Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Ultimate Shill

“As a collector myself I may buy for my museum but, it is a private deal. We are not manipulating the auction market.”
So says Philippe Stern, but Patek Philippe has been supremely successful in conjuring a frenzy for its line of current wristwatches. What has Patek Philippe allegedly done specifically? Well, at the start of the 80s, Patek started aggressive buying of their vintage pieces on the second hand market "for their museum". A strategy allegedly proposed and developed by Alan Banbury (acclaimed horological expert who was a personal consultant to Philippe Stern during the creation of the museum collection) to reawaken interest in the brand. Crucially they also made sure the results were loudly accounted in the press as evidence for the mounting value of old watches. Remember up until this point, that watches were really not bona fide collectibles. That all changed, particularly when the Calibre 89 fetched $3.7 million. Suddenly, this event created a market among collectors for wristwatches.

Apparently, many of the pieces in that 1989 auction were ones bought previously at auction for many times less some years before. Had Patek Philippe bought and held them for the 1989 auction or were they from private owners? Either way, this had the effect of pushing up prices steadily; for both vintage, but more importantly, for their continued new product. All in all, a finely judged marketing strategy that has paid dividends for the company, as well as certain auction houses.

And you only have to look at the PP magazine to see regular direct or subtle references to the performance of their watches at auction implying the constant investment potential of practically any piece with Patek Philippe on the dial.

So when the company seems vague or keeps shtum about whether a particular line is due for the chop or not, they are just continuing their strategy; let rumour do the rest. As an example, take the latest surge in 5070 (you know, the one that’s basically a finely finished vintage Speedmaster) and 3712/1a (a 5055/5085 movement in a Nautilus case). Strategically placed rumours, certain high profile and arguably ludicrous sales at auction (when the pieces are still in dealers if you bother to look) works wonders.

Of course, the huge jump in prices is a function of the interaction of buyers AND sellers. Has Patek's "so called" manipulations benefited the brand? Yes, certainly, but has also benefited some of the lucky owners of Pateks by luck or judgement.

Question is, PP seem so far below the supply-demand equilibrium point, with so many wait listed watches on deposit in dealers. Why not produce more? I think the answer is two fold. Back to Mr Stern:
“The first thing we look at is in creating demand and adjusting production. The worst thing is to over-produce. We currently do not have the resources to increase production significantly. This will only be done if we find the right watchmakers. Our limitation is in finding the right people. After that, the challenge is in ensuring the quality and good reputation is maintained. We will be increasing volumes slowly though.”
I agree there is a resource limitation, but there’s another issue. The usual rule of luxury goods production guidelines is always produce one item fewer than demand, but I don’t think this applies so simply here. A Patek Philippe must remain a dream, an elusive and exclusive piece so it will never hit supply/demand=0.99; more like 0.5. Otherwise their ability to charge a premium would disappear disproportionately quickly in relation to the closeness to the market limit - in an irreversible flash. I’ve seen this in the car industry, it’s a won way ticket of brand suicide.

Mr Stern is no fool and is in the game for the long run, through ups and downs, boom and bust, operating at this level gives huge protection against the impending burst of the watch bubble.

And in their defence? Let us not forget the lucky (or smart) who reap the benefits of this alleged situation.

In addition, Patek are one of the few who are trying to do something about limiting production and feeding secondary markets at least on the serious pieces.

At least unlike so many pretenders in the luxury market, Patek is backed by real history and substance and the indisputable quality of their products relative to what else is available and comparable.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

F. P. Journe Limited Editions Still Around. Why?

On my recent travels I got a chance to handle two highly sought after limited pieces still strangely languishing in dealers at list price. Why people will pay silly auction money for these when they're still in dealers dying to shift them is a mystery to me; discounts were discussed.

Wicked idea illustrated on the F.P. Journe forum.

Surprisingly heavy, for its diminutive size and 1/4" thickness, the Vagabondage, in platinum, is one of Journe's undoubted technical masterpieces and 'still' pictures don't do it justice. So it shows its stuff above in the excellent animation from ThePuristS. Only the rope style crown really gives a clue as to its identity as it's so different from any other Journe. Still for sale, but not even on display in the dealer I visited....
"'Vagabongage' is the name chosen by F.P. Journe, and suggested by the French collector Jean Aube, to express the wandering of the revolving frame, which captures the hour and keeps it, while continuing its journey around the dial, to indicate the minutes."
The Zodiaque (Zodiac) is seriously cool with the rotating month ring and as Bernard Chong points out:
"Not only is it the last of the first Octa series, and also the last of the first series of ltds editions...but to add a distinction, it is also the only ltd edition Octa that has a conventional sparkling Rhodium plate finish that is found on the Octas and not the dark grey Rhuthenium finish."
But it's crying out for some more colour (pink gold, for example as the recent one-off, would make such a difference) and it has the oddest spring bar location for its lug position in any watch I've ever come across.

Someone needs to tell FPJ that blue on grey does NOT work.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Réveil

Click the thumbnail to get the bigger amazing pictures from AlbertoS at ThePuristS.com

One of this year's favourites, I have to say I was on the edge of my seat to try this as a 40th birthday pressie contender and finally did so today. The 43mm unmistakeably JLC shaped case fits even my slender wrist because of the clever JLC lug design, but it is one thick watch; nearly as thick as a Gyrotourbillon....

The dial is attractive and value can be high as there is a stainless option, but my two biggest disappointments revolve around its USP - the alarm.
  1. The alarm is not loud enough if sat close to your wrist, but it'll wake you if on your bedside table.
  2. In vibe mode, you'll be lucky to feel it go off. Yet it's also strangely too loud in vibe mode, kind of defeating the purpose of it.
For those unable to afford the (slimmer and precious metal) 8 day perpetual, the s/s version makes for a bargain; low power reserve notwithstanding, at least it does have the alarm feature.

I really hope there is a black dial version and also the option of a bracelet and it might still be a contender. Further press release highlights here.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Patek Philippe 5970 - Pasta Timer or True Chronograph?

What? What's the problem? Well, you simply cannot rapidly and accurately read the stopwatch time between 27 and 33 seconds as the calender cuts in to the stopwatch scale. 0/10 for function Patek. Sorry, but it's just not acceptable to make GLARING FUNCTIONAL ERRORS on watches this expensive. However, it is becoming more and more common through the industry. I can quote other examples but why bother? Nobody seems interested. These type of watches remain sales successes with the general public and get worshipped even by the cognoscenti. Here's the 5970 and question is, what's the stopwatch time?

Oh no, my pasta's overcooked!

I found that even looking down into the crystal between 27 and 33 seconds it is hard to see to the nearest '1/5' what the stopwatch time is. The second ticks are only bolder, (critically) not longer - compare 3970) and for me they get mingled with the 1/5ths; well with my eyes.

It's not important elsewhere on the dial (i.e. between 33 and 27 thru 60) because you have the inner track of seconds making it clear as day. Omega made a similar 'error' of such ticks on one of their Speedmaster day-date dials (still do in fact) and I know of at least one person who returned theirs as 'not fit for purpose' on that basis (not prompted by me either, LOL). I know the 5970 is not supposed to be a mission critical chronograph and arguably who needs 1/5s timing? but come on Patek, this costs $000s....

Patek Philippe 5959P - Chronographs, Where Next?

Whilst I loathe the Officer's style case, and the piddly unfashionable (even for me) 33mm dia., I have to like the movement in the the new 5959P rattrapante just a little. Up to now, Patek Philippe had used a Nouvelle Lémania calibre, but this is finally its own; totally designed, developed, and produced in-house. Allied to being the thinnest at 5.25 mm (for a column wheel movement), with rattrapante functionality and continuously advancing minute counter, it employs Patek's interesting patent for chronograph wheel teeth

where the centre chronograph wheel has the teeth profile at the top of the diagram and the intermediate wheel has the profile of the teeth at the bottom. This allows smooth engagement and minimises the jumping of the chronograph seconds when started and stopped.

Calibre CH R 27-525 PS. Patek's first chronograph movement?! Finally totally designed, developed, and produced in-house.

Of course if they employed a vertical clutch design, like the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Cal 75x, they wouldn't have had the problem to solve anyway.....

The very best picture on the internet of this $300k beast is taken by Suitbert Walter of ThePuristS

Whilst it is laudable to miniaturise such a high complication I believe it would have been better to take advantage of the growth in case sizes and push the capability of the watch further, for example, on spring barrel or balance wheel size* or incorporation of further complication, let alone adoption of 28,800 vph (or more), their silicon escape wheel, or their new escapement. Whilst not following these paths, I hope we may yet see their foudroyante patent, say 2006?

Meanwhile, for those without $300k, the current Patek Philippe magazine is offering the chance to get a free lithograph of the movement. But stocks are limited so hurry....

*Interesting to note that although Patek make a big thing of the "remarkable proportions" of the Gyromax balance wheel, it is, in fact, a modest 10 mgcm2 inertia (compare Jaeger-LeCoultre and Rolex at 14 and 15 mgcm2 respectively).

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Patek Philippe 3712/1a Discontinued Already

So it's official, the subject of many an internet rumour, the 3712/1a is finished before it really started. It's only been out since about June.

Regarding the Ref. 3712/1A, we regret to inform you that this model is discontinued and is not produced by our company anymore. This reference will be replaced by a new reference which will be launched during the year 2006.
Many people may find this surprising, but I don't. What with the anniversary of Nautilus coming up, it makes sense to clean the slate for a bevy of models. The 3712/1a was nothing more than a stop gap with the flaky poor winding, sudden-death prone 240LU movemement, a cynical low investment parts bin revamp and it was never going to last long in the range. But as is the way with short run PPs it will be the subject of speculation about sky rocketing auction values and frankly it doesn't deserve it. But look at that statement "replace by a new reference."

I'm sure Patek have major explosive plans for the (30th) anniversary. I imagine a whole new range going head to head with AP RO(O). I can see big cases, chronos, dual times, and yes, a better replacement for 3712/1a.... and because of that I actually struggle to see why 3712's value is going to skyrocket as predicted by some.

Update: Nov 13 2005. Unconfirmed but apparently the watch as a design will continue but will have an upgraded movement; apparently replacing a part or something ('bout time). More on this as it develops. Hmmmm, looks like the value of 3712/1a is going down not up.....

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Jaeger-LeCoultre Balance Wheel

Measured the dimensions of a JLC Autotractor balance wheel the other day. Not sexy, rather perfunctory, but undoubtedly accurately made.

Ballpoint pen tip at the top
Outer diameter: 9.3 mm
Rim height: 0.60 mm
Spoke thickness: 0.20 mm
Rim width ~ 0.4 mm
Moment of inertia: ~14 mgcm2

For comparison, the Rolex 3135 movement (in the Submariner etc) balance wheel is 15 mgcm2 and the JLC 8 day balance wheel is 3.8 mgcm2.

Omega Speedmaster 2998 on Mesh

19mm lug owners know how hard it is to find a bracelet for a 2998 (and the like), but that problem seems to have been solved by Jeff Bagnall. Not quite a NASA issue astronaut's Jacoby Bender but it'll do for the mo', I just got this 19mm Kreisler 60's NOS mesh for my 2998-6. Nearly as comfy as the NATO RAF pattern strap, but not quite.

Ebay's global trading village strikes again. What on earth did we do before?...........

It fits fine and the 19mm width is spot on, but in the end it is a 'universal' fit style and some may not like that. There is a 2mm gap to the case and it relies on tabs on the back of the end pieces that touch the caseback - you know the sort of thing. The curve of the end piece is a perfectly correct radius though.

Compare the real deal:

Saturday, November 05, 2005

AMVOX2 Worth its wait?

More coming as the news breaks. For the mo', see more on the Jaeger-LeCoultre website under - what's new, events, but you won't find anything sharper or larger.

And where's the VOX function?

As predicted it's a chronograph without conventional pushers. Talked about here and here and here

Friday, November 04, 2005

Velociphile's Wristwatch FAQ

If you're new to posting on any watch forum, to save the regulars' sanity, it's only polite to look through their archives first. Or, please check these FAQs before posting on any of the following topics. You may find what you're looking for without looking an idiot.

What kind of discount can I get?
Which dial colour - Black or silver?
Can I wear a brown strap with a black dial?

Is this fake?
Which Rolex should I get?
Authorised dealer or grey market?
Which beater for under $5000?
Disgusted! Found a spec on my dial under 30x mag.
My relative left me this, is it worth anything?
How do I post pictures?

Are watches getting too big or is it just me?
My minute tick marks don't line up with the seconds when they're at zero - help!
Must buy a watch by end of week - Advice please

Does this look too big on my wrist?
If you had to have only one watch - which one?
Can I wear a 44mm watch on a 6 3/4" wrist?
My boss gave me a watch I don't like, should I wear it?

How to remove caseback?
Am I nuts for wanting a quartz?
What's the cheapest place to buy?

I heard that Rolex is the best - is it?
Which is the best watch forum, ThePuristS or Timezone or Watchuseek or...?
I don't like it much, but is the 5792R a good investment?
I can't get my caseback on?
What does "in-house" really mean?
Is Patek Philippe the best?
I've got the same watch in all dial/case combinations.

Golf - Can I play it with my watch on?
Need help on identifying this.
Can I swim with 25m W.R.?
My deployant buckle is more comfy reversed - should I leave it there?
My watch makes a horrible graunchy noise - is it OK?
Can I swim with 50m W.R.?

Keeping perfect time, but should I get my watch serviced?
My watch makes a funny whirring sound when I move it - is that bad?
I got caught in the rain with my SeaDeep1000m, what should I do?

Will people get annoyed if I post the same pictures of my limited collection over and over again?
I sold a watch and now want it back - am I normal?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Speedmaster Jumps the Shark

Michael Schumacher takes time from his hectic schedule to judge the graduation prize entries at the new Magali Metrailler Flik-Flak Watch Design School.

Yep, just so, so gob-smackingly, jaw-droppingly awful I am lost for words (rare moment). Here's a bit of stretchy image manipulation:

Homework assignment: Do the red one on the end yourself, I couldn't face it.
As Chuck says, this is the moment when you'll remember Speedy jumped the shark

Co-Axial Speedmaster Lands - Nearly

What's Cinders got?

Cinders has to use two hands to hold up the new 44mm (Yikes!) case

That'll be her new Co-Axial Broad Arrow GMT. So, for those waiting to find the Daniels' Co-axial finally bolted into the Speedy shape case, the good news is the wait is nearly over. It's landing this autumn/fall. With a nifty useful GMT function, 100m W.R, and a display back, it just needs a baton hand, 42mm version and it would be game-on at 40% off........ Hopefully the well documented problems with this movement are solved. ;-)

Space this watch......

Sunday, October 30, 2005

More Bitchin' from The Kitchen: IWC 80110 Durability ?

Let's set the scene. The ubiquitous Valjoux (ETA) 7750, which is, one way or another, the base of the IWC 80110, uses a tilting pinion strategy to operate the chronograph centre seconds. The tilting pinion in the 7750, # 8086 in the schematic below, is carried by the tilting pinion arm and is continuously driven by the fourth wheel (# 224). As the chronograph function is only designed for occasional use, the lack of jewels present in this driveline to provide centre seconds (# 8000) is not an issue.

Sadly, the IWC 80110 use the same 'nasty' design for the indirect centre seconds via pinion transfer as described above as can be seen here. The key issue is that in the 80110, the pinion is fixed (as opposed to tilting in the 7750), and rotating several times a minute, (8 so I'm told), forever. (Peter CDE's article showed the whole movement.) So, have IWC at least jewelled the bearings?

So, it looks like, "Yes," but with a caveat. For comparison here is the kind of thing IWC have avoided:

Above, is a standard 7750 pinion carrying arm and the jewelless bearing - eughhhh. I mean imagine spending $7200 and getting that...... Fortunately IWC have done the right thing and jewelled the transfer pinion top and bottom and the centre seconds wheel is jewelled at the top. What is not clear is whether it is jewelled at the bottom or retains the standard 7750 plastic bearing shown below:

Several years ago, Michael Friedberg (official IWC forum moderator) asked the technical director at IWC if the JLC-base in the Mark XII was superior to the ETA base in the Mark XV because the JLC movement had more jewels. He responded,
"...jeweling is not necessarily better --sometime they cracked and the design issues were far more complicated than that. ......metal bearings sometimes (but not always) were sturdier and that it often didn't matter since they would be replaced during routine servicing."

Hmmm, metal bearings make sense (and such bushes are used by some manufacturers) in areas of high torque load and low speed, but with very low torque levels and high rotational speeds (in the parts we're referring to, i.e. counting seconds) we want low friction and hard wearing; the properties provided by ruby.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Guide to Buying a Watch Part 2

Well we covered the basics here. Now for the next stage, there is no better sage advice than that from Ludwig. Unfortunately My Descent Into Hell - The Mind of a Watch Addict by Ludwig seems to have disappeared. So here are his "Lessons learned" for those that missed it.

  1. Buy one watch that you really like, then never, ever read TimeZone, or any watch publications, again. This will save you a fortune. Especially to be avoided are the watch review, brand forum, and chatroom areas of TimeZone - the WIS contagion spreads from here... If you learn only one thing from my tale of woe, learn this! Turn back while you can.
  2. Just buy that Lange (or Patek, or Rolex, or Vacheron, or whatever your personal Grand Ultimate Fetish Object is) first, and save yourself some agony and expense. Once you've gotten The Best, you may be able to resist a lot of impulse purchases, and avoid cluttering up your house with watchwinders, cases, and so on.
  3. Never buy a watch "instead" of the one you really want. You'll eventually end up getting the object of your desire anyway, and then you'll be stuck with an extra watch (or four).
  4. Never buy a watch just because the price seems insanely good. If you don't end up ever wearing it, you'd have saved even more money if you hadn't bought the darn thing in the first place. Corollary - never buy a low-end watch just because "that's darn good value for the money" if you already have, or desire, higher-end versions of the same sort of watch - you'll end up never wearing the cheapie, and it'll clutter up the place. Buying a low-end watch as a beater is fine, but be careful with this rationalization - how many beaters do you really need?
  5. Furthermore, how many chronographs do you really need? One for dress, one for cooking/BBQing, and one for abuse. Anything more, and some will just rot in your watch-case.
  6. If you decide that you like a certain style of watch, say "military-style", it is not necessary to own every single example of the style. Take your time, and pick one or two good ones - you can only wear one at a time anyways (except at TZ lunches).
  7. Whenever you find yourself thinking "Hey, I've got a t-shirt that'd look really good with that watch over there...", hand your checkbook and wallet to someone trusted, and run, do not walk, for the door, and head for the Imelda Marcos Impulse Shopping Treatment Center. You need help. Corollary - it is far cheaper to buy a new belt that matches a watch you already own, than the other way around...
  8. If you find yourself making up bogus milestones as excuses to purchase a new watch, you also need help. "Hey, it's St. Vincent's Day in Swaziland! Let's celebrate!" is not a sufficient reason to buy that repeater you've always wanted...
  9. If you need a fix, think vintage. There are a lot of inexpensive vintage watches out there in great shape with really cool movements, and nifty features. With the money you'd waste on only a few mistaken purchases of NIB timepieces, you could assemble a killer vintage collection. And you'll find that often the design and craftsmanship are superior to, and unobtainable in, modern watches... (Mind you, I've never managed to follow this advice, but it sounds good...)
  10. Another solution when you hunger for a new watch - treat one of your current watches to a new strap. Often, a watch that has not been getting much time on your wrist is just begging for a new strap in a different style. It's just like getting a new watch, but somewhat cheaper.
  11. You don't need to keep everything on a watch winder, or wind all of your handwound watches every day. This way lies madness (and watch winders strewn about your house). Get a winder or two for your current commonly-worn rotation, and don't worry. Your changing tastes/needs from month to month will likely insure that your watches get worn often enough to not get gummed up. If not, consider selling the unworn, lonely pieces languishing in your collection to some other poor soul. Watches should be worn, and not sit in vaults, sadly spinning away on winders.
  12. If offered a choice, always buy the watch with the bracelet. You can always find a nice strap later if you change your mind, but it tends to be expensive, and a bother, to find a proper bracelet after the fact.
  13. Avoid developing an addiction to pocket-watches. You won't ever carry one with you, no matter how good your intentions, except maybe to the opera. Get one really nice one, and pat yourself on the back. This makes an excellent and economical way to get the urge for a minute repeater out of your system too...
  14. Hold out for a 35% discount, minimum. Don't be in a rush to buy. If you look around, and bide your time, you can find almost any watch at a decent price, even the ever-elusive Portugueser...
  15. Credit cards are not your friend. Pay cash, so you feel the pain right away. This method often kills the impulse purchase dead in its tracks.
  16. Diamonds are not a watch's best friend... Especially on a Breitling Emergency...

Monday, October 24, 2005

More on AMVOX-2 (Chrono Alarm?)

This just in from our garbage man in La Vallée de Joux.

So, pushers in the bezel then? Hmmm, makes sense - a sleak solution to combat the need for an alarm crown with chrono pushers. But how to manage the dial I wonder? With chrono subdials in the middle, it'll lose the 'Memovox' centre ? Now that would be a shame. So then maybe it reverts to a hand for alarm time indication. Unless...... We'll see.

Meanwhile, what's next? AMVOX-3? Well, insatiable appetite as ever, Velociphile's still waiting for the JLC traveller's watch; think Geographic + Memovox. We talked about this back in Sept 04... even just a GMT + alarm would do....

But, probably not an AMVOX tagged product then, I fear, instead it will be 'Extreme' genre, but no need for me, just sauna/hot tub resistant is fine on business....

Oh, and of course by then a whopping 48 mm! Just kidding.....


Sunday, October 23, 2005

AMVOX2 Breaks Cover

in four weeks or so on the front cover of QP magazine. (Well, unless there are any previews courtesy of Jaw of The PuristS beforehand.)
"Issue 16 coming soon! Cover star will be Jaeger-LeCoultre's new Amvox2 – the second installment of the Le Sentier manufacture's ongoing partnership with Aston Martin. Watch this space for exclusive preview images!"
We can't wait..... I mean, what could it be? Chrono alarm? The obvious combo as **Vox* implies alarm and the AM*** is crying out, nay begging, for a chronograph. So, finally, one may obtain lap times in your DB9, Vanquish or Vantage....

Hmmmm, thinking out loud here....., So a kind of Lange double split function, but, hmmm maybe a foudroyante with flyback to allow timing from zero but allowing reading of the former lap time.... now that would be clever..... And oooh what with Lange under Richemont's roof. Hmmm, chrono and alarm together - it's a little bit Fortis? Shame.

And of course a pumped up unwearable 46mm (AMVOX1 42mm, AMVOX R-Alarm 44mm.......)

We shall see.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Still waiting for Co-Axial in the Omega Speedmaster

Dear Omega,

When can we expect



Strange isn't it, how you can buy one of these

Hmmm, not bad, bracelet harking back to the past, but lugs too prominent

or these

Nope, sorry....

or even one of these

Yikes! Please stop now Velociphile!

We already looked at 50th Anniversary Speedmasters specification. But on reflection I don't think they'll do those things. The most obviously overlooked marketing opportunity for 2007 is stuffing the Cal 3313 in the current Speedy case - and I'm afraid that's what we'll get.....

Somehow some kind of trojan keeps putting pictures of Cinders at the bottom of every Omega blog....

I have to apologise, can't seem to fix this bug, but wait, where's your watch Cinders? Oh right, problems with your 3313. Uh huh, back at the dealers. Hmmmm, better let Chuck know.


Sunday, October 16, 2005

Guide to Buying a Watch

Honest and nice people do find this quite tough and usually feel awkward about the deal process. I think in the end it boils down to a few things, in no particular order:
  1. Know your target. Know the bottom line cheapest price in your country, and rest of world from greys (and then take off 10%).
  2. Persistence -Agree with all the dealer's points whining about shop rent, "last one available" nonsense or a "special price for today" - whatever. Just nod sagely, but don't budge from your view; preferably based on well researched facts from '1'.
  3. Pitch several dealers against each other if possible.
  4. Patience. Say less, do not fill silences in the conversation. The fact that you haven't walked away signals you are still interested.
  5. Eye contact - don't talk away from them and don't let them talk away from you.
  6. Politeness - keep it friendly, signal your knowledge but don't overemphasise it.
  7. Deal with the organ grinder not the monkey (no shop assistants thanks, just the boss)
  8. Dealers who are their own boss, not a shop chain, respond better.
  9. Appear serious - wear a watch of similar value to the one you're going to buy.
  10. "I can buy it now, today for cash" - then back off if needed once the deal is struck.
  11. Try on the interest in two watches; that you want to buy both, they'll want to sell you both, but back off to one after the price is struck.
  12. Make your mind up about how you feel about AD and Grey. Do the maths - is the difference more or less than the cost of a repair?
  13. Deal alone, no partners, friends or whatever along for the ride....
  14. Be prepared to walk away - there is ALWAYS another deal somewhere else.
I just cannot justify in my mind setting fire to even a $1000 for the pleasure of a happy dealer. Of course if the watch hasn't hit the grey channels yet, or is oversubscribed, then that's a different matter. But it doesn't appear you have to pay list for anything. Go for the throat!

And finally, two rock solid recommendations. These guys are cheaper new than some 2ndhand sellers.....the best kept open secret in the WIS community, they'll also manage the declared value for customs purposes -

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Coming Soon, High Beat Co-axial?

Engineers speak about the ‘Q’ of an oscillator; and the higher, the better. In the case of a mechanical watch, the oscillator is the balance wheel/spring combination. A good way of thinking about 'Q' is that it is the resistance of the oscillator to resonate other than at its tuned frequency when disturbed by something; from excitation from an outside force or beat by beat changes in friction at the pallet - anything.

Zenith remains, but other former 36,000 vph disciples include AS, Citizen, ETA, Favre-Leuba, Girard-Perregaux, Mido, Movado, Ulysse Nardin, Zenith, and Zodiac

In the case of balance wheel/spring, Q is proportional to the balance inertia and to the frequency of oscillation cubed! Thus Q rises very, VERY rapidly with increasing beat rate.

OK, so what does this have to do with watch accuracy? Well, it's less to do with tests in static positions and more to do with real use. A watch is subject to movement and shocks, all of which contain a wealth of frequencies. These outside frequencies are trying to excite the balance/spring oscillator. The higher the frequency of the oscillator, the less likely it is that an outside force’s frequency will fall within the resonant range of the oscillator and disturb its natural oscillation.

The motions of your hand, impacts to the watch, etc. are generally low frequency perturbations. An oscillator with a high Q and a high natural frequency will be less affected by these perturbations than an oscillator with the same Q but a lower frequency because the perturbations will be closer to its natural frequency. Thus a higher frequency watch should perform more accurately in real use.
"Studies have established that the rotational physical activity of our wrists is concentrated at frequencies below 3 Hz and the bulk well below 2 Hz. However, the total spectrum does extend into higher frequencies with rapidly falling amplitude."
Hence, a watch balance wheel operating at 2.5 Hz (18,000 vph) will be subjected to some amount of disturbance from the motions of our wrists. A modern movement operating at 4 Hz (28,800 vph) will be far less sensitive to the concentration of low-frequency components delivered by the wrist and the tiny residual components at or near 4 Hz. 5 Hz (36,000 vph) movements should do even better.

Another critical factor in the increased accuracy of high beat escapements has to do with the isochronism improvement they enjoy.
"Favre Leube, Girard Perregaux, Zodiac and Zenith (at least) did some extensive experiments with high beat (36,000 vph) watches back in the late 60s/early 70s and concluded that high beat balances experience a decreased drop in amplitude both between vertical and horizontal positions and over 24 hours. This means that a high beat watch is more likely to have more consistent rate between the vertical and horizontal positions and over 24 hours they suffer less amplitude drop over 24 hours making them more isochronous as well."
There are lubrication issues that are more or less specific to high-beat watches as well. I believe it is widely accepted that a PTFE based fixative such as Epilame must be used on the pallet stones and/or escape wheel teeth simply to keep the lubrication from being thrown off. Zenith stands alone today (as far as I know) as the only manufacturer producing a 36,000 vph movement with conventional technology and religious adherence to their maintenance schedule is advised to avoid premature wear. Although a fast beat movement may not need more frequent servicing than a slower beat movement, it will be less tolerant of lubrication failure (due to ageing, dissipation, etc.) Apart from Zenith, interest in 36,ooo vph died out in the mid 70s.

To me it is clear that the advent of either silcon/ruby or Diapal systems could be beneficial to unlocking the widespread use of high beat movements. Of course the ultimate choice would probably be to devise a co-axial version with its 'low rubbing' geometry.

AMVOX 2 coming soon

So we hear that AMVOX2 is coming soon.

Let's just pray it looks (and functions) like this:

Thursday, October 13, 2005

But, Brave Zodiac Bit the Dust!

In my research on high beat movements I discovered Zodiac. Another company that pursued the 36,000 vph track towards accuracy. Only Zenith today follows this path with their impressive 'El Primero' movement (but you knew that already). However, they're more interesting to me, especially in light of all our recent discussions on accuracy and its value, because they were prepared to put their balls on the block by warranting their accuracy. Not only that, it's to an amazing minute a month or free regulation for a year (see the small print in the ad below).

Imagine one of our favourite brands standing behind +/- 2s/day today. Why not?

Butch keeps the Zodiac faith here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Patek 5296 or 5070 too rich, try these?

Little known and unsung hero Klaus Jakob rescues old hand assembled calibres from dusty corners of Switzerland like the Venus 175, Valjoux 23 and Unitas 6300 and puts them in classic styled cases from SUG (case makers for Sinn). Instead of a Patek 5296, you could always save up for one of these instead from his brand Jacques Etoile.

Or if you like the look of a vintage Vacheron chrono or PP 5070, but haven't got the wedge, try finding one of these. Preferably with an updated Venus 175 column wheel movement. (If you're desperate, there's another cheaper one with a Valjoux 7750 - euwwww. I'll draw the line there.)

And to top it off, 100m W.R. I like this guy!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Hidden Consequence of Growing Watch Sizes

Omega Blogger weighed his:

The Lardtastic 45 Planet Ocean.
Click on the picture to go to OmegaBlogger's P.O. archives.

but it's not until you get it in your hands that you realise a key problem with the current trend of growing watch diameters. Fashion arguments aside, one thing's for sure: for a given shape, the mass goes up with the cube of the diameter. That's a steep effect; 8% on diameter is 25% on mass. The 42 Planet Ocean is heavy enough but the 45.5 P.O. is ridiculous. Unless you have the bracelet on fusion generating levels of pressure on your wrist it just slides about like a polymer suitcase in the back of a Pontiac (yes I'm still in the US). Clearly new lower density materials or construction techniques are required. I wonder when any of the manufacturers are going to do anything about it. How about Titanium for a start........?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Daniels' Coaxial and Flat Coaxial Compared

George Daniels' original patent application:

And as embodied in his early pocket watches:

uses two escape wheels fixed to an arbor (co-axial), with a standard pinion, as opposed to the later "extra flat" version:

that is found in later Daniels' watches and as adopted by Omega. This "extra flat" version uses an extra wheel in the going train that engages a multi-purpose pinion/impulse wheel which sits co-axially on an arbor with the other escape wheel.

In the above figure:
The escapement is composed of an intermediary wheel A, a double Coaxial wheel B composed of escapement pinion C and escapement wheel D, pallet fork E with 3 ruby pallet-stones F, G,H and a balance roller K carrying a ruby impulse stone J and a ruby impulse pin L. The roller is fitted to the sprung balance. In the Coaxial escapement, the clockwise impulse is delivered to the oscillator directly by the escape wheel engaging the balance roller. The anti-clockwise impulse is delivered to the balance roller via the lever. After each impulse, the escape wheel is locked stationary by the lever locking pallets allowing the balance to complete its vibration undisturbed.

However, Roger Smith is now making watches to the original design. Take a look here.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Grandpa's Watch at the Observatory Trials

You may remember Grandpa's watch from previous instalments. A modest man's pocket watch of the 30s, other than Chris Heal's service, it's not a fettled or specially prepared racehorse in any way. Not exactly Kew, but, I decided to put its recently serviced movement through its paces in my own lab in my own version of the 'Observatory Trials'.

An Everite from 1937/8. Not exactly Patek tourbillon material. We'll see. Go baby go!

So far so good. Day 3 and so far the mean deviation in rate is 0. Whooh hoooh! Stay tuned for ongoing updates. (Beats reality TV anyday.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

RAF NATO Pattern Strap

An RAF pattern NATO strap!

Sky high quality, cheap as chips, light as a feather, soft as your first kiss - in all weathers, indestuctabubble and definitely NOT to be confused with the normal NATO issue with all the problems of the double thickness, ouchy, itchy and scratchy fixed 3 loop positions. It's so comfy you keep thinking you've lost your watch to start with.

Yep, discovery of the year for me and preferably in Jimbo Bond grey stripes. So Dad had it right all those years ago after all….. Oh, and if you can't get one, you can modify the standard NATO one by cutting and heat sealing.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Seiko Spring Drive - Akahane's Pointless Marvel

First Spring Drive Prototype 1982

When I was a kid I modified a Smiths clock movement to run without an escapement - whoooooosh. I could make the clock run fast or slow with my finger as a brake on the escape wheel; it hardly took any force, I was fascinated. That was 1977 when Yoshikazu Akahane invented Spring Drive, the Summer Star Wars came out. I wonder if we were briefly connected by The Force and this too was his inspiration behind the Spring Drive! He was an electronics genius and sadly didn't live to see it produced (Dying in 1998, it was the year the watch was shown at Basel.).

I haven't posted on this yet because I was waiting to see how I felt about it longer term, let the impact of it sink in a bit. Well, my initial gut reaction to it hasn't changed and it's not good. I mean, who IS Spring Drive targeted at? People who want more accuracy from a mechanical? Or people who want a mechanical quartz watch. The first group is entirely understandable, but the concept falls at the first fence of the emotional. We debated the 'rules' for the development of mechanical watches a while back and quartz enhanced regulation of an otherwise mechanical watch was flagged as a no-no. Not an improvement on a good quartz watch either, Spring Drive doesn't even satisfy quartz standards with a rubbish guarranteed accuracy of 1s/d. Even some lucky enough to have them running 1s/w is still rubbish in my view. What is the point of a mechanical quartz watch; especially at the expense of accuracy and servicing aggro....what were they honestly thinking at Seiko? Neither appealing emotionally or functionally, Spring Drive's neither one thing nor the other. They simply failed to heed these words about research:
" It requires all one’s strength of mind to break off, when cool judgement counsels the abandonment of a project to which one has grown very attached and on which one has lavished years of thought and painstaking research; but such decisions have sometimes to be made and, speaking for myself, I find it easiest when the demon of doubt becomes insistent, to suspend all work and thought on the project for a few days or weeks and then review it afresh. It is surprising how coldly and dispassionately one can review and, if necessary, reject one’s own most cherished schemes after they have been banished from one’s mind for a decent interval.”
If they'd done that, they'd have abandoned this pointless marvel before The Empire Struck Back.

As the measurement of time developed from water clocks and candles, the driving force was always accuracy. With the plethora of precise timekeeping available for tuppence ha’penny now, I think it’s hard to appreciate the lost importance of this in our age and you have to go back and ask pre-quartz (PQ!?) people what it was like when it was different to understand the issue. For my dad, brought up with no option, the appearance of quartz was a revelation, cheap as chips and accurate beyond belief; some kind of gift from benevolent aliens. He was fascinated by them and taught himself how to repair them, buying up non-runners from a weird shop in Tottenham Court Rd. Does he wear a mechanical now? No. He stills see the point of a watch as to tell the time – as accurately and fuss free as possible and quartz gives that. Strangely, it was listening to his earlier wristwatches and staring in the back of my Grandpa’s pocketwatch that got me into mechanicals….. Anyway, I digress.

With the advent of quartz, yes, the mechanicals ‘gave up’ and stagnated at a certain ‘acceptable’ accuracy level and concentrate on aesthetics, emotions and branding and we rightly applaud 2s/d. However, despite the burden of accuracy being removed, and although academic, futile, and arguably ‘pointless’ the development of some mechanicals continues; mostly from a gadget perspective, but often with genuine improvements in timekeeping, e.g. coaxial. When I hear that a certain well know haute horologer is satisfied if his new gizmo manages 20-30s/d believe me I shake my head. And I think, part of our role is “to sort the feats from the gaffs?” and debate and discriminate between where timekeeping is improved rather than just achieved in a novel way (or even worsened); we should be rating the scale of achievement.

Because it is a continuation of a line of evolution, it makes sense, at least to me, that developing better mechanicals remains valid; the logic being “in the absence of quartz where could we be?” And this is where I start to struggle with Spring Drive. It was never the bridge between mechanical and quartz, so it has no historical place, it’s novel, but not an improvement (yet). As a hybrid, it should surpass both of its parents’ abilities, and it doesn’t. Quartz is routinely available at 15s/year accuracy. So, once you’ve leapt to the quartz demon, I see no sense in a watch like this unless it is blindingly accurate. So sorry, but 1s/d or week IS rubbish if a watch contains a quartz oscillator. But hold on, I’ll be holding out for when Seiko make the maintenance-free, radio-controlled version. Now that would make Akahane-sama smile.

Spring Drive reviews and analysis links on ThePuristS and Timezone1 and Timezone 2.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Kew Observatory Trials Versus COSC - And why things will never get better

At Kew Observatory, the accuracy of a watch was measured by observation of the variations of its mean daily rate. For an 'A' certificate the trials lasted for 45 days, and included tests in temperatures varying from 40 to 90 deg F (4.4 to 32.2 deg C), in every position with dial vertical, face up and face down.
  1. The average daily departure from the mean daily rate could not exceed 2 s/d
  2. Maximum absolute deviation from mean rate in any position could not exceed 5 s.
  3. The errors should not increase more than 0.3 s/d per deg F. (0.54s/d per degC)
From the COSC standard ISO 3159 1976: Of the seven COSC test measurements taken, the closest we have to the Kew trial is:
  1. Mean variation in rates ‘V’ is the arithmetic mean of the five absolute values of variations in rates obtained for the five positions of the watch during the first 10 days of the tests. Note: The variation in rate is the difference between two consecutive daily rates in identical environmental conditions.: Max of 2s
  2. Greatest deviation in rates ‘P’ is the absolute value of the greatest of the ten differences between one of the first ten rates and the mean daily test rate.: Max 10s
  3. Thermal variation ‘C’ is obtained by subtracting the rate at 8 deg C from the rate at 38 deg C, the whole being divided by the temperature difference, expressed in degrees Celsius. : error 0.6s per deg C
I would tend to draw the following conclusions about the Observatory Trials:
  1. Deviation in mean rate: Essentially identical to COSC
  2. Greatest devation from mean rate: Harder than COSC by a factor of '2' (which is really quite a lot tougher)
  3. Thermal control: Very similar to COSC
As the Japanese had dominated the two preceding events, in 1972 some Swiss watch manufacturers demanded the end of the observatory competitions. Now, all chronometers are equal on a pass/fail basis. Apparently, this was the one condition demanded by the Swiss watch industry when COSC was founded in 1973. So who performs best under current COSC testing? Well, we'll never know. The COSC does not reveal this information. Were COSC to introduce any sort of ranking by test results, Swiss watchmakers would be competing on the basic timekeeping qualities of their watches which is not necessarily linked to brand hierarchy! So don't expect any change anytime soon.

But the Chinese Could Never Own the Swiss?

More incendiary findings on the topic of foreign parts and/or foreign assembly of "Swiss made" watches.

It is not generally known that quite a few Swiss companies have watches assembled in China for export to North America, Asia and even Europe, where the brand name is more important than the “Swiss made” label. Such watches may consist of a Chinese case and a Chinese crystal, a Taiwan-made dial and metal bracelet and Japanese hands.
And even more interesting what happens if a Chinese company owns a Swiss one? Gasp....
Chung-Nam Watch Co. Ltd was established in 1935 in Hong Kong. It owns the world wide rights to the Bruno Banani brand watches. It also controls the Roamer Company in Solothurn and thus, has Swiss made watches in its portfolio.

From the Brand Frame of the Chung-Nam Website
But no, if you look in the Roamer site you won't find anything about Chung-Nam. Funny that.
Keep it coming Luger.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Ultimate Watchbox.....(Really)

Having just filled my modestly proportioned antique Georgian walnut writing box (which I converted for watches) I was looking at other options and stumbled across simply the ultimate. I won't describe it here, just click on the picture to warp to the Erwin Sattler site and play yourself.

For the WIS who has everything presenting the Sattler Time Mover? Check out the variable drive winder controls.....

and not least I guess the Classica Secunda 1995 clock is thrown in for free ;)

Of course you could always build one yourself....

Saturday, September 10, 2005

New Finer COSC Standard and a Return to Observatory Trials

For a given level of watchmaking skill is it true that as a 'machine' the tourbillon is a superior time keeping device? No, I don't think so. It is quite clearly possible to assemble 'gadget' versions with poor variation in rate.

To deliver a given level of timekeeping performance it is harder to make a tourbillon, and it takes an even higher level of skill to get the timekeeping performance to be superior. There is an 'entry level' of watchmaking skill, if you will, that must be reached to go beyond the performance of a finely made 'static' lever escapement.

With the Chinese breathing down the Swiss' necks I foresee the only way to rate this skill concretely to the public is by measurement rather than simply being a 'me too' maker with a functional version. Thus the Observatory Trials will return (or at least the fine standard of COSC) to sort the feats from the gaffs.

Vrooooom! Patek Philippe's 1960 34T Observatory Trial Entrant. Yummy!

The trouble for the Swiss is how many of the tourbillons they make now actually keep better time than normal escapements.....? But once they've sorted themselves out, a return to competition could lead to a sensational line of devastatingly accurate watches over the next few years. With the marketing spin of 'race car on the road' it's a killer new segment to (re)open. Once again, I see the pressure of the Chinese only leading to exciting times for watch nuts.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

"Swiss Made"....Promise

Remember being a kid? Nothing hurts more than broken promises.....
"I know poppet, I said we'd go to the zoo but, blah blah"
The damage done by being ‘found out’ is worse than owning up at the start. Now we've all read "A brand is a promise kept" and my key concern is about this fragile emotional link between brand and consumer. So if one is trading on the basis of hairsprings bent on the thighs of Swiss maidens, then there had better be some pretty sweet hotties in the Vallée. Take the “JLC Cal 75x FP1185 situation” as an example. What damage did the polemic do by not coming clean at the outset?

Of course, the industry will persist in trying to maintain the myths knowing the majority of consumers are either ignorant (see CEO comment 2), or successfully brainwashed by their marketing hyperbole. So (to paraphrase Jefferson) "The price of quality is eternal vigilance", to be watchful for deceit and when we find it, flush it out shouting, “Unclean, unclean!” from the rooftops.


Luger is pursuing "Swiss Made = what?" with utmost vigour. Read more:


Monday, September 05, 2005

What The Industry Thinks of Us

In light of the recent chronograph situation I am reminded of a quote relating the utter contempt with which we are viewed by the watch industry:

I have heard some CEOs who have said to me, although politely, you know they meant what they said (none of the 3 examples are JLC):

Brand a: We decide what is fashion, consumers want and need the guidance from us.

Brand b: The collectors market is very small (technically correct) the indirect message is that collectors placed too much self importance on their views, when they are not

Brand c: If someone doesn't like our watch, then I don't want him to buy it, he simply doesn't deserve to wear the watch.

Phew - Still Some Beauty and Passion at JLC

I'm always fascinated to hear people's first watch related memory. I asked Linda Aidan (Watchmaker at JLC) what her earliest memory of watches was.
"I had a dream about a watch when I was young. And when I woke up, I got a piece of paper and tried to draw it....... I still have the picture."
Later of course Linda went on to pursue her career at JLC. "Go baby, go!" she says to herself when one bursts into life for the first time on assembling it.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Jaeger-LeCoultre Chronograph Plot Thickens

Diddle iddle eep, diddle iddle eep..... This just in from our Italian correspondent Lyla. Remember the case of the new JLC Chronograph Calibre 75x looking rather like FP1185? Well in L'Orologio Anno XIV - Numero 137, Maggio 2005

We find the following article:

I'll save your eyesite:
"A chi tornerà alla pagina 103 de l’Orologio #77, non potrà sfuggire l’impressionante somiglianza del nuovo meccanismo crongrafico JLC pubblicato su queste pagine con quello del calibro FP 1180 (1185 nella versione a carica automatica). È infatti uno dei calibri attualmente in produzione, da cui i progettisti della JLC sono partiti per lo sviluppo del proprio crongrafo automatico, apportando quelle modifiche che hanno ritenuto migliorative e in alcuni casi necessarie (ad esempio, per l’impiego del sistemna di carica automatica originale JLC)."

"Those who return to L'Orologio #77 page 103, will not be able to escape the impressive similarity of the new JLC chronograph published on these pages with that of the FP 1180 (1185 in the auto version). It is in fact from one of the calibers at present in production, that the designers of JLC embarked on the development of the actual automatic chrongraph, bringing improvements and in some cases necessary changes (for example, the JLC automatic winding system)."