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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

SIHH 2013: Tourbillons from Montblanc

Montblanc is a brand made famous by the wonderful writing instruments with the stylized snow cap. But they do make interesting watches too. Expecially since they took over the remainder of what was Minerva, and incorporated the movement manufacturing capability with the marketing juggernaut of Richmont.

Two tourbillons caught my eye in this year's crop of watches shown by Montblanc.

First, the Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 Tourbillon ExoTourbillon Chronographe

The exo tourbillon moniker is Montblanc speak for a tourbillon design where the cage is separated and oscillates on a different plane from the balance spring.

The other Montblanc tourbillon which was interesting to me, was the Grande Tourbillon Heure Mysterious...

While the display of time: hours and minutes are done a la mysterious...that is, the hands seem to be floating in space, seemmingly disconnected from anything, it is already a known way how the mysterious is the use of transparent sapphire glass discs, which carry the hands, where the discs are driven from outside the aperture open for viewing the time.

But it is the bridge of the tourbillon, and the actual tourbillon itself which mesmerised me more....

Friday, February 22, 2013

SIHH 2013: Cartier Panther...the jewels bekons

On Tuesday, I featured the high horology side of Cartier...with their Mysterious series...but most know Cartier as a jewellery company, excelling in miniature sculptures which are indeed works of art.

I feature in today's post, the famous Cartier two guises...both watches, both extremely beautiful, both real works of art.

The timekeeping on these wonderful bejewelled pieces are this case relegated to a small indicator with hours and minutes. Center stage is the magnificent panther.

Crafted in 3d, with diamonds and jewels...magnificent. Even more beautiful on the wrist.

Another interpretation of the panther, on a very thin, jewellery watch...super elegant for an evening soiree..

I find the craftsmanship fo the sculpture amazing...the panther looks all at once, playful and beautiful...seemingly able to convey a sense of emotion.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

SIHH 2013: Cartier Mysterious

Cartier is not a brand I normally cover during SIHH. But recently, as recent as a few years ago, they started to get serious about haute horology, with the appointment of Carole Forestier-Kasapi, the brand has taken leaps and bounds to cover the high end watchmaking scene.

Cartier is a juggernaut. A powerhouse. Their booth in SIHH takes almost the entire corner of the PalExpo. It includes presentation rooms, a mini museum, and a huge display area showcasing their latest works. Known for their prowress in jewellery, where they are at the very top of the heirarchy, their inroads into high end watchmaking is making a comeback. Today I will feature a concept which is associated with Cartier, and made into a wristwatch...the mysterious watch.

By no means Cartier is the first to make such a watch. Others have tried to fabricate watches which somehow suspend the timetelling hands in space, alledgedly unconnected to any mechanism. Though, the trick is to use flawless transparent glass to transmit the power from the drive train to the hands. Their inspiration is of course the mysterious clocks they made some 70-80 years ago.

Shown above is the Rotnde de Cartier Mysterious Hours. The movement side is also interesting as the wheels also seem suspended in space. Interesting piece.

Perhaps more interesting is the Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Double cage making the usual 1 revolution a munute, and a sapphire disc, carrying another cage makes one revolution every 5 minutes.

Even with close examination, the tourbillon seems to float in space. Quite mesmerising.

One of the nicer Cartiers I have seen for a while...

Friday, February 15, 2013

SIHH 2013: JLC Perpetual Calendar with Cylindrical Tourbillon

Jaeger LeCoultre's offerings this SIHH produced some of the interesting highlights of the show for me. The latest Gyrotourbillon 2 was unveilled...but only 2 pieces were on the showcase, and the other on CEO Jerome Lambert's wrists.

So, interestingly similar in strategy to ALS, no photography of the Gyrotourbillon 3. I only got to see the piece in the window, as this time, I did not have a private audience with Jerome.

So, its a series of facelifts which drew the attention. The most complicated amongst these is the Master Grande Tradition Tourbillon Cylindrique à Quantième Perpétuel Jubilee.

180 piece limited edition. Quite a magnificent timepiece. With a full perpetual calendar, multi layer dial, and a cylindrical tourbillon.

The dial is a full perpetual calendar, with the usual indications

I love the way the dial is made...multi layer, with a nail head finish on the main surface, polished subdials, and a step to highlight the tourbillon. Notel also the 4 year display, and the little cutouts on the hands to allow the leap year indicator to be visible.

The tourbillon is flying, two axis, first developed for the Spherotourbillon of 2012, though this one is only single axis, it is also flying and features the same cylindrical hairspring. I find the tourbillon mesmerising to gaze at.

The automatic movement from the display case back shows the rotor, engraved with the medallion which JLC won in the universal exposition in 1889.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

SIHH 2013: Lange's Grande Complication

The iconic piece Lange showed this SIHH2013 is the Grande Complication. Modelled after and inspired by the 42500 Grande Complication Pocket watch, this magnificent piece is the lastest salvo fired by the little manufacture in Glashutte.

The giant model of the Grand Complication which greets visitors to the Lange booth. The model displays the correct time, and even strikes en passant, though the sound of the strikes are recorded from an old pocket watch rather than the actual Grande Complication. The recorded watch exhibits a rather loud buzzing governer, while the actual GC is rather quiet.

A Grand Complication...typically this is a concoction of 4 or more the case of the Lange GC, its 7...pepetual calendar, chronograph, split seconds, fourdroyante, minute repeater, petite sonnerie, grande sonnerie. Quite a long list. All this packed in a case 50mm in diameter, some 20.3mm in height...I did not get to try it...afterall, Lange had intended this to be a teaser...a watch as significant as this should not be announced and showed in a crowded show like SIHH. It deserves total and global press and collector attention with its own show.

The giant model of the Grand Complication, movement side. Here a projected image, likely computer generated shows a small video introducing the GC. The movement looks deliciously complicated. As such, though there was a working prototype, and because there was only one, Lange took the decision to only show to selected press and customers, and declined photography and handling of this fine watch.

Tony briefing the brand managers and showing them (and me) the watch. We listened intently to the striking. Loud, crisp, beautiful tone, nice resonance. Very quiet regulator sound. In a word, magnificent and beautiful.

So why is this significant? Well, it is possibly the first grande complication to be manufactured in Glashutte. The older pocket watches were all built in Glashutte from base ebauches which were Swiss made. Indeed the venerable 42500 was probably a Piguet base movement, though many of the complications were added in Germany.

Drawing to explain the workings of the watch.

Second, it was the only Grande and Petite Sonnerie amongst the top tear manufacturers with the exception of Audemars Piguet and Franck Muller. Patek Philippe does not offer one, and neither does Vacheron Constantin. The heritage of the wrist watch Grande Sonnerie traces back to Grandmaster Philippe Dufour, who shocked the horology world with the first Grande et Petite Sonnerie wristwatch. He made a total of 6, and in a conversation I had with him in Geneva, he just completed...or about to complete no 7. The Grande and Petite Sonnerie in a wristwatch is rarified territory, but when you add the other complications...well it becomes almost unique.

Picture of a photograph or computer generated graphic hanging on the wall of the GC room.

Other specialities? The dial is a multi piece enamel dial...made in Glashutte. The works were completed by now Master enameler Romy Zimmerman...a young lady, I first met when she was an apprentice experimenting with enamel in the engraving department many years ago. The dial is magnificent.

Showing the select Lange Owners Group the GC...if you look close enough, the watch is right in the center. The group was impressed with the visual impact of the GC and the sonics.

It will take one full year to manufacture one of these complicated beauties. So only 6 will be offered worldwide. Delivery is expected from 2014 to 2020. The price...a cool €1.95 million German retail. You'd think it will be difficult to sell such an expensive watch, but I personally know of at least 2 persons who are in contention to get one, and Wilhelm Schmidt, CEO of Lange told me they have serious enquires numbering upwards of a dozen.

Drawing showing the striking works. Completely new design from ground up.

Friday, February 8, 2013

SIHH2013: Lange 1815 Up/Down

Lange's new movement crop this year included the new 1815 Up/Down

As I mentioned in Tuesday's post, Lange introduced several new movements this year. The superb and magnificent 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar, the new Grande Complication, and today I feature a refreshed 1815 Up/Down.

This is a reissue of an old favourite...the original 1815 Up/Down...which created a small sensation as Lange managed to squeeze in the power reserve mechanism into the same case as the regular 1815...and it was not that the regular 1815 had a lot of room to play with inside the case. The case measured then 36mm. By today's reference, a very small case size.

The new Up/Down, or Auf/Ab in German is refreshed with a new movement, and a larger case size...still a rather modest 39mm, with a thickness of 8.9mm.

And the beautiful movement

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

SIHH 2013: A. Lange & Sohne 1815 Perpetual Calendar Rattrapante

SIHH 2013 came and went in a blur...this was one of my busiest SIHH in my 12 odd years of attending yet. And one of the most interesting for my friends at Lange. Big, big crop of new watches. Grande Complication, 1815 Perpetual Rattrapante, 1815 Up Down, Lange 1 Lumen, amongst other new case/dial combinations. Interesting, when many other houses are slowing down on new movements.

I start my report with my favourite novelty of the year. The 1815 Perpetual Calendar Rattrapante. Some may ask...why not the Grande Complication? Well, it could be a favourite...but as of now, its in teaser stage...while I did see and hear the beautiful watch...magnificent sound, you'd have to trust me on that for photography is allowed of the Grande Complication as SIHH 2013 is viewed by ALS as a teaser for this magnificent piece. Will have reports later in the year.

Also, the 1815 Perpetual Calendar Rattrapante (1815 PCR) is magnificent, most beautiful, with a gorgeous movement, and an interesting price too. €160k for the gold, and €180k for the platinum...German retail. Some €60k lower than the comparable Patek Philippe offering - the 5204.

I leave you to browse the specifications at the official Press Releases elsewhere, and comments posted by my co-conspirator Edwin Heusinkveld here. And as usual, I will only show my own photographs of the watch(es) and my personal comments.

The dial is magnificent. Most beautiful. Everything is nicely laid out, though a traditional perpetual calendar with a 4 year layout, the dial is legible in light. This is not a night vision watch as it does not provide for superluminova or other low light assistance, but as this is a high end luxury timepiece, its not only ok, but more desirable as the lack of superluminova makes for a more elegant design of the hands and numerals. Also a perpetual with glowing indicators will be too busy.

I do consider the dial to be a triumph in design and execution, and I am a bit undecided myself, but may have preferred a bit more own humble suggestion is to use applique roman numerals for the hour indicators in the same material as the case. Of course this would change the character of the watch completely, for one it will no longer belong to the 1815 family with arabic numerals on the dial, but perhaps just gold/rhodium bar markers like those in the Pour le Merite Tourbillon in rose gold with a black dial showed the way many years ago. I wonder.

The movement of course is pure room for improvement...:-)

The movement is busy, a split second chronograph should be, magnificently finished. Sparkling at every edge and anglage. Polished, spick and span. Beauty personified.

The layering achieved by Lange is remarkable. This is a fully integrated, all new split second chronograph works, I understand loosely based on the Tourbograph, but redesigned.

The dual column wheels, the scissors jaws of the split second arresting mechanism. All flawlessly designed and beautifully executed and finished. A pure joy to behold.

A major triumph.