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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hong Kong: 1881 Heritage Building

Apologies, I am getting behind on blogging...was in Hong Kong, now trying to catch up.

In the meantime, here is a two shot stitch with the HCD28 of the new 1881 Heritage Building which used to house the Marine Police Headquarters during the British Colonial days:

More later.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Kari Voutilainen Observertoire

Kari Voutilainen's simple time only watch...a la Dufour's Simplicity is the Observertoire. I had the oppportunity to photograph this masterpiece in Motiers in January, after the SIHH when I visited with some good friends.

The dial shows great restraint, and looks extremely handsome. The rose engine turned dial is made onsite at Kari's premises. I visited the rose engine at the basement of his workshop/home.

From the rear, showing the movement:

A more detailed look at the movement, showing the very high degree of difficulty design and finish:

Note the inward turning sharp points on the bridge holding the third and fourth wheels. These are extremely difficult to execute, as it necessitates finishing of the anglage by hand. Note also the glitter of the anglage, indicating that the watchmaker spent a good amount of time polishing it to this level of finish.

The special swril on the concave winding teeth covering the barrel is also a special technique:

And finally an attempt to show the movement's 3D nature, flowing and ebbing of the bridges, the magnificent balance cock and the blued hairspring. Quite captivating and breathtaking!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hamilton BaselWorld 2011 crop

The Hamilton Watch Company is one with an illustrious history. Founded in Lancaster, Pensylvania in the US in 1892, nearly 120 years ago, it stood right at the forefront of high precision watchmaking. They focussed in those days principally in the production of railroad watches. Pocket watches which often with two timezones though sometimes only one, but always with very clear, large arabic numerals, subsidiary second hands. And often with beautiful and magnificent movements designed for precision but also for great beauty. These movement often feature wonderful decorations - known as demaskeening, and also often feature elaborate and beautiful adjustment and regulation mechanisms.

The company continued to make funky timepieces after the war, like the Ventura (which was featured in the movie Men in Black) and later during the quartz revolution the Pulsar with the distinctive red LED lights. The company moved to Switzerland in 1969 and ceased US manufacture then. Eventually, they became part of the Swatch Group. With the injection of capital and knowhow of the giant group, they moved their production facilities from Lancaster to Biel, and began to make a mark at the entry level collector market.

The Hamilton Below Zero from BaselWorld 2010

The Below Zero series, became a cult success amongst collectors starting out, mostly due to the aggressive design and beautiful finish, but also because of the reasonable entry level prices these watches are offered at.

Shown above is the Below-Zero all black, with darkened arabic numerals. The case design is reminiscent of an aviation instrument. The watch is rather large, but wears well, and has a very sporty character. Note the "0" marker instead of "12", which is a cheeky but nice touch.

Also made as a regular black anodized stainless steel case with black dial, and white markers.

Another watch which also struck a chord for me was the Below Zero chronograph.

Peculiar to this chronograph is the lack of a minute counter.

BaselWorld 2011 Crop for Hamilton Watches

But on to this year's watches:

For many years, collectors like myself, and I am sure many of my friends who are more advanced collectors often get stumped when a beginner collector asks for our recommendation for a watch in the region of S$2000 to S$3000 range. Oris comes to mind as one possiblity. Perhaps Longines. But the list is short. Now Hamilton squeezes itself into this market-space, which surprisingly, in the face of more complicated and ever more expensive timepieces, it occupies with little competition.

Of this year's crop, to be introduced in BaselWorld 2011, I particularly liked the limited edition Pan Europe tribute to a watch they made in 1971.

Limited to 1971 pieces as a tribute to the year it is to commemorate, this watch features a modified Valjoux 7750 movement, lengthening the power reserve to 60 hours from the traditional 42hr+. The spirit of the 1970s is captured in the design...bold, striking blue adorns the dial, with the bezel picking up on this strong colour. The shape of the case is rounded, like those in the 1970s. Even the strap, is punched with holes of diminishing sizes points to that decade.

Also interesting a UTC watch which shows sidereal time in the subdial coxial to the main dial.

Also for 2011, a chronograph, and a thin automatic watch.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Singapore skyline: daytime recce: The large panoramas

Continuation of the walkabout recce. These are multi-panel panorama stitched photographs. Please click to view larger photographs.

From the 50th floor SkyGarden of The Pinnacle. View of the CBD.

View of the Port of Singapore:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Singapore skyline: daytime recce trip

Walking around several buildings doing a recce for an evening shoot with the Hasselblad. These were taken with the LX-3.

From the common corridoor at level 25 on Block 335B in Chinatown.

Same floor, but slightly different perspective, and longer lens setting, this is equivalent of 62mm on a full frame dslr.

Over at level 50 of the Pinnacle, this is the view of the city:

This is a 2 panel panorama from the Pinnacle.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Hublot King Power Tourbillon

Hublot is an amazing the early days, they pushed innovation with scented rubber straps...which even today, is an interesting concept. But since Jean Claude Biver, the marketing supermo who started Blancpain in the 80s started to helm the company, it took off. Literally.

Jean Claude introduced the concept of fusion...the fusion of old and new. Of various materials not normally associated with each other. Much like fusion cusine - like using Asian ingredients and spices with French classical cooking techniques to make an interesting dish.

I have been following Hublot ever since Jean Claude burst into that scene. Addictively engaging, Jean Claude brings excitement and a spark of creative genius.

I recently had the opportunity to photograph the King Power Tourbillon in King Gold and ceramic bezel, introduced in BaselWorld 2010. King Gold is a specail alloy of gold, in 18k, but with copper. Typically copper makes 20% to provide the red hue of 5N red gold, but in this case, 24% of the alloy is copper. Platinum and silver is then added to stabilize the alloy.


The dial design is superb. Multi-layered, looking like a miniature Yosemite, with the valleys and mountains...the dial is sculptured like a watchscape:


The watch also features a second timezone at about the 2 o'clock position, and retrograde date at 9 o'clock. Detail showing the immense height of the hour and minute hand pivots, hovering over the dial.


And the amazing tourbillon:


Another look at the 3D effect created by placing elements on the dial at different levels.


And a parting shot:


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

H. Moser Perpetual 1: Most uncluttered perpetual calendar

H. Moser is an interesting company, recently exploded into the scene with some very innovative watches. Featured here is the perpetual calendar.

In many calendars, the dial is usually so complicated, it is hard to read the time, and even harder to read the calendar indications. Not so with the Moser. This roundabout thinking has resulted in a very clean dial...

A power reserve indicator, a large date, subsidiary seconds hands seem to be the only indications on the dial...until, you notice the small hand from the center, shaped like an arrow:

Simple but ingenious! Use the 12 hour markers also to indicate the month.

The rest of the indicators are only useful for setting the calendar...and only one is essential, namely the leap year indicator. This is displayed at the back, on the movement side. This is a set and forget type indicator, but absolutely critical for the watch to know the leap years and adjust the date accordingly.

All the other indicators, like day of the week, month, moonphase which are typical in a perpetual calendar are dispensed with.

The movemeent itself is beautifully finished. Excellent anglage, well polished and gleaming. The double fausse cotes are well executed, very nice and even. The gold chatons simply beam at the viewer, and the steel screws holding the chatons contrast beautifully. The jewels themselves are large, well formed and crystal clear in its intense ruby red hue.

The escapement holds another innovation. The entire escapement can be removed in the field. This is to allow the entire escapement to be replaced in the event of adjustment and regulation issues. And all adjustment and regulation work to be done in the factory.

The case is brilliantly designed, smooth curves. Even the rear glass is curved for a more comfortable fit on the wrist:

The watch is available in platinum, rose gold and white gold:

Quite a handsome watch.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Portraits: Philippe Dufour

Some portraits of Grandmaster of Watchmaking - Philippe Dufour. Photographed in his workshop in Le Soliat, in the Swiss Jura. January 2011.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Vacheron Constantin Metiers d'Art - Chagall & L'Opera de Paris

Incredible! That's what I can describe it. Incroyable! The Vacheron Constantin Metiers d'Art - Chagall & L'Opera de Paris piece is an exceptional work of art. I am quite speechless when I examined the work, done in enamel by Anita Porcet, an independent enamelist.

I normally am not too excited about enamel paintings on a watch dial. But this watch, has me quite excited...this is a piece of art.

The work was originally commissioned to decorate the ceiling of the Paris Opera. This epic work is characteristic of the Marc Chagall's work - bright, delightful use of colours, nudes in various poses. This magestic work, unvealed in 1964 depicts Chagall's interpretation of the works of 14 composers. Vacheron Constantin decided to pay homage to this beautiful work by commissioning her own in the form of an enamel on a dial. The entire work, miniaturized onto the 40mm diameter of a dial. This challange was taken by Anita Porcet, an extraordinary enamel artist of our age.

This magnificent piece of art made its way to Singapore recently, and I had the pleasure of photographing this in my studio -

The VC Metiers d'Art - Chagall & L'Opera de Paris

The watch is in a 18k yellow gold case, with a hunter style back. On opening the case back, reveals the movement -the inhouse caliber 2460 automatic movement.

The VC cross logo on the inside of the caseback is a sticker.

The movement is immaculately finished, as is usual with VC standards. Nicely polished, anglaged, and a very beautiful rose engine turned micro-rotor.

But its the dial which is remarkable. Absolutely beautiful.

Made as a piece unique and not for sale, this watch will be the first of 14 other watches, done in the same style, also by Anita Porcet. Each of these 14 watches will feature one of the composers that Chagall has featured in the ceiling.

The 12 hour markers are hand engraved by an in-house VC engraver. According to the actual gargoyles in the Opera ceiling, these engravings feature the faces of nymphs. Each nymph face has a different expression, and this is well reflected in the hand engraving.

Photonote: This is a stitched image, using focus the stacking technique. 10 separate exposures, each with focus on a different position on the dial is focus stacked by Helicon Focus 5.0 to render the entire dial, which is lying at a plane different from the plane of the sensor in sharp focus. Another way to achieve this effect is to use a tilt lens, or a view camera with the digital back attached.

A closer look at the dial

Photonote: this image is a 3 panel vertical stitched, and rotated 90deg. Print size is A1 (841mmx574mm without uprezzing).

From the VC Press Release: Chagall’s work transformed the ceiling of the Opera House into a vast poetic sky whirling with opera heroes, brilliant musicians, entwined lovers and legendary characters. Concealing the original ceiling painted by Jules Eugène Lenepveu, Chagall’s rich palette with its intense shades and subtle harmonies is deployed over a full 200 square metres, forming an enchantingly luminous flower lit up by the neo-academic gold and purple hues from the era of Napoleon III. Five coloured petals with respective dominant blue, red, yellow, white and green colours each depict two famous musicians surrounded by some of the works they created. The blue one features Moussorgski and Mozart, along with Boris Goudonov and The Magic Flute; the yellow depicts Tchaikovsky and Adam, with Swan Lake and Giselle; Stravinsky and Ravel shine in red with The Firebird and Daphnis et Chloé; green lends a fresh touch to Berlioz and Wagner and the love stories of Romeo and Juliet and Tristan and Isolde; while white with a touch of yellow exalts Rameau and Débussy, along with the latter’s Pelleas and Mélisande. The works of Beethoven, Gluck, Bizet and Verdi are represented in the circle of the dome surrounding the central chandelier. Dotted here and there are some of the most famous Parisian landmarks: the Eiffel Tower, the Arc of Triumph, the Place de la Concorde with its obelisk, and of course the Garnier Opera House itself.

Closer look, reduced sized images (less than 50% of original size straight out of the camera) to show the details of the dial and of the capture: