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CLUBHOUSE Away from the Fairways Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon, the latest addition to Cartier’s high watchmaking line


Time Space Continuum

Evan Rast on the present and future of watchmaking, and all the fascinating timepieces in between CONTINUED OVERLEAF HKGOLFER.COM

HK Golfer・MAY 2012



Horological giant: Hong Kong topped the import charts with over CHF4 billion worth of Swiss watch products, like this updated Oyster Perpetual Submariner from Rolex


HK Golfer・MAY 2012

urope was the centre of much financial news throughout 2011 and well into the beginning of this year, most of which were unflattering to say the least. In the heart of Switzerland, however, an industry seemed immune to the chaos. What was a bad year for Europe has actually been a record-breaking one for the Swiss watch industry, with exports rising by 19 per cent to CHF19.3 billion (HK$164.8 billion) from 2010’s CHF17 billion. This is an amazing feat, considering that the industry was on a downward slope just two years ago. And they’ve got a lot to thank Asia for. In 2011, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand, in

decreasing order, accounted for nearly 50 per cent of Swiss watch exports. Swiss watch sales in the mainland was at its highest ever, growing by 48.7 per cent. Hong Kong topped the import charts with over CHF4 billion worth of Swiss watch products, followed by the US at CHF2 billion, while Europe, reflecting the crisis, posted below-average figures, and absorbed only 29 per cent of exports (a two per cent drop from 2010). This is just the tip of the iceberg, most watch executives believe, as many of the CEOs this writer chatted with at Baselworld and SIHH see no signs of a slowdown. In fact Chinese demand is expected to rise above 20 per cent in 2012, and beyond. The WorldWatchReport, an annual study by the Digital Luxury Group, presents interesting observations about this Chinese phenomenon. For the first time since the study was launched in 2004, the mainland surpassed the US as the country with the highest number of web searches for watches, representing 23 per cent of all watch-related searches. The top brand three brands that came up as most-searched were Omega, Longines and Rolex, followed closely by Tag Heuer and Cartier. In terms of models, Rolex’s Submariner and Omega’s Seamaster were among the most popular, along with Tag Heuer’s Carrera and Cartier’s Tank. With such clamour for their watches, it’s no surprise that these brands released new additions to these aforementioned lines. Rolex has updated its Oyster Perpetual Submariner, with a subtly redesigned case and a new bezel and bracelet. The unidirectional bezel now comes with a black Cerachrom insert for resistance to scratches, fading and corrosion. The dial has hour markers and hands with Chromalight, an improved luminescent material that emits a blue glow, for increased legibility in the dark. Equipped with the automatic calibre 3130, the watch has all the features of a Submariner: the parachrom hairspring for shock resistance, the 40mm steel Oyster case water-resistant to 300 metres, and the Triplock waterproof crown. 2012 is also the year of the Tank, with Cartier presenting a new line following the Americaine and the Francaise: the Tank Anglaise. The integrated bracelet, Roman numerals and blued sword-shaped hands remain the same, with the case made sleeker with an integrated winding crown. The large version of the watch is fitted with the manufacture’s in-house automatic calibre 1904 MC, visible through the sapphire caseback. The timepiece comes in three ladies and men’s sizes in three colours of gold, with or without diamonds. HKGOLFER.COM

Survival of the Fittest

With the Swatch Group, Richemont and LVMH all having record-breaking turnovers in 2011, it is becoming increasingly clear that the large groups are becoming more dominant. And if you include Rolex, whose sales were at CHF3 billion, one would have to wonder where the other smaller, independent brands fit in. I n s u c h a c o m p e t it i ve m a r k e t , t h e independent watchmakers who will succeed will have pieces that stand out because they look different, they are technologically superior, or they have exceptional workmanship. A good example would be Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey, who have turned their tourbillon obsession into a mechanical art form. All their timepieces have multiple tourbillons and inclined balance wheels for ultimate precision, an approach that won them an award last year at the International Chronometry Competition for their Double Tourbillon Technique. At SIHH, Greubel Forsey presented the Quadruple Tourbillon Secret, a watch whose movement is only visible at the back. The dial side redefines the expression of telling the time with its harmonious arrangement of counters with the four-minute tourbillon rotation indicator. The Quadruple Tourbillon Secret offers a 50-hour power reserve with an indicator at 2 o’ clock, and comes in a unique edition of eight pieces in 5N red gold and eight pieces in platinum. Of course, one cannot talk about independents without mentioning Patek Philippe, a veritable institution and symbol of exquisite craftsmanship and precision timekeeping. This year, it highlights its iconic cushion-shaped case in the ultra-thin perpetual calendar, which comes in an elegant gold case measuring 44.6x37mm. The automatic calibre 5940 has a 22k gold mini-rotor integrated into the back plate, and with all its 275 parts is only 1.35mm in height and 3.88mm thick. CONTINUED ON PAGE 64

Pushing the boundaries: Cartier’s Tank Anglaise (top), which follows the Americaine and Francaise; the Dove from Vacheron Constantin (bottom). The brand is one of the few with a recognized Metier d’Art collection 20

HK Golfer・MAY 2012



Mighty Developments

Investing in the future has become more vital for companies that want to remain competitive and keep production running smoothly, especially with the planned stoppage of deliveries of component parts and movements by ETA and Nivarox – owned by the Swatch Group – to third parties beginning this July. Investments to increase production capacity and the amount of work done in-house have been made across the industry, with the big brands leading the way. At Richemont, Cartier is investing CHF100 million in a new facility with a goal to increase the number of in-house mechanical movements. Vacheron Constantin plans to double its watch production over the next few years. Panerai’s new atelier in Neuchatel is currently under construction, while Piaget is investing CHF15 million to double its production capacity. Rolex has apparently invested millions of Swiss francs over the last 10 years to complete its 230,000sqm facility that will house assembly, machining and finishing. At LVMH, Louis Vuitton is constructing an atelier in Geneva that will vertically integrate production. Focus is also being given to developing different workshops for finishing techniques. Hublot is expanding to double its production capacity, and TAG Heuer, while building a new facility, has also already partnered with Atokalpa, of the Sandoz Family Foundation, which owns Parmigiani and Vaucher manufacture, for production of their balance springs. The Swatch group is expanding as well, with plans to build their new headquarters, and expand the production facilities for a number of their brands, including Breguet and Omega. A significant move by the Festina Group has been to focus on the production of quality escapements, aiming for as many as one million units annually. This will be especially important to brands that are not able to make all the parts for their escapements. Companies like Sellita, Technotime, Soprod, Lajoux-Perret, DuboisDepraz and Vaucher Manufacture, which is partly owned by Hermes, are also focusing on providing the parts and components that the industry will require. Leading contenders (clockwise from top): the Governeur Chronograph from Piaget; Parmigiani’s Tonda 1950 Special Edition and its spiral-inspired dial; the Extra Thin Royal Oak from Audemars Piguet, which was released this year to mark the 40th anniversary of the brand’s iconic timepiece 64

HK Golfer・MAY 2012


Artisans in Demand

With this massive movement and expansion, there are more watchmaking-related careers on offer. In fact, there is an increasing demand for technical people and artisans that have the knowhow and can train aspiring watchmakers. In the last few years, the watch groups have established schools, or partnered with colleges to develop a watchmaking programme that will benefit them in the future. Metier d’ art is a trend, with enameling, engraving, gemsetting and special finishing techniques in high demand. Vacheron Constantin is one of those brands with a recognized Metier d’ Art collection, and this year, it presented the Les Univers Infinis Series, inspired by the tessellation periodic paving technique and the works of Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher, which display a fascinating interplay of esthetic and mathematics. The Dove features the birds in flight on an 18k gold dial hand-guilloched and enameled, wit h one dove set wit h 40 brilliant-cut diamonds. The watch is fitted with an automatic 2460 SC calibre with a 40-hour power reserve, housed in a 40mm white gold case with a transparent caseback. Meanwhile at Hermes, known enamellist Ines Hamaguchi has been commissioned to do a unique piece, the Arceau Astrolabe pliqueà-jour pocket watch. She uses the plique-à-jour technique, plus cloisonné, in-laid enamelling, ronde-bosse, and incorporating gold- and silverleaf patterns to produce mesmerizing pocket watch. She starts a year-long partnership with Hermes, whom she will be working on pieces with the theme, “The Gift of Time.”

automatic calibre with 40-hour power reserve. Another unique watch from SIHH is the Tonda 1950 Special Edition from Parmigiani, which features a dial inspired by the spiral. A unique ‘grille’ that shows a glimpse of the gear trains and was created using the LIGA technique (a combination of lithography, electroplating and moulding that provides very precise results), gives the watch a very modern look. Fitted with the in-house automatic calibre PF701 – among the world’s thinnest at 2.6mm – the timepiece offers a 42-hour reserve, with hours, minutes and small seconds at 6 o’clock. At Piaget, a new line was presented this year, a sophisticated collection called the Governeur, distinguished mainly by the use of oval and round shapes on the case and the dial. The Governeur Chronograph is one of the highlights of the range, which is powered by the 882P calibre, a new ultra-thin mechanical movement with a flyback function. The 43mm case comes in pink gold, with a sapphire crystal caseback that allows a generous view of the self-winding movement. And last but not least, it is worth mentioning Cartier’s latest addition to its high watchmaking line, the Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon. Yes, the name is a mouthful, but Carole Forestier-Kasapi and her team of watchmakers really did their research on this one, creating a watch in materials that would give it the best sound. The Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater uses a 45mm titanium case combined with hardened steel gongs resulting in chimes that reach 68 decibels. The watch is fitted with the handwound calibre 9402MC and features the Cartier flying tourbillon at 12 o’clock.

Diversity in Key

With all these exciting developments in the watch industry, and ever-growing demand from t he East, t here is much room for experimentation. The brands know that classic and iconic pieces will continue to be bestsellers, but there is also a gap for the innovative, the daring and the game-changers. A diversified product range ensures that there is one watch that is perfect for each unique individual. This year, with the Royal Oak’s 40th anniversary, Audemars Piguet decided to modernize its most iconic watch, presenting several models, including the Extra Thin Royal Oak. The watch bears the same size as the original from 1972 at 39mm, gold screws and tapering lugs on the steel bracelet. But this time, the trademark pattern on the dial was created using a special antique machine that cuts the squares on the dial simultaneously resulting in the ‘ramolaye’ pattern. The watch houses the 2121 HKGOLFER.COM

HK Golfer・MAY 2012



Evan Rast on the present and future of watchmaking, and all the fascinating timepieces in between CONTINUED OVERLEAF  TEE TIME Rotonde de C...