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Friday, February 25, 2011

SIHH 2011: The booths at the show

Year after year, the Salon International de Haut Horologie (SIHH) showcases the best of watches in the industry in the huge, invitation only show in Geneva. This is my 10th year attending SIHH. And with each year, the booths become more and more amazing.

As the Founder of the Lange Owner's Group, I naturally use the Lange booth as my base, as I know almost all the staff and management onsite. This year, a huge, and I mean really huge, measuring probably 3m in diameter facimile of the Richard Lange Pour le Merite Tourbillon, with working time display adorns the wall facing the main entrance. The reception is at the right.

A. Lange & Sohne SIHH 2011 booth, main facing wall and reception.

Behind the wall is a watchmaking workstation where Ralph Knoll exhibits the wonders of the Pour le Merite, and on the reverse of the wall is a facimille of the reverse of the watch, showing the movement.

A. Lange & Sohne SIHH 2011 booth, behind the wall, showing Ralph Knoll

Further in left and right are the sales rooms, and auditorium. As well as a nice lounge area, serving drinks, pretzels and Radeberger beer.

A. Lange & Sohne SIHH 2011 booth, behind the wall, showing Ralph Knoll

Walking around, my favourite lobby is the one presented by Piaget

Piaget lobby at SIHH 2011 with beautiful models and fantastic jewellery

Beautiful models, amazing jewellery, and a very cool blue hue adorns the lobby. Mesmerising and beautiful.

The VC booth is also quite interesting, with snipets...reminiscent of an old time travel agent's office.

Vacheron Constantin lobby travel theme

Roger Dubuis was dressed like a casino, complete with a roulette table below the magnificent chandelier.

Roger Dubuis booth with roulette table and chandelier

IWC was transported to the town of Portofino, Italy, highlighting that their offering this year was the new refreshed Portofino line, complete with beautiful waitresses in their huge swinging skirts

IWC lobby at SIHH 2011 transforming this little spot in Geneva Palexpo into Portofino

The Dunhill booth was like a page out of the 1920s...a scene reminding me of the genteel making either travel arrangements or discussing details with their accountant.

Dunhill lobby at SIHH 2011

The keen eyed might spot my friend James Dowling on the sofa...a bit blurred as he moved during the photograph.

And finally, but certainly not least, the business like Jaeger LeCoultre lobby, showing a display of perhaps a hundred watches.

JLC lobby at SIHH 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kari Voutilainen Masterpiece Chronograph

Kari Voutilainen is one of the rising...perhaps already bright and shining...stars in independent horology. Meticulous, deliberate, precise in his action and choice of words. His works are marvelled the world over. One example of his clear thinking is the "re-invention" of the minute repeater striking mechanism. Instead of striking the hours, quarters and minutes after the quarters, he made a system which strikes the hours, number of ten minutes after the hour and the we actually read the time. He calls this the decimal repeater.

But the focus of this article is on the chronograph. Recently, in the little village of Motiers, he converted his house, into a home cum workshop.

When I visited in early January, the fresh snow had just fallen, and the view of the living room from the yard is beautiful...still with Christmas decorations.

A separate stairwell leads to the basement and third and fourth floors which house the workshops. While the private residence occupies the ground and second floors. He has indeed geared up with much equipment and is able to manufacture almost the entire watch in-house. For example, the beautiful dials which are featured in his watches are hand cut on the rose engine in the basement.

The Voutilainen Masterpiece Chronograph is a beauty:

The dial is clean, but yet features delicate engine turned guilloche patterns. As this is a chronograph, the pride of place on the dial is given to the seconds counter for the chronograph, while the time is indicated on the subdial at 6 o'clock.

The movement is equally fascinating, the surface of the bridges are finished in a frosted 18k gold plating. And the hand anglaged sides glistened as they are polished to a shine contrasting with the frosted plate tops.

A closer look at the chronograph wheel and its bridge, showing the contrast on the polished anglage against the frosted top:

Another look at the beautifully set and polished column wheel, which commands all the chronograph functions with precision:

Another side view of the movement, showing the 3D watchscape:

Friday, February 18, 2011

SIHH 2011: Vacheron Constantin

Vacheron Constantin is one of the three Grande Dames of watchmaking...the othe two being Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. Interestingly, it is currently the only one which is within a large group, in this case Groupe Richemont, which count amongst the members of its stable luminaries like A. Lange & Sohne, IWC, Jaeger LeCoultre, Cartier, and recently and paritally Greubel-Forsey.

But within the Richemont brands, there seem to be an ability for the DNA to survive. Credit is certainly due to Richemont managment for allowing this. And this is no different for VC. The brand DNA is strong in the brand, especially one which has the ability to draw from a few hundred years of rich experience and examples in watchmaking.

I start with the customizable Quai d'Lille. This one with a transparent date ring. Quite fetching.

Vacheron Constantin Quail d'Lille

Vacheron Constantin Quai de Lille Day Date Power Reserve, Self winding

The concept is simple enough. The customer is presented with options along the way to customize his watch. He is able to chose from a variety of 3 base with date, self winding as shown above, one with day-date and power reserve, and one with retrograde annual calendar, self winding. Within each base model, he is able to customize the case style, the bezel, flanks, crown, dial style strap, buckles, engravings he wants on his watch. Submits this either via his dealer or VC Boutique or online, and waits for the delivery of his personalized timepiece. Quite clever. VC prevents uninformed customers from creating monsters by providing only options which are aligned to the VC brand DNA, and the customers benefit from having a watch different from another. Quite brilliant.

Vacheron Constantin Quai d'Lille Annual Calendar

The Quai d'Lille is also available as an Annual Calendar. This version, I find particularly attractive as shown.

Vacheron Constantin Quai de Lille Annual Calendar

Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Traditionale World Time

The watch which is quite interesting to me, and to be fair, most catching and beautiful to the eye is the new Patrimony Traditionalde World Time.

Vacheron Constantin Patrimony World Time

The watch shows the times around the world with the cities marked up to 15 minute increments to show all 37 timezones. This allows the local timezone to indicate places like India and Nepal.

Vacheron Constantin Patrimony World Time movement

The graphical world displayed on the subdial is also very interesting. It is made of a sapphire dial with day/night shading, and a metal sub-dial bearing the map and a metal chapter ring. The sapphire dial rotates with the hands. Interesting design and quite mesmerising to look at.

See also Jason Pitsch's coverage of this beautiful timepiece at Professional Watches.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Independents in BaselWorld 2011...

BaselWorld with the independents...ok, some independents.

I find this poster to be very it!

p.s. photograph has nothing to do with me...I was just tickled when I saw it, and thought it deserved to be shared...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Vianney Halter Janvier Lune et Soleil

Vianney Halter is a very interesting watchmaker. Intensely passionate about his craft, and insanely loyal to producing everything inhouse in his little farmhouse in St.Croix - a little village up in the mountains in the Swiss Jura.

Vianney Halter, master watchmaker, and creative genius

Visiting his workshops are like visiting a toystore for a man who still loves to play with everything mechanical. On the ground floor, a model of an old, vintage car, in the attic, a whole collection of old tower clocks in various stages of restoration. And the workshop proper lies in between these floors. Quite an amazing place for an amazing fellow.

He doesn't really show at the two big shows he has so few products, and he knows all his customers directly or via the few authorized dealers he has that he prefers to bring them to St. Croix to show them the wonders of the Vianney Halter brand.

On show today is the Classic Janvier Lune et Soleil (Moon and Sun)...the flag carrier for Vianney...the company he founded is also so named after the famous, genius French watchmaker - Antide Janvier, who is similar to Vianney in more ways than one. Consumate watchmaker, habitual problem solver and fun loving prankster all rolled into one.

The watch shown here is rather special. The first one off the block for sale, Vianney was very careful when he laid it on the table top, and because the watch has already been spoken for, and ready for shipment, I left the hands as they were, and did not make any adjustments to show the typical 10:10 pose. Note serial number 1.

Vianney Halter Janvier Luna et Soliel showing dial and 5 hands

The dial side shows a very beautiful, hand made dial and hands in the incredibly complex Vianney Classic case. Made 40mm, so larger than the regular Classic, it is only available in Platinum case, and limited to 12 pieces:

Vianney Halter Janvier Luna et Soliel showing dial and 5 hands

The hour hand and the one that indicate the local solar mean time is the Vianney classical blued steel hands. even the hands are of a special design, the shape, and curvature are precisely as Vianney imagined, and beautifully blued inhouse.

An additonal gold hand with a disk engraved with a sun shows the apparent solar time. The local solar mean time is the calculated time of th location based on longitude. The apparent solar time is the time as shown by a sun dial, and is a measurement of the hour angle of the sun. And the difference between them as the year passes is known as the equation of time.

An additional two hands to show the actual moon as it waxes and wanes, one hand with the white gold disk shows the current day of the moon cycle, while a separate hand with a black disk covers and uncovers the gold disk, displaying the evolution of phases of the moon.

The Janvier features fantastic movement...very 3 dimensional, very beautifully finished.

Vianney Halter Janvier Luna et Soliel

The displays at the back of the movement allows the setting for the Equation of Time. The blued steel hands display the current day and can be set by using a special tool. The EOQ needs to be set according to the owner's lattitude, as each position will have a different hour angle for the sun. In many watches, this is set in the factory, indeed watches like the famous Audemars Piguet Equation of Time has the lattitude engraved on the watch to indicate this. For the Janvier, this can be set using a special tool by a watchmaker. The "floating" ring is hand engraved with 365 marks for each day of the year and also engraved with indications showing the month, equinox and solstice. The blued steel hands display the current day and can be set by using a special tool. In the center, the Equation of Time cam is seen.

And an oblique look at the movement.

Vianney Halter Janvier Luna et Soliel

This photograph shows the 3d-effect of the movement. The whole mechanism, is framed by the mysterious mass winding rotor, which looks like a polished chamfered ring which just keeps spinning...apparently defying friction. Quite mesmerising to watch. The finishing is typically Vianney, very well executed, nicely polished. Very nice.

More information from my friend Frank Geelen's Monochrome site.

Photo notes: The inherene shallow depth of field of a medium format camera is supplementd by a special technique to enlarge the depth of field to allow the entire movement to be seen within the depth of field. I have earlier written about this in the article on focus stacking. I have improved my technique in shooting for focus stacking and befitting the new technique, I have am also now using the Helicon Focus as a software to stack the images. Helicon allows me to work in native 16 bit TIFF files for maximum integrity of the images. While Photoshop CS4 does allow me to work on 16 bit TIFF (Combine ZF converts the output to jpegs at 180dpi), it is slow and plagued with artifacts which require a lot of cleaning up the masks post stacking. Helicon focus stack is much cleaner, and editing out the artifacts are much easier due to the user friendly user interface. More on this in an article later.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Debethune 2011 Novelties

Debethune always have interesting things to show at the periphery of SIHH. Housed once again in one of the function rooms at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Geneva, David Zaneta and his genius partner Denis Flageolet have come up with yet another amazing crop of products.

As usual I had the pleasure of being shown the collection by David Whitkover. David has been a good friend since his days in Celini, and in the past few years, have been frontman for Debethune in the US.

The first piece David pulled out of his drawer was this stunning DB25 Tourbillon Second Morte

Debethune DB25 tourbillon with jumping seconds

The dial is made in titanium, blued by hand, and the heavenly bodies inserted by hand.

Debethune DB25 Dial detail, showing handwork on the engraving and the heavenly bodies

The movement is spectacular, with the typical Debethune shield style movement layout, and the jumping seconds secondary bridge in blued titanium riding on top.

Debethune DB25 tourbillon with jumping seconds movement side

Detail of the bridge with parachute holding the tourbillon:

Debethune DB25 tourbillon with jumping seconds. Tourbillon detail

Also new this year, the DB10 in a new guise, with a new less expensive execution than the earlier versions...without the special balance, silicium escapement, and deleting the parachute arrangement. This allows Debethune to lower the price to a very affordable E25000. Limited in 20 in grey gold, 20 in rose gold, and 10 in platinum.

Debethune DB10

A simple 3 hand watch, automatic winding.

Debethune DB10 movement side

The new model sports a less expensive execution of the movement, as seen in a side by side comparison below:

Debethune DB25 tourbillon with jumping seconds

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

SIHH 2011:

Greubel Forsey Invention Piece No 2

Greubel-Forsey recently welcomed an investment by Groupe Richemont for 20% of their company, and we await to see how this will turn out in the speed and intensity of future developments in their watches. But as mentioned elsewhere, Richemont management tends to leave the companies they acquire more or less intact, allowing them to retain their original DNA, even within the group structure.

As part of their grand strategy, GF have charted the course of their firm with what they call a series of 6 inventions...not all are realised in watches yet. But some of them have been made into beautiful timepieces. For SIHH 2011, they released a new version of the Invention Piece No. 2.

Already a magnificent timepiece...this watch is rather large, but the movement layout and design is even more wonderful and beautiful. Robert and Stephen's eye for beauty is unmistakable. The dial shows two double tourbillons, one at the traditional 8 o'clock position and another at the traditional 2 o'clock position. Each double tourbillon features an outer tourbillon which rotates at the rate of one revolution every 4 minutes in which another tourbillon, inclined at 30 deg angle makes one rotation every minute. Two doubles make a quadruple.

Greubel Forsey Invention Piece no. 2 dial side

The dial itself, shown below in detail, is a masterpiece, here is a closer look at the time telling business side. The red hand showing the hour indicator and the blue triangle mounted on a rotating disk to show the minutes. I find the play of colours to be beautiful...the gleaming silver finish of the plates...frosted, and spotted with polished bevelling, the brass of the tourbillon wheels, the splashes of red provided by the jewels and the markers. Splendid. The two double tourbillons are driven simultaneously by a spherical differential gearing system, seen in the center.

Greubel Forsey Invention Piece no. 2 dial detail showing twin double tourbillons making this a quadruple tourbillon

Multi-layered to provide a landscape feel...much like traversing a city, with many levels to show off the beautiful finishing. Great technique.

The photograph below is a closer look at one of the two double tourbillons in their own bridges/arms, and the sapphire disk which is fixed onto the outer tourbillon and carries the 4 minute indicator. Note the A shaped tourbillon bridge for the 4 minute outer tourbillon and the more traditional straight bridge for the inner minute tourbillon.

Greubel Forsey Invention Piece no. 2 double tourbillon detail

Another closeup of the other double tourbillon, showing the pinion of the outer tourbillon being driven by the fixed wheel on the upper arm. Note the finish of the bridge, which is hand bevelled, flat black polished with polished counter-sinks.

Greubel Forsey Invention Piece no. 2 dial side

And yet another look at the double tourbillon...I just cannot get enough of this. But believe me, this one is truly mesmerising watch...two tourbillons going on its own rounds, and within a vibrating balance wheel. Amazing.

Greubel Forsey Invention Piece no. 2 tourbillon pinion

The back of the Invention Piece No. 2 is inscribed with a message meant only for the owner, so I have made sure that this special pleasure of reading the message is enjoyed only by the owner. The depth of field of the medium format system helps here. Here is a picture of the rear of the watch, showing the back of the tourbillon bridge.

Greubel Forsey Invention Piece no. 2 dial side

Friday, February 4, 2011

SIHH 2011:

Greubel Forsel Double Tourbillon 30 Technique

Greubel Forsey is one of the independent watchmakers to watch...they are very innovative, and creates timepieces which are wonderful to the landscapes...and fully deserve what I call watchscapes...landscapes of watches.

Started by two veterans from Renaud et Papi - the firm bears the name of the founders...Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey. Robert is French, and Stephen is of the three Englishman independent watchmakers of note (the other two being Roger Smith and Peter Speake-Marin. I am not counting George Daniels, as he hardly has any offerings in the making, and my dear friend Derek Pratt has recently passed away).

This year, they showed the Double Tourbillon 30deg Technique...quite a long name, but it just begins to describe the complexity of this watch.

A double tourbillon, two tourbillons in one...with an outer tourbillon rotating at one revolution per 4-minutes, and an inner tourbillon running at the rate of 1 minute, this watch looks like its skeletonized, and indeed to reveal again the multi-level movement watchscape.

Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30 degree Technique dial side

From the rear, equally beautiful and captivating
Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30 degree Technique rear side

A special technique developed for the Invention Piece for inscribing the small wordings to make up text is also used in the Double Tourbillon, and is applied to the sides of the case. This raised and pilished engraving on a hand punched background is quite an interesting texture:

Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30 degree Technique case side

And the crown side

Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30 degree Technique case side showing crown

Detail of the double tourbillon, showing polished tourbillon bridge:

Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30 degree Technique detail of tourbillon and bridge

Detail of the mainspring barrels. The mainsprings are a series of 4 coaxial series-couple fast-rotating barrels. Note the bridge is jewelled, bevelled and finished to a high polish.

Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30 degree Technique detail showing main spring barrels

A closer look at the canon pinon of the watch, bearing the time indicating hands:

Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30 degree Technique detail showing main pinion

Even the buckle is quite specially engineered...

Greubel Forsey buckle

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Urwerk 2011: The UR 110 The Amazing Sculpture

Urwerk is always amazing. The watches they make are not strictly for telling the time, but avant garde sculptures which mesmerises because of the way it reminds one of science fiction creations. One can only imagine the designers at Urwerk: the talented Martin Frei and Felix Baumgartner have spent (or mis-spent) their youth marvelling at the works of George Lucas and the like...their creations are much like space crafts.

This year's new Urwerk is no different. Dubbed The Torpedo, this is an incredible piece of engineering.

Urwerk UR110 dial side, showing the satelites

From the central turret, three arms spring. As the arms move around the turret, they each always point in the same direction, and at the traditional 9 o'clock position flips a cube mounted on the arm to reveal the next hour indicator.

Urwerk UR110 dial side, showing the satelites as seen on an oblique

The entire turret turns with delicacy, and is designed to counterbalance itself, such that as little power as possible is needed to turn it around the turret, as well as to flip the hour cubes.

The entire sclupture is at the same time retro and futuristic.

Urwerk UR110 dial side, showing the satelites

On the wrist, the time indication portion just peeks out from the sleeve, alowing the owner to quickly tell the time with a discrete look at his wrist.

Urwerk UR110 on Felix's wrist

The watch's profile is also designed such that it fits comfortably on the wrist.

The time-telling part of the can be seen, the time is read intuitively off the dial.

Urwerk UR110 dial side, showing the satelites

And a parting shot...another look at the magnificent turret system...amazing!

Urwerk UR110 dial side, showing the satelites

My friend, Ben Clymer of popular watch blog Hodinkee has a good review of this novelty.