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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Urwerk 2012: Golden Shield and Extreme Closeups of the rotating pods...

Extreme closeups on the Urwerk

Urwerk watches lend themselves to my work very well. The movements and time display system is 3 dimensionsl, with beautiful angles and curves. And they are quite a work of art. This issue, I focus on one of their newer watches. The Urwerk U-110 nwo with a new gold bezel...known as the Golden Shield.

Comfortable on the wrist...shown above is mine.

The pods which rotate and the cubes which flip are all part of the game at Urwerk. Shown here the time telling mechanism from the UR-1001 ZeitDevice. Shown below is the time telling pod...hour and minutes. This system is the same in the UR-1001 as in the UR-110.

The month and date mechanism on the Zeit Device.

Another look.

Martin Frei, wearing the CC1

Friday, February 24, 2012

2012 Novelty: Ludovic Ballouard's Half Time

Ludovic Ballouard: innovative genius?

Ludovic Ballouard is a funny, quirky fellow. His humour extends to the location of his show during the SIHH - the Hotel du Midi - with its quirky furniture in the lobby and large, loud sculptures, to the watches he makes.

Formerly working at Francois Paul Journe, Ludovic was formerly in charge of building FPJ's striking watches, he started out on his own. The first watch he produced is a deceivingly simple looking watch known as The Upside Down Time. And this year, he created another interesting piece - the Half Time.

Two rings, each carrying half of the roman numerals needed for the timeshowing of the watch...but split such that they do not make any numerals except at 12 o'clock, which the two halfs combine to make a whole roman numeral. A retrograde minute hand adorns the six o'clock position.

The finish of the watch is quite remarkable. Most of the plates are manufactured and finished by Romain Gautier, but designed and assembled at Ludovic's atelier:

The movement is quite complicated, and nicely finished.

Photo note: the first image was photographed with available lighting, and the second with a small Canon EX580II flash.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

SIHH 2012: A tour of the booths

The Booths at the SIHH get more and more amazing each year. This year is no different. As with last year, I took some time to go around to photograph the booths. Here is a selection

I omit the largest display - the one by Cartier, because it is spread across several fact it occupies one whole corner with its own refreshment area, and a museum like display which links their watches to icons of each era when the watches were introcduced. And inside the main double booth, the novelties were displayed a la musee. The appointment rooms and presentation rooms were in a seperate booth.

But let me start with what is perhaps the most well done booth in the show, one where everyone was talking about...IWC

As one enters the booth, one is greeted with this reception table, manned by lovely ladies in what looked like US Navy uniforms. A life sized model of a fighter which one can climb up the stairs (yes, live size stairs) and take a flight simulation in the cockpit. Incredible. And all over the booth was made to look like an aircraft carrier. Reminded me of USS Midway which I boarded in 2010. USS Midway is a large aircraft carrier, now a museum anchored in San Diego. Even the sound of the engines rumbling...perhaps its my imagination, but I thought I smelt grease and sensed a rumbling on the floor too.

Incredible. Gotta hand it to George Kerns and his folks. Last year they transported the Italian town of Portofino to Geneva. This year, they have done it with their amazing aircraft carrier.

Baume Mercier booth looked like it was teleported from the Hamptons...a house, quaint, and beautiful:

Lange had a giant image of their novelty - the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar.

An an amazing piece of Germany...weighing some 3.5 tons - a piece of rock from the Ore Mountains. And of course, their little bit of Germany in Switzerland came complete with Radeberger beer vom fass, and pretzels.

Another interesting booth, though perhaps a bit out of character to have lasers shooting all over the place when one of your key products is a line called Excalibur, but nevertheless a beautiful booth is the Roger Dubuis:

Right at the entrance of the SIHH is the Richard Mille booth, with a giant glass etched movement...much like the ones they have in their boutiques worldwide. Note Richard himself talking to a group at their foyer.

The Parmigiani booth exuded a quiet elegance, and looked more like the reception of a luxury hotel.

Greubel Forsey had a very traditional looking booth, except for a huge wall paper which flows over to the ceiling. The custom wall paper was inscribed with sketches and drawings of the conceptual development of their watches. And housed, in a workshop on the far left in the picture, is Philippe Dufour's workshop.

Vacheron Constantin also had a rather traditional looking booth, celebrating their Malte...a huge poster with images of the Malte.

And finally, a look at what some of the independents were doing. This is the Urwerk suite at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Geneva:

Quiet and elegant. Felix in his red suit deep in the room at the far end of this photograph.

Friday, February 17, 2012

SIHH 2012: Greubel Forsey GMT

SIHH 2012: Greubel Forsey's offering: The GMT

Greubel Forsey's continued exploration of the tourbillon is a fascinating one. Incline double tourbillons, quadruple tourbillons, inventions with tourbillons, secrets with tourbillon, and now a GMT with a 3 dimensional rotating globe with an incline double tourbillon.

So they take their wonderful 24 incline tourbillon, moved things around a bit, so as to create space, and poped in a 3 dimensional globe. The globe is mounted flying...meaning there is no anchor to a bridge or cock on the upper (dial) side, and makes it look as if the globe is floating in space. The globe makes one revolution every 24 hours.

Except it is not so simple...if ever adding a 3 dimensional flying globe and GMT funciton is simple...notice that the double tourbillon now is at the 4 o'clock position instead of the Incline 24's 8 o'clock position. This necessitates a change in the base movement...looks like a complete new movement to accomodate this change.

The tourbillon is as beautiful as ever...inclined at 24 degrees.

At the back of the watch, the GMT time setting system, showing the cities. The cities are printed on a glass disk which rotates as one adjusts the home time. Note the shadow cast by the print.

I love the frosted finish of the bridges, and the star pattern on the intermediate wheel. Note also the internal angles which are anglaged and polished on the bridge which holds the lower pivot of the tourbillon cage.

The finish of the case, dial and movement is typical Greubel Forsey, which means it is top class. One of the best finishes in the business. A closer look at the dial with the tourbillon. Click on image below for a 1920 wide wallpaper.

Quite an amazing watch. And a brilliant idea to use the large volume of space within Greubel Forsey's offerings. For me, I don't really cotton to the blue on the globe...true its representative of the oceans. True it is a nice, strong, bright hue. But for me, it screams a bit too loud. And takes away from the beauty of this exceptional piece.

Give me the Double Tourbillon 30 degree secret any day. But take away the printing on the dial which says "Double Tourbillon 30" and "Reserve de Marche 72 hours" and "Un tour 4 min"...Interestingly, reflecting the French English principals of the brand...the printing on the dial is a strange mix of French and English. I do not have photographs of the Secret, as they were not able to take the watch out of the display for me to photograph. But for me, this is the Greubel Forsey to get.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

SIHH 2012: Audemars Piguet

reinvents the Royal Oak

SIHH 2012: Audemars Piguet

Audemars Piguet celebrates the 40th Anniversary of the Royal Oak with beautiful re-issues.

Has it been 40 years since Gerald Genta had this brilliant idea of putting a octagonal bezel in a stylized tonneau case? Indeed it has been, and yet, the Royal Oak looks as fresh today as it did in 1972.

I will mainly cover the Royal Oak reissue in this insatallment, to celebrate the return to elegance of the Royal Oak.

The new time only RO, which they call the Jumbo:

The proportions are now returned to perfect, returned to the original's 39mm, and houses an automatic movement (C.2121). The hour markers lengthened so that they are more elegant. But the biggest improvement, in my opinion, is the new dial. Now, like it was 40 years ago, it is done on a hand turned rose engine.

The dial is now remarkable. The Grande Tapisserie pattern now looking more refined, and crisp.

Beautiful and incredible as the dial may be, AP made an Anniversary version, with a glass dial, and skeletonizedultra thin movement.

Though looking technically brilliant, I am not sure I like this treatment more than the regular Jumbo Royal Oak shown above.

But I certainly do like the RO Tourbillon:

AP was one of the first to put this virtuoso complication into a stainless steel watch. Daring in those days. And always intriguing to me. I have mentioned this several times, so regular readers...please pardon my repetition, but I love the juxtaposition of the seemingly fragile tourbillon within a tough, sporty case like the Royal Oak.

The watch is a true photogenic marvel. Beautiful from all sides. On my wrist, perfect:

And they also produce a skeletonized version

I am not sure why. I guess there must be people who are fascinated by the skeletonized movement. Certainly not me. The legibility of the dial is hugely compromised with skeletonizing any movement.

I think a bold move for AP...seemingly to play down on the endless re-issues of the humongous RO Offshore series in little limited editions which only an expert can tell the difference from each other. The re-issued RO, especially the non-skeletonized versions are quite something to these tired and jaded eyes.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Laurent Ferrier's amazing Galet Micro Rotor

Laurent Ferrier: Novelties for 2012

Laurent Ferrier is a very small firm based in Geneva. They practically burst into the scene with a ultra classical watch featuring a tourbillon and immaculate finishing in 2010. That was the Galet Tourbillon. They added a peek-a-boo style dial to the Galet in 2011. And this year, they introduced the Micro Rotor - a completely new caliber automatic movement in a classical case and dial. Impressive for a young company.

I have covered Laurent Ferrier several times before in this blog. I believe their immense success is due to Laurent himself seeing a nice niche within the independent manufacturers for a beautifully finished, classical watch. Philippe Dufour was perhaps the sole occupant in this class, but one is not able to order a watch from Philippe.

But with Laurent Ferrier, that niche is filled. The fit and finish of the watches and movements are exceptional. They retain the services of a full time anglage technician watchmaker, whose job is just to do the beautiful anglage found within the movements. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me introduce what's new for 2012: And of course, the new Micro Rotor. Click on the image below for a wall paper sized image measuring 1920 pixels across.

Perfect proportions. Measuring 40mm case diameter with a height of 10.7mm, the watch looks beautiful, elegant and discrete. Almost like the original Galet Tourbillon, except that the hour markers are totally roman, instead of a mix of roman and bar markers for the more expensive tourbillon equipped model.

The movement is pure Laurent Ferrier:

The bridge layout is beautiful and very classical. I particularly like the steel cock holding the balance wheel and the bridge holding the micro-rotor. With a height of 10.7mm, there is sufficient volume within the movement to create a sense of 3D of the movement which is such a joy to view.

I also note the success of having a specialized anglage person doing the anglage work, which is radiant and magnificent. The bridges are finished with Côtes de Genève, mainplate with perlage, and all the sides of the bridges and wheel spokes are anglaged, including the interior angles of the balance cock and the micro-rotor itself. Even the screw heads are polished. The movement is not only good to look at but the balance features a detent style chronometer escapement. Laurent Ferrier calls this their Double Direct Impulse system. Another look at the says it all:

Truth be told, this is one of the few watches this SIHH which made me want to pull the trigger and order the watch for myself. I do like some of the other pieces being shown at the show, but those I liked were those I cannot afford (Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar, JLC Spherotourbillon, Parmigiani Pershing Open Work Tourbillon and the Toric Westminister and Debethune DB25T are examples), or which I already own (Lange Datograph Auf/Ab). The Galet Micro Rotor comes in an interesting price (read affordable) and looks and finish which tug at my heart strings.

Finally, to complete the collection, this year being the Year of the Dragon, according to the Chinese calendar, so a new dial, featuring enamel work and a peek dial to show the dragon was introduced.

I can see how some people would like this style of watch, but certainly not my cup of tea. The Micro Rotor...well, certainly is!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

SIHH 2012: Jaeger LeCoultre's offerings

Jaeger LeCoultre novelties for SIHH 2012: my take on the watches.

2012 might be the year of the re-issue. For JLC, the strategy is not different. They reissued and revised the Master Control series with aplomb. And reissued some Reversos...but do note that JLC might perhaps be seen as leading this trend, having started the 1931 Reverso re-edition in SIHH 2011.

However, in addition to the reissues, JLC has a trick up their sleeve...the Speherotourbillon - a beauty and a masterpiece.

But let's start the with the beautiful, and proceed to the great.

The re-editions to the Master Control line are the Master control in larger 39mm case, the Ultra Thin Reserve de Marche, and the Ultra Thin Tourbillon. The new Master Control is shown amongst the roses above and the Ultra Thin RDM below, now in a case only 8.89mm high.

Also, some newly re-worked Reversos.

I have always been interested and fascinated with the Reversos. Last year's 1931 reissue was marvellous. The return to elegance. Clean, nice art deco style. JLC resisted the temptation to make larger and larger watches, and the Reverso, now sporting the word "Reverso" on the dial, remains the petite beauty it once was. Inspired me to create this stylized, sepia toned image below, reminiscent of the heyday of style:

A new rose gold Master Grande Tradition Minute Repeater is now also available. I was fascinated with this watch, originally released in 2011 in platinum when Jerome Lambert, CEO of JLC introduced during a lunch in Singapore.

In a restaurant, he joked that many makers lend on volume by placing their repeaters on a piece of paper or glass. But not JLC. He held the watch in the air, and released the repeater. Crystal clear strikes almost filled the room...remember this was in a restaurant, albeit in a private room, but it was far from quiet. Amazing.

Finish is quite good, with almost the entire striking mechanism viewable through the skeletonized glass dial.

But this year, available in rose gold. For me, this makes it more visually romantic...which I think is coherent with the complication of a repeater.

A new Duometer Quantieme Lunaire is also released. .

The C 381 movement sports a dual gear train movement (like the other Duometers). One train is now equipped with a calendar moonphase, and the other gear train to power the foudroyante seconds hand. I liked the juxtaposition of a calendar movement which the day of the month hand moving one revolution in one month, and a foudroyante hand which whizzs around one revolution every second.

On my wrist the 40.5mm rose gold case looks perfect:

And finally the piece de resistance...the Spherotourbillon:

JLC was one of the early pioneers of the multi axis tourbillon. Eric Coudray, then working for JLC created the Gyrotourbillon way back in 2004. And JLC has kept improving the Gyrotourbillon ever since. I wrote and photographed the last of the series...the Rose Gold Gyrotourbillon a while ago.

The Spherotourbillon is a little less complicated than the original Gyrotourbillon as it does not have a perpetual calendar and equation of time complication, but has a special zero reset function for the seconds hand, like the flyback function on some chronographs. This allows the user to reset the seconds hand to zero and wait for the time signal to release to allow for precise time-setting. This is perhaps the first tourbillon to do so. Lange tourbillons after the Cabaret Tourbillon feature the hack mechanism, where the tourbillon cage and as a result the balance is stopped for time setting. The Spherotourbillon zero reset, activated by a button at 10 o'clock does not stop the tourbillon(s), but merely reset the seconds hand which is driven by the second gear train...this being a Duometer the C.382 movement is equipped with dual gear trains.

Also, the tourbillon is now not a gyro, which will inscribe the entire sphere over time, but a conical one. One tourbillon, spinning at a rate of 30s per revolution is inclined at 20 degrees. Within this outer cage is another tourbillon.

I find the tourbillon, now equipped with a cylindrical hairspring (like the Gyro2) made by Lange in Glashutte, to be mesmerising. Reminds me of what Greubel Forsey is doing with their Incline 24 Double Tourbillon, except the outer tourbillon in the JLC is flying and sans bridge to support the upper, dial side.

The dial is very beautiful, and a much more accomplished design and finish than the rather garage look and feel of the original Gyrotourbillon.

The movement finish is also gorgeous. Click on the 2 images below to bring up the 1920 wide wallpaper.

I particularly like the bridge layout...magnificent, and aestetically pleasing. The treatment of the bridges like a sunburst is also visually arresting. And I love the wolf's teeth used in the double barrels. Old world artisanal charm.

Here are some closeups of the spherotourbillon, going through its throngs...much like a wobbling top, but precise, and mesmerising.

A video of this amazing spherotourbillon is in the works...and will be released soon.