Rare Handcrafts Goes Virtual
An online tour of Patek Philippe's Rare Handcrafts 2022 Exhibition.
Rebranded as the MII, with a subtle and much welcome change to the chronograph minutes counter.
Too good to vanish, Christian Gafner, the industrial designer behind the minimal aesthetics of the original, has acquired the rights from Embassy Jewel AG and has rebooted production of this highly functional, minimalist classic.
One of many illustrations created by Syd Mead for a promotional brochure distributed by US Steel in the late 1960s and early 70s.
US Steel would send the brochure for free to anyone who asked and nearly everyone in the art department at ILM, which produced the visual effects for Star Wars, had one. This particular illustration served as direct inspiration for the AT-AT vehicles in The Empire Strikes Back.
A smartglasses platform centered around an OLED-powered heads-up display embedded in sunglasses.
The hardware itself is a little bulky, but it's nice to see them offer an open SDK. I would have loved to have seen Focals, created by North and later acquired by Google, have a similarly open and developer-friendly platform like this.
At 1.75 millimetres thick, fully cased, the latest from Mille is impressively durable given just how slim it is. Due in large part to its extensive use of titanium.
Necessarily doing away with a number of classical approaches to mechanical watchmaking in order to achieve this slimness, the novel caliber inside brings a handful of interesting touches to the table, most notably in the winding and setting works. While I'm not personally a fan of requiring a tool to wind or set the watch—particularly on a piece that's manually wound—the clutch to toggle between winding and setting appears particularly well engineered given the constraints at hand.
The dial being set in the same plane as the gear train is now commonplace in mechanical timepieces this thin, but Mille's approach lends the hands a comparatively improved level of resilience to any physical impacts the timepiece is likely to endure.
While I was somewhat concerned at first glance seeing them do away with the double roller and guard pin in the escapement, which are today standard shock-resistance safety features, upon further reflection it occurred to me that there are some workarounds Mille may have employed here that can neither be confirmed or denied in any of the promotional material I've seen and the 5000 Gs of impact resistance it was tested to speaks for itself.
One thing that is surprisingly notable in both the promotional photos and videos is the amount of dust and small fibers strewn about the movement, including a relatively large black fiber stuck to the top bridge of the going train right next the watchmaker's pointer finger in the above image. The voice-over talent in the linked video also gets some nomenclature wrong. At its 7-figure price point, one can only hope such oversights are not evident in the finished timepiece itself.
It's free-sprung, titanium balance wheel gets full thumbs up from me.
The movement side of George Daniels' hand-crafted Space Traveler pocket watch, with two separate gear trains to indicate both mean-solar and sidereal time.
Prior to being called The Space Traveller, this timepiece was charmingly referred to as the Daniels Squared. A nod to the assistance of Professor Daniels, at Cambridge University, in helping George Daniels reduce the known error in the calculations used for the gear train by nearly a factor of four.
The first mass-produced, American-made free-sprung balance, with an unusual design compared to its Swiss counterparts. First launched in 1958.
A handy bit of kit developed by ETA to quickly install springbars without risk of scratching watch cases in production.
Supplier of specialty sapphire crystals and watch components to the Swiss watch industry.
Mb-microtec has pioneered the world's first “closed product life cycle from production all the way to recycling” for radioactive tritium gas used in timepieces and other gear that require enduring and dependable, battery-free self-illumination.
Limited exclusively to Switzerland for the time being, this is nevertheless a superb example of responsible resource stewardship.
With Robert-Jan Broer of Fratello.
The latest caliber to come out of Garrick Watchmakers, debuting in their S5. Given Andreas Strehler's involvement in their prior UT-G series of calibers, I would surmise he played a key role in its development. The trilobe balance bridge is reminiscent of his trans-axial tourbillon.
The 7000 series, automatic watch calibers in the Americhron line are assembled in the USA at FTS, from parts crafted in India by one of its sister companies under the Tata Group, which also owns one of India's most dominant watch brands, Titan.
The full balance bridge is a nice touch.
Andrea Furlan and Hamad Al Marri are back with a new, vintage-inspired timepiece.
Foregoing the mechaquartz route this time around, it's more expensive and less featureful than its predecessors, but still serves up impressive value in the current mechanical watch landscape with execution at this level.
Powered by the Japanese-designed, Swiss-made La Joux-Perret G100 caliber, it boasts a 68 hour power reserve, which is appreciably longer than the 48 hour power reserve of the Miyota 9015 that the G100 is based on and likely accounts for the slightly thicker movement architecture. While Furlan Marri could have opted for a less expensive caliber, it's always a welcome touch to have a power reserve long enough that you could take the watch off on a Friday night and still find it running with a reasonable amount of reserve when you go to put it back on the following Monday morning.
A smartphone-sized pocket watch concept from Code41.
It's worth noting that a physical prototype doesn't actually exist yet. While certainly a conversation piece, of the coffee table book variety, I will be sincerely surprised if there proves to be a longterm market for a product like this.
While the down-to-earth pricing of Moonswatch quickly went stratospheric after launch thanks to the extreme disparity between supply and demand, CIGA Design's Blue Planet remains available and affordable. With a domed sapphire crystal that mimics the atmosphere and a three-dimensional rendition of the earth that serves as the hour hand, coupled with a novel indicator for the minutes, the Blue Planet watch provides laudable design and horological value. At $929 USD for the stainless steel version, this just might be the least expensive way to get into a Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève winning timepiece that is still available for sale.
It's also worth noting that this timepiece is the first ever made in China to win the Swiss GPHG Challenge prize.
This fully-encapsulated OLED display inside of a run-of-the-mill-looking 2x2 sloped Lego brick, powered by a standard 9V Lego battery brick, is remarkable.
Created by James Brown using a slightly modified STM32F030F4P6 Cortex M0 processor, with 16K of flash memory and 4K of RAM, paired with a 0.42" QT1306P82 OLED panel. The final brick form itself is achieved through a combination of 3D printing and what appears to be a polyurethane casting technique (using Lego molds, no less) popularized by Keymacs.
The official spec from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO 1112).
As one might expect from German engineering, the quick-adjust clasp on Lange & Söhne's Odysseus bracelet is robust and well thought through.
Add up to 7mm of length at the push of a button or ratchet things back in for a snugger fit simply by squeezing the bracelet—all while on the wrist.
In a partnership between Phillips, LVMH-owned Zenith, and renowned independent watchmaker, Kari Voutilainen, a never-before-sold series of vintage Zenith 135-O movements (regulated by Charles Fleck and René Gygax in the mid-twentieth century for observatory trials) are being expertly finished, cased, and brought to market.
Featuring a stunted escape wheel to accommodate a larger balance wheel for improved rate stability, the movement architecture is akin to the Peseux 260, another vintage, observatory-grade chronometer, which Voutilainen based his own series of Observatoire timepieces on. However, unlike the Peseux 260, the Zenith 135 has an extra pinion in the gear train for a center-seconds hand, and can readily be set up to indicate either central seconds or subsidiary seconds. Whereas the Peseux 260 is architected specifically for a sub-seconds layout. That said, like Voutilainen's Observatoire timepieces and as with the Zenith 135-equipped timepieces that have preceded this set, Zenith has opted to go with sub-seconds.
It's also worth noting that, while Voutilainen converted the Peseux 260 to a free-sprung balance system for improved isochronism, he was very intentional about his team leaving the regulating components in the Zenith 135-O calibers they received exactly as they found them:
“The persons working on these movements were the best watchmakers at the time. They had the know-how to make things precise. That precision doesn’t disappear after 70 years. Our duty was not to touch that performance.”
New York has Passed the world’s first electronics 'Right to Repair' law.
This is huge news and a superb precedent to set. The products we buy should be built with the longer term in mind. It's better for the environment and repair, rather than replace, is the better option for more people most of the time.
An experienced watchmaker in his own right and with his sights set on developing an in-house caliber for the astronomical specialist, Koeslag will be coming alongside Creative Director, Daniel Reintjes, and Marketing Director, Maria Reintjes, as the brand's new Technical Director.
Nice, clean repair of a worn center wheel, using a steel sleeve, by James Harris.
With a movement developed by Stephen McDonnell, MB&F doubles down on the chronograph—in their first-ever chronograph—the Legacy Machine Sequential EVO, featuring a novel "Twinverter" mechanism to fluidly couple and decouple the two chronograph mechanisms.
The original Chronomètre Contemporain by Rexhep Rexhepi, which debuted in 2018, was a masterclass in movement layout and finishing. The follow-up from Rexhepi packs greater complexity under the hood, while retaining its visual identity on the dial side.
Surpassing the movement that preceded it in specs on paper, that increased complexity lends the new movement an altogether different visual appeal that falls a stride short of the supreme elegance of its forebearer. The supersized breadth of the anglage and oversized spokes on the balance wheel seem almost caricature-like when posed next to the original.
I would be interested to hear more from Rexhepi himself about the thinking that went into bifurcating power delivery and, in particular, the changes to the balance wheel. In addition to the unusually large spokes, the modifications to the variable-inertia weights on the balance render it moderately more tedious to make precise timing adjustments in such tight quarters. Robin Nooy, over at Monochrome, has reported that the balance screws are responsible for the 60% increase in inertia at the balance wheel. However, it is clearly the increased girth of those spokes that account for the majority of that increase. Ideally, though, you want to move as much of that weight as possible to the outer rim, or felloe, of the balance wheel to optimize rate stability. Time will tell if this new balance design has staying power or whether it will mirror the trajectory of Voutilainen's Carbontime Fused Quartz Balance in the Rexhepi timeline.
At the end of the day, the execution of the finishing remains world class and it retains a free-sprung balance, so it's still got it where it counts.
Miniature, 80/20-style aluminum extrusions.
Traditional in looks with nouveau execution. The stamped dial of the new Louis Erard Regulateur, featuring design direction from William Massena, serves up a pleasing aesthetic with typography that almost seems to float above the dial.
The broad form of the 'A' in Massena's logotype, well-suited to watch dials and informed by vintage watch typography, stands in stark contrast to the slimmer, more modern 'A' in Louis-Erard's logotype, which is derived from type designed for signage and screens.
One of Vacheron Constantin's engravers putting the finishing touches on the wings of Nike for their Métiers d’Art 'Tribute to Great Civilisations' reference 7620A/000G-B928.
Rounding the stairs to encounter this graceful remnant from the Island of Samothrace, carved from white marble, stands out as one of the absolute highlights of the Louvre for me.
In 1924, British mountaineers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine set out to climb to the top of Mount Everest, nearly 30 years before Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's successful ascent in 1953. Mark Synnott, author of The Third Pole, posits that photographic evidence of Mallory and Irvine's summit of Mount Everest may still exist from Irvine’s Vest Pocket Kodak camera.
I've long wondered whether Mallory and Irvine managed to make it to the peak—without supplemental oxygen, no less. Regardless of whether or not evidence ever surfaces that they did, Hillary and Norgay will forever remain the first to do it and live to tell the tale.
The L.U.C. Full Strike Sapphire from Chopard serves up some impressive material and acoustical engineering. Hewn from a solid disc of corundum, its duo of sapphire gongs that sound the time aid in improving the transmission of sound through its full-sapphire case.
Understandably, production is limited to just 5 pieces.
Empirical evidence for the subliminal, positive impact of setting the hands of a clock or watch in a configuration that resembles a smile, from a team of researchers across Germany, Egypt, and the USA.
Somewhat surprisingly, watches set in this configuration were found to induce "in women significantly stronger ratings of pleasure than in men."
With Justin Hast, at the London Design Museum.
Ben Clymer, of Hodinkee, touches the tip of the ice-burg of Patrick Getreide's "One of a Kind Collection" (a.k.a. The OAK Collection) that is on display from May 19th to 25th, 2022 at the London Design Museum. One of the highlights includes a splendid tourbillon pocket watch, commissioned by Henry Graves Jr. in 1932, featuring a movement crafted by Pellaton for Patek Philippe.
While it may seem a little over-the-top for Getreide to employ a watchmaker for himself, when you consider the fact that servicing just one of the timepieces from his collection of over 600 rare and complicated timepieces would easily cost five figures at the manufacturer and potentially take years to get back, it makes sense. I have little doubt that maintaining this impressive collection for Getreide is both painstaking and a great pleasure for his watchmaker, Gabriel Tortola.
A hand-carved and well-preserved incense clock, in the form of a dragon, on display at the Time Museum of Tehran.
As the incense stick inside the dragon slowly burned up, it would burn through the strings laid across the back of the dragon and the bells on the ends of each string would drop, their chimes marking the passage of time.
While the open, arched indices on Philippe Narbel's inaugural ROOTS timepiece appear to have been 3D printed, that has yet to be confirmed. However, he has been very open about the fact that the texture in the center of the dial is crafted from sterling silver using a technique he stumbled upon by accident while studying to become a jeweller. That technique is known within the jewellery industry as reticulation and involves removing the copper content from the surface of sterling silver, or other precious metal alloy, and then proceeding to melt the core of the metal without melting the surface. As the surface is now pure precious metal and has a higher melting point than the alloyed metal below it, the liquified material below it deforms the surface as it heats and cools.
The linked video, by Andrew Berry, provides a full walkthrough of the process, from material preparation all the way through to punching out a desired section of the reticulated metal without damaging the texture.
Under the dial of the new Fears Garrick, showing the inner workings of the power reserve complication developed for Garrick's caliber UT-G04 by Andreas Strehler. The finished timepiece is a collaboration between British watch brands Garrick and Fears, as well as Canadian type designer Lee Yuen Rapati
A beautifully hand-finished movement, based on the ETA/Peseux caliber 7001, inside a minimalist timepiece with a novel dial construction.
The free-sprung balance coupled with a swan's neck mechanism to control and lock in the beat error are both a pleasant touch.
An English clockmaker, born in 1704, credited with the invention of cast steel, which was far more consistent and reliable than the laminated steel that preceded it.
Borrowing techniques from glass blowers, Huntsman was able to heat the steel to a much higher temperature, paving the way for superior quality springs and other steelwork for horological purposes, among myriad other applications both within and beyond the borders of England.
Students at Edinburgh University develop piezoelectric generators from electrospun PVDF nanofibers that are 2x more effective at converting mechanical energy into electricity.
Research and implementation by Francisco Javier Diaz Sanchez, Michael Chung, Muhammad Waqas, Vasileios Koutsos, Stewart Smith, Norbert Radacsi.
Turns out, the digits 0 thru 9 that we commonly refer to as Arabic numerals on the dial of watch actually originated in India several centuries prior. Confounding matters, timepieces made specifically for the Arab market typically employ Mashriki, or Eastern Arabic, numerals (١ ٢ ٣ ٤ ٥ ٦ ٧ ٨ ٩).
The company behind the design-led, diamond-growth technology used to create the 2.5 carat diamond crown of the Tag Heuer Carrera Plasma Tourbillon Nanograph.
The Tag Heuer emblem floating within the crown is a nice touch. The process employed by Capsoul to create this crown for Tag Heuer also enables them to inlay other colours of diamond, including black diamond, directly within the the lattice of perfectly clear diamond (and vice versa) allowing for incredibly diverse outcomes that are crafted from 100% pure diamond.
While synthetic diamond has been around for over half a century, it seems we're finally approaching the scale that would render the mass production of diamond crystals to protect the dial of a watch viable. Scratch-resistant sapphire crystals seemed like science fiction when Rolex first debuted one with the unveiling of the the Oysterquartz in 1970. Now they're ubiquitous in the realm of mechanical watches. I'm excited to see who will be the first to market with a truly scratch-proof crystal, machined entirely from a single piece of monocrystalline diamond.
Painted by Gérald Genta circa 1976.
One of the key images making the rounds in the Aion Group's latest press release depicts a sterile, Rolex caliber 3135. First produced in 1988, most of the patents on this caliber are now expired. While it is viable a new French upstart would have the audacity to bring a clone into mass production (the same way Sellita et al did with several ETA calibers after the associated patents expired), the prospect of it seemed suspicious. Particularly in light of the Aion Group's recent acquisition of Felsa's assets. Felsa, itself, having quite the back catalog of movements to choose from. Sure enough, it turns out this image first appeared online circa early 2020 and, like nearly every other photo of a movement on the group's website, is a stock photo licensed from LightField Studios.
On an infinite timescale, I think it is inevitable that a mass manufacturer of watch movements will eventually clone the 3135, and with good reason—it is a superlatively well-engineered watch movement. Indeed, a number of movements now coming out of China are already about 90% of the way there. The question is, will anyone ever come close to the best-in-class oscillator and supreme metallurgical expertise of the real-deal?
Inside Tudor HQ with Jack Forster.
Crafted in France, between 1780 and 1810.
On a trek to verify the highest peak east of the Mississippi, which now bears his name, Mitchell slipped and fell to his death near the summit. Over a century later, the watch still bears the supposed time of his death on June 27, 1857. A poignant reminder of our frailty and the brevity our time here on this beautiful planet.
From the brink of bankruptcy to a $3.3 billion valuation, Georges Kern’s “air, land, and sea” approach to making Breitling a more sustainable watch brand—both environmentally and fiscally—has accelerated its growth in a time of global upheaval and uncertainty.
Yet another sublime mystery watch from the Cartier Maison. Although she has departed Cartier, this has the hallmarks of Carole Forestier-Kasapi's ingenuity written all over it.
I'd say I'm disappointed to see it lacks a free-sprung balance at this price point, but in a somewhat satisfying twist, this setup manages to deftly sidestep the impact of gravity on timekeeping performance, helping to mitigate one of the downsides of regulating pins.
The watchmaking bench used by Abraham-Louis Breguet, donated to France's Museum of Arts and Crafts by Héloïse Vuitel in 1893.