday, September 27, 2020

2020 Green Dial Watches Part 2: Top 10 With Complications

To continue our look at green watches launched in 2020, part 2 focuses on watches with complications.

1. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore

This year we have yet another variation of the extremely successful Offshore range, in black 44mm ceramic case and bezel, and powered by the in-house Calibre 3126/3840 with 59 jewels, 21,600 vph and a power reserve of 50 hours. 

2. Breitling Chronomat

The Chronomat played an important part in Breitling's history. Introduced in 1984, when the world was still reeling from the quartz crisis, it was launched as a bold mechanical watch that would become an icon of its era. The new version recalls all the classic styling cues from the 1980s and features the in-house B01 calibre, with 70 hours power reserve and COSC-certified.

3. Bvlgari Octo Roma Tourbillon Sapphire Malachite Watch

This is a stunning watch with Malachite used not just for the indices but also in the middle case. Paired to a green strap I think overall, it qualifies for the green watch theme. A classy case with a restrained skeletonisation, coupled with baguette cut diamonds set in the bezel and lugs, it’s high jewellery without being blingy, and with an in-house tourbillon to boot, it has the brains to go with the beauty. 44mm platinum case is no lightweight either. Limited to just 30 pieces. 

4. Glashütte Original PanoMaticLunar Forest Green

This is a classic that we all know, but with a gorgeous green dial to be in fashion. 40mm stainless steel case with the dial retaining its original display guided by the Golden Ratio. Powered by the in-house Calibre 90-02, an automatic movement with an off-centred rotor, following the shape of the typically German 3/4 plate. 

5. Grand Seiko "Toge" Special Edition

This new model takes inspiration from the Japanese and British legacies of the two respective companies, combining classic British Racing Green with the fine texture of Grand Seiko's signature Mount Iwate dial. The term 峠 (Tōgè), or mountain pass, refers to a navigable route through a mountain range, and this special edition timepiece subtly evokes the image of a spirited drive over the many ridges of Mount Iwate in Northern Japan. Movement is the Japanese automatic Grand Seiko in-house Calibre 9S66 with a power reserve of 3 days.  

6. Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Saxem 

Ok not quite a green dial per se, but the whole damn watch is about as green as they come! SAXEM stands for Sapphire Aluminium oXide and rare Earth Mineral and is, as the names indicates, an alloy that is the mixture of aluminium oxide (the building block of synthetic sapphire) with rare earth minerals such as thulium, holmium and chromium. Powered by the legendary Zenith El Primero movement, it is limited to 100 pieces. 

7. IWC Portugieser Chronograph

This is the Classic Portugieser chrono, with in-house movement and a very much on-trend for 2020 green dial. 41mm stainless steel case, power reserve of 46 hours.

8a. H. Moser X MB&F Endeavour Cylindical Tourbillon
H. Moser & Cie. has borrowed from MB&F the concept of three-dimensional movements, protected by a sapphire dome and featuring a one-minute flying tourbillon that rises above the main dial through a ventricular opening appearing at 12 o'clock. H. Moser & Cie. has equipped its tourbillon with a cylindrical balance spring, invented in the 18th century, it is reminiscent of a worm- or corkscrew, rising perpendicularly around the upper rod of the balance staff. Commonly used in historical marine chronometers at the time, it offers the advantage of developing concentrically, and therefore geometrically, since it works perfectly along the axis of its pivots. This gives it a significant advantage over the flat balance spring, whose opposite ends tend to exert forces on the pivots, despite the Philips or Breguet terminal curves which were specifically developed to partially correct the non-concentric opening of the balance spring. Fitted with a Breguet overcoil at both attachment points, the cylindrical balance spring reduces pivot friction and greatly improves isochronism. Due to its specific shape, the cylindrical balance spring is far more difficult to produce and takes ten times longer to make than a traditional balance spring. Limited to 15 pieces each colour. 

8b. MB&F x H. Moser LM101 

The Legacy Machine 101 distils the very quintessence of mechanical watchmaking: the balance wheel, the power reserve and the passing of time. MB&F has chosen to remove its logo and return to its roots and the origins of horology, when only the movements were signed. The fumé dials are borrowed from H. Moser & Cie. Topped with a domed sapphire crystal, the case is made of steel, for only the third time in the history of MB&F. Limited to 15 pieces each colour.

9. Ressence Type 1 Slim X

The new Type 1 Slim X is a limited-edition piece marking its 10th anniversary. Ressence continues to change the way and the why we experience watches by introducing the first piece of their X collection. 
Visually Ressence created a dedicated symbol for the collection that is the fusion of an X, or ten in Latin, and an hourglass. It sits proudly on the hour disc of the Type 1 Slim X. Each of the four watches of the Collection X is limited to 40 pieces and shares the main dark olive-green color. 42mm case in titanium, powered by Ressence patented calibre ROCS 1 - Ressence Orbital Convex System with a  power reserve of 36 hours. 

10. Tag Heuer Carrera Heuer 02

Hey look I really like this. I don’t know why there is always this hate for Tag Heuer watches and it always seems to be universally poo-pooed by “collectors”. This latest version of the Carrera is powered by the in-house Heuer 02 movement and to me, a much classier look which straddles modernity and timelessness quite nicely. I think This will age well compared to the skeletonised versions. But YMMV. it’s a nice shade of green and with the steel bezel, it works really well. Now if they’ll just refocus their marketing strategy...

Monday, September 21, 2020

Review: Matchbox and JDM Tuner Haul August 2020

I've actually wanted to do this post for a couple of weeks now, and I'd even taken the photos in preparation for it, but alas, laziness got in the way and so... here we are. It might be a little late, but given the lacklustre distribution and the stores' ambiguous re-stocking timeframe, this is probably still relevant to Australian readers.

I have always been a car guy and played with toy cars for as long as I can remember. I briefly collected 1/18 scale diecast model cars until they became too expensive to purchase willy nilly. So I moved downscale to 1/43, but even these are now to the point where I cannot justify paying 3 figures for. So what do I do? I scour the toy sections and look at Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars and anything else in between. Kinda full circle and back to where I started. 

Doing the rounds and checking the pegs has been more disappointing lately more than satisfying as you see the same items staying on pegs for months, or the stores just keep restocking with the same items that no one wanted anymore. Why?? Why do you buy certain things in bulk and not enough of others?? This meant that every time I spot something new, it felt like a mini lottery win.

This haul was from just after mid August in Sydney Australia, and to be honest, I was quite surprised at the Matchbox cars I came across. They were... on time!! Now I'm not a completist, and I only take what I can and what I like, so this is what I ended up with.

The IWC/Mercedes I've already covered in a separate post previously, so on this post I'll focus on the 2 Matchbox superfast and the JDM Tuners.

The Superfast gets its name from the sort of tyres used on the cars - ie they're super fast. but there are also opening doors and more detailed tampos on the cars. The one thing about Matchbox casting is that they tend to be more realistic, in terms of the shape and scale, whereas Hot Wheels would exaggerate certain aspects to make them look "good". I didn't open the regular matchbox cars. Thought I'd save them for another day.

These are supposed to be better made with more details compared to the regular Matchbox cars, to justify their higher price point. To be honest, they feel like the basic Matchbox cars from 20 years ago. I guess if they wanted to keep the $3 basic price point they needed to cut a few corners, and this I can completely understand.

This is probably the best view of the Pontiac. 

The tampos looks kinda weird for me - it's almost like they did the stickers then put the doors on after

The JDM Tuners are on a different scale. They're supposed to be a proper1/64, and are larger than the roughly 1/64 scale that the Matchbox cars come in. I believe Matchbox/Hot Wheels/Tomica build theirs to "fit" the "box" so aren't really true 1/64 scale. The JDM Tuners are not cheap, and to be honest, the casting isn't great. However, if I wanted a Toyota Supra with a more realistic casting at the same scale, I'd be looking at $50-60, which, I might add, is how much 1/18 scale model cars used to cost, albeit about 20 years ago. Not all the JDM casting are equal; some are more successful than others. I'm a sucker for anything Toyota Supra (but I draw a line at the fast and furious Supra model made by Jada Toys. That casting is just crap).

JDM Tuner Supra - acceptable casting given the price point...

The Nissan "Hakosuka" - the first generation of the Skyline GTR, from 1969-72. Worth an absolute fortune today

With JDM tuners I'll be very picky in terms of what models I buy. The Hakosuka is possibly one of the best castings done by them (relative to their other models). The Matchbox Superfast I would also be picky and only pick up what I really like. But I really wish we would get more of a choice and better distribution here than what is currently the case.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

New Model: Frederique Constant Highlife Perpetual Calendar

Do we really need another stainless steel non-round sports watch with a blue dial and integrated bracelet? Frederique Constant seems to think so. Even though there are literally more of these than memes on social media. Is creativity a dying talent in the watch industry, or are the watch buying public to blame? Because the market gets what the market wants, right? 

It is also becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate one blue dial steel sports watch from another, as there are really only so many ways this can be done. One way is to add complications, ideally one that isn't widespread and price it reasonably to "disrupt" the market, to borrow an overused marketing term. Disruption is something Frederique Constant does really well, offering in-house movements and aesthetically pleasing watches for less than what some bigger brands were charging for outsourced movements and plagiarised styling. And yet, they struggle to gain traction, especially with the "collector" and "aficionado" lot. Because although they might think themselves experts, all they really are, for the want of a better term, are hypebeasts. 

Frederique Constant released their in-house perpetual calendar previously in a classic dress watch style back in 2016, and given the specs, was extremely reasonable at less than US$9000. No, you won't find high watchmaking style decorations, and with 38 hours of power reserve, it is now a little lacking. However if you plan on wearing your watch, it's not an issue. This is the movement (FC-755) found in the latest steel sports watch offering - the Highlife. There are 3 different models on offer to start with; the 3-hander with date and the open heart, both powered by Sellita and finally, the Perpetual Calendar, which is the focus of this post.

What is really amazing is that FC manages to cram all these complications in to a relatively snug packaging, measuring a relatively svelte 41mm in diametre and just 12.65mm thick. And this is achieved with a full rotor, albeit you'll have to go without a running seconds hand. These come with a quick change bracelet/strap system, and a spare strap is delivered with each watch. The overall layout is reminiscent of the Vacheron Overseas Perpetual Calendar but that's only in gold for the moment and it's 10 times the price! The case reminds me of the Omega Constellation, and the bracelet? take your pick. It's not an original design by any stretch. (the first Highlife was more original) but given this sort of style is very much in vogue right now, elegantly styled and likely won't date too quickly, this is a value-for-money proposition that shouldn't be ignored. 

The blue dial on bracelet is available in Australia for RRP$13,917

Geneva Watch Days 2020 - My Top 4 Picks

Did you know there was a watch fair back at the end of August? There were like almost 20 exhibitors. Yeah man. You'd be forgiven if you thought all that happened recently was the new/not so new Rolexes. oh. And the new S class. There were some gems launched by a number of brands that you may have missed, believe it or not.

It was the Geneva Watch Days and it went from 26th of August to the 29th of August. It wasn't a big fair, mind you. Just a number of brands all launching new products in the Geneva area. And online. 

Here are my picks of the show. And just a quick reminder that watches are immensely personal, and these are MY picks, which may not be your picks, but that's what makes this hobby so interesting. We don't have to like the same things but as long as there are more and more people wanting to know about watches and appreciate the craftsmanship, the better it is.

Therefore, without further ado, and in no particular order (apart from the order in which they are recalled in my brain)...

Bvlgari Aluminium - There is a personal connection to this range of watches, which harks back to the days when I was just fresh out of uni, in my very first full time job selling watches and what not. We had a few of these in the Bvlgari counter. In those days, for the life of me, I could not understand why people are willing to pay so much for something made from aluminium and rubber, by a jewellery company no less, when you could have a much, much nicer Omega Seamaster Bond watch. (Mind you, I felt the same about Cartier). Having said that, the design did stick with me as it was so different to everything that was available back then (early 2000s) and believe it or not, I am very happy to see it back, powered now by trusty workhorse movements from ETA, and at a relatively bargain basement pricing. (Think about it. 20 years ago it was around the same price as the Omega Seamaster. Now it's half.) I wish they would've kept the Diagono name though.

Gerald Genta - I've always liked the Gerald Genta, not just because he designed some truly iconic watches, but his own branded watches. Very glad to see Bvlgari bringing it back, and in the bi-retrograde form. Gerald Genta watches features a fair bit back in the OG days of the Tarts, there was a bronze Gefica Safari, which was the first watch in bronze, the mickey mouse bi-retrograde, amongst others. I'm sure I have photos of these, but if I do, they're stored somewhere in an external HDD and it's a little too hard to go look for them now... I find retrograde displays really fascinating, especially the moment when the hand bounces back in an instant. This release in 2020 is cased in titanium, and at 15,000 Euro, it is relatively accessible. And if you consider the alternatives, there are much, much less worthy Genta designed watches you can choose at that price. I would pick the Bi-Retro any day. Oh, and if my budget only stretched to the lower 4 figures, the aforementioned Bvlgari aluminium is actually, believe it or not, based on a Genta design. 

Girard Perregaux - I have a soft spot for GP. I really do. I don't know why they're not as appreciated these days. I'm at a complete loss for reasons. This year GP brought out the "Infinity" range of watches, all featuring black onyx dials. The Laureato gets all the attention because... well... it's kinda because the steel sports watch is all the rage at the moment. But personally, I love the Vintage 1945 because 1) Art Deco style 2) it's not round and 3) BIG DATE! and 4) moonphase! However I do wish the hands were also in rose gold though.

Ferdinand Berthoud Chronometre FB 2RE - The FB is one of those brands that disappeared for a while, and then brought back to life back in 2006, by  Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, president of Chopard, and made a grand entrance with the FB1. As much I appreciate the craftsmanship, the styling left me cold. This, however, has my complete attention. Yes it is more traditional and perhaps less avant-garde compared to the debut album, but being inspired by the marine chronometre they made centuries ago is just fantastic. You can see some of the marine clocsk at the MIH if you ever get the chance to go, it's well worth the trip. Ferdinand Berthoud played a large and important part of watchmaking history, and was based in Neuchatel. The name might only be revived in the last couple of decades, but the history is legit.

Ferdinand Berthoud Marine Clock
Ferdinand Berthoud Marine Clock No.12, 1774