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FAR EAST REPORT
IT I ED AL OB GL
t en em na ur hi ST eas l C PA m ria e e m p Ti Im in
From Abu Dhabi to Zanzibar, Europa Star magazine delivers premium information about the fascinating world of watches. Its two folios Time.Business & Time.Keeper are circulated in more than 170 countries. Europa Star is made possible by a team of passionate people and a network of incredible contributors.
Véronique Zorzi Dominique Fléchon
Joël A. Grandjean
D. Malcolm Lakin
Nathalie Glattfelder Marianne Bechtel
Jocelyne Bailly Fabrice Mugnier
Olivier Müller Alexis Sgouridis
THE SERIES “MASS CULTURE” WAS SHOT IN SEVERAL ASIAN MEGACITIES. IT QUESTIONS THE MODEL OF MASS CULTURE AND ITS EFFECT ON THE INDIVIDUALITY OF EACH OF US. “Mass Culture” also asks what flows and what movements emerge of a lifestyle that tends to promote greater standardisation and globalisation. Laurent Baillet’s approach reminds us of what pop culture portrayed in the decades from 1950 to 1980, but transposed into the current globalised, more technological, and flashier age. Where Coca Cola and Hollywood share the stage with Apple and LVMH… His photographs reflect the urban and commercial architecture that is built around us; an arrogant landscape that considers itself the heart of the city and claims to replace all our desires. Laurent Baillet does not interpret this evolution; he experiences it with fascination, but not without ambivalence. His depictions question the real value of this age of mass culture and its effects on us, the consumers. By catching these streets, their symbols frozen in a temporal instant, the photographer is taking the measure of the place left to the individual by the system and in its excessive standardisation. ABOUT LAURENT BAILLET Laurent Baillet was born in 1978. He lives and works in Paris and Berlin, as an artist and studio photographer. His artistic work is exhibited in various group shows in France and sold mostly in Europe. Since January 2013, he has worked regularly for the Chinese artist Liu Bolin, known as the invisible man. As his photographer, he is in charge of photographing his performance, to be exhibited in art galleries. He has made around 20 photos for Liu Bolin (e.g. Charlie Hebdo in 2015 and Pompidou Center in 2017).
A. Lange & Söhne 33 Adriatica 16 Anonimo 16 Asaoka 50, 51 Audemars Piguet 6, 33 Beijing Watch 24, 25, 30, 31 Carl F. Bucherer 4, 5 Casio 6, 39, 40, 41, 48 Chopard 58, 59 Citizen 6, 39, 46, 47, 48 Delma 23 DeWitt 66 Ebohr 24, 25, 28 ETA 17 Fiyta 24, 30, 31 FP Journe 33 Kering 57 Knot 53 Louis Vuitton 58 Mathey-Tissot 16 Memorigin 27 Minase 51 ODM 28 Patek Philippe 33 Philippe Dufour 54, 55 Pilo & Co 16 Richard Mille 32, 33 Richemont 14 Rolex COVER IV, 33, 66 Rossini 24, 25, 28 Sea-Gull 24 Seiko 6, 39, 42, 43, 44, 45, 48 SIHH 67 Suzuki Kango 52 Swatch Group 57 Tasaki 52 Timex 18, 22 Tokyoflash 53 TW Steel 18 Vicenzaoro 29 WatchE 16 Wired 53
Angelus 42 Audemars Piguet 32, 33, 34, 68 Baume & Mercier 47 Blancpain 47 Breguet 26, 27 Breitling 56 Cartier 68 Casio COVER I, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 Chanel COVER II, 3 Citizen 41 Delma 60 Eberhard & Co 45 Fabergé 22, 51, 61, 72, 73, 764, 75 Hanhart 56 Hermès 51 Lang & Heyne 48 Longines 43, 44, 52 Louis Vuitton 5, 57 Mathey-Tissot 40 Mido 42, 48 Montblanc 54, 55, 76, 77, 78, 79 Nomos Glashütte 19 Omega 52, 67 Patek Philippe COVER IV, 28, 29, 30, 31, 67, 68, 69, 71 Philippe Dufour 71 Raymond Weil 49 Richard Mille 46 Rolex 6, 66, 67, 68, 70, 71 Seiko 36, 37, 38, 39, 41, 42, 62, 63, 64, 65 Singer 50 TAG Heuer 53 Tissot 7 Traser 58, 59 Tudor 71 Universal 41 Urban Jürgensen 23 Vacheron Constantin 6, 45, 68 Wakmann 42 Zenith 6 Zodiac 40
FAR EAST What’s happening in the Far East? Europa Star spent a month on the ground in China and Japan.
| ON ITI ED AL OB GL T AP CH 017 5.2 ER
CHINA Chinese pride restored
FOLLOW THE SIGNS:
PAST PRESENT FUTURE
WITTY COLUMNISTS, WATCH YOUR MOUTH! And a last word… to start your reading (because many people in fact read in the Japanese way)
JAPAN Transitioning from technology to luxury
OPINION Swiss Made Episode 3. Jean-Daniel Pasche, FH President
GREEN WATCHMAKING Hard to spot!
SUBSCRIBE TO EUROPA STAR MAGAZINE www.europastar.com/subscribe | SUBSCRIBE TO THE WEEKLY NEWSLETTER www.europastar.com/newsletter | CHAIRMAN Philippe Maillard PUBLISHER Serge Maillard EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Pierre Maillard CONCEPTION & DESIGN Serge Maillard, Pierre Maillard, Alexis Sgouridis PUBLISHING / MARKETING / CIRCULATION Nathalie Glattfelder, Marianne Bechtel/Bab-Consulting, Jocelyne Bailly, Véronique Zorzi BUSINESS MANAGER Catherine Giloux MAGAZINES Europa Star Global (Europe & International) | USA | China | Première - Switzerland | Bulletin d’informations | Eurotec EUROPA STAR HBM SA Route des Acacias 25, CH-1227 Geneva - Switzerland, Tel +41 22 307 78 37, Fax +41 22 300 37 48, firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2017 EUROPA STAR | All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of Europa Star HBM SA Geneva. The statements and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily Europa Star. Subscription service | Europa Star Time.Business & Time.Keeper | 5 issues | Worldwide airmail delivery CHF 90 | Subscription orders via: europastar.com/subscribe | Enquiries: email@example.com ISSN 2504-4591 | www.europastar.com |
MANERO FLYBACK AUTOMATIC
c ar l-f-buc he r e r.c om
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Today, the Far East is the biggest producer and consumer of watches on the planet. This situation will remain for a long time to come, despite the abrupt fall in sales in Hong Kong we have seen in recent years. It’s not just a matter of economic recovery, which is now taking place, alongside the reabsorption of a big inventory backlog. We simply won’t see another China, at least not in the sense of a big emerging power and demographic giant, open to international trade, and with an appetite for watches. Neither India nor Brazil will take up the baton. The Far East will remain the Fat East as far as watchmakers are concerned. It may be controversial to call it that, but the watch industry does seem to have an almost fetishistic obsession with Chinese watch customers. This obsession is fed by statistics. Let’s not forget that, today, the Hong Kong / China double act represent an outlet for Swiss watches worth 4 billion francs (compared with 1.5 billion in 2000), and that doesn’t take into account the purchases made by Chinese visitors abroad. The obsession is also fed by the obsession of the Chinese themselves for watches – watches as objects, as we explore in the following pages. When researching our report on the Far East, we observed a number of phenomena that will have a profound effect on the entire global watchmaking ecosystem, from the production of the entry-level watches worn by the majority, to the consumption of luxury timepieces that grace the wrists of the privileged few. So let’s begin with these latter. As we showed in a recent dossier, the Chinese middle classes are just as important to the future of Swiss watchmaking as their wealthier neighbours. All the more so since collectors – and this doesn’t just apply to China – are increasingly buying at auction, and thus circumventing the brands themselves. We went to talk to Phillips, Sotheby’s and Poly Auction, to try to understand this phenomenon. These high-profile sales, which seem to announce new records every month, are the trees that conceal the forest – the forest of online sales. But how are the brands supposed to find the right balance between physical and virtual? This problem directly affects the watch assemblers in Shenzhen, the “world’s watch factory”, which we went to visit. As orders began to fall, some of these behind-the-scenes outfits decided to launch their own brands, designed to attract online connoisseurs with reasonably-priced watches offered within a carefully curated digital environment, similar to what Daniel Wellington has done. Have you heard of Perry Ellis, Grayton or Avi-8? All of these brands, launched by subcontractors based in Shenzhen and Hong Kong, are hoping to seduce a younger generation. Prepare to witness an explosion in the entry-level segment. But behind these new names, the entire production chain is being overhauled. Much faster reaction times will avert the phenomenon that has plagued the industry over the last three years – the accumulation of inventory and the consequent reduction in liquidity, which has led to bankruptcies in this rapidly changing market. Finally, we could not go to the Far East without visiting Japan, and the country’s big three watchmakers: Casio, Seiko and Citizen. Each in its own way is focusing on a new objective: moving up-market, via the premium Grand Seiko models, the G-Shock, or, in the case of Citizen, buying out other watchmakers. The 35th anniversary of the G-Shock, an icon that changed the face of the watch industry and introduced a hundred million youngsters to the joys of wearing a watch, is featured on the cover of Time.Keeper. Feel free to peruse both our folios at your leisure. We trust you will find them interesting and instructive.
TO BREAK THE RULES, YOU MUST FIRST MASTER THEM. THE VALLÃ‰E DE JOUX. FOR MILLENNIA A HARSH, UNYIELDING ENVIRONMENT; AND SINCE 1875 THE HOME OF AUDEMARS PIGUET, IN THE VILLAGE OF LE BRASSUS. THE EARLY WATCHMAKERS WERE SHAPED HERE, IN AWE OF THE FORCE OF NATURE YET DRIVEN TO MASTER ITS MYSTERIES THROUGH THE COMPLEX MECHANICS OF THEIR CRAFT. STILL TODAY THIS PIONEERING SPIRIT INSPIRES US TO CONSTANTLY CHALLENGE THE CONVENTIONS OF
IN STAINLESS STEEL
ST EA R
O AV UR E L N A L
F TR A J RE
ILL AR D
What’s happening in the Far East? Europa Star spent a month on the ground in China and Japan, to build up a picture of the watchmaking landscape in what remains the biggest current and future market for the luxury watch industry. Everyone from subcontractors to vintage specialists shared their views on this transitional period that will be pivotal for the future of watchmaking. Whether we like it or not, there will be no new China to usher in another golden decade. Nevertheless, the “new China” of Xi Jinping is going full steam ahead. We identify the major trends of the moment, through the words of the people on the scene. 9
“Of the 200 Simplicity models made by Philippe Dufour, Japanese distributor Yoshi Isogai sold 127 of them!”
“In Asia, we are currently seeing a transition in the market from contemporary watches to vintage.” (Jessie Kang, Sotheby’s Hong Kong)
“Tomorrow, through customisation and online orders, people will buy watches before they have even been made. There will therefore be a much greater alignment between supply and demand. For the last two years, the markets have been drowning in unsold inventory.” (Vishal Tolani, Solar Time)
“Reform in China is accelerating under the auspices of Xi Jinping, beginning with strengthening its position in world affairs. That was not a foregone conclusion. Previously, China has tended to be more inwardlooking, a little like Switzerland!” (Jean-Jacques De Dardel, Switzerland’s Ambassador to China)
“Today, the model we follow is closer to that of Amazon than to a traditional watch manufacturer. Everything is coded, scanned and standardised. Each component can be traced individually online by the client. It’s much more closely managed.” (Ben Djeghdir, Montrichard)
“Grand Seiko’s entire philosophy is based on exceptional legibility, elegant design and high precision.”
“Since the height of the 2008–2009 financial crisis, Solar Time, an assembler, has created no fewer than six new brands, for which it manages production, marketing and distribution.”
(Shuji Takahashi, President of Seiko Holdings)
“Watch subcontractors’ workshops, part of a low-tech industry that has struggled over the last couple of years, have been pushed increasingly further from the centre of Shenzhen by the appetites of computer engineers and highly motivated real estate agents.”
“Unlike in the Swiss valleys, in Japan there are very few independent subcontractors, people who can ‘feed’ the creative drives of craftsmen and enable them to translate their imagination into reality. The country has never experienced the Swiss ‘établissage’ system.”
“My biggest fear for the future is that young people lose interest in mechanical watchmaking.” (William Shum, Memorigin)
“The true giants of Chinese watchmaking have no name. They are the OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer): in other words, the generic watch factories that make items on behalf of brands from all over the world. But, at 4 dollars apiece, they are giants with feet of clay...”
C H P RE R I N ST I D E O E S R E To understand the China-related upheaval that is affecting the watchmaking microcosm, we need to step backwards a pace to grasp the depth of the reforms being undertaken in that country. One notable effect is a wave of patriotism that is now influencing buying behaviour. Let’s start with a few figures: of the 10 principal container ports in the world, seven today are in China. On land, Xi Jinping’s government, which has been returned to power for five years, is preparing to invest up to 900 billion dollars in the countries crossed by the new ‘Silk Road’. In the province around Beijing, a new scientific, technological and economic centre is emerging. The country’s richest province Guangdong, surrounding Hong Kong and Macao, has several cities which are enjoying keen growth. The population of this area is twice that of Tokyo and ten times that of San Francisco... This development is being aided first of all by massive investment in the infrastructure: 1,100 kilometres of railway line by 2020 to the north and 10 to 12 new high-speed rail links between the cities to the south. In parallel to this, a clean-up is going on in Chinese conurbations in response to the deep discontent of a population exasperated with the suffocating emissions of CO2. And China is moving fast… into new energies, such as electric cars, of which it is the world’s largest producer today, while at the same time taking precautionary measures against real estate bubbles, an inevitable side-effect of growth.
“Above all, China is looking to reinforce its position in world business. That wasn’t a given. It tended rather to focus on its own destiny – a bit like Switzerland!” explains Jean-Jacques de Dardel, the Swiss ambassador to China. “That’s resulting in greater multilateralism, a positive view of free trade and the fight against global warming and protectionism.” After a century of humiliation, Chinese pride is back.
What does that mean for the watchmaking industry? In actual fact, the opportunities remain impressive. You don’t turn your back on China. Even if it is going through a ‘growth crisis’ which is driving reform, neither India nor Brazil will replace the Chinese middle class as champions of consumerism. And unlike what we often read, underscores Jean-Jacques de Dardel, “the Chinese economy is in good shape and its growth is continuing better than anticipated. It will stabilise this year at 6.8%. The IMF’s forecasts have been revised upwards and foreign investment is growing ... Today, with growth at 6.5%-7%, China adds the equivalent of 1.5 to twice all of Switzerland to global wealth every year!” The sound health of the Chinese economy in general is due chiefly to an improvement in the health of the Chinese industrial sector, the driving forces of which are electronics, metals, the automotive sector and machinery.
What about watchmaking? In terms of Swiss exports to China, chemicals and pharmaceuticals top the list – but watchmaking now stands second, having overtaken machine tools thanks to a very strong recovery by watch exports! “That is set to continue with the move upmarket of China, which is in need of increasingly sophisticated products and services,” Jean-Jacques de Dardel believes. “Retail sales grew more than 10% during the first six months of 2017.” Jean-Daniel Pasche, president of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, tones down this glowing tableau somewhat: “During the first six months, exports to China grew 21%, which together with the United Kingdom was the largest contributing factor to something of a recovery by the industry. But Hong Kong is stagnating at 0.5% and Singapore at 0.4%.” Moreover, the figures need to be taken with a pinch of salt, because they express growth on the basis of a very good year, 2016 having been very bad and industry having fallen back to its export levels of 2011. But even so, the watch trade still seems to be shifting more and more from Hong Kong and abroad to mainland China... The Chinese watch industry itself is benefiting, as its representative enthusiastically underscored when we met him at Hong Kong’s Watch and Clock fair in September (read more about the upmarket move of the Chinese players on p. 26). “Profits and watch quality are improving. Last year, more than 300 million watches were exported, a rise of 11.78%. The main challenge lies in persuading people to wear Chinese watches!”
“China needs Hong Kong: even if the political reins are being tightened, Shanghai isn’t going to replace it as a hub of haute horlogerie.”
Francis Gouten, former CEO of Richemont Asia-Pacific
What future for Hong Kong? To get a better idea of the future of the watch sector in the former British colony – historically the number one market in the world for the Swiss watch industry – we met Francis Gouten, the former CEO of Richemont Asia-Pacific, who has lived in Hong Kong since 1980. “Hong Kong had become the hen laying the golden eggs, taking advantage of the boom and the huge influx of capital and Chinese visitors, with retailers like Chow Tai Fook, which today owns 2,000 boutiques! The brands also seized the opportunity, but opened too many outlets, including in mainland China. They rushed into the breach without a thought for when it was going to stop. Xi Jinping has pulled the plug on corruption. All that began with the new social media: we saw photos with luxury bags and watches at the Communist Party’s annual congress…” Gone are the days when you might find the keys to a Mercedes in a traditional moon cake, a gift from some big shot... At the moment, a restructuration of the distribution network is taking place in Hong Kong. When they’re not closing outlets, giants like Chow Tai Fook or Emperor are tending to place greater emphasis on jewellery. “Jewellery is the new lucrative market, because there’s a new class of working women, who aren’t married and are buying for themselves,” points out Francis Gouten. At the same time, Chinese buyers have matured, the specialist goes on. “It’s turning into a market like any other, and watchmakers have to accept that! Today, wealthy Chinese, but also the middle classes, are spending more and more money on ‘experiences’, just like in the western world. Before, the prime reason for travelling was to buy; now, it’s to discover other cultures.”
But can Hong Kong continue to be the main market for Asia where watches are concerned? Yes, Francis Gouten replies without hesitation. “China needs Hong Kong: even if the political reins are being tightened, Shanghai isn’t going to replace it as a hub of haute horlogerie. People have kept the habit of travelling to buy luxury products. Hong Kong isn’t independent, but it’s still got a fine future ahead of it.” As for Enders Lam, the president of the Hong Kong Watch Manufacturers Association, he sees the city’s future in increased sales to the local population. “We’re still a huge producer and consumer of watches, despite the economic instability. It’s also a question of investing in new forms of production, such as smart watches, and being more competitive.” His colleague Harold Sun confirms that the ‘golden decade’ from 2004 to 2014 when visas from China were abolished is now over, a result of political tension between Hong Kong and Beijing, the anti-corruption campaign and the currency rate. But he is noticing a slight upturn in the market, now that relations with China are improving and the Hong Kong dollar has fallen: “The retail trade is stabilising and inventories are falling. The Hong Kong retailers are doing more to attract a local customer base and establish partnerships with Chinese dealers.”
A trip to the fair – in Hong Kong The market evolutions set out in this feature were blatantly evident at the last edition of the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair in September: local suppliers presenting their own brands, increased presence of players in the new smart technologies, doubting retailers, confident mainland Chinese watchmakers… But despite that, some Swiss brands too! Most of them were grouped together in the SIWP pavilion. Anonimo, was one
example, more upmarket than the average exhibitor at this fair, but hoping to tap into the Chinese market and Hong Kong before the end of the year – and receiving interesting visits from potential agents in Russia and Australia! As for Adriatica, it has been attending the fair for more than nine years: “You have to be present over the long term to succeed. But China is a still a complex market for doing business. The principal objective is still to develop distribution in Asia, but we also sell directly at this fair. And we take the opportunity to meet our suppliers.” On the final day of the trade show, direct sales were booming, including on the stand opposite, at Mathey-Tissot. “Our key market remains the Middle East. Its representatives come to Baselworld, but also to Hong Kong. For example, last year we made inroads into Oman thanks to this fair. What we’re noticing this year is that customers are not ordering lower quantities, but cheaper watches. At the moment we’re in discussions about openings in Vietnam, China, Indonesia... They just have to be nailed yet.” With an output of 50 watches a year, WatchE is staking everything on direct sales, while at the same time looking for a local agent in Hong Kong: “The Japanese are possibly more in my line because they’re more mature where watches are concerned than the Chinese!” The last word goes to Amarildo Pilo of the eponymous brand, who brought these brands together in the SIWP: “For over ten years my priority has been mainland China, where I post 60% of my sales today. My Chinese partners come to see me at the fair, but I also meet people from other markets, such as India, Japan, South Korea, Turkey and Russia. When you’re grouped together in a joint Swiss pavilion like here, you attract three times more visitors than if you exhibit alone.” Finding a new balance between a confident mainland China and a doubting city of Hong Kong in the face of changing buying behaviours – that’s the challenge awaiting all watchmakers, whatever their price range…
FINESSE AND REFINEMENT
by the motorist of time
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IN A J E “W T O N FA A HE R Z C TC W CH H TO H O A E RY M R L N G N ” AK D’ ES IN S G
S M H
It is next to Hong Kong, in Shenzhen, that we traditionally find producers of a very large proportion of the watches and components used in world watchmaking. But major changes are underway: the watch industry offers less added value than other activities and is being pushed back further; assemblers, lacking orders, merge or close ... or launch their own brands! In the background, the entire logistics chain must change. Visit and analysis. The “gentrification” of Shenzhen An airy and green city, abounding with electric bikes and which even has a small hipster neighbourhoud and a shopping centre inspired by the marine world. Copenhagen? No, Shenzhen! The link is a little artificial, but “gentrification” is well underway in this “factory of the world” city of 12 million inhabitants, in the immediate vicinity of Hong Kong, in the heart of this famous economic zone of the Delta of the “river of pearls”, a megalopolis of 66 million inhabitants. Already, the textile industry has had to leave the workshops of the metropolis to relocate to countries with even cheaper labour, especially Vietnam, or other provinces of China.
Two sectors dominate everything, now: high-tech, with the emblematic Apple installing a new R&D centre. And real estate, of course, with prices that tend to climb almost as fast as Hong Kong, the second most expensive city in the world. Not to mention the constant importance of finance. Traditionally, watch assemblers are headquartered in Hong Kong and their factories across the border in Shenzhen. But the workshops of watchmaking subcontractors, this low-tech industry in a downturn for the last two years, are pushed ever further from the centre, in the face of the appetite of computer engineers and very dynamic real estate developers. “We will have to move in a few months, but we will take the opportunity to enlarge our production area by three times”, explains Rémi Chabrat, founder of assembler Montrichard, who works for Timex but also TW Steel. The same goes for Vishal Tolani, boss of the Solar Time Manufacturing Group: “Shenzhen is becoming the global hub of the Internet of Things, a hub for talented young engineers, which are very high added value industries. Furthermore, you can earn in real estate ten times what you do in watchmaking in Shenzhen if you sell your industrial site to turn it into a residential complex.” “Shenzhen is becoming ever more expensive,” says Ming Hung, of the Team Gain assembler. “Some producers are moving to Dongguan or Huizhou (8 and 4 million people, respectively). Sometimes the authorities expel you from Shenzhen because they need space for other activities with higher added value or for residential areas, especially with the extension of the metro Ming Hung, Team Gain line! In a few months, our factory will find itself connected to a new metro line and I’m afraid they will be forcing us to leave.” In the assembler’s opinion, Shenzhen is now trying to become a new Hong Kong, that is, to get rid of factories and focus on services. As a result, watchmaking is moving further away from Shenzhen and is no longer a government priority in the face of these higher value-added industries. In addition, the market is less buoyant. So, what to do?
Concentrations and closures Impossible for now to move to other provinces or other countries, because it is around Shenzhen that lies the entire watchmaking ecosystem, without which the assemblers would be at a loss. “We have more than 3,000 suppliers in the region!”, says Ming Hung of Team Gain, “and our main customer has a local subsidiary in Shenzhen.” Head of operations at Montrichard in Shenzhen, Ben Djeghdir explains that all subcontractors are within a 50-kilometre radius. “We have to stay close to them because we have to have strict quality control over them, and it is here that we find people who are already qualified and have already worked in the watchmaking assembly.” The manager continues: “Shenzhen has developed well in the assembly of watches but it remains very manual. There is very little automation and workforce skills remain important. Swiss watchmaking is automated for cost reasons as the labour is very expensive, here it will not be changing.” Since it is not really possible to lower the cost of labour again to offset the downturn in orders, we are witnessing a phenomenon of concentration and mergers in the outsourcing sector. Some big assemblers have also lost their license: this is the case of the one that produced Puma, Esprit and Givenchy watches. “The problem is that a lot of subcontractors have seen the market change but did not react, and brands that have withdrawn their licenses are no better today,” said Ben Djeghdir. For his part, Ming Hung feels “lucky” to be able to work at 90% for a big Japanese brand, which continues to do well. “The market is changing a lot and today many of our customers are in trouble: one of them who was ordering two million watches five years ago produces only 800,000 today. We find fewer customers and those we have order less.” Here, everything is still assembled by hand. “In aggregate, we produce 5.5 million watches per year, most of them being entry-level plastic LCD and battery watches. But we also have American and Swiss customers and we also produce analogue watches with quartz movements. We cannot automate the assembly because the references are too numerous, it would not make sense from an economic point of view.” Alexander Meerovitsch, the founder of the subcontractor Optimo Group, has been based in Hong Kong for 22 years. “American fashion groups have teamed up with subcontractors like us, they entrusted us with production to focus on marketing and distribution. There was a golden age for outsourcing here, which everyone benefited from. But now everything has changed, and you have to revise your way of thinking.” With the crisis, some subcontractors are abandoning watchmaking or diversifying. “For example, those who made watch glasses now produce for smartphone brands,” says
Vishal Tolani of Solar Time, “and I, personally, do not only hire people from the watchmaking industry. but more and more engineers from the high-tech world.” Other assemblers made a different choice: they decided to launch themselves!
When the subcontractors launch their own brand Beyond the connected watch and the declining appetite for watches through the world, a new generation of brands has upset the field of the entry-level watch, with repercussions felt as far away as Shenzhen, at the assemblers, or Dallas, at the headquarters of a world-leading fashion watch company like the Fossil Group. Almost every day, new brands are launched on crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter. And these are not so much the fruits of watch geeks as specialists from the digital world. Almost all knock on the door of Shenzhen’s main assemblers. “We are constantly solicited and are taking in new brands, while selecting them very carefully,” says Rémi Chabrat of Montrichard. These brands target a new digital native clientele, with often a classic or vintage design, in line with successful brands such as Cluse or Daniel Wellington. Their goal: to devote maximum resources to digital communication, to create a community of online buyers. The quality of the product does not come first in the minds of these entrepreneurs, who are often extremely young. Their appearance must be impeccable, however, and their promotion extremely neat. The priority is perceived value! “Today, the biggest change is the migration to digital and social networks,” Vishal Tolani observes. “New brands are asking us to take care of the production from A to Z while they focus only on digital marketing. We have entered the age of disruption and everything is changing very quickly, and while we have had a good time since 2001, we have made the mistake of not diversifying ourselves enough and in the end depending too heavily on some customers as subcontractors.” Should we accept these newcomers – at the risk of accentuating an addiction to start-up, which are even more fragile than the larger fashion groups -- our traditional customers -- which are themselves in difficulty? And why place our entire production capacity at the disposal of actors with limited means, which they will invest first and foremost in their own digital marketing? A growing number of subcontracting players, in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, intend to mitigate this dependence on players in financial difficulty or with limited means. How?
By putting their production capacities at the service of... their own brands! Time for income diversification. Since the turn of the financial crisis of 2008-2009, Solar Time has created no fewer than six brands of its own, for which it manages production, marketing and distribution. “Today, we produce between 1.2 and 1.5 million watches a year, 60% for third parties and 40% for our own brands, explains Vishal Tolani. This has required developing different skills in marketing, photography, etc. It’s not something ‘natural’ in a region that has always focused more on production.” The team is targeting several niche “tribes” with its brands, positioned between $100 and $800: for example, Avi-8 is for aviation enthusiasts; McCabe is for coffee lovers; Dufa, an old German brand, was resurrected with a Bauhaus design... “This is a brand of German origin driven by a watch company based in Hong Kong with an Indian at its head! Globalisation… but the watch industry is still wary of that.” For its part, Optimo Group has just launched Perry Ellis, in collaboration with the American fashion brand of the same name, with a price positioning of 150 dollars. “As outsourc-
ing is declining and margins have decreased in this business, we are in a diversification effort with this new challenge and we will also soon launch our own Swiss brand, called Nove,” explains his boss Alexander Meerovitsch. New infrastructures must be developed, and it is for him to find the right formula on two “O to O” axes: online to offline and offline to online. Present at the Hong Kong Watch Trade Show in September, the new brand is being distributed in China, South Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia, South Africa, Egypt and India ... and of course online. “Now we have to learn a new business around marketing and not just production,” admits Alexander Meerovitsch. There are a lot of fashion and ready-to-wear actors who make watches but we think of ourselves first as a watch company.” Nevertheless, the change will not happen overnight and outsourcing will remain a key activity in the Shenzhen area. So, how to improve processes?
Rethinking the supply chain Montrichard also launched their own brand, called Grayton, but primarily as a showcase for new capabilities and a new way of thinking about the production chain. This requires a much stronger and instant match between brand orders and assembly capabilities. The objective: to avoid excessive and unsold stocks ... and replace inventories worth $10 million with stocks worth $800,000. And at the same time, to avoid the bottleneck of insufficient liquidity. In the case of Montrichard, this involves the development of dedicated watchmaking management software called FINS (Flexible Industry Solutions) while many brands use big standardised software such as SAP. The management software was developed in a Montrichard computer centre in the Philippines, from where the firm also offers marketing services such as blog tracking, website creation and content management. In appearance, the Montrichard workshop is no different from any other. It is on the fulfilment of the orders that everything hinges: “We want to match supply and demand: better management of cash and inventory through better predictability of orders.” Ben Djeghdir continues: “How do you solve the problems of a watch brand in terms of financial flows? You crush stocks! We improve cash flow and we increase sales by following the trends by the minute. We went from a 20 million turnover and 6 million in stocks to 21 million turnover and one million stock.” Other industries are much more advanced from the point of view of digitising manufacturing orders. “For example, you can easily customise your Converse sneakers on the Nike site, or Zara, H&M and Uniqlo, it’s both very fluid and simple.” “Today, we are pursuing a model closer to that of Amazon than that of a traditional watch factory. Everything is coded, scanned and standardised, and each component can be tracked individually online by the customer. This is a system that is constantly being developed and offers detailed reporting such as the performance of each model by colour or by country. The goal is to customise the production to be as close as possible to the market.” “We already have access to the stocks of our suppliers, we are just assembling so we can make very limited productions. We standardise the components to better manage them and to achieve a better ‘time to market’. Our customers are watch brands that can cope with year-old sell-out and inventory problems, we ‘blow up’ their component models and trace how many cases are available from our suppliers. The goal is to have a faster and more personalised process, and work on a just-in-time basis, with good database and inventory management, just like in the automotive industry.” The first historical customer of this system was Disney. Montrichard has also just announced a partnership with the American giant Timex for the implementation of the FINS software, with the aim of drastically accelerating their time22
Grayton Automatic Watches to-market. “The goal is to change the dynamics of an inventory based sales process to a demand driven model,” says Tobias Reiss-Schmidt, President & CEO of Timex Group. “We are very familiar with the number of components we have in stock and customers can know in real time the quantity available and the order lead time,” says Jérôme Sollier, director of the Montrichard plant in Shenzhen. Chinese suppliers have remained in a mentality where data management is not taken into account. They remain simple assemblers.” But today, watchmaking meets computers. “It’s different from automation: here we’re talking about better logistics management. Brands like Daniel Wellington or Cluse have their assemblers in Shenzhen but they have to pay them 30% in advance. This can create liquidity bottlenecks when you end up with excessive inventory. The bottom line is that today, brands pay their suppliers and assemblers at order time. We aim to make them pay for the watch only when it has already been sold, which is a big difference that responds to the challenge of cash and inventory.” According to Solar Time’s Vishal Tolani, “The watch production process is being reversed: until now, the brand has been planning with its retailers and distributors the volume of production and geographical distribution of the collections.” Tomorrow, via personalisation and orders on the internet, people will buy the watch before it is produced, so there will be a much better match between supply and demand, whereas markets have been crumbling under unsold stocks for two years.
KLONDIKE MOONPHASE Automatic Chronograph with moon phase, full calendar and unique day-and-night indicator.
TIME TO PERFORM
Delma Watch Ltd., CH-2543 Lengnau, Switzerland, Phone +41 32 654 22 11, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.delma.ch
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W TH H O G E O I W F T AN R AR E IN AT H D C E C TS AL E US H M H J BY
According to the figures of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, mainland China exported more than 652 million wristwatches in 2016! It is by far the world’s largest producer. The Chinese Horologe Association speaks officially of 253 manufactures, which means that each company produces an average 2.5 million items! When you know that Switzerland ‘only’ exported 25.4 million watches, it makes you curious to find out more about the mysterious giants of the Chinese watchmaking industry. With these figures in mind, we tried to track down these ‘big players’ at the Shenzhen Watch and Clock Fair in late June. But the known and commonly marketed Chinese brands boil down to Sea-Gull, Starking, Tian Wang, Rarone, Fiyta (pronounced ‘Fee-ya-ta’), Ossine, Peacock, Golgen, Casiden, Poscher, Rosdn, Bowdor, Runosd and Geya, not forgetting Rossini, Ebohr and, one of the oldest (1958), the Beijing Watch Factory. Include digital, sports and smart watches and you can add another twenty or so brands. So how many watches are produced all told? By addressing the Chinese Horologe Association, I thought to bag the figures in a ten-minute interview. In fact, it took four days of
negotiation with the press service just to get an interview with one of its members. Anyone belonging to the ’Party’ is apparently not authorised to make statements to the media, and the others were ostensibly booked up. What I thought would be a simple task was beginning to look like mission impossible. “In China, the figures are variable to allow various interpretations,” one member of the Canton (Guangzhou) horological association explains to me with absolute earnestness, also incapable of citing a single production, sales or export figure. As for the brand CEOs, they can announce any volume they like. At our level, we have not the slightest means of verification.
The real giant identified! The prices of the brands cited above range from around one hundred yuan (15 Swiss francs) for a simple quartz watch to more than 100,000 yuan (15,000 Swiss francs) for a tourbillon. But the average export price is just 4 dollars apiece! This being the case, it’s easy to see why the real giants of the Chinese watch industry are nameless: they’re referred to as OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) – in other words, they are factories producing generic watches on behalf of brands scattered all over the world. But at 4 dollars apiece, these are giants with feet of clay… That, in any case, is the view of the Horologe Association, which, at the forum opening the 28th Watch & Clock Fair in Shenzhen, welcomes the ‘Made in China 2025’ plan launched in 2015 by the central government. This represents a new phase for the industry: over ten years and in ten sectors of activity, OEM is to be transformed into ‘made in China’ first and foremost by raising quality. But a word of caution – the watchmaking industry is not one of the sectors concerned. But what does it matter; the invited media are satisfied and give a hearty round of applause. For the umpteenth time, I ask the press service to organise an interview with someone in charge, but this time I decide to speak Chinese: “Put yourself in my place, imagine a Chinese journalist travelling 10,000 km to cover Baselworld and not getting a single interview!” Intrigued, Ms Yang Jingwen, an eminent figure in the Chinese Horologe Association since 1999, comes out of her office, her eyes wide with amazement: “But he can speak Chinese! I’ll find you an interlocutor.” Open sesame …
“One billion watches produced in China”
My interlocutor is the honourable Mr Shunhua Zhu (朱 舜华), co-founder of the Shenzhen Watch & Clock Fair and a member of the Horologe Association since 1988.
Who are the largest producers in terms of volume? Shunhua Zhu: It’s difficult to say, because the companies that produce the most are OEM producers, sometimes exporting up to 10 million watches at 2 or 3 dollars each for the African or South American market.
So it’s true to state that the giants of the Chinese watch industry are OEM producers? The very large majority.
Can you class the brands in terms of volume? Fiyta, Rossini and Tian Wan produce just over one million items a year. Sea-Gull and Ebohr produced 800,000 watches, Starking, Geya and Poscher 600,000 watches each. As for the Beijing Watch Factory (see interview on page 30), which targets the medium to high end, it posts higher turnover than those brands, even though it only sells around 100,000 watches. Hong Kong exported 241 million watches in 2016, again according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. Admit it – they’re actually made in China, aren’t they? Yes, 99.9% of them! They are even assembled in China. That’s because all the Hong Kong brands have relocated to mainland China. Only the brand headquarters have remained in Hong Kong.
So if you add 241 million watches from Hong Kong and the 652 million exported watches, and to that add the Chinese domestic market, how many watches did China produce altogether in 2016? One billion watches!
Impressive! But while we’re on the subject, the ‘Swissness’ law states that to be ‘Swiss made’ at least 60% of the value of a watch has to be Swiss; so what are the criteria for the ‘made in China’ and ‘made in Hong Kong’ labels? In China, it’s very simple: if a watch is assembled in the country, it is ‘made in China’. In Hong Kong, the movement determines the nationality of a watch. If it contains a Japanese movement, it’s made in Japan; if it has a Chinese movement, it’s made in China. Let’s come back to the Chinese brands, in particular the high-end segment which posted growth of 10.9% last year! With announced profits of 46 million yuan (6.6 million Swiss francs), volumes are apparently low… I can’t give you a ranking there because there are several brands (Beijing, Sea-Gull, Ebohr) producing very small volumes at the high end of the market. Those watches are tourbillon or art watches that help them create a brand image.
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TH H E W OW CH C A TO AL RE TC E LE D H ARN NGE EN M Y : T I A K OUR Faced with the difficulties of the Swiss luxury manufacturers and their high prices, and encouraged by the new Chinese patriotism, some local companies are setting out to reconquer home territory, in mainland China as well as in Hong Kong.
There has been much talk in Switzerland about the acquisition of Eterna and Corum by the Chinese giant Citychamp. But much less about the efforts made at home to raise the standard of Chinese watchmaking while trying to beat the Swiss at least in price, if not in quality. Some examples. 26
HONG KONG Memorigin: democratising the tourbillon William Shum is one of the people who best embody the ‘Hong Kong spirit’: he’s native to the city, and an entrepreneur who studied finance at Cornell University in the United States. But the outbreak of the financial crisis is making things more complicated than anticipated. In Hong Kong, his father owned a factory with a workforce of 900, dedicated to the production of movements for mechanical watches. “I wrote my thesis on a case study. And that’s when I discovered that among other things, it also produced a tourbillon movement! So it’s quite a mature company from the technical point of view.” That gave William Shum the idea of taking advantage of that know-how to launch his own brand, all the models of which would be – tourbillons! Memorigin was born. The goal: to be affordably priced, between 4,000 and 6,000 dollars, with editions limited to 20 watches. The recipe seems to be working.
“Swiss watchmakers obviously have an advantage over us, because they’re recognised and people know that the price corresponds to the brand value! We can’t attract people who’d be interested in a Jaeger-LeCoultre. On the other hand, we try to attract people who wouldn’t necessarily have the means to buy themselves a tourbillon watch. We’re democratising the tourbillon.” Now present in 20 countries, the start-up’s chief market is still Hong Kong. “Faced with the slump in Chinese consumption, we’re trying to build a local customer base. And first and foremost, we’re trying to attract young people to mechanical watches by democratising the tourbillon. We want to avoid a situation in the future where people wear nothing but smart watches! My greatest fear for the future would be that: a scenario where young people lose all interest in mechanical watchmaking...”
Memorigin Stellar Series Tourbillon Manual Wind
ODM, the most original design in the Far East An acronym standing for Original, Dynamic and Minimal, ODM might be an entry-level brand, but it’s also our top pick in terms of design. It was the first Hong Kong brand to take part in Baselworld in 2003. Since then it has received numerous design awards for its very bold watches, including the Red Dot Design Award. Here’s proof of the pudding, in a picture.
ODM Design Mars Watch
CHINA Rossini and Ebohr standing strong Based in Zhuhai, just next to Hong Kong, Rossini was founded in 1987 and employs a workforce of around 800 people. “Our average prices range from 1,000 to 3,000 RMB and we have around a thousand references in two main series, Sport and Business,” explains Sales manager Bruce Cho. Its sister company, Ebohr, is positioned slightly lower down the range and is also owned by Citychamp. “Most of our production is automatic and we sell our watches in China, but also in the UK, Singapore and Cambodia, as well as in Thailand,” Bruce Cho goes on. “We have around 10,000 outlets all over China! We’ve grown and are continuing to grow, even if growth has slowed down recently. At the moment we’re focusing especially on South Asia, on the new generations of business men and women.” The advantages that the brand is out to promote are sound design and quality at an affordable price. But the brand is also counting on higher-range models, including a tourbillon at 15,000 RMB. “For the moment, our movements are supplied by Citizen and Seiko. But we’re planning to launch our own movement in the near future!”
Rossini Tourbillon Watch 5459
Ebohr Complication Experience N°2 Automatic Watch
No! For questions of both cost and quality. The cases are machined in the southern province of Guangdong, by a quality supplier.
BE W IJ FA A IN TC G A C N JO D T IN F O H FO I Y R RC TA Y E
On our visit in 2011, the hands and cases were also made in-house, isn’t that the case anymore?
BY M I E W DA RV A T E UC IN N-L A JE
The “Beijing” and Fiyta signed a partnership agreement in October 2016 that could spawn the very best of Chinese watchmaking. An interview with the new director of the Beijing Watch Factory, Mr. ChuangYue Xu (徐创越). Fiyta is the internationally best-known Chinese watch brand; it has been the official timekeeper of the Chinese Space Agency since 2003 and an exhibitor in the prestigious Hall 1 at Baselworld since 2010. It is also a leader in terms of sales volumes and one of the most avant-garde brands in terms of design. The only downside is that it has always contented itself with foreign calibres. In complete contrast, the venerable Beijing Watch Factory (see August-September 2011 issue of Europa Star) is Chinese to the tips of its second hands: all its mechanical and automatic movements and grand complications are made entirely in-house! What is the advantage for the Beijing Watch Factory of this partnership with Fiyta? ChuangYue Xu: In the first place, the ‘Beijing’ benefits from Fiyta’s tentacular distribution network (editor’s note: the Harmony distribution network). Secondly, the marketing, and above all the design, will be done at Fiyta from now on. That means the ‘Beijing’ can concentrate on its core business: manufacturing movements. Even our enamelled or embroidered dials are made externally, but by artists in the city of Beijing.
Until now, the ‘Beijing’ was a brand aimed at a Chinese elite. Looking at this new collection, we were surprised to see young, bold designs. Is the ‘Beijing’ targeting a broader public? Indeed, the new collection is priced at between 2,000 and 3,000 yuan (300 to 450 Swiss francs). Even in our collection of tourbillons, we’re launching new, very Chinese-style timepieces, with a steel case but not an enamelled dial, priced in the 2,500-4,000 yuan range. The average boutique price of a Beijing watch now is 3,500 yuan (520 francs). Maybe we’re positioned too low, because lots of customers are surprised.
Be careful, that’s one of the problems in China. A lower price suggests lower quality! True, especially for grand complications. “How can you sell a tourbillon at this price, when they’re unaffordable in international brands?” our customers ask us, suspecting dubious quality. One reason is that we have control over the technical aspects and secondly, we’re now targeting a younger, less well-off customer base.
Your range of movements was already impressive back in 2011: a tourbillon (TB01), a double tourbillon (TB02), an eight-day tourbillon (TB03), a minute repeater tourbillon (MRB1), an orbital tourbillon (TB04), and a mechanical movement with a double escapement and a power reserve of 100 hours… Have new complications been added to that since then? In 2015, we designed a new tourbillon calibre, the TB10, which has the particularity of being only 2.8 mm thick. It’s the thinnest Chinese-produced watch and the second-thinnest in the world. The reliability phase is just finishing now. When we visited your factory in 2011, the machine tools were Swiss and very old. Is that still the case in 2017? Many machines date from the 1960s, it’s true. But as you know, the market for movements is in bad shape, which is putting a brake on the renewal and modernisation of our
machinery. But for the parts that need CNC machines, we use those of Fiyta, in Shenzhen. In fact that’s one of the advantages of our collaboration. The new collection is audacious in design. Is that due to the influence of Fiyta, which is a reference in design terms and even holds competitions? Yes, we’ve set up a team of designers in Fiyta’s style studio dedicated exclusively to Beijing Watch Factory watches. Perhaps this first collection is largely inspired by the Fiyta style, because our designers haven’t yet entirely understood the DNA of the Beijing Watch Factory. But the direction is clear – we want our watches to breathe Chinese culture. I promise you that we’ll be launching some very Chinese models before the year is out.
And what about Fiyta: will they be using Beijing-brand Chinese movements under the partnership agreement? That’s the aim, but for the moment, Fiyta can’t do without its Miyota and ETA movements; our calibres haven’t attained that level of quality yet. Our SB1, SB11 and SB16 automatic movements haven’t yet reached the standard of ETA, but they’re progressing.
Improving movement quality – I’ve been hearing that for nearly ten years, and the status quo hasn’t changed... It’s very difficult, because you have to change work habits along the entire production chain. And then there’s the industrial equipment, which would require huge investment. And since the movement trade is sluggish at the moment, the Chinese brands aren’t able to invest in movement technology.
Sea-Gull brandishes the same arguments of unreliable movements, but is shelling out for a gigantic new factory in the industrial zone of Tianjin rather than investing in movement quality. Isn’t that the real problem of Chinese industry, investing in the form rather than the heart of the problem? I think the real problem lies in employee training. We don’t have advanced training structures like you. So skills don’t improve much. The problem is that, above all; not so much financial or material. What’s more, this training problem affects the entire hierarchy, from the boss to the shop-floor worker. And then there’s a market for cheap movements. If we raised the standard of quality to that of Miyota, we might have to cut production by four-fifths! As far as we’re concerned, we’ve stopped producing low-quality movements during these past two years. But the Beijing Watch Factory can make that change, given its relatively small size.
TH ion O E s F R H IN A T I C N H SE H D E IN A W SE AT CO C N H D
Karen Ng, Poly Auction
Jessie Kang, Sothebyâ€™s
It is hardly surprising to hear that watch auction sales are particularly buoyant at the moment compared with modern watches, when a single vintage watch goes under the hammer for a figure approximately equivalent to the turnover of a medium-sized contemporary watch company*! On the other hand, few people have pointed out the possible link between this boom in vintage watches and the antiextravagance campaign in China. Yet, discussing the issue with experts in the field in Hong Kong, the link seems obvious.
When luxury hides its face “In the fight against extravagance and corruption, vintage watches are more low-profile than contemporary ones,” underscores Jessie Kang, Head of Watches at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong. Added to this is the fact that the buyers are more mature and better educated on the subject of watchmaking and its history. At the moment we’re seeing a transition of the market from the contemporary to the vintage watch.” Simone Woo, an expert with Phillips’ Hong Kong subsidiary, confirms this: “The market is changing rapidly. Originally, the Hong Kong market was strongly geared to modern watches, but recently we’ve seen a transition towards vintage watches. And new players are joining the market.” Among these new players are the Chinese auction house Poly Auction, a sister company of Poly Group, a huge public Chinese conglomerate. Drawn by the vintage boom, this company established itself in Hong Kong five years ago and now employs a workforce of around 100 people: “Our advantage is that most of our customers come from continental China, they already know us via Poly Group and now they’re really starting to get interested in our collectors’ watches,” says its watch head, Karen Ng.
The Patek Philippe, Rolex and Richard Mille trio Poly Auction also holds auctions in mainland China itself. There too, it’s the same story: “Owing to government policy, people are tending to go for more conventional, discreet and subtle watches. Of course, the Chinese still like famous names like Richard Mille and they still buy them, but they don’t necessarily wear them in such a flamboyant way as before, more in private, with friends...” That’s right: Richard Mille. Beside giants Rolex and Patek Philippe, this independent brand has achieved the feat of gaining outstanding popularity in the Far East, not only for its contemporary products, but for any of its products put up for auction. But vintage is not really the word, in the case of a brand founded in 2001... “Our colleagues at Poly Group help us orient mainland buyers towards watchmaking,” Karen Ng goes on. For the moment, watch sales are small compared with auctions of ceramics or Chinese art, but the potential is huge! At Poly Auction just like at Sotheby’s, they’re trying their hand at ‘cross-selling’: sometimes it’s literally just one step, into the room next door, from antique porcelain to (relatively) antique watches, as sales of these two – for the Chinese – symbolic objects are systematically held at the same time and at the same venue.
Richard Mille RM56-02 Sapphire Tourbillon
Patek Phillipe Ref. 5002 Sky-Moon Tourbillon
Diversification of auction offerings This autumn, at its Important Watches sale in Hong Kong, Sotheby’s found a taker for a 2015 Richard Mille RM56-02 Sapphire Tourbillon at 14,500,000 HKD (1,850,000 USD) and a Patek Phillipe Ref. 5002 Sky-Moon Tourbillon in pink gold at 11,020,000 HKD (1,400,000 USD). As proof that watchmaking is gaining greater maturity in Asia, increasing numbers of less well-established brands than the above-mentioned ‘trio’ are also to be found up for auction, as Jessie Kang at Sotheby’s points out: “We sell watches by Philippe Dufour, Voutilainen, Romain Gauthier and MB&F. Philippe Dufour is very popular for its ‘simplicity’, you have to appreciate every detail! A large number of collectors already have so many watches by traditional brands that they’re looking to diversify their collections,” she continues. At Phillips, the most popular brands, we’re told, besides Patek Philippe and Rolex are F.P. Journe, A. Lange & Söhne, Richard Mille, Philippe Dufour, Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Heuer and Universal. “The taste of Asiatic collectors used to be slightly different from that of Occidentals originally, but with globalisation, the internet and social media the differences are being ironed out. There are some peculiarities, for example collectors in South-East Asia have a pronounced taste for tropicalised dials,” explains Simone Woo at Phillips. No official figures exist, but in terms of growth, the second-hand market has by now overtaken that of modern watches, with physical auctions and online sales between private individuals, whether on Western platforms such as Amazon or Chrono24, or Asian ones like Alibaba or Taobao.
H M EM IN P E A E R NT IA L
TI M M I N E AS E C I UR
ND T A NG ER KI XP A , E CHM ON AT CH W LÉ INE EF F QU IN NI NT MI LTA DO SU BY CON
The calendar, attributed to the Chinese Emperor, the “Son of Heaven” According to legend (even though writing was not invented until 1800 years later), Chinese astronomy is thought to date from the 61st year of Huangdi’s reign, namely 2637 BC. The legendary emperor, considered to be the founding father of the Chinese civilisation, is credited with the invention of the calendar. Initially lunar-based, the calendar became lunisolar around 1400 BC. This basic calendar was supplemented by a sexagesimal cycle, independent of astronomical phenomena and used for measuring the passing days and months. Until the end of the Empire in 1911, the calendar was an attribute of imperial sovereignty. The monarch of the time, known as “Tian zi” or Son of Heaven, and considered a go-between between the Sky and the Earth, started his reign by introducing a new calendar based on the two complementary principles of Yin and Yang. Thenceforth holder of a “divine mandate”, the monarch’s task was to pass on information based upon the state of the heavens to ensure a harmonious earthly existence. Astronomy was thus elevated to the rank of state and government science.
Clepsydra, ancestor of the hydraulic astronomical clock Alongside its work on vs, which were globally perceived as scientific instruments, China developed the clepsydra, examples of which were first witnessed back in around 500 BC. The in- or out-flow clepsydra was a cylindrical vase with an opening in its base. In order to improve its accuracy, the Chinese equipped the instrument with a system of siphons,
Su Song’s clock tower followed by a series of reservoirs, each feeding into the other. This culminated, towards the year 1000, in a model, which combining both methods. Appearing in the fifth century, balance clepsydras, composed of receptacles suspended from a balance beam, were used to measure short time intervals. In order to assist the Emperor in his mission, astronomers and mechanical engineers developed the hydraulic-powered armillary sphere. To do this, they endeavoured to increase the minimal force of water in a clepsydra enough to be able to power a big machine. They achieved their aim thanks to the multiplying effect of the wheel. In the year 124, Zang Heng presented the Emperor with a hydraulic-powered equatorial armillary sphere. The principle of combining a celestial globe with a water clock to create an astrarium was first attributed to Zang Heng. Around 720, the Buddhist monk Yi-Xing compiled his “water-driven spherical bird’s eye view map of the heavens”. This latter was fitted with a regulator in the form of a wheel equipped with
This “Dragon Boat vessel,” supported upon two wooden blocks was placed over a large flat copper or brass dish or platter. A thin string, usually of silk, having a small metal weight or bell attached at each end, was stretched across the top of the vessel at a point along the marked incense stick chosen by the sleeper when he wished to be aroused. The incense stick burned for the desired number of hours and when it reached the string, the string burned quickly and parted. As the small metal weights dropped into the dish, they made a brief tinkling sound, which presumably was sufficient to awaken the sleeper.
buckets in order to convert a continuous flow of water into a regular non-continuous movement. In 1086, the Emperor ordered Su Song, a Mandarin scientist, to rebuild the city clock. In 1094, he presented to the monarch his “tower for hydraulic-powered sphere and globe”. Housed within a 12-metre high construction, the armillary sphere, combined with a demonstrational celestial globe, depicted the orbits of the Sun, Moon and certain stars, as they were seen from Earth. The whole mechanism, complete with automata indicating the time audibly, was powered by a continuous power-transmission chain drive. Su Song’s clock disappeared after its removal to Peking in 1127, since no-one was able to reassemble it. Nevertheless, it has been possible to reproduce it thanks to descriptions and diagrams recorded by its author in a treatise that has since been preserved.
“Your son is not your son, but the son of his time”
useful to the world’s populations, the other teachings of the West were nothing other than bizarrely complicated, conceived only for the pleasure of the senses and not satisfying a basic need.
In 11th century China, the water-powered astronomical clock with regulator logically ought to have been generating mechanical timepieces. However, astronomers were busy following another course, one that brought about the rift between Time-measurement did not Europe with its rise towards economic and technical suprema- satisfy a basic need cy and the Middle Kingdom with its protracted stagnation. China was more preoccupied with improving observational The population mainly lived off farming regulated to the astronomy than time measurement. The former attained an rhythm of the seasons, day and night, and made do with these unparalleled degree of refinement between the 13th and 14th natural indicators. In towns and cities, the hours and public time were announced by chiming clock centuries thanks to the construction of towers, or the beating of drums, as is still oversized instruments permitting considA small number the case with the “Clock towers” and “Drum erable improvements in accuracy. towers” of Beijing and Xi’an. Private time, The instrument built by the astronomer of watches, now however, was roughly indicated by vertical Guo Shoujing in 1276 close to the city of preserved in the gnomons and combustion clocks with gradDengfeng enabled him to measure the inForbidden City, uated wicks. Under the Sung dynasty (960terval of a year to within 23 seconds. 1279), incense clocks put in an appearance, The fields of astronomy and watchmakillustrate the based on the time it took for the material ing, the pursuit of which was prohibited, genius of European to burn. Although they provided random were the secret preserve of the Emperor watchmakers in accuracy, these instruments were sufficient and his scientists. Thus, when building a to meet the needs of the middle classes, new astronomical clock, the watchmakcatering to the tastes while the water clocks were reserved for the ers and astronomers considered comof the Middle Kingdom. authorities due to the encumbrances and petent for the job were required to learn constraints that they entailed. everything again. This reminds us of a saying by Confucius: “Remember that your son is not your son, Watchmaking was therefore the privilege of the Emperor and his dignitaries, who turned to Europe for their quality but the son of his time.” It would be five centuries after Su Song’s long-since forgot- pieces. For 250 years, Peking had received as gifts, or purten masterpiece of achievement had been completed before chased, a considerable number of watches, mantle or wall the Chinese would see any revolutionary new timepieces. clocks from England, France and Switzerland. A small numThese were the work of Westerners, for whom the clock was ber of them, now preserved in the Forbidden City, illustrate the ideal tool for gaining access to the Emperor and enter- the genius of European watchmakers in catering to the tastes ing the Middle Empire for evangelisation purposes. Jesuits of the Middle Kingdom. The watches feature dials with a taught by Matteo Ricci arrived replete with a much more central seconds hand and richly engraved and gilded moveaccurate knowledge of astronomy than that developed in ment. Their cases, set with natural pearls and multi-coloured China. As a result, some of the costs they incurred were reim- stones, sport painted decorations on enamel on a wide variebursed by the authorities. Apart from globes and maps, Ricci ty of themes. Chiming clocks are fitted with automata. They gave his hosts never-before-seen chiming clocks. In addition were all sold in pairs, with the decoration being mirrored in to affording them private time, they entertained their new the most precious models. A symbol of integrity, the princiowners with their melodic chime features and the automata ple of twos stands for the notion of symmetry omnipresent in architecture, where Harmony is obtained by balancing so beloved of the Asian people. China, at the time, had a significant number of talented the Yin and the Yang. According to this philosophy, any gifts craftsmen and a population substantially equal to that of given to the Emperor or a superior were always offered in Europe. They thus provided an opportunity to develop a pairs, a sacrosanct rule that no-one dared to break. genuine watchmaking industry. Contrary to the basic prin- In 1911, it all changed with the Revolution. The Empire made ciples underlying the Chinese civilisation, this path was not way for the Republic. Although it was replaced in 1912 by the pursued to any significant extent. Although the calendar Gregorian system, wherein the calendar years were counted was of structural importance, never before had either life or from the foundation of the Republic, the traditional calendar work been organised on the basis of measured time. L’index now co-exists unofficially with this system. This was the result de la Grande Bibliothèque of 1782 noted, in this respect, that of the last reform brought about by the Jesuit missionary, while the practices of land surveying and irrigation were Adam Schall von Bell, imperial astronomer in Peking.
The Jesuit Matteo Ricci introduced watchmaking in China
TR PA FR A N TO O N SI M LU T T XU EC I O N RY H IN N G O LO G Y
All have developed a continuum of unparalleled technological innovations, from the use of quartz to solar energy. All have continued to produce large volumes at very affordable prices. All without exception are now trying to present a more ‘premium’ face, each in their own way. A visit to Casio, Seiko and Citizen, the three giants of the Japanese watch industry. In a 1938 issue of the Buyers’ Guide (the ancestor of today’s Europa Star), the reader is reminded how closely Japan guarded the secrets of its watchmaking industry back then. “We are not permitted to allow persons unknown to us to visit our factories, and especially not visitors from a watchmaking country,” was the response received by a reporter there. Things have changed a lot since then and this autumn Europa Star had the opportunity of visiting the factories of the major Japanese watchmakers, as we already have done on numerous occasions! But it is still true that Japanese watchmaking has developed in an insular way, with its own particularities and well-guarded secrets, and worlds away from the Swiss industry. While taking inspiration from it as far as method is concerned, it has put much greater emphasis on technology.
And has developed first and foremost around the three ‘topdown’ giants Seiko, Citizen and Casio, without the teeming ‘bottom-up’ ecosystem based on subcontracting that characterises the Swiss market. Today, each and every one of these watchmaking giants – all of which have developed extraordinarily sophisticated technological innovation during the course of their history, from GPS to solar energy and smart watches – are trying their hand at a more ‘premium’ strategy. And each in their own way: Seiko with the independence of Grand Seiko announced at Baselworld; Casio with the G-Shock in steel, celebrating the 35th anniversary of this icon of the younger generation, who have since grown up (read more in our cover story in the Time. Keeper folio); and lastly, Citizen via strategic takeovers, including the cluster made up of Frédérique Constant, Alpina and Ateliers de Monaco, to cite the most recent example. While not neglecting mass production of movements for third parties (as is the case of Seiko and Citizen), nor that of very affordable models, in this article we take a look at how each of them intends to go about positioning themselves more firmly in the premium or ‘affordable luxury’ segment – at the global level. In short, transitioning from a culture of technology to one of luxury. Why? On the one hand, what is perceived as watchmaking ‘technology’ for the masses – the multiplication of functionalities – seems to be shifting increasingly to Silicon Valley. Inversely, the perception of Japanese culture in the rest of the world has undergone a profound transformation: today the country is seen as much as a symbol of refined lifestyle as of technical know-how, a society of ultra-refined art and culture. Is that not the very definition of luxury?
UE S I AG S O E TIO N F
C A A O Q
How to win over the generations of G-Shock lovers, those teenagers who have since matured? Can ultra-high-tech quartz watches sell for the same price as mechanical watches?
1995 and 2000, and more recently a strong increase in sales over the last couple of years through what it calls a strategy of ‘analogue intelligence’ – the development of hands to the detriment of digital screens. The next step is the development of new metals. It’s on visiting the museum dedicated to Casio in the house “The challenge is now to reach out also to more mature auof its founder Toshio Kashio (1917-2012) in Tokyo that you take diences. Previously we had mainly the younger generations, full stock of the exceptional technological adventure that the now we evolve with MR-G and G-Steel to satisfy all generabrand represents. In a small room, the years tions,” summarises Shigenori Itoh, Senior are ticked off innovation by innovation, Executive Managing Officer. These premi“You know, 20 years from the introduction of the first watch, um collections in steel which Casio is curago, no one said the Casiotron in 1974, by a brand whose rently pushing hard are intended to round it was possible to first product was a cigarette-holder and out the brand’s collection and cover as effiwhich then moved into calculators. At Casio ciently as possible a price range that today make a chronograph watches have quite simply been combined extends from 90 to more than 6,000 dolG-Shock… then we with just about everything: computers, ralars. These prices now put it on a level with dios, cameras, altimeters, televisions, GPS, models offered by Rolex and Omega. Who launched the solarmusic and even a radiation detector! would ever have imagined that? powered chronograph Toshio Kashio’s philosophy can be summed Shigenori Itoh is upbeat: “Japanese culture G-Shock.” up in a single phrase: he believed in the inand arts are attractive for people all around finite possibilities of technology, which is the world and we have already been using capable of performances far superior to those of the human it with the kasumi tsuchime technique in the MR-G line. We brain. And what is timekeeping if not the addition of figures will continue the fusion of our state-of-the art technology and – and mastery of the infinite! Japanese craftsmanship. We will continue to increase the valToday, the brand is headed by his heir, Kazuhiro Kashio, and ue, technology, material and craftsmanship of our watches.” technology still takes centre stage, notably with the intro- Yet one massive obstacle looms on the roadmap set out by duction of Bluetooth into an increasing number of its lines. Casio: today, ‘premium’ is virtually synonymous with ‘meThis is what the brand defines as the ‘Advanced Global Time chanical’. Mr Itoh flinches not an inch at this: “You know, 20 System’, which enables the time of smart watches connect- years ago, no one said it was possible to make a chronograph ed to smart phones to be set automatically. Alright, they G-Shock… then we launched the solar-powered chronohave fewer features than a ‘traditional’ smart watch, but the graph G-Shock. So we achieve what we plan and our dreams! brand intends by this means to retain the unique identity And eventually – I cannot tell you a time frame – Casio might of its watches. The watchwords are: self-adjusting, self-charg- also plan on launching its own mechanical production.” ing and self-updating. Today, the brand achieves one-third of its sales in Japan, But behind this strategy is a nagging question: how to slightly more than a third in the rest of Asia and slightly less convince fans of G-Shock, the brand’s icon, to continue wear- than a third in Europe and North America. It is in these two ing a Casio as they mature? After all, this watch is 35 years old regions in particular that Casio aims to expand with this – which means that its first buyers are today 50+, or older! new strategy – in solid steel. The brand has experienced two golden ages in its watchmaking history: the success of G-Shock, which peaked between
H E PL AS I K TH A G O E NS RA FU F N TU OR D RE
This is the oldest Japanese watch brand, with more than a century of history. It has been in on every technological innovation. But 2017 will remain engraved as a major step in Seiko’s international development: the year when Grand Seiko gained its independence. And with it, watchmaking Japanese-style. Seiko’s organisation is as complex as the Japanese tea ceremony! To cut a long story short, this oldest of Japanese watch brands is structured into three entities: Seiko Holdings, which markets the watches and sources them on the one hand from Seiko Instruments, the flagship factory of which is located at Morioka in the north of Japan, and on the other from Seiko Epson, which is established in the region of Nagano. We have our first appointment in Morioka at Seiko Instruments, where we are greeted by the local manager Ryoji Takahashi, who oversees the 700 employees there: “The Morioka factory opened in 2004 to reach the highest degree of manufacture and craftsmanship in Japan.” Why so far from Tokyo? Because of the fresh air, the streams, the calm and the small valleys somewhat reminiscent of Switzerland, where the watchmakers can really concentrate! Note that besides its two principal sites in Japan, Seiko also has factories in mainland China, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, notably for the production of quartz movements, with an output capacity of 10 million calibres a month, most of which are sold to third parties. It also operates fashion brands, such as Issey Miyake and Agnès B, as well as a handful of brands that are less well-known outside Japan and aimed at the local market. But very quickly, we come to the central issue which is currently taking up everyone’s energy at Seiko: the emphasis being placed on Grand Seiko as an independent brand, with its own international distribution network! “We train our watchmakers how to assemble Grand Seikos over a long period,” Ryoji Takahashi goes on. “A lot of people want to work in Morioka, but it’s not easy! Few horology graduates are able to join us…”
In particular, the Morioka factory produces Spiron, an alloy which provides superior elasticity, great strength and high heat and corrosion resistance in the mainspring and the hairspring, developed jointly with the Metal Materials Laboratory of Tohoku University. But to round off our tour of Seiko in Japan a trip further south is a must: to the province of Nagano and the Shiojiri factory, where we are welcomed by its manager, Hiroshi Kamijo. This is the very place where the first Grand Seiko was developed in 1960. And the first quartz wristwatch, in 1969... What strikes visitors is precisely the diversity of its production, between quartz and high-end mechanical movements, including the Spring Drive. It’s a continuous oscillation between automation and the human hand. An impressive automated line works night and day, producing quartz movements. “We still use quartz for Grand Seiko watches for men – which might seem surprising – because we take the view that we produce the best quartz calibres in the world in terms of precision, power and durability,” explains Hiroshi Kamijo. “That’s also part of our heritage. Today, Grand Seiko production is divided between around one-third Spring Drive, one-third quartz and one-third mechanical movements.” In the Micro Artist Studio, human hands take pride of place, beneath a portrait of the venerable Philippe Dufour which dominates the workshop. This artisan from Vaud canton came to Shiojiri in 2006 to teach them finishing, and even sent them a polishing tool in gentian wood, today produced in wood from Hokkaido... The studio does both the design, the R&D and the finishing: this is the most creative part of the factory, the place where new watches with complications are dreamed up. Before, the studio used to focus on Credor (examples of note are the Sonnerie model of 2006 and the Minute Repeater of 2011), but today the accent is of course also placed on design of the Grand Seiko, including the award-winning 8-Days model of 2016. It is precisely these three models that take pride of place in the window of the Seiko flagship store in the chic Ginza district in the centre of Tokyo! What about promoting them through auctions, like their Swiss counterparts? Kaz Fujimoto, a Japanese expert with Phillips, does not rule it out: “We don’t offer any Japanese watches for auction yet, but that might happen in the future… Because part of Seiko’s strategy of moving upmarket includes enhancing its value among collectors through auctions.”
To obtain more details about their independence and internationalisation strategy for Grand Seiko, we met Shuji Takahashi, the President and COO of Seiko Holdings. Interview.
Europa Star: The big change of this year at Seiko is the independence acquired by Grand Seiko. Could you tell us more about the underlying strategy behind this split and what benefits you expect?
tain our particularity as a Japanese watchmaker. Our customers are sensitive to the delicateness of Japanese quality and the sense of detail we put into the design of our watches. One good example is the Snowflake dial. It’s as if snow is falling onto the dial, blown by the wind. It might seem very subtle, but we’re always being inspired by details of nature. It’s the same sensitivity as you find in clothing, architecture or Japanese gardens.
Shuji Takahashi: Back in 2010, we committed ourselves to greater international development with Grand Seiko. Until then, it had been a Seiko line reserved for collectors. Now we’re establishing it as a brand in its own right and hope to make it popular with a broader audience. The Astron, Prospex and Presage have already enjoyed strong interna- Grand Seiko still has the Seiko label in its name (versus tional growth. Tudor and Rolex for instance). It might be seen as a pitGrand Seiko is now on sale in Seiko boutiques all over the fall to the autonomy of Grand Seiko and its perception world and at luxury retailers’. The initial response has been as a separate brand from Seiko. What is your strategy to good. Grand Seiko first of all attracted truly passionate watch surpass this potential pitfall? lovers, then the media, and finally caught the distributors’ attention. The award won at the Grand I perfectly grasp that from the purely Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in 2014, the branding and marketing perspective the “We want to maintain Petite Aiguille, was very satisfying from two brands ought to be separate. If it was a our particularity as a that point of view. Now, Grand Seiko is a new brand, we would have called it somebrand in its own right. thing else. But we fully assume our heritJapanese watchmaker. age. We figure among the top five brands Our customers are perceived as luxury brands in Japan, even sensitive to the As a part of this strategy, are you gothough several labels co-exist under the ing to launch more complications in the Seiko appellation. We believe that the delicateness of Grand Seiko brand, for example a tourterm ‘Grand’ embodies the idea of luxury. Japanese quality.” billon? You already manage these caAnd after the international launch of this pacities with the Credor brand; will you new strategy, I believe even more strongly transfer them to the Grand Seiko brand? that Grand Seiko is the right name. We mustn’t change its identity, its nature, at any cost! It’s the same thing for you, What I can say is that we’re in the process of developing into with Europa Star: it isn’t a name that automatically calls the luxury watch market at the moment and in the future watchmaking to mind, yet you have a heritage in the induswe’ll no doubt develop into high-end complications. But try that goes back 90 years. Don’t lose your identity, it’s your you have to be aware of the fact that the entire Grand Seiko most valuable asset! philosophy is based on exceptional readability, elegant design and accuracy. We’re concentrating first of all on the quality of the details rather than launching new complica- Japan is a ‘brand’ in itself today, famous for its very elabtions. The Grand Seiko 8-Days is the best illustration of this orate culture and arts all around the world. Would you philosophy. envision incorporating a more Japanese ‘touch’ into the design of the watches, for instance adding more typical patterns and craftsmanship on the dial of the Grand What are the main comparative advantages that you Seiko, which is very minimalist for the moment? would like to emphasise compared to Swiss brands active in the same price point, in order to seduce collectors It’s true that starting in 2000, high-range watchmaking bebut also a wider audience? came more extravagant and we’ve seen many Swiss brands following that trend. Watches are no longer simply an inMy philosophy is that every luxury brand has to fight first of strument for telling the time, they’re fashion objects and all for its own character and identity. How to express it in a subject to trends. It’s a very complicated subject for a brand unique way? The Swiss brands have a large slice of the mar- like Seiko to follow. We keep an eye on the ‘megatrends’, but ket because they’ve developed strong identities. We’re also how do we keep our identity? developing a distinct identity through the three features We want to maintain a delicate balance. If we’re going to cited above: accuracy, readability and beauty. We will carry start competing more on the international markets, we’re through this philosophy to the very end. We want to main- going to have to differentiate – while staying ourselves.
We’re not a Swiss brand and we’re not going to follow the megatrends. I still can’t talk of future developments but I can tell you that we’re always trying to give our watches more of a Japanese ‘flavour’, through the lacquer or the enamel, for example. But it’s very subtle, a tacit statement. The Swiss are more showy, and the customers know the value of it. The Japanese have to explain more about the watch and what makes it special. For the moment, we still sell more Grand Seikos in Japan than on the international market. But we want to go on the offensive and there’s a still a large share of the market to conquer. Maybe it’s a brand philosophy we still need to explain more.
Shuji Takahashi, President and COO of Seiko Holdings
AC ST TI Q RA Z E UI T N SI EG TI Y O O N F S
Unlike its two fellow watchmaking companies which are launching an offensive internationally by moving their own products upmarket, this giant has opted for strategic acquisitions, the latest being the purchase of the watchmaker group Frédérique Constant, following that of Prothor a few years previously. Europa Star met CEO Toshio Tokura during a previous trip, in an interview by Joe Thompson. What we learned then is as relevant as ever. Here are some excerpts. “The foreign-brand buying binge is a sign of changing times at the Citizen Group. The architect of those changes is Toshio Tokura. Since becoming president and CEO of Citizen Holding Co. in April 2012, he has initiated what he calls “drastic” changes that are transforming the group’s watch business. Among the highlights: • He has restored watches to their historic position as the group’s core product and launched what amounts to a “Watches First” growth strategy. • He has refocused on the Citizen brand, attempting to elevate its image by emphasising aesthetics as well as advanced quartz technology. • He has launched a foray into the lucrative luxury-mechanical market with an acquisition strategy designed to turn Citizen into a global, multi-brand watch group with a presence in every price segment. • He is tapping the mechanical-watch expertise of Citizen’s new Swiss subsidiaries to upgrade Citizen’s in-house mechanical watch technology with a view to making mechanical watches in Japan. “Looking at the watch business over the past 20 years, we didn’t see much growth,” he says. “We needed to solve that.” Tokura and his team identified two major opportunities to expand their watch business. One was to boost the image and sales of its core Citizen brand. The other was to take a share of the luxury-mechanical market by acquiring Swiss brands. Citizen flagship store in Tokyo
In the Citizen Group’s annual report for 2012, the company explained why it purchased Prothor Holding (La Joux-Perret and Arnold & Son). “Demand for premium Swiss-made mechanical watches is expanding, particularly in China and other emerging markets,” Citizen said, “and we believe that participating in the premium luxury segment of the watch market is essential for the company to achieve its growth strategy in the watches and clocks segment.” With La Joux-Perret and Arnold & Son, Citizen tiptoed into the world of luxury mechanicals. Arnold & Son, an obscure, small-batch producer of high complication watches, was an add-on. What Citizen really wanted was La Joux-Perret. “The mechanical watch technology – that’s what we were interested in,” Tokura says. For two reasons. First, to protect Bulova. Citizen had purchased the American brand in 2008 to give itself a dominant position in the midrange of the U.S. market. Bulova happens to have a collection of Swiss-made mechanical watches. When ETA, Switzerland’s dominant movement producer, announced its intention to restrict sales of mechanical movements to third parties, Citizen worried about securing movements for Bulova and began shopping for a Swiss movement producer. La JouxPerret solved the problem. It also gave Citizen the chance to revive its own outdated mechanical watch technology. Citizen has produced mechanical watches for nearly a century. However, since the quartz revolution, it has focused primarily on electronic watches. “Our mechanical technology is quite far behind because we stopped developing it,” Tokura says. “We have a lot of catching up to do. There are a lot of things we can learn from the Swiss.” Prothor gave Citizen a toe-hold in the premium luxury market. The next step, Tokura told me, was to “buy a Swiss brand to really give us a footprint in that price range.” Frédérique Constant does that. The company, founded by Peter and Aletta Stas in 1988, is a leader in the so-called “accessible luxury” segment of the market. The core prices of the Frédérique Constant and Alpina brands are primarily between $1,000 and $5,000, with some models costing more than $10,000. The company does not divulge sales data, but FC Holding is substantially larger than Prothor Holding. (In 2009, Kepler Capital Markets estimated Frédérique Constant’s annual sales at CHF 150 million and annual production at 90,000 units.) Frédérique Constant also has significant mechanical watch production capacity. It develops, manufactures and assembles its own calibres, 19 of them since 2004, it says. As with the Prothor Holding acquisition, Citizen will leave Frédérique Constant’s current Swiss management in place. Citizen has plenty to do managing the Citizen brand, Tokura says, without trying to manage four luxury mechanical brands. “We don’t have the experience,” he says with a smile. “We don’t know that world. It’s such a mystery to us.”
A ES K E IN G
RE TR F TH AV LEC W E EL TIO M A J NO NS A TC AP TE A R K H A S O ND E M N N
“Too focused on solar technology” Now at the helm of the Horological Institute of Japan, Etsuro Nakajima worked at Casio for 40 years. He’s seen it all: the creation of digiExports of Swiss watches to Japan seem to have tal quartz watches, the first racing watch with decreased again this year. Rolex, Cartier and intervals, the first Pro Trek with altimeter, the Omega remain the top brands sold in Japan. first radio-controlled watch and finally, the arEtsuro Nakajima, Horological Institute of Japan “Today the Japanese market is less healthy than rival of Bluetooth. the rest of the world,” stresses Kinya Mishima, “In 2007 we began talks with Nokia for a planned a Japanese watch distributor and founder of Les Artisans. smart watch with Bluetooth Low Energy (LE), or Wibree. But There are several reasons for this, in his view: “Many people the project took time because the challenge we needed to overresell their watches on the secondary market, which is gaining come was the watch’s energy consumption and recharging ever greater influence. This is because the retail price was exces- time. The energy consumption needed to be limited. In 2012, sive for new watches. Furthermore, China has raised its taxes the G-Shock GB5600 was our first Bluetooth watch.” and Chinese tourists visiting Japan now often buy one, less ex- In 2015 the launch of the Apple Watch changed everything, in pensive watch, which they wear at all times.” particular for entry-level watch giants such as Casio, but also Mishima, on the other hand, represents artisanal brands such for Fossil and Movado. “The Apple Watch was a game changas Urban Jürgensen, Grönefeld, Speake-Marin, Kees Engelbarts, er, particularly as far as distribution is concerned, because Pierre DeRoche and Nomos Glashütte, as well as having close they sell mainly via their own stores and earn a good margin, ties with Richard Mille’s Japanese distributor. “With my niche whereas traditional watchmakers have to share generally brands, I’m interested in a small minority of highly informed more than half the margin with their representatives. There collectors. In this respect, Japan, which has a long history of will always be physical retailers but they need to modernise.” watchmaking, is an interesting market for small independent For Nakajima, Japanese brands concentrate too much on sobrands.” lar technology. What does he think about the strategy of the major Japanese Their challenge now is to demonstrate their uniqueness and brands to move upmarket? “Seiko is the most likely to suc- show what they can bring to their products that represents ceed,” says Mishima. “In fact, its major local rival, Rolex, has the Japanese way of thinking. adopted a stricter attitude towards powerful local distributors regarding the conditions under which new watches are obtained. Seiko is lying in wait, in order to pounce on those retailers less inclined to this new policy.”
? TS JA HAT IN P A D A N BO EP E UT EN SE D EN
Hajime Asaoka: pure craftsmanship The independent Japanese watchmaker Hajime Asaoka has produced a grand total of... 19 watches! They are the result of meticulous craftsmanship, performed with great patience, combined with several years dedicated solely to research and development. Europa Star met him at his Tokyo workshop, far removed from standardised Japanese factories: rather a motley collection of 1960s-80s objects, not unlike Vianney Halter’s cluttered workshop (see Paraphernalia in our 1/17 edition). An old Apple computer, retro-futuristic chairs, a Michelin man, psychedelic paintings, a Dyson vacuum cleaner, a Sony cassette recorder, the “best in the world”... Asaoka has even had the honour of appearing in a manga with the excellent Hirota Masayuki in Chronos Japan magazine. However, in order to pursue his adventure, this industrial designer faces an even more complicated challenge than his Swiss alter egos. Because unlike in the Swiss valleys, there are very few independent sub-contractors in Japan, those who “feed” the creative work of craftsmen, allowing them to bring their ideas into fruition. The country has never known the Swiss system of établissage or division of labour. So components somehow have to be obtained. “I salvage Unitas movements to use their components, such as the balance spring,” explains Asaoka. “And it’s a subcontractor from the automotive industry who supplies my cases... but I have to finish them myself, of course.” The craftsman, who has good relationships with both Philippe Dufour and Antoine Preziuso (whose work is particularly valued in Japan), is a member of the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants, along with his fellow countryman Masahiro Kikuno. Hajime Asaoka “Tsunami” watch
Minase: from subcontracting to the finished product Asaoka has designed three main models: a simple “Tsunami” watch priced at 25,000 dollars, a “Project T” tourbillon watch at 80,000 dollars and, most interestingly, a chronograph at 120,000 dollars, created from scratch. Each model takes half a year to construct. The watches have a “sensible” diameter of 38 mm, like the creations of Philippe Dufour. “My philosophy is inspired by ‘shogi’, the Japanese chess game,” says Asaoka. “Chess players place their pawns in the most unexpected positions in order to surprise and defeat their opponents. In my work, I try to think outside the box in order to optimise the composition of the watches, as though I were playing a game of chess with my clients. George Daniels has also been a great source of inspiration for me. I have my heart set on optimising every component of a mechanical watch.” The watchmaker crafts all the movement components in his watches himself, with the exception of the mainspring and the balance spring. “I have no samples to show and a two-year waiting list. I can’t even treat myself to one of my own watches!” His clients are not only Japanese, but also European and American. His current maximum capacity is five watches per year. “But we’re currently increasing production. We want to double it, to 10 watches a year! In order to do this, we’re in the process of acquiring new machines and hiring staff, whereas there are currently four of us. We’re growing... in any case we couldn’t really get any smaller!”
Minase is the name of a village in the snowy region of Akita in northern Japan. It is also that of a subcontractor which since 1960 has specialised in the production of drills and cases and employs around 70 people. In 2005 the company decided to launch its own watches. These have met with critical success in Japan, with an annual production of approximately 400 pieces sold at 40 retail outlets. It’s now time to conquer the international markets! “Minase has a strong reputation for the quality of its finishings and the polishing technique known as ‘Sallaz’, which gives cases a mirror effect that nobody is producing in Switzerland any more,” notes sales and marketing manager Sven Erik Henriksen. Subcontracting still represents 80% of Minase’s activities. “As far as watches are concerned, the mid-range offer is positioned at between 2,500 and 5,000 Swiss francs. The idea is now to present the brand in Switzerland, Europe and the Middle East. The challenge is that the brand is still unknown outside of Japan and the watch market it is targeting is already saturated! But it is really a high quality product, the very best craftsmanship: a piece of Japan worn on the wrist!”
Suzuki Kango has created a clock that “writes” the time. This project is called “kakitokei”, which means “writing clock” in Japanese, but it is commonly known as the Plock. The name is a combination of “plot” and “clock” already hinting at how the time of day is displayed. The whimsical creation is the work of the extremely talented Suzuki Kango of the Tohoku University of Art and Design. The Plock was made to fulfil his senior thesis. The contraption is part time keeper, part writing device. Each minute, the wooden mechanism kicks into motion, engaging with the writing arms that then write the time on a magnetic board. The Plock is a massive accomplishment by the 22-year-old student, who does not have immediate plans to commercialise his creation.
Tasaki is a Japanese jeweller that also produces exceptional mechanical pieces. And it was Hajime Asaoka himself who created the delicate Odessa Tourbillon model.
Knot is a brand that seems to be achieving remarkable success in Japan. As the founders explain, the Knot project began with redefining the watch manufacturing industry in Japan, which had shifted to overseas production, to return to factories in Japan, where outstanding technicians and materials gather. “We are involved in all aspects, from the designing and planning to delivery of parts, assembly, and sales. Because we do not use intermediaries, even if we use high quality materials with high costs, we can provide watches from around 10,000 yen. For example, the glass we use is durable sapphire glass, which is not easily damaged and is also used for luxury Swiss watches.” The brand offers custom orders selected from over 8,000 types (straps, materials, colours,…). Eventually, Knot aims to reduce prices by a third with a new way of distribution. Wired is highly valued by young Japanese people. It is one of numerous brands overseen by the giant Seiko, distributed in Japan and Taiwan only
Tokyoflash has designed a unique collection of futuristic watches with integrated technology that make art out of telling time. As the brand’s name suggests, flash is the name of the game. In this case, it’s telling the time using LED lights. One model is the Kisai Blade Wood, which has two different ways to display the time. The watch truly comes to life through its animations. When turned on, the vivid LED blades rotate rapidly once every 15 minutes, between 6 and 12 o’clock. You will be able to enjoy the flash of this watch for up to one month at a time, which is its battery life after only a 3.5 hour charge (via USB). Unfortunately the Kisai Link does not have the same endurance. It takes 1.5 hours to charge and will last up to 5 days. The watches bring flash and functionality at a surprisingly low cost of around 150 USD. While the watches might not be for everyone, their price point certainly is..
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PH PA N D I A U L : M F IP A O P ST U E E R
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Having seen the portrait of the watchmaker Philippe Dufour, who hails from the Swiss canton of Vaud, at the Seiko research and development studios, Europa Star had the privilege of meeting Yoshi Isogai, owner of the Shellman watch boutique in Tokyo and the exclusive distributor of Philippe Dufour watches in Japan. Put simply, out of the 200 Simplicity models produced by Dufour, Isogai has sold... 127! How did Philippe Dufour achieve such a status in Japan, his market of choice? “At the beginning, in 2000, the challenge was to convince collectors that Philippe Dufour models could be worth twice the price of a Patek Philippe for example, by explaining the traditional craftsmanship involved in producing them.” To do this, Isogai distributed images of the components crafted and assembled by hand by the watchmaker in the Vallée de Joux, without the use of machines. “We were aided in this communication work on behalf of Philippe Dufour by the Japanese media and journalists who were able to understand what is so special about him. In particular, a
programme shown on the national public television channel made him famous in Japan.” And that’s not all, continues Isogai: while the watch itself is attractive as an object, the simple, authentic personality of Philippe Dufour is, too. “Collectors began wanting to wear an object created by a craftsman like him. Furthermore, the Simplicity’s small diameter of 34 mm also made it ideal for the Japanese market.” The value of models created by Philippe Dufour has never stopped growing, as demonstrated by their popularity at auction: at the watch sales held by Phillips in New York at the end of October, a Duality model (in platinum, with serial number 00) was sold for nearly a million dollars. The collector who had purchased it for 150,000 dollars a decade ago made a decent margin. Nonetheless, the watchmaker is in no hurry. “I have a long waiting list of clients waiting for his future watches,” says Isogai, gazing dreamily at a black and white portrait of the “master”.
Duality by Philippe Dufour
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Is the Swiss watchmaking industry doing its bit for the environment? Ten years ago, the answer was a definite ‘no’. Things have improved since then, however. Today, no self-respecting brand is without its Sustainable Development Department or similar. But even where there have been tangible results, they barely get a mention. The reason is that horology is all about selling dreams, not environmental activism. But with the arrival of Generation Xers and Millennials – and their high expectations in this respect – change is now on its way. 56
re you clean, green, CSR, SD, and eco-friendly with it? Nowadays, watchmaking brands take such questions extremely seriously. This marks a change from the old days, when all it took to be green was a few beehives making honey out the front. Of course, bees are important – but they rather pale into insignificance beside the 10.6 tonnes of batteries recycled last year by the Swatch Group.
How to take a stand (or avoid taking one) Environmental responsibility (to use a catch-all phrase) naturally starts much higher up watchmaking firms’ value chains. Indeed, few CEOs still attempt to get by with nothing more than the bland assertion – almost a sophistry – that mechanical watches are built to last for centuries and are thus intrinsically sustainable. Nowadays, annual reports and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) address the issue in depth. These are effective – perhaps too much so, since brands now take refuge behind all this material to avoid making any further statements on the topic. The Swatch Group, for instance, devotes 6 of the 244 pages of its annual report to environmental matters. For its part, Kering has a 25-page report – but has not shrunk from speaking out, either. “Sustainable development is a source of innovation and creativity,” says Marie-Claire Daveu, the company’s Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of International Institutional Affairs. “It nurtures collaboration, connectivity, and transparency. The only difficulty is that of reconciling the brand’s long-term time frame with consumers’ short-term vision.”
Sustainable or desirable? Why not both? Ma
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In actual fact, there are many potential pitfalls. First and foremost, environmental responsibility involves processes and traceability. This is a far cry from the watchmaking marketing-speak of “historic timepieces exuding timeless elegance”. In other words, industrial production of the stuff of dreams is a delicate task – and selling it is more delicate still. Many are of the opinion that sustainable development is anything but the stuff of dreams. What is more, consumers are disinclined to be keen on sustainable development, simply because its benefits lie well beyond their own lifetimes. Helping to prevent a 1.5 degree rise in temperature in the next century is all very well – but doesn’t really boost watch sales in the here and now.
Stéphane Truchi, Managing Director of opinion pollsters IFOP, has clearly grasped this. He believes that environmental responsibility doesn’t sell – as yet – because it isn’t sexy enough. According to him, “the challenge is to link desirability with sustainability. When it comes to luxury items, the case for these two factors going hand in hand needs to be more clearly made.” Louis Vuitton’s Environment Manager Sandrine Noel agrees: “Today, consumers have clearly expressed expectations in this respect. Our sales staff have come to see sustainable development as an asset: a great story to tell. Brands engaging in sustainable development in both word and deed are more desirable – it helps them come across as more authentic and less pretentious.” And that’s the key. For environmental responsibility to encompass the world of luxury, including watchmaking, it needs to be made desirable – and be authentic. It also needs to be accessible: ecological progress will only really happen once very large numbers of people are committed to it.
A question of certification The issue of whether sustainable watchmaking is accessible is a vast one. Naturally, the product itself and its price are the first things that spring to mind. Chopard, for instance, has timepieces whose gold is certified as being “Fairmined”. This remarkable initiative is the first of its kind – and a great success. The manufacture offers new pieces bearing this label every year – and has been increasing output in response to growing demand. Kering has followed suit: some of its brands have similar certification backed by Solidaridad, an NGO. When it comes to diamonds, almost all brands have adopted the Kimberley traceability process, working alongside the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), the authority when it comes to stemming the tide of blood diamonds. These types of certification are vital – and “not as easy as all that to obtain”, confides Chopard’s co-President Karl-Friedrich Scheufele. However, sustainable horology is about much more than the product itself: there are also stores, packaging, the types of paper used, CO2 emissions and so on to be thought about.
Awaiting Xers and Yers
Worthwhile but little-known initiatives Although watchmaking brands say little about such matters, several of them are in fact doing very well in this respect. At Girard-Perregaux and Ulysse Nardin, all paper sourcing is carefully controlled, and 50% of the paper used is recycled. 100% of all Gucci bags are recycled, too. In Japan, the watchmaking giant Seiko banned chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as early as 1993; in 2006, it got rid of all traces of lead from its quartz movements, and two years later dispensed with mercury in its batteries. It’s worth pointing out that by contrast, some of the larger Swiss companies have obtained derogations to exempt them from commitments of this type, many of which are now mandatory for products distributed within the EU. Further upstream, the main source of leverage for environmentally responsible watchmaking is production itself. Here again, little is said by brands, since they do not believe that doing so will increase their desirability. Louis Vuitton’s Sandrine Noel begs to differ, though. “Generation Xers and Millennials clearly have fresh expectations in this realm”. These new expectations are now being further amplified through social media. Nowadays, animal rights groups such as PETA and L214 enjoy broad support beyond their wildest dreams of yore, as shown by how extremely rare it now is to find any young people keen to have genuine fur. While fur may not be a sensitive issue for watchmakers, leather is very much a part of the business. For Kering, the use and processing of leather accounts for a whopping 24% of the group’s environmental impact. As a result, the firm has implemented practical measures to address this state of affairs: these include tanning that does not use heavy metals, insourcing the tanning process, and applying draconian selection criteria for partners. The next step is probably to move to plant-based leather. The latter has yet to reach the world of watchmaking, but has already been adopted by at least one brand that tends to set the pace for luxury goods: Tesla. As of this summer, the electric carmaker has abandoned animal leather in favour of vegan leather for all its vehicles – without exception. That hasn’t stopped it from selling the stuff of dreams – and cars with a price tag of $150,000 – which may give watchmakers pause for thought.
Emissions – of all types – are another major concern for the watchmaking industry. The Swatch Group is seeking to cut its energy use between 2013 and 2020, thus reducing its CO2 emissions by 27%, at the same time as improving its energy efficiency by 8%. Many brands, such as TAG Heuer and Hublot, are also developing a taste for deploying solar panels on their roofs. The independents are not short on ideas, either. Christophe Claret, for instance, has swapped his firm’s fuel oil boiler for a gas-powered one, at the same time as installing a clever system to recover the excess heat given off by machinery to warm the buildings. Not so far away, Ulysse Nardin has done the same thing. Similarly, Agenhor has built its offices to benefit from the best possible exposure to sunlight, facilitating natural temperature control. IWC, meanwhile, has taken a different tack: all the energy purchased by the firm comes from renewable sources. Chopard and Hublot have also renovated their facilities recently; both firms have acquired Minergie or High Energy Performance certification in the process.
The Audemars Piguet Minergie-ECO® manufacture in Le Brassus. Is there anything to be ashamed of here? Should such initiatives be concealed at all costs? Of course not! The fact is, though, that they are little known – or indeed entirely unbeknown – to the general public, since they are not seen as contributing to “desirability”. Watchmaking is naturally conservative, and sells dreams; the view is that environmental responsibility is not something we dream about. That way of thinking has had its day, though. The time is now at hand when generations X, Y, and Z will indeed be dreaming of a better future.
FI PA G RL HT IA IN M EN
ni “I on SU D sE I D pi C N so H O de 3 A T TO E U NV G IS H A G
JEAN-DANIEL PASCHE President, Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH In my view, the more stringent definition of Swiss Made set out in the text which entered into force on 1 January 2017 is the best solution that could finally be achieved in the prevailing economic and legal environment. To obtain still more, the original legislation adopted in 1971 would have had to be more ambitious. But at that time, it was sufficient to fit a Swiss movement for the watch to be Swiss Made, no matter where it was cased up. Since the degree of protection was so low, it became difficult to correct the provisions and make them more stringent because of globalisation, the roots in international law and the business models that have developed in the meantime. The 1971 definition was obviously unsatisfactory. Some Swiss Made watches had never seen Switzerland, even from a distance. We had to battle with the EEC, as it then was (now the EU), to obtain a revised regulation which entered into force in 1992, with a transitional period of five years; this revised text introduced the requirements of assembly and final inspection in Switzerland. Despite this 1992 review, the definition of the label still did not satisfy everyone: that was only normal as no account whatever was taken of the exterior parts, but the watch industry as a whole was unwilling to go any further at that time.
When I became President of the FH in 2002, I noted with other watch industry stakeholders that opinions had moved on, and it might now be opportune to strengthen Swiss Made. We had to take advantage of a margin for manoeuvre, admittedly narrow, between the rules of free trade, including those of the WTO, the foreseeable reactions of the EU and European watch industry partners and opposition from within the industry. In the end, the FH adopted a draft which made provision for a rate of 80% for mechanical products and 60% for other watch industry products. I did not envisage such a tough fight in Parliament, nor did I expect the FH to find itself isolated within the economic world, almost alone in advocating a rate of 60% while practically all other sectors of industry were content with 50%. Be that as it may, we won the day, not without real suspense over the outcome because there was a majority of just one vote in the Council of States. On the other hand, we had to abandon the rate of 80% because that was judged by the Federal authorities to be a protectionist measure, incompatible with the WTO agreements. In the end, some companies complain that the new label is still too weak while others say it is too stringent: that is proof of a sound compromise, secured through taking full advantage of the available margin for manoeuvre. A label which covers an entire industry and all price ranges can be no more than a lowest common denominator and cannot satisfy everyone. For my part, I thought it important for the rate to exceed 50% to enable us to lay claim to a clear majority of Swiss value: that is the message we can now send to consumers!
More on the question of “Swiss made” from another opinion leader in the next issue of Europa Star!
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like Hong Kong. I love the vibrant ambience in the streets, the shops and the malls, the Temple Street Night Market, the hubbub around the food stalls in the narrow streets festooned with washing and exterior air-conditioning units, the retro-style trams, the Star Ferry, Victoria Peak and the view from Kowloon across the harbour. If you’re there for the HKTDC Watch & Clock Fair in September you can sit in the bar of the Harbour View Hotel with a gin and tonic and enjoy watching fatuous foreigners slither across the aqueous pavements testing the veracity of the inevitable typhoon’s force. There’s a covered walkway that leads from the hotel to the Convention Centre and it was there that I heard an all too familiar cry, “Aha, Lakin, I here.” And sure enough, in the midst of the bustling crowd, there was U. Hueng Loe waving some papers in my direction with one hand and pointing to a quieter spot close to the steps of the Centre. I like U., but I’m not sure if he’s a genuine oddball, a hustler, conman or a man of many unorthodox parts, but whenever I see him he has some weird and wonderful idea like last year’s endeavour to sell a handless watch for its tick. As usual he was very excited and after his usual quick head bow and a high-five he started whispering as if he was about to impart some state secrets.
“You know Mouse’s chis wash?” “Mouse’s chis wash?” “You not know chis wash from Mouse’s company in Swisserland?” “You mean Moser’s cheese watch?” suddenly realising he was talking about the million franc watch with a case made from Vacheron Mont d’Or cheese and resin. “Thas what I say no?” “Yes, U. I know the watch. Why?” “I have glate idee for China vershon.” “You mean a Chinese cheese watch?” “No, no cheese, something more smelly than chis.” “What’s more smelly than cheese?” I asked “Aha, you ask thousan dolla quesshon.” “So tell me U.” Checking that nobody was listening, U. whispered “皮蛋” I repeated what I thought he said, “Pidan?” “Yes, pidan,” he repeated as if I should know what he was talking about. “What’s pidan U.?” “You no know famous pidan?” U. asked with an air of disbelief. “No, I’m sorry. What is it?” “Famous China delicacy. Thousand year ol egg. I go to make wash with thousan year ol egg!” “You’re joking right U.?” “No, no joke. Packing design leady with clispy noodle basket with Chinese pancake for lapping paper. Working on wash now but is not easy, colour is problem for eggs gleen, blown and black. But we find solushon soon.” “Aren’t they too runny U.?” “Not on movement yet.” “I mean the eggs being runny, not the movement .” “Ah ha Lakin, I make yoke - that another one ha. So what you think about my wash - you want invest?” “As the song goes, I think you better think it out again.” “You no like eggs?” “Yes U. But to eat, U., to eat.” “I sorry for you, washes in chis and eggs are the fusha.” With that U. Hueng Loe disappeared into the Trade Fair clearly with great eggspectations.
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became aware that sundial mottos were a thing earlier this year, listening to the wonderful and disturbing podcast S-Town. The hero, if you can call him that, of this documentary series, John B. McLemore, is an antiquarian horologist – a clock repairer and restorer, who, it is mentioned in one episode, took almost thirty years to handcraft a sundial for his old chemistry professor, calibrated to the exact latitude of his house. The earliest known sundial is from Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, and dates from ca. 1500 BC. But it was probably around AD 1500 that sundials began to be inscribed with mottos. Some are in the local language, but many are in Latin, taken from the Bible or from classical texts, or perhaps just translated into Latin to lend them more gravitas. What’s different, and fascinating, about these sundial mottos, compared with the maxims of ancient families or venerable institutions, is their tone. Rather than being pious and sanctimonious, they are often cynical, world-weary and nihilistic. They also show that people have been worrying about roughly the same kinds of things for a very long time. Many of them are familiar: sic transit gloria mundi (thus passes the glory of the world), tempus fugit (time flies) and carpe diem (seize the day). Some manage to condense a similar sentiment into a catchy if depressing little nugget: ita vita (thus is life),
sumus fumus (we are smoke) or festina mox nox (hurry, the night comes). One episode of S-Town is entitled “Tedious and brief”, which is another way of putting it. Some of these mottos could have been designed to warn about ill-advised Facebook posts: post voluptatem misericordia (after pleasure comes pain) and pereunt & imputantur (the hours vanish, yet remain on record). There’s also a caution for those who spend too much time on social media in general: bulla est vita humana (the life of man is a bubble). Clearly, mediaeval peasants were as familiar as we are with the dangers of distraction and the evils of procrastination. Latin lends itself to shouty exhortations to stop messing about and get on with it, like an Old Testament prophet or, perhaps, your mum: mora trahit periculum (delay brings danger), aut disce, aut discede (either learn or go), and aspiciendo senesces (thou growest old in looking). One of my favourites, in the Languedoc dialect, goes: “Arresto ti passant, regardo quantes d’ouro, et fouto mi lou camp,” which roughly translates as: “Stop a moment, traveller, look at the time, and then piss off”! But sometimes you just have to stop worrying, relax and enjoy the ride. Festina lente (make haste slowly) is a rather Zen approach to passing time. Another is Autant boire ici qu’ailleurs – here is as good a place as any to have a drink. Cheers!
A last word to start WATCHES AND FETISHISM BY PIERRE MAILLARD
es, Paul Newman was an excellent actor, a good director and a nice guy. And yes, the Paul Newman is a decent watch, and it gave its name to the most famous and most desirable Daytona. But. While the stratospheric and indeed barely credible price that this nostalgic chronograph achieved is good news for the watch industry in general, demonstrating that its magical power of attraction remains undiminished in spite of technological obsolescence, the 17.8 million dollars shelled out by the buyer of THE Paul Newman mark the triumph of fetishism. Recently, a 1969 model identical in almost every way to Paul Newman’s Paul Newman – although in far better condition – was sold for USD 175,000. It’s a very good price, but it’s just one-hundredth of the price of the watch that was anointed by the sweat of the actor himself. He made those scratches; the acidity of his skin caused those little spots of oxidation; and his eyes – his beautiful, piercing blue eyes! – admired it, checked it and caressed it. Which is tantamount to saying that 99% of this watch’s value comes from the tenuous traces of a vanished moment in time. Pure fetishism, in other words. Officially, fetishism is defined as “worship of an inanimate object for its supposed magical powers.” It’s a faith upon which few sale-room bidders care to base their calculations or measure their delirium. What Edgar Morin had to say about preciously guarded family photos is equally applicable to objects like the Paul Newman watch: “fetish, souvenir, mute presence, like relics, faded flowers, preciously hoarded handkerchiefs, locks of hair...” There’s definitely a touch of the macabre in fetishism. A touch of the erotic, also. It’s an unsatisfied eroticism, or perhaps, an eroticism that can only be satisfied in the absence of a subject, losing itself in the object. At least now, I can put a price on Newmanian nostalgia. But, to take a different example, I don’t personally know the price of a lock of Napoleon’s hair(*). Perhaps it fluctuates according to the currents of time and fashion, depending on whether a major anniversary is around the corner. That seems likely. But what will happen in a century or two, when the name of Paul Newman means nothing to any save a few obscure archivists of 20th-century cinema? A forgotten demigod, whose worshippers are all dead. But it’s a safe bet that, in the meantime, the happy (?) owner of the Newman will have sold it on and pocketed the added value, whatever that might be, that all fetishists hope to redeem one day. Nevertheless, obscure and penniless fetishists such as we have our small compensations. We can still afford a Paul Newman pizza, or, to give it its correct nomenclature, a “Newman’s Own Organics” pizza, or even Newman’s Own pretzels, popcorn, or mayonnaise, if the fancy takes us. We could also steam off the labels and collect them in a binder! And we can tell ourselves at the same time that we’re making the world a better place because, as the label tells us, it’s “100% Profits to Charity”.
(*) In fact, we do know the price of Napoleon’s hair. In 2015, Jérôme De Witt bought two locks. For the first (with an estimate of €3,000 to €5,000) he paid €16,750, and for the second (estimate €1,500 to €2,000), he coughed up €12,880. That makes 29,000 euros worth of Napoleon’s hair, which ended up sealed under a watch crystal. 66
28th SALON I N T E R N AT I O N A L DE LA HAUTE HORLOGERIE OPEN TO THE PUBLIC FRIDAY 19 JANUARY Registration at sihh.org
GENEVA, FROM 15 TO 19 JANUARY 2018 A. LANGE & SÖHNE | AUDEMARS PIGUET | BAUME & MERCIER | CARTIER GIRARD-PERREGAUX | GREUBEL FORSEY | HERMÈS | IWC | JAEGER-LECOULTRE MONTBLANC | PANERAI | PARMIGIANI FLEURIER | PIAGET | RICHARD MILLE ROGER DUBUIS | ULYSSE NARDIN | VACHERON CONSTANTIN | VAN CLEEF & ARPELS CARRÉ DES HORLOGERS ARMIN STROM | CHRISTOPHE CLARET | DEWITT FERDINAND BERTHOUD | F.P. JOURNE | GRÖNEFELD | H. MOSER & CIE HAUTLENCE | HYT | KARI VOUTILAINEN | LAURENT FERRIER | MB&F | RESSENCE ROMAIN GAUTHIER | RJ-ROMAIN JEROME | SPEAKE-MARIN | URWERK
EUROPE N°344 & INTERNATIONAL N°397 Two folios – Not sold separately
Floral skeleton mechanical movement. 18K white gold, set with diamonds. Fine Watchmaking movement designed and developed by CHANEL Swiss Manufacture.
| ON ITI ED AL OB GL
G-SHOCK THE WORLD FOR 35 YEARS The G-SHOCK revolutionised the face of the global watch industry.
T AP CH 5 ER 7 01 .2 II LIO FO
2018 marks the 35th anniversary of G-SHOCK, with a whole series of innovations to be unveiled all year long. Featured on the Cover of this issue, the MRG-G2000HT combines the best of Japanese traditional craftsmanship with cutting-edge technology. The GPS Hybrid Wave Ceptor technology ensures the watch remains accurate in any location on Earth, under virtually any conditions. The watch also showcases the distinctive kasumi tsuchime technique, first used over 1200 years ago to decorate armour and copperware. The bezels and strap inserts of each of the 500 watches in this limited edition are worked by master craftsman Bihou Asano of Kyoto, whose family has safeguarded the tsuchime tradition for generations. This extremely limited edition provides a foretaste of what we can expect in the future.
CHRONOS… TIME: LONG TO SHORT The chronograph imposed itself as THE watch of "the modern man".
PART I: 1964, A TURNING POINT IN CHRONOMETRY FOR SEIKO
CASIO 6-2, Hon-Machi 1-chome / Shibuya 151-0071 Tokyo / Japan Tel. : +81353344111 Corporate: world.casio.com WORLD G-SHOCK: world.g-shock.com
A FORGOTTEN CONSEQUENCE OF THE KOREAN WAR The 1952 export quotas.
WATCHMAKING IN THE DESIGN ERA An exclusive interview with Davide Cerrato.
WATCH AUCTIONS: THREE DECADES OF A LEGEND PART II The 2000s saw the arrival of “modern” brands in the watch auctions.
FABERGÉ'S DETERMINED FAIRY An exclusive interview with Aurélie Picaud.
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Tambour Horizon Your journey, connected.
WHO ARE THE BRANDS’ MAIN COMPETITORS?
BY SERGE MAILLARD
he sale of a Paul Newman Daytona for 17 million dollars is just the tip of the iceberg. The vintage (and second-hand) market is stealing a march on the contemporary watch business. What we are now seeing in the watch market has already transformed the art market. On the one hand, you have sales by the big auction houses, which are sustained by a variety of phenomena: genuine collectors, genuine investors… This has all conspired to generate a new kind of customer – more mature but equally wealthy – who is looking for that rare pearl of great price. And on the other hand, person-to-person and agency-to-consumer sales are exploding on platforms such as Chrono24, eBay and Amazon. While you’ll no doubt find it impossible to get rid of your iPhone 4 in a few years’ time, a 1970s watch in good condition offered for sale by some guy in Dallas, may well catch the eye of a budding young collector in London. When it comes to watches, every Homo sapiens is faced with two questions (and most will spend very little time pondering them...). First: should I wear a watch? And second: should I get one from a local shop, or should I order one (perhaps second-hand) online? To be cynical, Swiss watchmakers have been honest to a fault. They have never subscribed to the builtin obsolescence adopted by Apple and Samsung, because back in the day that concept would have been unthinkable. High-quality watch movements were built to last a lifetime. Historically, that was the creed of the industry. The result is that that fifty-year-old construction of cogs and gears, if it has been correctly maintained, can still be passed down from father to son, as the adverts suggest – or from person to person online. All these sales completely bypass the brand whose name is on the dial. E-commerce is fast becoming a fact of life, even where watches are concerned. Leading the charge are vintage watches, which younger generations are buying with increasing confidence, in terms of both authenticity and condition. There’s a whole new sector of the market, defined by the marriage of a new technology (the internet) with a very old one (mechanical watchmaking), which lies completely outside the purview of contemporary watch companies. You may be feeling quite smug about your new iPhone X right now, but in ten years’ time we’ll all be laughing at them. But who will be laughing at your lovely El Primero? Certainly not Zenith... particularly if you sell it to someone who, if you hadn’t placed your online ad, might have made the effort to go and buy one from a brand boutique. Some initiatives are beginning to see the light of day, although they are still few and far between. Vacheron Constantin is one of the few brands with its own vintage department, enabling it to set the terms of how its own back catalogue is marketed. Will others join the fray? It’s unclear. Second-hand watch sales are something of a digital jungle today, and it’s difficult to know where to start. More and more retailers, however, are beginning to offer second-hand watches, sometimes alongside contemporary collections. They’re hoping to get themselves a slice of the action.
Style is automatic. TISSOT everytime swissmatic. UP TO 3 DAYS OF POWER RESERVE.
#ThisIsYourTime TI S S OT WATC H E S .CO M TISSOT, INNOVATORS BY TRADITION
The MR-G is the premium line in metal of the G-SHOCK watch. It is as reliable as the iconic watch and fuses Japanese technologies and craftsmanship.
THE WORLD FOR 35 YEARS BY SERGE MAILLARD
2018 is the 35th anniversary of a watch icon, the G-SHOCK, which revolutionised the face of a global industry, and which has just shipped its one-hundredmillionth unit. Built around the concept of strength, its bold and distinctive style has introduced legions of young people to the joy of wearing a watch. The G-SHOCK has played a part in many people’s lives, acting as a sort of watch nursery, and the entire industry has reaped the benefits! It is now going premium with the MR-G and G-Steel lines. The dream of Mr Ibe Who better to talk about the G-SHOCK than its creator, Kikuo Ibe? Europa Star went to meet him in Japan. “Exactly 36 years ago, I dropped the watch my father had given me, and it smashed into a thousand pieces,” explains the affable inventor. “From that time on, I was obsessed with building an indestructible watch!” This marked the start of the epic journey that would lead to the conception of the G-SHOCK. “In the beginning, I would throw my prototypes out of the window of the Casio building, using rubber to protect them. Eventually, I started protecting the prototypes’ individual components, so that I could reduce its size. But some of them still didn’t survive.” The revelation came one day as he was walking in a park. “I saw a girl playing with a rubber ball... Suddenly the solution was obvi-
ous: I had to make the watch movement ‘float’! So we developed a shock resistant structure with certain contact points. The first G-SHOCK was finally launched in 1983.” His goal had been achieved, and even the workers on the building site opposite the Casio building could wear the watch with complete peace of mind. “The G-SHOCK has become the world’s strongest watch.” Commercial success was virtually instantaneous. Its unusual design proved widely popular, particularly with a younger clientele. “As far as the design of the watch was concerned, the challenge was to express all the technology the model used to make it so strong,” the inventor continues. “In a way, we had to combine form and function.” Each watch encompasses seven elements; electric shock resistance, gravity resistance, low temperature resistance, vibration resistance, water resistance, shock resistance and toughness. Casio innovations and technologies to prevent it from suffering direct shock include internal components protected with urethane and suspended timekeeping modules inside the watch structure. “In 1994 we set ourselves a new challenge: developing a new, dressier version of the G-SHOCK. That meant making it out of metal,” Kikuo Ibe tells us. “I started the project with eight young engineers. But it was difficult to find an effective way to protect the metal case and bracelet.” This time, the team found their solution by looking to the automobile industry. Car bumpers provided the inspiration for developing a way of protecting the watch bezel. Casio’s ultimate metal watch – the MR-G – was finally born. Kikuo Ibe confides his ultimate dream: “What I’d like to do now is make a watch that will work in space, but this project hasn’t yet got off the ground!” So, in the meantime, back on Earth, Casio is embarking upon a special series of events, with a special series of watches to celebrate the anniversary of its icon. From New York to Tokyo, via London, there are plenty of surprises in store.
A visit to Yamagata
the most appropriate system for the conditions, and supplies the correct time and daylight saving information for the current This is a crucial time for the brand, which is hoping the con- time zone. The companion MR-G Connected smartphone app tinually evolving G-Steel and MR-G lines will take it upmar- provides additional functionality, with World Time for over 300 ket (see our article in Time.Business). The present author has cities, automatic time adjustment and watch status display, over fond memories of the G-SHOCK he, like many of his adolescent a Bluetooth connection. friends, wore in the 1990s. The aim now is to continue to meet But the premium MR-G range is not just about high-tech. It also the expectations of these maturing customers, while appealing showcases the distinctive kasumi tsuchime technique, first used to new generations. over 1200 years ago to decorate armour and copperware. The bezIt’s a challenge on a number of levels, but they can all be summed els and strap inserts of each of the 500 watches in this limited ediup in one generic term: integration. Integration of increasingly tion are worked by master craftsman Bihou Asano of Kyoto, whose luxurious materials in the watch case; integration of traditional family has safeguarded the tsuchime tradition for generations. The Japanese arts such as tsuchime; integration of new designs; inte- age-old metal-hammering technique uses deft strokes of a special gration of new Bluetooth connection technolotool to impart a distinctive pattern to the metal gies as seen in smartwatches – all this in the surface. Here, the technique used on the bezel It’s not until you “smartest” possible way, so as not to dilute the and centre band leaves eye-shaped indentations visit Casio’s flagship highly distinctive identity of G-SHOCK. that ensure that no two watches are exactly alike. It’s not until you visit Casio’s flagship factory in After hammering, the forge-cast titanium is subfactory in Yamagata Yamagata that you really grasp the Japanese jected to a deep layer-hardening process, and a that you really watchmaker’s hitting power. Some 2.6 million blue DLC (diamond-like carbon) coating is apgrasp the Japanese watches per year are produced by around 300 plied to the bezel, case back and metal plate at people. The level of automation is impressive; watchmaker’s hitting 10 o’clock. As well as improving abrasion resistthe systems are engineered to get the best out ance, it provides an opportunity to apply colour power. The future of of both man and machine. The future of the to selected parts of the watch. Casio has develthe G-SHOCK lies G-SHOCK lies within these white walls. Testing is oped a unique shade called Japan Blue, based on a crucial element. More than 170 tests are carried the Japanese indigo hue familiar from traditional within these white out on the brand’s various models. Let’s not fordyed fabrics. Achieving this unique deep shade walls. Testing is a get that, back in 1974, the Casiotron was already relies on a complex and labour-intensive process, crucial element. capable of surviving a fall of 10 metres. Over made even more difficult by the irregularities in the years, an ever more elaborate structure has the hammered surface. been developed to protect the G-SHOCK. Today, for example, the Casio continues to innovate with the G-SHOCK, providing models GPW-2000 Gravitymaster contains more than 400 components. for every price bracket. As Ryusuke Moriai, manager of the watch design, points out: “With the connected G-Steel for instance, the challenge is to create a steel design that fits the G-Shock line. Our The MR-G: an alliance of technology goal is to come up with a completely different design. We chaland craftsmanship lenged ourselves to use just straight lines and circles. We think we have achieved a kind of ‘primitive beauty’ with our watches. It’s all about combining the best of Japanese traditional crafts- It was never our intention to focus on functionality. We wanted to manship with cutting-edge technology. So let’s take a closer show that the watch is connected. We designed a rotating wheel look at what is probably today’s best example of this fusion of inspired by the jet engine.” The GST-B100X is a special model, the possible: the MRG-G2000HT, pictured on the front page of equipped with a unique carbon, a combination of state-of-the art this issue. This extremely limited edition provides a foretaste of Tray Industries TORAYCA®*1 and NANOALLOY®*2 that results in a what we can expect from Casio in the future. bezel with outstanding shock resistance characteristics, made of “The MR-G is now the flagship series of the G-Shock collection,” 37 layers of carbon. This tough model fits the G-Shock concept, notes Chief Engineer Singo Ishizaka. “And we keep enhancing and is a reliable companion even in the most extreme weather. its quality: titanium is used in the case and band. MR-G watches are scratch-resistant. Now they also feature Japanese crafts- *1 TORAYCA®: High-performance carbon fibre material by Toray Industries is used in a manship. Mr Bihou Asano is a master of the ancient technique wide range of applications, including: aerospace, high-pressure vessels, wind power generation, automobiles, bicycles, golf club shafts, fishing rods, and more. of hammering metal. There are many types of hammer tone in *2 NANOALLOY®: Original Toray Industries nanometre structure control technology makes Japan. We chose a pattern in the form of a wave.” it possible to combine multiple polymers on a nano-metric scale (one billionth of a The MRG-G2000HT features the GPS Hybrid Wave Ceptor tech- metre) for performance that is far superior to previous types of materials. This polymeric nology to ensure the watch remains accurate in any location material enables high performance and high function that was previously not possible on Earth, under virtually any conditions. The watch receives with standard micron order (one millionth of a metre) alloys. standard time information via terrestrial radio waves, GPS satellite signals and, now, Bluetooth transmission. The watch selects
CRAFTSMANSHIP Mr Bihou Asano is a master of the ancient technique of hammering metal, used on the bezel and strap inserts of the MRG-G2000HT.
HIGH-TECH The Yamagata factory in northern Japan is at the heart of the G-SHOCK's current and future developments.
Resisting the shocks of nature Speaking of extreme conditions, the GPW-2000 G-SHOCK Gravitymaster has been designed with the needs of aircraft pilots in mind. As well as supremely accurate timekeeping, the GPW-2000 offers superior shock resistance to cope with extreme altitude and speed. The Triple-G construction provides protection from three types of gravitational stress – external shocks, centrifugal force and vibrations – and an anti-magnetic plate within the module prevents the hands from being moved as a result of magnetic forces. The case is constructed from carbon fibre, a material extensively used in aircraft for its superior strength and lightness, with the additional protection of FRP (Fine Resin Parts) both within the watch’s frame and at the ends of strap, to strengthen stress points and provide further vibration resistance. Optimum readability under difficult conditions is assured by bold phosphorescent hour markers and dashes of red, all within a dramatic multi-layered 3D dial. The low specific gravity of the vermilion carbon fibre second hand makes it possible to increase its size while maintaining impact resistance. Night-time visibility is provided by the Super Illuminator, a highbrightness LED. As well as time zone and adjustment functions, the G-SHOCK Connected smartphone app also features a flight log function, which can store location and time data to provide a travel history, including point of departure, interim and final destination, and return destination. A latitude/longitude display and Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) indicator provide further navigational aids. The Triple-G construction of the GPW-2000 G-SHOCK Gravitymaster provides protection from three types of gravitational stress – external shocks, centrifugal force and vibrations.
“Never, never give up!” And this is just the beginning. In October, Casio announced the expansion of the MR-G line and unveiled two new 3-Way Time Sync timepieces, capable of receiving radio waves, GPS satellite signals and Bluetooth transmissions for the most accurate timekeeping possible. Representing the latest Bluetooth connected offerings from the brand, the new models also boast premium materials for the ultimate in luxurious, indestructible construction. The MRG-G2000CB-1A features a bezel with COBARION®* finish, a new material developed in Japan to give a beautiful mirrored surface, as well as increased scratch resistance and anti-allergenic properties. The MRG-G2000HB-1A features a dragon-inspired bezel in deep black, with a specialty Marume-Tsuiki hammer tone finish. Both timepieces boast evolved functionality with city codes and watch modes easily viewed on the right side of the watch face. The bezel is constructed of Cobarion*, a new alloy developed through collaboration between the academic and industrial sectors. Cobarion boasts over twice the strength of stainless steel and a polished lustre comparable to that of platinum. *Cobarion® is a registered trademark of the Iwate Industry Promotion Center, Japan. It is manufactured exclusively by Eiwa Co., Ltd., Kamaishi, Japan.
The new MR-G watches follow three guidelines: self-adjusting (with the GPS Hybrid Wave Ceptor), self-updating (with the Accurate Time System) and self-charging (with the Solar Power Technologies).
Both MRG-G and G-SHOCK timepieces also possess G-SHOCK’s GPS Hybrid Waveceptor technology to accurately measure time and location from anywhere on earth, Tough Solar capabilities for increased battery function, as well as a non-reflective sapphire crystal and black titanium case and bracelet, highlighting their premium construction. Additionally, by utilising the new G-SHOCK MR-G Connected smartphone app, users can easily set world time as well as enhance the reliability of the timepiece through monitoring the watch’s key functions such as self-adjustment, solar charging, and more. Mr Ibe’s dream of creating an unbreakable watch came true… and it seems like it is just the beginning of a new era with the ongoing expansion of the G-SHOCK line. Mr Ibe’s mantra has never been truer than it is today, in the face of a rapidly changing watch industry: “Never, never give up!”
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TIME: LONG TO SHORT BY PIERRE MAILLARD
Time measurement developed from the observation of long periods of cosmic time, from the movement of the planets to the determination of 365 days in the year; from the phases of the moon to the regular alternation of day and night... Only with the advent of mechanical time measurement was man able to break time down into the precise measurement of minutes, then seconds, and tenths, hundredths and thousandths of a second. Beyond this frontier, mechanical watchmaking must abdicate, leaving such measurements to atomic clocks and scientific instruments devoid of any mechanical parts. The history of conquering short time periods remains one of the great watchmaking sagas. The chronograph originally heralded a number of geopolitical, scientific, astronomical and technological advancements before losing its supremacy in the field. Simultaneously, it also became increasingly accessible, imposing itself as THE watch of "the modern man". The true practical usefulness of this short time period calculator has often been mocked. Naysayers claim that it would be best employed as an egg timer! There might be some truth to this, since who, today, calculates a driving speed or heart rate using the time scales represented along the bezel of one's watch? Well, that's beside the point. The chronograph – which most people do not even consider a great watch complication – remains one of the noblest complications and one of the most difficult to achieve. Moreover, whether modern or vintage, it remains one of the most sought-after types of watch, as demonstrated by the incredible trend of '50s and '60s steel chronograph throwbacks. Such a vogue might be about functionality, but these days it is most importantly about appearances. 15
AN EXPRESSION OF MODERN TIMES (*)
BY DOMINIQUE FLÉCHON, HISTORIAN AND EXPERT IN FINE WATCHMAKING
THE BIRTH OF THE CHRONOGRAPH The chronograph, an ingenious invention of modern times, has taken A tale of astronomy… the measure of human progress for scientific advances of the end of the eighteenth and nearly two centuries. The etymology of The early nineteenth centuries, notably in astronomy, medicine, the word comes from the combination engineering and industry, necessitated the measuring of fractions of seconds. In this field, as in others, there were nuof two Greek roots: chronos (time) and merous inventors and solutions. grapho (writing). To write time is also to Following unfruitful attempts by John Arnold, Louis Moinet write a record of the history of the world. (1768-1853), a Parisian watchmaker who was also a keen as-
tronomer, invented an instrument that measured sixtieths of a second, which he called a compteur de tierces (“counter of thirds”). The “third” refers to the third subdivision of the hour on a basis of 60 after the minute and the second, and is used in astronomy. This counter was produced in collaboration with a watchmaker from the workshop of Abraham Louis Breguet in 1815-1816. In terms of its performance, ergonomics and the readability of its dial, this instrument prefigures the chronometric devices to one-fiftieth and one-hundredth of a second created by Heuer in 1916, a century ahead of its time. As noted in his Traité d’horlogerie, Louis Moinet stated that his ‘counter of thirds’, designed for astronomical purposes, was available to anyone who wished to produce large numbers of it. This offer seems not to have been taken up. And yet it was indeed the very first chronograph.
Chronograph measuring sixtieths of a second by Louis Moinet. Very high-frequency instrument: 216,000 vibrations/hour, 30 Hz. Ruby escapement by Moinet. The counters are reset to zero using a separate corrector stylus. Power reserve indicator on back of chronograph approximately 30 hours. Upper plate signed Louis Moinet. D. 57.7 mm; th. 9 mm.
(*) Excerpts. Originally published for the exhibition Le Chronographe, Expression des Temps Modernes, held by the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie in 2007–2008, and in the book entitled La Conquête du Temps, 2nd edition. In collaboration with Grégory Gardinetti.
"The culmination of fundamental advances in watchmaking and the point of departure for new research, the chronograph, when the idea of graphically recording time was abandoned, gradually over the decades became a chronoscope – time you could watch passing, and count. First of all on a pocket watch, then on a wristwatch. The chronograph would accompany the industrial revolution every step of the way, right down to the minutest detail of work organisation. The companion of engineers as well as astronomers, scientists, doctors, gunners and explorers, no domain can do without one when it comes to expressing the present moment. As our taste for free time intensifies, it can be found in every sports discipline, individual or team, and over and above its prime function of measuring short times is turning into an identifying code of modern humanity. A humanity which, having mastered technique and speed, now thinks it can master time by stopping and starting a magical mechanism of rare beauty and of a complexity which reflects human intelligence."
Half-brother of Nicolas Joseph Rieussec, one of the founding members of the Jockey Club of France and the Society for the Encouragement of Improvement in Horse Breeds, Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec tested the chronograph of his invention in 1821 on a racecourse. Inking chronograph by Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec, Paris, 1821. Mahogany box, white enamel rotating dial, escapement movement. Left, the mechanism. La Chaux-de-Fonds, International Watchmaking Museum.
Franco Cologni, taken from the preface to Le Chronographe (*).
… and horses The Jockey Club was founded in England in 1751. In the late eighteenth century, the upper echelons of English society discovered racing, in which men, horses or dogs vied for victory. The spectators bet on the winner. At the same time, the breeders were looking to measure their horses’ performance. On 4 November 1799, Ralph Gout filed a patent for a pedometer watch, a device designed to count the number of paces taken by a pedestrian or a horse over a given time. Mounted on a horse’s saddle, it added up the total number of paces taken by the mount, or if fixed to the leg, by a walker. When placed on a carriage wheel, it was able to count the rotations.
On 1 September 1821, Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec (1781-1866), watchmaker to the king, timed a series of horse races on the Champ de Mars in Paris with the aid of an instrument of his own invention. The minutes of the French Royal Academy of Science dated 1821 and signed by Antoine-Louis Breguet and Gaspard de Prony report that on that day, Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec presented a ‘timepiece or counter of distance covered’, which the Academy called a ‘seconds chronograph’. On 9 March 1822, he obtained a five-year patent for it. The instrument is appropriately named since it deposited a drop of ink on the enamel dial at the start and end of each measurement. Inking was then abandoned, resulting in the advent of the chronoscope (improperly called ‘chronograph’), first of all in a pocket, then a wrist version. After that, history speeded up. On 9 February 1822 in England, Frédérick Louis Fatton (18121876), a pupil of Abraham Louis Breguet established in London, obtained a patent (no. 4645) for an inking chronograph, and on 27 September 1822 a second patent for a fixeddial system.
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DURING THE COURSE OF ITS HISTORY, THE CHRONOGRAPH HAS BEEN PRESENT ON ALL FRONTS Chronographs and the art of medicine Even back in classical antiquity, Greek, Alexandrian and Roman physicians noticed that human life was subject to a regularly beating pulse. Around 300 BC, Herophilos of Chalcedon discovered that the heart was responsible for it and devised a means of counting the number and rate of heartbeats using a water clock. In the first and second centuries AD, the Greek physician Discorides emphasised the importance of the water clock in medicine, and Galen of Pergamon used it to measure fever and pulse. Towards the end of the Middle Ages, the mechanic-physicians created clocks indicating medical, astronomical and astrological measurements, which they consulted before practising their art. Several of the first monumental clocks that indicated the signs of the zodiac and the position of the planets automatically also had a painting of a human silhouette called the Aderlassmann, on which the points for bloodletting were marked. This indicated the correlation between parts of the body and the times of the year most favourable for a surgical operation. During the Renaissance, Galileo recommended the use of a pendulum to measure heart rate and irregular heartbeat, and even built a special instrument for the purpose, which he called a pulsilogus. The research of doctors William Harvey and Stephen Hales heralded the age of precision measurement in medicine and corroborated the theory of Sir John Floyer, who prescribed measuring the pulse using a watch with a seconds hand. To this end, he created a pocket pulsometer in 1705. Later, watches with a dead-seconds hand were a valuable aid to practitioners in establishing diagnoses.
It was not until the second half of the nineteenth century that watchmakers invented genuine medical chronographs, the originality of which lay not in their mechanism, but in the graduation of their dials. The pulsometer, also called a sphygmomanometer, counts the number of heartbeats per minute. The asthmometer, also called a pneumograph, counts the number of breaths per minute. These chronographs, the medical functions of which could be grouped together on a single dial, were designed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and in the 1920s were miniaturised for wearing on the wrist.
Chronographs and engineers Engineering being such a vast domain, during the course of history watchmakers have had to design chronographs with special chronometric scales to suit the specific problem at hand. The following instruments resulted: • Tachymeters, which mark the speed of a moving body expressed in the local units in use at the time of its production: miles/hour, versts, kilometres/hour or some other unit. • Rangefinders, very useful to the military but also to meteorologists. • Tachoscopes, which are crucial for the correct adjustment of machines and for controlling production. • Productometers, which show the number of items produced in an hour. • Split-seconds chronographs, which today are used in sport, but which for a long time served to time events of differing durations but all starting at the same time in a single experiment. Depending on what they are researching, engineers need instruments that split the second into larger or smaller portions. Chronometric scales are usually graduated into hundredths, fiftieths, twentieths, sixteenths, tenths or fifths of a second according to the application. As soon as watches had attained a sufficient degree of precision regardless of how far the spring was wound, the dials were equipped with time measurement totalisers, generally up to thirty minutes. On contemporary wrist-chronographs, a seconds totaliser records measurements up to a maximum of twelve hours. However, a handful of pocket models are capable of recording measurements of time up to twenty-four hours. Most of these chronographs, manufactured by specialists such as A. Lange & Söhne, Glashütte Original, H. Moser & Cie and Union Glashütte, are the result of technological upheaval and improvements in productivity generated by the industrial revolution.
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Chronographs and the military Time is fundamental to ballistic calculations and analysing the use of firearms. Although the speed of the projectiles is too high be measured with a conventional chronograph, chronographs equipped with a telemetric scale were for a long time used by gunners to adjust the range of cannon-fire. Rangefinders are instruments used to measure the distance between an observer and a visible and audible phenomenon. The principle was based on the difference between the speed of light and the speed of sound, arbitrarily defined at 333 metres per second at a temperature of 5-10°C. When applied to the direction indicated by a compass placed on an ordnance survey map, the distance shown on the dial provided a means of locating the enemy cannon and if need be, adjusting the return fire. Today, this instrument is used for peaceful applications and can provide valuable help to anyone at sea or on land seeking shelter from an approaching storm…
Chronographs and scientists
They were of great assistance to Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915), an American economist and engineer, in designing his scientific method of work organisation. Some chronographs, all developed in the nineteenth century, were transformed into wristwatches. Expressing the needs of their times, some graduations – those of the Omega chronographs, for example – are a reminder of the kinds of things then measured: the speed per hour of homing pigeons, trams, hippomobiles, trotting or galloping horses, development times for photographic prints; while others remain shrouded in mystery because many of the applications for which they were intended have now disappeared.
The improvement in the precision of astronomical observations is due to watchmaking in general, and to the chronograph in particular. Until the Renaissance, various instruments were used to observe the meridian passage of the stars. The use of the telescope by Galileo from 1609 onwards revolutionised the technique of observing the stars. Until the nineteenth century, to determine the time of a star’s meridian passage (the vertical plane of the place of observation when oriented north-south), astronomers used what was known as the “eye and ear” method: after reading the time on a clock or chronometer with a pendulum beating the seconds, they counted the number of beats until the
moment when the star reached the centre of the instrument’s field of vision while keeping their eye glued to the viewfinder. The invention of the chronograph rendered this method obsolete, since all the observer had to do was stop the chronoscope, manually first all, and subsequently with the aid of an electric switch. The chronoscope soon gained the addition of a tape on which the results were recorded graphically. It was notably thanks to more and more accurate measuring devices that certain characteristics of the Earth were discovered, the imperfectly spherical shape and the minute variations in speed of which affect calculations of longitude and latitude. The solution to this problem, which was vital for sailors, was found by the English watchmaker, John Harrison, in 1761 thanks to his precision chronometers. One century later, in the nineteenth century, the chronograph, with its three functions – start, stop and reset – was still unrivalled when it came to accurately determining a given point in time or space, whether at sea or on land. Together with the compass, the thermometer and the barometer, it was the instrument of choice for the great explorers.
Chronographs and athletes The first University Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge took place in 1829. On that occasion, the competitors were timed to a quarter of a second, the balance of the chronographs of the time vibrating at 14,400 vph. In sports, fifths of a second (18,000 vph) were for a long time considered to be the smallest unit compatible with the reaction time required for a human timekeeper to start and stop a chronograph. Today’s circular tachymetric scales usually indicate speeds of between sixty and four hundred. However, the spiral tachymeters on the most recent wristwatches allow a range of measurement from 20 to one thousand kilometres an hour. In 1912, the Stockholm Olympic Games experimented with photographic counters capable of distinguishing tenths of a second. The hundredth of a second was used in 1924 at the Paris Olympic Games. However, the International Amateur Athletics Federation refused to recognise the validity of the results, taking the view that the human eye should continue to distinguish the winner. At the Olympic Games in Rome in 1960, manual chronoscopes were abandoned in favour of photographic and electrical procedures. Nevertheless, from 1892 and perhaps even earlier, certain sports competitions were timed using electrically triggered chronographs, of which Mathias Hipp (1813-1893) was a pioneer. They mark the start of another story, as they took over where mechanical watchmaking technology had attained its limits.
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CHRONOLOGY OF THE CHRONOGRAPH From the balance spring to the moon (1675–1969) 1675 – By inventing the balance spring, Christiaan Huygens takes the watch into the realm of scientific horology. From then onwards, master watchmakers sought to measure seconds and fractions of seconds. ~1720 – George Graham builds a piece of laboratory equipment powered by a driving weight, the pendulum of which marks quarters of a second. This ingenious system made it possible to indicate (in theory) sixteenths of a second. ~1750 – A tiny number of sea captains use watches known as 'dead-seconds' watches. The second hand advanced by jumping forward every second and could be stopped for ease of reading – but doing so stopped the entire watch mechanism. 1779 – Jean Moïse Pouzait (Geneva) presents a watch with an independent dead-seconds hand. This second hand, driven by a separate mechanism, could be started and stopped without interfering with the hours and minutes mechanism. ~1780 – The jumping-seconds hand, or foudroyante, appears on the scene. The jumping-seconds hand had its own mechanism and made one rotation every second, pausing 4 or 5 times to mark quarters of fifths of a second. 1815 – After unfruitful attempts by John Arnold, Parisian watchmaker Louis Moinet (1768-1853) designs a device that measures sixtieths of a second, which he calls a ‘counter of thirds’. 09/03/1822 – Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec (Paris) patents his 'seconds chronograph’.
27/09/1822 – Frédérick Louis Fatton, a pupil of A. L. Breguet, perfects Rieussec’s invention on behalf of Breguet.
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25/05/1822 – Abraham Louis Breguet starts (and completes in November 1823) the manufacture of two chronometers with double observation seconds. One of the hands could be stopped to measure intermediate times.
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ah ors eba ck som ersa ult b y Ea dwe 1838 – Joseph Thaddeus Winnerl (Paris) invents a split-seconds chronograph which ard M uybrid is simplified in 1840 and presented in 1843 to the Society for the Encouragement of the ge (189 3) National Industry.
11/03/1828 – Louis Frédéric Perrelet (Paris) patents his ‘physics and astronomy counter’, a forerunner of the split-seconds chronograph.
14/10/1844 – Adolphe Nicole, a Swiss watchmaker working in London, files a patent under number 10348 for a device that enables the hand of a chronograph to be returned to its starting point thanks to a heart-shaped cam, a part still used today. 1862 – Adolphe Nicole files the 1844 patent again in London and Paris. Henry Féréol Piguet, a watchmaker with the Swiss company Nicole & Capt, builds a chronograph with a reset function, which he presents at the World Exhibition in London. 1868 – Auguste Baud moves the chronograph mechanism from beneath the dial to the bridges side – an arrangement which has remained unchanged since then and facilitates assembly and regulation. 1909-1910 – The first wrist-chronographs appear. 1916 – Heuer files patents for the micrograph to 1/100th of a second and the semi-micrograph to 1/50th of a second, both pocket chronograph counters. 1926 – Patek Philippe makes the first mono-pusher wrist-chronographs. 1928 – Cartier creates the mono-pusher Tortue Chronograph wristwatch. 1933 – Léon Breitling files two patents for a mechanism for a wrist-chronograph with two pushbuttons that allows cumulated times to be measured. The mechanism is an extension of that for the pocket chronograph patented in 1923. 1935 – Universal launches its Compax wristchronograph, later followed by the Uni-Compax, the Aéro-Compax, the Tri-Compax and the MédicoCompax. Although a trademark, Compax became a generic term at the time for any chronoscope with identical functions. 1936-1938 – Longines develops the first wrist-chronograph with a flyback function. Pressing the lower pushbutton returned the chronograph hand to zero, from where it immediately started again. 1937 – Dubois Dépraz (Switzerland) develops a device aimed at replacing the column wheel by a system of cams. 1946 – Albert Piguet of the Swiss company Lémania creates a prototype (not commercialised) of the first automatically rewinding wrist-chronograph. 1968 – Zenith creates El Primero and Dubois-Dépraz the Chronomatic, both automatic self-winding chronographs. 21/07/1969 – Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin take the first steps on the moon, with an Omega Speedmaster on their wrists.
THE ORIGINS OF THE BREGUET 7077
Starting in 1820, Abraham-Louis Breguet got to work on what he called a “double seconds, or observation” watch. Finally perfected in 1823, it is considered to be one of the forerunners of the modern chronograph. This “observation” watch is so-called because it can be used to precisely measure intermediate periods or the length of time taken by two separate and simultaneous events. Moreover, as far back as 1796, Breguet had already finalised his first “subscription watch”, with a very particular feature forming its technical characteristic and aesthetic appeal: a large central barrel with gears laid out completely symmetrically on each side of the barrel. This symmetrical layout inspired Breguet’s now famous Tradition collection, which began in 2005. An approach that, by revealing for the first time the whole of the movement, profoundly influenced a number of chronographs - and other mechanical movements - which have since also shown off their ‘innards’. One of the outcomes of the Tradition collection is the 7077 Tradition Chronograph, which is notable for the separation of the hour mechanism from the chronograph. Each of these mechanisms has its own symmetrical escapement with balance and gears. The two balances vibrate at different frequencies, 3 Hz for the hour and 5 Hz for the chronograph - which gives an autonomy of only 20 minutes but an impressive accuracy of +/-0.04 seconds. This very short power reserve is due to the use of a blade spring rather than a barrel, a technique dating back to 1825 (Breguet model no. 4009) which means the chronograph is engaged instantly and the balance is immediately working at the right amplitude. The blade spring is wound by simply pressing in the stop push-piece of the chronograph, which also resets it. This makes the chronograph instantly ready to take a new measurement of a maximum duration of 20 minutes. It is therefore quite a unique construction, neither a chronograph with an additional plate, nor a classic integration with a column wheel, and it highlights the perfect symmetry that Abraham-Louis Breguet was always striving for.
CH 29 535 PS 224 Calibre
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAIL
PATEK PHILIPPE MANUAL CHRONOGRAPH CALIBRES November 2009, Place Vendôme Thierry Stern made his first major appearance since becoming the new president of Patek Philippe. It was a dream event, as he had just presented the Ladies First Chronograph, which features the first manual chronograph movement made entirely in-house, the CH 29-535 PS Calibre. Behind this austere name (which becomes obvious when you know that ‘CH’ stands for chronograph, ‘29’ for the diameter – 29.6mm to be exact – ‘535’ stands for the height – 5.35mm – and ‘PS’ is for its Petite Seconde, or Small Seconds) hid a new, magnificent and very fine chronograph movement designed to replace and overtake the famous CH 27-70 Calibre, based on the Nouvelle Lémania (property of the Swatch Group), which had been used by Patek Philippe up until then. The programme took five years. Although in 2009 the trend was for the most spectacular threedimensional structures possible, this new Patek Philippe calibre, so eagerly anticipated by collectors of the brand, decided to play it ultra-classic: a column wheel with a polished cap, S-shaped toothed-clutch lever system, an elegant and refined chronograph gear bridge and minute counter gear bridge, large four-arm Gyromax balance and four poising weights vibrating at a frequency of 4 Hz, which is 28,800 vibrations/hour, and a Breguet balance spring. All of the 269 components are harmoniously contained in an extremely small space. But under this most traditional of appearances, under these stylish pieces and old-fashioned chamfered, polished bridges adorned with the Côtes de Genève motif, under these refined, classically crafted surfaces, hide six new patents that aren’t looking to revolutionise watchmaking in terms of appearance, but that want to improve the substance – and that makes all the difference. Because watchmaking is all about detail. These six new patents relate to a very comprehensive improvement of details that contributes to a deeper understanding of the art of the chronograph. Not only do they bring im-
provements in terms of better energy transmission, reducing friction, increasing precision and reducing vibrations or unevenness of the hand movements; they also directly affect the work of the watchmaker. The large ‘eccentric cap’ placed directly over the column wheel makes it easier to set, meaning greater operational reliability. Moreover, the calibre has a sophisticated and instantaneous 30-minute counter. A rhythmic touch that enhances the sought-after readability.
But let’s go back a little further In 2005, Patek Philippe had already introduced the flattest manual split seconds chronograph (5.25mm) ever created, reference 5959P – the first wrist chronograph to be entirely designed, developed and made by the manufacture. Produced in a traditional way and in a very small quantity in Patek Philippe’s fine watchmaking workshops, this prestigious movement features two column wheels and can memorise a reference time. In 2006, it was the turn of reference 5960P, the first automatic chronograph entirely designed, developed and produced by the manufacture. Enhanced with the famous patented Annual Calendar mechanism, this new automatic column wheel chronograph has a flyback feature, a power reserve display and a day/night indicator. With its highly original construction, it offers an elegant, dynamic, balanced face as well as its characteristic mono counter, which brings together the chronograph’s hours and minutes counters. The same calibre would also go on to equip the Nautilus chronograph, but without its annual counter. All these creations would lay the groundwork for the new manual calibre presented for the first time under the charm of the Ladies First.
2009 – Reference 7071 Ladies First Chronograph CH 29-535 PS Calibre A new chapter in the history of Patek Philippe women’s watches with reference 7071, Ladies First Chronograph, equipped with a new traditional column wheel chronograph movement, the CH 29-535 PS calibre. Reference 7071 features an elegant, cushion-shaped pink gold case and contains 136 diamonds unusually set on the flange of the dial, highlighting the exclusivity of this women’s complication watch.
2010 – Reference 5170J CH 29-535 PS Calibre The new traditional column wheel chronograph movement is presented in a yellow gold case with rectangular pushpieces, in a nod to the retro style of major Patek Philippe wrist chronographs from the 1940s-50s. Reference 5170 embodies the classic chronograph in all its purity. It contains the new CH 29-535 P5 calibre, developed and produced according to Poinçon Patek Philippe standards.
2011 - Reference 5270 CH-20-535 PS Q Grande Complication Calibre Patek Philippe adds to its classic chronograph collection with the introduction of a new perpetual calendar model. Reference 5270 features a new column wheel chronograph movement, CH 29-535 PS Q calibre. The day and month appear in a double window at 12 o’clock, along with a pointer date display.
In 2010, this same new CH 29-535 PS Calibre had just been used in the men’s reference 5170J. Very pure and stripped back, with no additional complications, in order to preserve its absolute readability, this chronograph features harmonious proportions that evoke the 1940s-1950s (a 39-mm diameter with a thickness of 10.90 mm and a lug width of 21 mm). One of the first to be awarded the Poinçon Patek Philippe, it stood out for the elegance of its stylish pieces, its traditionally crafted bridges, and the attention paid to the finish of all the surfaces, which are usually handdecorated. An instant classic in the world of chronographs. Having ‘overtaken’ the famous and historic basic 27-70 calibre of the Nouvelle Lémania, on which it had developed the most beautiful chronographs, Patek Philippe pursued a new area devoted to developing and perfecting the art of the classic chronograph. In 2011, Patek Philippe bolstered this new line of chronographs with a first complication with the CH 29-535 PS calibre, the Perpetual Calendar. Deriving from the 5270 reference presented in 2011, it is remarkably slim and slender, contains 182 components but only measures 1.65 mm (for a total movement height of 8.70 mm)
The dial of the Reference 5270 perfectly expresses the classicism of its movement: day and month in a double window at 12 o’clock, pointer date display at 6 o’clock with integrated moon display, small seconds at 9 o’clock and instantaneous jumping 30 minute counter at 3 o’clock. Following in a great tradition. In 2012, this same Perpetual Calendar Chronograph calibre acquires a split seconds mechanism. It equips the Reference 5024 chronograph. Here, too, the absolute classicism of the approach doesn't prevent the creation of two technical innovations that, once again, play on the perfecting of ‘details’: a new isolator system removes the permanent contact between the split seconds lever and its centre, which means that when the split seconds wheel stops it doesn’t affect the amplitude of the balance. Moreover, a subtle mechanism reduces the small alignment problems (by 75%) between the split seconds hand and the chronograph hand. But as they say, the devil is in the detail! And that’s all the more true when it comes to chronographs.
2012 – Reference 5204 CHR 29-535 PS Q Calibre Grande Complication Grande Complication Patek Philippe highly sought after by connoisseurs and collectors, the split seconds and perpetual calendar chronograph in platinum is available with a new ebony black dial with hands and applied chapter markers in white gold.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF
AUDEMARS PIGUET CHRONOGRAPHS
Pocket split-seconds and lightning chronograph, dating from 1889.
Central instant minute counter pocket chronograph, dating back to 1899.
Audemars Piguet is one of the Swiss manufacturers with the longest expertise in chronographs. It goes back almost to the founding of the manufactory in 1875 by Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Piguet, in Le Brassus, in the Vallée de Joux. Installed not far from their first establishment, a certain Charles Adolphe Nicole filed a patent in 1844 on the resetting of chronographs, which were previously lacking. But it was not until 1862 that one of his watchmakers, Henri Férréol Piguet, developed and built the first pocket watch equipped with this zeroing mechanism. This was the birth of the modern chronograph. The two founders of Audemars Piguet were immediately seduced by this novelty. Between 1880 and 1890, they produced 1625 pocket watches, including 627 chronographs. Of those, 299 have a fly-back hand and six a jumping second.
The chronograph grows rare With the appearance of the wristwatch, the chronograph is rarer at Audemars Piguet. Until the dawn of the 80s, the total production amounted to 320 chronographs, most of them different from each other, which today makes them rarer and attractive to collectors. The oldest of these chronographs have only one pusher at 2 o'clock or integrated into the crown. The double pushers only appear from 1936, and the hour counters only in 1941 on about a hundred watches. Between 1942 and 1959 we also have 20 chronographs with a full calendar. The post-war era sees an explosion in the popularity of the chronograph and production in Switzerland reaches large quantities. As a result, Audemars Piguet largely abandoned its production. In fact, it was not until the 80s that the manufacturer reintroduced the chronograph, first in small, precious batches, hand decorated or even skeletonised, then, eventually massproducing its first automatic chronographs.
Skeleton chronograph in 18 karat yellow gold, from 1981. Chronograph in 18K yellow gold from 1936, oversized for the time (38 mm).
The Royal Oak Offshore signs the return of the chronograph The real revival of the chronograph by Audemars Piguet would only occur in 1993 with the launch of the Royal Oak Offshore, an ultra-sporty watch, of which almost all versions are chronographs. From then on, the chronograph function, with or without a fly-back hand, would combine with many other complications: calendar, repeater, tourbillon ... But curiously, it was not until 1997, 25 years after its creation in 1972, that the Royal Oak welcomed its first chronograph calibre. Since then, in all its variations, it has been a major success for the le Brassus Manufacture..
The new range of Royal Oak chronographs launched this year offers a return to a design that made its appearance in 2008. The seven models of the 2017 series display a two-tone dial with novel details: the angle of the date window, oversized counters at 3 and 9 o'clock, shorter and wider indexes, thicker luminescent coating for increased readability, and new characters and decals. This new design is available in a wide variety of finishes, divided into four versions: one in pink gold with brown or blue 'Grande Tapisserie' dial, and three in steel with black, silver or blue 'Grande Tapisserie' dial.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph Special Edition 25th Anniversary Audemars Piguet introduces a new Royal Oak Offshore special series available in either stainless steel or 18-carat pink gold, each one limited to 50 pieces. These two models are inspired by the previous Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph (26388PO & 26288OR), with an entirely redesigned movement, developed exclusively to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Royal Oak Offshore collection. Featuring the combination of materials that is often presented on Royal Oak Offshore models, the crown and pushpieces are now crafted in ceramic instead of metal and rubber. The new Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph also presents a brand new dial constructed as a true piece of contemporary architecture. 34
YOUR ADVERTISEMENT IN EUROPA STAR For a global reach
A BRIEF HISTORY OF
SEIKO MECHANICAL CHRONOGRAPHS
BY PIERRE MAILLARD
WITH THANKS TO GISBERT BRUNNER FOR HIS RESEARCH
The Seiko 5 Speed-Timer, the first automatic chronograph in the world to be marketed. 30-minute counter, day and date.
In the mid-60s, a race was raging: who Oscillating at a frequency would manage to release the first auof 3Hz (21,600 vph), the automatic calibre 6139 is tomatic chronograph wristwatch? equipped with a column United in a consortium, the Swiss wheel and an innovative brands Breitling, Heuer, Hamiltonvertical clutch. Buren and Dubois-DĂŠpraz, as well as Zenith on its own, were determined to do so quickly. But Seiko would outdo them by releasing, in mid-May 1969, the "5 Speed-Timer" which became the first automatic chronograph on the market. This model, now considered a historic landmark, was outfitted with the 6139 movement, developed within two years by the Seiko engineers. With a diameter of 27.4 mm and a height of 6.5 mm, this movement was equipped with a central rotor coupled with the famous "Magic Lever". Created in 1959, this ingenious device greatly boosts the winding power of the mainspring and its rotation speed by exploiting the energy created by the oscillating mass in both directions, clockwise and counterclockwise. Fully wound up, the watch offers a 36hour power reserve with the chronograph in operation.
An automatic chronograph equipped with calibre 7016, with 30 minutes counter.
The following year, in 1970, Seiko releases another automatic caliber, the 6138 which differs from 6139 by displaying the seconds and has an hours counter. Another feature, its pushers are located at the top of the watch and not on the side. 1970 also sees the arrival on the market of the calibre 7017, an ultra-thin automatic 5.9 mm thick, then setting a world record. A real achievement, accomplished by restricting the number of components and removing the minute counter. But in 1971, its successor, the calibre 7018, with the same thickness, allows the reintroduction of the 30 minutes counter. Seiko will release two more automatic chronograph calibres before ceasing all production of mechanical chronographs in 1977, and mechanical watches in the early 80s. Watchmakers around the world believe that it is the end for mechanics.
The 5 Speed-Timer of 1970
The 1970 Speed Timer chronograph, equipped with the 7017 automatic calibre. 37
Ananta Diver Chronograph, equipped with Calibre 8R39, launched in 2014.
The first Japanese chronograph, released in 1964, with manual winding. Power reserve of 38 hours with chronograph switched on.
Birth, purgatory and rebirth This considerable effort, which allowed the Japanese Seiko to beat Swiss watchmakers, actually began in 1964 – just in time for the Tokyo Olympics – with the release of Japan's first chronograph wristwatch, equipped with the hand-wound calibre 5179. This calibre of 6.1 mm, already equipped with a column wheel and a vertical clutch, had the particularity of a single push button placed above the crown, commanding start, stop and return to zero. But this chronograph did not have a minute counter and was fitted instead with a rotating bezel marking the 60 minutes. After starting the chronograph, the bezel is rotated so that the zero is placed on the current minute. From the beginning of the 80's, Seiko puts an end to its production of mechanical chronographs. But the story, similar to what occurred at Zenith with the famous El Primero, is repeated in Japan: watchmakers who were supposed to scrap the machines used for the production of mechanical chronograph calibres refuse the orders and do not destroy them. Good for them! Because, as we know, mechanical watchmaking will be reborn, but this time it is the Swiss who are ahead. A few years later, Seiko's machines come out of their purgatory, the old retired watchmakers are recalled, and the production of Seiko mechanical chronographs restarts in 1998. But the Japanese, who have become dominant on the quartz watch market no longer believe in the international appeal of their mechanical production and confine it to their prestigious Credor line, then reserved for the Japanese market alone. Under the Credor label, Seiko launches several new automatic calibres, gradually updating them with various
improvements, up to the calibre TC78 which they decide to sell to third parties. TAG Heuer, eager to escape the tutelage of ETA, will not only buy some but will conclude an agreement to be able to "reproduce" it by transforming it somewhat and manufacturing it under the name "calibre 1887".
Back to international It was not until 2009, 40 years after the "5 Speed Timer" and its calibre 6139, that Seiko made its international comeback in the automatic mechanical chronograph with the launch of the Ananta collection. The calibre 8R28 launched then takes the traditional elements of Seiko chronographs, such as column wheel, vertical clutch and "Magic Lever", while bringing some innovations such as the simultaneous return to zero of all chronometric indications. But if one moves away – partially – from the only mechanical chronograph, it is important to emphasise that Seiko, in parallel with its traditional production, has launched new lines of research that led to the Spring Drive line, released in 2005. Its technology combines mechanical energy production and its conversion into electrical and magnetic energy. As tradition dictates, the Spring Drive chronograph is equipped with a column wheel and a vertical clutch, but its control system offers superlative precision compared to the traditional chronograph: +/- 1 second / day. Precision being one of the major qualities required for a chronograph, the Spring Drive movement deserves a place apart.
The Grand Seiko 55th Anniversary Spring Drive Chronograph, presented in 2015. A specially tuned version of Spring Drive calibre 9R96, providing an accuracy of 1 / - 0.5 second/day (+/- 10 seconds per month). A limited edition of 400 pieces. 39
A CURATED SELECTION OF TEN
SELECTION AND COMMENTS BY LORENZO MAILLARD, COLLECTOR
The '50s, '60s and '70s were the apogee of the chronograph. These ten chronographs, selected from hundreds of models, demonstrate the technical vitality and creative liberty of these years, which continue to thrill collectors today.
Mathey-Tissot (~1970) With its Supercompressor case, its Singer dial that has browned with age, its minute counter with regatta markers and a bright red direct-drive seconds hand in the same hue as the markers, this Mathey-Tissot chronograph is flawless. The 40 mm watch is of a considerable size for the time, bringing it a certain modern touch. This magnificent piece is driven by the faithful, robust and handsome Valjoux 72 calibre.
Zodiac â€“ Zodia-Chron (1953) For many years, Zodiac was considered a watchmaker that never failed to push back the limits of design. The Astrographic and Olympos might demonstrate this, but the brand's boldness is not limited to three hands, and the Zodia-Chron perfectly embodies its creativity. Launched in 1953, this luxury chronograph appeared on the market one year before the Rolex Cosmograph Pre Daytona models were released. This chronograph has it all: the Valjoux 72 (the Rolls Royce of chronograph movements), a tachymetric bezel rather similar to that of a Speedmaster, and a sublime brushed dial with infinite undertones and subtle red touches on the markers. Difficult to capture in a photograph, this rare, elegant piece features a design with a nearly perfect balance so characteristic of the time. 40
Universal Genève Space Compax (~1969) Universal and its chronographs require no introduction: they are renowned and sought-after by collectors, but this rare – and, to say the least, original – example deserves special attention. Its case becomes deliberately thicker around the push-pieces, much like the case of its cousin, the Polerouter Sub; its screw-in crown and rubber push-pieces betray its diving capacities. In fact, with a water resistance of up to 200 metres, this Universal is one of the last "tool watches" produced by the Geneva-based watchmaker, which began producing practically all its watches in quartz shortly afterwards. As if that weren't enough to set it apart, the art deco 12 hour marker adds a funky little touch that makes this watch truly lovable.
Seiko 7A28-703 Synchrotimer (1983) Some people call this timepiece the Poor Man’s Speedmaster. I wouldn't go so far, but it is undeniable that the 7A28-703 Seiko Synchrotimer chronograph has its own special identity. First of all, it is necessary to point out that this chronograph has a quartz movement... But not just any quartz movement: it is a mechanical/ quartz combination with an independent motor for each subcounter and 15 jewels on the mechanical part. The electronic portion offers a reliability and precision far beyond the performances of a strictly mechanical movement. The built-in strap and gold-tone part of the tachymeter bring it a unique, very '80s look. In fact, this watch has a special pedigree, since another version of the 7A28 was worn by Roger Moore in the James Bond film A View to a Kill.
Citizen Record Master (1967) A lot of people are familiar with the Citizen Bullhead chronograph, but few know that the Japanese brand also produced a handwound and column-wheel mechanical chronograph. Its limited production and late launch, in 1967, only brought it only modest success. Nevertheless, this chronograph has real charm. Its streamlined aesthetic, mechanical simplicity, rudimentary display (devoid of a minute counter), lovely steel strap and reasonable price all make it a unique, truly desirable object.
Wakmann Triple Date Chronograph ref. 72.1309.70 (~1960) Wakmann Watch Company is an American brand founded in 1946 that became famous through its partnership with Breitling, for which the company retailed â€œWakmannâ€? brand watches designed for the American market. The Triple Date Chronograph is surely the brand's most successful model. Equipped with the Valjoux 730 (a more high-performance version of the Valjoux 72 at 21600 vph), it features not only a chronograph but also displays the date, day and month, making it the perfect tool for daily use. Despite all these complications, the magnificent "panda" dial remains balanced and understated.
Mido Multi Centerchrono (~1940) Once you get into the production and history of the brand Mido, you will be amazed by the variety of products and their unique aesthetic, characterised by a surprising orange patina. The Multi Centerchrono, developed in the midst of WWII, offers a striking design and a higher legibility compared to a two-counter chronograph. In fact, the minute counter is located in the white area surrounding the dial, and the red direct-drive hand indicates passing minutes. With its modest 34.5 mm diameter, the Mido is characteristic of pieces from the 1940s which symbolise the golden age of watchmaking design. Equipped with the 1300 calibre based on the Valjoux 23, this Mido is not just another pretty face; it is noble and reliable. Beautiful inside and out!
Angelus Medical chronograph (~1965) No need to be a doctor to appreciate this timepiece by Angelus. The brand, renowned for its manufacture calibres, brings us a truly functional tool in an aesthetically appealing form. Designed to calculate patients' heart rates, the chronograph can be used to time either respiration or pulse. A particularly surprising detail: the plexiglas crystal features a cyclops that covers the base 10 pulsation section of the dial. This piece, equipped with a modified version of the Valjoux 22, is particularly rare, especially with the two-push-piece configuration. 42
Longines Conquest 1972 Olympico For Longines, the Conquest ref. 8614 is the quintessence of 1970s watchmaking design. It was designed for the Games of the XX Olympiad in Munich, held in 1972, which became unfortunately memorable because they were interrupted by a terrible tragedy. The watch is driven by an in-house manufacture single-pushpiece chronograph. Its rudimentary simplicity reflects its utilitarian profile, bringing it a unique charm. The dial makes me smile, personally, since the single counter at 3 o'clock brings to mind a monocle and I can't help but think of Mr Monopoly.
Seiko 5718 Olympic Chronograph (1964) Produced for the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, the reference 5718 is surely the rarest chronograph â€“ if not the rarest timepiece â€“ ever produced by the Japanese watchmaker. Its cousins, the 5717 and 5718, were also designed for the Olympics, but they are more rudimentary, since they do not feature a minute counter or the incredible manual counter. The manual counter, which is activated by the left-hand push-pieces, was probably designed to count runners crossing the finish line. By activating the upper push-piece, you progress along the numbers 0 to 9 in the counter to the right, while the lower push-piece activates the counter to the left. The minute counter also includes a seconds hand. The column-wheel movement that drives this exceptional piece was manufactured by Seiko exclusively for this model. Its scale-design strap brings a unique harmony and truly Japanese soul to the chronograph. 43
Vacheron Constantin, Traditionnelle Chronograph Perpetual Calendar For the sake of legibility, the dial features various nuances of grey with finishes that differ according to the function, just like the Vacheron Constantin chronographs of the 1940s. The 1142 QP calibre, a latest-generation movement entirely designed and developed by the manufacture, replaces the 1141 QP. This movement features perpetual calendar functions: it indicates the date, day of the week, month, leap year and phase of the moon, in addition to the central direct-drive chronograph function, 30-minute counter at 3 o'clock and, opposite, the small seconds at 9 o'clock.
Eberhard & Co, Chrono4 130 To mark its 130th anniversary, Eberhard & Co brought out a special model of its famous Chrono4, the only chronograph to present four horizontally aligned counters: minutes, hours, 24 hours and small seconds, offering immediate legibility. This commemorative edition reveals the counters' cogwheels through a sapphire glass bridge measuring just 3/10ths of a millimetre. 42 mm steel case. Edition limited to 130 pieces. 45
Baume & Mercier, Clifton Club Shelby® Cobra 1964 The Clifton Club Shelby® Cobra collection has been extended to include two limited edition chronographs produced in 1964 pieces each. The two variants are equipped with the self-winding Valjoux 7750 movement. Directly inspired by the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé, all the aesthetic elements of these chronographs were designed in collaboration with the automobile designer Peter Brock. The 44 mm satin-finished stainless steel case reflects the aerodynamic lines of the Daytona Coupé. The modern dial – available in a silver-tone or Daytona blue hue – features Arabic numerals, a day and date indication at 3 o'clock, and a tachymetric scale on the inner bezel. Inspired by the car's dashboard, the encircled and vertically aligned chronograph counters are emphasised by touches of red, while the hour and minute hands are coated with blue Superluminova.
Blancpain, L-Evolution "Super Trofeo" Flyback Chronograph Blancpain joined forces with Lamborghini to bring forth an automobile championship series with six events per year, the Super Trofeo, where the new Lamborghini Gallardo models face off. To celebrate these races, Blancpain presents a new flyback chronograph, the Super Trofeo. A resolutely sporty watch limited to 600 pieces. To reinforce its dynamic character, the mechanical movement of the Blancpain Super Trofeo, Calibre F185, has undergone an NAC galvanic treatment that blackens the bridges and baseplate of the movement. A self-winding mechanical chronograph, the Calibre F185 features a 40-hour power reserve. In addition to hours, minutes and small seconds, it displays the date in a window at 6 o'clock, and features chronograph indications, direct-drive seconds, a 30-minute counter at 3 o'clock and a 12-hour counter at 9 o'clock. The black dial stands out with its red-and-white 9 and 12 numerals, stylised in the image of the numbers featured on Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 sportscars.
Richard Mille, RM 50-03 McLaren-F1 The RM 50-03 is the most lightweight split-second chronograph in the world at just 40 grammes, including the strap. This performance is accomplished through the use of highly technical materials – including titanium, TPT carbon and Graph TPT for the case – and a thoroughly openworked structure. The movement itself only weighs 7 grammes. The TPT™ carbon cage attached to the case middle – the shape of which is inspired by the suspension wishbones of a McLarenHonda Formula 1 – supports the calibre RM50-03. This atypical structure, which does not include a casing ring, guarantees that the movement is ideally integrated into the case. All these technical solutions provide the complex piece with extraordinary shock resistance, tested in-house with 5000 G shocks. 47
Lang & Heyne, Albert Monopusher Chronograph The goal of Lang & Heyne was to create a chronographic movement which gives the watch a classy and noble look on the outside, while housing a movement with exceptional technical precision. Driven by a column wheel mechanism, both the seconds hand and the minutes hand operate from the centre of the watch. Large two-hundred-tooth gold chronograph wheels lay the foundation for a perfect start and smooth hand operation. The Albert appears sharp and austere with its Roman numerals and white enamel dial or galvanic black dial in solid silver. The full accuracy of the time indicated is not disturbed by additional dials, and the monopusher integrated into the crown helps perpetuate the classic look of the watch case.
Mido, Multifort Special Edition Chronograph The Mido Multifort collection is one of the most prominent Mido watch collections. In a special edition in black PVD-treated 316L steel, this self-winding chronograph is equipped with a Mido 1320 movement based on the ETA Valjoux 7750, and it features an Anachron balance spring, a Glucydur balance wheel, and a Nivaflex NM mainspring. This chronograph movement is finely decorated, including blued screws and an oscillating mass with an engraved Côtes de Genève finish. The hours, minutes, seconds and 60-second chronograph appear at the centre, while the 30-minute counter is displayed at 12 o'clock and the 12-hour counter at 6 o'clock. The day and date appear at 3 o'clock. 44 mm 316L steel case. Transparent caseback. Water-resistant to 100m. Sold with two interchangeable bracelets in black calfskin and orange crocodile-stamped leather. 48
Raymond Weil, Freelancer Chronograph The brand-new edition of Raymond Weil's star chronograph seeks to combine elegance and power. With a 42.5 mm steel case offering water-resistance to 100 metres and driven by a self-winding mechanical movement featuring a 46-hour power reserve, the latest addition to the Freelancer collection is available in several models, with a silver-tone or black dial and a leather or steel strap. The screw-in crown, tachymeter and guilloché bezel make this new Freelancer chronograph an elegant yet manly model for all occasions. Hours, minutes and small seconds at 9 o'clock. Date and day-of-the-week display at 3 o'clock.
Hermès, Arceau Chronograph Titane In 1978, Henri d’Origny designed the Arceau: a round watch to which he added asymmetrical stirrup-shaped fastenings and a unique, easy-to-identify typeface. With a chronograph complication and a 41 mm sandblasted titanium case, this sporty self-winding version is incredibly lightweight. The three counters and date display are harmoniously arranged along the dial. The straps of both models – in natural Barenia and embossed black Barenia leather – reveal the Hermès tradition of leather-crafting excellence with their saddle stitching and delicate textures.
Singer, Track1 The new chronograph "motor" by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, the head of Agenhor, drives this year's two most interesting chronographs: the Visionnaire Chronograph by Fabergé (see opposite) and the Track1 by the new brand Singer. The chronograph's hours, minutes and seconds are indicated coaxially at the centre of the dial, on a 3x60 scale (60 seconds, 60 minutes and 60 hours), making it possible to read the time display in a simple, intuitive, immediate way. This 34.4mm calibre beats at a frequency of 3 Hz and its two barrels ensure a power reserve of more than 60 hours. This exceptional motor is structured around a series of openworked cams driving the central display of the chronograph functions. Moreover, the innovative clutch – exclusive to Singer – provides unprecedented comfort. The titanium case with pure, dynamic lines is a modern interpretation of the chronographs of the '60s and '70s. Its barrel shape presents a fine bezel and is delicately curved for optimal ergonomics. Polished and sun satin finishes are alternated throughout the 43mm diameter watch.
Fabergé, Visonnaire Chronograph One of the principal codes of Fabergé's Visionnaire collection is to place the complication at the centre of the watch, as in the previous Visionnaire DTZ (which stands for Double Time Zone). With the involvement of Jean-Marc Wiederrecht (see opposite the Singer Track1 based on the same movement), Fabergé presents this Visionnaire Chronograph, loosely inspired by the preparatory drafts of the 1917 Constellation Egg (which was never finished) and its exterior time measurement ring. The chronograph complication therefore appears at the centre of the dial, indicated very clearly with three hands (24 hours, 60 minutes, 60 seconds), while the passing hours and minutes are indicated on scales outside the dial by two indicator tips which protrude from underneath the central dial of the chronograph. (See in this edition the interview with Aurélie Picaud, the source of Fabergé's watchmaking revival). 51
Longines Avigation BigEye The "winged hourglass" brand revisits one of its recent acquisitions as part of its Heritage collection: a chronograph with a 1930s design that takes its place in the great pilot watch tradition, the Longines Avigation BigEye. It features a very legible dial emphasising the minute counter, imposing push-pieces that may be handled while wearing gloves, and a 41 mm case containing the L688 columnwheel chronograph calibre produced exclusively for Longines. The indications are perfectly easy to read against a semi-shiny black dial with Arabic numerals coated in SuperLuminovaÂŠ. With an oversized 30 minute counter at 3 o'clock, a 12-hour counter at 6 o'clock and small seconds at 9 o'clock. A domed glass and brown leather strap complete this piece, surfing in on the vintage wave.
Omega, Speedmaster 38 mm "Orbis" The long Speedmaster line is expanding: the new Speedmaster 38 mm collection now includes a special model, "Orbis", as part of the brand's support to Orbis International and the ophthalmological missions of its hospital-aeroplane, the Flying Eye, throughout the world. Case and bezel crafted in stainless steel with tachymetric scale on a blue aluminium ring. Blue sunburst dial with light blue horizontal oval subdials and a vertical oval date display at 6 o'clock. All with an attractive allure. Mounted on a stainless steel strap, the watch is driven by the Omega Co-Axial 3330 calibre. 52
TAG Heuer, Autavia Special Jack Heuer The Autavia is a limited edition of the iconic Heuer chronograph to celebrate the 85th birthday of Jack Heuer, the watch's creator. This new reissue, limited to pieces from 1932 in reference to the year of Jack's birth, was designed by Jack Heuer himself. More imposing than its predecessor, it boasts a 42 mm diameter compared to 39 mm in the 1960s, a 12-hour graduated bezel, and a new Heuer-02 calibre proprietary chronograph movement. This latest-generation Autavia carries the DNA and aesthetic codes of the original, and has been modernised for today's market. Its functions are tailored to modern requirements: a self-winding calibre, 80 hours of power reserve, a date at 6 o'clock, and water resistance of up to 100 metres. In black aluminium, the bi-directional notched bezel encircles a silver dial with three black snailed counters in an optimal layout. A legible, balanced display with hands and steel applied indexes coated with beige Super-LumiNovaÂŽ.
Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition - 100 pieces Wide, traditional cloisonné cathedral hands with luminescent coating cross paths with blue chronograph and seconds hands against a salmon-coloured sunburst dial. Luminescent Arabic numerals, a classic minute track and the original 1930s Montblanc logo in its historical font. All this in a 44 mm bronze case: other than the size, it doesn't get much more vintage than this. Not to mention that inside this single-push-piece chronograph beats a calibre inspired by the original Minerva 17.29 designed for 1930s pocket watches and wristwatches. With an identical design, the calibre MB M16.29 is a hand-wound column-wheel chronograph with horizontal links, a V-shaped chronograph bridge, a large screwed balance wheel with a frequency of 18 000 vibrations per hour, and a power reserve of approximately 50 hours. A work of art.
Montblanc TimeWalker Rally Timer Chronograph Limited Edition 100 With a white dial and three black counters, it’s a panda. With a black dial and three white counters, it’s a reverse panda. In the wake of the Minerva Rally Timer chronometer manufactured by Minerva in the 1960s – rooted, as the name suggests, in automobile racing – Montblanc brings a reverse panda dial to its TimeWalker Rally Timer Chronograph Limited Edition 100. This versatile wristwatch is mounted on a patinated Sfumato calfskin strap, but it may easily be transformed into a pocket watch or even a desk clock thanks to two supports on the back of the watch case. As if that weren't enough, the chronometer may be used as a stopwatch, with the strap serving as a handle; or set into a leather-coated metal plate to be installed on a dashboard. The transparent grill-shaped caseback offers a view of the chronograph's Manufacture MB M16.29 calibre. Single hand-wound push-piece, column-wheel, horizontal links and 50-hour power reserve.
Oris Chronoris Date The iconic Chronoris was launched in 1970 and brought Oris and motor sport together for the first time. The new Chronoris echoes the original, with its retro design cues and racing-inspired styling. The Oris Chronoris 39 mm multi-piece stainless steel case is protected by a sapphire domed top glass. It is powered by an automatic winding date Oris 733, base SW 200-1 movement. Centre hands for hour, minutes and seconds, instantaneous date, date corrector, fine timing device and stop-second.
Hanhart, Pioneer TachyTele Chronograph Inspired directly by a model from the 1930s, Pioneer TachyTele features, in addition to the stop function, two practical scales which are easily readable against the dial thanks to their red finish. The tachymeter scale for measuring average speeds is integrated in the centre of the dial in a spiral formation. This scale allows for a total of three revolutions of the stop indicator hand, considerably extending the measurement range and enabling even relatively slow speeds from 60 km/h down to 20 km/h to be measured. The telemeter scale, which is printed on the peripheral edge of the dial, is used for measuring distances, by using the speed of sound. The red buttonâ€”the distinctive trademark that has characterised Hanhart since the company first introduced its chronographs in 1938â€”has been painted mainly to prevent pilots from unintentionally zeroing the stop time. Automatic chronograph movement HAN3703 (bicompax), asymmetrical button arrangement, 28,800 vibrations per hour, 4 Hz, 27 jewels, power reserve of 42 hours min.
Breitling, Super Avenger 01, Boutique Edition For the first time, the Super Avenger 01 chronograph features a manufacture calibre Breitling 01 in a special limited edition of 100 pieces, available exclusively from any of the 60 or so Breitling boutiques throughout the world. The COSC-certified chronometer stands out with its black dial, featuring tone-on-tone dials enhanced by the red "Limited edition" inscription and large, luminescent hands and markers. The steel case combines an imposing 48 mm diameter with a very professional aesthetic. The chronometer, water-resistant to 300 m, has an ultrarobust construction with screwed-in push-piece reinforcements and a massive screw-in crown with non-slip relief. Your choice of strap: leather, rubber, high-resistance military textile fibre or steel. The special engraved caseback features a pin-up with a vintage appearance (here we go again!) and the words "Special delivery".
Louis Vuitton, Tambour All Black Chronograph Developed in 2002, the Tambour watch marked the beginning of the Louis Vuitton watchmaking story. Fifteen years after it was launched, a new version was released: the Tambour All Black. The Tambour All Black Chronograph brings a sporty spirit to the watch while conserving its elegance. Within its imposing 46 mm steel case is a self-winding calibre offering chronograph, hour, minute, second and date functions. 56
TRASER SHEDS NEW LIGHT ON
ITS LONG-TERM STRATEGY AND COLLECTION OF FUNCTIONAL WATCHES FOR SMART PEOPLE The inventor of trigalight®, the self-powered illumination technology, has established a significant yet understated presence in the functional and outdoor watches segment over the past three decades. Time now to step into the limelight with new challenges and a substantial collection makeover.
The train ride that separates traser swiss H3 watches’ headquarters in Niederwangen from Switzerland’s capital city, Bern, barely lasts seven minutes. It is remarkable how quickly one can leave the official government buildings behind to dive into the heart of a typical Swiss watchmaking landscape: a rather ordinary industrial building, surrounded by cows and expanses of meadows. This is where visitors to traser are welcomed into the cosy offices with Swiss German softened by the friendly tones of the Bernese accent. The location is home to traser swiss H3 watches, to its parent company mb-microtec and to trigalight®, the brand name under which the selfpowered illumination technology is manufactured.
The new P68 Pathfinder Automatic Black
IN THE BEGINNING, THERE WAS LIGHT - TRIGALIGHT®
TRASER: A BRAND OF TRADITION WITH NEW PERSPECTIVES
First marketed in the late 60s, trigalight® is a perfect example of Swiss excellence in micro-technology. Unique, safe, maintenance-free and long-lasting (a minimum of 10 years): trigalight® sealed glass tubes are fully implemented in all of traser’s watches as they provide the optimal self-powered solution for perfect readability of the dial even in adverse lighting conditions. trigalight® basically is the reason why a traser watch can be clearly read in the middle of the night – even if you are still half asleep and your vision is blurry. Over the years trigalight® has become the leading technology to fulfil this purpose, also inspiring other watch brands. Additional fields in which trigalight® and mb-microtec’s know-how have been implemented include the tactical and medical industries.
traser has marked and inspired the watch world with timepieces that represent the brand’s know-how in micro-technology as well as the essence of Swiss Made watchmaking whilst maintaining a strong focus on a functional yet timeless design. Having successfully added active lifestyle lovers and adventurous people to their customer and fan base, traser watches are now seen more and more even in offices, formal venues and on feminine wrists. With nearly 30 years of history, now seemed like the perfect time for traser to undergo a makeover session, embrace new challenges and face-lift its collection. To achieve this ambition, traser secured the longstanding experience of the charismatic Michele Starvaggi, the brand’s Global Head of Marketing and Sales.
Michele Starvaggi shares his vision and the path traser is following to reach those goals. You have been at the head of traser for the past 2 years. What did you find appealing about this assignment? Watch brands emphasise their distinctive features to stand out from a crowded scene and attract customers. Some are successful at it. Some less so. traser had obviously overslept and missed that boat in the past, keeping its untold story dormant for too many years. Some 50 years ago mb-microtec, traser’s parent company, invented and patented a unique self-powered illumination technology: trigalight®. The trigalight® inserts illuminate a timepiece 24/7 (with a virtually unchanged intensity for at least 10 years). In 1989, mb-microtec implemented trigalight® in a watch for the first time: the brand traser was born. Over the past two years we set out to reappraise and tell our story. We are the inventor of the original self-powered illumination technology. We will always be the first ones to implement new enhancements – such as the recently introduced hairlight technology – in watches. Anyone seeking an authentic product combined with an assertive design and robustness will choose traser. We rejuvenated the brand, injected a new dynamic, credibly and congruently restructured our communication and updated our product range. We are ready. For the present and for the future. Which other watch brands are supplied with trigalight®? For confidentiality reasons, I cannot mention any names but I can tell you this much: any brand that offers watches with self-powered illumination technology is most likely in trigalight®’s customer database. Which target groups does traser want to address? Today traser is primarily appreciated in the tactical sector because of its reliability and robustness. Special units worldwide depend on traser when carrying out their missions. 24/7. We have identified two additional
but related core target groups: outdoor adventure and active lifestyle. People who measure themselves against nature and whose daily life is always on the go. Not those who count every step and track every beat of their heart. Rather the ones who know their body and its limits - who understand and listen to their body. As our own claim says it: “functional watches for smart people”. What are traser’s distinguishing characteristics? Without a doubt, trigalight® - the self-powered illumination technology - is the main feature that makes our watches exceptional. To become fully aware of how extraordinary this unique attribute is, one must experience it. In the middle of the night, when one wakes up in a pitch-dark room and wants to know how early it is: that’s when traser will show its full self, delivering perfect readability of the time. It goes without saying that our products are robust. Indeed, some of our watches are also Mil-G compliant: they undergo an extremely comprehensive and rigorous series of tests prescribed by the US-Army. We are probably the only brand to have successfully withstood the Mil-G tests. Lastly, our design. Our timepieces stand out by their individual and strong character. traser is definitely not a mainstream brand. We address people whose self-confidence allows them to wear a product that makes them unique. The recently launched traser P68 Pathfinder Automatic is the perfect example of how we see our future. A watch that can be read in any situation and is furthermore equipped with a compass that enables one to orientate oneself in the great outdoors. What can a small, independent brand such as traser offer to its trading partners? Like a nimble speed boat, we are quicker and more flexible than the others sailing the vast seas of the watchmaking industry. We don't merely react to our partners' needs and wishes, we anticipate them and take action straight away. We engage in a competent person-to-person dialogue with our partners. traser offers a sizable collection of six families and delivers all the tools for a successful sales activity. We keep our promises. And we never promise what we cannot deliver. Last but not least, we don't just talk the talk but also operate according to the motto "underpromise and overdeliver". 59
Inspired by the celestial navigation of historyâ€™s great skippers, this automatic chronograph with moon phase and full calendar features a unique day-and-night indication showing a miniature view of a star-spangled night sky offset by a radiant depiction of the golden sun. www.delma.ch 60
DELMA KLONDIKE MOONPHASE
HIGHLIGHT Sponsored content
FABERGÉ LADY COMPLIQUÉE The Lady Compliquée Haute Horlogerie ladies’ collection upholds Peter Carl Fabergé’s tradition of surprise and meticulous execution with a new and spectacular time display which won the prestigious 2015 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) – the Swiss watchmaking industry’s highest honour – in the ‘High-Mechanical’ category. The highly original display of the collection features a fan at the heart of the watch; it thus perpetuates the ingenious and freethinking spirit of Peter Carl Fabergé. The Lady Compliquée Peacock pays homage to the famous “Peacock Egg” of 1908, and in addition to the gem-set models embellished with rubies, emeralds, black sapphires, diamonds and Paraiba tourmalines, the collection now offers a new, stylish black lacquer variation for a contemporary, everyday timepiece. Hours are read at the winding crown, off the disc that rotates counter-clockwise. The minutes are read off the fan as they unfurl each hour, only returning to zero when the lead fan reaches 60. www.faberge.com 61
PART I: 1964,
A TURNING POINT IN CHRONOMETRY FOR SEIKO
BY SERGE MAILLARD
The Olympic Games held in Tokyo in 1964 changed Seiko for ever. That edition, the first ‘technological’ Olympics, brought the Japanese company into the international arena. The numerous innovations it developed at that time still mark the group’s image today.
n 1964, Seiko already had a long and rich history behind it in Japan as a precursor of the watchmaking tradition in that island state. But the brand was seeking a more international thrust. The Olympic Games held in Tokyo that year, a symbol of rebirth and a showcase for the 'new‘, post-war Japan, provided the perfect opportunity. Shoji Hattori went all out for it and obtained the mandate to time the competitions. It was a watershed moment in the brand’s history. Because these Olympics also aimed to be the first ‘technological’ games, and on that count Seiko delivered… “Just imagine: no fewer than 1,278 devices were designed especially for the competition!” exclaims Robert Wilson, a British veteran of the Japanese brand and one of the best 'bridgebuilders’ between the European and Nippon watchmaking
cultures. "The company's reputation skyrocketed. The creation of a new generation of chronometers was enough to convince the sports establishment of the time, who hadn’t even heard of the company before!” Seiko would subsequently be selected as timekeeper for a further five Olympic Games (as well as numerous Asian and Commonwealth Games) – until the mandate went to Omega and the Swatch Group subsidiary, Swiss Timing. We’ll come back to that in the next episode of this series on sports timekeeping.
From quartz to printer But back to 1964: those Olympic Games triggered a techno- may have to wait a little longer for confirmation of the aclogical leap at Seiko in several respects. Certain innovations tual result, which explains the minor adjustments that may were subsequently applied to the production of regular occur between the times issued immediately afterwards and watches. Here are some of the most important ones: a new the official results. generation of high-precision chronometers; the first elec- A few graphics at the end of this article show the technolotronic display board; and the first portable quartz chronom- gies that Seiko covers today, from starting system to photo eter, the precision of which, paradoxically, many people finish (note that it’s an athlete’s torso that counts for the mistrusted! result, it’s not worth stretching your arms out), and in beOn another level, as information technology developed tween that measurement of distances and wind speed, and the results had to be supplied to journalists faster. That was the times of the marathon runners who run outside the stawhen the company first began producing printers, resulting dium equipped with a transponder. One general trend is bein the creation of Epson, which today is by far the most im- coming apparent quite apart from the computerisation of portant business line of the Seiko-Epson Corporation. procedures: video installations are increasingly ubiquitous Bolstered by these successes, Seiko became the official and Seiko is a pioneer in this type of innovation. timekeeper of the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) starting with the World Indoor Games in Paris in 1985 and the World Athletics Championships in What's the return on investment? Rome in 1987 – a mandate it still holds. “Since then, we’ve covered 150 competitions, including the World Championships A dedicated team, ultra-sophisticated equipment, coverage in London this year, with 2,034 athletes from 200 countries of numerous competitions… but what does Seiko get in return? “There's no real way of measuring in 47 disciplines,” says an emphatic Robert the return on investment,” replies the exWilson. “Our Seiko Timing Services strucperienced Robert Wilson. “At the Olympic ture supplies these services to the IAAF In a fraction of a Games in Barcelona in 1992 I really noticed free of charge. We pay a small amount of second, the results a clear correlation between our timekeepsponsoring, but it's a fraction of the cost of ing of the competitions and a sales boom, the equipment." of the competitions especially in Spain. That’s no longer the are displayed on the case today.” A crack team giant screens placed This business is not a profit centre for Seiko, unlike at Swiss Timing, for example. around London’s And on that subject, Europa Star had the So why do they persist in doing it? “First chance of going backstage and seeing of all for logical reasons of visibility, with Olympic stadium. how the timekeeping was done at the 2017 700,000 people at the stadium over ten London World Athletics Championships. days and an accumulated TV and online The dedicated team is made up of 60 engineers, mostly audience of 6 billion people for the World Championships! British, as well as Japanese. The equipment fits into eight Our logo is in full view on the screens and we also issue a containers and it’s not cheap... One scoreboard costs a hefty special watch for the occasion.” 500,000 dollars and Seiko deploys no fewer than eight dur- There are also ‘sentimental’ reasons, as Robert Wilson goes ing the championships, all in the highly recognisable yellow on to explain: “All these instruments can lead to innova‘official timekeeper’ colour of such competitions. This one, tions, like they did in 1964, which was a historic milestone notably, marked the last official appearance of the legend- in our development; so sport is a part of our history and our ary Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt (world record holder in the identity and we want to give something back to this commuflagship disciplines of the 100 and 200 metres). nity that has helped us so much." Of course, backstage, in front of the screens that line the In actual fact, Seiko has the capacity to cover many more box reserved for Seiko's timekeepers – who are in perma- competitions: “If, like us, you have the wherewithal to time nent contact with the race officials – you soon realise that swimming and athletics, you can time anything, from cythe stopwatch of yore has long been replaced by an entirely cling to motorsports and regattas!" To their great regret, the automated measuring system, which is, moreover, increas- 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo will not be timed by Seiko like ingly digitalised. the historic Games of 1964. So the return to home ground In a fraction of a second, the results of the competitions will have to wait a little longer. But the Japanese watchmakare displayed on the giant screens placed around London’s ers are known for their perseverance and long-term vision Olympic stadium. The spectators, whether in the stadium or – unlike their Swiss counterparts, very often… So the watchin front of their TV, don't like to be kept waiting! But they word is – patience!
THREE DECADES OF A LEGEND
BY OLLIVIER BROTO, WATCHONISTA CONTRIBUTOR, AND JOÃ‹L A. GRANDJEAN, CHIEF EDITOR OF WATCHONISTA
All rights reserved
During the 2000s, the sector saw the arrival of so-called “modern” brands in the watch auction catalogues. Charity events began to emerge... uring the 2000s, models by so-called “modIn April 2002, the Patek Philippe 1415 HU achieved 6.6 M CHF. ern” brands, in other words belonging to recent or “open” collections, started finding their way into the feverish auction halls. In the meantime, Rolex was increas- 2007, returns and new records ingly stirring the passions of collectors. It was the start of Rolexmania. This period also saw the arrival of one Aurel The year 2007 marked the departure of Osvaldo Patrizzi Bacs, who was working for Phillips in their new Geneva of- and the takeover of Antiquorum. The modern-day artisan of watch auctions sold his business fices. However, following Bernard Arnault’s and hurtled headlong, unbeknownst to decision to reduce LVMH's stake, Phillips “The year 2007 also him, into a legal wrangle that would end powered down its watch auction activisaw the advent of the in his favour only ten years later, in 2017. ties in Geneva. Aurel Bacs therefore joined Omegamania themed He bequeathed to the company a dataSotheby’s, where he pursued his stellar cabase of all the models sold since 1989, i.e. reer in the sector. In April 2002, the Patek auction in Geneva, around 65,000 timepieces. Christie’s, in Philippe 1415 HU achieved 6.6m CHF unthe very first auction the meantime, mounted the first step of der the Antiquorum hammer, sending all broadcast by satellite the podium. prices sky-high in the process and setting a 2007 was also the year of the Omegamania world record for wrist-watches that would on a big screen in the themed auction in Geneva, the very first not be beaten for some time. We were in a heart of Baselword.” auction broadcast by satellite on a big period of euphoria. screen in the heart of Baselword, in the Another phenomenon was gradually beginning to take shape, namely the staging of high added presence of the late Nicolas Hayek Senior. Never before had media value charity events. In 2005, Luc Pettavino, CEO of an Omega watch reached such a price! The 413,700 CHF paid the Monaco Yacht Show, together with Antiquorum and for the timepiece would make the Platinum Constellation under the distinguished patronage of H.S.H. Prince Albert Grand Luxe, a platinum model boasting a diamond index II of Monaco, set up the Only Watch auction, which would embellished dial and manufactured as a small series in the take place once every two years. It became a major institu- 1950s, an icon of the auction industry. Osvaldo Patrizzi, the tion in the sector. Taking advantage of the sudden surge in architect of these themed sales, thus firmly established his interest in watch auctions, it succeeded in raising consider- historical reputation as a pioneer, immediately prior to his able sums, while offering worldwide visibility to the brands departure from the company he had created in 1974. participating with their one-of-a-kind creations. The event Meanwhile over at Patek Philippe, which has been topping therefore played an introductory role for many of today’s the record lists for years now, the most expensive watch ever brand names, given that a good auction result has the advan- sold in the United States (New York, Antiquorum), the Sky tageous effect of immortalising the reputation and intangi- Moon Tourbillon, achieved 1.38m CHF on 14 June 2007. One of the only two ultra-complicated pocket watches known in ble value of a watchmaking brand for all eternity. the world, complete with double chronograph, flew off the blocks in Geneva in May for 928,000 CHF.
This Rolex Daytona Cosmograph crafted in steel, which once belonged to Paul Newman, sold at Phillips for the record sum of 17.8 million dollars. All rights reserved
All rights reserved
Patek Philippe ref. 2499
2007, the golden age The Asian market, especially fond of enamelled timepieces, went from strength to strength, posting performances in June 2007 across all houses 20% higher than those recorded in November 2006. Since then, no watch auction could overlook the auction houses of Shanghai, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo. Then in Geneva, the autumn sale of the same year hit 20 million CHF and set eight records with, among other pieces, the Rolex Yellow Gold GMT, Master Perspex Bezel (ref. 6542), ref. 6239, a Doctors Cosmograph, which went for triple its original estimate, and a 1940 triple chronograph by Audemars Piguet, selling for 447,000 CHF. Sotheby’s scored high in the satisfaction stakes, despite an 11% downturn. Geneva posted results of 13,507,403 CHF, New York topped the 12 million CHF mark, Hong Kong 9.6m CHF and London did well with 5,539,894 CHF. In other words, a total of over 41.4m CHF in sales, with a record model, the term now used in the sector to refer to a timepiece having beaten all previous records. In this case, it was The Franklin D. Roosevelt Clock, a table clock made by Pierre Cartier and given to the American president as a symbol of the European fight against Nazism. Dubbed “The Hour of victory in the world”, the splendid, magical five-dial desk clock was an eight-day timepiece crafted in silver, onyx and nephrite (Ed: a type of jade). Outside of the unstoppable Patek Philippe, other brands also played the game admirably well, including Vacheron Constantin, Breguet and Piguet & Meylan. 68
Another highlight was that Antiquorum, the pioneer in wristwatch auctions, was knocked off the top spot by Christies' performance. The sheer tenacity, impressive teamwork, reputation and international resources of the house, not to mention the amount of time spent on painstaking historical and cultural research, continued to pay off. Geneva, New York, Dubai and Hong Kong exceeded all expectations, reaching the unbelievable consolidated total of 103m CHF in 2007! And the variety of the lots on offer meant that Christie’s was able to uncover a few delightful rarities, a trend that was also confirmed among its competitors. These included the sublime ref. 4293 by Vacheron Constantin, whose movement was crafted in 1943 and whose rose gold case was made in 1957. The three-calendar minute repeater wristwatch had pulses racing high in October’s sale in New York when it reached a staggering 548,460 CHF. It was in November in Geneva that the leading house could legitimately claim to have sold the most expensive watches ever in the history of auctions. The lot in question, no. 223, comprised five watches. Be that as it may, Patek Philippe enjoyed a considerable lead, mainly by nearly tripling the original estimate for its ref. 2499, a chronograph with perpetual calendar and moon phases in rose gold, sold by Gobbi Milano and manufactured around 1957. The auctioneer’s gavel sent this piece flying to the top of the list of the most expensive watches ever sold by Christie’s, for the sum of 3,283,560 CHF.
2017: the golden era of Aurel Bacs The future of the auction: mixed fates and promises Today, however, some of the parameters have changed. How come, for example, the US dollar has remained the reference currency since 2002, while its rate against the Swiss franc continues to fluctuate? Just as factors such as rarity, seniority and quality determine once-stable prices, so do today’s trends fluctuate rapidly and influence new buyers with recently acquired buying power. All this has come about as a result of the activities not only of watchmaking specialists, but also bloggers, websites and those whom the trendies of marketing have dubbed the influencers. The inevitable knowledge regression that occurs sometimes prompts the emergence of true connoisseurs. Such as when certain industrially manufactured pieces are as expensive as hand-crafted workshop pieces. The indefatigable expert, Dr. Helmut Crott, gives us his insight in no uncertain terms: “New collectors and buyers need to be taught more about the quality of the watchmaking arts and about the different levels and subtleties of quality that exist.” Basically, judging by the efforts undertaken to recruit the best experts, it would appear that the players in the field already know this.
The watch auction landscape in 2017 was chiefly dominated by the aura of auctioneer Aurel Bacs, the new star of the field. Bacs, the man responsible for giving Christie’s the top spot, also brought about the return of Phillips auction house to the stage in 2015 after a twelve-year absence. As well as remaining at the helm of his own consultancy and expertise firm giving advice to private collectors, brands in search of historic recognition and indeed horological museums, he also supervises and organises sales. Bacs is a man who understands buyers’ tastes. He travels the world paying personal visits to the most seasoned connoisseurs, while tracking down rare pieces likely to bring about a bidding frenzy. Better still, insiders believe that he also has the capacity to influence the market. Be that as it may, in terms of results, he managed to put Phillips back in the limelight and in the process led a high-profile sale in November 2016 when the Patek Philippe ref. 1518 went under the hammer for 11m CHF. It’s a staggering amount. It stands out in letters of gold for all adventure-seekers looking to rise to the challenge and smash the record.
ALMOST 20 MILLION FOR A STEEL ROLEX? THE WORLD’S GONE MAD! BY JOËL A. GRANDJEAN, PR JOURNALIST / WATCHONISTA
The topic up for debate is whether the auction system is out of control. Is the race to beat the record counter-productive for the watchmaking sector? One thing’s for sure, it’s obscuring a few realities… Here’s why. Between the time this article was begun (see Part 1 in our previous issue and at Watchonista.com) and the time it was published, something extraordinary happened: on 26 October 2017, at a New York auction headed up by Aurel Bacs, undisputed star of the watch auctions, a Rolex Daytona Cosmograph crafted in steel, having once belonged to Paul Newman, sold at Phillips for the record sum of 15.5 million USD! Add the auction house’s commission of 12.5% and you’ve got a grand total of 17.8 million USD! We should perhaps add that it was purchased by the actor’s wife back in the day for around 300 USD! That means it has topped 59,333 times its original price in just under 60 years. What an investment! It knocks the previous record off the top spot, thereby securing Aurel Bacs’ Midas-like reputation for just about everything that comes under his hammer.
©Douglas Kirkland Corbis via Getty Images
The downside Up until now, the auction business, which has been gathering momentum for more than 30 years, has been beneficial for the entire watchmaking sector. Firstly, for the brands concerned, who obviously have brand new products to sell and are therefore happy to take advantage of the free publicity. And secondly, for all the other brands concerned by the subsequent promotion of the micromechanical arts and exceptional craftsmanship. Thanks to the articles regularly penned on these pages, they have indirectly received the benefit of a wide audience, its appetite whetted by the enthusiastic bursts of media attention. Today, however, after the incredible amount achieved at auction in New York, a sum without any bearing on reality, new questions have arisen. Is there a downside? The sheer extent to which these auctions have developed has the drawback of highlighting another reality. The continuing good health of the collectors’ vintage market is at the same time countered by the declining fortunes of watches featured in current collections. What of the auction catalogues, which are currently brimming with references from the past? Might they not be overshadowing new watches in today’s brands’ catalogues? In this respect, the race to beat the record is inevitably a double-edged sword in the long run, even for the more prosperous brands, such as Patek Philippe, or Rolex.
The after buzz, a time of hope: Tudor, Dufour, etc… As for Phillips, clearly its mastery of the social platforms is second to none at the moment. Bloggers and influencers have all been sucked into the viral spiral. The house has created a planet-wide buzz for a potential star, a model that was named at the very inception of the themed watch auction, since it was Phillips, not Rolex who gave it the Newman epithet. Big enough to attract well-to-do watchmaking virgins, Hollywood stars and the newly wealthy to the watch auction universe. Also noisy enough for long-standing experts and collectors to shake their heads at the thought of such madness. Eclipsed by the media noise, their keen knowledge of other objects has already been expressed in no uncertain terms. While it was clearly a strategic move on the part of Phillips, from the oncethe-fuss-dies-down-the-real-business-of-sales-will-start school of thought, you must admit it has been rather successful. On the one hand, we have optimum media coverage and on the other, the serene progress of the sales themselves, which, to the non-connoisseur may well appear somewhat long-winded due to the sheer number of lots. Unfortunately eclipsed by this sale were other lots worthy of mention. For example, the outstanding achievement of lot 11, a steel-clad Tudor ref. 7032/0 “Monte Carlo Black”, which confirmed all predictions by selling for the upper limit of the estimate: 118,750 USD! We also had a promising performance by the independent watchmaker, Philippe Dufour, with his Duality in platinum, a study in pure elegance, which went for almost double its maximum estimate. Estimated at between 200,000 and 400,000 USD, it approached the million mark with a flurry of bids taking it to 915,000 USD. Aside from the buzz, it’s just the type of encouragement that does a brand good, the kind of boost that’s reassuring. The man himself is still alive and kicking, with a brand that’s full of real values. He stands for the transfer of skills that are fast dying out, skills on which new generations of bidders will come to depend. Read the first part of our “Watch auctions, three decades of a legend” in the June 2017 edition of Europa Star, Europa Star Première and on Watchonista. You can find this article (in French and English) on Watchonista.com
FABERGÉ'S DETERMINED FAIRY
INTERVIEW BY PIERRE MAILLARD
THE OBJECT: DVD of the documentary film Signé Chanel by Loïc Prigent, released in 2013, that follows the production of a Chanel Haute Couture collection from A to Z. "I have always been fascinated by Gabrielle Chanel and her whole story. I love her sharp character and avant-garde choices, the way she laid claim to menswear codes to revolutionise the way that women dress, liberating them from constraints and corsets. She is a role model for me. And I admire the brand's strict continuity, timelessness and chic elegance, and how it always manages to include a hint of rock n' roll. And intransigence, besides!"
Photograph: Fabien Scotti | Arcade Europa Star
Few – precious few – women are at the heads of watchmaking brands. The young Aurélie Picaud, head of the Fabergé watchmaking division, is one of those rare exceptions. In a few short years, she has managed to bring the Fabergé brand front and centre, with very creative, technically innovative watch propositions like no other (picking up two grand prizes at the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève on the way for her first two models). Europa Star met up with her during one of her trips to Geneva, where a workshop has opened; and London, where the parent company headquarters is located. She was happy to answer our questions with a sweet smile and a kindly demeanour which conceals her uncommon determination. Clearly, Aurélie Picaud knows very well where she wants to take the watchmaking division of Fabergé.
Your career has been completely atypical. How did you become the head of a watchmaking brand like Fabergé?
Let's shoot for Baselworld 2015 with several new collections. They knew one thing: they wanted a ladies' complication from the beginning.
I was born in Normandy, France, and I chose to attend an engineering school in Lyon, ITECH, which notably specialises in chemistry, cosmetology and plastics processing. I Great, but how? How do you start from a blank page... thought of majoring in cosmetics, but in the end I chose And fill it up so quickly, within 14 to 15 months? leather technology, leather goods and therefore fashion. Then I left for a six-month work placement in Germany I started by immersing myself as much as possible in the with an automobile components manufacturer supplying Fabergé jewellery world and its incredible history. People are Porsche, Audi and VW. There, I participated familiar with the Fabergé eggs, but generin the research of leather for dashboards. I ally much less with the rest of the brand's "The CEO, Sean ended up staying there for two years as creative opulence. Very impressive and part of the R&D team. But I didn't have a very stimulating: great liberty, the expresGilbertson explained passion for the automobile industry, and I sion of happiness, the tricks of the trade, to me that he wanted was looking for something more creative. and so on. I started to discuss and work I was not at all familiar with watchmaking, with the Fabergé jewellery designers. to entirely revise but as luck would have it, I was hired by From there, I sought to determine the funthe watchmaking the Swatch Group to develop watch straps damental attributes of the Fabergé style division. It would for all their brands. There, as part of the in order to bring a coherent structure to Quality Management unit, I performed aumy approach. The brand's specific propormean reconsidering dits on various suppliers and was in charge tions, propensity to mix materials, very ineverything, starting of quality criteria. And I developed a pasdepth art of colour, and tendency to often sion for timepieces. over from a blank page." include a playful surprise... At the confluI then became a junior product manager ence of technical achievement and creaat Omega. My responsibilities were no tive expression. longer limited to watch straps: I worked on the entire Just think of the eggs and the surprise that they were meant product with the technical department. That lasted three to create, even in the eyes of a tsar. Something that makes us years, including work for Breguet. smile, tells a story, or evokes a particular emotion. From there, I received an offer from Audemars Piguet, a brand Moreover, Carl Fabergé was used to working with master that I appreciate, which made a statement with the Royal craftsmen on various projects. I thought that I would apply Oak in its time. They wanted to recruit me as product man- the same method to watchmaking. I began to plan out my apager, first for ladies' watches, and then for part of the Royal proach: nothing but mechanics and originality: a beautiful Oak men's watches. That finally gave me a 360° vision. I was mechanical object that expresses something special. involved not only in the product but also in the marketing strategy and communication. I was happy, and I was working closely with designer Julie Dicks… Then I was contacted by So it's the end of 2013 and you still have no team: you are Fabergé, who said they wanted to meet me. all by yourself, you leave for Switzerland, and you make some decisive contacts That was not long ago, in 2013... I went to see them. You never know. I had heard of Fabergé and its famous eggs, but I didn't know much else about the brand. I had an interview with the CEO, Sean Gilbertson, who explained to me that he wanted to "clear" the watchmaking license that would soon be coming to an end, and that he wanted to entirely revise the watchmaking division. It would mean reconsidering everything, starting over from a blank page. I never dreamed that I would be selected, but against all odds, they made me an offer. I found the adventure tempting. In November 2013, I was given the objective of presenting a collection at Baselworld 2014! I said no, that's just impossible.
I settled on four projects, and for each of these projects I decided to form a separate, autonomous team that would each cover their entire project. Before long, I had a decisive meeting with Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, from the Agenhor manufacture. I was determined to meet him and explain my ideas to him: my project to create a truly feminine complication. And I managed to convince him to embark upon this project that – thanks to his poetic watchmaking approach and specific concept of the retrograde complication – became the Lady Compliquée Peacock. In parallel, I assembled three other teams: one for a purely jewellery watch, Summer in Provence; another for the entry-range collection, the Flirt, equipped with a Vaucher movement; and
a final team for the men's watch Visionnaire 1, a project led by Giulio Papi featuring a flying tourbillon at 9 o'clock. I found myself on my own again, with all the coordination still to organise: the logistics, quality control, marketing, graphic charter, and a thousand other things. Not to mention the need to find a location in Geneva and to set up a workshop for the assembly line.
The collaboration resulted in this year's Visionnaire Chronograph, which is devoid of the traditional counters in favour of a central hands display. Some consider this a major innovation, obtained by way of a revolutionary movement. That being said, the movement remains the property of Agenhor, but we were able to be the first to make use of it.
And now it's Baselworld 2015...
We now know that Fabergé makes original creative propositions and remarkable technical solutions. But what about distribution?
Of course, I was nervous, but people immediately began showing their interest. Word-of-mouth amplified the phenomenon, and in the end, everyone wanted to see our creations. It must be said that Jean-Marc Wiederrecht became an enthusiastic Fabergé brand ambassador. But that is where the business part of the adventure truly began: seeking out partners. Fabergé is a well-known brand, but "thinking outside the egg" and getting across what Fabergé is doing today was – and still is – a different story. It is about informing the public, demonstrating the founder's incredible creative legacy, explaining Fabergé's watchmaking legitimacy, and so on. Back then, Carl Fabergé worked with Heinrich Moser, who lived in Russia.
Communication efforts must continue to be a priority, of course, and it will take time. Moreover, times are relatively hard for everyone, there's no denying it; but we are developing our network well in this difficult context. We now have 150 retailers: in the Middle East – established from the beginning – and now in Europe (France, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom), the USA, Japan and Hong Kong. In addition to this retailer network, we have Fabergé boutiques in London and Houston as well as space at Harrods. We also organise a number of events and maintain direct contact with our clients.
And what came next demonstrated that this was a truly productive inspiration?
And how many watches do you sell annually?
Today we sell close to 200 watches annuIn 2016, back at Baselworld, we presented ally. Our objective is to reach a thousand. new collections such as the Dalliance, and But we wish to remain a niche brand, a particularly the Fabergé Lady Libertine. The jewellery brand and a watch complication "Fabergé is a welloverarching idea of this very special line brand. The group's intention is strong, was to occupy the centre of the watch with and the investments are considerable. The known brand, but a slightly raised disc from whence emerge long-term Fabergé project is to divide the 'thinking outside the two openworked hands. This design conactivity into 45% watchmaking, 45% jewelegg' is a different story." lery and 10% objects. cept frees up large spaces in the centre and around the edge of the dial, making them But for now, my priority is to consolidate. entirely available for decoration. One examWe have developed a great many models, ple is the enormous moon at the centre of the Lady Levity. we have staked out our territory, and we now have a recogAnd, still in parallel, we pursued our very fruitful collabora- nisable identity. We will be concentrating on our two leadtion with Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, asking him to work on a ing lines, the two award-winning lines: the Lady Compliquée second time zone display at the centre of the dial. This led to and the Visionnaire. the DTZ with its second time zone in a central display, which once again had people talking. The watch is both innovative [Editor's note: Fabergé is 100% held by Gemfields (emerald, ruby and very easy to read. and amethyst mines), which belongs to the private equity fund This idea of placing functionality at the centre of the watch was Pallinghurst, the owner of platinum mines and other resources. particularly opportune, since Jean-Marc had been working for Sean Gilbertson is the CEO of Fabergé and Gemfields] a long time on his own to design a movement that would be "empty", so to speak, at the centre, opening the horizon for new central complication display modes.
WATCHMAKING IN THE DESIGN ERA
INTERVIEW BY SERGE MAILLARD
Why are vintage and tool chronographs so sought-after at auction? Is this minimalism a passing fad or a genuine groundswell? After years of mechanical escalation, the industry finally seems to be reining in. We meet Davide Cerrato, head of Montblanc’s watch division, who turns his keen eyes on the ongoing changes, and reveals his satisfaction at this newfound appreciation of simplicity.
ust as the fragrance industry has its “noses”, Davide Cerrato is known as an “eye” in the watch business. This Italian native, ever charming and impeccably groomed, now places his visual acuity at the service of Montblanc’s watch division, having contributed significantly to turning around the fortunes of Tudor, a company now enjoying a new golden age thanks to the winning formula of chronographs, vintage chic, accessible pricing and legibility, which at the same time has sparked a resurgence in the brand’s value at auction. So, why Montblanc? Because... behind Montblanc, there’s Minerva. It was Montblanc’s acquisition of this historic manufacture, known for its stopwatches, that first drew Davide Cerrato’s attention. Minerva celebrates its 160th anniversary next year, which provides a convenient opportunity to take stock of the main aesthetic trends in the market. The age of technical extravagance seems to be drawing to a close, and the conversation is now turning to design and minimalism.
THE OBJECT: “I’ve just returned from London, the only place where I can comfortably go out wearing a British bowler hat. I love hats. In fact, I recently treated myself to an American park ranger’s hat! In Switzerland people don’t wear hats so much, and that’s a shame. Someone once asked me what I wanted to bring to the watch industry. Style!”
Photograph: Fabien Scotti | Arcade Europa Star
Europa Star: If we compare current watch production with that of five years ago, it seems like the aesthetic codes have been toned down. Many new watches today are strikingly similar to models from fifty years back, while the 50-year-old originals are doing very well at auction, particularly chronographs and sports watches.
Nevertheless, the internet has multiplied the possibilities for buying and reselling second-hand watches. That has to change things, doesn’t it? It’s true that these days, not only does everyone own a watch, but everyone can become a watch trader. It’s an amplification of a pre-existing phenomenon.
Davide Cerrato: Let’s take a step back. In the 1970s, quartz came as a terrible shock for the Swiss watch industry, and the industry’s response was to make mechanical watches Some brands are now trying to take control over seceven more technical. At the same time, design fell somewhat ond-hand watch sales, and over the destiny of their old by the wayside. products. Is Montblanc one of them? The 2008–2009 crisis marked the beginning of the end of this technical phase. We have returned to an era of design, No, this applies mainly to more high-end brands. But I won’t and a desire to take the best of mechanical craftsmanship rule out the idea of paying closer attention to auctions in the and form. In watchmaking, as in any industry, design deter- future. Today, events like Only Watch provide a benchmark mines the first impression; it’s the most important element. for the value of a brand’s heritage. Today, we are increasingly attracted to minimalism, and we can see the importance of "The question we design. The question we should ask is not Let’s talk about your heritage. Next year should ask is not what we can add, but what we can remove marks the 160th anniversary of Minerva, what we can add, but from our watches. which is now part of Montblanc. Why Let’s not forget that the raison d’être of a did you not revive the Minerva brand, what we can remove watch is primarily to be a measuring ingiven that it is greatly appreciated by from our watches." strument. We are reclaiming the watch’s connoisseurs? primordial features; the legibility of sports watches, which is so keenly appreciated today, and their pure- I should point out that Minerva has always been more foly functional quality. A new cycle is beginning, drawing inspi- cused on the product than on its own brand. Its primary role ration from vintage models. was as a supplier. Minerva watches are rather rare. Today, our movements are signed Minerva, and we have extended the life of the manufacture. That seems to me to be coherThis cycle isn’t necessarily favourable for today’s watch- ent. With Minerva, we have a truly creative laboratory, along makers. On the one hand, many new entry-level players with the brand’s technical and design heritage, which enare targeting young people by using vintage inspiration compasses dials and cases as well as movements. The comto create a luxury image at a competitive price. And on pany archives are a rich source of value. We have already the other, many collectors seem to prefer the originals, begun to exploit Minerva’s heritage through our 1858 and and are turning to auctions! TimeWalker collections. The RallyTimer, for example, brings back Minerva’s stopwatch spirit. Stopwatches were the comI don’t believe that this is blurring the lines of luxury, be- puters of their day! They were true instruments, with very cause the difference between a luxury item and a fashion clear requirements in terms of readability. item rests on two elements. First: analytical depth, which means that you can continue to explore your past and learn from every stage. And second, technical quality; we have con- Speaking of readability, it’s easy to feel lost amid ducted research into materials, which has led to the develop- Montblanc’s continuing expansion – perhaps a legacy ment of watches like the TimeWalker Pythagore UltraLight of Jérôme Lambert’s creative activism – which now Concept, which weighs less than 20 grams. It could scarcely stretches from smartwatches to grand complications. be more minimalist. It is here that design meets innovation. What is Minerva’s role within this very broad range of Moreover, I believe that every era experiences its own cycle products? of rebirth, creating new collectors. In my view, the markets for new and old watches have always coexisted. Retailers The integration of the Minerva manufacture has enabled us have always stocked second-hand watches. Vintage is part of to create high-end pieces like the ExoTourbillon, and we can the system. now apply these innovations more widely to the rest of the
company’s products. The ExoTourbillon is a good example, because it then gave birth to the slim model. Our stock-in-trade is simple: mechanical watches. We do mechanical watchmaking with a high intrinsic value, a good entry price and, in addition, some very accomplished complications. The Summit smartwatch has broad appeal with Millennials, and we are now applying our vintage dial designs to smartwatches. But you have identified an important element: we will gradually move from ten to six collections, to make our company’s offer more “legible”, with a fundamental demarcation between sport and heritage. For each theme, we offer a broad range of fine watchmaking, at the right price positioning. There is no reason for us to change our strategy, as some brands are doing, because we have always built our brand around the concept of fair value. Our core business remains the segment between 2,000 and 5,000 francs, but we also have ranges between 20,000 and 100,000 francs.
Montblanc 4810 ExoTourbillon Slim
“We will gradually move from ten to six collections, to make our company’s offer more legible, with a fundamental demarcation between sport and heritage.”
Montblanc ExoTourbillon Chronographe 79
RECOMMENDED READING BY FABRICE MUGNIER, WATCHPRINT.COM
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A FORGOTTEN CONSEQUENCE OF THE
BY PIERRE MAILLARD
In 1952, the Swiss government took the controversial decision to restrict watch exports to Hong Kong. Watchmakers were obliged to respect quotas that cut the number of watches they were authorised to export each month by an average of 50%, compared with the previous year, to what was at that time still a British colony. What were the reasons for this restriction? As a British colony, Hong Kong was part of the sterling area, and in 1952, the pound sterling was experiencing some turbulence. “In the first half of 1950, before the outbreak of the conflict in Korea, there was a real approach to economic balance throughout the world,” we can read in the 22nd Annual Report of the Bank for International Settlements, which met in Basel on 9 June 1952. Countries were beginning to pick themselves up after the second world war, and in Europe the Marshall Plan was in full swing. But in mid-1950 the Korean War broke out, with an effect like a lightning bolt from clear skies. As a result, numerous countries decided to rearm, creating fierce competition for raw materials. “Since prices of manufactured articles did not rise at the same pace as those of raw materials,” continues the report, “the terms of trade deteriorated for industrialised countries in general.” In the sterling area, the delivery of import licences was subjected to strict controls from February 1951. “In an effort to avoid unnecessary inflation as a result of its position as creditor,” wrote Europa Star in its The Eastern Jeweller and Watchmaker edition of late 1952, “Switzerland has introduced obligatory quotas for many manufactured products, including watches. Deliveries to
Cover of The Eastern Jeweller and Watchmaker no. 5, published by Europa Star in 1952
Hong Kong importers have therefore been limited according to the exchange reserves of each exporting firm.” One major Hong Kong importer objected vociferously: “It is difficult to understand why the Swiss government would not demand cash payment from the country concerned, rather than resorting to negative actions by reinforcing export restrictions!” He reminds us that, even then, “Hong Kong is the main repository in the Far East and the second biggest outlet for Swiss industrial output, after the USA.” Clearly, his diatribe convinced our reporters, who noted that “this reaction is understandable, and we hope that more favourable measures will quickly be taken by Switzerland in order to be able to respond effectively to the very high demand for watches of all kinds.” Between 1948 and 1952, Swiss watch exports grew from 20 million to around 35 million watches. This growth was cut short, and exports dropped back to 30 million in 1954, before taking off once again, climbing to 40 million in 1956, the date of the Suez crisis. Exports plateaued and then declined up to 1960, which marked the start of a new growth period, reaching its zenith in the record-breaking year of 1974, at 85 million units. This peak was followed by a severe depression that bottomed out at 50 million watches in 1979. The “quartz crisis” had struck, and a whole new story was about to begin.
Published on Nov 23, 2017