ESCAPEMENT is an online magazine aimed at individuals with a passion for watch collecting, who appreciate “the finer things in life. The purpose of ESCAPEMENT is to help readers understand the intricacies of haute horlogerie by providing an insight behind the scenes of the watchmaking industry and conveying the craftsmanship employed by some of the world’s finest watchmakers.
Graham Swordfish Steel
Recently, Graham looked to its back catalogue and chose to revive one of its greatest hits. As Angus Davies explains, this Swiss firm has an impressive ability for creating distinctive chronographs, brimming with character.
This detailed review of the Graham Swordfish Steel includes images, specification details and pricing.
I am sat in a Starbucks in central Manchester, watching people pass by the coffee shop’s large panoramic windows. As I watch the city’s inhabitants busily negotiate the congested pavements, I am struck by the appearance of many female twentysomethings. It would seem de rigueur to have bleach blonde hair, a fake tan and so-called ‘slug eyebrows’. It appears that a whole generation of women are choosing to look the same.
This desire for homogeneity is alien to me. I love diversity. The notion of expressing one’s own personality is a benefit of living in a free society. Perhaps, it is for this reason that I admire Graham, the Swiss-based watch brand synonymous with making chronographs. Its watches do not subscribe to convention, exhibiting a distinctive appearance all of their own..
One glance at the new Graham Swordfish Steel validates my opinion. I know of no other watch which shares the same design language. Love it or loathe it, this unique personality of this watch deserves discussion.
Like many horophiles, I always liked the Swordfish and I was surprised that the brand chose to discontinue the model a few years ago. However, now it’s back and, in my opinion, it looks sharper than ever.
Graham offer two versions of the Swordfish Steel, one with red counters and another model endowed with black counters. While the latter version is agreeable, I have always felt the Swordfish is about boldness and I am seduced by the intense gaze of its red counters.
It is unusual for me to fixate on the counters at the exclusion of all other dial elements, but those red eyes are extraordinary. A 30-minute chronograph register is positioned adjacent the crown. Unusually, the counter at 9 o’clock combines two roles, it incorporates a 12-hour chronograph register as well as a small seconds display. With the onset of middle-age I have become myopically challenged, however, there is no need to dust off my bifocals, two magnified lenses sit atop the counters, augmenting the size of the indications by 20%.
The ‘modern’ hour and minute hands uphold Graham’s house style and have featured on several of the brand’s other models. They articulate the time with notable efficiency and sit harmoniously with the aforementioned counters. The lithe central chronograph features a prominent red tip, heightening legibility.
The hours are indicated with crisp white, rectangular batons. Both the hands and indexes have been treated with SuperLuminova, aiding readability in dim light. A chapter ring encircles the dial, proving especially useful when reading-off elapsed seconds.
Regular ESCAPEMENT readers will already know that I have a penchant for bi-compax dials. In my opinion, two subdials confer a notable degree of balance and symmetry that a three counter offering is unable to match.
Measuring 46mm in diameter, the Graham Swordfish Steel exudes masculinity from every square millimetre of its gleaming torso. Its scale may prove off-putting to some prospective purchasers, however, I would urge anyone considering this watch to try it on. The profile of the lugs ensures the watch envelops the wrist, sits neatly under the cuff and looks smaller than its specification sheet suggests.
When handling the Graham Swordfish Steel one can readily discern the impressive quality of the case. Everything is beautifully executed, without the merest hint of sharpness or wayward machining. The brand states that the crown is equipped with ‘2 joints’ to enhance water resistance and the pushpieces feature clous de Paris on their vertical flanks, conferring a sublime tactility.
Graham has indulged wearers with a bewildering choice of straps. Red or black rubber options, featuring a mesh pattern proffer an exquisite textured appearance. The watch is also delivered with an additional fabric strap. Alternatively, a black leather cuff strap or Milanese steel bracelet can be selected. It would seem Graham has covered all of the bases.
An exhibition caseback grants views of the self-winding movement within. The Calibre G1710 contains 34 jewels and its power reserve is sufficient to deliver 48 hours of autonomy. The balance has a frequency of 28,800 VpH (4Hz).
While the Graham Swordfish Steel is unequivocally modern, its movement is enriched with traditional Swiss craftsmanship. The plate is circular grained and the bridges are adorned with Côtes de Genève, while blued screws uphold watchmaking practise.
Graham has chosen to shun the norms of watch design and courageously go its own way. Nobody could ever allege this company of plagiarism, its models are clearly its unique. The Chronofighter’s distinctive trigger is legendary, while the Swordfish will undoubtedly become known for its bewitching eyes.
Sometimes a designer’s creativity can deliver breathtaking style at the expense of functionality. Thankfully, no such allegations could be directed at Graham. The Swordfish Steel lucidly converses with the wearer. Indeed, the design and scale of the indications facilitate ease of read-off.
Appraising the Graham Swordfish Steel with discerning eyes and inquisitive fingers reveals a palpable sense of quality. Moreover, priced at £5,750 (RRP as at 21.6.2019), this watch stands comparison with some watches costing a few thousand pounds more.
Ultimately, all roads lead back to the appearance of this watch. It dares to be different and, by default, its aesthetics will polarise opinion. However, if every watch subscribed to mediocrity, horology would be boring. Personally, I celebrate individuality.
Armin Strom Grand Complication (Part One)
This year, Armin Strom celebrates its 10-year anniversary. The Manufacture from Biel/Bienne has chosen to mark the occasion by releasing its most complex timepiece to date, combining the brand’s groundbreaking resonance know-how with one of the oldest complications, a minute repeater.
Armin Strom Grand Complication (Part One) – In this 3-part series, ESCAPEMENT studies the brand’s history, takes a behind the scenes look at the making of the latest base movement and corresponding minute repeater module and, lastly, appraises the completed watch, the Armin Strom Minute Repeater Resonance.
Armin Strom is based in the bilingual town of Biel/Bienne, a place where a resident’s mother tongue determines the place name used. In the case of this Manufacture, it is unequivocally Swiss-German, a characteristic evident when touring its spotless facility and overhearing the workforce’s melodic dialogue.
Biel has a rich history of making watches. However, while Armin Strom respects traditional craftsmanship, it is not encumbered by the past. Its modern atelier is packed with cutting-edge machinery, capable of making components to infinitesimal tolerances.
Since Armin Strom inaugurated its new production facility in 2009, it has gained an enviable reputation for its in-house expertise. While some companies pretend to make complete watches within the confines of one building, Armin Strom has always been transparent about what is makes in the Biel facility and which tasks are outsourced.
Once Claude Greisler, the CEO and Technical Director of Armin Strom, has designed a watch in its entirety, he begins collaborating with key suppliers. The brand is very open about this. It does not make dials, hands, cases or straps, choosing instead to focus on the Maison’s key area of competence, movements.
Openness is a key trait of Armin Strom. Most of its models disclose movement components usually hidden from view. For example, some Armin Strom watches showcase the barrel or micro-rotor front of house for the delectation of horophiles. This philosophy is at the heart of everything the brand does and is underscored by the company’s strapline, ‘We show what we make’.
The Maison’s prowess for contemporary design has been recognised on several occasions. Indeed, the brand has been the recipient of prestigious Red Dot awards for the Skeleton Pure Water (2015), the Mirrored Force Resonance (2017) and, most recently, the Dual Time Resonance (2019). The creativity of this brand is extraordinary.
Armin Strom is a ‘Manufacture’, a term loosely applied by some, but strictly upheld by Claude and his team. Every movement part is made in the brand’s atelier in Biel, save for the assortiment (escape-wheel, lever and roller), balance wheel and hairspring.
The brand’s capabilities come to the fore when making base plates, bridges, levers, pinions, pivots, screws and wheels. Each of these minute components have to be made to incredibly small tolerances.
Image – CNC
Plates and bridges are made using CNC (computer numerical control) machines. These machines have to be programmed by a skilled technician in order to perform a series of milling steps.
Image – CNC tools
Various ‘tools’, rotating at high speed, mill square-shaped pieces of brass. Incidentally, the programming of a CNC machine can often take longer than the milling tasks it performs. Thereafter, said components are finished to remove signs of machining and enhance appearance. In some instances they are even engraved by hand. The parts are then electroplated on-site in order to ensure they retain their showroom fresh allure for years to come.
Image – Elecroplating
Levers, as well as some other flat components, are often made using wire erosion machines. This technique involves immersing a square metal plate in deionised water. A thin wire, carrying an electric current, is used to cut through the plate to form intricate shapes not easily produced using conventional milling techniques.
Image – wire erosion
Pinions, pivots and screws are often made using bar milling machines. Long bars of material, such as brass or steel, are held in a feeder. A computer controlled cutting tool, bathed in a constant stream of oil, mills these small components with impressive exactness. The resultant pinions, pivots or screws are gathered in a small receptacle and thereafter cleaned to remove any burrs or other potential contaminants.
Image – bar milling machine (centre)
It is by performing these tasks within the confines of its atelier, along with subsequent assembly and regulation, that Armin Strom adds significant value internally. Furthermore, by having its own Manufacture, this Swiss brand has been able to make limited runs of watches, conferring a degree of exclusivity that is highly valued by its discerning clientele.
In 2016, Armin Strom unveiled its first resonance watch, the Mirrored Force Resonance.
Image – Resonance clutch spring made using wire erosion
When creating his inaugural resonance watch, Claude Greisler looked to the past, studying the work of Christiaan Huygens and the observations he made of pendulum clocks. The legendary Dutch physicist discovered that if two pendulums sharing a common beam commence swinging at different times, they will ultimately synchronise with each other. This is referred to as the ‘phenomenon of resonance’.
Greisler also appraised a clock made by Antide Janvier (1751-1835). This clock, a double pendulum clock, employed resonance and shared the same suspension. By making such clocks, Janvier demonstrated that a resonance clock could deliver superior precision.
Unusually, the Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance features two going trains and two balance wheels. The two balance wheels are linked with a patented clutch spring. The shape and characteristics of the spring are critical to the performance of the movement. It took Greisler and his team three years to arrive at the optimum spring specification.
In order to independently validate that the two balance wheels were in resonance, Armin Strom approached CSEM, a non-profit Swiss research and technology organisation. CSEM confirmed that the two balance wheels, linked with a resonance clutch spring, constitute a ‘true mechanical resonance’ system.
After initially launching the Mirrored Force Resonance, Armin Strom went on to unveil further models endowed with its patented clutch spring.
Image – Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance with guilloché dial
Resonance is a high-end complication, worthy of comparison with the venerated tourbillon. In fact, an Armin Strom resonance watch can readily match the precision of a tourbillon whilst offering superior stability.
Ambition is part of the Armin Strom paradigm. The company has never ceased innovating, repeatedly designing new watches and exploring alternative dial finishes such as grand feu enamel and guilloché.
In 2018, Armin Strom unveiled the aptly named, Masterpiece 1 Dual Time Resonance, marking a new chapter in the brand’s history.
Two movements, housed in a distinctive case, almost ovoid in form, provided the means to simultaneously display two different times. While GMT watches have existed for some time, they remain unable to accurately display times where the offset is +30 or + 45 minutes. By having two independent movements, the Masterpiece 1 Dual Time Resonance can indicate two wholly different times.
Once again, Armin Strom embraced the phenomenon of resonance, imbuing the Masterpiece 1 Dual Time Resonance with incredible precision.
Despite its cutting-edge specification, Armin Strom enriched the ownership proposition with tremblage adorned balance cocks and hand guilloché dials produced by the esteemed craftsman, Kari Voutilainen.
By producing only eight timepieces, Armin Strom ensured that this Masterpiece conferred a high degree of exclusivity.
Chronoswiss Flying Grand Regulator Open Gear ReSec
Chronoswiss is synonymous with making regulators. The Swiss firm has made this traditional genre of watch its own. Indeed, while several other brands make regulators, few can match the extensive choice this company offers. Recently, the Lucerne-based company ventured off-piste, releasing its boldest watch to date.
This detailed review of the Chronoswiss Flying Grand Regulator Open Gear ReSec (ref. CH-6926-BLBL) includes live images, specification details and pricing.
A few years ago, most steel watches featured a brushed or polished case and a black or white dial. Chronoswiss, the brand synonymous with regulators, was just one of many exponents of monochrome tones.
However, in more recent times, the brand from Lucerne has embraced vibrantly hued dials. Again, it is not alone in this regard, but the combination of ebullient shades and the firm’s legendary guilloché dials has set Chronoswiss apart from many of its rivals.
Lately, the Swiss firm has combined black DLC treated cases, further eye-popping dial colours and sumptuous straps suffused with striking shades. This is a far cry from the Chronoswiss models of the 1990s.
The problem with making watches for an older audience is that it excludes a large and significant proportion of the watch buying public. A greater number of companies are choosing to target younger audiences as well and, based on the evidence, so is Chronoswiss.
At Baselworld 2019, the Swiss company unveiled the Chronoswiss Flying Grand Regulator Open Gear ReSec. Five options are available, including an 18-carat red gold reference, a version in an undressed steel case and two black DLC models. However, it is the fifth variant, the blue DLC option, which stood out from its siblings.
Blue dials have been de rigueur for some time, however, I cannot recall seeing a blue DLC case before, albeit I am sure there will be an ESCAPEMENT reader who will provide evidence to the contrary. Either way, I very much doubt that any brand has combined a blue DLC case, blue guilloché dial, a funnel type hour display and an onion crown. I firmly believe that Chronoswiss has ventured off-piste with this model and, as such, this watch is deserving of column-inches.
Chronoswiss has juxtaposed modernity, in the form of the dial colour, with a traditional guilloché dial. This unlikely alliance works wonderfully. The guilloché motif has been produced on a historic rose-engine lathe, operated by time-served hands. This engraving method is far superior to a simple stamped pattern. The resultant dial motif is beautifully defined, albeit the aesthetic appearance cannot be produced in haste. Owing to the hand-crafted nature of the dial epidermis, and, by default its protracted creation, the brand is unable to make large numbers of this model, hence it has limited supplies to just 50 examples.
Originally, a regulator was a reference clock or watch used when setting other clocks or watches. For this reason, the minute hand always assumes the greatest importance, dominating the dial. Despite offering chronographs and other styles of watch, the regulator is at the heart of the Chronoswiss brand and the firm has made this genre of watch very much its own.
The hours are proclaimed on a funnel-type display, positioned below noon. The hour track features Roman numerals and the centre of the display is openworked, revealing dynamic components below. This mechanical exhibitionism accords views of the hour display’s gear train. The gear train is held in position with open-worked bridges, again depicted in electric blue. The hour hand resembles an isosceles triangle and is lined with luminescent fill.
Once again, Chronoswiss has employed a triangular shaped hand, albeit larger this time, to impart minutes. The Swiss firm has clearly expended much time thinking about nocturnal legibility. The minute hand is lined with luminescent fill and the 5-minute markers incorporate unusual, three-dimensional cylindrical blocks of Super-LumiNova. This latter dial detail further heightens the sense of depth. Positioned between each 5-minute marker are small dots and neat strokes, arranged in 15-second intervals.
In the lower portion of the dial, a retrograde seconds display awaits innocent onlookers. A prolonged stare will lead to seduction as the blue seconds hand arcs from right to left and then, on reaching 30-seconds, returns to its point of origin and recommences its courtship ritual. There is nothing mundane about this visual spectacle. Indeed, while it conveys the passage of time with notable aplomb, it is the coquettish stroll of the seconds hand which will undoubtedly elicit most of the admiring glances.
As stated earlier, I cannot recall another watch endowed with a blue DLC case. However, as I have already demonstrated, the Chronoswiss Flying Grand Regulator Open Gear ReSec does not subscribe to convention, a point which is manifest when appraising its electric blue torso.
Diamond-like-carbon (DLC) is a scratch resistant coating which has grown in popularity in recent years. In this instance, the finish is said to have a hardness of 4,500 Vickers, imbuing the case with impressive wear resistance and robustness.
The blue DLC treatment has also been employed on the funnel-type hour display and the openworked gear train bridges. Chronoswiss has clearly demonstrated its creativity, utilising DLC in some highly creative ways.
However, while Chronoswiss has embraced modernity, it has not dispensed with some of its historical design language. The onion crown graces the right flank of the case. Beyond its attractive appearance, the crown proves simple to manipulate. The edge of the bezel features a knurled motif, a style also employed on the periphery of the caseback. The caseband is embellished with vertical satin-brush. The Swiss brand’s fan base will recognise some of the elements also found on the firm’s conventional watches.
The brand has modified its 44mm case, making the horns shorter. I have never had any issues wearing Chronoswiss models, however, I did note that this watch is extraordinarily comfortable to wear.
Seldom does a strap merit discussion, however, it is rare that I find a strap of this notable quality on a watch within this price segment. The cornflower blue strap is made from hornback crocodile leather. The prominent ridges of the reptile’s skin bestow a fascinating texture which invites tactile examination. The strap is paired with a folding clasp.
The exhibition caseback grants views of the Chronoswiss caliber C.301 automatic movement. The frequency of the balance is 28,800 VpH (4Hz) and the movement contains 33 jewels. The power reserve is approximately 42 hours.
The oscillating weight is presented in electric blue and is openworked. A consequence of the rotor being openworked is that the wearer is able to view more of the beautifully appointed components below.
Côtes de Genève motif adorns the automatic device framework and perlage features on several bridges. The brand states that the pallet lever and escape wheel are polished. The screws are blued, upholding fine watchmaking practise.
Chronoswiss has equipped the movement with a regulator corrector, facilitating small adjustments to the rate.
Take one glance at the Chronoswiss Flying Grand Regulator Open Gear ReSec and it becomes painstakingly obvious that it shuns mediocrity. The wearer of this timepiece is likely to be a free-thinker, someone who avoids the well-trodden paths used by others. Its playful hue is individual and youthful.
The Flying Grand Regulator Open Gear ReSec imparts time with clear tone. However, this watch reminds me that it is not the allure of the destination, but the pleasure of the journey which leaves a lasting impression. The hour and minute hands proclaim time without ambiguity, while the seconds hand thrills with its captivating journey to and fro. This dial transcends the ordinary and makes the declaration of time a feast for the eyes.
I have made many comments about the blue DLC case and the widespread use of this vivid shade throughout. Nevertheless, despite the originality of the design, it retains some of the prerequisites necessary for the watch to be considered a Chronoswiss. Quite simply, the guilloché dial, knurled details and onion crown will elicit nods of approval from the brand’s admirers. Perhaps more pertinently, the avant-garde elements of this watch sit in concert with the traditional design features. Indeed, the overall composition of this watch is harmonious.
Courageous design inevitably disenfranchises some onlookers, however, I am glad Chronoswiss chose to push the boundaries with this stunning watch. Furthermore, with only 50 examples being produced, I suspect the brand will have no problem finding each piece a hospitable home.
The Watchmakers Club event 5th June 2019
“There is no life I know
To compare with pure imagination”
Carl Eady recounts his experience at The Watchmakers Club event 5th June 2019. In this feature he looks at an array of watches including some exquisite timepieces from Armin Strom, Cyrus, Czapek, Fabergé, Fears, Garrick, GoS Watches, HYT, Louis Moinet, MeisterSinger and several more.
Back in 1971, the fabulous Gene Wilder brought Roald Dahl’s most famous hero to life in the endearing classic ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’. As Mr Wonka led the golden ticket winners through his magical factory to the tune of ‘Pure Imagination’ their faces lit up in amazement.
There was a comparable look of wonder among many attendees at the recent ‘Watchmakers Club’ event in London, as enthusiasts, collectors, journalists and bloggers came together to delight at the imagination and expertise of some exceptional independent watch brands.
Image – David Brailsford
The brainchild of David Brailsford, entrepreneur and owner of British watch brand ‘Garrick’, the event started life in a pub in 2015 as ‘The Night Before’, an informal gathering of watch fans and independent brand owners. Nearly five years later it represents one of the UK’s best horological events, and was admirably supported by Pietro Tomajer and his luxury retail business ‘The Limited Edition’.
Image – Pietro Tomajer
At a time when a number of high-profile luxury maisons are facing commercial challenges, it appears that the world of Independent watchmaking is in rude health.
Eighteen exceptional brands exhibited over two floors, with representation from Swiss, German, Swedish and English brands. A sense of community pervaded the exhibition space. Indeed, it was refreshing to witness independent watch brands from different nations getting along when in the outside world political tensions proliferate.
On entering the doors of ‘Unit 6’, a contemporary art gallery in Covent Garden’s Langley Street, first time attendees will have been pleasantly surprised at the openness and warmth exuding from the brand owners and how ‘hands on’ time is actively encouraged, rather than frowned upon. The atmosphere created here is far removed from the ‘distance’ some feel when attending Baselworld and SIHH public days. David has clearly thought about the needs and desires of the brands, potential customers and the press community alike. Photography lightboxes on each floor were in near constant use as bloggers and journalists delighted in snapping material for their publications and social media accounts.
Flying the British flag were two exceptional English brands. Fears watches, owned by archetypal English gentleman Nick Bowman-Scargill, proudly showed its hand-made and elegantly understated timepieces, such as the curvaceous cushion cased Brunswick. With a china white enamel dial and skeletonised hands, it is a lesson in pure simplicity. At the adjoining stand, event host David Brailsford and English Master Watchmaker Simon Michlmayr proudly showed off their latest creation, the frankly stunning Garrick ‘S2’. Its gorgeous engine turned dial has a large open aperture at 6 o’clock to display the hypnotic in-house free sprung balance. Faceted blued hands reach out to the applied heat blued steel chapter ring to stunning effect. Garrick’s respectful delivery of the finest finishing techniques is proof indeed that the swiss are not the only purveyors of Haute Horlogerie.
A brand which has a unique take on displaying time is MeisterSinger from Germany. Founded by Manfred Brassler, the company’s minimalist timepieces use only a single hand to convey the hours and minutes. By using double digits for numerals, the aesthetics are wonderfully balanced and reading the dial soon becomes second nature. On display from this Münster-based manufacturer was the latest creation, the ‘Vintago’. Between 2 and 4 o’clock is a simple but effective date function displayed on an arced aperture under a domed sapphire crystal. This might seem a small detail, but it is sure to be one which will delight MeisterSinger’s fans. Using a highly credible Sellita automatic movement, these pieces also come with a very pleasing price tag.
Scandinavia is not traditionally known for its watchmaking, but Swedish Master Watchmaker Patrik Sjögren has created a completely unique design language. Deriving inspiration from Nordic seasons, Scandinavian nature and Viking history the GoS collection often sports dials forged from uniquely patterned Damascus steel. Two standout pieces Sjögren was proudly displaying were the ‘Glacier’ and ‘Sunset’ editions of the Sarek collection. The exquisite Mother of Pearl dials in red and icy blue are translucent enough to allow light from a Super-LumiNova plate beneath to emanate through to stunning effect, even in very low light.
In 2015, Swiss brand Czapek was reignited by the charismatic Xavier de Roquemaurel. In just four years the company has delivered a stream of watches that would undoubtedly have delighted François Czapek, the founder of the eponymous company. In the somewhat contemporary space of Unit 6, the breathtaking ‘Place Vendöme Tourbillon’ garnered much interest with its one-minute suspended tourbillon, dual time and day/night display. This year’s Basel release, however, the ‘Faubourg de Cracovie Tao’ was even more arresting. Stunning white enamel dials are nothing new for Czapek, but in order to achieve the ‘panda’ look, the sub dials have had to be black enamelled separately, then seamlessly welded to the main dial. The result – a gorgeous proportioned and balanced dial estate to accompany the ‘fleur de lys’ hands and long elegant Roman numerals. Powered by a 5Hz Vaucher movement with column wheel chronograph and vertical clutch, one wouldn’t be surprised if it achieved another GPHG award for the marque.
Andreas Strehler is one of the worlds most respected watchmakers and has been exhibiting with The Watchmakers Club since it’s inauguration. Through his company UhrTeil AG, Strehler develops complications and complete movements while also playing troubleshooter for many players in the watch industry. The technical brilliance behind his own work is astounding. Among some exceptional pieces was a bespoke collector’s version of the ‘Sauterelle à heure mondiale’. Its familiar yet intriguing remontoir d’égalité at 10 o’clock is used to charge the escapement with the exact same amount of energy every second, ensuring the highest levels of accuracy. Strehlers wizard-like mastery of all things horological and his mechanical expertise have earned him a rightful place in the very top tier of the entire industry.
What is evident is that to survive in today’s horological environment, brands not only need excellent standards, but also a point of differentiation. QLOCKTWO’s ingenious approach is to display the time through words displayed on a watch or clock face. At first glance, one sees nothing more than a matrix of randomly arranged letters, but at the touch of a button the time, in words, is revealed. Fresh from receiving a prestigious Red Dot design award, QLOCKTWO’s clocks and watches are always great conversation starters.
Another Red Dot winner this year was Armin Strom exhibiting its Dual Time Resonance: Masterpiece 1. The white gold oval shaped case displays two gorgeous guilloché watch faces, each with its own power reserve, separated by a 24-hour indicator. It is the two counter-oscillating balances which pulsate in a soothing unison which is this timepiece’s standout feature and one which the brand is now synonymous with.
For the more conservative audience, Zeitwinkel is a wholly independent brand which has been on the scene since 2006. The brand is renowned for being a Master of clarity, a fact reinforced by the rhodium plated face on its latest ‘188°’ small seconds. The outward simplicity of this company’s timepieces belies the stunning decoration of the in-house movements which warrant very close inspection and were the subject of many a conversation at the event.
Last, but certainly not least on the top floor, was Cyrus. The brand’s ‘Klepcys Vertical Tourbillon’ was one of the stars of the event. Limited to 38 pieces for each finish (rose gold and DLC, Pure DLC and rose gold with titanium), this is a watch that always gets a second glance as it is so unique. The retrograde hours and minutes are both noteworthy, as is the skeletonised face revealing some of the 300+ parts of the Swiss movement, however, the dominating bridge housing the vertical tourbillon gives this piece its unique presence. It is without doubt visually striking as it allows so much of the design and tourbillon construction to be seen. This is something that just wouldn’t have been possible had a more conventional approach to design been employed.
On the lower floor of Unit 6, the brands on display were equally exhilarating. Perhaps the most intriguing and unique of all manufacturers exhibiting was HYT. Since 2012, the brand from Neuchâtel has been combining traditional watchmaking techniques with fluid dynamics to stunning effect. The hours being expressed by pumping liquid (one clear and one coloured) via a special glass capillary. As the hours flow, the coloured liquid is propelled around the perimeter of the watch, as fluidly as time itself. Whilst it is not their latest creation, the sheer attitude and boldness of HYT’s Skull collection resonates with those of a more rock’n’roll nature. It was ‘H0’ series which really caught my eye, though. At 48mm in diameter, the box-domed sapphire crystal showcases HYT’s stunning creativity. A small seconds indicator over-laps the minute dial, but that’s as conformist as HYT get. The application of Super-Luminova means that in low light, this space age mechanical masterpiece wouldn’t look out of place in a Tron movie.
Next to HYT was high end independent brand Louis Moinet. Headed by CEO and Creative Director Jean-Marie Schaller, the company’s timepieces are a combination of mechanical art and Haute Horology. They are inspired by one of history’s greatest ever watchmakers, Louis Moinet, the inventor of the chronograph (1816). Multiple high-end pieces were exhibited, including the ever popular ‘Memoris’ equipped with the brand’s Calibre LM54. With many of this movement’s 302 parts on display, including the distinctive column wheel at 12 o’clock, this mono pusher chronograph has long..
TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition
The TAG Heuer Monaco is 50 years old and the avant-garde brand is in jubilant form, releasing five limited edition models. In this feature, Angus Davies discusses a visually striking animation of the legendary chronograph, the second model in this anniversary series.
This detailed review of the TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition includes images, specification details and pricing.
The Heuer Monaco is 50. It’s a milestone which has caused myself and many of my grey-haired peers to shudder. However, in the world of horology it differentiates also-rans from legends and in watchmaking’s annals, there are few greater legends than the Monaco.
In order to mark this landmark in horological history, TAG Heuer has swept aside the notion of baking a birthday cake, preferring to make five limited edition Monaco timepieces. Last month, the first of these watches, the TAG Heuer Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edition, was unveiled against glamorous backdrop of the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix.
The TAG Heuer Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edition looks notably different from its blue-hued forebears. A period palette of green, yellow and brown evokes memories of flared trousers, floral wallpaper and futuristic globe chairs. And yet, despite its unusual colourway, this limited edition watch remains instantly recognisable as a Monaco, courtesy of its distinctive dial topography and ground-breaking case.
Throughout its life, the Monaco has received subtle modifications as well as spawning radical offspring with differently hued dials, sometimes created exclusively for one regional market. Those readers seeking to heighten their awareness of the Monaco in its various forms could do worse than read my ‘geek’s guide’ to this iconic watch.
This month, TAG Heuer launches its second of the five aforementioned limited edition Monaco timepieces. Once again, the brand’s marketing prowess comes to the fore as it unveils its shiny new watch at the home of the most arduous motor race, Le Mans. Tomorrow, while the LM P1 cars navigate the tortuous track, the Swiss Maison will indulge horophiles by showcasing the TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition.
The Monaco has an indelible association with the famous Le Mans circuit. In 1971, Hollywood legend Steve McQueen sported the iconic timepiece while playing the lead role in the film, ‘Le Mans’. Heuer (TAG Heuer’s former name) dispatched a selection of stopwatches and chronographs to the film set. In addition, the Swiss firm sent six identical Monaco watches to the circuit. On seeing the Monaco, McQueen, sometimes called the ‘King of Cool’, chose to wear the chilled square-cased watch. It is said that this episode in the Monaco’s life led to its commercial success, albeit some may argue the watch’s many attributes could also have been a factor.
The TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition sports an unusual red dial. It seems to me one of the most logical dial hues for a watch associated with motorsport, yet few brands employ this ebullient shade. Red evokes thoughts of danger, legendary racing liveries and glowing brake discs searing the night air. Even at this early stage, I can say unequivocally that this latest watch is suffused with fiery passion and I confess I am seduced by its glowing complexion.
The surface of the dial is enriched with sunray finishing, creating a variegated canvas incorporating coral shades and vermillion hues. This is a complex dial with a characterful appearance. The hour and minute hands share the same profile as the 1969 original, albeit they are solely white, save for their black triangular tips. The lithe central chronograph seconds hand is narrower than its counterpart on the 1969 original, appearing neater and articulating time with peerless intelligibility.
While the TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition incorporates some new design elements, it does not eschew the iconic model’s DNA. The circular chapter ring of the original watch remains. So too do the horizontally aligned silver-toned batons. Adjacent said batons, two-tone indexes, a combination of white strokes and black dots, augment readability.
The chronograph registers represent a significant departure from previous versions of the Monaco. Historically, the counters were square with rounded corners. In this instance, they suggest squareness but feature gently arcing sides. The deviation from the original design is subtle, but clear to see and grants the dial an agreeable dose of freshness.
The subdials are rhodium-plated and, upholding Heuer Monaco tradition, contrast wonderfully with the main dial epidermis. Both the small seconds display, adjacent 3 o’clock, and the 30-minute chronograph register, located opposite, feature gleaming silver hands and incredibly lucid numerals and markings. Indeed, I would suggest that these subdials confer the best legibility I have seen on a Monaco, a watch famed for its extraordinary readability.
Lastly, beneath the intricately shaped sapphire crystal, positioned at 6 o’clock is the model’s date aperture, a prerequisite for any Monaco. Black numerals, applied to a white date disc, are proclaimed via a faceted aperture. A white border frames the aperture, delineating the indication from the rest of the dial. Incidentally, on some past models the border colour often provided an indication of the movement within the watch.
The Monaco’s stainless steel case has always stood out from the crowd. In the beginning, the square case provided a point of difference, owing to its water resistant specification. While square cases existed prior to 1969, they were unable to prevent water ingress. The exclusive arrangement with Piquerez, a case supplier to the Swiss firm, ensured Heuer were the first firm to use a water-resistant square case.
Today, it is probably the distinctive torso of the Monaco which is the primary reason for selection. The positioning of the crown on the left flank of the case, is a consequence of the original model’s movement architecture (Chronomatic Calibre 11). While the crown could now be sited on the right, its repositioning would erode some of the Monaco’s charm.
The pushpieces found on the TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition are rectangular in form, a design the Maison adopted a number of years ago. They continue to look contemporary and are noticeably different from the round, capstan-like items found on the 1969 model.
From its inception, the Heuer Monaco has been endowed with an intricately formed case. The lugs and central case section are milled from one block of steel. The numerous facets and edges necessitate prolonged periods of machining. The upper surface of the case, the middle section of the caseband and the caseback are all satin-brushed. The other surfaces are highly polished and confer an alluring contrast with their muted neighbours.
The sapphire crystal is intricately formed, featuring raised sides and faceted edges. The resultant glazing cajoles light into flooding the dial plane, flirting with the sunray motif and aiding read-off. The TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition is presented on a black, perforated calfskin strap, lined in a vibrant shade of red.
The dorsal flank of the case, juxtaposes vertical and circular satin brushed surfaces. The central area of the caseback is engraved with period branding, ‘1979-1989 Special Edition’ and ‘One of 169’. By incorporating smatterings of becoming detail throughout, TAG Heuer has elevated the ownership experience. Quite simply, this watch looks special.
The original movement of 1969, the iconic Chronomatic Calibre 11 was equipped with a micro-rotor. It is frequently described at ‘the world’s first automatic-winding chronograph movement’. In my last feature about the Monaco, I discussed the background to the movement’s development and subsequent release.
Today, the Calibre 11 is of modern design, incorporating a fullsize oscillating weight. The balance has a frequency of 28,800 VpH (4Hz) and the movement contains 59 jewels. The power reserve confers 40 hours of autonomous operation. Owing to the solid caseback, I was unable to critique the finishing of the movement.
TAG Heuer has shrewdly retained most of the prerequisites needed to call this watch a Monaco. The style of the case, perforated leather strap, dial layout and unusually positioned crown all imbue this watch with a welcome familiarity. For many horophiles with a fetish for Monacos, I suspect they will find much to love.
Conversely, some traditionalists may be affronted that the Swiss watch company has released a Monaco with a non-blue dial. Personally, I don’t share this viewpoint. While an avant-garde company should respect its heritage, it should also be courageous, exploring new ideas.
To date, the TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition is my favourite iteration of the legendary watch. Its bold dial tones seem consistent with the octane-rich air of motorsport. Walking along the pits of a race track, the sense of excitement and anticipation is palpable. Indeed, motorsport brims with hot-blooded moments and elevated heart rates. On reflection, shouldn’t every Monaco be red?
The dial is highly legible, a trait found on every Monaco model. The rhodium-plated subdials, with curved edges, further augment readability.
TAG Heuer should be applauded for its use of unprecedented aesthetic elements. Its design team has pushed the limits while respecting the legacy, making this another fitting model in honour of the Monaco’s 50th anniversary.
Aerowatch Les Grandes Classiques Limited Edition
Aerowatch may lack the brand awareness of some large watch brands, however, as Angus Davies explains, its timepieces are worthy of consideration. Indeed, several of its models offer an array of attributes for comparatively modest sums of money.
This review of the Aerowatch Les Grandes Classiques Limited Edition includes live images, specification details and pricing.
My mother-in-law is looking to buy a new car. She has asked for my help with the procurement process. She has clearly stated her requirements, ‘It must be Japanese, have shelves in the front, where I can store things, and a boot, sufficiently large to carry numerous bags of garden waste’. While I appreciate she has specific needs, I do wonder whether she has disregarded some worthy options in the process.
I often receive emails from readers stating they are interested in purchasing a new timepiece. The usual suspects include: Breitling, IWC, Omega, Panerai and Rolex. The question they invariably ask is, ‘Which is the best?’. The answer is complicated and cannot be answered without knowing the individual concerned. What is their profession? Will the watch be susceptible to harsh treatment? Do they intend to dive while wearing the watch or require certain complications? Is the would-be wearer small in stature or, alternatively, of large build? The responses to these questions will strongly influence the decision making process.
Furthermore, I always urge prospective watch buyers to try on a multitude of timepieces as images in magazines or shown on websites are no substitute for a ‘hands-on’ encounter.
Returning to the brands I mentioned earlier, while they all sell impressive watches, they are not the only firms to offer horological excellence. Indeed, similar to my mother-in-law’s automotive prerequisites, sometimes focussing on merely mainstream brands may cause one to overlook a watch that delivers more in terms of design, functionality, readability or value.
Aerowatch, a family-owned watch company based in the Swiss Jura, may not enjoy the brand awareness of Breitling, IWC, et. al, but that does not diminish the virtue of its products. Indeed, having examined its models closely over the years, several of this brand’s timepieces are deserving of praise. A few weeks ago, I grasped the opportunity to get ‘hands-on’ with the Aerowatch Les Grandes Classiques Limited Edition and appraise its specification first-hand.
The anthracite dial is adorned with a sun-brushed motif, evoking areas of light and shade. The hours and minutes are proclaimed with faceted hands, lined with SuperLuminova. Similar to the hands, the indexes are faceted and luminescent. Moreover, the indexes sit above the main dial plane, conferring an attractive depth to the overall composition.
Three snailed subdials fill much of the horological vista. A 12-hour chronograph register is positioned at 6 o’clock, a small seconds display is located at 9 o’clock and a 30-minute chronograph register sits below noon.
Aerowatch has positioned a moon phase indicator at 3 o’clock. The nocturnal sky, incorporating a depiction of the moon and stars, is framed with a crescent shaped aperture, outlined in white. The brand’s nomen and the text ‘Série Limitée’ are positioned beneath the aforementioned aperture. The combination of the moon phase indicator and accompanying text provides a visual counterweight for the small seconds display, augmenting aesthetic cohesion.
A minuterie frames the dial, allowing the wearer to easily read-off elapsed seconds and parts thereof. A hand, featuring a red, crescent shaped tip, points to the date display positioned on the dial flange. This means of indication proves intuitive to use and the scale of the numerals confers peerless legibility.
Measuring 44mm in diameter, the stainless steel case will certainly occupy a significant portion of the wearer’s wrist. Quite simply, this is not a small watch. Notwithstanding this, the lugs are quite short, causing the strap to project sharply downwards and envelop the wrist. Personally, I found the watch comfortable to wear, albeit those individuals of slight build may wish to consider one of the brand’s alternative models.
The crown projects from the case and incorporates a tapered, fluted design. The scale and design of the crown grants ease of manipulation. I have worn watches equipped with similarly designed crowns and found they have chafed or gouged my wrist. Thankfully, I suffered no annoying afflictions whilst wearing the Aerowatch Les Grandes Classiques Limited Edition.
The capstan-like pushpieces sit close to the caseband, assuming a discreet character. However, their restrained appearance does not impair operation and the start, stop and reset tasks can be performed with minimal fuss.
An exhibition caseback affords views of the self-winding movement and the watch is supplied with a quality leather strap, paired with a folding clasp.
The Aerowatch Les Grandes Classiques Limited Edition is endowed with the tried and trusted Valjoux 7750. While this movement could never be described as an exemplar of haute horlogerie, it is known for its reliability and value for money. Indeed, it is for this reason that this Swiss movement, made by Swatch Group subsidiary, ETA, is one of the most iconic movements.
In this instance, the movement within the Les Grandes Classiques Limited Edition has been subject to enhancement. The oscillating mass and the automatic device bridge are embellished with Côtes de Genève motif. Furthermore, a plethora of blued screws enrich the appearance of the movement.
The frequency of the balance is 28,800 VpH (4Hz) and the movement contains 25 jewels. The brand has not stated the power reserve for this watch, however, typically the running time of the Valjoux 7750 is 48 hours.
The focal point of any watch is the dial which, in this instance, is gorgeous. The subtle sun-brushed motif, snailed counters and balanced layout all conspire to seduce the onlooker. But this is not merely a handsome dial, it is also highly legible. In particular, reading the date display proves effortless.
Beyond its alluring smile, the torso of the Aerowatch Les Grandes Classiques Limited Edition is large. This fact may prove an obstacle to some would-be buyers, however, those individuals of larger stature will appreciate the impressive wrist presence this watch confers.
The Valjoux 7750 requires little discussion, its reputation for robustness is legendary and it is widely considered a horological stalwart. Furthermore, Aerowatch has made some enhancements to the appearance of the movement, augmenting its appeal.
As stated earlier, Aerowatch is based in the Swiss Jura, a region synonymous with watchmaking. During my period of association with this chronograph, I was able to readily ascertain the quality of this watch and, by default, the competence of this brand. There will only be 499 examples of this watch, keenly priced at CHF 3,680. Unlike some luxury products, Aerowatch demonstrate that scarcity and affordability don’t need to be mutually exclusive.
This sublime watch demonstrates why shrewd buyers should never restrict their purchasing options to mainstream brands alone. The wisest buyers may well find virtuous products just beyond the horizon.
Tutima Saxon One Chronograph 6420-03
Tutima has a long tradition of making robust, reliable pilots’ watches. Indeed, the brand was entrusted to make a chronograph for the German Army. One attribute which differentiates some of Tutima’s chronographs from most rival watches, is the addition of a central chronograph minutes hand. Recently, Angus Davies spent two weeks wearing one of the German brand’s watches, appraising its specification at close quarters.
This review of the Tutima Saxon One Chronograph 6420-03 includes live images, specification details and pricing.
The creation of the Tutima UROFA Calibre 59 in the 1940s was a significant milestone in the company’s history. This watch provided the basis for the Flieger Chronograph, a model that has since achieved legendary status.
In 1985, the German marque unveiled the Tutima NATO Chronograph. This was a civilian version of a watch originally designed for the German Army. The chronograph featured three sub-dials: a 12-hour chronograph register at 6 o’clock, a small seconds indication at 9 o’clock and a 24-hour indicator at noon. Day and date indications were positioned at 3 o’clock and bold indexes were located on an inner flange.
Most notably, the watch incorporated a central chronograph seconds hand as well as a central chronograph minutes hand, which had a red jet-plane-shaped tip. Having secured the German Army contract, the watch was worn by German Air Force personnel as well as NATO pilots.
With its magnetic resistance and anti-shock properties, this stainless steel watch was substantial, measuring 14.5mm in height. Unfortunately, the civilian version of the watch did not subscribe to the ‘ultra-thin’ trend prevalent at the time. Furthermore, with the arrival of quartz watches, the high-street consumer considered mechanical watches passé, impacting on sales. Thankfully tastes changed.
In 2015, the German company launched a new chronograph, the Tutima Saxon One Chronograph. While this timepiece exhibited a more refined appearance than its military-spec forebear of 1985, it harnessed several of the details found on the NATO-issue watch.
Recently, I spent two weeks wearing the Tutima Saxon One Chronograph 6420-03, equipped with an ‘opaline anthracite’ dial and matching alligator strap.
The Tutima Saxon One Chronograph is available in a selection of dial colours, including ‘opaline silver white’, ‘Royal Blue’ and the aforementioned ‘opaline anthracite’. Each variant has a becoming complexion, however, I prefer the latter option. This hue exudes sophistication, making it an ideal accompaniment to designer jeans or formal attire. Indeed, versatility is a key attribute of the Tutima Saxon One Chronograph 6420-03.
The hour and minute hands have spear-like tips which point to the indexes and chapter ring with laser-like precision, articulating time with extraordinary clarity. The indexes are faceted and applied to the dial epidermis.
Unlike the previously mentioned Tutima NATO Chronograph, the Saxon One Chronograph 6420-03 eschews a day display, presenting merely the date at 3 o’clock. Consistent with the historical military watch of 1985, the dial includes three subdials: a 12-hour chronograph register at 6 o’clock, a small seconds indication at 9 o’clock and a 24-hour indicator at noon. Tutima has cleverly differentiated time indications from the chronograph functions by suffusing the hands with silver/white and red hues.
A chapter ring encircles the flat plane of the dial, while an additional scale is presented on the adjacent dial flange.
However, the pièce de résistance with this chronograph can be seen centre stage. Although not immediately obvious, the Tutima Saxon One Chronograph 6420-03 features two central chronograph seconds hands, one superimposed upon the other. Initially, I thought this watch was a rattrapante, however, this is not the case. The upper hand is a central chronograph seconds hand, while the lower hand is, unusually, a central chronograph minute hand. I don’t know why other brands don’t offer this means of recording elapsed minutes, it is clear to read and simple to interpret.
The 43mm stainless steel case is a fusion of square and rounded profiles. The angled corners of the case elicit shadows, juxtaposed with gleaming facets. This collocation extends to the highly polished rotational bezel sat atop the satin finished upper case surfaces.
At first glance the case appears symmetrical, save for the crown. However, just peeping out from the right hand side flank are two pushpieces. These operate the chronograph functions. The upper pusher starts and stops the chronograph, while the lower pusher resets the registers. The discreet nature of the chronographs reinforces the elegant and refined character of the watch.
While the NATO Chronograph was a utilitarian object, the Tutima Saxon One Chronograph 6420-03 brims with sophisticated grace and eye appeal. However, the Glashütte based firm has not abandoned practicality. For example, the crown nestles within an inconspicuous crown guard. Likewise, the bi-directional bezel, featuring a soupçon of red, proves ideal for measuring periods of time.
The watch is available with an attractive steel bracelet incorporating a distinctive H-shape link design. However, my press loan was fitted with a sumptuous grey alligator strap with folding clasp. The strap and clasp ensemble conferred a pampering wrist-feel.
Tutima has chosen to fit this chronograph with an exhibition caseback, according views of the automatic movement. Despite its graceful and sophisticated appearance, it is remarkably robust. ‘The case protects the movement against shocks and remains watertight to 20 atm’.
The Tutima NATO Chronograph (1985) featured a Swiss calibre, the Lemania 5100, a movement renowned for its hardiness. Upholding this reputation for robustness, the German firm created the rugged Calibre 521 as an alternative. This movement features the venerable ETA Valjoux 7750 base, modified to incorporate a Tutima mechanism for the central chronograph minutes hand.
Côtes de Genève adorns the openworked oscillating mass and the automatic device bridge. Circular graining (perlage) is visible on some movement components and the oscillating mass is embellished with the brand’s ‘gold seal’. It is functional rather than pretty and should not be confused with the German brand’s high-end ‘Manufacture’ movements. Nevertheless, the movement finishing is consistent with similarly priced chronographs from rival brands.
The frequency of the balance is 28,800 VpH (4Hz) and the power reserve is sufficient to deliver 44 hours of autonomy.
In the sphere of pilots’ watches, Tutima has an enviable reputation. It fulfilled the procurement requirements of the German Army with its impressive NATO Chronograph and its watches continue to adorn the wrists of many members of the military. The importance of functionality and reliability are prerequisites for any ‘tool watch’, a fact that Tutima clearly understands.
With the Tutima Saxon One Chronograph 6420-03, the German firm has maintained its reputation for practicality and robustness. However, it has also embraced elegant aesthetics and employed luxurious materials. The dial, hands and case exude a palpable degree of excellence. Everything feels refined and sumptuous.
When a brand incorporates a long inventory of functions, the dial can become cluttered. Thankfully, no such criticisms could be directed towards this Tutima model. Despite the number of indications, the dial proves effortless to read.
The central chronograph minutes counter is intuitive to use. I have never worn another watch equipped with this feature, which is surprising as it makes so much sense.
The styling of this watch bestows practicality and elegance. The discreet pushpieces, neat crown design and numerous case facets imbue this model with a refined aesthetic which would not look out of place with cocktail attire.
Surprisingly, this virtuous horological entity has a modest asking price of £3900 (RRP as at 10.6.2019). Based on its long list of attributes, this watch represents incredible value for money and is deserving of a place on any chronograph lover’s wish list.
Raymond Weil Freelancer Diver 300M
Raymond Weil has always demonstrated an egalitarian approach to watch ownership. Indeed, the brand has repeatedly shown that luxury watches don’t have to be prohibitively expensive. In this instance, the Genevan firm upholds this reputation, offering an affordable diver’s watch imbued with an array of qualities.
This detailed review of the Raymond Weil Freelancer Diver 300M includes live images, specification details and pricing.
I often gravitate to luxury goods. The notion of no-compromise construction, exalted levels of craftsmanship and peerless design provides an intoxicating cocktail I find hard to resist. However, luxury by its definition is aloof, often conversing only with those individuals bearing a platinum card and attired in designer clothes.
Raymond Weil, the Genevan luxury marque, exhibits a friendlier face. It has always demonstrated inclusive, egalitarian traits. While its products are infused with quality, they remain affordable and accessible to those lacking an oligarch’s bank balance. The Swiss firm does not purport to be an exemplar of haute horlogerie, however, it repeatedly delivers a competitive blend of value and virtue.
Recently, I had the opportunity to appraise the Raymond Weil Freelancer Diver 300M at close quarters and assume the role of a would-be buyer.
The Raymond Weil Freelancer Diver 300M is offered in three dial variants, black, silver and blue. In addition, the watch can be specified with a rubber strap or a robust, stainless steel bracelet. My press loan came supplied with a blue dial and a 5-rows bracelet.
The dial surface features a very subtle sunray motif. The indexes are applied and incorporate a liberal application of Super-Luminova.
Raymond Weil has endowed this watch with prominent barrel-shaped hands, suffused with luminescent fill. The curvaceously styled hands sit harmoniously against the indexes and share a similar design. More pertinently, the hands articulate the prevailing time with extraordinary clarity. There is no risk of misreading the indications, everything is crystal clear.
Crisp white strokes are positioned between each index. The markings denote ¼ second and one-second intervals. Owing to the lack of a chronograph function, I don’t think the ¼ second integers add much to the specification and the chapter ring would probably look much cleaner with just one-second markings. Nevertheless, I did find the one-second markings useful.
The central sweep seconds hand is fitted with a lollipop, augmenting ease of read-off. A large aperture at 4 o’clock frames a 3-date display and proves an eye-catching feature.
Measuring 42.5mm, the Raymond Weil Freelancer Diver 300M does not overwhelm the wrist. Indeed, I found the scale of the watch accorded a comfortable fit and the dial was sufficiently large to be decipherable.
The case is made of stainless steel, while the unidirectional bezel is blue ceramic. Consistent with the diver’s watch genre, the watch incorporates a count-up bezel with a 0-60 scale. The purpose of the scale is to provide an indication of the time spent underwater. The markings for the first 15 minutes show one-minute intervals, allowing the wearer to time decompression stops when ascending to the surface. Should the unidirectional bezel be disturbed, the indicated dive time shown will be less than the actual time spent underwater.
Raymond Weil has upheld diver’s watch tradition, equipping the Freelancer Diver 300M with a solid caseback. The watch is fitted with a screw-down crown, incorporating a fluted grip and the brand’s monogram on its vertical flank.
Despite its utilitarian remit, the Raymond Weil Freelancer Diver 300M is very attractive. Moreover, it incorporates some very stylish design elements. Highly polished surfaces abound and the lugs feature inclined facets adjacent the bracelet.
The bracelet exhibits a hewn from granite solidity. Furthermore, whilst appraising each element of the bracelet I noted that everything was supremely smooth and observed that each link articulates with impressive ergonomic efficiency. The folding clasp is beautifully engineered and the double push-security system provides peace of mind.
Raymond Weil has equipped this model with the self-winding Calibre RW4000. The movement has a frequency of 28,800 VpH (4Hz) and contains 25 jewels while the power reserve is capable of delivering 38 hours of autonomous operation.
No assessment was made of the movement finishing owing to the solid caseback.
Like many horophiles, I seldom explore the ocean bed with a watch affixed to my wrist. Nevertheless, I remain drawn to divers’ watches as they are incredibly practical. Invariably they deliver peerless readability and robustness, two traits which are equally applicable on terra firma. The Raymond Weil Freelancer Diver 300M fulfils these requirements with aplomb.
The Genevan company has shown that practicality does not necessitate unattractive, utilitarianism. In my opinion, this timepiece possesses a handsome mien. However, the pièce de résistance of the Freelancer Diver 300M is the value for money it provides. While I concede there is unlikely to be any black polishing on the movement, hand-drawn bevels or a variable-inertia balance, this timepiece still delivers an impressive array of qualities.
I frequently look at watches with four, five and even six figure price tags and have now become attuned to assessing the virtue of a watch with due consideration to financial outlay. The Raymond Weil Freelancer Diver 300M is a gem, upholding the Maison’s reputation for delivering impressive value. Go on, dive in, I don’t think you will be disappointed.
Cuervo y Sobrinos Prominente Solo Tiempo
Cuervo y Sobrinos can trace its origins to Havana, Cuba. While the company is now based in the Jura mountains of Switzerland, its models remain infused with a latin spirit.
The Cuervo y Sobrinos Prominente Solo Tiempo is a rectangular-shaped timepiece, incorporating an elaborately detailed dial and an automatic movement. Angus Davies reviews this Swiss-Latin watch in detail.
I love Switzerland. The landlocked country is comparatively safe, its inhabitants are invariably polite, the food is delicious, albeit calorific, and the landscape is beautiful. A further attribute of this nation is the extraordinary dependability that pervades all aspects of life. The trains are punctual and the watches impart time with impressive accuracy.
Cuervo y Sobrinos, based in the Jura mountains, a region of Switzerland synonymous with watchmaking, upholds everything that is wonderful about this snow-capped nation. However, its products are also infused with a significant dose of passion and Latin spirit.
Founded in 1882, Cuervo y Sobrinos began life in Havana, Cuba. The family-run retail business sold high-end jewellery and watches. The firm was a byword for luxury, attracting the patronage of Ernest Hemingway, Clark Gable, Albert Einstein and Sir Winston Churchill, to name but a few. As the company expanded, it established operations in Paris, Pforzheim and the watchmaking capital of Switzerland, La Chaux-de-Fonds.
Havana is world famous for the manufacture of luxurious cigars. Cuervo y Sobrinos has recognised this fact, choosing to name a family of watches, ‘Prominente’. This particular nomen is used to described one of the largest Cuban cigars available. Therefore, the name seems most apt for this generously proportioned timepiece infused with Caribbean charm. One member of this collection of classically styled watches is the Cuervo y Sobrinos Prominente Solo Tiempo.
The Cuervo y Sobrinos Prominente Solo Tiempo is offered with a selection of dial colours. In addition, the model can be specified with a gem-set case. The oval centre of the dial incorporates mother of pearl and is presented in a contrasting hue.
The hours are denoted with prominent, elaborately-formed numerals, adding a dose of flamboyance while remaining legible. The curvaceous hour and minute hands are comparatively short, owing to the width of the case, yet exude a becoming grace. Cuervo y Sobrinos successfully demonstrates that practicality and style don’t need to be mutually exclusive.
A chemin de fer hugs the periphery of the dial. The truncated hands fail to reach the extremities of the dial, yet, despite this, the railway track adds a further soupçon of style to the horological vista presented. The company’s logo is positioned below noon and is applied to the dial epidermis, bestowing a three-dimensional charm.
An aperture, positioned above 6 o’clock, presents the date in lucid form. A central sweep seconds hand completes the inventory of functions.
Cuervo y Sobrinos has masterfully played with depths. For example, the main dial surface is enriched with guilloché, incorporating a wave-like motif. With this watch, style is omnipresent.
The Cuervo y Sobrinos Prominente Solo Tiempo is a leviathan, measuring 33.75mm x 52mm. However, the virtual absence of lugs and the arcing profile of the caseback help mitigate the sense of scale.
All surfaces are highly polished, save for the caseback, which is satin brushed. The case of the Cuervo y Sobrinos Prominente Solo Tiempo is complex, incorporating numerous contours and facets. The vertical flanks of the case project outwards near the horns, while the upper surface of the case assumes a stepped profile. Despite the plethora of details and the elaborate composition of the case, the watch remains elegant, shrewdly avoiding excess.
The dorsal flank of the case features an elliptical pane of sapphire crystal. An array of text along with the brand’s logo and a fan-like motif adorn the crystal. While the embellished glass proves attractive, I was left frustrated that I could not see the oscillating mass, bridges and balance. Nevertheless, I concede that not everyone will share my point of view.
The Swiss-Latin brand has paired the watch with a sumptuous Louisiana alligator strap. Interestingly, the strap features quick-release fittings, allowing the wearer to easily exchange it without the need for tools. I wish more companies would incorporate this user-friendly feature.
The automatic Calibre CYS 5102 incorporates 25 jewels. The balance has a frequency of 28,800 VpH (4Hz) and the power reserve is capable of delivering 42 hours of autonomous operation. Cuervo y Sobrinos stipulate that the rotor features a ‘fan decoration and CyS engraving’.
Cuervo y Sobrinos has indulged would-be wearers with an impressive amount of choice. The Prominente Solo Tiempo is offered in an array of dial colours as well as the option of a gem-set case.
Irrespective of the dial colour selected, the display of each option is enriched with a myriad of details. Indeed, the guilloché motif, the chemin de fer, the vintage hues, the curvaceous numerals and the applied brand logo all coalesce wonderfully, enhancing the overall aesthetic. Nothing is mundane with this watch, character prevails throughout.
The case is large, however, the Maison does offer other options to sate the needs of those of diminutive build. I found the watch granted a sublime ergonomic union with my wrist and attribute this to the curved caseback and short lugs.
Elaborate styling, vintage tones, intricate case shapes and a touch of flamboyance all amalgamate to deliver a unique mien. Furthermore, at the heart of this watch is a Swiss movement. Indeed, Cuervo y Sobrinos proffers the best of both worlds, delivering Swiss precision while adopting a unique Latin tempo which is difficult to resist.
Louis Moinet Transcontinental
The Louis Moinet name is synonymous with creativity. This reputation is maintained with the advent of a new watch that references a significant episode in American history.
The Louis Moinet Transcontinental embraces an interesting marketing strategy first employed by Breguet in the late 18th century, namely the ‘souscription’ watch.
I have always marvelled at the creativity of Jean-Marie Schaller, the CEO and Creative Director of Louis Moinet. Over the years he has conceived extraordinary watches, rich in ingenuity. These have included timepieces with dials made of dinosaur bone, dynamic depictions of oil derricks and fossilised palm wood.
Louis Moinet Geograph Rainforest Palm wood
Creativity is at the heart of the Louis Moinet paradigm. For example, Monsieur Moinet invented the chronograph in 1816 (certified by Guinness World Records). Schaller has a profound love of space, manifest with the design of several models. In some instances, these pay tribute to astronauts and sometimes even incorporate pieces of meteorite. The capacity to develop ideas is clearly alive and well at Les Ateliers Louis Moinet.
Recently, the brand has unveiled the Louis Moinet Transcontinental Railroad, a timepiece marking the 150 year anniversary of the first railroad spanning the US, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. This particular milestone in history had a huge influence on the US economy and led to greater dispersion of the country’s population.
The dial looks radically different from its contemporaries. Indeed, nobody could ever accuse Schaller of plagiarism. The hours and minutes are expressed with blue Gouttes de rosée hands which contrast notably with the black and golden backdrop of the dial epidermis. Interestingly, there is an absence of indexes and no chapter ring.
At 6 o’clock, a star shaped wheel proclaims the seconds. It exudes style and, courtesy of three red-tipped arms and a 20-second track, conveys meaning with lucid efficiency.
Unusually, wheels and beams occupy much of the remaining dial area. They form part of an automaton which resembles the animated derrick found on some earlier Louis Moinet models. However, in this instance, the right hand side of the uppermost beam is driving a golden spike downwards. Back in 1869, the ‘Golden Spike’ was ‘driven’ by Leland Stanford at the ceremonial opening of the Transcontinental Railroad. It provided a fitting acknowledgement of the thousands of dog spikes driven into wooden sleepers by legions of construction workers.
Louis Moinet Black Gold Derrick
The Transcontinental Railroad was opened in 1869, a historical milestone which is referenced at noon. In addition, a golden spike dissects the date and is marked with the watch’s individual number. The dial is comprised of golden bridges, steadfastly retained with gleaming screws. Each dial element is framed in black, providing an eye-catching means of delineation and, thereby, augmenting ease of interpretation.
The Louis Moinet Transcontinental Railroad is offered in a choice of two models, one in steel and 18-carat rose gold (limited to 69 pieces) and a second presented solely in 18-carat rose gold (limited to 18 watches). Interestingly, the bi-metallic option measures 43.2mm, while the 18-carat rose gold version is larger, with a diameter of 45.4mm.
While Schaller is not afraid of embracing new ideas, he also understands the importance of consistency, repeatedly endowing his watches with common design elements. This strategy heightens the recognition of the company’s models. For example, the six arm bezel affixed to the Louis Moinet Transcontinental Railroad, seen on other watches from the Swiss firm, reaffirms the brand’s identity.
Irrespective of the case material selected, the upper six arm bezel on the Louis Moinet Transcontinental Railroad sits upon a circlet of 18-carat rose gold. This stepped bezel design heightens the overall allure of the watch.
A few years ago, Louis Moinet unveiled its Metropolis model which first featured the company’s ‘Neo case’. This case incorporated beautiful openworked lugs and has since appeared on other Louis Moinet timepieces. The Louis Moinet Transcontinental Railroad incorporates the same lug design.
Louis Moinet Metropolis
The vertical flank of the crown is endowed with the Swiss marque’s Fleur de Lys emblem, a motif which also appears on the folding clasp affixed to the alligator strap.
The self-winding Caliber LM64 contains 248 parts including 28 jewels. The balance has a frequency of 28,800VpH (4Hz) and the power reserve is sufficient to deliver 48 hours of autonomy.
Louis Moinet has chosen to employ an idea first seen in the 18th century. The ‘Souscription’ watch was the brainchild of Abraham-Louis Breguet. Customers would reserve a watch with a down payment. In this instance, both the bi-metallic and gold versions of the Transcontinental Railroad can be pre-ordered at a discounted price until the 10th September 2019. Thereafter, the price ‘will be higher’. Once again, Schaller and his team have differentiated the company’s overall offering by selecting a route few other brands have ventured to take.
The overall design of the Louis Moinet Transcontinental Railroad is, no doubt, the product of much deliberation. Every aesthetic element of the dial and case coalesce in harmonious union.
Arguably, despite having a plethora of attributes, the pièce de résistance is the automaton. This aspect confers a wonderful sense of theatre which is likely to evoke a smile whenever the wearer glances down at the dial.
A danger for anyone with a creative role is ‘drying up’. The prospect of not being able to conceive fresh ideas is a daunting prospect for those who wield a pen or pencil. Schaller has repeatedly shown a capacity to look to the heavens and deliver originality. To date, he does not seem to have suffered a creative drought, regularly demonstrating his mind is overflowing with ideas. Indeed, like many admirers of Louis Moinet, I cannot help wondering ‘what’s next?’