Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Alinghi Swaps Audemars Piguet for Hublot

Defender of the 33rd America's Cup title, Alinghi, has just announced that their two time partnership [2003 & 2007] with Swiss luxury watchmaking firm Audemars Piguet has ended in favor of a new sponsor. This time around the Alinghi vessel will contain the logo, and financial backing, of Hublot. Founded in 1980 Hublot is a very young company by Swiss watchmaking standards but they have quickly made their mark with bold designs and quality manufacturing. Most notably being the first high end Swiss manufacturer to mix rubber straps with precious metal [i.e. gold] cases and fittings, creating a look that is often imitated by many other brands today.

The full press release of today's announcement is available on the Alinghi website.

On a purely personal note; I do find it a bit odd that the announcement is touting Hublot's porthole shaped designs as being "signature" to Hublot [referring to their extremely popular "Big Bang" line of pieces] when ironically their former sponsor, Audemars Piguet, has been producing marine inspired porthole shaped case watches since the early 1970's with their Royal Oak Offshore models.

2007 Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Alinghi Chronograph:An example of a Hublot Big Bang:
So it would appear that someone, for some reason, felt that the AP/Alinghi relationship could go no further.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ebel Voyager World Timer Review

Our friends over at Breitling Source have favored us with yet another comprehensive video review. The time they look at an Ebel Voyager automatic world time watch from the early 2000's.

More of their video reviews can be seen on their YouTube Channel.

Swiss Watch iPhone Apps

Several Swiss watchmaking firms have jumped on the band waggon of creating iPhone applications involving some of their most popular, or newest pieces. When "apps" first started to really gain popularity there were some generic wristwatch versions available, but now it's becoming more clear that original manufacturers are seeing the potential advertising perks of creating official apps that showcases some of their product.

Below are some screen shots of the more popular apps currently available:

Bell & Ross: [Their popular BR01 Instrument watch]

Breitling: [Showing off the new Chronomat B01]

Glycine: [The Airman]

Victorinox/Swiss Army: [A variety of features]

One size fits all:
pic courtesy of doobybrain.com

While there has been a lot of reports in the past few years about a generation of people rejecting wristwatches in favor of using a mobile device as their reference of time, this shows that the watch firms don't really fear becoming obsolete. It's more likely than not that those who acquire one of these apps would be a brand devotee, and this would only strengthen their love of the product line offered. It also gives those who admire, but can't afford, a coveted watch the opportunity to own a small piece of it.

If you happen to have an iPhone, or iPod Touch and are interested, you can find these all at the Apple iPhone App Store

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Escapement's Google Ads: A Quick Note

As you may have noticed along the right side of my page there is a small amount of Google generated advertisements that mainly feature online watch retailers. It has come to my attention recently that every once in a while an ad appears for a website that sells replica, or fake, watches. At first I attempted to put blocks on specific pages using keywords, and web addresses but this is quickly becoming a losing battle on my end. I can only spend so much time being a watch dog.

As a general rule The Escapement does not officially endorse any online seller, let alone a seller of counterfeit watches. Please be extra careful when shopping at any online watch retailer you find [not just from here], if you need some assistance in finding a reputable seller, just ask I'll be glad to share which ones I've had positive experiences with. There are plenty of scam sites on this wonderful inter-web of ours [both replica and genuine watches] that will gladly take your money and give nothing in return.

To be completely honest I have no right to tell someone how to spend their own money, that's simply not my function with this blog. I just wanted to make sure you know that I am very aware of what appears on my page, even the things beyond my control.

Thank you for reading!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Follow The Escapement on Twitter

Well I went ahead and finally gave in. I decided to make a Twitter page for my little blog here. I did so to give it another way to link up to the main page, most of the..*sigh*..."tweets" will be direct links to new posts here. I will also be posting links to news articles about the watch industry and other watch related items, that I don't feel warrant the full treatment. So it won't just be a carbon copy of articles here, there will be other things as well...That's what we like to call "incentive"

I even went so far as to link up my mobile phone; so don't be surprised if something like "OMG! the dude next to me totally has an Audemars Piguet ROO on!!" pops up every once in a while.

The Twitter posts will also be available on the right hand side bar of this page as well.

So FOLLOW ME, won't you?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Well, There's Your Problem Right There

Did you know that mechanical watches generally require servicing after between 4-6 years of on the wrist time? As oils coagulate, friction increases and physical shocks to the case cause some of the inner workings to show wear, its good to have a professional breathe new life into your watch from time to time. A mechanical watch , if looked after properly, can literally out live it's owner. Granted a lot of people choose not to have their watches serviced for various reasons. The cost of a service, or overhaul, can be a bit shocking when its first quoted, but when dealing with a high end precision instrument, its all relative. What I seem to find is that owners of high end pieces are more likely to be open to servicing, whereas the collectors of cheaper mechanicals will either throw them away for new watches, or disassemble and service it themselves. I am a big supporter of experimenting with amateur watchmaking on Chinese made movements due to their costs being so low. It's a fantastic way to get your feet wet without the fear of ruining a priceless family heirloom.

Who: There are a couple of different routes you can go here. A lot of owners of higher end mechanical watches choose to send them back to the manufacturer to get serviced. Though this is generally the more expensive way, you do have the peace of mind of knowing that your multi-thousand dollar timepiece is in the hands of those who originally made it, and that OEM parts are readily available at their facility. A lot of high end watch retailers who have watchmakers on sight will still send many of the pieces they get in back to the original manufacturers. Many collectors also find a local watchmaker and have them do all of their servicing. A great resource to start looking is on Yelp. Started by two former PayPal employees in 2004, Yelp is a website that assists you in finding local businesses of any sort and usually includes reviews from people who have done business with them [search "watchmaker" in our area]. Word of mouth is one of the best ways to find a good, honest watchmaker. I do strongly urge you to find an actual watchmaker and not a jeweler, though the tools may look the same they are two entirely different types of artisans. A good local jeweler may also be able to recommend a known watchmaker. I would completely avoid mall, or chain jewelry stores...After all you wouldn't send your Ferrari to a Ford dealership, right?

Cost: This is where the cringe factor may come into play for many. Sending your high end watch back to the manufacturer for service can cost the owner quite a bit of scratch. Prices generally run between $200.00 and $600.00 for a mechanical chronograph watch depending on what type of service you are requesting. An "overhaul" is exactly what it sounds like; the manufacturer does everything it can to make your watch as good as the day you first opened the box. This usually includes; completely disassembling the movement cleaning it, replacing any and all worn parts and gaskets, reassembly, polishing the case and bracelets [if you happen to have a bracelet model] and generally an extended period of testing its accuracy. A lot of watch manufacturers will warranty the service for a year. If you go the local route its possible you could get much of the same style service. A trained watchmaker with all of the proper tools can do everything listed above, minus the "official" warranty. Their costs will run you between $100.00 and $400.00 for a mechanical watch. It's a good thing to keep in mind when purchasing a high end mechanical watch that there will be service costs every 4-6 years. Don't think of it as buying a piece of jewelry...because honestly it can be more like buying an automobile. Understand that the more complications your watch has the higher the cost will go, I used a mechanical chronograph as a reference as they are very common.

Below is video that has been floating around the web for a bit. It's an official film from Breitling [so yes, it's a bit of a "crummy commercial"] that explains what one of their watches goes through when it is sent back to Switzerland for an overhaul service. I was fortunate enough to receive a Breitling chronograph watch as a gift, and now that I know what the service entails, I am more likely to save up now and send it back to Breitling for it's overhaul when its required in a few years, as I want to keep my piece as precise as possible for as long as possible.

Breitling also produced films on their quartz watch service, and their extensive polishing procedure. All three films are available for viewing HERE.

Time: Whether you send you watch in for service, or bring it to a local watchmaker understand that it may be several weeks before you see it again. Depending on how much work they have; I have heard as long as 7 to 8 weeks. Remember, patience is a virtue, and you want this done right.

My heart breaks a little whenever I see a truly remarkable timepiece that has been left by the wayside as "just an old watch". It makes me want to scoop it up and nurture it back to life.

If you have any questions, or need help finding a reputable watchmaker in your area feel free to ask and I will use all of my resources to assist you in finding a properly trained watchmaker you can trust.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

One to Watch: Independent Edition

Starting to make a buzz around some watch forums, eBay and YouTube is PyroLume Watch Works. Pyrolume is a US based independent watch company started by New Jersey anesthesiologist Pejman Foroush. Dr. Foroush took his passion for timepieces to a new level when he began building one off custom pieces and prototypes for friends and family approximately 2 years ago. Initially testing the waters of selling on eBay, he has since sold an estimated 350-400 watches worldwide since PyroLume's inception. Each of these creations has been a custom piece experimenting with different designs, movements, & materials.

There are two defining characters of PyroLume watches; first is the high volume and creative use of luminescence material Pejman applies to various parts of the watch in a wide variety of colors, and second is the custom dials he produces using an in-house CNC mill. Pyrolume often plays with varying dial materials including [but not limited to]; thin aluminum sheets, copper, and composite materials ranging from carbon fiber to silver and gold texalium and even Mother of Pearl. Recently he has been toying around with using a black, or charcoal colored lume which is somewhat of an oddity that is starting to be sought after by collectors more and more.

Below are just a few examples of PyroLume's offerings:

Ground breaking use of lume on the underside of a dial.

Caseback in day, or standard, light conditions

PyroLume's take on the classic California dial

Half Skeleton 'Aviator' with orange lume.

The caseback of the above 'Aviator'

Mother of Pearl dial

Drenched in lume to give it a halo effect

PyroLume offers a little bit for every price range with pricing starting around $200 for prototype and quartz pieces. If you are looking to spend a bit more PyroLume also offers several variations using Asian produced "ETA/Unitas 6497" clones [mainly Seagull and Hangzouh movements] in titanium cases in the $350-400 price range. Foroush really seems to be currently focusing on this second tier line of products. For those not familiar; the venerable "6497" styled movement, by design, is very robust and reliable and is still desirable to many, which is a great jumping off point for PyroLume's line of watches. Though some of the Asian made versions are known to have questionable quality control the good doctor is doing all he can to pick up the slack in that area stating; "My solution to this was simple, each and every Chinese movement regardless of source is torn down, inspected, properly lubricated, reassembled and regulated on my Timegrapher machine." PyroLume has also begun to roll out a third tier of pieces using Swiss made movements and overall higher quality materials, starting in the $600 area and going up from there. Considering the attention to detail, the attraction of the crazy amounts of lume, and the in-house manufacturing of dials...His prices are quite reasonable; which opens the door to many collectors still in search of a custom piece that doesn't make their wallets implode.

Pyrolume Watch Works film of the very attractive "Luxe Turbofan" with a rose gold colored skeleton movement

Looking ahead Pejman seems very excited about the future of PyroLume; "I have recently moved the PyroLume Watch Works from my garage into some local industrial space. I will also be investing in new machines as well as bringing on two full time employees to help take my vision to the next level." he is also currently working on a display for the BaselWorld 2010 fair next April.

To see many more of PyroLume Watch Works' custom creations you can browse through their gallery at www.pyrolume.com, or visit their YouTube channel HERE. To follow along on projects check out the PyroLume Watch Works blog HERE.

To see what is currently available from PyroLume click HERE for a current eBay search.

I would like to thank Dr. Foroush for taking the time to answer some of my questions about PyroLume Watch Works, its origins and their product line.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Reviving A Classic

During World War II Bulova Watches established "The Joseph Bulova School of Watchmaking" to teach watchmaking to all who were interested. One of the great programs set up by them in 1945 was to have war veterans, with a focus on disabled veterans, enroll the school at no cost to them and learn the art of watchmaking and start a new career post military service. This was an extremely successful program that graduated over 800 students who gained employment in the watchmaking industry. Put simply it was set up by Bulova "To serve those, who served us." Unfortunately the original school was closed in the year 2000.

With the advent of two modern wars and the resurgence of the mechanical watch becoming once again in the good favors of collectors; a new similar program for vets was set up on February 27th, 2008 under the guidance of "The American Watch Guild". There are some differences from the original program, and they are all positive ones. Instead of being limited to one teaching location Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans now have the possibility of attending 1 of 11 watchmaking programs in various locations across the country. This time around well known retailers of fine watches have also stepped up to lend training, and support to the returning soldiers.

The all important basics of the program still hold true for veterans; no prior watchmaking experience is needed, and the program generally takes care of all the costs for those who enter it.

It's a fantastic way for the watch industry to support the modern veterans who come home often struggling to find work.

To learn more about the program you can check out the official website: www.vetwatchtraining.org

To learn more about the homecoming Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, and to see what you can do to help make their transition home a more pleasant one visit: Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America at www.iava.org

Monday, August 3, 2009

Craziest Watch of the Year Award

Established in 1908 Concord was always seen as a company that produced a more understated series of timepieces...for the gentleman. Personally they never really appealed to me. In 2007 Concord took a very dramatic turn by adding the C1 model to their line of watches. This was so far from their previous efforts, and such a success that it would seem Concord is using that line as the new foundation for the companies future products. The C1 even already has some lower to moderately priced brands using it as an inspiration.

At the 2009 BaselWorld Fair Concord unveiled the newest watch in their very popular C1 line; the C1 QuantumGravity bi-axial tourbillon. If you think the name is a mouthful you are in for a surprise regarding it's features. The QuantumGravity [QG] is the latest piece to emerge from Concord's C-Lab a special workshop of watchmakers and designers whose goal it is to push the limits of mechanical watchmaking...psst! you're doing it right. Along side its basic time keeping functions the QG boasts a specially designed liquid filled 3-day power reserve indicator. The green liquid is phosphorescent nanoparticles which glow [below].

The watch also features a vertically mounted bi-axial tourbillon which is suspended on the side of the case rather than in its traditional position some where in the dial area. By the way; when I say "suspended" I literally mean suspended as the mechanism is actually supported by tiny [0.4mm thick] suspension cables that run from the tourbillon cage to the main plate [below].

All of this watchmaking lunacy is packed into a titanium case which measures under 50mm wide, about the same as a Breitling Chrono Super Avenger. Concord is only making 10 of them, and at a price of $480,000 each this will be a very exclusive club of owners.

Every year at BaselWorld several brands try to push the envelope of mechanical watchmaking by introducing watches that take the traditional and turn it on its head. I think it's fair to say, now being 6 months into 2009, that the Concord C1 QuantumGravity gets the award for most outrageous creation.

For more information on the QG you can visit the official website HERE.

Below is a short interview with the president of Concord discussing and showing the C1 QG at BaselWorld 2009. Check it out to see the bi-axial tourby in action

Information for this post was obtained from several sources including: Concord's own websites and WatchTime Magazine's August 2009 issue.