Tuesday, June 26, 2012

FP Journe Aluminium Watch "Not the Kitchen Kind"

"Not the kitchen kind." Mr. Francois Paul Journe, Founder-CEO of F.P. Journe said with a rueful smile in regard to a question about material of "The Aluminum Watch" at the "Steel Time" book signing and cocktail event, which I attended at the Forbes Gallery last month, thanks to Micheal Clerizo, writer for the Wall Street Journal and author of, “Masters of Contemporary Watchmaking" and "George Daniels A Master Watchmaker and his Art" set to be released November 2012.   Although the focus of the event was on the large selection of intriguing gun metal watches on display until September 2012, which I highly recommend, and the signing of the exceptional "Steel Time" book,  the allure of The Aluminum Watch" played a large part.

"Not the Kitchen Kind", indeed. This aluminum alloy is similar to that used in aeronautical  aeronautics.  Mr Journe was addressing the dwindling few who are still skeptical about a timepiece crafted entirely of a metal used in roasting chicken or smoking fish, but to compare this aluminum to that which is used in the kitchen would be to compare coal to diamonds. 
The aluminum alloy used in crafting this watch is a highly innovative cutting edge material, which required years of r & d.  The aluminum is incredibly light, scratch resistant and resistant to corrosion.  This new Octo Sport Watch in the "lineSport" Collection is known as THE ALUMINUM WATCH, because it is completely crafted in aluminum.  Not only is the case and bracelet aluminum, but the movement too. 
Last year, FP Journe unveiled a watch where the case and bracelet was aluminum, but the movement 18k rose gold, as with most of FP Journe's movement.  This year it is all Aluminum through and through, except of course, for the rubber bumpers which serve to protect possible dents in the aluminum and the option of a rubber strap. The watch is powered by an in-house made Calibre FPJ 1300-3 automatic movement equipped with an aluminum rotor weighted with a tungsten strip. (Tungsten in Swedish is "heavy stone" and has a remarkably high density).  The watch is equipped with 120 hour power reserve - requiring much research and development since torque changes with the properties of a material. 
Since the watch is all aluminum,  it weighs a mere 53 grams, which is not due to a diminutive size, but rather lightness of material.  The watch is a gracious 42 mm in diameter and a comfortable 11.6mm thick.  The intriguing reflectivity of the aluminum creates a sleek allure to the watch accentuated by the red indices on the gray aluminum alloy dial. The applied Arabic hour markers and  hands are highly distinctive by day and by night.  By day due to their boldness and by night due to an application of  Superluminova.  A big date indicator is situated below the large red S.  Beneath the 10 and 11, lies a power reserve indicator.  Discretely placed at the 9 'o'clock position is a bean shaped day night indicator, which serves its purpose just fine without unduly cluttering up the dial.
A subsidiary seconds dial seals the look by adding a distinct vintage flavor to an otherwise ultra modern design.
The Octa Sport Watch retails for $25,790 with a rubber strap and $31,050 with an aluminum bracelet - pricey, but not exorbitant.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hot or Not? Ball Trainmaster Celsius Watch.

Ball Trainmaster Celsius Watch Limited Edition: 310 pieces
It is the longest summer day here in the Northern Hemisphere, and if where I am its hot hot hot.  The sun baking the streets turning blacktop into shimmering hazes while people trudge sweat dripping down brow and back.  Yeah it's summer in the city, but you know how hot it is because you have a Ball Train master Celsius Watch. This watch, which was unveiled last year, is tribute to Anders Celsius, a Swedish astronomer, who proposed the Celsius thermometer scale in 1741.
The watch has two very cool (or should I say hot) aspects to this watch:
1.) The mechanical  thermometer module or "TMT" is patented by Ball and is located above the 6 'o' clock position.  It has an accuracy of 97%.
2) The watch utilizes Micro-tubes of 3H gas otherwise known as  Tritium (Tritium is the 3rd of Hydrogen's naturally occurring isotopes).  The micro tubes are  located on the hour, minute and second hand.  Tritium or H3 glows without the need for external light source and will glow for 25 years - double its half-life.  Most watches use Super-Luminova which require an external light source to glow. 
Click here for an in depth read on the difference between Tritium and Superluminova  

The 41mm stainless steel case houses an automatic movement with precision of a Train Master - and knowing the History of  the founding of Ball Watches - one must realize the vital importance of timing on the railway track. 

The Ball Trainmaster Celsius Watch is Limited to 310 pieces. 
Watch the Mercury Rise and Keep Hydrated!
Happy Summer Solstice!


Monday, June 18, 2012

How to Determine the Quality of a Watch

Girard - Perregaux Iconic 3 Gold Bridges
Everyday new watch companies crop up, some baring unknown names on the dial and some reviving dormant watchmaking names dipping quite generously into past historic watchmaking feats adopting its name sake's centuries old history.

However, whatever the name of the company - and there are some where the current company, name and history are an unbroken chain of exemplar watchmaking like Girard- Perregaux, Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Patek Phillip,  Vacheron Constantin e.t.c., the quality of the current production must speak for itself.

Here are some tips to determine the quality of a timepiece:

The movement:

The movement is the essence of the watch, without it the watch is merely an empty form without function.  Precision, dependability and longevity require a good movement.

An ETA movement like the Valjoux 7750 or ETA 2824 has been tried and tested countless times, and purchasing a watch with the Swatch Group movement ensures excellent quality, precision and longevity.  Swatch group is slowing ETA supplies down for companies it does not own; however, the generic Sellita SW200 is just as good as the ETA 2824.

Boucheron Bird & Girard Perregaux's 3 Bridges
In house movements increase the price of the watch, but the quality is excellent.  In house movements are movements manufactured by the watch company itself.  This means that from conception  to finished product, the watch is made within the framework of that company.    High end watch manufacturers - true watch manufacturers - like FP Journe , Girard-Perregaux, Richard Mille, MB & F, Chopard ( L.U.C movements),  focus on metallurgy, innovation, resilience and precision. Some high end watch companies collaborate joining both companies crowning expertise.  For example Boucheron and Girard- Perregaux (both companies of the Sowind group) joined to create gem encrusted birds surrounding Girard-Perregaux iconic three gold bridge movement.

Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra Chronometer
After a movement is completed, it is tested.  Watch manufacturers have their own testing regiment, which consist of multiple phases of quality control. High end watch companies test each watch component during the construction phase, as well as the final product.
 Swiss Made watch movements must adhere to stringent quality control.
 Some watch companies opt to have an outside source test the movement like the COSC ( Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres) or, the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute, which subjects the watch movement to rigorous lengthy testing (15 days and nights)  to determine the quality and precision. Once a movement has passed these tests, the watch is a Certified Chronometer.  In Rolex it is known as a Superlative Chronometer.  

Another testing institute is The Geneva Seal which has recently tightened its watch requirements to almost impossibly strict standards.   Roger Dubuis leaped to the challenge and unveiled the first watch to meet these new stringent requirements. 

I am not so familiar with Japanese and Chinese movements, both of which have a long history in fine watchmaking.  In fact the Chinese watchmaker Kiu Tai Yu  craftsmanship techniques are so well respected that his book "Time in Pocket"was adopted by a Swiss watchmaking school as a standard reference work. (read more about Kiu Tai Yu). 
Japanese brand Seiko is innovative and of excellent quality.  A word of caution though, when purchasing a watch with a Japanese movement from an unknown brand - do your research and determine the quality.

The Crystal: 

The crystal is one of the easiest ways of determining if you are buying a really cheap watch with so so quality or more mid to higher range.  If you are offered an expensive watch with  mineral crystal - raise an eyebrow or two.  Mineral crystal is used mostly in lower range watches.  A watch in the mid to high range should have a sapphire crystal, which is almost as hard as diamond and scratch resistant. Read more about Scratch Resistance.


RM 050 with Carbon Nanotube
Artya with Dinosaur Dung

Gold, either white, yellow and rose as well as platinum signify a watch of higher value.  Steel is slightly more shady - but without a doubt for a high quality steel watch, the steel must be 36L surgical grade - used in medical equipment.  As a result of its durability, light weight, shock and corrosion resistant, titanium has become a favorite among watch brands like Richard Mille; however, there are many grades of titanium. Grade 5 is the most commonly used in watches, as it is much stronger than commercially pure titanium, is heat treatable and easy to weld. Carbon Fiber and Ceramic are both hot materials at the moment and are used in low to high range watches.
High tech material advances are in the works like Richard Mille's carbon nanotubes.  Yvan Arpa at  Artya is known for experimenting with different materials like concrete or dinosaur dung.- talk about variety.

In his Romain Jerome days, he incorporated parts of the titanic, moon dust and fiber from an astronaut suit as part of the companies DNA collection.
Watches smothered in gems like those mouth watering House of Graff and Piaget creations are quality personified, not because they are smothered in gems, but because they are the products of  highly regarded companies.

Gold-plated watches are a bit tricky since the material underneath may contain allergens such as nickel. Read more about Nickel Allergy


Rolex Sky Dweller
The function of a case, apart from design and signature appeal, is its ability to protect the movement.  A movement must be protected from moisture, dust, shocks and magnetic field.
Depending on the function of the watch, the stated water resistance of a watch must live up to its requirements; however the components ,like the gaskets (rubber O rings), can deteriorate over time especially if exposed to abrasive minerals and chemicals such as salt and chlorine.  Thus although the water resistance of a watch claims to be suitable for 1000 meters, over time this water resistance is reduced. Upon purchase, a high quality watch will live up to its claim of water resistancy.  Although this sounds pretty obvious, there are countless stories of people who have submerged their timepiece, claiming to have a water resistancy of 200 feet, into water and completely flooded the movement and ruined the dial.  When one purchases a second hand watch, one must have the water resistancy checked by a certified watch maker to determine the water resisatncy.
Some watches are advertised as being high in shock absorbency able to withstand a thwack of arm with racket against ball. The cases of these watches are designed to secure the movement and all the components.  Obviously all watches should be able to withstand  movement of the wrist , and not fall into a heap of jangling disjointed components. I have had watches where the hands have simply fallen off skittering across the dial in useless motion.  In a good quality timepiece this should never happen!
Watches must have some form of anti-magnetism - which has quite an official place in the watchmaking world and not a new concept (see below)

  See excerpt from Wikipidea (to technical for me)  "The international standard ISO 764 Horology—Magnetic resistant watches defines the resistance of watches to magnetic fields. According to ISO 764 or its equivalent DIN 8309 (Deutsche Industrie Norm - German Industry Norm) a watch must resist exposition to a direct current magnetic field of 4 800 A/m. The watch must keep its accuracy to ± 30 seconds/day as measured before the test in order to be acknowledged as a magnetic resistant watch. Annex A of ISO 764 deals with watches designated as magnetic resistant with an additional indication of intensity of a magnetic field exceeding 4 800 A/m.

Strap and Clasp:

Aside for fashion statement, the strap and clasp have an important function.  As the proverb goes "A chain is only as good as its weakest link".
Maurice Lacroix Buckle Clasp Combo
Leather straps are most often affixed with a buckle - which has served mankind for centuries.  Metal bracelets are slightly more tricky and rely on a clasp for closure.
With a faulty clasp one may no longer need to worry about the quality of ones watch, since the watch may no longer in ones possession, but rather laying  on the seat of a bus seat two towns away.
Thus a watch should have some type of safety clasp. Many watch manufacturers utilize a double fold deployment clasp, so the clasp locks in to places and even if it should open, the watch is still on the wrist.
De Grisogono Gulachet Watch Strap
However with a wrist watch, comfort is everything, thus when one tries on the watch, one must make sure the edges of the clasp do not dig in to ones skin.
The variation of clasps are abundant, but the most important issue is security. 
Since the band is the part of the watch most in contact with your skin, before you purchase your watch make sure you are not allergic to the type of material.  For highly sensitive skin, make sure the watch you purchase has the ability to switch strap.  Jaermann & Stübi (golf watches) line the inside of their leather straps with a hypoallergenic material which absorbs sweat.
High quality watches use mostly alligator leather, where as calf leather is used in more mid range watches. Of course I have seen watches using toad skin (Artya), mink fur (Andre Checa) and Gulachet (de Grisigono) as bands.

There are so many types of rubber straps - too numerous to count - but since the strap is against ones skin  most of the day one must determine the quality.



There is absolutely no determination of quality when one purchases a fake or replica timepiece.  Since their is no regulation of standards, the material is inferior, the movement is up for grabs and their is no certainty of water resistance, scratch resistance and anti-magnetic properties.

Know Your Source:  
Purchase your watch from a official watch dealer or from the watch manufacturer itself, so that if the watch does not live up to its standards, you can always return it or have it repaired. Make sure you have the Certificate of Authenticity.

A watch is an important purchase managing your time day after day.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Jacob & Co. High End Design and Function

A tourbillon is not officially a complication, but rather an addition to the mechanics of a watch. A very coveted addition, which has gained popularity in leaps and bounds.  A tourbillon was created to eradicate the effects of gravity on the escapement - balance wheel, hairspring and a pocket watch.  A company which has successfully mastered a tourbillon gains credibility in watch circles. A Watch incorporating four tourbillons well that  not to mention four tourbillon in a single watch.

Living in New York has quite a few perks, one of which is being close to a vast amount of Luxury Watch Boutiques and Flagship stores. On a number of occasions, I have visited Jacob & Co. Store just across from Tourneau and right round the corner from Antiquorium. After ogling at the highly publicized Jacob & Co. Quentin - a timepiece with a 31 day power reserve (first ever) enabled via  seven horizontally arranged manually wound mainspring barrels and a master in torque - factor ensuring timekeeping constancy over the 31 days, I entered the Jacob & Co. 57th Street flagship boutique.

  The store is a sleek display of Jacob & Co. bejeweled timepieces so often seen around the wrists of celebs; however as glamorous as they are, the display case at the far end of the store beckoned me.  Within the case, I was captivated by the fresh and utterly new adventurous designs.  The intriguing five sided case of the Grand 5 Collection  goes beyond the comfort zone of proportion and balance, and enters a bold uncharted realm of design...which works.

The G5 Collection is the brain child of Jacques Fournier CEO of Horology Design Limited.  Jacques Fournier worked closely with the brand owner collaborating on every aspect of the design process. Jacques Fournier brings vague ideas to solid realization of form. With the aid of 3D visuals and animation; precise technical drawings, Jacques Fournier turns the guess work of new designs into educated calculations.

The Grand 5 Collection  design bares an immediate Jacob & Co. signature, an admirable feat.

 Jacob & Co. founder Jacob Arabov and one of my favorite designers and appointed COO of Jacob & Co. Yvan Arpa of Artya and Romain Jerome fame  are adding renewed vigor to the company.  
Both great watchmakers are  stretching the limits of watchmaking, a prime example the Napolean Quadro Tourbillon.  A skeletonized timepiece incorporating four 60 second tourbillon escapement servicing four separate timezones.  The watch is powered by an exclusive Jacob & Co Caliber 8082  mechanical, manual-wind movement.

While steadfastly holding on to watchmaking tradition, Jacob & Co. is setting sites on the future by introducing its very first digital watch- The Ghost -  complete with five time zones, changing  LED lights and Jacob & Co signature five sided case  -Click here for a complete in depth review of "The Ghost"