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Friday, December 30, 2011

Leica S2 walkabout impressions

Shooting ION: a walkabout with the Leica S2

The Leica S2: impressions from a walkabout

Just a quick walkabout to give an impression on the Leica S2. I am preparing a longer report and review of the Leica S2 system on my watch shoot, but in the meantime, just quick impressions. Note this is by no means a review. And just quick impressions.

I was at Orchard Ion, amidst the Christmas lights, so this tribute photograph to the large Cartier shop. This is a 3 panel vertical landscape stitch with the Summarit-S 1:2.5/35 mm ASPH.

The first impression when I started to process the files are that the camera's AWB is awefully good. It seems to get the white balance spot on, even with mixed and difficult lighting conditions.

Inside ION is an example...the cafe just outside the Miu Miu store. Note the wall of light on the Miu Miu store, and the intricate texture on the wall is intact. This lighting condition is quite tricky. The dark cafe, backlit. Also with Summarit-S 35mm.

Strong halogen on a mannequin. The spot light on the mannequin is at least 2 stops above the rest of the store. Lens is the Summarit-S 1:2,5/70 mm ASPH.

One of the best aspects of the S2 is the rear LCD is very nicely done. Crisp, sharp, and able to give a much better impression for focus confirmation and colour rendition than the aweful LCDs on the Hasselblad H system.

The interior of L'Atelier by The Hour Glass. Mixed lighting. With the showcases much brighter than the environment. Summarit-S 1:2.5/35 mm ASPH.

The 35mm Summarit is quite sharp, and relatively distortion free...for a lens this is very impressive. The following are photographed taken hand held:

The form factor of the S2 is very DSLR like. Indeed feels about the same as the Canon 1ds3, or Nikon D3, though the lens are considerably larger. The walkabout ability is certainly a very nice feature of this camera.

And a quick watch photograph...with the APO Macro Summarit-S 1:2.5/120 mm is not a true focuses down to only 1:2. I would consider ability to shoot at 1:1 a requirement for macro.

The MTF specifications of this lens is amazing...almost theoretical.

Cropped image shown above. Single image, no focus stacking. Renders detail nicely, but perhaps I need to investigate a bit more, but it would seem at f/16, there is some diffraction.

p.s. Thanks to Leica Singapore and Christopher Lee for arranging the camera. A more detailed report, in conjunction with Chris will be done up later.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Independence The Art of Horology...a visit to the store in Hong Kong.

Independent Watchmaking Salon in Hong Kong

March of the Independents

It is no secret that I am an ardent admirer of independent watchmakers. I was one of the first to invest in Philippe Dufour, by purchasing and writing about him. As early as 1999, I wrote an early article which appeared in The Business Times Supplement in Singapore on Philippe and his endeavours.

And I make it a point to always spend as much time as I can at the ACHI booth at BaselWorld when I attended the Basel event.

Independence - The Art of Horology

So it is with GREAT pleasure for me to introduce a store, totally independent itself from any large retailers, to be totally dedicated to promoting the works of the independents.

I understand from the owner that the store is designed to be non-profit. Interesting, methots. Operated more like an art gallery than a traditional watch store.

It is a rather small, but not tiny, store tucked away at the third floor of a building in Pedder Street, where Shanghai Tang used to be. But beautifully decorated...not only with the traditional decor elements, but also with a very good collection of this escapement model, made of steel, and at least a hundred years old.

But also, a nice collection of books and old drawings. Ahem...also a copy of my book - A. Lange & Sohne: The Pour le Merite Collection.

A nice inner lounge where customers can relax, and view the watches in comfort.

The independents they currently represent are Philippe Dufour, Romain Gautier, Ludovic Ballouard, Roger Smith, Kari Voutilainen, amongst others. As is typical of independents, when I was there, they did not have much stock to show. The owner's personal Dufour Simplicity graced one showcase, while another showcase hilighted Roger Smith's masterpiece. But they had stock of Romain Gautier and Ludovic Ballouard.

Shown here is the Romain Gautier made especially for the opening of the store.

Romain Gautier special edition for Independence featuring an open work dial and grey gold movement bridges

Side by side with the regular production watch, the piece unique for Independence features an open work case:

And a blackened bridge treatment, using grey gold (as I understand it)

A closer look at the regular production Romain, showing the exquisite finish:

and the Ludovic which was there...quite an interesting movement

Worth a visit when you are in Hong Kong...also, right next door is the beautiful gentlemen's clothing store: The Armoury. Drop by also to have a look and perhaps purchase the beautiful products...from Drake ties to shoes from Carmina, Gaziano Girling and St. Crispins. All wonderful brands. To bespoke suits et al.

I am supporting the Independence effort in my own way. I will be doing a solo exhibition of my portrait prints of the independent watchmakers in the store. Timing to be confirmed.

Independence - The Art of Horology
307 Pedder Building (3rd Floor)
12 Pedder Street
Central, Hong Kong

Photonote: All photographed hand held, under store lighting conditions.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Rebellion T-1000: unusual watch with 1000 hours power reserve

Rebellion. What a name for a watch. And true to its name, this is indeed a rebellious watch.

Manually wound. Six barrels. 1000 hours of power reserve. To wind the watch, one releases a lever, and the entire bezel pivots at 6 o'clock, and operating the lever winds the watch. Cool.

Two chains, one on each side of the case, are used to transmit the power from all the six barrels to the movement.

Rotating disks to show the hours and minutes. The balance wheel, placed at an angle to the rest of the otherwise ordinary movement.

Statement product.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

SIHH 2012 Novelty: EXCLUSIVE: The Lange new Datograph Auf/Ab

A. Lange & Sohne announces the new Datograph Auf/Ab

December 20, 0900 CET

Lange announces the replacement for the 11 year old Datograph with a new and improved Datograph. I attended the launch event in Dresden, and managed to spend a full morning with the watch, photographing, examining, pondering. Here are the exclusive live photographs and my personal impressions.

Wilhelm Schmidt, CEO of Lange unveils the new Datograph in Dresden on December 7, 2011 at the Albertenium.

Reinventing classics is an activity fraught in danger. If one does a good job, credit goes to the creator of the original. If one does not do a good job, stretching the classic a bit too far...tongues will wag. Who does he think he is, to attempt to improve on the perfect?

I applaud the folks at Lange for attempting to revise, reinvent, reinterprete one of their own classics - the Datograph. The Datograph was unveiled in 1999, and hailed as the best chronograph ever made. I am one of the big fans, having written one of the first reviews of the Datograph in November 1999, and owning it since. And I will let the cat out of the bag early by announcing that in the eyes of this old Datograph fan, they did a great job.

So what is changed?

First noticable change is the size of the case. Enlarged from 39mm to 41mm. Not too large. But sufficient to make it current. On my wrist, it fits beautifully.

More importantly, the thickness remains unchanged at 13.1mm, making the watch even more wearable. Take a closer look:

Second, like most things Lange does, this is not without reason, or just for aestetics. The enlarged case also holds a new movement. Now caliber L951.6, which houses a larger and more powerful mainspring. The movement has now an increased power reserve of 60 hours, up from the older movement's 36 hours. This is a nice update.

Third, one spies on the dial, a Auf/Ab indicator. At 6 o'clock, it tells the tale of the mainspring. Some may not be fans, but I do like the little touch of the red tail at the end of the power reserve. And that the power reserve hand is actually an applique on a turning disk.

Fourth, simplified hour markers. The Roman numerals II, VI, and X have been replaced, and the hours are now marked with rhodiumed gold batons.

This gives the dial a sleeker look. But still retaining the all important family DNA.

Fifth, an inhouse crafted balance:

(some pictures will open to 1920 pixels wide when clicked)

Much larger than the original is now fitted. Six eccentric poising weights are now used in place of gold screws to adjust and fine tune the rate and beat of the balance. The eccentric weights are more aerodynamic than the screwed balance, though some may prefer the traditional look of the gold screws around the balance wheel.

The larger balance allows the Datograph to keep better time, all things being equal. And the exclusivity of the in-house balance is an added bonus. This makes it the 18th Lange caliber to carry the inhouse balance, starting with the Double Split in 2004.

As a result of the enlarged movement, due to larger mainspring and opportunity to enlarge the balance, the dial has to be redesigned. And the famous Lange outsized date also enlarged so that it appears proportionally the same on the dial. Nice touch in this detail.

Sixth, the L951.6 movement is slightly modified from the L951.1...

such that the return pusher now applies its force on the heart cam indirectly, via a spring loaded lever rather than allowing direct pressure from the operator's finger on the pusher to act on the cam. This alleviates the pressure on the cam, avoiding early damage.

Other Datograph functions, like the light, smooth operation of the pushers remain unchanged. As is the precisely jumping minute counter...a delight to many, especially when it was introduced in 1999.

Have a Blessed Christmas, and may your years be filled with happiness, prosperity and health.

Lange manufacture calibre L951.6 specifications

Movement parts: 451
Jewels: 46
Screwed gold chatons: 4
Escapement: Lever escapement
Oscillation system: Shock-resistant balance with eccentric poising weights; superior-quality balance spring manufactured in-house, frequency 18,000 semi-oscillations per hour, precision beat adjustment system with lateral setscrew and whiplash spring
Power reserve: 60 hours when fully wound
Functions: Time indicated in hours, minutes, and subsidiary seconds with stop seconds; flyback chronograph with precisely jumping; power-reserve indicator; outsize date
Operating elements: Crown for winding the watch and setting the time, two pushers for operating the chronograph, one pusher for rapid correction of the outsize date
Case dimensions: Diameter: 41.0 millimetres; height: 13.1 millimetres
Movement dimensions: Diameter: 30.6 millimetres; height: 7.9 millimetres
Case: Platinum
Dial: Solid silver, black
Hands: Rhodiumed gold, steel

Please do leave your comments, impressions either here, or at at the Lange discussion forum I moderate at

Photo note: Please note that the watch being photographed is a prototype, and bears the grit and grunt of many hands on it the evening before I had the opportunity to photograph it. So please excuse the "lived in" look of the watch. Also, as I was travelling light to the event in Dresden with only the GH-2, 45 macro and a small flash (Canon EX580II), the lighting is harsh, and not as flattering as if I had used the Profoto Compact600s.

Note also, all photographs are original. I have intentionally not used any of the press photos.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sunset in Lausanne

while visiting my friends in Lausanne, we took a stroll around his beautiful home and witnessed the sunset.

Unlike most sunsets in Singapore, sunsets in the Northern hemisphere is mostly spectacular. Two quick photographs to illustrate:

Just broad colour strokes. Nothing in focus. Abstract. The colours are intense. Only slightly saturated in CS4.

and a panorama

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Castles from Germany: Bad Muskau

Continuing the series of castle scenes from Germany, I was at Bad Muskau...a little town by the Neisse River which draws the border between Germany and the Czech Republic. The border line was drawn by the Soviets after WW2, to demarkate East Germany from Poland.

The castle itself was very beautiful, scenic.

The park and castle was built by Hermann von PĆ¼ckler-Muskau, a famous landscape artist who made the beautiful gardens. Very nice, serene, even.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Scenes from Germany

I have shown many city scenes from my many visits to Germany. This entry, I take the opportunity to show some non-urban scenes.

First, still somewhat the city of Goerlitz, the most Eastern city of Germany...the cathederal, photographed about 8pm, from the Czech side. From the bridge which crosses the Lusatian Neisse River.

f/8, 10 second exposure, iso800. Panasonic Lumix GH-2 with 14-140 lens at 17mm.

Next week, the castle at Bad Muskau.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A. Lange & Sohne: Richard Lange Pour le Merite

The Lange Richard Lange Pour le Merite is one of the 4 watches within the Lange collection which carry the fusee and chain mechanism.

This particular example is owned by a good friend of mine. And I had the pleasure to photograph this watch under very dim conditions of a Michelin starred restaurant in Dresden...the Bean and Beluga. A review of the food will follow next week, but for now, I think the beauty of the watch shows up, even under such dim conditions.

The movement side...

Shot at 800 iso, with the 45mm macro Panasonic Leica lens, at f/2.8, the GH2 redeems itself quite well under this lighting condition. No flash, no tripod...handheld.

The depth of field is shallow, no doubt as the aperture was wide open. But the lens was sharp, and showed good detail. The sensor captured very good colour as well.

The files begin to breakdown at larger prints, but for web use, I think it suffices.