Sunday, December 27, 2015

Monthblanc Collection Villeret 1858 - The Full Package in the Pulsographe

One feels excited when one acquires a new timepiece but the Collection Villeret 1858 Vintage Pulsographe from Manufacture Montblanc is special.

Manufacture Montblanc you say? Well back in 2007, the two heavy weights Montblanc and Minerva teamed up to form Institut Minerva de Recherche en Haute Horlogerie. Montblanc was to use the movement of Minerva in a special range the commission as the Collection Villeret 1858.

Movement specialist Minerva was founded back in 1858 in the St. Imier valley in Switzerland and their logo was an arrowhead. All Minerva movements have an arrowhead and in this case, the folks at Montblanc worked with Minerva to refine the movement and make some improvements too. Today, the manufacture is located in Villeret the historical location of Minerva and the manufacture concentrates on performing as many manufacturing and finishing steps in-house as much as possible thus limiting the number of timepieces they can produce each year.

The first collection of four watches in Collection Villeret 1858 was released limited numbers - 1 unique piece in Platinum, 8 pieces in white gold and 58 pieces in red gold to signify the year 1858. All Collection Villeret 1858 timepieces will be encased in precious metal - much like Lange & Sohne. And following in the tradition of traditional watchmaking, the balance wheels of the 1858 timepieces beats at the classic 18,000 vph (or 2.5 Hertz).

I was first acquainted with Collection Villeret 1858 in 2009 and then again in 2013 when I visited the Montblanc Boutique in Mandarin Orchard. The beauty of the Vintage Pulsographe took to me and I was sold. The finishing in the movement is top notch and the Grand Feu enamel dial was exquisite!

Black enamel as I understand is far more difficult to make than white enamel. And to fire it in the oven layer by layer in temperatures exceed 850 degrees Celcius is no small feat. From the naked eye, it looks flawless - the white and red numerals on a black background lends a nice contrast to the black enamel.

I love the beautiful contrast between the black enamel dial and the red and white numerals.

Look at the finishing on the enamel dial...

and the clear reflection...

The monopusher is located at the 2 O'Clock position starts, stops and resets the chronograph function unlike the two button chronographs.

The movement is the one that gets your pulse racing (pun intended)! A vintage Minerva movement improved and finished to the highest standard by the Manufacture in Villeret. The manually wound movement has a power reserve of 60 hours and the column wheel is visible through the sapphire case back.

Minerva Calibre 13-21 is a column wheel chronograph movement with horizontal clutch system. The complete movement is 239 parts and the plates and bridges are made in German silver.

The Devil is in the details or should I say the Devil's Tail is in the movement - Look out for the signature "Devil's Tail" on the Minerva movement and the large balance wheel.

The level of finesse goes beyond the dial and the movement. In this timepiece, the Montblanc logo on the crown is made of Mother-of-Pearl.

The 39mm timepiece is encased in red gold and the dial has a pulsometer scale. Dubbed "Doctor's Watch", the pulsometer scale allows for the users to take the pulse without going the full one minute. All one needs to do is start the chronograph and measure 30 beats of the pulse and stops the chronograph. The reading on the scale will correspond to the heart rate of that individual.

Quite the chronograph to have in one's collection. This model comes in two colour combination - the rose gold case with a black enamel dial and a white gold case with white enamel dial and blue hands. Both in my humble opinion are equally attractive timepieces.

There is such a thing as love at first sight and I chronicle that in the Deployant article. As I said it before, this is one keeper for me. Loved it when I first laid eyes on it and it was only recently that I managed to get my hands on it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

An Interview with NOMOS around The Metro and Calibre DUW4401

The NOMOS Metro is putting the Glashütte based manufacture in the forefront of in-house developed movements.

With ETA announcing that they will reduce supply to non-Swatch brands, many watch houses have been eagerly developing their own movements. Nomos has been exceptional in this respect having started out with their Alpha movements. Every single NOMOS timepiece is powered by an in-house produced movement and, since 2005, the company has developed ten proprietary calibers. Impressive for a company with such a short history in the world of watchmaking.

So I got my hands on the NOMOS Metro earlier on this year and I have to say that I like the timepiece a lot. Having worn the watch, I wrote to the good folks at NOMOS and made some enquiries. The following are their response.

1. What is the Swing System?

The NOMOS swing system is our proprietary escapement—that is, the complex system of balance, balance spring, and pallet that comprises the heart of every mechanical movement. As the decisive part of every watch movement, the escapement significantly determines the robustness and durability of a watch.

After seven years of research and development in cooperation with the Technical University of Dresden and the Fraunhofer Institute, we now have our own in-house version. Until now, it was quite impossible for small watchmaking companies to produce their own escapement as it was too difficult, too complicated, and too expensive. The only option was to craft parts by hand at immense cost—ten or one hundred pieces, but not affordable series production. This is why nearly all brands source their systems from the same few specialized producers in Switzerland. After all, the pallet, escape wheel, and balance (and the other tiny parts that also belong to the swing system) do not only have to be perfect in themselves, exact down to the mu, but also an extremely well functioning team.

When we first presented the NOMOS swing system in DUW 4401 at Baselworld 2014, it caused a storm in the media—and with customers alike. (And we can see why!)

2. And why is it called the "Swing System“

The name of this part refers to how this caliber part moves—namely, with swing! The pallet moves back and forth, releasing a minute amount of energy each time.

3. How do you number your Calibre DUW 4401

Because our extremely high levels of in-house production in Glashütte are anything other than ordinary in the watchmaking industry, we also have a new name: “NOMOS Glashütte Deutsche Uhrenwerke” or DUW, for short. This new name underlines our ability to produce fine calibers in-house—and ensures the very best quality, made in Glashütte, Germany. NOMOS Glashütte Deutsche Uhrenwerke emphasizes the in-house movement production of NOMOS in Glashütte.

4. Was the calibre developed ground up i.e. started totally new?

NOMOS Glashütte has its own research and development department dedicated to bringing new innovations and improvements to our calibers. It was the NOMOS R&D department, for example, that developed our own gear wheel train—and the NOMOS swing system, of course. DUW 4401 is the start of a new series of calibers from NOMOS Glashütte, because movements featuring our proprietary escapement boast an incredibly high level of accuracy, which is comparable with chronometer standards.

5. Why novel way of changing date? I find it rather inconvenient to change date.

We still think that it is fairly simple to change the date on Metro. The NOMOS rapid set date function allows you to set the date by winding the hour hand between eight and one o’clock. Start by simply setting the watch to one o’clock the next day, which will change the date. Then wind the hands anticlockwise to around eight thirty in the evening. Now you can wind clockwise to one o’clock, which will change the date again. When you are setting the time afterwards, please check whether you are setting it to ten o’clock in the evening or the morning—as if you get it wrong, the date will change at midday instead of midnight.

6. Will the movement be used (as base) for future watches?

Yes, we are in the process of equipping our entire range of timepieces with DUW calibers featuring the NOMOS swing system. The introduction of our DUW calibers will take place gradually; but the aim is that in the future, each and every NOMOS watch will be powered by a caliber featuring our proprietary escapement. Not only does the NOMOS swing system ensure chronometer-standard accuracy for the timepieces it powers, it also ensures independence and growth for NOMOS Glashütte as a company.

A rather handsome timepiece I must say...

7. How long did it take you to develop the Metro from time of conception to actual serial production?

Like all our watches, the Metro model took a long time to design, develop, and prepare for series production. At NOMOS Glashütte, it can often take years from when the first drafts are drawn up before the watches are ready for the market, and to be sent out into the world. And that may be the most important lesson: Those who build watches need patience and time. And the occasional coffee break.

Small details like the crown etc. are well developed (pardon the dirt)...

8. When did it start and when was it commercially released?

Our first Metro model was introduced to the public and press for the first time at Baselworld 2014. Since then, we have added two new versions to the Metro family—Metro 38 Datum and Metro 38 Datum urban gray. In Metro’s first year on the market, it has won numerous design prizes; including the Red Dot Award, the German Design Award, the Good Design Award, the iF Product Design Award, and the Goldene Unruh. The enthusiasm from the design community has been shared by customers too — as Metro has become one of NOMOS’ bestselling models. In fact, Metro still has long waiting lists with many retailers, despite NOMOS Glashütte tripling its planned production.

The response from NOMOS Glashütte/SA came courtesy of Ms. Katrin Bosse - many thanks Ms Bosse. We are equally excited about NOMOS making an "official" entry into the Singapore market. Watches of Switzerland (The Hourglass) is the authorised agent for NOMOS timepieces. Head down to the Vivo City outlet where they carry the NOMOS range.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Little Prince & The IWC Pilot's Chronograph

Last year, my friend from Thailand came to town and one of the things he had wanted was a watch. He originally wanted either a Panerai or Rolex but after I brought him to the IWC Boutique, his mind was made up immediately when he saw the Pilot's Watch Chronograph, Edition Le Petit Prince.

This is a special edition piece with their signature cockpit dial in a sunburst midnight blue colour. Sits perfectly on my tiny wrist. And the reflection from the sunlight gives the dial a much lighter blue hue.

The raised applied markers are well finished and adds a touch of class to the timepiece.

Another look at the midnight blue dial - a very clean and legible layout. This is the reference 3777 with a case diameter of 43mm.

The accompanying brown calfskin strap with beige stitching perfectly matches the timepiece.

And the case back reveals that the timepiece is water resistant to 6 bars. Engraving of the Little Prince makes this a special edition.

As I have said before, my friend was so taken by this timepiece that he did not hesitate to purchase it on the spot. He tells me that even his wife likes it too and they share the piece together.

Pictures taken by iPhone 6.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art The legend of the Chinese Zodiac - Year of the Monkey

Another Chinese Zodiac Year is a calling - this time the Year of the Monkey.

Vacheron Constantin is pursuing its dialogue with collectors and passionate devotees of Haute Horlogerie by enriching its Métiers d’Art La légende du zodiaque chinois series with the sign of the monkey. The latter will take over from that of the Goat at the Chinese New Year on February 8th 2016. Bearing the Hallmark of Geneva, these two new creations, realised in twelve models each, combine the technical excellence of Caliber 2460 G4 with the beauty of artistic crafts.

18K 5N pink gold version reference 86073/000R-8971.

Platinum version reference 86073/000P-8972.

A movement that leaves plenty of space for artistic expression

Caliber 2460 G4 makes it possible to create a distinctive and ideal stage-setting for the decorative arts, by giving the central dial motif a starring role. The hands-free time display is achieved through four apertures showing the hours, minutes, days and dates. These indications – the first two of the dragging variety and the last two of the jumping type – proudly embody the longstanding savoir-faire of the Maison in designing and developing original displays. Clearly visible through the sapphire crystal back of the platinum or pink gold case, the 22-carat oscillating weight is adorned with a recurrent Maltese Cross pattern testifying to finishes performed in keeping with the finest watchmaking traditions. All movement components are indeed finely finished in accordance with the criteria of the Hallmark of Geneva, a quality label of which Vacheron Constantin is the most faithful representative.

Paper-cutting, at the crossroads between Eastern and Western cultures China, a nation with which Vacheron Constantin has been cultivating special ties since 1845, first introduce the paper-cutting technique known as Jianzhi, a popular art echoed in Swiss culture through its famous Scherenschnitt paper-cutting. This artistic approach, highlighted in the Métiers d’Art La légende du zodiaque chinois, has been given a fresh interpretation thanks to the expertise of the master engravers and enamellers.

Allied artistic crafts

The foliage motif appearing on the dial and based on classic Chinese iconography is etched directly in the metal. The pattern remains semi-embedded and stands out from its gold base by a subtle stagesetting of variously accentuating reliefs creating a depth effect. This makes the vegetation appear to be floating over the dial. Then comes the stage of Grand Feu enamelling, a technique invented in Geneva and that remains the preserve of a very few particularly skilled artisans. By applying the enamel in successive layers, the enamel specialist enhances the intensity of the blue or bronze-toned dial. Achieving the necessary mastery of colour and of reactions to firing at temperatures between 800 and 900 degrees Celsius calls for an expertise that can only be acquired over long years of experience. The monkey, made of platinum or gold, is hand engraved and delicately applied to the dial centre.

Another work of art by Manufacture Vacheron Constantin. Each Boutique only timepiece bears the Hallmark of Geneva and is limited to 12 pieces per metal. The number 2016 will be engraved on the case back of every piece.

Pictures and contents as supplied.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Second Collection of Metiers d’Art Fabuleux Ornements - Vacheron Constantin

This is a new release for Manufacture Vacheron Constantin for Pre-SIHH featuring the second collection of Metiers d’Art Fabuleux Ornements.

The Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Fabuleux Ornements collection is an invitation to celebrate the ornamental beauties of the world drawn from the decorative arts of several cultures. Two year after its first launch, the collection unveils four new models born of the art of openworking and a combination of artistic crafts bearing the Hallmark of Geneva. Ten different master artisans have provided reinterpretations of Ottoman architecture, Chinese embroidery, Indian manuscripts and French lacework. These creations are equipped with an ethereal hand-engraved movement: calibre ultra-thin 1003 in 18K gold.

The French Lace.

The Indian Manuscript.

The Ottoman Architecture

The Chinese Embroidery.

So which is your favourite?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

No Hands - Montre à Tact by Andersen Genève

Danish watchmaker Svend Andersen has developed some signature pieces which includes the Montre à Tact. A founding member of the Horological Academy of Independent Creators (AHCI), Svend Andersen spent several years restoring timepieces in Patek Philippe and then founding the brand that bears his name in 1979.

Having learnt his horology skills from the Danish School of Watchmaking, Svend Andersen went on to perfect his skill in Switzerland. And one of the more iconic piece is the Montre à Tact - a timepiece that does not have any hands to tell time but instead relies on windows between the lugs. Not one but two windows...

On first impression, one notices the "main" window between the 11 and 1 O'Clock - the windows of time. The dial in this case is a gold engraved dial featuring some Hieroglyphics. But in reality, the dial can come as a painted dial instead of an engraved one.

But the complication in the timepiece is the ability to tell time with the "second" window - the one on the side of the case. Interesting as it allows the owner to view to time without having to turn the watch face. Additionally, it also allows the owner to have a fully customised dial covering the "top" window altogether!

Notice that the timepiece does not have any crown? Well, the winding crown is at the case back - another ingenious development. And again, the clean case back allows one to customise the case back. Underneath the closed case is an automatic movement.

The 43mm timepiece comes with a rather unique case and Pierre tells me that there are not many case makers out there that can make such a case.

This timepiece comes in a white gold case as with many of the timepieces by Andersen. Most if not all come in precious metal.

Pictures taken by iPhone 6.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

28 is the new 31 - Legacy Machine Perpetual by MB&F

As we all know by now, the latest incarnation of the Legacy Machine is perhaps one of the most beautiful perpetual calendar around. And with all things MB&F, there is always a lovely story behind how this came about.

The LM Perpetual was four years in the making but the collaboration went back nine years when Max started MB&F and was working on the HM1. As Max would tell you, they were facing some very uncertain future as the movement maker had backed out. With the help of Peter Speake-Marin, they managed to round up some independent watchmakers amongst which was a "relatively" unknown but talented Stephen McDonnell. The team went on to complete the HM1, made deliveries and the rest they say is history.

Fast forward five years and Max is now is much better shape and it was time to payback a favour. In all of MB&F's timepieces, regardless whether it was the HM or LM series, they always started with Max having a particular vision of wanting to create something close to his dreams. But with the LM Perpetual, that was a different story altogether. Irish born and Oxford educated McDonnell was given the free reign to design and develop the timepiece - when asked what he wanted to create, he knew immediately the perpetual calendar was what he had wanted to do.

Max explained that in "traditional" perpetual calendars, the number of days in the month is controlled primarily by using modules built on top of the base movement. However, Stephen McDonnell had devised a new mechanism (patent pending). He argued that no matter which month and regardless of whether it was a leap year or not, every single month has 28 days. From this point when the mechanical processor is activated, it will guide the date to 29, 30 or 31 depending on the month in question. Here is Max explaining the processor...

Four years later, the "baby" was born and the result a stunning perpetual calendar named LM Perpetual. 25 each will be made in Platinum and Rose Gold every year and according to Max, 90% of the first year's production has been snapped up!

The layout of the perpetual calendar is somewhat "usual" with the sub-dials but has every hallmark of the Legacy Machine with the overhead balance wheel. And in this case, the escapement had to be at the rear of the movement. One of the pain points was how to "connect" the balance wheel with the escapement. And the result was a 12mm long steel shaft just 0.16mm in diameter. But what I really like about the LM Perpetual is the legibility of the sub-dials.

The balance wheel if you are curious is 14mm in diameter.

Max also explained that the built in pushers, which are found on the side of the case are done in such a way that they will not be activated during the "sensitive" time between the hours of 10pm and 4am. Pushing those pushers will not jam the movement.

The dome sapphire gives the LM Perpetual a different feel and gives it a three dimensional look too.

On the movement side, another magnificent movement - one of the best finished movements around.

The double barrel provides 72 hours of power reserve and the movement consists of 581 components. Movement beats at 18,000 BPH and the movement is signed Stephen McDonnell.

What I like about the LM series is the dial - super glossy finished dial. And MB&F partner Serge Kriknoff told me that it is not enamel, not even lacquer but a for of "stressed varnish". A trade secret but it gives the LM the signature "Glossy Lacquer" finish on every LM dial.

And every piece comes with a deployment buckle with the signature MB&F logo.

Truly a beauty - well proportioned and definitely legible. The "lack" of a dial gives the timepiece that raw look... definitely a plus for me. Shows the mechanism in full view and not hidden below a dial. The blue brushed base lends a classy feel to this platinum piece.

There are perpetual calendars and then there are Perpetual Calendars... LM Perpetual qualifies as a must have (if pocket is deep enough) and the other is the Moser Perpetual One. So if money is no object, make sure you book your LM Perpetual soon. Available exclusively in Singapore to The Hour Glass.

Pictures taken with iPhone 6S. Thanks to the folks at the Hour Glass for the invite.