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Friday, April 29, 2011

Lange Connoisseur Akademie: Class for collectors?

Lange hosted a very special event in Singapore, a series of 3, all interlinked together. Some of you may already have heard of the Lange Akademie. This was started and headed by the beautiful Joanna Lange (yes, she recently wedded Benjamin Lange, who is the son of Walter Lange) in 2008. And have been training retail staff from the points of sale around the world.

Franck Giacobini, Lange's MD for the region had this idea that it would be interesting to do a version of this course for the connoisseurs. The first Lange Connoisseurs Akademie was kicked off in Hong Kong sometime late 2010. And they decided to do the same for Singapore. The first of the 3 sessions of lectures, workshops and dinner started at the private room at Novus Restaurant at the Singapore National Museum on April 27. Here is a photoessay of the event...mainly in black and white.

The reception:

Note the white coats, embroided with our names waiting for us to put be "real" watchmakers.

Awaiting for class to start:

Michelle, Lange's chief in Singapore, opening the session:

Joanna starting off the lesson:

Manfred Weber, Master Watchmaker and head of the repair department based in Hong Kong was there to show us the finer points of watchmaking:


Another shot of the group, through the large mirrors that adorn the room...oops, self portrait as well...

After listening to the lectures, we started the practical...

Three stations were introduced...bending of the stop spring to hack the tourbillon was the first station...below is a model of the arrangement, showing the tourbillon cage of the CABARET Tourbillon.

The task of the group was to bend, by hand, the finger which extends when the crown is pulled to stop the tourbillon.

The second station was to do a black polish of some minute components, and the final station was to remove and re-insert the tiny screws on the balance.

Here are some of the team, trying out their hand...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Grand Seiko GMT SGBM003

I am quite fascinated by the world of the Grand Seiko. Here is a real atypical watch manufacturer. Hard core to the bone...and yet not manufacturing at the traditional heart of watchmaking in Switzerland.

Their superb factory and workshops, especially the Micro Artisans Studio in Shiojiri, where I visited some years ago, make wonderful products. Including the amazing Credor Eichi which I have featured in these pages before. I am still looking forward to finding an opportunity to photograph their Credor Sonnerie...another absolutely amazing watch from that studio. Shiojiri is also the place where they make the Spring Drive watches - innovative and superbly mesmerising in the way the second hand smoothly traverses the dial, in a totallly silent way. (no tick-tock). But that is the subject of another day's post.

Today I focus on a mechanical wristwatch - automatic in the very traditional way. Made in the Seiko Factory in Morioka, this watch is constructed very beautifully. I have owned this piece for a number of years, and yet, every time I take it out to wear and examine, I feel a small jump, skip in my heart. I can feel that this was a product born out of passion.

Smallish by today's standards, the case measures 39.5mm, and made in stainless steel. The hands are superbly polished to a sheen.

A closer look at the dial reveals the attention to care and detail showered on this watch:

The watch does not feature a display back...but carries this engraved medallion of the Seikosha lion at the back. I think its nicer than having an open back, don't you think?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Jaeger LeCoultre Grande Tradition Grande Complication

On Monday I showed the beautiful rose gold final version of the Jaeger LeCoultre Gyro Tourbillon. Today is another, arguably even more interesting, and certainly more complicated JLC timepiece. The aptly named Grande Tradition Grand Complication.

The dial is an amazingly beautiful blue, engraved with the stars and firmament, the flying tourbillon makes its way around the dial once every 12 hours. This wandering tourbillon is quite a technical feat on its own, but this one even allows the sidereal time to be tracked, and is programmed to turn around the dial to show the sidereal time.

A more detailed look at the dial, showing the moving tourbillon and the engraving of the heavenly bodies.

But what amazes me most about this magnificent timepiece is the sound of the minute repeater. No longer can one complain that though JLC Repeaters do make a loud ringing, they do not make a beautiful sound. By making the gongs longer, a la cathederal gong style like Patek Philippe, and also capitalizing on their research from their Hybris Mechanica Grande Sonnerie's accelerating hammers - known as ‘trébuchet hammer’, the Grande Complication's sonic capabilities are now fully developed. The ‘trébuchet hammer’ system allows the hammer to be activated on a dual axis system, where the hammers are accelerated on activation initially till a certain point where they activate a second movable arm. When released this accelerates the hammer till shortly before impact. As a result, each strike is strong, powerful, and clean. The tone as it rings out is loud and clear. But what is now quite apparent is now also the decay of the initial strike tone. This now reveberrates through the case, allowing the sound to develop rich overtones which enhance the aural experience. This magnificent richness is afforded by the longer gongs.

The back of the movement, showing the huge trebuchet hammer and the magnificently decorated movement.

And to roundup the watches, both the Gyro Tourbillon and the Grande Complication forming an amazing duo:

And a portrait of JLC's venerable CEO, Jerome Lambert, who was in town in Singapore to present these 2 very special timepieces and the SIHH 2011 collection.

for pixel peepers: click on the image for a 100% crop of Jerome's right eye, showing the detail captured by the camera.

And Jerome showing off the new Reverso 1931:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pour le Merite Book: Almost ready!

Some of you will know that I took time to work on a book full time since March 2010. The book is almost ready...and we are going to press hopefully mid-May.

Here is the cover of the book:

Spoecifications are as follows:

A. Lange & Sohne: The Pour le Merite Collection

Author: Peter Chong
ISBN-13: 978-981-08-8221-1

Hardcover: 200 pages + 200 high resolution original photographs
Very large tome, with detailed, never before published information and large, beautiful original photographs.
Publisher: PC+
Language: English & German (translation)

Product Dimensions: 29.7x42x5 cm (A3 closed, A2 open)
Deluxe Version: 408 copies, of which 201 are for sale to collectors
Paper: 170gsm for the inside pages
Cover: Hardcover with linen texture casewrap (Pulplin RJ-PL 251 Black 128gsm) with hotstamping + 150 gsm Artpaper with 4c printing for the jacket
Binding : Threadsewn in sections self ends fully case square back and Jacket
Regular Edition: 701 copies
Paper: 150gsm for the inside pages
Cover: Hardcover with 150 gsm Artpaper with 4c printing for the case wrap
Binding : Threadsewn in sections self ends fully case square back

Shipping Weight: 2.5 kg

To order send me an email.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Jaeger LeCoultre Gyro Tourbillon - the final edition in Rose Gold

Jaeger LeCoultre has been pushing the envelope of high horology for some time. With the Gyrotourbillon announced in 2004. The original series is produced in a platinum case, and I had the opportunity to photograph and view the final run of 30 pieces in rose gold.

The Gyrotourbillon has grown more beautiful in its new clothes. Rose gold certainly is a more romantic feel and beautiful glow to this highly technical watch.

A closer look at the gyrotourbillon - two axis spinning is quite mesmerising to watch. Finish of the movement is quite beautifully done in the traditional way.

And an even closer look at the 3 dimensional tourbillon:

Like a skeletonized globe...the double tourbillon is very amazing as it goes about its business..

And a look at the entire back through the display case:

Stay tuned for this Friday's installment of the JLC Grande Tradition Grande Complication.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lange's Engraving Dept

The engraving department within A. Lange & Sohne is perhaps rather famous. Every watch produced carries a hand engraved balance cock. These bear the signatures of the engravers, and can be recognised by them with a quick examination.

But equally interesting, and arguably perhaps more so, are the engraving and enameling work done for the watches which the owners have requested. These are done on the closed solid backs, and are very beautiful.

Here are some examples. Remember these are hand engraved on hand style.

The above is the head of the Greek goddess Minerva, hand engraved.

The coat of arms of the city of Glashutte.

And an experimental work done by the team with enameling:

They are still experimenting to try and perfect the enameling technique. But if you ask me, the patina-ed look...makes a more interesting piece of art than totally brand new.

The small team (if I remember correctly, 4 engravers, some working part time or from home) is led ably by Helmut Wagner, seen in the photograph below work station...yes, he uses a binocular microscope to do the engraving, with the most traditional of the graveur's art:

I took this photograph when I was at this studios for the afternoon, making photographs for my book, when he looked up. I swung the camera in his direction and managed to catch a sly smile on his lips. Made with the HC80mm lens at f/16.

One of the other engravers in the department, Simone Rauchfuß:

Simon was showing me the engravings on the balance cock she was working on. This was a posed photograph, as I asked her if she'd sit for one. If you are wondering if its the same is. Both photographs were taken at Simone's.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

View from the Pinnacle: The Singapore skyline

Encouraged by the results from the Chinatown photographs, I visited a friend who lived in The Pinnacle - Singapore's highest HDB block of flats. From the skybridge, linking the 5 towers at level 40, I took these photographs.

Minutes before sunset

A few minutes before sunset, a wide pano, stitched from 10 vertical panels using the 80mm standard lens. The cityscape is still bathed in daylight. Click on the image for a much larger one, 1080 pixels high to appreciate the detail captured:


Barely 25 mins later, darkness settled on the city. Using the 28mm lens in landscape orientation, covered the entire city. I cropped the top and bottom to create a panoramic aspect ratio.

With the camera turned into vertical orientation, I made this with the 28mm.

And finally, on the deck, with the city skyline as the background and the lazy deck chairs on the foreground:

Friday, April 8, 2011

Chinatown Singapore: evening photographs

After the recce trip, I went back one evening to Block 335B, and took these photographs. All with the HCD4/28 wide angle.

First, from the same vantage point, 24 floors up in the block

and from the same direction, but from the 16th floor

What do you readers think? Which do you prefer? Any thoughts why?

I should have taken these photographs at dusk, when the last dying rays of the sun will still provide some illumination, and lift the red roofs with some lighting. I may go back and shoot that.

Anyway, since I was in the Chinatown area, I walked around and shot these with the H3d-39 and HCD4/28 handheld:

Shot at ISO800, and converted as medium jpegs in Phocus, and exported as bw to Photoshop CS4 to tweak levels, very slight sharpening and reduce size further.

And finally from a street corner. Click on the image for the bw version, and tell me which one you prefer.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Laurent Ferrier Gallet Tourbillon: detailed photographs to demonstrate good finishing in a watch movement

I wrote about Laurent Ferrier's Gallet Tourbillon before. See this post for the earlier post.

I caught up with Laurent and his crew in Geneva during the recent GTE where he was showing a peek-a-boo dial...which features a fan shaped opening on the dial which opens to reveal a favourite picture...painted by no other than Anita Porchet in enamel. But what still captivated my attention is the original Gallet Tourbillon.

Here I feature three additional focus stacked images of this amazing watch. Focus stacking is by Helicon Focus.

A closer look at the tremendous finishing of the movement:

And a final shot showing the depth of the tourbillon escapement: