Golden Age?

It has never been so apparent that where are currently in a "golden age" of watch making. Never has there been so many complications at such prices and, what's more important, so many people willing to spend money to buy them. Pieces like the AMVOX2, Squadra, PK Chrono, Panerai Foudroayante, Genta Biretro... where unthinkable only ten years ago at these prices. Back then, only a few manufactures where capable of such developments. Ratrapantes, 8-day power reserves, retrogrades, vertical triggers, jumping hours and large dates are becoming quite common and more affordable than at any time in history. Even the Tourbillon's exclusivity has been challenged by Jaeger's "Master Tourbillon" (about time if you ask me). New companies like Richard Mille, URWERK, Hautlence are proposing new radical designs and thrive. That inspire of being priced at what was not long ago considered insane price points. Consider the "infamous" RM004v2, backordered to the end of time at a whopping 130,000 Dollars! Insane. This used to happen with the infamous Rolex "Daytona", yet at a price point one tenth that of the RM. But for a watch that costs 130k?!?

Another factor is the "spending threshold" on watches that has been continuously overrun in the last few years. Never have there been more people willing to spend obnoxious amounts of money for a watch. Almost any brand can make (at least commission) a Tourbillon and sell it! That, in some cases, is a mystery to me. Have we gone mad? Or is it that the choice has become so wast that it has become much more appealing to us all? The survey that Velociphile once took in his blog comes to one surprising conclusion; most of us blatantly lie to our spouses/relations/family about the watches that we own. Not only about the number of watches we own but what they really cost. I am certain that most of us can identify with this. When is the last time that you heard from your girlfriend/wife say; "... yes honey, you should really buy this beautifull watch." I would bet my underwear that the last time you told "her" that you where "considering" the purchase of a watch, at any price I might add, the response you got was closer to; "... What!?! Another one??? Are you going to grow extra arms to wear them all?..." And that would be the light version.

Disregarding your income evolution over the last ten years, would you ever have considered buying... sorry, spending that much money for your last watch? I sure as hell though that anybody spending that much money had something seriously wrong with him. Since then I have surpassed that line, tenfold. What about you?


Lovely... really lovely. A while back I mentioned that regardless what Patek make, they will sell it. I said that even if they where to make "an old lady's hat with a coo-coo clock" people will flock by the thousands to buy it. Well, grandma's here...

Personally I own several Pateks and love many others that I will never own or be able to own. I say this not to brag, but to illustrate that I would not want to give the impression that I am one of those that criticize just because they can't get the chance to own one. I also must admit that I am much harsher on the watches I own and the brands I like. You would not see me comment on watches like Jacob & CO for instance, its just is a waste of time.

Now, back to this piece: Recently, the boys at Patek have just graced us with the first Patek whose box is nicer than its actual content. Limited to 300 units (I hate to repeat myself, but calling 300 Pateks Limited is a big leap of faith), here goes a boooring Calatrava in steel and with a size of 36 mm. I suspect it will not be a big head turner. Honestly, this thing looks like one of those Chinese counterfeit models. You know, one of these "own" creations that isn't really in Patek's catalogue yet they slap "Patek" on the face. This thing looks closer to a Limes or Davosa for less than 1,000 bucks (and there is nothing wrong with them, they charge a more than honest price for their watches). Special would have been 42 mm, the crown on the left side and a kevlar strap. A bit extravagant for a Patek... granted, but definitely more interesting than this... yawn... thing. I guess the day they conceived this watch, imagination was not in the menu.

Ahhh... almost forgot. It is waterproof to a "staggering" 30 meters. Wow, in the real world that is barely bathtub proof. Quite a performance for the year 1906. Wait! Forgot we are in 2006... sorry.

... and two more things;

ONE. If you are one of those idiots that when told the waterproof rating of a watch say; "... I don't plan to go that deep, har har har...". Stop reading this Blog, and don't come back... ever!
TWO. If you by chance you are one of the above, and own a watch that is waterproof to 30 meters, please go snorkeling with it. In am sure you are more than safe, har har har...

Sometimes I wonder how objective I am about the Pateks I like when I see that many other models are simply do not live up to their name. Lately I have the felling that the brand "Patek Philippe" is what constitutes a large part of the attractive of their products. If I where a true "purist", which I am not, I doubt I would accept a Lemania movement in my Patek. Several of their "flagship" watches (ironically the ones in biggest demand) are not "purebred" Pateks. Personally, I don't mind. I still think that many of these are great watches. However, the price point of these specific watches is a bit excessive considering what they really are. I can't help but feel that in some cases they are taking a free ride on their prestige. Nothing wrong with that, but nobody should take their customers for granted.

P.S. I know that I am going to get a lot of heat on this piece... but bring it on, this is what this blog is all about. If you respond please add your name or screen name to avoid confusion. Last time there was some debate and everybody was called "anonymous"... maybe it was just the same guy. ;-D

Dornblueth "99.2"

Few can give you more for your money than Dornblueth. Still a small watchmaker obsessed with quality and finishing, Dornblueth is getting to be very appreciated by collectors and watch enthusiast around the world. They take order directly and until now there are no shops anywhere. There is one exception though, UHREN in Madrid are the only store where you can go a buy a Dorning. Did I say buy? Sorry, I meant get in line. Backordered to about 6 months, this small manufacture is quite a bargain. Very appreciated amongst the connoisseur, Dornblueth is with F.P. Journe the only watchmaker to make all his movements in 18k rose gold. You can even order the seconds hack option or your initials engraved on the movement. Since they are all hand made special requests are not an obstacle, provided they are within reason of course...

My personal favorite is the 99.2 and judging from the waiting list I am not the only one! If you jump on this baby, ask for the "hack upgrade". As pictured on the right, the hack option makes the seconds hand jump to the closest quarter once you pull the crown to set the time. It's not that much and quite useful if you are a precision nut.

PRICE E.U: 4,900 € aprox.
PRICE U.S: 6,000 $ aprox.

Dornblueth & Sohn...

WEMPE "Chronometerwerke"

Usually when a watch has the name and logo of the Jeweler I look away. It was very common once for Jewelers to commission important pieces to Patek or Audemars with their brand on them. That was a long time ago. Then came the dark ages... and they commissioned crap generally put together in the far east. That was until now. The first to retake the idea and commission high-end stuff and brand it personally (not forgetting who did the piece) was Harry Winston. Particularly interesting where pieces like the Opus V by URWERK. However the damage made during decades of selling cheap branded products is done. It will take prestigious Jewelers the same years that they have spent selling these horrors to recuperate the image of their watch section.

Same is true about Cartier's "Private Collection". They are quite some extraordinary pieces yet the brand is not very appealing to the general proficient watch lover. Their "special" pieces are not to be taken lightly. Unfortunately, they will need many years to put this "spacial branch" back to where if used to be a long, long time ago. Even though I like several of these pieces I just can't bring myself to buy a Cartier.

Recently Wempe has just introduced and opened their own "little" watch manufacture. Their first models are quite impressive, in spite of the fact that they have just started. Hell, there many old boys out there that to this day don't get such good results. Particularly interesting is their "Tonneau" shaped model. If you like the shape but could do without the risk of getting a Poljot movement even if the dial says "swiss made" the the new Wempe is the way to go. The finishing is impeccable and the movement is a beauty. What would be interesting is to see their next model with an 8-day power reserve and a slightly larger case.

Whether Wempe will become an appealing brand, that remains to be seen. What is certain is that they have a lot of work ahead of them. Let's wait and see...

WEMPE Manufacture...

A sucker born every minute...

You must be kidding!?! The boys at B&R just graced us with this limited edition for a mere 2,300 €. This wannabe vintage manual bicompax is an ETA based, acrylic glass, automatic ROBERY. There should be a law against this.

You like this? Then take a look a the SINN 103. It gives you much more stuff for merely 700... yes 700 Euros. Ah, and for an extra 300 bucks you can upgrade it with a safire crystal. the same upgrade in the B&R is 700€. Pathetic...

I wonder if all the other stuff by Bell & Ross is so "aggressively" priced.

OffShore "Safari"

Since its initial introduction the Safari has caused quite some watch lovers to turn their heads. It is one of these watches that everybody likes for no real apparent reason apart from the a whole design. Whether it is the cream dial, dark blue numerals of the extraordinary crocodile strap it is difficult to single out one characteristic trait that makes it so attractive to most people. AP have scored a bulls-eye with this piece, and the market has spoken. Depending on the country, this OffShore has a waiting list of between 3 to 9 months.

Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful OffShores ever to leave the factory at LeBrassus.

Audemars Piguet...

Hautlence "HL"

Just had the first contact with real a production Hautlence. Must admit I am quiet impressed, with the watch and with the future of the brand. Guillaume Tetu was so kind as to explain the philosophy and more important, their project. As to where they want to take Hautlence I am certain that if they stick to the plan they will take their venture quite far. There are few occasions when I agree more as to watch making strategy. The HL for instance will be produced only 88 times in each version. The next project will not be with that "TV shape" case. The idea is that Hautlence do not want to be identified with a particular shape. Good move if you ask me.

Although the price is a bit steep (35,000 €) the finishing is well within the expected. Its design elements are very interesting and will make this watch interesting to you for quite some time. Even thought the shape is not my favorite the HL looks much better ON the wrist that OFF the wrist. The TV shaped case, which I thought was a disadvantage, becomes more understandable once you examine the watch more closely. The movement is the one "forcing" the case shape of the watch, it is not an element of style.

Like many watches and especially with this one you have to see it in the flesh to properly make your self an opinion. If you get the chance take a look, even if you are not in the market for something like that it is an interesting piece nonetheless.


KALPA "Chiaroscuro"

More and more manufacturers are taking care of the backs as much as the front of their watches. like Lange's "Double Split" your reaction is; nice, yawn... Then, you turn it around and your heart goes racing. This Parmigiani's rear is just a hole new ball game.

A truly breathtaking finish and movement design. However, I wish it where not that expensive, it where not a Tourbillon and there where more than 30. Is that too much to ask? If Parmigiani had the guts to redesign all their regular movements like this it would certainly raise brown in the watchmaking community. It is obvious that with the "Chiaroscuro" they have the design ability. Now, will they be able to make a "Hebdomadaire" with this sort of movement design without outrageously increasing its price? Would they even consider such a move? Would you consider a "Hebdomadaire" if they would?


More 8-days manuals...

No need to deny it. I am a fan of 8-days manuals with power reserve.

With the introduction of their new 13RO calibre Blancpain have entered the arena with stile. This movement is a very beautiful pice of watchmaking. Under the pretense of renovating what was a sinking ship the Swatch Group have put more "punch" behind Blancpain. Thus, the movement is finished in a much superior fashion to what we have been accustomed to by Blancpain so far.

Particularly interesting is the enlarged Titanium balance wheel. This has been developed and is said to achieve better precision (I will put a hold on that until it has been proven on the street and not in a lab). In any case, it looks cool and adds a touch of modern to what is a classic movement design/finish.

What is unfortunate is the case/face it was put in. It has the sex-appeal of a Camel.

Calibre 13RO...