wAtCh BUsINess MAgAzINe eUropeAN edItIoN N°320 4/2013 AUg./sept. 08
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MECHANICAL WONDERS New Movements | Alternative Escapements
Swatch Group forced to reopen the doors of its “supermarkets” Pierre M. Maillard Editor-in-chief In mid-July, in the middle of a summer heat wave when watchmakers were finally looking forward to taking some time out, or having a good time, either at the seaside or in the mountains, the now famous COMCO (the Swiss Competition Commission) caused a stir. Going against the recommendations of its own secretariat, which had patiently negotiated with the Swatch Group a progressive reduction in deliveries of its strategic assortments (the balancespring assembly), the COMCO executive rejected any reduction in deliveries. From 1 January 2014, the Swatch Group will once again have to supply its assortments to anyone who asks for
“From 1 January 2014, the Swatch Group will once again have to supply its assortments to anyone who asks for them, without restriction.” them, without restriction. The planned reduction in deliveries of mechanical movements – 10 per cent in 2014 – was, however, accepted. But the precise terms of this reduction, which were included in the overall agreement, must be revised. For the Swatch Group, which officially announced its “disappointment” at the decision, this is a strategic setback. For other brands, it’s a breath of fresh air. Just as Swatch is preparing to launch its new Sistem51 this autumn (a highly innovative mechanical movement that consists of 51 elements and a single screw), independent brands face the
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threat of being caught in a two-pronged attack, from below with the Sistem51 and from above with the increasing rarity of assortment supplies. They can now breathe a little easier, because “this decision gives more time to movement manufacturers like Soprod, Sellita and La Joux-Perret to make up lost ground,” comments Alain Spinedi, the boss of Louis Erard and one of the most strident voices in the campaign to get the COMCO to counter the intentions of the Swatch Group. But this respite should not be an excuse for brands to rest on their laurels. Nick Hayek is right to remind everyone that the availability of ETA movements and Nivarox assortments, which represent between 90 and 95 per cent of the market, has for too long allowed other brands to postpone their investments in this field. Now, the long-term future of the Swiss watchmaking industry demands that efforts be focused in this very area. The week after this decision from the COMCO, another announcement drew
attention: Swiss watch exports to the Eldorado that is China dropped by 18.7 per cent in the first half of 2013, and those to Hong Kong by 11.1 per cent. And it was above all gold watches that were concerned by this reduction rather than those in steel. Although this may well be a direct consequence of China’s policy to stigmatise open displays of luxury, it may also be the indication of an end to the good times. Could market forces be regrouping around a slightly more modest offering? Come what may, efforts towards industrialisation are more necessary than ever to secure the long-term future of the industry. The “respite” accorded by COMCO to all stakeholders gives them time to get organised and invest to ensure their autonomy. The “supermarket” may be opening its doors once again, but before rushing to empty its shelves, its “customers” would do well to think seriously about their future. p
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Master Grande Tradition Tourbillon Cylindrique à Quantième Perpétuel Jubilee by Jaeger-LeCoultre 42mm case in 950 platinum, silver-toned dial with traditional minute circle, baton-shaped hour-markers, a date subdial at 9 o’clock, month and year subdial at 12 o’clock and a day subdial surrounding the moon phase at 3 o’clock. Powered by the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 985 self-winding movement operating at 28,800 vibrations per hour and offering a 48-hour power reserve. Flying tourbillon visible at 6 o’clock with cylindrical balance spring with two terminal curves. Jaeger-LeCoultre SA La Golisse 8 CH 1347 Le Sentier Tel : +41 (0)21 845 02 02 Fax : +41 (0)21 845 05 50 firstname.lastname@example.org www.jaeger-lecoultre.com
The statements and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily Europa Star.
6 CONTENTS / europa star
EDITORIAL Swatch Group forced to reopen the doors of its “supermarkets”
COVER STORY Jaeger-LeCoultre – 180 years of watchmaking rooted in excellence and innovation
24 25 28 29
ESCAPEMENTS Introduction TAG Heuer – Waves and magnetism in the service of regulation Girard-Perregaux – Buckling towards constant force Omega – George Daniels’s legacy Audemars Piguet – The best of both worlds Urban Jürgensen – Innovation in the service of tradition
MOVEMENTS EXCLUSIVE: Accurat Swiss – Operation K1 Private Label by Vaucher Manufacture
LAB Urwerk – Adding intelligence to the mechanical watch The world’s most accurate watch
46 50 52
ACTORS At lunch with… Romain Gauthier Revelation – The butterfly effect Louis Vuitton’s two horological jokers
GALLERY Mechanical wonders
SERVICE, PLEASE! Vacheron Constantin’s customer service in China
RETAILER CORNER Brand boutiques – Pros and cons The collector who came from Russia
LETTER FROM ENGLAND Bremont – English by name and by nature
LETTER FROM CHINA The 24th Shenzhen Watch Fair
WORLDWATCHWEB Engagement benchmarks and drivers on Facebook
LAKIN@LARGE Inferno or happy hunting ground?
EDITORIAL & ADVERTISERS’ INDEX
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revolutionary by tradition
Jaeger-LeCoultre – 180 years of watchmaking rooted in excellence and innovation Pierre Maillard
The history of the Jaeger-LeCoultre manufacture, which celebrates its 180th anniversary this year, is inextricably linked to the history of a place: the Vallée de Joux. It was in this cold and, at the time, inhospitable place, situated at an altitude of over 1,000 metres and populated by bears and wolves, that a certain Pierre LeCoultre settled in 1559. He was a Huguenot refugee who had fled from religious persecution. It was in these glacial lands that he set up a small community that spawned descendants. His son built a temple in 1612 that marked the birth of the village of Le Sentier. Almost two centuries later, in 1803, one of his direct descendants, Antoine LeCoultre, was born. His family ran a small forge and, working alongside his father, the young Antoine discovered a passion for metallurgy, inventing new alloys, perfecting the vibrating blades of music boxes and having a go at producing razor blades. The young man had ideas of progress and tried to reconcile his experience with the burgeoning growth in scientific knowledge. And so he turned to the most noble expression of metallurgy and mechanical art: watchmaking.
1833 is the key date. Antoine LeCoultre had just invented a revolutionary machine that could cut pinions for watchmakers. He therefore decided to open his first workshop, naturally in the village founded by his ancestor, Le Sentier. Methodically, scientifically, he learned the main watchmaking skills. In order to produce a watch movement rationally, he invented a number of machines, including the Millionomètre in 1844: the first instrument in history capable of measuring the micron. This was a giant leap in the field of precision and, in 1866, the workshop became the first watchmaking manufacture in the Vallée de Joux. For the first time, all the skills that had hitherto been spread across hundreds of small producers based at home were brought together under the same roof. Knowledge, trade secrets and techniques were swapped and people fed off each other’s ideas, which helped to bring about the first partially mechanised procedures for producing complicated movements. When he died in 1881, his son Elie took over the reins of what was henceforth known as “La Grande Maison” (“The Big House”), where some 500 people worked. From 1860 to 1900, the Manufacture created over
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350 different calibres! Half of them included complications: 99 different repeaters, of which 66 were minute-repeaters, 128 chronographs, 33 calibres that combined a chronograph and a repeater. And from the 1890s, the Manufacture started manufacturing its own grand complications, comprising three major horological complications: perpetual calendar, chronograph and minute repeater.
An acceleration in innovation at the start of the 21st century Today, the Grande Maison, still located in the same place, employs over 1,000 people, masters 180 different watchmaking skills and over 20 different advanced technologies. The list of its accomplishments is much too long to feature here. Having become Jaeger-LeCoultre at the turn of the 20th century, following a meeting between the Parisian naval watchmaker Edmond Jaeger and the grandson of the founder, Jacques-David LeCoultre, it added further to its pioneering and avant-garde pieces: the world’s thinnest watch, fitted with the LeCoultre 145 calibre (1.38mm thick), the Duoplan watch (1925), the calibre 101, the smallest mechanical movement ever produced (1929), the Atmos perpetual pendulum (1931), the Reverso, which needs no introduction (1931), the Memovox self-winding watch with alarm (1956), the first self-winding divers’ watch with alarm, the Memovox Deep Sea (1959), the Master Control line, which is submitted to 1,000 hours of the most rigorous tests (1992)... This uninterrupted flow of horological milestones has even accelerated since the start of the 21st century: to this day, over 75 new calibres have been produced since the year 2000 and over 80 new patents registered: grand complications, tourbillons, minute-repeaters, chronographs, perpetual calendars, 15 days power reserve, the first lubricant-free calibre etc. Ultracomplicated watches, high jewellery creations, so many different references from the great watchmaking of the 21st century, such as the Atmos Mystérieuse (2003), Gyrotourbillon 1 (2004), Reverso grande complication à triptyque (2006), Master Compressor Extreme Lab 1 (2007), Reverso Gyrotourbillon 2 (2008), Duomètre à Grande Sonnerie (2009), Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication (2010), Reverso Répétition Minutes à Rideau (2011), Duomètre Sphérotourbillon (2012).
The Jubilee Collection, in tribute to Antoine LeCoultre
Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 Jubilee
With the year 2013 marking 180 years since the start of this incredible saga and the incessant quest for watchmaking excellence, it was only natural for the brand to produce a special “Tribute to Antoine LeCoultre” jubilee collection.
The third Grande Complication model to be equipped with a Gyrotourbillon movement, the Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 Jubilee watch boasts two world-first achievements: a new balance-spring that is no longer “only” cylindrical, but spherical; and the first time that a Grande Complication model is equipped with an instant digital-display chronograph controlled by a single pusher! The cylindrical balance-spring in the Reverso Gyrotourbillon 2 watch was already a major feat both in technical terms and because of the workmanship it involves. However, the new and unprecedented spherical balance-spring used in the Gyrotourbillon 3 movement is a genuine achievement. It is an unprecedented technical accomplishment that required over two years of development. And when one considers that two full days are required to make a single spherical balance-
This collection offers three watches featuring exceptional characteristics highlighting three fundamental fields of expertise cultivated by the Manufacture: absolute innovation in the field of grand complications, with the Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 Jubilee watch; perfect execution dedicated to serving performance, with the Master Grande Tradition Tourbillon Cylindrique à Quantième Perpétuel Jubilee; and pure performance under the most demanding constraints, with the Master Ultra Thin Jubilee, the thinnest mechanical manuallywound watch in the Jaeger-LeCoultre collection.
O All indications and functions of the Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 Jubilee are harmoniously and legibly accommodated inside a case that is just 15.5mm thick and 43.5mm in diameter. Directly inspired by the grand historical tradition of pocket watches from the Manufacture, this case made from extra-white 950 platinum (950o/oo platinum and 50o/oo ruthenium) clearly belongs to the Master Control line, but has been rethought in all its details so as to endow it with an even higher degree of aesthetic refinement. Its bezel has been slimmed down and its curves are accentuated. Its sides are satin-brushed and its bezel and lugs are polished. The same decorative care has been lavished on making its movement. Inspired by a movement made by JacquesDavid LeCoultre in 1898, this new Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 176 (21,600 vibrations per hour, 50-hour power reserve) is made from nickel silver. Its bridges and mainplate are hand-hammered – a long and accurate process calling for expertise and dexterity and conducted in harmony with the highest traditional watchmaking criteria.
u europa star / COVER STORY 11
spring, that gives a better idea of the extreme difficulty of the task that calls for unique expertise exclusively developed by the Manufacture. Crafting it involves progressive coiling of the spring around a metal sphere that will give it the required shape. Yet the whole difficulty then lies in removing the cylindrical balance-spring from the sphere without touching or spoiling the shape of the coils themselves… Equipped with two terminal curves ensuring perfectly concentric and regular “breathing”, it guarantees exceptional performance, comparable to that of the cylindrical balance-spring, while also putting on a spectacular show. Blued to accentuate its beauty, it is fixed to the centre of a 14-carat gold balancewheel that is also given the same hue by means of a very special treatment. Gold is first PVD-coated with a thin (less than 5-micron) layer of iron that is then oxidised in a kiln to create its remarkable colour. The blued balance-spring and balance-wheel enliven the double spherical carriage of the Gyrotourbillon 3 movement. The two carriages are made from a new type of aluminium. While the great advantage of aluminium lies in its extreme lightness and the performance of a tourbillon is directly influenced by the lightness of its carriage, it is also a metal that only dimly reflects light in darkened surroundings. To eliminate this flaw, a new procedure has been developed using a PVD treatment to coat the aluminium with a very fine layer of palladium, followed by a galvanic treatment that adds a layer of rhodium – resulting in unprecedented brilliance. The appealing visual effect is further accentuated by the transparent context within which it is positioned. In the absence of a bridge, this flying Gyrotourbillon 3 movement creates the impression of being suspended in mid-air and of rotating in an apparently weightless state. The second feature of this Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 Jubilee watch is its instantaneous digital-display chronograph – a first in the field of Grande Complication models. The minutes are displayed in a broad aperture (4.5 x 3mm) on two instant-jump discs: one for the units and the other for the tens. The aperture appears inside a subdial at 9 o’clock indicating the chronograph seconds. Above it, one can clearly see the integrated column-wheel chronograph governing the chronograph function. Its activation and the starting, stopping and resetting of the digital chronograph functions are all controlled via a single push-piece at 2 o’clock. Meanwhile, a day/night indicator at 3 o’clock orbits inside a circular 24-hour graduated scale. On the upper level, above the Gyrotourbillon 3 movement, two blued hands indicate the hours and minutes on an opaline dial.
12 COVER STORY / europa star
Master Grande Tradition Tourbillon Cylindrique à Quantième Perpétuel Jubilee
T master grande tradition tourbillon cylindrique à quantième perpétuel jubilee
In 1889, at the Universal Exhibition in Paris, Jaeger-LeCoultre (known at the time as the Manufacture LeCoultre) was awarded a gold medal. It rewarded the company “for the use of cutting-edge equipment and the impeccable production of its complicated calibres, chronographs and repeaters”. A reproduction of this finely engraved gold medal appears on the oscillating weight of the new Master Grande Tradition Tourbillon Cylindrique à Quantième Perpétuel Jubilee. It thereby serves as a vivid reminder of the pioneering role played by the Manufacture, as well as symbolically reaffirming the extraordinary continuity of this innovative spirit that has been its driving force throughout its 180 years of watchmaking history.
This new watch is the perfect epitome of this proud heritage. Directly inspired by the splendid pocket-watches made by the Manufacture in the late 19th century, it now appears in a new 42mm diameter, 13.1mm thick case made of extrawhite 950 platinum. The slimmer bezel provides an optimally broad scope for its extremely classic grained silver-toned dial: a slender traditional minute circle, baton-shaped hour-markers, a date subdial at 9 o’clock, month and year subdial at 12 o’clock, and a day subdial surrounding the moon phase at 3 o’clock. All these indications are clearly and easily readable above the tourbillon visible at 6 o’clock. The latter is a flying tourbillon, meaning without any upper bridge, a feature that endows it with exceptional transparency and depth. This transparency enables an unobstructed view of the extraordinary beating of the rare cylindrical balance-spring at its heart. Nonetheless, however refined and subtle, this is merely the visual expression of a greater technical reality. Thanks to its perfectly isochronous development ensured by its two terminal curves, this cylindrical balance-spring, which involves an extremely complex production process, ensures the high-precision rating of the new automatic Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 985 equipping this Master Grande Tradition Tourbillon Cylindrique à Quantième Perpétuel Jubilee. Despite its technically innovative nature, the classic and beautifully balanced appearance of this timepiece makes it look as if it has quite simply always existed.
O master ultra thin jubilee
T CALIBRE 849
Master Ultra Thin Jubilee In 1907, Jaeger-LeCoultre developed LeCoultre Calibre 145. At just 1.38mm thick, it is still the thinnest mechanism ever made by the Manufacture. Although produced right through to the 1960s, this movement was manufactured in a total run of only 400 – eloquently illustrating the complexity of the task it represents. To mark the brand’s 180th anniversary, it was entirely natural for Jaeger-LeCoultre to celebrate in a special way its pioneering role in the field of ultra-thin watches and movements. As thin as a knife-blade, the waterresistant case of the Master Ultra Thin Jubilee watch is just 4.05mm thick and 39mm in diameter. Inside it beats manually-wound Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 849. Composed of 123 parts and measuring 1.85mm thick, the latter is equipped with a bridge-free barrel and an extremely small escapement. It is thus one of the world’s thinnest movements and above all, beating at 21,600 vibrations per hour, it has consistently demonstrated exceptional rating qualities and excellent reliability since 1994. Its assembly, adjustment and extremely fine rating also call for particular care.
This exceptional movement is given a new showcase in the Master Ultra Thin Jubilee watch made of extra-white 950 platinum. Radiating absolute stylistic purity, the watch features an immaculate grained silver-toned dial bearing slender and elegant baton-shaped hour-markers swept over by two slim baton-shaped hands. Beneath the Jaeger-LeCoultre signature, the transferred date “1833” offers a discreet reminder of the founding date of the Manufacture. p Discover more at www.europastar.BIZ/Jaeger-LeCoultre
europa star / COVER STORY 13
Escaping from the bounds of the lever escapement The so-called Swiss lever escapement has enjoyed an uninterrupted rein over mechanical watchmaking ever since it was first invented in 1757 by Thomas Mudge, who succeeded in adapting the classic lever escapement for portable watches. Just as this escapement was on the verge of being forgotten, Georges Auguste Leschot breathed new life into it in 1825. Ever since, its uninterrupted success was a major factor in the blossoming of the Swiss watchmaking industry. This success is because of its intrinsic qualities: it is robust, reliable, relatively easy to produce and allows high-precision adjustment, unlike some of its now defunct rivals such as the cylinder escapement, which was a lot less precise, or the detent escapement, which was too sensitive to shocks. (Read Paul O’Neil’s article about Urban Jürgensen for more on the rebirth of the detent escapement).
The whirlwind surrounding the arrival of quartz technology was so strong that this mechanical regulator was for a second time nearly blown into oblivion. But, as we know, it emerged from the crisis stronger than ever and, with constant improvements to its performance, the Swiss lever escapement continues, some two centuries after it was first invented, to equip the vast majority of simple or prestige mechanical watches. The persistence of this ancient technology is itself a unique anomaly: apart from the bicycle, which other technology has lasted so long in spite of being scientifically outdated – at least in terms of chronometry? With mechanical watchmaking having stood the test of time and reasserted its dominant position in terms of prestige, the Swiss lever escapement continued its path, without anything (or hardly anything) threatening its primacy. In addition to its inherent advantages, the lever escapement has enjoyed such widespread adoption that it has also been able to benefit from huge industrialisation efforts and a streamlining of its production. And we know that, despite what we often think, industrialisation means better reliability. But over the past few years, watchmakers have embarked upon a conceptual and economic race that has seen them look for other solutions for mechanical escapements that could either offer better results or set them apart from their competitors. So far, none of these innovative solutions has managed to
16 ESCAPEMENTS INTRODUCTION / europa star
put a noticeable dent in the supremacy of the lever escapement, the rare exception being Omega’s decision to develop for mass production the co-axial escapement invented by George Daniels (read the article by Paul O’Neil for more information on this). One brand, however, stands out in this area: TAG Heuer. For a few years now, TAG Heuer has been committed to genuine scientific research to develop new and radically different escapements that allow the brand to go beyond the limits imposed by the Swiss lever escapement, in particular in the field of high frequencies that allow very short time intervals to be measured. (Read Pierre Maillard’s article for more information). But while TAG Heuer is the pioneer in this area, other brands are looking at new solutions, for example with the constant escapement – the lack of consistency in the lever escapement being one of its weaknesses – or even hybrid escapements. We devote the main contents of Europa Star’s annual “mechanical special” to these advances in escapement technology, as well as to new movements. p
I"Here is a set of 242 interlocking bevel gears arranged to rotate freely along the surface of a sphere. This sphere is composed of 12 blue gears with 25 teeth each, 30 yellow gears with 30 teeth each, 60 orange gears with 14 teeth each, and 140 small red gears with 12 teeth each." – Paul Nylander, bugman123.com
Appreciate the extraordinary MASTER SERIES
TAG HEUER – Waves and magnetism in the service of regulation Pierre Maillard
TAG Heuer is the first to explore new avenues for regulating mechanical watches.
MIKROGIRDER It’s 1747, ten years before Thomas Mudge adapts the lever escapement to portable watches. Jean le Rond d’Alembert, a famous French mathematician and encyclopaedist, published his theory on “vibrating strings”... What is that exactly? In mathematics, it was the first wave equation. It describes “the variation in time and space of an undulating quantity”, for example a length of string that starts vibrating. Or, to take another – well-known – example, this equation is used to measure the effects of the wave generated by a troop marching in time across a bridge. The bridge starts to vibrate rhythmically, triggered by a wave that can lead to its destruction. But what has this equation got to do with mechanical watchmaking?
Although it found no practical application for a long time, d’Alembert’s equation found an important use in civil engineering. It paved the way for the development of “vibrating string extensometer” gauges, which can measure the deformations in concrete caused by variations in constraint in large buildings, towers, dams and nuclear power stations. It is also used to calculate the movements that could disturb the cables on a suspension bridge, the catenaries of a railway line, or, quite simply, the strings of a guitar. It only started being used in watchmaking in 2012, having been taken up by the rational intuition of Guy Semon, Head of Research and Development at TAG Heuer.
A short step back But to get to this stage, we need to take a step back. It all started in 2003, when TAG Heuer bought the idea of the V4 “concept watch” from Jean-François Ruchonnet. But the development and production of this new type of watch, using transmission belts instead of the traditional gear trains, required know-how and specific technical skills that
18 ESCAPEMENTS / europa star
were beyond those of the world of watchmaking. Having decided to develop and sell this avant-garde product come what may, TAG Heuer called upon consultants from other areas, such as the automobile industry, aeronautics and avant-garde technologies. This was how Guy Semon, physicist, mathematician, engineer, university lecturer and former employee of the French National Defence Department, came into contact with the teams at TAG Heuer. This was in 2004. In 2007, TAG Heuer asked Guy Semon to join the company in order to set up a Research and Development department worthy of the name. Jean-Christophe Babin, at the time CEO of TAG Heuer, was pursuing a very innovative vision of what research and development should be for his brand, which, despite its classical watchmaking, had made a name for itself with technological advances in the field of precision and timekeeping performance.
The intrinsic limits of the sprung balance Guy Semon started work using tools such as theory, maths and physics, that were unusual for traditional watchmakers. He soon discovered that the traditional pairing of balance and spring, invented in 1675 by Christiaan Huygens and improved by Thomas Mudge a century later, had serious limits when you tried to increase its frequency in order to measure very short time intervals. At BaselWorld in 2011, TAG Heuer presented its Mikrotimer Flying 1000, vibrating at 500Hz, or the staggering figure of
3.6 million vibrations/hour. At this frequency, the watch could measure and display times down to 1/1000th of a second! To achieve this spectacular result, TAG Heuer continued its research into the dual chain technology which started the same year with the Heuer Carrera Mikrograph, which could display the 100th of a second thanks to two different regulating organs, oscillating 28,800 vibrations/hour, for the hours, minutes and seconds, and at 360,000 vibrations/hour, or 50Hz, for the chronograph display to 1/100th of a second. But at the frequency of 500Hz that the brand has now achieved, where the seconds hand makes ten full revolutions per second, we start to go beyond the boundaries of Huygensian watchmaking: the escapement no longer needs a balance because at this high speed the spring would have to be so stiff (specifically, only four coils, or ten times stiffer than a normal spring) that the balance is no longer needed for the return. But with this balance-less movement, we reach physical limits: the lever starts to have trouble keeping up, the regulating organ suffocates, the transmission between the barrel and the escape wheel gets out of sync, the amount of energy required per impulse is no longer sufficient. The result is an imbalance in dynamics and energy. For Guy Semon, this was the starting point for looking into a new technology for regulation.
D’Alembert comes back on stage In theory, the “perfect vibrating string” posited by d’Alembert, with infinite flexibility, constant tension, perfect elasticity and insensitive to gravity, transmits a wave uniformly along its entire length. The wave therefore has an isochronous oscillation. In practice, the closest approximation to this theoretical perfect wave had to be found. The principle chosen for this seems simple and combines three “vibrating beams”: an exciter beam attached to the lever and an oscillator consisting of a thin “beam” are united by a “coupler” that is itself also a “beam”. By exciting the oscillator so that it gets as close as possible to the “perfect wave” of the theory, it begins to vibrate at perfectly defined frequencies. It can be adjusted using an eccentric that lengthens or shortens the vibrating beam, a little like tuning a guitar. This new type of “nonHuygensian” oscillator is therefore linear – like a string! But, as in any classical movement, the mechanical power is transmitted in a non-constant way to the escape wheel pinion. In order to compensate for this non-constant transmission of energy, the angle of escapement must be as low as possible. The escape wheel therefore has double the usual number of teeth, 40 instead of 20. Consequently, the traditional function of “rest” acts to limit the speed and prevent any racing out of control. The geometry of the point of
contact between the lever and the escape wheel was also revised in order to maximise this compensation. For the inertia of transmission, a “system of decoupling the link between the escape pinion and escape wheel” was designed in the form a spring that is wound when the transmission is under load and at the moment of the drop restores the energy so that the “acceleration of the escape wheel reaches its maximum, independently of the transmission”. The kinetic energy propagates in the exciter, transforms into potential energy and is transmitted to the “vibrating beam of the coupler”. The latter transmits “exciting energy” that reaches the end of the “oscillating beam”, resulting in displacement according to the vibratory mode, which is that of the desired frequency. There is very little inertia and practically no amplitude (it vibrates very quickly, but the oscillations are very low): the system therefore consumes less energy than a sprung balance. Another benefit, therefore, of high frequencies, since the power reserve can be a lot higher.
I The MIKROGIRDER 5/10000th microblade regulator
A regulating organ specially adapted for very short time intervals Regulated in this way, the TAG Heuer Mikrogirder concept watch “vibrates” at the mind-boggling frequency of 7,200,000 vibrations/hour, or 1,000Hz, which is good for measuring 1/2000th of a second (TAG Heuer prefers to talk of 5/10,000ths). Thanks to the dual escapement system, the “normal” Huygensian chain for the time indications and the “vibratory” chain for the chronograph at 1/2000th do not affect each other at all.
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PENDULUM The year before, in 2010, TAG Heuer and Guy Semon’s team presented another entirely different regulating organ that dispensed with the traditional spring in favour of its magnetic equivalent: the Pendulum Concept Watch. Here, the escape wheel and lever are maintained. But it is the heart of the system, the sprung-balance, that is replaced by a magnetic stator and rotor. Even more radical than the “Girder”, this system moves away from traditional watchmaking towards the mysteries of physics, almost verging on quantum physics.
Stator and rotor to the fore
I The TAG Heuer MikroGIRDER
What about reading these times? The fractions of 1/100th, 1/1000th and 1/2000th of a second are read off against a scale around the circumference of the dial and displayed by a central hand that makes 20 revolutions a second. A second scale, at 12 o’clock, is divided into fractions of three seconds, while a third scale, at 3 o’clock, displays the tenths of a second. The system is theoretically suitable for all frequencies, but below 50Hz it has a tendency to block. So this new type of regulating organ, while perfectly adapted for measuring very short times, is less adapted to the simple display of hours, minutes and seconds. It is therefore unlikely to supersede the good-old “Swiss” lever escapement.
The device that replaces the spring consists of four magnets. Two of these magnets, one positive and one negative and magnetised in only one direction, are arranged face-to-face on the circumference, held in place by a fixed soft-iron support that forms a kind of Faraday cage. At the centre, on the same axis as the balance wheel and held in place by a traditional bridge, two magnets are arranged on a rotating mobile and thus alternate their positive and negative poles, which creates a magnetic field alternately on either side of the device. For this to work, the magnets had to have a special shape in order to “linearise” their force (because one of the problems with magnets is that their force decreases rapidly in inverse proportion to the square of the distance separating them) and to arrange them very carefully, so that they can be controlled in three dimensions to ensure that they provide sufficient linear torque to return the alternate oscillations of the balance. On paper, the advantages of this system jump off the page: the magnetic fields are insensitive to gravity and shocks and thus to the two congenital weaknesses of the traditional balance spring. Add to this a simplicity of assembly that makes the watchmaker’s work a lot easier. But a serious problem remained nevertheless: magnets are very sensitive to temperature. So the problem was how to develop a magnet that was
u 20 ESCAPEMENTS / europa star
Ernest Borel Swiss Made since 1856
ERNEST BOREL S.A. Rue des PerriĂ¨res 8, P.O. Box 234 - CH-2340 Le Noirmont, Switzerland Tel: +41 (0)32 926 17 26 / Fax: +41 (0)32 926 17 29 www.ernestborel.ch - email@example.com
as insensitive as possible to the temperature differences that could affect its precision? In a way, the people at TAG Heuer were confronted with the same problem presented by the balance spring before the invention of Elinvar by Guillaume in the 1920s. But if this major challenge, as well as others regarding the energy density of magnets, their production, their physical dimensions, the linearity of magnetic torque as a function of amplitude, could be overcome, the theoretical Pendulum, with its 6Hz, its 43,200 vibrations/hour, no loss of amplitude and the possible modulation of its frequency without overloading its power supply, could offer genuine advantages for precision and performance.
On the fringes of quantum physics Three years later, these problems seem to have been solved, using the theory of magnetism, spatial geometry and genetic algorithms... It is difficult to go into the detail of this high-level research here, because the concepts used are so specialised. Suffice it to say, however, that the magnets used are made of a complex ferromagnetic alloy that comprises cobalt, samarium and gadolinium. The particularity of the latter element, one of the rare earth elements, is that it acts as a “variable for adjusting the magnetic field”. In other words, by correctly dosing the amount of gadolinium, you can compensate for variations in the magnetic field caused by temperature, with the alloy acting like a shield that absorbs heat differences.
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U The TAG Heuer Carrera MikroPendulum is a 371-component dual chain platform with a balancewheel system for the watch (28,800 beats per hour (4Hz) with a 42 hour power reserve), and a hairspringless pendulum system for the chronograph (360,000 beats per hour (50Hz) with a 90 minute power reserve). The crown rewinds the chronograph: the watch is run on a classic COSCcertified automatic movement powered by an oscillating weight. The 45mm case is in sandblasted, fine-brushed and polished titanium. The pendulum is on proud display at 9 o’clock. The chronograph minutes counter is at 3 o’clock, the chronograph seconds at 6 and the chronograph power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock. The 100ths of a second are displayed by a sweeping red central hand and measured out on a 1/100th of a second scale on the anthracite flange. A high-tech strap in soft, hand-sewn anthracite alligator with black titanium folding clasp finishes the sporty look.
The “linearity of torque as a function of amplitude” is another obstacle overcome. If the magnetic field created by the magnets is and remains constant, the torque generated by the rotor will only depend on the amplitude. But the lines of the magnetic fields created do not remain solely inside the plane of the pendulum, since they reach the surrounding space as well. This “iron loss” acts like a kind of magnetic friction. Using modelling, the “geometry of the static magnets has to be adapted” so that the lines of magnetic force are perfectly aligned and “guided in the plane of the magnets”. Only in this way can a constant mechanical torque be obtained on the axis of the balance for a given amplitude. It was in the research for this geometry that the complex genetic algorithms were employed to obtain the linearity of torque by successive topological optimisations. The end result is that the Pendulum system achieves levels of performance that are comparable with those of a balance spring, yet which fall short of the COSC requirements, which express sensitivity to temperature as the daily rate variation measured by degree of temperature difference. Specifically, this is 0.6 seconds/day/ºC for the COSC, against 1 second/day/ºC for the Pendulum presented this year at BaselWorld. An excellent mechanical, mathematical and physical performance. p Discover more at www.europastar.BIZ/TAG-Heuer
I The TAG Heuer Carrera MikroPendulumS, with two magnetic Pendulums replacing the hairsprings, one for telling time and one for timekeeping. Composed of 454 working components, its watch chain turns at 12Hz and its chronograph chain turns at 50Hz (60 minutes power reserve). The chronograph tourbillon, the world’s fastest, controls the 1/100th of a second, beats 360,000 times an hour and rotates 12 times a minute. The case is forged from a fully biocompatible chrome and cobalt alloy, which is harder than the titanium alloy used in aviation and surgery. The case design, with its stopwatch-like placement of the crown at 12 o’clock, is based on the 2012 Aiguille d’Or winner, the TAG Heuer Carrera Mikrogirder, and the Carrera 50 Year Anniversary Jack Heuer edition. The two tourbillon Pendulums and their solid rose gold bridges (18-carat 5N) are visible through the fine-brushed anthracite dial. The hand applied “100” at 12 o’clock is also in solid rose gold. The chronograph minutes counter is at 12 o’clock, chronograph seconds at 3 and the chronograph power reserve at 9. The 1/100th of a second scale appears on the silver flange. The strap is hand-sewn anthracite grey alligator, very high-tech in style and soft to the touch.
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GIRARD-PERREGAUX – Buckling towards constant force Paul O’Neil
Girard-Perregaux’s Constant Escapement exploits the phenomenon of a blade buckling to provide constant-force impulses to the balance.
precision over the entire power reserve of a watch, in spite of the fact that this power reserve, by the very nature of the movement’s construction, gradually reduces as the springs in the barrels unwind. Girard-Perregaux has addressed this problem in a unique way, working over the past five years to perfect its constant escapement, which was only made possible with the use of silicon for watch components and the arrival of DRIE technology (deep reactive-ion etching) for manufacturing the small and complex components for the regulating organ of a timepiece. The theory behind this new escapement comes from that of “buckled blades”, essentially a form of spring, which, when compressed, approaches a state of instability before buckling. The key point here is that the buckled blade transmits its energy instantaneously and at a constant rate, which is perfect for transmitting impulses to the balance. In the constant escapement, the blade is a mere 14 microns thick (one-sixth of the thickness of a human hair) and is arranged in a symmetrical construction that balances the forces at work at the centre of the balance wheel. Two escape wheels with a new design are responsible for handling the transfer of energy (from two barrels coupled in parallel in a new, patented design) to the time display. Each wheel has only three teeth, to correspond with the 3Hz frequency of the movement, and is connected to the same differential.
By happy coincidence, Mr Girard-Perregaux’s first name of Constant lends itself well to the revolutionary type of escapement that the brand presented in a functioning commercial timepiece for the first time at this year’s BaselWorld watch fair. Because the GirardPerregaux Constant Escapement addresses one of the main deficiencies of the configuration of a conventional mechanical watch – the problem of ensuring a constantly stable impulse to the regulating organ to maintain the same level of
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Used for the first time in the Girard-Perregaux GP091000002 hand-wound mechanical calibre, the constant escapement helps to ensure a power reserve of around one week with a theoretically constant precision. Measuring this, however, poses a new kind of challenge: the amplitude of the balance wheel, the beat and the overall accuracy of a conventional mechanical watch can be determined acoustically using workshop devices, thanks to the unmistakable ticking of the watch. Unfortunately, the completely different sound produced by the constant escapement means that such machines cannot be use to measure its accuracy. The only way to overcome this problem is to use a high-powered laser camera. So while the wearer of the beautiful Girard-Perregaux Constant Escapement L.M. (for the late Luigi Macaluso) can admire the new form of ballet that takes up half of the 48mm case in 18-carat white gold and marvel at a distinctive new type of ticking, he will just have to take the brand’s word for it that the escapement lives up to its name. p Discover more at www.europastar.BIZ/Girard-Perregaux
OMEGA – George Daniels’s legacy Omega claims that its co-axial is “the perfect mechanical watch”. Here we take a look at the co-axial escapement’s history I have a special interest in Omega’s co-axial escapement, since I was working at the company when the first limited editions were produced and as Omega’s official translator and writer I was given the unenviable task of accompanying George Daniels on his visits to ETA. Unenviable for a translator, that is, because not only were the two parties speaking different languages at a highly technical level, they also came from worlds that were diametrically opposed – Daniels famously producing every single component in his watches by hand, selling only a handful of watches in his lifetime (the first of his pocket chronometers to feature the co-axial escapement was recently sold by Sotheby’s for £362,500), while ETA was mass producing millions of mechanical movements per year.
Despite the numerous difficulties in adapting Daniels’s design to mass production for an entirely new kind of movement, it was clear that Omega was not about to give up on
U The original “Omega-Daniels” co-axial escapement design
the co-axial escapement, as several big watch brands had done before it. But the risks were clear. In his autobiography, George Daniels himself mentions 200 known examples of attempts to find a more suitable escapement than the lever escapement invented by Thomas Mudge in 1754, not one of which managed to supersede Mudge’s design. Daniels had been working on his co-axial approach since the 1970s, aiming to combine the benefits of the lever escapement with those of the detent escapement, specifically to use the tangential impulse of the detent escapement to reduce friction and eradicate the need for lubrication.
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Daniels’s first designs used two escape wheels arranged side by side that engaged a single lever to impulse the oscillator. But the version he invented in 1976 and patented in 1980 used two wheels on the same axis, a lever with three pallet stones and a balance roller with its own pallet stone. Crucially, the impulse angle was reduced from the 52 degrees of the lever escapement to 30 degrees in the co-axial escapement, allowing for a lower-friction sliding action to the impulse.
U The latest incarnation of the Omega co-axial escapement, with the distinctive spokes on the co-axial escape wheel and a balance and balance spring made of silicon.
The first Omega watches fitted with co-axial escapements were presented in 1999 as limited editions in the DeVille line (Omega Calibre 2500). One of the last bones of contention between Daniels and the technicians at ETA and Omega was whether or not to lubricate the co-axial watches. Since lubrication, or more specifically degradation of the oils used over time, was a major source of problems in a movement, Daniels did not lubricate. But given the massive risk of commercialising an entirely new form of escapement without any lubrication whatsoever, Omega played it safe and added a drop of oil (this was, of course, before the breakthrough in the use of silicon for reduced-friction watch components).
ment was “developed without the constraints of space that are encountered when integrating the co-axial escapement in an existing calibre”. This meant that the brand could introduce an entirely new co-axial escape wheel design with three levels, allowing two functions that had been housed on the pinion of the two-level co-axial wheel to be dissociated: the direct impulse function and the transmission of energy from the barrel to the escapement. In doing so (the two functions are now housed on two separate pinions on a co-axial wheel with three levels), Omega has “optimised the geometry of the teeth without making any compromises and thus further improved reliability”. A silicon balance wheel and balance spring were also introduced, adding all the benefits of silicon that we are now familiar with. The three-level co-axial wheel has since been retrofitted to the 2500 and 3313 calibre families.
The first chronograph version of the co-axial movement, the Calibre 3313 (based on the Frédéric Piguet chronograph movement) was launched in 2005, but the biggest advance in the co-axial technology came in 2007, with the launch of Omega’s own in-house co-axial calibre, the 8500. Besides signalling the brand’s return to its roots as a manufacture with a new movement that was developed and produced “in-house”, it was also the first time that a movement had been developed from scratch around the co-axial escapement. One of the main benefits of this, in Omega’s own words, was that the moveO OMEGA Co-Axial CALIBRE 8501
The main problem for Omega had always been explaining the co-axial technology to its existing and potential customers, given that it is far from being a niche brand and that a certain amount of theoretical knowledge of watchmaking is required to fully understand its operation and the benefits it offers. After starting with promises of greater service intervals and better accuracy over time, the brand put its full weight behind the technology by doubling to four years the warranty on watches sold with the co-axial escapement. Although this gave a compelling argument for choosing a co-axial movement even over one of Omega’s other movements, the brand has now eradicated any niggling doubts in customers’ minds altogether with its boldest move to date: the only Omega timepiece that you can now buy that doesn’t have a co-axial escapement is the legendary Speedmaster Professional Moon Watch, which still ticks away the time using a chronograph movement whose design has remained largely unchanged since it was first launched in 1957. As progress marches relentlessly on, it’s refreshing to see that some classic designs, both inside and out, remain sacred. p Discover more at www.europastar.BIZ/Omega
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AUDEMARS PIGUET – The best of both worlds Audemars Piguet took inspiration from a 200 yearold design to combine the advantages of the Swiss lever and detent escapements for ultimate precision Almost at the same time as Omega introduced its co-axial escapement, Audemars Piguet was perfecting its own new type of escapement. It was based on a design first produced by Robert Robin in 1791 that aimed, just like the Daniels co-axial escapement but two centuries before it, to combine the benefits of the Swiss lever escapement and the detent escapement. Unfortunately, despite its advantages, the design shared the same inherent weakness of the detent escapement in that it was extremely sensitive to shocks. Of little use in a mechanical watch, the system was therefore quietly forgotten…
Until the dawn of the second millennium, when Audemars Piguet was attracted by the advantages of this design when it was looking to develop a new escapement. Giulio Papi, of Audemars Piguet Renaud & Papi, thus took up this twocentury-old problem and looked for a solution to bring shock resistance to the escapement that would allow him to exploit the system of direct impulsion offered by Robin’s design. Papi’s solution was simple in its execution and elegant in its design, taking the form of a so-called “safety finger” – an elaborated form of dart or guard pin that prevents accidental movements of the fork. Guard pins are nothing new to horology, but their usual upright configuration on a lever escapement could lead to the guard pin getting bent, which in turn leads to the dreaded “overbanking” (the irregular movement of the pallet fork between the two banking pins). In the Audemars Piguet design, a straight safety finger protrudes
beneath the fork and, in combination with a safety cylinder mounted on the balance staff, maintains the lever in place while the escape wheel is locked. The resulting configuration cuts the loss of energy to the escapement from 65 per cent for the Swiss lever escapement to only 48 per cent for the AP escapement, with further efficiency gains coming from the fact that there is only one direct impulse to the balance for every two vibrations. The geometry of the Audemars Piguet escapement decreases the length of slide on the lifts of the pallets from around 0.4mm to 0.05mm, which considerably reduces friction and therefore eliminates the need for lubrication. Audemars Piguet also increased the frequency of the movement to 43,200 vibrations per hour (6Hz) to offer even greater precision. Power from two barrels is fed through the es-
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I Millenary Minute-Repeater with AP escapement 47mm titanium case, anthracite dial and hand-stitched crocodile leather strap. Fitted with the hand-wound, ovalshaped Calibre 2910 minuterepeater movement with small seconds, direct impulse, lubrication-free Audemars Piguet escapement and double balance spring operating at 21,600 vibrations/hour (3Hz) and offering a power reserve of 165 hours. Limited edition of 8.
capement to the balance, which is equipped with not one but two hairsprings, arranged on top of each other but offset at 180° to better compensate for possible defects in the equilibrium of the balance. The Audemars Piguet escapement has been most recently employed in the 26153 references with a smaller balance and a frequency of 6Hz, while a “standard” frequency (3Hz) version is used in the Millenary 26371TI with a larger balance wheel. Over the escapement’s seven-year lifespan to date, constant improvements have been made to the design, in particular the shape of the lever and the shock-protection system. The results speak for themselves: Audemars Piguet boasts an average variation in rate of -2/+2 seconds per day for the 3Hz calibre, compared with -2/+4 for a tourbillon, and an astonishing average variation of only +/- 0.3 seconds per day for the 6Hz version! p
UJules Audemars Chronometer with AP escapement 46mm 18-carat pink gold case with black enamel dial and hand-stitched crocodile leather strap. Fitted with the hand-wound Calibre 2908 chronometer movement with power reserve and small seconds displays, lubricationfree Audemars Piguet escapement and double balance spring operating at 43,200 vibrations/hour (6Hz) and offering a power reserve of 90 hours.
Discover more at www.europastar.BIZ/Audemars-Piguet
Urban Jürgensen – Innovation in the service of tradition Urban Jürgensen adapts the detent escapement to the wristwatch We owe the invention of the detent escapement in large part to the Longitude Act passed by the English Parliament on July 8, 1714, which offered a reward of £20,000 to anyone who could find a method of determining longitude to an accuracy of half a degree. A similar prize was offered by the French Academy of Sciences four years later. It is therefore no coincidence that the names associated with the development of the detent escapement and the marine chronometers it was used in are either English or French: John Harrison, George Graham, Thomas Mudge, John Arnold, Thomas Earnshaw, Pierre Le Roy and Ferdinand Berthoud.
Le Roy is credited with first inventing the detent escapement in the mid-1700s, although all of the above-mentioned watchmakers produced their own configurations in the race to produce a marine chronometer accurate enough to win the substantial prizes on offer. The main objective of the escapement was to allow the balance wheel to oscillate as
freely as possible, without being affected by friction from the gear train. The resulting design used a detent to provide an impulse directly to the balance from the escape wheel, doing so only once for each oscillation of the regulating organ, rather than twice in the case of the lever escapement. While this gives obvious benefits in terms of precision, the detent escapement itself was much more prone to shocks than the traditional lever escapement. No problem for a marine chronometer mounted on gimbals in a solid wooden case, but impractical for use in a smaller pocket watch or wristwatch. For Helmut Crott, the owner of Urban Jürgensen, the detent design was the natural choice when looking for a new type of escapement for the brand, for two main reasons. “We know the detent escapement is the most precise, because the balance is free, but there is the problem of shock resistance. But the detent escapement is also part of high-precision watchmaking history. It is a link between the past and the present but we wanted to take it a step forward rather than just copying an old design.”
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T Urban Jürgensen’s pivoted detent escapement
T A close-up of the pivoted detent
Variable inertia balance Locking stone
Spiral detent spring
Counter balanced detent with reduced inertia
High-rigidity escape wheel with reduced inertia
The sensitivity of the detent escapement to shocks means that there is a risk of “tripping”, the unwanted release of the escape wheel, which can damage the movement or even stop it. Urban Jürgensen’s elegant solution to this problem is a specially designed detent that has a perfectly balanced counterweight to the pallet jewel positioned at the other end of the lever. “The trick was to ensure that the pallet fork could be returned if it tried to escape,” continues Mr. Crott. “So we have added a small aperture of 15-20° in the safety roller, where the detent can penetrate. That is the basis of our patent, but the system is of course more complicated than that and depends on the lightness of the materials used and the methods used to manufacture them. To take just one example, the ruby used for the locking stone is just 0.08mm thick and is therefore very difficult to produce.”
I Montre e-mail
observatoire Presented at BaselWorld 2013, the ref.11C/R/E/O has a completely handmade and handpainted dial. It is a limited edition of 20 featuring the brand’s P8 in-house calibre with the pivoted detent escapement.
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But the pivoted detent escapement offered by Urban Jürgensen is just one element in an overall package that has been designed from scratch by the brand, which includes a variableinertia balance wheel with an inertia of 24g/cm3 (double the usual figure of 12g/cm3) and optimised tooth profiles on the gear wheels. “We wanted a robust movement that had been simulated and tested and one which would provide a lot of energy, which would give us more flexibility for regulation,” explains Crott. Helmut Crott’s long-term view of the evolution of this escapement also considers the important issue of after-sales service. “Our aim is to have a movement that any experienced watch-
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observatoire Presented at BaselWorld 2013, the ref.11C/R/E/O has a completely handmade and handpainted dial. It is a limited edition of 20 featuring the brand’s P8 in-house calibre with the pivoted detent escapement.
maker can assemble or work on,” he says. “In 50 or 100 years’ time, an experienced watchmaker should still be able to repair it.” Such figures may appear exaggerated, but they illustrate well Mr Crott’s appreciation of tradition and the need for perpetuating classic design. Although the brand produces only 50 examples of this escapement each year, it aims to increase this figure with a gradual industrialisation process, while maintaining the escapement’s exclusivity. Models featuring the pivoted-detent escapement sell alongside those with the brand’s own in-house lever escapement and, as Mr Crott suggested to Europa Star, may also be joined in future by a tourbillon with the brand’s pivoted detent escapement. p
Discover more at www.europastar.BIZ/Urban-Juergensen
A NEW MOVEMENT
ACCURAT SWISS – Operation K1 Pierre Maillard Around 2006, when ETA was taking its first steps to reduce movement deliveries, a small group of people came together, like conspirators. Among them was Andreas Felsl, a German entrepreneur specialised in patents who invented, among other things, Bionicon, a shock-absorber system used in the world’s best mountain bikes, and who created in Germany a bicycle company that was elected the best in its category on six consecutive occasions. There was also Tzuyu Huang, a businesswoman based in Bienne and CEO of Momoplus AG, a blossoming company delivering watchmaking components, cases, dials, hands, straps… in short everything but movements. And it is these very movements that were set to become rarer and cause supply bottlenecks. They therefore had the idea of starting out on a crazy adventure: what if we designed, constructed and produced our own base movement?! Competitively and produced on an industrial scale! At least 100,000, that’s surely a big challenge. A steep north face to climb… hence the name K1 given to this veritable expedition.
The company Accurat Swiss AG was thus established, two engineers and a strategy consultant soon joining the team, which worked with the utmost discretion. Among them was Achim Huber, an industrial strategy consultant, who was in charge of steering the development of the project. Stephan Kussmaul, a watchmaker and engineer, looked after
the movement itself. Before joining Accurat Swiss in 2009, Stephan Kussmaul was the head of R&D at Eterna, in charge of movement development at the brand that was, ironically, behind the creation of ETA. Before this, he had worked as a watchmaker at Patek Philippe. Working alongside him was Jonas Nydegger, another former employee of Eterna, where he was responsible for developing the processes for mass production of movements.
“You’re mad, you need 100 million” So the team’s objective is to develop and industrialise the production of a base movement, to which new functions could easily be added. A movement that is by no means a mere “clone” but whose encasing is nevertheless ETA-compatible. And, above all, a quality movement that can be sold at a competitive price. There are numerous sceptics and the search for venture capital is difficult. “You’re mad, you need 100 million” is the standard reply. So they decided to go it alone! With the benefit of hindsight, Andreas Felsl and his team think that they were lucky not to have found a big investor: “we approached things more modestly, step by step, with full autonomy and self-sufficiency, without getting ahead of ourselves. Today, we are reaping the rewards.” The slow ascent of this K1 has not been without its difficulties, however. While the small but powerful Armin Strom factory opened its doors to them so that they could machine OO Andreas Felsl and Tzuyu Huang
O Achim Huber, Jonas Nydegger and Stephan Kussmaul
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IThe K1 movement by Accurat Swiss The K1 is a platform that can be configured in 18 different versions, ranging from 110 components for the basic configuration up to 160 components for the most complicated version. It offers a power reserve of 45 hours and beats at a frequency of 3.5 Hz, or 25,200 vibrations per hour. The main benefits of the platform lie in its flexibility, with the majority of components being common to the different configurations. Modules for the different complications are pre-assembled and can be fitted to the base plate once it has already been assembled, adjusted and checked.
the components for the first prototypes, the problem of the assortment was a lot more serious. After two years of fruitless research, Andreas Felsl, who does not come from the world of watchmaking and therefore does not have the same inhibitions as watchmakers, started to take a closer look at the patents registered for assortments in silicon. He noticed that, although everything had been done to prevent others from using this technology, there were a number of deficiencies. “We did a lot of research and found new solutions that did not encroach on existing patents. We did all we could to avoid being taken to court, we found a producer in Germany that pioneered silicon technology and we have managed to produce our own balance spring and escape wheel in silicon.”
What does the K1 look like? A few years have passed and we are in mid-2013 and the K1 now starts its real existence with a first series of 40 prototype movements that are currently undergoing tests. But what does the K1 look like? At a diameter of 25.4 mm – one of the most common diameters in use – and a little thicker (4.95 mm) than the ETA
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2824, the K1 is a self-winding movement comprising 110 components for its basic configuration and up to 160 components for the most complicated version. It has a minimum power reserve of 45 hours and beats at the rather unusual frequency of 3.5 Hz, or 25,200 vibrations per hour. The main idea is to make it a platform that can easily be configured in 18 different versions, subdivided into three families: a big date family, a small date family and a family without a date. The small and big dates are placed at 3 o’clock, the power reserve display at 6 o’clock and the seconds are either central or small seconds at 9 o’clock. The big advantage of this platform is the great flexibility that it offers. The great majority of components are common to the 18 different configurations possible and can therefore be produced in large quantities. The components specific to the different versions – small seconds, central seconds, power reserve, small or big date – are produced and pre-assembled as specific modules. Once checked, they are fitted directly on to the base plate, which has already been assembled, adjusted, checked and stocked.
This typically industrial-scale organisation does indeed offer numerous advantages. The fact that the basic design can be configured in 18 different versions allows customer demands to be taken into account using a “just in time” approach that is quick, reactive and flexible. Not to mention the economies of scale that make the finished product even more competitive. And because the architecture of the movement is common to all versions, after-sales service work is also made much easier. This is no small advantage at the moment, whether for the end customer, the retailer, the brand or the producer. As a next step, Accurat Swiss is on the verge of launching a first pre-series of 1,000. The feedback and experience from this pre-series will determine the future investment. One to watch very closely, therefore, in this period of impending dearth. p
INTERVIEW – Stephan Kussmaul on the K1 movement platform Why the chosen frequency of 3.5Hz (the same frequency as Omega’s co-axial movement)? We think 3.5Hz is a modern frequency and are convinced that this frequency offers the right trade-off between dynamic performance and wear in our K1 movement platform. Furthermore, 3.5Hz gives us the opportunity to show that Accurat Swiss is different from others and we are following our own path. Is the self-winding mechanism uni- or bi-directional? Is it equipped with ceramic ball bearings? The self-winding mechanism in our movement is uni-directional because of reliability and simplicity. It uses fewer components than bi-directional self-winding mechanisms. Less parts means less risk of loose, lost or defective ones. At the moment we use steel balls in our ball bearings for cost reasons. We are open to use carbide- or ceramic-
bearings in higher priced versions of our movements in the future. Can you give us more details on the silicon hairspring and regulating organs? In the first two years of our movement project we worked with traditional regulating systems from well-known suppliers in the industry. At a certain point it became clear that our supply was not guaranteed for the future. At that time we decided to start resear-
“At a certain point it became clear that our supply was not guaranteed for the future.” ching other solutions. The hairspring has been developed from scratch together with our partner from the industry. It took us around two years of development time to recalculate the traditional metal hairspring we used
before and build up our own knowhow by learning from our mistakes. Apart from the silicon hairspring, escapement and escape-wheel, all the other components are made of traditional materials such as steel and copper-beryllium. The original balance wheel, balance staff and escapement staff have been modified to meet the changed requirements. Same with the gear train? The gear train arrangement in our movement is a direct minute hand in the centre with a second hand wheel in the centre and a small indirect second hand pinion out of the centre (when needed). With this configuration we guarantee a steady rotational motion on the large second hand without flickering in the centre and if needed a small second hand at 9 o’clock slightly flickering but hardly visible because of the short length of the hand (we do not want to add friction to it).
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You say that you are “taking all the energy for additional functions directly from the barrel, without altering the movement works”. Can you tell us more about this? The force an additional module takes is always the same, independent of its position in the gear train. We try to take all the energy as early as possible, to keep the influence low on the regulating system at the end. The energy for the power reserve indication is taken directly from the barrel (as in the ETA Calibre 2897). For the calendar mechanism we take it from the centre pinion (as in the Rolex Calibre 3135). Finally the module for the small seconds at 9 o’clock takes its energy from the third wheel. The calendar and the power reserve modules consume more energy than the small seconds module at 9 o’clock.
“Industrialisation is not rocket science, it is about listening and learning. ” You say that from the beginning, everything was done with industrial-scale production in mind. Can you give us more detailed examples of this approach? Industrialisation is not rocket science, it is about listening and learning. In the beginning we started to engineer the movement in a straightforward way. As soon we had a rough 3D model with very rudimentary 2D blueprints, we started to contact suppliers and machine manufactures etc. We presented our semi-finished engineering work in 3D and on paper and discussed the feasibility of producing each individual part of the movement. We always left meetings with specialists with more knowledge than before and this knowledge led to
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design modifications on the parts. Doing all this was not a single step and it is an ongoing process. It is also not limited to production and manufacturing machinery. The movement has to be assembled in semi-automated assembly lines as well, so we also visited Lecureux and other companies over and over again. Maintenance is also a huge subject for mechanical watches, so we gave our first series of prototypes to untrained watchmakers to identify possible difficulties during manual assembly and disassembly. Finally, all this led to design modifications which make the product better, better and better, step by step. For assembly, there are some methodological rules: the parts are inserted from the top of the assembly; they are self-aligning; they are assembled in a single, linear motion; they are secured immediately after insertion and we made sure that there were no hidden oiling points. We already designed the components and mechanisms in consideration of the technologies we would use to produce them in large quantities. We are now at a point where we have learnt a lot about processes. During the last four years we have identified all the necessary manufacturing processes involved to produce each single part in the movement. How much and what kind of different machinery is exactly involved in the processing of each specific part from raw material to the finished piece? What are the requirements on
the machine and personnel to get the right quality? What are the limitations and requirements of the machine on our part? What is the main advantage of your platform concept? The huge advantage of our platform lies in assembly. Either we or our customers, depending on who is doing the assembly, can produce 18 different models on one assembly line. Traditionally, assembly lines are used just for one kind of movement. In the K1 platform, all 18 variants share the same architecture, which means that all parts are in exactly the same position in every single movement, regardless of the final configuration. This means no changing setup, no retraining of operators, no quality gap at the beginning etc… Also, only one watch case is needed, since all movements in the platform have the same external dimensions. You mention three different quality levels. Can you say more about these different levels? We will offer two or three different quality levels (simple, advanced, top) very similar to what you could get from ETA in the past. We have not determined the definitive differentiations yet. We are also open to offer a partly skeletonised version in the future, depending on what volume customers want... p
Read the full interview with Stephan Kussmaul on europastar.com and discover more at www.europastar.BIZ/Accurat-Swiss
Private Label by Vaucher Manufacture Paul O’Neil
The 100 per cent vertically integrated manufacture in Fleurier is making its entire know-how available to low volume brands for the first time. That there is watchmaking in Fleurier at all is largely down to one man: Michel Parmigiani. He set up a restoration workshop in the small town in the Val de Travers in 1975, in the midst of the quartz crisis, from which a veritable industrial cluster has grown. Michel Parmigiani founded Parmigiani Mesure et Art du Temps SA in 1990, the Sandoz Family Foundation took a shareholding in the company in 1995, then the vertical integration came in 2001 with the acquisition of Les Artisans Boîtiers (cases), atokalpa (oscillators and gear trains) and Elwin (profile-turning for screws, pins etc.).
Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier was born in 2003 when Parmigiani Mesure et Art du Temps SA was spun off into two separate entities: Parmigiani Fleurier, for the watch brand, and Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier (VMF) for the movement.
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Quadrance & Habillage, a dial manufacturer based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, was incorporated into the structure in 2004. Today, VMF operates out of an impressive 6,700m2 facility in Fleurier, inaugurated in 2009, where 200 people representing 20 different professions produce some 22,000 movements per year for Parmigiani, Hermès (a 25 per cent shareholder in the company), Corum and Richard Mille, among others. The company has an ambitious medium-term target of 35,000 movements per year, which represents an increase of over 50 per cent compared with current production levels. The new VMF Private Label business unit is expected to contribute to this increase. On the same day that Europa Star visited the VMF factory, potential customers from London and Paris had come to discuss the possibility of working with VMF Private Label. It may just be a coincidence that neither of these interested parties are from Switzerland and the fact that they approached VMF even before the new Private Label option was officially announced at this year’s EPHJ exhibition in Geneva suggests that interest will only grow.
Florin Niculescu, Head of Business Development at VMF, explained the rationale behind the creation of this new business unit. “Since we launched our ‘industrial’ calibres, we have been approached by brands producing small volumes (and by this I do not mean small brands) regarding a possible cooperation,” he says. “Until now, we had always politely declined. But I thought, why not? It could be a good advertisement for us.” Florin Niculescu, Head of Business Development
695 retail, it is becoming increasingly difficult for retailers and brands to justify prices that are several times higher for a watch fitted with the same movement. Our private label customers will have the quality and notoriety associated with VMF and will be able to use brands like Hermès and Parmigiani as a reference.” T Calibre 3000
VMF have clearly put a lot of thought into the strategy for their private label division. The promotional material includes a list of the five calibres available for production runs of as low as 25 units and includes something that is almost unheard of in the sub-contracting side of the watch industry: prices. These range from CHF 990 for the basic Calibre 3000 self-winding movement to CHF 1,590 for the extra-flat Calibre 5300 with date and micro-rotor (available from next year).
“With the likes of Tissot and Certina offering mechanical watches for as little as CHF 695 retail, it is becoming increasingly difficult for retailers and brands to justify prices that are several times higher for a watch fitted with the same movement.”
T Calibre 5300
Mr Niculescu believes that the prices will help customers differentiate themselves on two levels. “With the likes of Tissot and Certina offering mechanical watches for as little as CHF
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tions. “We saw that after-sales service was polluting production,” explains Niculescu, “and pieces from after-sales service were somehow ending up back in the production cycle. So we made it into a separate business unit, a profit centre, and feedback from after-sales service can now flow back into the production process.”
It is also precisely because VMF is one of very few genuine manufactures, with 100 per cent vertical integration, that it can publish prices. “Manufacturers who are not 100 per cent vertically integrated risk problems if they publish prices,” says Niculescu. “They may suddenly have trouble getting certain components. It’s only by having total control that you don’t risk anything.”
“We saw that after-sales service was polluting production. So we made it into a separate business unit, a profit centre, and feedback from after-sales service can now flow back into the production process.” Included in the price is the renowned Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier experience and expertise, a delivery time of 4-6 weeks (the movements are in stock, the rotors just have to be personalised and fitted) and, last but by no means least, access to VMF’s very own after-sales service. Private Label customers can therefore send watches back to a service centre, based in Porrentruy, in the north-west corner of Switzerland, that VMF deliberately separated from its production opera-
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The offer seems unbeatable and that is probably because VMF Private Label has no natural competitor. You can, of course, get movements from other suppliers and there are other subcontractors for other components. There is even a handful of other suppliers offering similar private label services, but they are either at a different price point or not entirely independent (and therefore depend on other suppliers, in some cases VMF itself, for certain crucial components like the oscillator). But a supplier who can produce a bespoke watch for you entirely in-house? “You need to differentiate between players and competitors. They are not the same thing,” notes Niculescu, adding that “I would be happy to steer people in the direction of other suppliers if the positioning wasn’t right,” in tacit confirmation of his company’s unique position in the industry. p
Discover more at www.europastar.BIZ/Vaucher-Manufacture
save the date
march 27 â€“ april 3, 2014
Adding intelligence to the mechanical watch Pierre Maillard
Ever since the company was founded in 1997, Urwerk has been a pioneer in new independent watchmaking. Exploring the realm of hour satellites like no other brand, offering this unusual complication in more than one form, Urwerk has broken new ground in watchmaking, in both technical and aesthetic terms. But while we have often been able to admire the strange and futuristic machines telling the time that have left the Urwerk workshops, we have never stressed enough the fact that the approach of Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei also has a purely horological justification. Because, beyond these effects of form, the purely horological quest for precision has always been at the heart of Urwerk’s concerns. With this in mind, the brand recently unveiled highly original research into adding “intelligence” to a precision mechanical timepiece.
Until now, this type of monitoring could only be done by machines (the famous Witschi machines) that only watchmakers have. What’s more, these machines do not monitor the watch on the wrist. Urwerk therefore conceived a system of monitoring using an optical sensor with a direct link to the balance. Timed by an electronic oscillator with a frequency of 16,000,000Hz, a very high-precision reference frequency, this optical sensor records the oscillations of the watch’s balance wheel, which oscillates at 28,800 vibrations/hour, or 4Hz, in real time. A form of “artificial intelligence” (in this case an electronic circuit) calculates the difference between the rate of the movement and the reference oscillator. All that remains is to convert this information into a readable display for the wearer and allow him to adjust the watch as accurately as possible based on the information received.
Permanent checks integrated into the movement Urwerk has already explored the interactivity between the watch and its owner, in particular with the different “control boards” fitted to its timepieces, which allow the wearer to adjust, for example, the self-winding function according to their activities (in the recent UR-210). But in its EMC laboratory project, Urwerk takes things a step further. Their stated aim is not only to create a very precise watch but also to be able to test and adjust its rate in real time, at any time and in the simplest of ways by the wearer. In other words, it’s as if the watch’s rate is being permanently monitored.
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Mechanics redesigned for better analysis
and the ARCAP balance wheel
But precise measurements require precise architecture. In order to make the information readable, the watch’s mechanics had to be entirely redesigned. The most spectacular transformation is on the balance wheel. Made out of ARCAP, it has a perfectly linear morphology with optimised aerodynamics to reduce any loss of amplitude. The stability and linear performance of the watch have been improved by the use of a double barrel that is assembled vertically on the same axis, which delivers its power from an 80-hour reserve. An adjusting screw accessible from the outside of the watch can be used to adjust the rate precisely via the index by adjusting the active length of the spring. At the moment, the EMC only exists as a blown-up prototype and grouping these elements together inside a compact case is the next challenge for Urwerk. You may well ask whether this is moving away from purely mechanical watchmaking. After all, don’t the optical sensor and the electronic circuit need an electric power supply? Of course. But it is not supplied by any run-of-the-mill battery but by a manual generator in the form of a winding key that chargers a capacitor powering the monitoring functions of the EMC. p Discover more at www.europastar.BIZ/Urwerk
HOPTROFF – The world’s most accurate watch Paul O’Neil The promise of the world’s first pocket watch with an atomic time source comes not from Switzerland or even Japan but from the heart of the United Kingdom, where the London-based Hoptroff brand is set to present the first protoypes of its No. 10 watch at the SalonQP watch exhibition in November.
Hoptroff’s central London location was actually instrumental in shaping the idea for this timepiece, as Richard Hoptroff, the company’s Managing Director, explained to Europa Star: “Since we are a producer of quartz movements, we use a high-frequency oscillator that uses a GPS signal. But it can be difficult to get a GPS signal in central London. When I was visiting the Greenwich Observatory one day I noticed a Hewlett Packard atomic clock and wondered if I could buy something similar online. I couldn’t. But instead I discovered the Symmetricon chip and after three days I realised that I should really be putting it into a pocket watch.” The chip in question is the SA.45s chip-scale atomic clock (CSAC). It is part of the first family of miniature-scale atomic clocks for use in GPS receivers, backpack radios or unmanned vehicles. Although the chip is indeed small, at 40mm x 34.75mm it is already almost the size of an average wristwatch, which means that the pocket watch that Hoptroff is touting is on the large size, measuring 82mm in diameter. In addition to its claim to be the world’s most accurate watch, the Hoptroff No. 10 (so named because it is the tenth movement developed by the company) will also be the first watch to have a gold case produced by 3D printing. Hoptroff has not yet calculated the amount of gold that will be needed for the case (the first prototype was finished just as Europa Star went to press) but expects this to be worth “at least a few thousand pounds”. This, together with the tremendous amount of research and development that has gone into the product (Mr Hoptroff cites the tidal harmonics for 3,000 different coastal ports that are stored in the watch as one example), mean that its final retail price will be around £50,000. With this high price tag comes admission to an exclusive club whose members will have to sign an agreement confir-
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U The CSAC at the heart of the Hoptroff No. 10 pocket watch
T The gold case of the No. 10 as it emerges from the 3D printer (left) and after polishing (right)
ming that they will not take out the CSAC and use it in weaponry. “This is part of our agreement with our supplier,” explains Mr Hoptroff, “since the CSAC was originally developed for use in missile-guidance systems.” With this small concession, however, owners can be sure that they have a watch whose accuracy is unbeatable. The CSAC contains a temperature-controlled oven, inside which there is a caesium gas chamber. The caesium atoms are excited by a laser and the transitions between two energy levels of the caesium-133 atom are measured by a microwave resonator. Since 9,192,631,770 such transitions of the caesium atom have stood as the International System of Units
reference for one second since 1967, it is impossible to be technically more accurate than a caesium-based clock. Even so, advances in new optical clocks using an aluminium ion that oscillates at ultraviolet light frequencies (which are 100,000 times higher than the microwave frequencies used in caesium clocks) could eventually offer 100 times better accuracy. For a more down-to-earth, real-world comparison, Hoptroff’s No.10 pocket watch offers an accuracy of 0.0015 seconds per year, which is over 2.4 million times better than the COSC chronometer requirements. The lucky owners of a Hoptroff No. 10 will get much more than a highly-accurate watch, though. It is also a pocket navigation device that can determine longitude to within one nautical mile even after years at sea with the help of just a humble sextant. Hoptroff promises a twin-dial configuration, although the design of one of the dials is still a secret. The other presents a bewildering array of subdials that display no less than 28 different complications, covering every possible time and date indication, as well as a compass, thermometer, hygrometer, barometer, latitude and longitude displays and
I A prototype of the No. 10’s complicated dial
tide forecasts, not to mention a handful of important indicators that allow the wearer to check that all is well inside the pocket atomic oven. Hoptroff has a number of other products in the pipeline, including an electronic tribute to George Daniels’s famously complicated Space Traveller watch. These are currently being reworked prior to launch in order to integrate the exciting possibilities offered by Bluetooth technology, such as storing ownership information on board (as an anti-theft device) and allowing complications such as moon phases to be set automatically. The No. 10 watch is scheduled for delivery some time next year, but the company is now looking for suitable retail partners. “We would try to sell online, but it’s a luxury item, so people need to touch it. Relationships with retailers are therefore inevitable and we are now at the point where we are ready to start discussions,” concludes Mr Hoptroff. p Discover more at www.europastar.BIZ/Hoptroff
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AT LUNCH WITH…
Romain Gauthier – A logical career path Pierre Maillard
At the age of 38, Romain Gauthier can be proud of his career path: he is in charge of a manufacture that is modestly-sized but genuine; he has designed, developed and produced his own movement; he recently finished a highly innovative constant force watch, the Logical One, for which he registered four patents and sold 35 examples at BaselWorld this year. 35 watches? A drop in the ocean, I hear you say. Yes, but only 40 Logical One pieces will be produced, 20 in red gold at CHF 120,000 and 20 in platinum at CHF 135,000 (excluding tax). This equates to a turnover of over five million. Europa Star met him first at his workshop in the Vallée de Joux, then later over a steak tartare and a glass of Bordeaux, at the Restaurant des Horlogers in Le Brassus. Born in the Vallée de Joux in 1975, Romain Gauthier does not have the typical career path of one of the new independent horological creators. He is not a watchmaker in the true sense of the word, but watchmaking is part of his “subconscious” as he says. Because whatever you do, here in the rural “valley of complications” with its Siberian winters, “you are surrounded by watchmaking from your childhood onwards”. So the mechanical passion is never very far away. Romain Gauthier therefore started training in precision mechanics. His speciality: a machine constructor technician. At the age of 22 he started work at a company specialised in the production of watchmaking components and, very quickly,
“He is not a watchmaker in the true sense of the word, but watchmaking is part of his ‘subconscious’ as he says.” was entrusted with a machining pool. This is where he learned all the secrets of producing components for mechanical watches. The young man was ambitious, determined, serious and had a logical spirit. It was 1999 and he said to himself: “you know how to make components, so you are capable of producing your own movement”. But “movement” also means “business investment”. From then on, while continuing with his professional activity, Romain started an MBA in economics, finance and marketing. In 2002, he submitted his final dissertation, which received a distinction, which was “logically” about the business plan for setting up a watch brand called... Romain Gauthier.
Two weeks after his oral exams he was at his “drawing board” (actually, a screen and design software) and started constructing his first movement, diving into mathematical equations. Three years later, at the end of 2005, he had his first prototype. “During my MBA, I kept pestering Philippe Dufour, who gave me advice. Then I didn’t contact him for another three years. I did everything in secret, by hand, without any help from outside. And at the same time I continued to work.” When the guru, who is universally acknowledged for the excellence of his work, first saw the Romain Gauthier watch, which was called Prestige HM and displayed the hours and minutes on an off-centre dial, he was very enthusiastic. But he also pushed him to go further in his finishing work. “I was at about 70 per cent of the quality of finish, my bevels were not rounded off and Philipe Dufour showed me how to produce a finish worthy of haute horlogerie.” While Philippe Dufour introduced his new protégé to everyone he knew, Romain Gauthier’s boss, to whom he had also showed the fruits of his labour, opened the doors of his factory to him so that he could use the facilities at weekends. Bridges, wheels, pinions, springs, screws… started to come off the stamping presses. “A first-rate machine park and, given my training, I knew how to machine components, at the right thickness and respecting the constraints of the different materials. This was a big advantage. I had previously produced 70 barrel drums for third parties.” In 2005, he got his first financing and, the following year, left the company where he worked (whose boss had seen him as his successor), hired a first watchmaker and started working 100 per cent for himself. In 2007, he exults: he shows off his first watch, fitted with his own calibre 2206 HM (for 22 jewels and the year 2006) at BaselWorld, in the same showcase as his mentor Philippe Dufour, made available by Vianney Halter. Things go well and he leaves with 25 orders, delivering his first timepiece in August 2007, “in Switzerland” as he proudly points out. After 2008, the following years were more difficult. He started to build up a small production facility but the attitude among the team quickly became flippant. “It was a bit like the Club Med”, he confesses, “But above all, at a rhythm of two watches per month, I was delivering my products with 1,000
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franc notes in them”. He had to dismiss some employees and build up a new team. In 2010 he presented an evolution of his original HM in Basel, adding seconds but more importantly changing from traditional aesthetics to a more open, semi openworked face. “It was the markets that urged me to evolve. All the collectors told me that it was a pity that everything was on the back...” But for this resolute and methodical man, it was time to think of a completely new movement, something to stand out and create a solid foundation for his brand. So in 2011 he decided to pursue a new direction. The following year was, as he himself admits, “a difficult year. I shut myself away at home, did my homework, with music for stimulation...”. At the same 48 AT LUNCH WITH… / europa star
time, he gradually built up a stock of in-house components to ensure a logical progression in the brand’s development. In Basel this year he presented the fruit of his labours: the Logical One. “I had this watch in my mind for a long time. It had to be totally relevant and bring something new, something different. It had to be provocative but at the same time become part of our watchmaking heritage,” he says without any false modesty. The tartare is long since finished. Tables are emptying and people from Audemars Piguet, the restaurant’s owners, but also from Jaeger-LeCoultre, Breguet and Blancpain say goodbye to each other and hop into their SUVs.
I The Logical One
So, this Logical One? What is so exceptional about it that it becomes part of our watchmaking heritage? “On the right, you have all the watch, the displays, the escapement… on the left, the torque corrector for the constant force... and on the back, the entire case back is devoted to the reduction gears for the constant force, and the direct power reserve indicator,” he explains, flipping the watch over and back again. “The constant force is a complication that requires a very specific architecture. What’s more, you can count them on the fingers of one hand: Breguet, Lange, more recently Zenith, DeWitt, Cabestan...”, he lists them. We remind him of the recent Constant Force by Girard Perregaux. “Yes, but this is an entirely different type of solution. Having said that, any watch is the miniaturisation of a principle of physics.” To illustrate this, Romain Gauthier produces a series of graphs showing the perfect constant force, regardless of the watch’s position. “The strategic point is the centre pinion. All the maths starts there. You can see it on the back: the principle of reduction is essential, distributing the constant force over 360º, following a principle of the division of the number of revolutions, a correction, then the multiplication of the number of revolutions. The result is ± four seconds over the watch’s entire 60-hour power reserve, without any adjustment“, he argues. We take the object in our hands, we look at it, we admire it.
First conceived back in the 15th century, the traditional fusée/chain mechanism for constant force has two main disadvantages: at wristwatch scale, the levels on the fusée necessitate very small, and therefore fragile, links in the chain; furthermore the angle of the chain between the fusée and the barrel adds further tension. Romain Gauthier therefore replaced the fusée by a slow-rotating snail, placed at the same level as the barrel. It therefore always transmits its force in a straight line and, since the chain is shorter, its links can be bigger and more robust. As a result, Romain Gauthier was able to design a chain whose links were made of synthetic rubies, offering great resistance to wear and a low friction co-efficient. These links are attached by an innovative system of pressure clips that is simple, reliable and precise. There is another innovation in the winding system: in place of the traditional crown, which transmits the winding energy at 90° to the barrel by means of a fine stem, the winding is instead done by a pusher on the left-hand side of the case. This system, which is very easy to use, allows the force to be transmitted to the barrel along the same single axis. Yet another innovation by Romain Gauthier is the two plates in synthetic sapphire that sandwich the mainspring. This material has a low co-efficient of friction with steel and is therefore highly resistant to scratches, which eliminates the recurrent problems with traditional brass barrels, which get progressively scratched by the spring and end up hindering the free winding and unwinding of the spring. Among the other characteristics worth noting about this movement in titanium and brass are the gear wheels with circular arms, which give them maximum rigidity, the high-efficiency profiles of the gear wheel teeth and the highly rigid triangular lever, which was invented by Romain Gauthier.
There is nothing to say: the finishing is superlative, subtle, polished and sharp at the same time, worthy of Philippe Dufour’s seal of approval; the architecture of the movement has a didactic sobriety, the off-set dials give plenty of space to the escapement and fascinating chain and its rubies. The case has a perfectly curved roundness. Everything is classical in its execution, contemporary in its technicality, sensual and mathematical. On that note we order our coffees. The weather is fine, the factories are bustling away in silence, a little further away two cows graze among the postcard scenery that does little to hint at the numerous treasures hidden in the valley. We speak freely, wondering why the best watchmaking always comes from mountainous regions: in the Swiss Jura, of course, but also in Glashütte, Saxony or in the Suwa region in northern Japan... the same cows, the same pine trees, the same men bent over similar workbenches. p Discover more at www.europastar.BIZ/Romain-Gauthier
europa star / AT LUNCH WITH… 49
REVELATION – The butterfly effect Pierre Maillard “Revelation”, the name says it all, demonstrating the unique approach of two experienced watch designers who share their workshop as they share their life: Anouk Danthe and Olivier Leu. As with any approach, it started with an observation. “Stylistically, contemporary watchmaking is divided into two main dominant categories: on the one hand black, sober or muscular watches; on the other, watches that show of their own movement,” they note. So they asked themselves: “What if we did both at the same time? And what if a watch could at the same time have an understated face yet reveal the engine that drives it?” Is that such a crazy idea? In theory, yes it is. But there are butterflies in this world and their wings have a structure that modifies the properties of the light waves that they reflect. This phenomenon is called polarisation. Some butterfly wings that look like they are full of vibrant colours are in fact transparent or grey. It is the reflection of light as it strikes nanometric structures that gives the appearance of colours. Polarised glass, like in the sunglasses with the same name, increases contrast and therefore allows us to better discern variations in light intensity, according to their level of polarisation. Eureka!
Anouk Danthe and Olivier Leu
A watch with two faces By superimposing two quartz optical discs with three-dimensional nanometric channels invisible to the naked eye and by making them pivot against each other at an angle of 45°, light waves can either be blocked or allowed to pass. So you can have a totally opaque black dial or, by pivoting the disc to allow the light to pass through, you can have a “revelation”: you will see the movement beating beneath the dial (it’s a bit like looking through invisible blinds that you can open and close). And thus you have two watches in one, which Revelation refers to in its patent as the “hierachisation of information in a watch using the laws of polarisation.”
Five years of development From that point, five years of development were required to produce the watch. The highly delicate nanometric production of the polarising discs was entrusted to the Centre Suisse d’Electronique et de Microtechnique (the Swiss Centre for
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Electronics and Microtechnics, CSEM), a Neuchâtel-based laboratory focussing on cutting-edge research (the CSEM was instrumental in applying silicon technology to the regulating organ of a watch). But since there is a “revelation” of the movement, the movement itself has to warrant such a theatrical revealing. After brushing aside a few set-backs due to the bankruptcy of constructor BNB, to whom the two designers had entrusted the implementation of their first movement, Anouk Danthe and Olivier Leu decided to develop their own movement. To do this, they brought together a technical task force: an engineer, two veteran watchmaking specialists, one specialised in escapements and gear trains, the other in barrels. Together they designed a regulating organ that borrowed from both the tourbillon and the carrousel. They called it the “tourbillon manège” (which literally means “tourbillion merry-goround” in English). What is specific to this design is the special positioning of the escape pinion, the lever and the balance, all of which are mounted on a flying mobile bridge. On the extremity of the “merry-go-round”, at the opposite end to the regulating organ, a small 18-carat gold ingot acts as a counterweight. This configuration leaves a lot of space for the balance, which has a distinctive shape with three double spokes. The “merry-go-round” is held between two wheels assembled on the central axis, which means that it rotates once every minute. The entire assembly, which oscillates at 21,600 vibrations per hour, is powered by four barrels assembled in series that offer a manually-wound power reserve of 48 hours. The spectacle is therefore assured. All the more so, given that all components, which are manufactured by more than 40 different subcontractors spread across the Jura region, are finished and decorated in accordance with the highest standards in watchmaking: bevelling, chamfering, drawn edges, “droplet” shaped drill holes to show off the sparkle of the jewels, micro-beaded mainplate, superbly drawn bridges, personalised screws, gear teeth with a specific profile, custom-made index assembly… We can safely refer to this movement as a genuine “manufacture” movement with an undeniable exclusivity.
From the flip-up cover to the turning ring In mid-2011, Revelation unveiled its first model, the R01. It was a watch with a hinged cover, fitted with the “Revelation System”, which allows the glass to pivot by raising the be-
A GENUINE BRAND, NOT A ONE-SHOT PRODUCT
zel and therefore to transform a vertical movement into a rotating movement: an endless screw connected to a differential drives a ring on which the glass is mounted. This case, which is a complication in itself, consists of 71 elements, machined individually by CNC from one and a half kilos of gold for a 154 gramme case. Only fifteen were made and all have been sold. But Revelation wanted to go even further, because the flipup cover system has to be raised to reveal the movement. So the next model had to be even more versatile and wearable with both its faces. Presented at BaselWorld this year, the R04 watch, aka the Tourbillon Magical Watch Dial, fitted with a similar merry-go-round tourbillon, offers a very elegant solution: a simple rotating ring allows the polarisation to be changed to switch in an instant from a deep black dial to an elegant tourbillon beating under a glass that looks slightly smoked.
I The R04 WATCH, aka the TOURBILLON MAGICAL WATCH DIAL
But Revelation does not just want to content itself with a tourbillon movement, as beautiful as it may be. The two designers are determined to make Revelation a genuine brand that offers a range of products. In collaboration with Dubois Dépraz, they have developed a chronograph movement with a personalised design and presented flyback versions in rose gold and titanium at BaselWorld. Extending the collection also allows the brand to reach a new type of customer, with more modest means. Because while the “merry-go-round tourbillon” sells for between CHF 160,000 and 220,000, the simple chronograph with the “Revelation System” rotating ring retails for under CHF 15,000 or around CHF 18,000 for the flyback chronograph in titanium. The young brand is aiming to open far more than the handful of points of sale it has at the moment (Switzerland, Italy, Spain, UK, Hong Kong and Japan in the near future) and intends to increase its sales from 100 pieces in 2012 to 1,000 in the medium term. In today’s tough retail climate, this is a real challenge for this young brand, which can only build up a solid network with specialist retailers who are prepared to take the time to explain these timepieces, which really need to be handled by the customer to experience their exceptional magic. But Revelation has a number of assets and there is still a lot of potential for the polarising technology. The avenues of research into nanometric structures reflecting colours seem very promising, for example. But the product pipeline also includes an automatic three-hand watch that could lend itself to all sorts of “revelations”: a logo, a text, a drawing, a specific decoration, or even an erotic image could be shown or hidden at will. p Discover more at www.europastar.BIZ/Revelation
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LA FABRIQUE DU TEMPS – Louis Vuitton’s two horological jokers Pierre Maillard
It’s the end of June 2011 and one announcement rocks the small world of watch design and construction companies: La Fabrique du Temps has been bought by Louis Vuitton. La Fabrique du Temps is essentially two men, Enrico Barbasini and Michel Navas, two of the best specialists in horological complications. They both went to the best schools: Gérald Genta, at its height, when the master designer was still at the helm, Patek Philippe, for many years, Audemars Piguet also, for Michel Navas, then Franck Muller for both of them. They cannot stop talking about their time in Genthod, where they worked alongside Michel Golay. At the time, Franck Muller was booming. Everything seemed possible and he wanted to produce more crazy complications, like the Crazy Hours, an idea that came off the cuff from Franck Muller himself, which they took on board and brought to fruition. Working in their own workshop in Franck Muller’s chateau, they were able to give free reign to their mechanical dreams. But then the bickering between Franck Muller and Vartan Sirmakes started and the two men went looking elsewhere. They set up BNB with their colleague Mathias Buttet, but quickly distanced themselves from it. “We set up this company to work, not to make money,” they candidly explain. When the crisis came, like a great revealer, and this ambitious company, which was mismanaged and had grown too quickly, got into trouble and was engulfed in the storm, the two men were already gone. They set up independently, under the name La Fabrique du Temps, aiming to keep a modest size at all costs, “twelve people maximum”. But their excellence got the better of them. “Little by little, we were gobbled up by our customers and we grew big without looking for it; there were 18 of us and we had to employ two people for logistics… it was a bit too much for our liking.” La Fabrique du Temps owes this success in particular to its close cooperation with Laurent Ferrier, another former Patek Philippe employee who had spent his entire career at the manufacture. On the eve of his retirement, Laurent Ferrier approached them: he wanted to produce a beautiful watch, in the old style, respecting absolutely the most classical watchmaking codes. Laurent Ferrier would look after the case, Barbasini and Navas the movement.
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The “beautiful watch” became the incredible success we know today. In next to no time, the watchmaking skills of Laurent Ferrier came to be appreciated by the most demanding collectors the world over, who saw in the brand one of the purest expressions of high watchmaking tradition.
Hamdi Chatti knocks on the door It was at this time, just as the two partners were wondering how to avoid becoming even bigger and risk losing their precious artistic freedom, how to avoid becoming managers rather than creators, that Hamdi Chatti appeared on the scene. He had just been put in charge of the watchmaking and jewellery arm of Louis Vuitton, and was looking to establish an authentic horological credibility for his brand, which he intended to place at the heart of high-end watchmaking.
I Michel Navas and Enrico Barbasini
O TAMBOUR MINUTE-REPEATER Extra-large (44mm) Tambour case in 18-carat white gold, water resistant to 30 metres. Home time function, power reserve display, day/night indicator, minute-repeater complication. LV 178 selfwinding calibre, 100-hours power reserve, 21,600 vibrations per hour, 34 jewels.
They give three examples that are emblematic of their research for Louis Vuitton: a minute-repeater designed and produced entirely in-house, the very interesting Twin Chrono with its four regulating organs and a ladies’ tourbillon with micro rotor.
Poetry and rigour Taking a closer look at these timepieces, we discover the entire poetic fantasy of the two men, allied with their great horological rigour. The Tambour Répétition Minutes? An idea as “simple” as it is poetic sets it apart from other minute-repeaters on the market: it doesn’t repeat the time – what’s the point, since you can read it? – but instead signals a second time zone, or home time, which reminds the traveller nostalgically of the time back home. The Tambour Twin Chrono? Possibly the most beautiful chronograph. Ultra readable with its three large counters, its main
U TAMBOUR TWIN
“It was actually the men who convinced us, Hamdi Chatti and José Fernandez, the director of operations based in Switzerland,” they explain frankly. “We like to work for genuine people and both of them were men from the field, who had worked at the bench and knew what they were talking about. And we found their project interesting.” Louis Vuitton’s project? A project for a global watchmaking manufacture but one that would maintain a “human size of around 100 people when up and running”. Land had been secured in Geneva, a building was being constructed to bring together the Louis Vuitton watchmaking workshops from La Chaux-de-Fonds and La Fabrique du Temps. “But beyond this project for a manufacture, it was also the precise terms of the specific watchmaking project of Louis Vuitton that convinced us.” There were two clear themes: sailing and travel. It was up to the watchmakers to think up new expressions and new complications based around these central themes. “What we want to do above all is pure watchmaking, totally legitimate, completely mastered. Our long-term aim is to produce pieces stamped with the Geneva Hallmark.”
CHRONO A four-time single-push button: Although the LV175 Twin Chrono automatic movement is complex, its handling is easy thanks to the use of an innovative fourtime single-push button at 7 o’clock which controls all the bi-chronograph functions. Press it a first time and the hands of the two chronograph counters at 4 and 7 o’clock start simultaneously. Press it a second time and the hands on the counter at 7 o’clock stop, while the hands on the counter at 12 o’clock start to move. Press it a third time and the timecount of the counters at 4 o’clock and 12 o’clock stops. Press it a fourth time and all the counters reset. A three-level column wheel: The LV175 Twin Chrono self-winding manufacture calibre is composed of 437 components, two of which play an essential role: the column wheels. The first wheel ensures the control of the minute hand and has a classic design. The second column wheel has a completely unique shape. Situated on the bridge side, it has three different levels which are used to start and stop each motor and to control the seconds-hand reset hammers.
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O TAMBOUR TWIN CHRONO Grand feu enamel dial: Designed by Léman Cadrans and hand-made by a master enameller, the Tambour Twin Chrono dial is composed of a white gold plate with a subtle guilloché, covered by a deep blue grand feu enamel that is sufficiently translucent to reveal the pattern.
T TAMBOUR SPIN TIME REGATTA In 2010, Louis Vuitton presented an innovative way to display the time with the Tambour Spin Time collection. Its secret: the hours were displayed by the simultaneous rotation of cubes showing either a blank or numbered face. Capitalising on the Spin Time calibre, Louis Vuitton offers a new model specifically for regattas: the Tambour Spin Time Regatta. On the side of the case, a red pusher at 8 o’clock controls the regatta complication. Press on this pusher and the indication “Chrono” in the window at 12 o’clock changes to “Regatta”. At the same time, the chronograph counter rotates forwards by five minutes. In this way, the minutes remaining before the start of the regatta are taken into account in the display of the elapsed time. As if by magic, the five cubes displaying the elapsed time rotate to reveal a red colour that contrasts with the blue background. Easy to use and very intuitive, this unusual high-end complication developed by the watchmakers at Louis Vuitton allows skippers to see at a glance the time remaining before crossing the starting line during the five minutes before the start of the race.
application is meant to be at sailing regattas, since it allows two elapsed times to be calculated simultaneously, as well as the difference between the two, which is clearly readable on the upper counter. Technically speaking, four independent engines linked by a differential power this piece. But, above and beyond its specific function, this very particular and highly readable chronograph will undoubtedly win over customers who will use it to time anything but a regatta. One of their great successes is also the Spin Time Regatta, a very innovative watch whose countdown timer uses small coloured blocks that rotate on their own axis for its display. This complex mechanism was developed on an ETA 7750 base. Which begs the inevitable question: Will Louis Vuitton develop its own base calibre? The two friends hope so but it’s not their decision to make: “It would have to be done for the entire LVMH group, since in order to produce a base calibre with a realistic price, around CHF 200 rather than CHF 500, you need a huge industrial scale. It would be a key initiative.” As they wait for this hypothetical decision, what interests the two watchmakers the most is the “challenge of building up a purely horological brand. But the lines are moving and the arrival of Michael Burke at the head of Louis Vuitton is very positive, we sense a great willingness to develop the brand’s watchmaking arm. And Louis Vuitton also bought Léman Cadrans; in this particular area there is plenty of potential, in particular thanks to new technologies such as lasers etc....”.
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So what about the future? They smile: “Yes, in our heads and in our boxes, we are a few years ahead... it will still be based around travel... for example, a ladies’ piece that is very poetic and very Louis Vuitton, with a special display... But we want to take our time. The most interesting direction in our opinion is simplicity… and reliability! You cannot build up a genuine legitimacy with just two movements in a short space of time. But we also have an enormous advantage: the commercial power of Louis Vuitton!”. Not bad for two horological dreamers, whose immense good taste gives them discretion and the pure pleasure of working at the top of their art. p Discover more at www.europastar.BIZ/Louis-Vuitton
GALLERY – MECHANICAL WONDERS
1815 RATTRAPANTE PERPETUAL CALENDAR by A. Lange & Söhne and a lunar globe, Ernst Fischer, Dresden, 1875. With a split-seconds chronograph, a perpetual calendar, a moon-phase display, and a power-reserve indicator, the 1815 RATTRAPANTE PERPETUAL CALENDAR unites more horological complications than the clearly organised dial suggests at first sight. The technical challenge involved in this complication is to ever more accurately approximate the lunar month of 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 3 seconds. With a moon-phase display that needs to be corrected by merely one day every 122.6 years, A. Lange & Söhne has attained a highly realistic degree of accuracy.
Prologue WDT by Marc Jenni A full member of independent watchmaking’s elite – the AHCI, Marc Jenni presents this remarkable timepiece, featuring a crownless and unfettered sandblasted 316L stainless steel case. The gentle rotation of the Prologue’s signature turning ring, as it revolves around the case, transforms the otherwise jerky task of winding, date or time adjustment into a natural and fluid operation. With each push on the Prologue’s unique mode selector, the W.D.T. pointer moves around one position in its sunrise inspired subdial to indicate the desired function setting.
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H2 by HYT is pushing the limits of hydro mechanics yet further. The guiding principle behind this new concept? To further integrate fluidics into mechanical watchmaking. Firstly, by the position of the bellows, positioned at 6 o’clock in “V” and rising, which clearly evokes the most outstanding achievements of automotive and aeronautical engineering. This optimises the integration of the interface that connects the watch mechanisms with the fluidic system. Mirroring the pair of bellows, the balance spring presides at midday on its black bridge, the dome marking the rhythm of life in this unique world. At 3 o’clock, a “H-N-R” crown position indicator, which brings to mind the gearstick of a racing car, is counterbalanced by the presence of another hand, which is also original and exclusive to HYT, a temperature indicator. Once the watch is being worn, this function enables the user to accurately find out when the fluid has reached the optimum temperature range. In the centre, a minute hand, designed in stages to fit the structure of the fluidic system, jumps after 30 minutes to avoid the bellows.
SEQUENTIAL ONE – S110 by MCT offers a new interpretation of the design that houses the multi-layer hand-wound movement developed by MCT. Exposed prism blocks, modified transparent bridges and arrows reveal the depth of the watch, while a smoother minute disc brings further clarity and emphasises the harmony of the passing of time. Revised numerals for the jumping hours and the minute disc also create a modern look.
For the new brand Spero Lucem, Geneva is its very reason for being, its point of reference and its home. Everything about it is inspired by the city, including its own name taken from Geneva’s famous motto “Post Tenebras Lux” which appears on its municipal coat-of-arms, which in full should read “Post Tenebras Spero Lucem”: “After calamity, I aspire to happiness”. A world first by Spero Lucem: La Clémence, a Tourbillon minute-repeater with crazy hand La Clémence is the name given to Spero Lucem’s new 2013 model. Giving such a name to an intriguing minuterepeater with a traditional gong is a fitting tribute to the city from which the brand draws its identity. Yvan Arpa chose to name this gong Saint Pierre (St. Peter) to honour his friend Pierre-Laurent Favre, who developed the movement, as well as in reference to Geneva’s famous cathedral. This watch also accommodates a one-minute tourbillon and a third complication that has never been seen before: when the repeater starts striking, the hands go completely crazy. This playful world première is filled with meaning: since the purpose of the minute-repeater’s complex mechanism is to indicate the time by sound, it makes sense to do everything possible so that the user can concentrate on the sound without being tempted to use his eyes to confirm what is heard. But after the magic of sound the miracle of sight suddenly reclaims its rights: a mechanical memory brings the hands of La Clémence to their proper places, in step with time. The tourbillon cage is inspired by the head of the pastoral key appearing on the Geneva coat-of-arms. The sunburst snailed engraving on the dial echoes the feathers of the imperial eagle’s wing. On the back of La Clémence, the eagle’s crown forms the bridge of the centrifugal governor.
Moon Orbiter by RJ-Romain Jerome, a flying tourbillon featuring a unique three-dimensional architecture. Equipped with a Manufacture movement, the Moon Orbiter, with its generous 49 mm wide, 45 mm long and 20 mm thick dimensions, has a bezel-free case combining watchmaking steel with elements from Apollo 11, composed of an exclusive system of lugs mounted on pneumatic cylinders to ensure both wearer comfort and the smooth fit of the black alligator leather strap with pin buckle-fastening. The hours and minutes are read off on an off-centred 3 o’clock counter on the right-hand side of the dial. The openworked hands are red-lacquered, while the 42-hour power reserve is displayed by a lacquered red cursor appearing on a separate subdial between the lugs at 6 o’clock. Everything is designed to highlight the flying tourbillon enthroned at 9 o’clock, on the left-hand side of the dial on which moon dust has been incorporated.
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In China they think that “the more expensive it is, the more robust it is” Jean-Luc Adam
Since 2008, Vacheron Constantin has had a Swiss master watchmaker to repair its grand complication pieces in China. Europa Star met him at the “Twin Villa” in Shanghai, where we discovered the after-sales service of the venerable Geneva brand. Our survey of the overall quality of customer service offered by the main Swiss brands in China revealed some serious problems. The tidal wave of sales over the last few years has literally submerged the repair workshops and inundated customer service departments. With a certain tardiness, the major watchmaking groups are now reacting, having realised that an efficient customer service is a strategic advantage.
“JiangSheDanDun” (Vacheron Constantin) has been in China for 207 years and saw the problem coming as early as 2008, when the brand dispatched a master watchmaker to China to work on grand complications and raise the standard of the customer service there. We met him, but in the interests of the brand, he will remain anonymous. Europa Star: From the bustle of the Huaihai Road we enter a courtyard where the silence is almost deafening. And we find an unlikely house with extraordinary décor. Where are we? Head of customer service (CS): We are in “Vacheron’s Swiss Embassy”, as we like to call it here, but it’s actually the “Twin Villa”, because it looks like a semi-detached house. Welcome to Vacheron Constantin in China, which comprises the brand’s first own-name store, on the ground floor, and customer service on the first floor. Among our competitors spread out along the street, it immerses customers in a different universe. It’s certainly an idyllic spot, but does the Chinese customer have to come here to have his or her watch repaired? CS: He or she simply has to go to their nearest retailer, who will send the watch to the customer service. For the north of China, it will be sent to the Richemont Group’s customer service centre in Beijing and for the south it will arrive here in Shanghai. The Twin Villa houses two European watchmakers, both trained in Geneva to repair complications (chronographs, perpetual calendars, tourbillons). For each watch we receive, we assess the problem to determine whether the watch will be repaired here or whether we pass it on to one of our Chinese watchmakers. Can the stores do small repairs themselves? CS: No, because they do not have watchmakers. They can change a classic strap with spring bars, of course, but not a screw-in strap, which requires specific skills and tools. Training is one of the cornerstones of the history of
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Except that in Europe, buyers and sellers of watches and cars have owned watches and cars themselves for generations. From experience, they know what they are talking about. But in China, buyers and sellers have almost no experience. The salespeople often cannot afford the very products that they are selling… CS: This is true, but when we sell a grand complication timepiece, we talk to the customer directly to show them how to set the perpetual calendar, or to explain what a tourbillon is. Then, we teach them how to take care of the watch. The more a customer respects his watch, the more his watch will respect him.
Vacheron Constantin, which continues to invest a lot in the training of its employees. But I keep telling my team: “If you don’t know how to repair something, don’t even try. Because that is when mistakes happen.” Other aspects also come into play, such as how to welcome and understand the customer. Efficient customer service will be the key to success in the China of tomorrow. Chinese customers like complications, but they don’t treat them with the necessary care. I recall the boss of Sea-Gull saying, “You can play tennis wearing our tourbillon.” CS: (Laughs) This negligence doesn’t just apply to watchmaking, it’s common practice in China, where they think that the more they spend, the more robust – or even unbreakable – something is. In reality, the opposite is true! Unfortunately, some advertisements encourage this attitude, like the Rolex campaign with a golfer hitting the ball. I feel for the watch in this case, because it is totally unsuitable for such an activity, the impact of the club being transferred to the watch on the wrist, creating harmful vibrations in the movement. But we have to soak this up, we cannot say to the customer: “Do not wear your watch to play golf!” But during the sale, we take the time to explain to the customer the care that a mechanical watch needs, with regular maintenance every three to five years. To make things easier to understand, we draw parallels with the maintenance of a car.
You are practically educating your customers. Do they accept this easily? CS: Since it’s coming from a Swiss watchmaker, they are trusting and attentive, because they think “these are the people who made my watch”. They take the time to listen to the advice on setting the perpetual calendar because they know very well that if they don’t, they will have to come back to the store because the date will not work or the watch will stop working altogether. Most brands are waking up to the importance of customer service. But they are doing so very late… CS: Because in the meantime sales in China have exploded, without considering the 75 million Chinese tourists who travelled abroad in 2012 alone, doing so
“Whether the watch was purchased in Geneva or Paris, we have to repair it here because it is very difficult to re-export a watch.” almost exclusively to go shopping, returning with arms full of luxury goods, and watches in particular! And it is, of course, in China that these consumers seek out the customer service. Once the watch is in China, we need to act in China. Whether the watch was purchased in Geneva or Paris, we have to repair it here because it is very difficult to re-export a watch. Vacheron was the pioneer among Swiss brands in setting up a workshop that was able to repair grand complications. My mission five years ago was to implement the brand’s standards in terms of quality and lead time and today we offer our customers a service that is carried out entirely in China and with short repair times.
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What are the repair times, specifically? CS: In the past they were quite long, but we have reduced them across the board. Before I arrived, it could take between four and six months to repair a tourbillon because the watch had to be returned to Switzerland. We didn’t even give the customer a return date, because the Chinese
“We can now repair a watch in a turnaround time of two months, which is why the repair has to be done here in China.” customs could refuse to allow the watch back into the country. We can now repair a watch in a turnaround time of two months, which is why the repair has to be done here in China. Are there nevertheless some cases when the watch needs to be sent back to Geneva? CS: Hardly ever, since the collection is quite recent and we are talking about modern watches. But the trend to buy older pieces at auction is on the up in China as well. And if the watch is damaged or rusty because of water penetration and the movement is affected, we cannot repair it here and have to send it back to Geneva. This is not something for our customer service.
Can Vacheron Constantin repair any watch the brand has ever produced, like its famous rival? CS: In Geneva, Vacheron Constantin’s “Vintage” department can repair everything, from 1755 to the present day… Isn’t the main problem finding good watchmakers in China? CS: It’s a global problem. While there are a lot of watchmakers worldwide, very few of them are qualified. Even in Switzerland there is a shortage because there are more watchmakers entering retirement than there are graduating from the schools… But Richemont has opened a school that trains watchmakers at different levels for different brands within the group. We will need them in the future. The fact remains that highly-qualified watchmakers are rare because you need ten years of experience before a young watchmaker fresh out of school is able to repair a watch! Coming back to the Twin-Villa in Shanghai, do you have a large stock of spare parts in order to ensure quick repairs? CS: Richemont handles the logistics for spare parts. We only have the most common parts in stock here… Richemont has a big customer service centre in Hong Kong. Do you have close links with it? CS: Absolutely, we work together with this platform. Between “duty-free” Hong Kong and China, which imposes a high tax on luxury products, the border is said to be quite porous… CS: The utmost caution is required when importing watches or spare parts. If you carry them in your pocket and the customs find out that you are importing them illegally then the consequences can be severe. Richemont and Vacheron scrupulously respect the rule down to the last detail, including the type of material and its weight. And you have to pay the import duties, of course. Let’s say that there is a downturn in the market and that in 10 years the situation is the opposite and customer service is too big for the market. CS: The market has been extremely good over the past five years and we have rode this wave. For Vacheron Constantin, the upward trend continues. p Discover more at www.europastar.BIZ/Vacheron-Constantin
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Brand Boutiques – pros and cons Keith W. Strandberg
Watch brands of all sizes continue to open up monobrand boutiques around the world. Europa Star investigates this trend and talks to opinion leaders on both sides of the issue. This autumn, Bovet will open its first boutique in the USA, in New York City’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel, the fourth in the world for Bovet (after Moscow, Baku and Berlin). On June 20, 2013, Carrera y Carrera opened up a new boutique in Beijing, China, marking the Spanish brand’s 40th around the world. In January 2013, eight watch boutiques opened at the same time in Bonifacio High Street Central, Manila, Philippines. Brands are opening boutiques in never-before-seen numbers, and the jury is still out on whether the emphasis on boutiques is good or bad for the watch industry or, for that matter, the watch consumer.
in the independent retailers – some retailers echo this, while others dispute it. In many cases, the brands develop special timepieces that are developed exclusive for and sold ONLY in the boutique. Some brands, for example Patek Philippe, only open boutiques in partnership with their existing retailers, but the current trend is to open boutiques in direct competition with retailers, or to close down their existing retailers and replace them with boutiques.
Why brands open boutiques There are a number of reasons why brands open their own boutiques. First off, given the premium for counter or display space in independent retailers, a boutique is a way to showcase their watches exactly as they want, and to have as complete a selection as possible. At the same time, it’s a way for the brand to completely control the message. Independent retailers have their own sales staff, directed by the retailer, so the brand has to depend on the sales associates saying and doing the right thing. With their own boutique and their own people, they can be assured that their message
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Here’s what the brands have to say about boutiques: will get out the way they want it to. Also, in the traditional retail concept, the relationship with the end consumer has always gone through the retailer. Now that the Internet has opened up direct connections with the end consumer, the brands want more. Having a brand boutique means that the brand interacts directly with the end consumer. No middleman. A boutique is also about raising awareness for the brand. Even if consumers have never heard of the brand, the immediate reaction is that the brand must be something special if it has its own boutique. Some brands open their own boutiques when they can’t find the right retailer in a city, or they are unhappy with the retailers currently carrying them. It’s an extreme step, but not unheard of. And, finally, the brands stand to make more money when there is no independent retailer with whom margin must be shared. The company line is that boutiques increase sales
I Carrera y Carrera, Beijing
Patrik Hoffmann, president, Ulysse Nardin: “A big part of opening monobrand boutiques is to bring the end consumer closer to the brand and to provide a kind of concierge experience. Many times retailers are restricted in the depth of the collection they can display. In a monobrand boutique the consumer will feel like entering a showroom and showplace. “Image and brand awareness certainly play an important role in opening a boutique, and in certain instances and certain marketplaces, maybe even the majority role. In the case of Ulysse Nardin, we see the independent retailers as the cornerstones of our distribution and most of our monobrand boutiques are run in cooperation with our independent retailers. It is our goal to support our retailers with the opening of monobrand boutiques and provide an additional platform for them. “Today’s consumers are very brandconscious and the boutiques will help
T Maison Patek Philippe, Shanghai
to enhance the brands’ awareness amongst consumers and retailers, particularly now as the market place has become global. We have been very successful in doing so. Our Geneva boutique is a perfect example where we have put our synergies together with our long time partners Kunz Chronometrie. Ulysse Nardin has a lot to offer in terms of product innovation, global image and marketing, whereas our partners are most familiar with the market.” Larry Pettinelli, president, Patek Philippe North America: “We are not retailers by nature. We know how to make watches, retailers are much better equipped to sell them. We don’t want to undermine the partners who helped build the brand. Our retailers are the best retailers in the country. “I know a lot of the brands would like to go to the brand only presentation. I think that’s very difficult. In the US,
you’d have to open a boutique in the top 20 cities to have a full presentation, and even then you will miss people who won’t drive to the bigger cities. “We have some great local accounts who service people who wouldn’t otherwise hear about Patek. We do a lot of advertising and PR, but at the end of the day, we count on the retailers to talk about Patek as a third party endorsement. Retailers can point things out that others cannot. We can only get that with partners we have had a relationship with for a long time.”
“We do a lot of advertising and PR, but at the end of the day, we count on the retailers to talk about Patek as a third party endorsement.” Ehren Bragg, Managing Director, Devon: “Like anyone, brands open a boutique because they see the potential for profit. By trading off the cost of paying a fixed overhead every month, they
get the ability to work both sides of the deal and collect all the revenue on retail sales. The direct exposure to the market and control of the customer experience are other major advantages they enjoy. “There really is no doubt that brand-owned boutiques cannibalise sales from independent retailers, the question is to what extent. If done right, the brand boutique should increase awareness in a marketplace thereby drive business into independent retailers, but there will certainly be customers who choose to do business with a brand boutique rather than an independent retailer because of the cachet it affords their purchase and the direct access they have to the manufacturer of their new timepiece. “Since a high tide raises all boats, there can be passive benefits to retailers by having a company store in their area. After all, its presence will bring more attention to the brand and can help create desire in end consumers who may not have paid attention oth-
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erwise. Aggressive retailers can take advantage of this situation by competing on price - a game manufacturers don’t want to play. “A brand boutique within a retailer’s existing footprint is a much cheaper alternative. Once again, this is a complicated decision with a lot of moving parts. It depends on the trust established between the two, the market’s impression of the retailer and what you’re trying to accomplish. Studies have shown that consumers are programmed to accept higher pricing in a boutique atmosphere than in a normal multi-brand environment - thereby benefitting both the manufacturer and the retailer.” Marc Gläser, president, Maurice Lacroix: “The benefits of brand boutiques are the ability to communicate the complete brand world, a unique opportunity to present all the watches and make sure that a well-trained and motivated staff is providing the correct information about all key components of the watch. “In general, I don’t think brand boutiques take sales from the retailers,
and most brands try to avoid being in direct competition with the retailer. A serious brand is also not providing any consumer discount and therefore has a little competitive disadvantage. The consumer has the complete collection at the brand store, where he can get all the information and if he is very price sensitive he can get a better price at an independent retailer. “If a brand has had a successful partnership then it is not fair that the brand opens a boutique. But sometimes the retailer and the brand change their ideas and priorities and then change happens.
“Brands like Maurice Lacroix rely up to 98 per cent on the independent strong retailer who is representing the brand in a very professional way.” “There will always be a need for independent retailers. Brands like Maurice Lacroix rely up to 98 per cent on the independent strong retailer who is representing the brand in a very professional way.”
Thomas Morf, formerly CEO of Carl F. Bucherer and Hanhart: “Brands are tired of being seen somewhere in a window or a shelf not being promoted the right way. In their own environment, they can convey the image they want. And last but not least, they can control pricing and make more margin. “Of course PR and brand awareness play an important role when deciding for a boutique. I’m sure many brands that have boutiques don’t generate enough turnover to cover their costs. Boutiques around the world make brands look bigger than they really are. “Retailers tend to overreact when a boutique is opening on their home turf. They should see it as a chance and do a better job, provide a better service to your customers. Competition makes you stay hungry and customer oriented. Finally the customer buys where he’s being treated with respect and feels welcomed. Don’t forget, a multibrand store can still play with the advantage to guide the customer to another brand.
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T Hublot Boutique, Los Angeles
“Big brands who can afford it will definitely go towards boutiques. I call it the Louis Vuitton strategy – fewer points of sale and in first-tier cities around the world. The brand is not going where the customer is, the customer is going to have to go where the brand is available. “Independent, multi-brand retailers are a must. Think of it, how boring would it be if only monobrand boutiques would be there. An independent
Retailer push back
“An independent retailer has a great opportunity to carry interesting niche brands, which sets him apart from his competition.” retailer has a great opportunity to carry interesting niche brands, which sets him apart from his competition. If he’s doing a good job, he can promote a brand to his customers and make even more margin. Not every customer wants to see only one brand while shopping. He wants to compare products. This can only be done with independent retailers.”
Some retailers are not bothered much by brand boutiques, but the majority of retailers are at least concerned. After all, retailers spend time and money developing a brand, only to face competition from the brand itself or to lose the brand to a boutique. Doesn’t seem fair, does it? Boutiques are often a losing proposition for the independent retailer – they will certainly lose sales to boutiques and the retailers can’t get product the boutiques can. Probably the best way to approach boutiques is to welcome the challenge and the competition, seeing it as a way to better your own operation. Here’s what the retailers have to say about brand boutiques: Greg Simonian, president of Westime (Los Angeles, USA): “Major markets, like Los Angeles, are where the brands do a lot of business, so it is in their interest to build their presence in these important locations through standalone boutiques.
T Westime, Los Angeles
“We have a front-row view of this trend of boutiques, since we run Hublot and Richard Mille boutiques just steps from our Westime Beverly Hills store, and both brands are also sold at Westime. A very different shopper is drawn to the monobrand stores versus the multi-brand location. Those heading straight to the brand boutiques already have an affinity for that particular brand, while those shopping at a place like Westime are interested in seeing what’s new in the market from a wide range of brands and perhaps discover something they had never heard of before. The fact that many monobrand boutiques create limited edition watches exclusively for their brand boutiques helps drive traffic into those stores without taking any business away from nearby independents. Also, at least for a company like Westime, our salespeople have very loyal relationships with their clients based on decades of good service. Those clients stay for a reason. “On the other hand, every new watch boutique helps spread the
u europa star / RETAILER CORNER 65
word about watches in general, and potentially brings new fans into the fold. Some will shop at branded boutiques and some will shop at the independents, but more for everyone is still more. “The first advantage a multi-brand retailer has is the ability to offer variety. Equally as important is the fact that as business owners we have the power of instant decision-making. We’re also a bastion of discovery, since we can introduce exciting inde-
“At the end of the day, it is the retailer who convinces the customer what to buy, and has the ability to switch them from one brand to another.” pendent watch brands to our clients. “At the end of the day, it is the retailer who convinces the customer what to buy, and has the ability to switch them from one brand to another. Right now there are over 600 watch brands manufactured in Switzerland, so independents will always have room to grow with other brands.”
Ayman Nassif, president, BTC (Egypt): “PR plays an enormous role in proliferation of the brand. A brand boutique creates the brand personality, mystique and emotional values. I think in the short term, sales may decrease in retailers’ shops, that’s why for retailers to remain in competition, they must buy large quantities to maintain their margins and to always have stock like the boutique. The independent retailers benefit from the advertising and PR that the boutiques do for the brand. “It can still help to carry a brand that has its own boutique. For example, here in Egypt, we have a Tissot monobrand boutique and next to it our retail shop BTC, which carries Tissot, and in front is another retail shop that carries Tissot as well. We all sell well. “An independent retailer can make offers and discounts on the prices of watches which will attract the customer, or to do some offers or liquidation in order to finish old stock. But in a boutique there are rules that you have to follow. “Independent retailers have a lot of choices for customers, but for the boutique if customers don’t find what they want they won’t buy anything.
I Swatch Boutique, Sun City Mall, Egypt 66 RETAILER CORNER / europa star
“I believe that big brand watches will only be available in their own boutiques in the future.” Jeremy Oster, co-owner, Oster Jewelers (Colorado, USA): “More and more, I feel the brands are looking to dominate the retail market and go direct to the important collectors. It is an opportunity to hold a customer captive without any competition from competing brands as one would expect in a multi-brand independent retail store “Brand boutiques will take sales away from independent retailers. The only benefit to independent retailers is an elevated image of the brand. “Competing with local retailers is not so easy in a small market with a loyal customer base. An independent retailer already has the trust of the consumer. If a brand is seen as trying to take business away from the retailer who built the following it can actually turn off the consumer. And remember, the retailer will replace that brand with the next hot brand that their customer has not yet purchased! An independent retailer also has the freedom of not relying
I Tissot Boutique, Sun Stars Mall, Egypt
T Ace & Spyer, Amsterdam
Missy and Jeremy Oster
Alon Ben Joseph
on one brand. One of the pleasures of being independent is that I can be honest and open with my clients and can recommend an ideal selection for each individual based on their own taste. “The brands need to be careful not to cut off the hands that have fed them for so many years. If the brand is supportive of the retailer there is no reason why both cannot exist in harmony. Competition is healthy. However, mutual respect is the only way to ensure a prosperous future for the industry.” Alon Ben Joseph, CEO, Ace Jewelers Group (Amsterdam, the Netherlands): “Manufacturers started taking over wholesalers and now they are taking over retail distribution. The obvious next step (which is actually happening as we speak) is setting up mono-brand eBoutiques. “It is a rhetorical question in my humble opinion to ask if one believes that brand boutiques take sales away from
“Not only is competition healthy and good in business, but there is a spill effect in the marketing power of the presence of a mono-brand boutique in the area of the independent retailers.” independent retailers who carry the same brand. We notice that this happens, but we always see the glass half full. Not only is competition healthy and good in business, but there is a spill effect in the marketing power of the presence of a mono-brand boutique in the area of the independent retailers.
“There are many benefits for brands to open a mono-brand boutique. The most obvious one is that their profit margin and ROI goes up by ‘a lot’. Another important factor is that brands (that often live in an ivory tower) gain market knowledge. They (finally) interact with end consumers on a realistic level. And, there is the added value in marketing and PR. “When this trend of brands opening their own boutiques started about 15 years ago, we were worried and upset. But now we have learned that although consumers do visit mono-brand boutiques to experience a collection, they are not always very happy to be served there. They do not only like to compare brand X with brand Y and/or brand Z, but they feel more at home at an independent retailer that has legacy and personality. On top of that, consumers are worried that all high streets in major cities in the world will look identical and impersonal, so they favour independent retailers too! On top of that, consumers often find mono-brand boutiques boring, impersonal and even arrogant. This automatically makes independent retailers even more fun, personal and friendly, which is a positive side-effect. “The future for brand boutiques is very positive for brands. But very negative for independent retailers and consumers. For independent retailers I see things very negative, as I truly believe that within 10 years the high-end/premium brands will obtain approximately 80 per cent of the retail distribution (bricks AND clicks). For consumers it is very negative, as variety will diminish, there is no room for variations (read: out-ofthe-box thinking) and the business becomes very impersonal and cold.”
The future Independent retailers are not in danger of becoming extinct any time soon, but at the rate that boutiques are opening all over the world, it’s safe to say that brand boutiques are a fact of retailer life now, one with which retailers have to deal. The best retailers will respond with better customer service, improved after-sales service and better business practices in general. p
europa star / RETAILER CORNER 67
The collector who came from Russia Antoine Menusier
Ekaterina Sotnikova has opened a store in Paris that sells watches made by independent watchmakers. Originality and prestige. “There is a lot of prejudice about women from the East.” If one of them is Slavic beauty then Ekaterina Sotnikova, who looks like she has had to deal with them, does not dispel them all. This young woman with big green eyes and chestnut hair has just opened, in Paris, a stone’s throw from the Champs-Elysées, a prestige watch store, Ekso Watches Gallery. It’s a kind of cosy lounge with champagne and dark-brown hues that houses eight display cases with creations from independent watchmakers of various nationalities, based in Switzerland or their own countries, among them Speake-Marin, Vianney Halter, Ludovic Ballouard, Kari Voutilainen, Bovet, Stefan Kudoke and Grönefeld. Names and brands that may not mean much to the mainstream consumer but speak volumes to the happy few. Located in an office block, the gallery is open by appointment and accessible by a key-operated lift. When confronted with the marvels on display, one feels both small and important at the same time. Because everything is for sale. Not the place itself but the goods. You need a thick wallet. Ekaterina Sotnikova is a forceful woman. Despite her apparent fragility, she has plenty of toughness. And 18 years of passionate interest in watches, she says, beautiful watches, it goes without saying. Her life has taken some interesting twists and turns. She was born in Latvia under the USSR and grew up in St. Petersburg. As a
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teenager, she was a top-level gymnast, but an injury sustained at the age of 16 put an end to her career in sport. Never mind, she earned a doctorate in economics. “That’s what was prestigious at the time,” she says without affectation. “When I finished my studies, I had to find work in Russia.” But this prospect hardly appealed to her. And, furthermore, “my private life wasn’t exactly brilliant either”. So she decided to emigrate. But where to? To Paris, of course. “I already had a love of Paris”. Friends in Russia who were well connected with the political family of president Putin put her in touch with the UMP (Union pour le Mouvement Populaire, or Union for the Popular Movement), which could be considered as the French “brother party”. So she gets a job at the UMP as “the person responsible for relations with elected officials in the East”. “The first three years in Paris were not easy for me. But I decided to stick it out. Going back to Russia would have meant that I hadn’t succeeded in France.” So she stuck it out, met at the UMP the person who would later become her husband (she doesn’t disclose his name), a lawyer whose study today accommodates the Ekso Watches Gallery. “My husband could see that I liked watches. But what to do? Open a shop? No. I focused on the indepdendent watchmakers. I was passionate about the subject but didn’t know anything about it on a technical level. I did a training course at the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva. The
watch I assembled didn’t work,” she says in perfect French enveloped in a delicious Russian accent. Her first “Basel” was three years ago, to see and to buy based on feeling. “I made fewer errors in my choices in the second year,” she admits. Her husband, who she has “contaminated” with her love of watches, accompanied her that time. Today she manages a collection of thirty watches from a restricted group of manufacturers, “artists” who she nurtures, cherishes and pushes if necessary. “Some of them don’t know how to sell themselves,” she notes benevolently. She knows all about them, visits them frequently, adds her personal touch to the design of models and – showing the economist in her – signed an agreement with them as an exclusive retailer. She says of the model “Serpent Calendar” produced by Englishman Peter Speake-Marin that she is holding in her gloved hands, beaming like a child, “a snake-like hand that indicates the date; hand-machined thick whitegold case; enamel dial.” She gushes over the “Antiqua” by Frenchman Vianney Halter, created in 1998, a strange creation with four dials in the shape of portholes, “2,000 hours of work”. “This was the talk of Basel at the time,” she notes. Some of these models on sale at the gallery are worth hundreds of thousands of euros. A big – private – investment for Ekaterina Sotnikova, who is looking to make her venture profitable. She has given herself five years to succeed. p EKSO WATCHES GALLERY Tel.: + 33(0) 6 18 49 27 12 firstname.lastname@example.org / www.eksowatches.com
Covering all aspects of jewellery, from fashion to high end, as well as luxury accessories and behind-the-scenes stories, CIJ TRENDS & COLOURS serves the global jewellery world by presenting the news, trends and colours from market leaders and up-and-coming brands to the worldâ€™s leading retailers and end consumers.
LETTER FROM ENGLAND
English by name and by nature Paul O’Neil
Brothers Giles and Nick English are the archetypal English gentlemen with the names to match. Born of a Royal Air Force pilot, they have had aviation, and historical aircraft in particular, in their blood from an early age. A visit to the company’s new headquarters, which are housed in a beautifully converted sawmill on the outskirts of Henley-on-Thames, to the west of London, usually includes an excursion to the nearby West London Aero Club for a flight in one of the brothers’ vintage aircraft. They have succeeded in combining this passion with their love of watches to create a brand that is quintessentially English, yet paradoxically named after the small French hamlet of Bremont, where they once crash landed in a farmer’s field in one of their historic aircraft.
Bremont has gradually carved out a niche for itself with a reputation for highly resistant chronometers based around the aviation theme. What started as a few requests from pilots in the odd squadron around the world has now grown to represent some 30 per cent of the brand’s business. Bremont has supplied watches to pilots of the U2 reconnaissance plane, the B-2 bomber, the B-52 bomber, the Apache helicopter and the C-17 transport plane, to name just a few. The brand’s remaining business is filled with “civilian” versions of the timepieces supplied to these squadrons, as well as limited-edition pieces for which Bremont has co-opted the trend first launched by Romain Jerome of incorporating elements from historical items into its watches. The first of these
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was the “Victory” watch launched last year, which featured copper and wood from HMS Victory, the only remaining 18th century ship anywhere in the world and the oldest serving warship still to be in commission. Bletchley Park, an hour’s drive from London, was the setting for the launch of the brand’s latest limited edition. It is the home of England’s codebreaking operations during the second world war and its true significance only came to light many years after the war because of the constraints of the Official Secrets Act. So ingrained was the need for the utmost secrecy at the time that one of the surviving veterans who worked at Bletchely Park during the war, who was present at the launch, will still not divulge what she did during the war because it is “secret”. Suffice it to say that activities at the park are said to have reduced the length of the war by up to two years. Pioneering developments by the brightest scientific minds working at Bletchley during the war (the site was home to a workforce of some 10,000 people) included the eletromechanical machine, dubbed “The Bombe”, that was developed by Alan Turing to find the settings for the German Enigma machines, whose three rotors allowed around 158 trillion different permutations for encryption. Surrounded by officers in second world war uniforms, as well as original Allied military vehicles from the same period, it was left to Winston Churchill (or someone bearing a striking
I Left to right: CODEBREAKER limited edition number made from individual punch card numbers from Bletchley Park. The rotors of the Enigma machine The code-breaking machine at Bletchley Park
U CODEBREAKER by Bremont 43mm case in hardened stainless steel or rose gold, BE-83AR flyback chronograph GMT movement with 46-hour power reserve and personalised rotor incorporating parts from the rotor of an original German Enigma code machine with “encrypted” Bremont inscription, anti-reflective sapphire crystal, leather strap, water resistant to 100 metres.
through the side of the case that is composed of individual numbers taken from some of the few remaining original punch cards that were used to operate the codebreaking machines. With this new limited edition, Bremont further underscores its British credentials, at the same time helping with the restoration of Bletchley Park by donating some of the proceeds from the sale of the watch to this heritage site.
Discover more at www.europastar. BIZ/Bremont
resemblance to him) as the evening’s master of ceremonies and Captain Jerry Roberts, MBE, a senior cryptanalyst who had worked at Bletchley during the war, to unveil the new Bremont Codebreaker watch. Produced as a limited series of 50 in rose gold and 240 in stainless steel, the watch is equipped with a brand new LaJoux-Perret movement with a flyback chronograph and GMT function, which is known to Bremont as calibre BE-83AR. Each watch features parts from an original German Enigma rotor (used, quite fittingly, for the watch’s rotor), pine from the floor of Bletchley’s Hut 6 embedded in the crown and a limited edition number visible
The launch of the Codebreaker watch also coincides with what is likely to be the dawn of a new era at Bremont. Having beaten thousands of entrants to be named overall national winner of Global Connections 2013, a prestigious award funded by the HSBC bank, Bremont has had its efforts recognised at national level and, more importantly, received a significant overdraft facility that came with the award. Plans to bring back to England the functions currently carried out at the brand’s workshop in Switzerland are already at an advanced stage and the English brothers are in discussions with UK suppliers who are capable of stamping metal components to within tolerances of one micron for use in watchmaking. It may be sometime yet before we see Bremont producing its own movements, but with the brothers’ clear strategic vision and their canny knack of capturing the British spirit, Bremont looks set for a promising future. p
europa star / LETTER FROM ENGLAND 71
LETTER FROM CHINA
The 24th Shenzhen watch fair Three in front and everyone else behind Jean-Luc Adam
For journalists, the fair starts with an entire day of listening to conferences. While the speakers may change each year, the theme is always the same: how to understand and reproduce the success of “Swiss Made”. Because what is the point of producing 771 million watches for an average price of 4.40 Swiss francs when you know that, in reality, all the companies are subsidised by the State in some form or other? Not to mention that half of this production (365 million) is fitted with imported movements! So, to become genuinely competitive on a global scale, Chinese brands are forced to go upmarket. But few of them make a genuine effort to do so, by investing in research and development and reviving the Chinese creative spirit. We believe there are only three brands with this potential: Sea-Gull, Fiyta and Beijing Watch Factory. But where are Ebohr and Rossini, two brands of the China Haidian group, the market leader? They are absent because of a dispute about their allotted space, “but they will be here in 2014,” the embarrassed organisers assure us.
A bit of a joke Walking through the aisles of the Shenzhen fair you risk spraining your jaw trying to pronounce the names of some of the brands, like “Runosd”, “Tierxda” or “Aeeme”. Or laughing at the rare presumptuousness of names such as “Starking”, “Van Gogh Watch”, “Berze, Castle of time”, “Royal Crown”, “Olympic Star”, “Princess Windsor” and “Elegangs”. A more subtle game for the 1,500 foreign visitors was guessing the
real Chinese name of “Binli” (宾利 – the characters and pronunciation are identical to “Bentley”), “LeiNuo” (雷诺– Renault) and “Tophill” (陀翡利迩, pronounced “TuoFeiLiEr”, in other words “tourbillon”). This industrial parody does indeed represent the large majority of Chinese production, managed with an inflated ambition but an empty culture. An example? “Aha, you’ve never seen that in Switzerland?” the manager of Zhongshi Watch asks me as he shows me his wooden watches from the Bewell brand. When I told him that the idea was centuries old and that Tissot reinterpreted it on an industrial scale in 1988 with the Wood Watch, it was as if he had just discovered that the world was round… Things aren’t as jovial among the movement suppliers. Like Shanghai Watch Factory, Hangzhou Watch Factory produces tourbillons, and also like the former, its manager avoids the press like the plague, because he wants to keep the names of his customers secret. I bet that with a “Business” badge we would have been invited to drink tea with him! The coffee served at the Swiss Pavilion, on the other hand, is excellent. But Amarildo Pilo is disappointed that there are fewer exhibitors, which he believes is because of this year’s late BaselWorld and its relative success. “In Basel people were talking about a record year and triumph. Yes, but only for big groups, not for small brands! Some new exhibitors expressed an interest, but it was too late”. The organisers would like the Swiss Pavilion to become a show-window for Swiss culture in the broader sense. Maybe we will have some chocolate to go with the coffee in 2014!
u 72 LETTER FROM CHINA / europa star
Ice-Style: the trademark of your outďŹ t.
China 2012 in figures • Visitors to the Shenzhen fair: approx. 20,000, including 1,500 foreigners • Production of finished watches: 771 million units • Proportion of quartz/mechanical: 95.6/4.4% • Value: 22.3 billion yuan (3.4 billion Swiss francs) • Exports of finished watches: 679 million units (–2.7%) • Exports of mechanical watches: 19 million units (+217%) • Export value: 1.945 billion US dollars (+20.9%) • Movement production: 674 million units • Imports/exports of movements: 365/268 million units • Imports of finished watches: 13 million units (+2.6%) • Value: 2.312 billion US dollars (–5.6%) • Imports of mechanical watches: 2 million (+1.6%) • Value: 1.616 billion US dollars (–2.5%) • Main export destinations (in decreasing order): Hong Kong (33%), USA (11%), Japan (6%), Germany, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, India, Switzerland, Spain, Netherlands, France, Cambodia, Russia, Sri Lanka and Brazil.
Chinese complications Given that only 4.4 per cent of the 771 million Chinese watches have a mechanical movement, but that they represent 13 per cent of the value and that customers are asking for more of them, we can understand why Sea-Gull has completely abandoned quartz movements. The star on their stand was the pre-series ST8520 model, a “multi-axial” tourbillon, which can be seen at 9 o’clock behind its own domed bezel. The tourbillon, which performs one revolution in 60 seconds, is pivoted on a co-axial arbour that performs its revolution over one week. This in turn revolves around a third axis that rotates in 2 minutes 30 seconds. The 33.8mm diameter movement is 6.35mm thick and consists of 144 components.
BEIJING WATCH FACTORY
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Operating at a frequency of 21,600 vibrations per hour, it has a power reserve of 55 hours. Beijing Watch Factory (BWF) launched its second bi-axial tourbillon model at BaselWorld 2013, with a movement developed by the self-taught genius Xushu Ma, who is a member of the Academy of Independent Watchmakers. Unlike Sea-Gull and BWF, Fiyta is not a genuine manufacture because it uses Japanese, Swiss and Chinese tourbillon movements. It is, however, the most active in terms of design and marketing. The proof is the model launched by the Shenzhen brand to celebrate the tenth anniversary of China’s first manned space mission, with a highly original silver dial that depicts the surface of the moon. Bruce Du, the company’s general manager, is enthusiastic: “It is limited to 100 pieces and we already sold 83 on the first day of the fair!” Our eyes are also drawn to a black and green model whose dial in two dimensions allows the time to be read with the hand on a steering wheel. “This is a prototype,” the boss points out. We conclude with an “old” brand for China (established in 1982), which we have never mentioned before: Tianba. Its magnificent ladies’ and gents’ models with cases in green jade finally honour Chinese culture. It’s almost a pity that its movement is Swiss… p
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Engagement benchmarks and drivers for luxury watch brands on Facebook Digital Luxury Group
By the end of 2012, the 62 most sought-after luxury watch brands regrouped nearly 50 million fans on Facebook, growing by +135%*, according to the WorldWatchReport™, the leading market research in the luxury watch industry produced by Digital Luxury Group, now in its 9th edition. The most successful brands per category were: Louis Vuitton (Couture) with 12,170,512 fans, Tiffany & Co. (Watch and Jewellery) with 3,513,922 fans, TAG Heuer (Prestige) with 805,731 fans, Montblanc (High Range) with 374,729 fans, and Audemars Piguet (Haute Horlogerie) with 167,333 fans.
Brands are increasingly proficient at creating interactions with fans, although the engagement rate is not evolving anywhere near as quickly, having increased by only +5.13% (from 0.78% in 2011 to 0.82% in 2012 at a constant perimeter excluding Couture brands). For WorldWatchReport™ contributor and Underthedial journalist, Ian Skellern,“After finally appreciating the importance of Facebook and committing resources to developing large audiences, the major-
“The majority of brands are still using Facebook as a news distribution platform.” ity of brands are still using Facebook as a news distribution platform rather than trying to actively engage their audience. This is highlighted by their relatively low interaction rate. To realise the full potential of Facebook and other social media platforms, brands need to start creating interactive content that their readers want, rather than simply chasing non-interacting Likes with an endless stream of self-promotion.” Couture brands (Chanel, Dior Watches, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren), however, aided by the exposure of their fashion background, lead the way for the highest volume of Facebook fans (all in the millions). They not only have a large
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audience but also possess the know-how to engage it. Last year, the category was led by Dior, followed by Chanel, but this year Louis Vuitton went from third to first place with over 12 million followers, although Dior fans are slightly more engaged with the brand on the platform than Louis Vuitton. 2013 saw Rolex launching its official Facebook fan page at BaselWorld. The crown brand already counted nearly 300,000 fans at launch. As of July, the no. 1 most soughtafter brand in the WorldWatchReport™, is at almost 1 million fans (876,000) in just 3 months. Patek Philippe remains one of the last few major luxury watch brands absent from Facebook. “The Geneva based brand is usually shy to experiment with new media first, preferring to consider the potential risks before making a move. This is based on the brand’s inner culture and the fact that it is a leader in its respective market. Being on top you have more risk than the followers but leaders also have more latitude,” explains William Rohr, TimeZone Co-founder and Digital Luxury Group NonExecutive Partner. Amongst the Prestige category in 2012 (Breitling, Corum, Hublot, IWC, Omega, Panerai, Rolex, TAG Heuer and Zenith), TAG Heuer outperforms its rivals thanks to an early strategy of creating separate customised Facebook pages for its major markets. This “Think Global, Act Local” strategy has allowed the brand to be one of the few watch-only brands gathering almost one million fans and in some markets, to be on the same playing field as Couture brands who logically are leading on Facebook – benefitting from their strong and international fashion fan base. Not only leading in number of fans, the LVMH-owned watch brand demonstrates favourable engagement results (0.51% engagement rate) surpassing Prestige category challengers IWC (0.39% engagement; 460,000+ fans) and Hublot (0.16% engagement; 360,000+ fans). Besides ambassadors and sports event related postings, TAG Heuer suprisingly (or maybe not) saw peaks of engagement linked to vintage Heuer collections: “These two
Vintage Carrera from the 60’s are so contemporary! Do you love them?” and “Discover this beautiful timepiece: Heuer 1950” are the two posts that generated the highest peaks of interaction in 2012, respectively of 2.23% and 2.12% engagement. Of note is Omega’s relative lag on the social media platform (18th most popular brand in Facebook) compared with its domination in consumer brand interest worldwide (2nd in the WorldWatchReport™ global brand ranking), a symptom that can be observed for several Swatch Group brands in other categories. What then are some ways for brands to maximise chances of not only attracting new fans but also increasing interaction? A new indicator in this year’s WorldWatchReport™ is the analysis of the most engaging content type and post timing for luxury watch brands on Facebook, highlighting when and how luxury clients are engaging the most on the platform. Among all brand posts between January and December 2012 – 10,360 total – photos is not only the most commonly used content type by watch brands on Facebook (73% of total posts) but also the one generating the highest average engagement (0.40%). High definition watch pictures are definitely triggering the majority of brands’ interactivity with Facebook users. Surprisingly, video postings (10% of total) are slightly less engaging (0.22%) than link sharing (0.29%, 13% of total posts). Of note, Carl F. Bucherer is the only brand to have created (once) a Facebook “Offer” – a paid
MOST ENGAGING CONTENT TYPE ON FACEBOOK – LUXURY WATCH BRANDS 2013
© Digital Luxury Group, 2013
MOST ENGAGING TIME ON FACEBOOK – LUXURY WATCH BRANDS 2013
© Digital Luxury Group, 2013
feature to promote discounts exclusively to Facebook users –which reached the highest engagement (1.40%) among other content types. If the usage of actual “discounts” can be questioned for luxury brands, it shows that user motivations go beyond aspiration and that Facebook could become a relevant sales and in-store traffic generator in upcoming years. Brands can further increase engagement by posting when Facebook users are most active, as they are not equally responsive depending on days of the week. The report shows that Friday is seeing peaks of activity (0.66% engagement) among business days while weekends are apparently not suited for brand postings with below 0.60% engagement. When diving further into the data by brand category, we see a much contrasted picture with Couture brands actually performing the best during weekends, especially on Sunday. This particular day saw peaks of engagement during the launch of major fashion campaigns from Chanel “The new CHANEL N°5” film, starring Brad Pitt, Dior’s “J’adore Le Parfum – The Film”, Louis Vuitton’s “L’Invitation au Voyage” behind the scene film shoot. Weekends are opportunities for watch brands to generate additional engagement as demonstrated by Couture brands. More diversified content which goes beyond products might bring additional resonance to users while they are off. p *excluding Couture category brands (Chanel, Dior Watches, Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren)
europa star / worldwatchweb 77
EUROPA STAR, THE WORLDWATCHWEB ON YOUR IPAD!
In English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian and French 7 iPad SiteApps for the World’s Watch & Jewellery Markets Stay tuned by clicking on the Europa Star global WorldWatchWeb network - any time! www.europastar.com (English) www.watches-for-china.com (Chinese) www.watches-for-china.cn (Chinese simplified) www.horalatina.com (Spanish) www.europastarwatch.ru (Russian) www.europastar.com/premiere (French) www.CIJintl.com (Fine jewellery – English) ALL EUROPA STAR IPAD VERSIONS ARE UNIQUE SITE APPLICATIONS WHICH ALLOW: • An incomparable content of over 10,000 articles available on watches, watch brands, manufacturing, markets, retailers, watch tech and archives back to the year 2000. • Direct and free access by just typing Europa Star URLs on your iPad (no need to download from App Store). • Constant and up-to-date information with daily postings in News, Watch Models, Industry Features, Highlights and Specials. • Easy navigation with scroll down and left to right flip. • Full page advertisements from the leading international watch brands in all sections. • Special advertisers’ files with their articles’ quotes and history. • A complete Brand Index with over 500 brand links, head office information and refined Search tool by category and publication years. • Easy shift button from iPad to web application and to preferred language. • The Europa Star Russian version additionally provides a new Boutique Index - the first tool in the industry to search brands and their boutiques throughout the Russian speaking markets. • Designed to cover all of the world’s major geographical areas, the Europa Star iPad site applications are available wherever you are located and in the language of your choice.
Editorial & advertisers’ index A Accurat Swiss 32, 34-36 Ace Jewelers Group 67 A. Lange & Söhne 49, 56 Antopi 61 Audemars Piguet 28-29, 76 B BaselWorld 18, 23, 24, 30, 41, 46, 51 Beijing Watch Factory 72 Bovet 62, 68 Breguet 49 Breitling 76 Bremont 70-71 BTC Egypt 66 C Cabestan 49 Carl F. Bucherer 77 Carrera y Carrera 62 Catorex 31 Certina 39 Chanel 76, 77, COVER IV China Haidian 72 Citizen 37 Corum 38, 64, 76 D Devon Works 63 DeWitt 8-9, 49 Digital Luxury Group 6, 76-77 Dior Watches 76, 77 Dubois Dépraz 51 E Ebohr 72 Emile Chouriet 27 Ernest Borel 21 ETA 4, 25, 26, 32, 34, 36, 54 F Fiyta 72, 74 Franck Muller 52 G Gérald Genta 52 Girard-Perregaux 24-25 Grönefeld 68
H Hanhart 64 Hermès 38, 39, 76 Hoptroff 44-45 Huangzhou Watch Factory 72 Hublot 65, 76 HYT 56 I Ice-Watch 73 IWC 76 J Jaeger-LeCoultre COVER I, 10-13 K Kari Voutilainen 68 L La Fabrique du Temps 52-54 La Joux-Perret 4, 71 Laurent Ferrier 52 Les Emboiteurs d’Espaces SA 47 Louis Erard 4 Louis Vuitton 5, 52-54, 76, 77 Ludovic Ballouard 68 LVMH 76 M Marc Jenni 56 Maurice Lacroix 64 MCT 57 Montblanc 76 N Nivarox 4 O Omega 16, 25-26, 28, 35, 76, 77 Oster Jewelers 66 P Panerai 76 Parmigiani 38, 39 Patek Philippe 2-3, 52, 76 Promotion SpA 55
R Ralph Lauren 76 Revelation 50-51 Richard Mille 38, 65 Richemont Group 60 Rolex COVER II, 1, 36, 59, 76 Romain Gauthier 46, 48-49 Romain Jerome 57, 70 Rossini 72 S Sea-Gull 59, 72, 74 Seiko COVER III Sellita 4 Shanghai Watch Factory 72 Soprod 4 Speake-Marin 68 Spero Lucem 57 Stefan Kudoke 68 Swatch 4, 66 Swatch Group 4, 77 Swiss Made Settings SA 43 T TAG Heuer 16, 18-20, 22-23, 76 Taller 33 Tianba 74 Tiffany & Co. 76 Tissot 7, 39, 66 Titoni 17 Tudor 14-15 U Ulysse Nardin 62 Urban Jürgensen 16, 29-30 Urwerk 42 V Vacheron Constantin 58-60 Vaucher Manufacture 38-40 Vianney Halter 68 W, Z Westime 65 Zenith 49, 76
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europa star / Editorial and advertisers’ index
INFERNO OR HAPPY hunting ground? D. Malcolm Lakin
It’s summer at last – well it is here in Menton. The Mediterranean is warm and welcoming, jellyfish aren’t a problem this year although some of the beach traders here can leave you feeling badly stung. On the beaches lifeguards survey the local talent instead of the sea and a pretty young lady with an enormous floppy straw hat wanders along selling her wares – in this case pieces of coconut and doughnuts – and hordes of Italians and small groups of English and Germans turn olive brown or lobster red depending on their nationality. Having ogled the nubile nymphs on their sun-beds, meandering eyes like mine notice what sunbathers are reading: female teenagers are reading people and glamour magazines, male teenagers, if they’re not kicking sand in your face doing some ritual ball juggling, read the sports pages in the newspapers. The elders of the tribes however, either read a hardback or paperback novel or, increasingly, click their way through mobile electronic devices that store digital e-books. From what I’ve observed this summer’s most popular tome is the new Dan Brown novel Inferno, a page-turner that takes its hero around Florence, Venice and Istanbul trying to solve clues from the Hell section of Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy in order to save the world from a manmade virus that will cause sterility in humans and therefore put a stop to the world’s over population problem. It came as somewhat of a surprise therefore to find on the BBC News website a study entitled 7 billion people and you by the Population Division of the
80 LAKIN@LARGE / europa star
Department of Economic and Social Affairs at the United Nations announcing the world’s population hit the seven billion mark on March 12, 2012 - one billion of whom are to be found in China. It appears that the number of people on Earth has more than doubled in the last 50 years after increasing relatively slowly through history. Using a mathematical formula based on historical population data and growth rates over time, the UN Population Division has estimated how many people had been alive since 50,000 B.C. Using the formula on the website I entered my date of birth and discovered that I was the 2,269,355,153rd to be born since history began and I am the 74,693,486,408th person to have lived on Earth. And for anyone interested, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s newborn son, George Alexander Louis, is the 83,449,200,000th person to have been born on the planet. So what does all this have to do with the price of bread I hear you ask? Well, the answer of course is not much, but if you consider the population statistics from the horological point of view, it could prove to be the watch manufacturers’ Holy Grail. More than one billion watches are manufactured annually in the world: 80 per cent are made in China – that’s 800 million; 31 million are made in Switzerland with just a little help from outside suppliers (that’s 3.1 per cent) and around 183 million are made in Japan – which means six billion people didn’t buy a watch last year. Now imagine that all you Swiss marketing and manufacturing specialists
got your act together after the summer break and manage to sell watches to 3.1 per cent of the remaining 6 billion … wouldn’t the boys at the top be happy bunnies? The alternative is the creation of a Dan Brown Inferno-type virus administered into the cistern at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul that will reduce the world population by at least 6 billion and increase Switzerland’s percentage of the world’s watch sales at the same time. You must remind me to give Dan Brown a call. If all that seems like hard work try this story for size: there are four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. Consequently, it wound up that Nobody told Anybody, so Everybody blamed Somebody. Well, you’ve got to laugh haven’t you?
FLYING TOURBILLON Limited edition of 20 numbered pieces. 18-carat white gold, set with 228 diamonds (~7.7 carats).
August / September 2013