MECHANICS EXPOSED MASTER CRAFTSMANSHIP REVEALS THE INNER WORKINGS OF THESE POWERFUL TIMEPIECE S TEXT MATT MORLEY
MasterGraff Skeleton Limited Edition. Louis Vuitton Tambour Monogram Tourbillon
Pasha de Cartier Skeleton Flying Tourbillon
FOR GENTLEMEN UNACCUSTOMED TO BUYING jewellery and without an insider’s knowledge of the watchmaking craft (ie most meat-eating males), the top-ofthe-range models in a prestige watch brand’s annual collection can baffle for a number of reasons, not least price. After all, how do you justify spending the equivalent of a new BMW on a timepiece? Ask any decent watch salesman and they will explain that it’s to do with the precious stones and materials, functional complexities requiring dozens of highly skilled man-hours to create, and the quality guarantee the brand brings with it. On top of such rational arguments, a watch also adds to our sense of identity and self-worth by conveying our status and connoisseurship. Despite all of that, something still bothers us. So much of what we pay for in a watch is hidden beneath the dial or visible only to the trained eye. Many of the finest Breguet and Vacheron Constantin models fall into that category — they often produce hugely expensive but notoriously understated watches. Not every brand can play that game successfully, and even fewer buyers can afford to buy into it, which pushes designers towards the visual trick of revealing the watch’s internal mechanics. Exposing a particular movement on a watch dial, such as a tourbillon for example, adds interest and intrigue in equal measure. It is a constant reminder of just how much is going on inside the watch case with every passing second and every movement of the wrist. It also helps, in a very basic sense, to justify the asking price. Exposing the entire internal mechanics by removing the dial completely, stripping away all non-essential metalwork and creating transparency from both front and back of the watch is a more extreme approach that often involves some spectacular aesthetic flourishes from the watchmaker in question. Such watches are described as skeletonised and this year saw several exciting new arrivals from the likes of Cartier, Graff and Louis Vuitton. Each of Cartier’s 100 limited edition Pasha de Cartier
Skeleton Flying Tourbillon watches are made of a 42mm, 18ct white gold case with a fluted white gold crown set with a sapphire cabochon gemstone. These details are a fitting frame for the Calibre 9457 MC movement with its flying tourbillon escapement inside. In a further interplay of form and function, the bridges of the movement become a surrogate dial complete with Arabic numerals and a branded three-sided rectangular structure with minute markers. One of the ironies of the skeleton watch is that as the exterior is stripped back, it becomes increasingly challenging to actually tell the time, a pitfall that has been artfully avoided in this timepiece. Graff have been steadily climbing the haute horlogerie ladder since launching their watch division under the leadership of Michel Pitteloud in 2009. Their first in-house movement arrived in 2010 and this year saw the launch of their first skeletonised model — the MasterGraff Skeleton. The chunky 48mm facetted case features 164 diamonds, totaling over 24 carats, combined with white or rose gold. It is the latter that wins our vote as the rose gold structural frame creates a strong visual contrast with the diamonds.
a Geneva-based watchmaking workshop specialising in complex movements such as tourbillons and minute repeaters, has only strengthened its position and suggests big things to come. This seductive looking version of the successful Tambour model is available in a choice of three different 18ct gold cases — white, pink and yellow. Many of the movement’s internal elements are also made of the same gold as the case, providing a pleasing sense of continuity between the watch’s exterior and its inner workings, a sensation that is further enhanced by the skeletonised face. A lacquered yellow seconds hand recalls classic Louis Vuitton luggage stitching; a reference to the brand’s leather goods arm, and not the only one in evidence here either. The monogram-shaped carriage of the tourbillon, reminiscent of a four-leaf clover, and the engraved flower on the sapphire glass bridge, just visible in the picture above, both reinforce Louis Vuitton’s logo-driven visual branding policy. In addition to the Louis Vuitton wordmark engraved at 6 o’clock, the external edge of the case has been engraved with the 12 letters “LOUIS VUITTON” and the middle wheel
It is a constant reminder of just how much is going on inside the watch case with every passing second and every movement of the wrist The hand wound Concepto movement includes a tourbillon, a seemingly essential addition to the skeletonised watch, and a generous 72-hour power reserve. All 20 of these watches (just 10 of each version were produced for distribution via Graff boutiques around the world) come with a black alligator strap and bespoke Graff folding clasp. Louis Vuitton’s Tambour Monogram Tourbillon is yet further evidence of the maison’s increasing confidence in the watch sector. Its recent acquisition of La Fabrique du Temps,
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bridge, visible at 9 o’clock, takes the shape of a diamond-set LV monogram. What’s more, the LV can be changed to the owner’s initials, allowing for the personalisation of the watch itself. A precursor of a key trend for 2012 perhaps?
Cartier distributed by Vendôme Distributors, 011 317 2600. Graff available at Delaire Graff Estate, 021 885 8160, www.delaire.co.za. Louis Vuitton available at Louis Vuitton, 011 784 9854, www.louisvuitton.com
RENEGADE RELEASES TELLING THE TIME IS A MERE FORMALITY AS WATCH MAKERS PUSH THE BOUNDARIES OF DESIGN TEXT MATT MORLEY
AT ITS MOST BASIC, A WATCH IS DESIGNED TO communicate the precise time of day to its wearer. Over the centuries, several conventions have emerged that perform that task with the minimum of fuss. Having numerals is a useful start, anything between one and 12 will do. A couple of indicator hands is a good idea as well, preferably rotating clockwise around a central axis. Rules are made for breaking though and the Swiss watch industry likes nothing better than showing off its technical wizardry. Here are some of the finest horological renegades of this year. Maurice Lacroix may not be in the running for patents on a revolutionary new tourbillon or minute repeaters but they can still show off their team’s creativity in other ways, such as the Masterpiece Roue Carrée Seconde that launched at BaselWorld 201. Said to be the first square wheel in the watch industry it was developed in collaboration with the Haute Ecole Arc, a Swiss engineering school. The visual focus here is, excuse the pun, squarely on the seconds display at 6 o’clock where an open-worked square wheel is driven by a toothed cloverleaf wheel at 8 o’clock. The gear profiles of non-circular wheels cannot by definition be regular, which was the primary technical hurdle the students had to overcome. Eventually the two wheels had to be micro-engineered to ensure a constant transfer of power from one to the other to keep time effectively. Having achieved this, comparatively low-key hour and minute indicators were required, as well as a power reserve indicator between 2 and 3 o’clock; notice how the latter’s markers have been engraved on the plate rather than applied to the dial. In fact, there is no dial here per se, just the main plate of the watch movement playing the role of a dial.
TAG Heuer Mikrotimer Flying 1000 Concept Chronograph
Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Roue Carrée Seconde. Hermès Arceau Temps Suspendu
This is a brand that treats time as a friend not an enemy, a brand that puts quality above quantity and the Arceau Temps Suspendu is for those who share that philosophy Due to the challenging complexity of creating the square wheel (the roue carrée in the name), the dial was left off in order not to conceal the star attraction. The plate is then finished with a Grand Colimaçon engraving (it means snailed in French as it recalls a snail shell). Hermès probably mixes classicism and creativity better than any other brand so when its team set their minds to coming up with a truly unconventional product it was always going to be something unique. Its Arceau Temps Suspendu watch has 12 sequential hour markers, regular hour and minute hands, even an eminently sensible looking date display between 4 and 7 o’clock. So where’s the twist? The clue is in the name as the watch manages to ‘suspend’ its reading of time at the push of a button at 9 o’clock. A triple retrograde function means that hours, minutes and date hands can all be paused, flicked into an unreadable position and then returned to the correct position again even after several days of holiday as the watch continues to keep time beneath the dial. In the interim, the date indicator is nowhere to be seen while the hour and minute hands find themselves
in a bizarre position somewhere near 12 o’clock that just doesn’t quite make sense no matter which way you look at it. This allows the owner the unusual pleasure of being able to wear the watch without it performing its primary purpose of telling the time. It’s an indulgent, rather decadent concept that fits the Hermès customer perfectly. This is a brand that treats time as a friend not an enemy, a brand that puts quality above quantity and the Arceau Temps Suspendu is for those who share that philosophy. TAG Heuer’s Mikrotimer Flying 1000 Concept Chronograph has the appearance of a conventional sports watch and might even pass for one on a dark night, but its colossal dimensions would give it away sooner or later. For this is no ordinary sports watch. It is the first chronograph to measure 1/1000th of a second to be put into production, meaning it is capable of providing an unusually precise, wrist-mounted mechanical stopwatch function. A 45mm titanium carbide-coated case has a central 1/1000th of a second chronograph indicator in bright yellow that appears constantly on the verge of stealing the show,
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waiting impatiently for another depression of the push button at 2 o’clock in order to jump into action. When activated it makes a full revolution of the dial in 1/10th of a second. There is then a second chronograph dial at 6 o’clock displaying each such revolution, calibrated to five seconds. A centrally mounted indicator picks up the story by marking each passing 1/12th of a minute (five seconds) followed by each elapsed minute. How many minutes the watch is capable of counting before it runs out of steam was the main question that remained unanswered at the time of going to press as the chronograph function places such a massive strain on the watch’s power reserve. It may well be that the production model can only keep going for 1-2 minutes, making it better suited to 100m sprints rather than 10km runs.
Maurice Lacroix distributed by S Bacher & Co, 011 372 6000, www.sbacher.co.za. Hermès and TAG Heuer distributed by Picot & Moss, 011 669 0500, www.picotandmoss.co.za
HAUTE JOAILLERIE Tortue XL watch with jaguar motif. Bedat & Co Reference 188
Chopard Owl Watch
BRING OUT THE BLING THIS YEAR’S SALON INTERNATIONALE DE LA HAUTE Horlogerie (SIHH) and BaselWorld exhibitions were a delight for female fans of watchmaking and jewellery alike. Perhaps the highlights of the visitor experience though were the exhibitions by the brands that managed to bridge the gap between the two worlds, combining impressive watchmaking techniques with elaborate aesthetics to create a quintessentially feminine luxury product. This happy hybrid, known as haute joaillerie, is where the artistic freedom permitted by the female High Net Worth consumer is set free in the name of self expression. Cartier has been engaged in a strategic repositioning of its watch division over the past five years or so. Known for its jewellery pieces, the Richemont-owned maison has invested heavily in its watchmaking capacities and the effects are starting to pay off. A clever iteration of the brand’s core value of creative craftsmanship, the Cartier Art collection is made up of six utterly unique watches that make use of rare or forgotten artisanal skills such as miniature stone mosaics, wood marquetry and intaglio engravings. The Rotonde de Cartier 42mm has an 18ct pink gold case set with 68 round diamonds totaling 1.39 carats, while the dial features a turtle motif in a mosaic of tiny stones of onyx, coral, yellow agate, Kalahari jasper and carnelian, among others. The 0.75mm squares are just 0.4mm thick and it takes a master craftsman more than 60 hours to position the stones on the dial. A total of only 10 such pieces will be made available to the public. For those in search of a bit more bite, the Tortue XL watch with jaguar motif is about as lifelike an impression of a big cat as you are going to find on an analogue timepiece. This near photorealism effect is achieved by making the dial out of four individual pieces, layered to create shadow and detail, combined with delicate engravings to refine the fur, eyes, whiskers and muzzle. This process alone takes 60 intense hours, with another 25 hours for an enamelling technique
COMBINING WATCH AND JEWELLERY MAKING WITH FINESSE, HAUTE JOAILLERIE PRODUCTS ARE ARTISTIC, FEMININE AND BLAZING WITH JEWELS TEXT MATT MORLEY
known as champlevé grand feu that involves seven different colour shades. The Dior VIII Grand Bal collection is a perfect example of one of the year’s most salient trends. Dior is a fashion and jewellery brand that has carved for itself a slice of the watch industry’s upper echelons by keeping all design capacities inhouse at the Paris headquarters while partnering with carefully selected Swiss master craftsmen for its production needs. It may require a considerable investment of time and energy but the result is, just like all the best examples of haute joaillerie watches, nothing less than the faithful translation of Dior’s essence into a high-end timepiece. Many lesser fashion brands on the other hand cynically choose to outsource this entire process to a large-scale manufacturer like Timex, which then produces a range of instantly forgettable designs powered by a Japanese-made quartz battery. Soulless and degrading to the parent brand, they are little better than a poorly concealed money-grab and the luxury consumer is no longer fooled. Dior has diligently avoided such pitfalls, championing the use of high-tech ceramics in its bracelets and cases to such an
the Dior VIII Grand Bal 38mm collection we find the same ceramic deployed in black in the bracelet and case. Three of the four watches feature a diamond-set bezel with a black ceramic insert to create a sophisticated frame for the attention-grabbing detail of the dial. Only the Plumetis model goes further with a full snow set diamond bezel replacing the ceramic insert. A black mother-of-pearl dial from Vietnam is used on all four watches on top of which is placed the pièce de résistance, a white gold oscillating weight set with four different patterns of diamonds. An automatic movement’s oscillating weight is more typically exposed in the rear of the watch via a transparent sapphire crystal case-back. Here however, the radical Calibre Dior Inversé movement is integrated into the design of the dial on the front of the watch instead, thereby creating a constantly shifting visual as well as a reminder of the kinetic energy being generated with every turn of the wrist. This unexpected piece of brilliance combines aesthetics with technical dexterity and deserves all the accolades it does get. Chopard may neatly divide its business into two separate
It may require a considerable investment of time and energy but the result is, just like all the best examples of haute oaillerie watches, nothing less than the faithful translation of Dior’s essence into a high-end timepiece extent that it now has its own design language based on the pyramid-shaped links. Elegant yet robust, this approach avoids the weight of stainless steel while offering more structure and support than mere rubber or satin. This is the kind of bold, joined-up thinking that keeps the watch industry alive. In the four different limited edition designs that constitute
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divisions with a president for watches and another for jewellery, but it turns out some of the finest haute joaillerie watches on the market by combining its talent and skills from both sides of the business. The Chopard Animal World Collection calls upon lacquering, gem setting and pearl weaving to create anything from a peacock to a bear cub, some to be worn on the wrist,
PIONEERING SWISS PRECISSION SCINCE 1860
SAGA From a small workshop in the Swiss Jura mountains in 1860, TAG Heuer has transformed into a watchmaking legend. Recognised throughout the world for its luxury sports watches and pioneering work in chronographs, TAG Heuer watches epitomise prestige and performance, brilliantly fusing technology with design. TAG Heuer has revolutionised 150 years of watchmaking history through a constant pursuit of excellence and innovation, maintaining a strong link between the company of today and the people who have shaped its history:
others on the finger or on a dress. Known simply as the Owl Watch, this is a new edition of an award-winning design, now available in an eye-catching pink. A fuchsia strap supports the 18ct rose gold case containing a slim quartz movement. No fewer than 3.68 carats of baguettecut rubies appear around the two dials, each displaying a different time zone, to create the owl’s unmistakable caught-in-the-headlights look. Bedat & Co pins it coat unashamedly on the hook of Art Deco styling and, far from limiting its watchmaking creativity, it only seems to add cohesion and substance to its highly imaginative collections. The Reference188 has a square-shaped, 18ct solid palladium white gold case measuring just over 31mm in diameter. A total of 496 diamonds and 34 baguette-cut diamonds are positioned on the two intricately interlaced rectangular case bands set at 90 degrees to each other to create a square. The crown is integrated into the outer edge of the inner band and the dial is made of 12 mother-of-pearl segments. The signature Bedat ‘8’ is the only hour marker on the dial, leaving plenty of space for the Bedat & Co, Genève branding at 12 o’clock and the luminescent blue steel hand. All of this is perfectly complemented by the rolled-edge blue satin strap that picks up colours buried deep within the pearlescent dial and even the 5.61carats of diamonds on the case itself. A quartz ETA calibre movement is responsible for keeping time and the ensemble is water resistant to five atmospheric pressures (5ATM), although this dress watch, perfect for formal evening events, would happily avoid even mild rain showers.
Cartier distributed by Vendôme Distributors, 011 317 2600. Dior distributed by Architects of Time, 011 669 0790. Chopard distributed by Picot & Moss, 011 669 0500, www.picotandmoss.co.za
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1860: Edouard Heuer founded his workshop in the Swiss Jura. 1887: First patented oscillating pinion. 1916: The Mikrograph, the world’s first stopwatch accurate to 1/100th of a second. 1964: First Carrera automatic chronograph with a handwinding movement. 1985: TAG Heuer becomes McLaren partner, one of the longest successful partnerships ever. Dior VIII Grand Bal 2 38mm. Dior VIII Grand Bal 3 38mm
2010: The Calibre 1887, exceptional new rewinding calibre engineered after Edouard Heuer’s oscillating pinion.
TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 1887 Chronograph
INSPIRED BY THE PAST, ENGINEERED FOR THE FUTURE The TAG Heuer Carrera was born in 1962 in the pits and paddocks of the Twelve Hours of Sebring, where Jack Heuer, official timekeeper of the event, first heard the tale of motor-racing’s most gruelling endurance competition, the Carrera Panamericana Mexico Road Race. It also pays homage to TAG Heuer’s unique timekeeping contributions to the racing world with radical innovations like the Time of Trip (1911). The Carrera is one of TAG Heuer’s most iconic creations. It has been worn by hundreds of TAG Heuer driving greats, including Juan Manuel Fangio, Kimi Räikkönen, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. CALIBRE 1887, IN-HOUSE TECHNOLOGY REVOLUTION The TAG Heuer Carrera 1887 Chronograph boldly synthesises this unique history. Reintroducing the oscillating pinion, patented in 1887 by Edouard Heuer, it embodies the celebration of 150 years at the forefront of luxury chronograph design and proudly displays its star component — the Calibre 1887 mechanical chronograph movement, with its blue column wheel, top quality Swiss balance spring with micro-blazed finishing, and TAG Heuer oscillating weight. Pure and sober in design, with the same great legibility as its 1964 ancestor, it is supercharged by the all-new chronograph movement beating inside. Simply stated, the TAG Heuer Carrera 1887 Chronograph raises the bar of refined technology and design.
Maurice Lacroix Pontos Chronographe. Tourbillon bridge. Martin Bachmann
BANG FOR YOUR BUCK HIGH-END TIMEPIECES MAY BE OUT OF REACH FOR MOST CONSUMERS BUT MANY BRANDS NOW OFFER MORE AFFORDABLE COLLECTIONS TEXT MATT MORLEY
THE ACCESSIBLE LUXURY SECTOR OF THE WATCH industry has fared remarkably well in tough economic conditions over the past three years. Swiss Made automatic watches ranging from €1 000-€3 000 can be a first step on the luxury ladder or a guilt-free impulse buy, depending on the consumer in question, but as watch brands have to fight harder than ever to retain market share and conquer new markets, those offering more bang for the buck have been best placed to thrive. Frédérique Constant focuses on neo-classical designs at entry level prices and is currently experiencing 35% growth, year-on-year. Despite the lower price points, its offices in
Geneva sit right alongside those of prestige brands Harry Winston and Patek Philippe. So how does it do it? The company’s straight talking CEO Peter Stas puts it all down to efficiencies. “We produce over 100 000 watches per year, meaning we can split our costs across a wider field. Inefficiencies in production are a major problem in our industry,” he says. This is a young brand without centuries of heritage, but with a clear, strategic focus on a younger target market, which makes history far less relevant in the purchase process. The new Amour Heart Beat and Junior Ladies collections are deliberately aimed at female 12 to 18-year-olds for example.
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By prioritising product development and design above all else, the in-house team have also learnt to create watches with instant shop window appeal. “Initially we were so focused on the product that we spent next to nothing on advertising. We were completely dependent on store staff to sell our watches in fact. Then we slowly began to spend on above the line marketing, but even now we are still very restrained compared to other brands,” says Stas. Keeping nimble and agile as a business seems to be a deciding factor in Frédérique Constant’s success, offering the company the liberty to explore new, riskier market segments,
Graham-London Silverstone Tourbillograph Full Black
such as ladies’ automatic watches for example, in ways that a heritage brand could not. Maurice Lacroix meanwhile positions itself in the same price bracket but with a strong emphasis on its in-house manufacturing capacity. “We are the entry point to this select club of brands that make their own movements. We may not have 300 years of history to talk about but we offer a very valid alternative nonetheless,” says CEO Martin Bachmann. The brand’s various collections span a wide range of price points and target markets, with the top-of-the-range manufacture models having an invaluable halo effect on those lower down the scale. “Our competitors sometimes have to play a role within a larger group, within a portfolio of brands, whereas we don’t have that issue,” continues Bachmann. “Our high-end watches are manufacture made, our Pontos collection have bought-in ETA calibre movements that we modify ourselves in-house and we leave the entry level watch movements
Frédérique Constant Ladies’ Heartbeat 2 and 1
essentially unmodified, save for some aesthetic changes.” Maurice Lacroix can’t have it both ways of course. As a generalist brand it struggles to play the status card as convincingly as a competitor that only sells manufacture watches, yet it remains bullish. “We are smaller and quieter than our competitors. We do not try to buy recognition so we are inherently a less mainstream brand,” Bachmann says. It may sound convincing today but it was a lesson learnt the hard way. Between 2006 and 2008 the company attempted to re-position itself further upmarket while riding on a wave of pre-crash growth and euphoria. By trying to rush a process that can only be achieved at a speed with which the consumer is happy Maurice Lacroix was left badly stung.
We may not have 300 years of history to talk about but we offer a very valid alternative nonetheless “We had to go back to our core values, and stick to them, learning to turn things down if they didn’t fit. Nowadays we settle for the B+ position and we’re perfectly comfortable with that,” confirms Bachmann confidently. Graham-London is another fresh face within the industry. Established just 15 years ago, it nonetheless feeds off the horological heritage of the 18th century master watchmaker after whom the company is named. George Graham was an English horologist who created over 3 000 watches during his career, including a number of seminal inventions that helped to establish England as the foremost watchmaking nation of the time.
Today Graham-London does a fine line in reasonably priced, over-sized watches, typically with prominent chronograph pushers and sporty styling. It has also set itself the mission of democratising, for want of a better term, one of the industry’s most complex functions — the tourbillon. Previously the reserve of a fortunate few, the tourbillon is seen as a prohibitively expensive addition to most watches in the entry level and mid-range segments of the luxury watch industry. It’s also a delicate piece of kit that prefers not to be shaken or stirred by activities such as diving, sailing or golf. “You can play 18-holes with this watch on, no problem,” says Stefan Mayer-Schierning of Graham. “We have created
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the first ‘sport tourbillon’ by combining an automatic movement with a chronograph and a tourbillon, instead of keeping them separate.” Working in partnership with specialist Swiss movement maker La Joux-Perret SA, Graham-London has essentially industrialised what is normally an entirely manual process requiring many hours of handiwork by a skilled craftsman. This machine-made version creates greater efficiencies, meaning its retail price can come in at roughly 25% of a standard tourbillon. This is a sure sign of how the more innovative watch brands are finding ways to add value and stimulate demand even during leaner times. Who knows, perhaps we’ll see an accessible luxury version of the elusive minute repeater before long too?
Frédérique Constant distributed by Picot & Moss, 011 669 0500, www.picotandmoss.co.za. Maurice Lacroix distributed by S Bacher & Co, 011 372 6000, www.sbacher.co.za. Graham-London distributed by Luks Group, 011 262 0396/9, www.graham-london.com
TIMELY REVIVAL TAKING INSPIRATION FROM A TIME GONE BY IS PROVING TO BE A SUCCESSFUL SELLING POINT TEXT MATT MORLEY
UBoat U-42 Chrono 47mm. Bell & Ross Vintage PW1 pocket watch
CALL IT RECESSION-ERA CHIC OR SIMPLY A WOUNDED industry taking shelter in tried and tested designs, but the trend towards vintage aesthetics is in full swing in the watch world. The antithesis of over-sized ostentation, designs inspired by the first half of the 20th century reflect a similar consumer mindset to that of the ultra slim watches prevalent among high-end luxury watch brands’ collections last year. In this context, status is not something to be shouted from the rooftops but rather quietly communicated via deliberate understatement informed by connoisseurship. Although the paper-thin 2010 Patek Philippe timepieces came with a heavyweight price tag, these new models fall within the midrange luxury bracket, making them far more accessible. First up is a range from Franco-Swiss brand Bell & Ross. Launched in 1992, the founders wasted no time in associating themselves with vintage military styling, and they have stuck to their guns ever since. The 2011 Vintage WWI collection is of particular interest as its includes what is essentially a 1920s pocket watch. Key features are a black sunburst dial, 49mm polished steel case and a seconds display at 6 o’clock. A wristwatch version with the same style case comes in a slightly smaller diameter of 45mm with a black alligator leather strap and single fluted crown. The second hand now operates from the centre of the dial while a power reserve indicator is introduced at 7 o’clock. The task of successfully re-interpreting a design from close on a century ago for a contemporary audience comes with its own set of challenges, yet the Bell & Ross WW1 collection emanates a recherché charm that gives it the kudos to pull it off. Panerai is well known for its associations with the Italian Navy of the 1950s, but recently it has been focusing its efforts on research and development into new case materials that will help it achieve its trademark retro look. The Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Bronzo is the fruit of those efforts. This special edition watch was inspired by a model originally made by Panerai for the Egyptian navy and is water resistant to an impressive 300m. The particular bronze used here is an alloy of copper and pure tin known for its anticorrosive properties. As the bronze reacts to the air, humidity, heat and water around it over time, it gradually takes on the patina of age. A contrasting matte green dial features luminous hour markers, a small date window at 3 o’clock and a small seconds dial at 9 o’clock. The bridge protecting the winding crown to ensure its water resistance is also made of bronze and even warrants its very own patent. Another Italian watchmaker with a penchant for the past is U-Boat. Typically competing in roughly the same market space as Bell & Ross, creative director Italo Fontana produces watches at a price point just beneath the throat of Panerai. The U-42 Chrono, launched at BaselWorld 2011, comes in 53mm and 47mm titanium case options, both limited editions
Status is not something to be shouted from the rooftops but rather quietly communicated via deliberate understatement informed by connoisseurship
Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Bronzo
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of 999 pieces. Whereas most watch designers tend to stick to either a black dial and strap or brown dial and strap combination, Fontana throws out the rule books here by mixing them both with a titanium case and beige dial markings to create a decidedly old-school aesthetic. This model’s chronograph is controlled using the pusher at 10 o’clock, elapsed time is then displayed via a small seconds dial at 3 o’clock, a small minutes dial at 6 o’clock and a small hour dial at 12 o’clock. There is no power reserve display but the bought-in movement used by U-Boat here packs a decent punch with capacity for 44 hours of running time. A red-brown leather strap adds another layer to the 1940s styling and a double dose of panache to what is an unmistakably Italian piece of neo-vintage horlogerie.
Panerai distributed by Vendôme Distributors, 011 317 2600. Bell & Ross available at The Watch And Jewellery Gallery, 011 784 2595. U-Boat distributed by Luks Group, 011 262 0396
MARRYING TIME AND BEAUTY Karl-Friedrich Scheufele. Chopard Ladies’ Happy Sport Oval
CHOPARD’S ENDURING CHARM IS ITS COMMITMENT TO PERFECTION, MAINTAINING ITS IDENTITY THROUGH ALL ITS COLLECTIONS
Chopard Mille Miglia GT XL Chrono Rosso Corsa
TEXT MATT MORLEY
KARL-FRIEDRICH SCHEUFELE IS PART OF THE formidable brother-sister duo at the helm of Chopard, one of the world’s most highly regarded jewellery brands. Charged with establishing the men’s luxury watch division since 1996, Scheufele has successfully carved out a slice of this hugely competitive market and steered the company through the recent financial crisis. Wanted spoke to the car-loving oenophile to hear how he did it. Mr Scheufele, as co-president of Chopard you run the watch side of the business while your sister Caroline looks after the high jewellery. What do the two divisions have in common, other than sharing the same brand name? We actually have about 30 different crafts in our company. Jewellery-making is one of the more creative perhaps, more free and artistic, while watch-making is a precision-oriented field with many more parameters that have to be carefully respected. The thing that connects the two sides of the business is the craftsmanship, the handiwork and the time involved in making each Chopard product. Within the watch arm, you also have a number of different collections and distinct sub-brands, such as L.U.C and Mille Miglia. How do you explain that portfolio strategy? We have a number of different collections within the maison, each with their own identity and price positioning. The L.U.C range sits at the top of our portfolio in terms of movements and finish; our L.U.C tourbillons for example are among the very few that manage to attain the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (known by its French acronym COSC) certification. The level of precision may be similar in a watch from our Imperiale collection except that the L.U.C movements are usually all COSC certified. You just don’t want or need that level of technicality with an Imperiale, they are different watches for different markets. And in terms of aesthetics, are there any common factors that run through the watch collections, or that run through watches and high jewellery? Visually, the finish makes all the difference for us. In high jewellery we tend to go for the highest finish available so that no matter whether you Chopard Mille Miglia racing in Pink
look at the product from the front or the back, it has been brought as close to perfection as we could get it. We adopt exactly the same philosophy with our watches, even if the wearer only ends up seeing about 30% of the back of the movement through the sapphire case, the rest of it is still finished in exactly the same way. That is one of our trademarks and a tradition we are proud to uphold. That makes sense for men’s watches, but do the ladies’ high jewellery watches incorporate the technical aspects of the men’s L.U.C watch division for example, where the movements are made in-house? Our high jewellery pieces require an in-house movement to be truly perfect and that is the way we would like to build them. Our path has now been set, we are moving further in the direction of in-house movements for ladies’ pieces every day but occasionally it serves our purposes to use outside movements in order to meet demand or to stay within a certain price bracket. You say your path has now been set, which suggests a conscious shift. What has prompted that? Is the market generally moving in that direction?
Caroline Scheufele. Brown Bear ring. Peacock cuff
The thing that connects the two sides of the business is the craftsmanship, the handiwork and the time involved in making each Chopard product Absolutely. Without doubt we will see more and more ladies’ watches with mechanical movements over the next few years. Perhaps because the men keep going on and on about it, suddenly the ladies are listening. But your ladies’ watches have had their own share of success too, notably the Happy Sport collection. What is it about that range that has struck such a chord with your buyers? The Happy Sport collection is full of possibilities. Ideally we would like to feature a mechanical movement there soon too. Why has it been such an enduring hit? Perhaps because it’s the only ladies’ sports watch that really stands out from the crowd and that does things differently? The original creative spark for that watch goes right back to the 1970s but our team is always coming up with new ideas to reinvigorate it and maintain its appeal to a modern day consumer. It has been a turbulent time over the past two years for the Swiss watch industry with a challenging recession to battle through. What are your predictions for the future and what lessons have you learnt from the past?
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If you look at the state of the industry today you could say that we adapted very well to difficult circumstances and things have thankfully been on the up for the past six-12 months. Overall, the brands with genuine substance and craftsmanship behind them have fared best. It was the marketing-led brands and the ones that were not communicating a clear and coherent message that had the most difficulty. Altogether, there probably were not as many casualties as one might have thought though, given the severity of the situation. Our approach was to stick to our course, adapt our designs where necessary and to take advantage of the biggest single emerging market — China. In 2009 when many markets collapsed, China just started to pick up. As long as there is a market growing and getting stronger, and as long as your brand is global of course, you can always compensate for weaker markets elsewhere.
Chopard distributed by Picot & Moss, 011 669 0500, www.picotandmoss.co.za
Jaeger-LeCoultre Grande Reverso Ultra Thin Tribute to 1931
Rolex Oyster Cosmograph Daytona. Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master II
Rolex collections TEXT MATT MORLEY
ED’S E IC CHO
A LEGEND IS BORN Reverso Collection TEXT MATT MORLEY
The most prestigious luxury brands are masters at stimulating consumer desire not just for their products but for everything they represent, past, present and future. Marketing is about selling a dream as much as reality, meaning a founding myth is virtually essential, and JaegerLeCoultre’s Reverso has one of the best around. The legend starts with a couple of polo-playing English army officers in colonial India in 1930. One of them takes a knock during a polo match and finds his watch dial smashed. A Swiss entrepreneur with connections in the watch industry was on the sidelines that day and, as luck would have it, the three men meet afterwards, whereupon they discuss the possibility of creating a watch tough enough to survive even the most physical of polo matches. César de Trey, the Swiss gentleman in question, returns to his native land and sets up a meeting with JacquesDavid LeCoultre, one of the most gifted watchmakers of his generation. LeCoultre had an existing partnership with a Parisian workshop named Jaeger that specialised in manufacturing watchcases. The three men soon fall upon the idea of a case that can revolve 180 degrees in order to protect the dial, leaving the metal case back to absorb any knocks incurred during a polo match. By March 1931 a patent had been lodged for a reversible watch and an Art Deco-inspired rectangular watchcase was produced that would define the DNA of a model that continues to attract legions of fans to this day. The legend doesn’t end there either, for a solid steel or
gold case back was always likely to attract the attentions of its owner. Indeed it wasn’t long before the likes of King Edward VIII of England began engraving his family crest on the back of the Reverso. Others soon followed suit and a tradition was swiftly born that saw myriad coats-of-arms, insignias, portraits and initials personalising these otherwise rather restrained watches. This may have been unexpected but Jaeger-LeCoultre embraced the development and today it has become part and parcel of the watch’s mystique. To mark the 80th anniversary of the Reverso’s release, the company has even increased the number of personalisation options it offers, adding new typefaces, colours, diamond settings and enamelling variations. Finally, the 2011 Reverso collection includes the Grande Reverso Ultra Thin Tribute to 1931, a subdued reinterpretation of the original classic. Its slim-line case sports a white or black dial, dagger-shaped hands and baton hour markers, making it a textbook example of horological elegance. What better way to symbolise the Reverso legend as it enters its 81st year?
Grande Reverso Ultra Thin Tribute to 1931 Case: steel or 18ct pink gold, 28mm Features: 45-hr power reserve, water resistant to 30m Movement: JLC Calibre 822, manually wound Strap: black alligator leather Distributor: Vendôme Distributors, 011 317 2600
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Rolex presents a unique business case. Despite collections that are almost unfailingly subtle reworkings of previous designs, the company has an annual turnover of several billion dollars and retains its position as one of the world’s most valuable brands. Rolex is, quite simply, the watch industry powerhouse. This particular team of horologists clearly prefers evolutionary baby steps to revolutionary leaps into the unknown but that doesn’t mean the results have to be boring; far from it in fact. Rolex do the generously sized, status-heavy men’s sports watch better than anyone else around; their highly feminine ladies’ watches are no less impressive either. This year sees the launch of five new iterations, each one a case study in faithfully incorporating design DNA from within, while breaking new ground with innovative materials. In so doing, Rolex subtly builds its own luxury myth by positioning previous designs as ‘classics’ while investing heavily in research and development to keep itself relevant. It’s a delicate balance but they pull it off brilliantly. Take 2011’s Oyster Perpetual Explorer II for example. Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year the watch now has a slightly enlarged case, 42mm in diameter, and has been fitted with the same orange, arrow-shaped 24-hour hand as the 1971 original. The net result is a watch that combines contemporary looks with a hint of retro chic. As ever though, the devil is in the detail and here we have several high-tech upgrades such as new internal shock absorbers and a patented scratch proof ceramic bezel made of something called Cerachrom. Rolex’s latest Yacht-Master II meanwhile is essentially a third case option to add to the existing range of 18ct yellow and white gold. This time the case is made of Everose Rolesor, a term trademarked by Rolex in 1933 to describe the marriage of steel and 18ct gold. Similarly, the 2011 Cosmograph Daytona now has a
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Original El Primero calibre. Charles Vermont
Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Open
FAMED BEGINNINGS Zenith El Primero monobloc black bezel, also made of the advanced ceramic Cerachrom, with delicate pink gold graduations to ensure greater readability for the wearer; otherwise it remains largely unchanged. The coffee has been flowing fast in the ladies’ department however, as the new Lady Datejust in yellow or white gold and steel has a daring gold crystals dial with a Rolex Jubilé motif. Offset by 10 diamond hour markers and an even more dazzling bezel housing 46 brilliant cut diamonds, this is a dial designed to make you sit up and take notice. Something similar could be said about the ladies’ Oyster Perpetual Datejust Special Edition with its smooth bezel set with 12 brilliant diamonds in an 18ct white gold setting, a dial made of black or white motherof-pearl with eye-catching gold motifs and, once again, the launch of an 18ct Everose gold version to add to the existing yellow and white gold versions. Sexy, fresh and glamorous, who said tradition had to be boring?
Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master II Case: steel and Everose gold, 44mm Features: programmable regatta countdown with mechanical memory Movement: Rolex Calibre 4160 Strap: Everose Rolesor and steel with Oysterlock folding clasp Oyster Cosmograph Daytona Case: 18ct Everose gold, 40mm Features: Officially Certified Swiss Chronometer (COSC ) Movement: Rolex Calibre 4230 Strap: black alligator leather with 18ct Everose gold folding clasp Distributor: Rolex SA, 011 784 9230, www.rolex.com
TEXT MATT MORLEY
For a watch to gain name recognition from those with only a casual interest in the industry takes quite some doing. Ask most luxury consumers to name an iconic watch, rather than an iconic watch brand, and they’ll likely struggle. So establishing a watch movement as its own name is a rare feat. Zenith’s El Primero is no ordinary calibre. It is the world’s most accurate series-produced movement and has a dramatic history worthy of a Hollywood thriller. In the late 1960s the mechanical watch industry witnessed a historic race between two competing consortiums to create the first automatic chronograph. Up to that point, such complications were exclusively handwound, but a series of innovations and experiments had gradually opened the way to a self-winding alternative. A collaboration between the now legendary names of Breitling, Heuer, Hamilton and Dubois Dépraz managed to deliver their chronograph in March 1969 but they were beaten by a hair’s breadth by the Zenith-Movado team. Officially named the Calibre 3019-PHC but known as El Primero (meaning ‘the first’ in Spanish), the ground-breaking calibre boasted a column wheel beating at 36 000VpH — a frequency double that of the norm — making it capable of measuring to 1/10th of a second. The twist to our plot however, comes when the camera pans back to reveal a threat on the horizon, a force that seemed intent on destroying everything a mechanical watch stood for: quartz. Such was the impact of Japanese and USmade quartz battery watches in the 1970s that it threatened the very survival of the Swiss watch industry. When an American company named Zenith Radio of Chicago took over Zenith watches in 1971, the omens were bad right from the start as they were essentially looking to use the Zenith brand as a way to expand their quartz watch business. So when the order came to stop production and
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scrap all the Zenith machinery, tools and calibres that had helped create the El Primero, it was a truly crushing blow. One man found it a little too hard to deal with. Charles Vermont thought better of letting all that intellectual property go up in smoke, so he deftly began hiding away key pieces of equipment and noting down steps in the production process. Eventually he had enough to be able to recreate the El Primero calibre again, when the time was right. As it turned out, he would have to wait just nine years before the equipment was put back into use and another El Primero came off the production line. Saved by its new Swiss owners who revived the name in 1978, the calibre made its return inside a series of Ebel watches three years later. By that stage, the machinery would have cost millions to recreate. By the mid-80s the tide was turning in the direction of mechanical watches once more and Zenith saw demand rise for its precision movements. So successful was the calibre over the next decade, that when Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton bought the brand in 1999, one of their first actions was to stop selling the movement to other watch companies restricting access exclusively to Zenith watches. After a tumultuous journey, the El Primero had finally arrived.
Zenith distributed by Picot & Moss,011 669 0500, www.picotandmoss.co.za
Published on Nov 21, 2011
Published on Nov 21, 2011
the annual watch special edition from Business Day South Africa's WANTED magazine. These are my articles.