Saturday, July 29, 2017

Pascal Coyon - Chronomètre Extraodinaire

Every now and then, a new timepiece comes to the market and it takes the notice of collectors. And was it quick to go. And for good reason too.

The Pascal Coyon Chronomètre is a simple yet elegant timepiece - great value for money too. And it is long time coming. I ordered mine some time back in August of 2014 and was told by Mr. Coyon he was closed to closing the orders. Based in France, the timepiece was very much sought after and by the time he finished my piece, almost three years have lapsed. And I know of collectors who are still waiting for theirs.

But the wait was worth it... 100%. The timepiece is entirely hand finished by Mr. Coyon who is based on Bayonne (South West), France. He tells me that he finds it difficult to source for quality craftsman near to where he is based which is the main source of the delay. Only him... yup, only him. So I take refuge in the fact that this is one of the first batch to be (almost) entirely made by Mr. Coyon himself. Couldn't ask for more.

But what is exceptional about this piece is the on the movement side. I normally start with introducing the timepiece featuring the dial side but I have to say that the movement of the Pascal Coyon Chronomètre is the reason why anyone would want this piece. Take a look...

The movement is a UNITAS based movement but highly modified and hand finished. The movement comes in three versions - rose gold plated, yellow gold plated and rhodium plated. By the time I made the selection, the rhodium plated ones were the only ones left. Engraved on the movement are the words "France" and "P Coyon"...

And the fine adjustment is also a modified mechanism.

The movement number (1900B19) is also engraved on the base plate. You can also see the frosted finish on the movement. When I wind the movement, it comes to live immediately after one wind. Excellent reaction from the movement. My only gripe is that the movement does not "hack" i.e. the second hand does not stop when you pull out the crown.

Every movement is hand finished by Mr. Coyon and the finishing is nothing short of stunning! And for under EUR4,500, this is really great value. For this price, you can't get a main brand finished to this level.

Each of the movement is limited to 20 examples and the limited edition number is hand engraved on the movement. Mine is 19/20. The mirror finishing on the movement bridges are exceptional - especially for a piece at this price level. I cannot think of another piece that comes close to this level of finishing. Great effort by Mr. Coyon and I am sure that owners of the Chronomètre will agree with me - looking at the movement alone is satisfaction enough.

And now for the dial side. Simple and elegant...

The little details are great - for example the curved minute hand... Come to think of it, this is my first French made timepiece! Vive la France!

The white lacquer dial has three variants - one with a navy blue numbers, one with black numbers and the one with black numbers but with red 12 (hour) and 60 (seconds). As you can see, I chose the black and red combo. There are two crown choices - the classic or the onion crown. I chose the former.

As for the hands, they come in two model - the "pomme-breguet" and the "marine" style hands and I chose the latter. Case-wise, he has two cases - the 42mm stepped case and the simpler 41mm case. I chose the 41mm. And all this is asked of you again when the movement has passed the Besançon Observatory chronometer test. From that point, one has to wait around 6 weeks for the final product.

Lovely white lacquer dial with railway track minute indicator.

The Red 12 and the red 60 gives the timepiece a unique look.

Hands are well finished as one would expect.

Another look at the red 12.

Each timepiece comes in a wooden case with a Chronomètre Certificate from the Observatoire De Besançon. On it, shows the movement number as well as the Observatoire reference number.

For the power reserve, we are told the timepiece has 48 hours of power reserve but mine ran 52 hours. On the first day, the accuracy came within 2 seconds (faster) and by the time it went into the 40 hours range, the difference was about 6 second faster. Acceptable and definitely within Chronometer specs.

On the wrist, the 41mm case wears well for me. Mr. Coyon said he was working through summer to finish the rest of the orders and I hope he will have a new timepiece released after that. Stay tuned and merci Mr. Coyon!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Photobucket Denial of Service

Apologies for the lack of images linked to my Photobucket account.

As you may already have noticed, the notification says "Please update your account to enable 3rd Party Hosting". What Photobucket means by "update" is to pay for using their platform. While I am not totally opposed to paying for space, what I cannot understand is the fact that the denial was immediate and done before I could even react. Service was denied and email notification came after the fact.

They have three packages - 50GB, 100GB and 500GB packages and in order to link and post to your blog, you need to go for the highest package i.e. the most expensive one. In order words, Photobucket is saying "take it or leave it." Photobucket for me was a free photo hosting service and I say thanks for the service. I am a small user using only 19% of the 10GB allowance.

Emails to them have gone unanswered. I do apologise for the lack of images on my blog while I sort this out with Photobucket. Appreciate your patience.

P.S. - (Updated on 4th July) Photobucket has responded on 3rd July and insisted I sign up for the Plus 500 package. This is their response... "We ask that you upgrade to our Plus 500 subscription to continue using us to host your images. This subscription is the only option for off-site photo hosting at this time."

I have responded to their email and now await their response.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Fitting Tribute - Speedmaster Apollo XVII Anniversary Edition

The Omega Speedmaster Apollo XVII 45th Anniversary Edition is a sight to behold. The release is a tribute to Eugene Cernan better known as Gene Cernan, the last man to step onto the moon in 1972 onboard the Apollo XVII flight.

The historic Speedy has always been associated with the moon landing and nicknamed the Moonwatch. Google Moonwatch and Speedy and the images of the Speedmaster Pro will turn up. This year at Baselworld 2017, Omega unveiled the tribute piece to Gene Cernan, appropriately named Speedmaster Apollo XVII Anniversary Edition. Featured here is the steel version reference 311. coming with a solid steel bracelet and limited to 1972 pieces - the year Gene Cernan made the last drop in on the moon.

This is not the first blue dial Speedmaster Pro but this blue is different. Perhaps it has got something to do with the ceramic dial - made of Zirconium Dioxide aka Zirconia. Ceramic is a contemporary material that Omega uses, especially in recent Moonwatches, that adds aesthetic value. Similarly, the Ceragold used in the blue bezel is also a patented technology belonging to Omega.

A closer examination of the dial reveals the chemical symbol ZrO2 which is the symbol for Zirconium Dioxide. Zirconium Dioxide is a kind of ceramic material and in this case, is used on the Anniversary piece. The ceramic dial together with the gold combination of the markers, hands and sub-dial rims lend a touch of class to the otherwise sporty timepiece. What is also evident is featuring a racing-style minute track as opposed to the "normal" minute markers found in other Speedies. The racing-style minute track was introduced in the 1996 version of the automatic Speedy launched in conjunction with Michael Schumacher who was then the new brand ambassador.

And what about the red font 05:34 GMT you might ask? Well that was supposed to be the time Gene Cernan stepped on the moon for man's last lunar walk. And notice how reflective the dial is - and I can tell you, the blue on the dial is so hard to capture. My photographs do no justice to the beauty of the blue ceramic dial. As for the use of the blue ceramic, this is one of many new materials used by Omega to enhance the overall quality of its timepieces.

Another closer look at the time 05:34 GMT. A nice vermilion hue.

On to the logo at 9 o'clock - that is the patch of the Apollo 17 which is the same patch found on the Apollo 17 Limited Edition released in 2012. The etching is brilliantly done on this one - something only a ceramic dial can achieve with precision electroforming (gold) manufacturing technology.

The gold hands are as one would expect of Omega. Nicely done to blend well with the timepiece. But did you notice that the two hands on the 3 o'clock and 6 o'clock subdials are white in colour while the one at 9 o'clock is gold? Bet you didn't notice it at first glance...

Next, the applied gold markers. The tip of the marker is coated with white Superluminova coating. The blue bezel is also interesting - it uses Ceragold for the tachymeter scale.

Housed in the Moonwatch is the Lemania based Calibre 1861. Unfortunately, I was not able to take a picture of the case back but the solid steel case back is exact replica to the dial of the Apollo 17 patch.

While the steel version comes in a limited quantity of 1972 piece, the original gold version of this timepiece was limited to 72 pieces. So good was the response to the launch that Omega decided after BaselWorld to increase that to 272 pieces much to the disdain of early adopters.

My take on the Speedmaster Apollo XVII Anniversary Edition - this is a winner and if you are a Speedy fan, I suggest you already reserve one for yourself. I believe it will be sold out pretty quickly if not already.

This year (2017), Omega celebrates 60 years of the Speedmaster Pro. To track the milestone of the evolution of the Moonwatch, check out the Omega website dedicated to all the iterations of the icon.

P.S. - After having a conversation with Gregory Kissling, Head of Product Management, I stand corrected to the significance of the time 05:34 GMT - that was the time Gene Cernan took the last step on the moon, not the first. How Omega had come about this timing was through the help of NASA and scouring the transcripts of the conversation between Gene and Houston Mission Control. So now I know the truth!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The First Titan - Ophion OPH 960

Ophion according to various sources is an elder Titan and to some, creator of the universe and also the creator of all gods including Chronos, the father of time. So what better way than to name their brand Ophion - being the "father" to Father Time! And the brand was born.

Back in November of 2016, I had the chance to meet with Miguel, one of the founders of the brand. Founded in Madrid, Spain, the timepieces are designed by Miguel and his collaborators and then assembled in Germany. The inspiration for their first timepiece, the OPH 960 comes from the 1960's. That's why the first timepiece was named - the OPH 960. Ophion wanted to offer a classical timepiece with an interesting movement but at a very affordable price point.

The 43mm OPH 960 taking its cues from the 1960s comes with a domed dial, polished index, Dauphine hands and also domed sapphire glass on the front and see through sapphire case back featuring a not so usual movement. There are interesting features on the OPH 960 - for instance, the luminous markers on the side of the inner case instead of on the markers. Not something you will notice until the sun goes down. The luminous markers are coated with Superluminova C3.

The dial is clean and the timepiece is classic and very legible. The case and dial are from Germany.

What is worth noting is the dial and the markers. What is also interesting is how the minute and second hands are also curved to "hug" the domed dial.

First the markers. Notice how the markers are polished and they don't sit evenly on the domed dial. Details like this makes the timepiece special.

The dial is textured and the logo is also coated with Superluminova C3.

Now for the movement - Swiss made Technotime. Instead of using ETA based or UNITAS based movements, the folks at Ophion chose Technotime. Given the price point in mind, they decided on the Technotime for several reasons - one is the fact that it comes with a 5 days power reserve.

Secondly, the movement architecture is also rather unique - the butterfly in the centre of the movement is seldom seen in many other Swiss movements. And with Technotime, they would custom finish and decorate the movement for Ophion. how much customisation you might ask? The main bridge and the balance bridge with the custom made straight in line brushed finish, the chamfering and polishing of the edges, the blue thermal screws, the perlage under the balance wheel, and the sunburst decoration on the twin barrels. Not bad huh?

And the finishing on the movement is not bad for a timepiece at this price point. See it for yourself...

Well polished finish...

The OPH 960 is priced at €1,300 (if I recall correctly) and they are produced in batches of 30 or more depending on demand. But the minimum order quantity is 30. The movement and hands are made in Switzerland, the strap from Spain and the case and dial are from Germany. The company that provides the case also assembles the timepiece.

After their successful launch of the OPH 960, they have now developed a new Ophion OPH 786 which is now open for orders. With the OPH 786, there is more decoration for the dial and the movement but it is still under €2,000. The OPH 786 is inspired by the 1700 era with a very well made guilloché dial. The idea is to offer a true guilloché dial in an affordable timepiece. Miguel has always been in love with guilloché dials but all the affordable watches have stamped guilloché that does not reflect the light in the same way. Another great value timepiece from Ophion. Kudos to Miguel and the folks at Ophion for their very affordable classic timepieces.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Glashütte Original Senator Chronometer - The Only One

Inside the Glashütte Original Senator Chronometer hides a complication no other brand has.

Glashütte Original is in good company when it comes to making timepieces that possesses the Zero Reset (second hand) function. A. Lange & Söhne, Montblanc (with a Minerva calibre), Akrivia and Jaeger LeCoultre are the other brands that I know how that has timepieces with the zero reset feature. What's the big deal you might say. Big deal if you are like me - one who waits till the second hand reached zero (sixty) before pulling the crown, setting the time and depressing the crown and hoping the minute hand does not advance forward beyond the marker. You will agree with me that when you start winding the watch and the seconds hand is at the 10 second marker that you have to wait 50 seconds till you pull the crown. The zero reset solves that problem.

Basically, what the zero reset does is exactly what it says - it resets to zero when you pull the crown. Very much like the flyback function in a chronograph when you depress the pusher. It surprised me that many brands do not consider this a useful feature or is it because it takes too much to even incorporate such a feature into a timepiece. So a few brands have done that but no more than one hand full in the watch industry and Glashütte Original is one of them.

Zero reset only addresses the first part of my pet peeve - what about the shifting minute hand when you depress the crown. Fact is many (general) automatic movements and even some in-house movements are well known to have the minute hands shift when the crown is depressed. And for many collectors, this is not acceptable. Enter Glashütte Original with the minute increment adjustment mechanism.

Notice in the picture above the second hand it at the zero position and how the minute hand sits nicely at the 11 minute position. When the crown is pulled, the zero reset mechanism returns the second hand to zero and the minute hand to the nearest minute marker. When the user turns the crown to adjust the minute, the minute hand ticks away, yes it ticks from one minute marker to the next and so on. The feeling is a smooth ticking sensation when you turn the crown. Ingenious!

What is even more amazing is the reset function - if the second hand is before the 30 second mark and you pull the crown, not only will the second hand reset to zero, the minute hand will retreat to the minute before. For instance, the minute hand could be between the 10 and 11 minute mark and the second hand is at the 20 second mark, when you pull the crown, the second hand advances (clockwise) to zero while the minute hand retreats to 10 (minute). The same is true when the second hand is at the 35 second mark and you pull the crown, the second hand advances to zero while the minute hand advances to the 11 minute mark. Impressive!

Technical features aside, the timepiece on the whole is well proportioned. Large date at three o'clock... notice how the dial is grainy rather than a smooth dial.

And the blued hands are pretty well finished too.

Power reserve is at the 12 and a day/night indicator window within the power reserve. The day/night indicator comes in the form of a black or white window that changes at 6 o'clock - 6 pm and it changes to a black window and at 6am, changes back to white. Picture below is showing as 2.24am with the day/night indicator being black.

And the movement side... Featuring the Calibre 58-01, the manual winding movement is all German - the three quarter plate construction, the ribbing...

...the hand engraved balance cock. All signature features of German watchmaking.

The finishing on the Senator Chronometer is industrial. Ok but not great. I had expected more on the finishing of the movement especially when this timepiece is one of their higher end pieces. Power reserve is also rather limited at 42 hours.

The movement is Chronometer certified by the Glashütte Observatory who provides the certification while working in conjunction with the offices of weights and measures in Thuringia (LMET) and Saxony (SLME). While the certification is similar to the Swiss standard, the main difference is that the movement is encased in the watch case when undergoing certification. For the Swiss COSC, the movement is encased in a temporary case.

The 42mm Senator Chronometer was unveiled some years ago and I first saw it at an exhibition in Bangkok. I recall the piece to be rose gold with the same white coloured dial. The first timepiece that is exacting in it time adjustment capabilities - zero reset second and actual minute adjustment.

For more information on the timepiece and its variations, please visit the Glashütte Original website. The website video shows all the features of the Senator Chronometer including the minute increment peculiarity.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Ophion 786 - Affordable Classic

Ophion Watches from Spain released the OPH960 last year and they are now back with their second timepiece, the OPH786.

Stark difference between the OPH960 and the OPH786 - the latter being a more classic timepiece taking its cue from Breguet. The OPH 786 comes with three dial versions - the one below being the silver dial.
 photo OPH786 Silver Dial 01_zpslyryoch1.jpg

Then there is my favourite blue dial version. I saw this back in November 2016 when Miguel came to Singapore and it was love at first sight...
 photo OPH786 Blue_zpsjgkpnguw.jpg

Version three is the black granulated dial version sans guilloche.
 photo OPH786 Granular-Black_zps1vy4ibbp.jpg

The dial is a two part dial with nice central guilloche.
 photo OPH786 Layer Dial_zpsljxqzddt.jpg

The movement is a Technotime/Soprod 718 base and the timepiece takes it inspiration from pocket watches of 1780. The bridges are hand decorated with granulated decoration.
 photo OPH786 Movement 02_zpsehcnylvw.jpg

The encased movement in steel - timepiece is Made in Germany. For a timepiece that is just below EUR2,000 - EUR1990 for the blue and silver guilloche dial, I think this is great value for money. Something different... And I like it! The black granulated dial is priced at EUR1,650.
 photo OPH786 Movement 01_zpsispplpc0.jpg

The first batch of OPH 786 is open for orders and if the past trend is anything to go by, they will sell out fast! You may order them at the Ophion website. I will be writing a post on the OPH 960 as soon as I find time to photograph the watch.

Photos provided by Ophion Watches.