Thursday, September 24, 2015

World's Most Complicated Timepiece - Vacheron Constantin Does It Again

The year 2015 is turning out very well for the people at Vacheron Constantin. Celebrating their 260th Anniversary, Vacheron has unveiled the world's most complicated timepiece, the reference 57260.

Perhaps it is the 260th Anniversary that VC is using to showcase their breadth and depth of the collection but all I can say is this - whatever they have unveiled so far this year has been one winner after another! The oldest manufacture is having new ideas again. Kudos to those who are making this the Year of Vacheron Constantin. But I digress...

Reference 57260 is a double-dial horological masterwork of hitherto unimaginable complication and technical innovation. Why reference 57260? Well first and foremost, there are 57 complications in this timepiece and the 260 is of course in reference to their anniversary.

The timepiece is huge by any standard and although they call it a pocket watch, I rather think it is a probably more suited as a desk clock. 50.55mm thick and 131.7mm from case bottom to the extended catch above the crown. I can't imagine one carrying this in their pocket. Weighs almost one kilogram (980 grammes to be exact).

Stunning piece I must say! Everything about the 57260 exudes class. From the complications to the finishing etc. The team of three Master Watchmakers took 8 years to bring the timepiece to fruition.

Although Vacheron Constantin says the timepiece was made using the classic principles of watchmaking, I am sure they must have had help in the form of computing and computer modelling. No mean feat still - putting something into a computer simulation does not mean it will work. But work it did and kudos to the three Master Watchmakers.

The movement is equally stunning. Only one word to describe it - Amaze! Or is it a maze? But then again, that is two words.

The reference 57260 comes with 57 complications - billed as the world's most complicated mechanical timepiece. Some of the complications are entirely new and unique. What they are? Only time can tell.

The front dial looks complicated enough already. But the layout is legible and proportionate.

And the back also features the multi-axis Tourbillon.

I like that VC has done a great job in developing this timepiece but honestly, how will one use this? But all said and done, I think 2015 is the year for Vacheron Constantin. First the Harmony range and then the Historiques Cornes de vache 1955 and now the Reference 57260.

They are all winners in my humble opinion.

Pictures as supplied by Vacheron Constantin.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Vulcain - Story of the Butterfly Lovers

Vulcain timepieces are affordable and interesting to say the least. Most iconic from the brand is the Cricket alarm as well as their series of enamel dial timepieces including the Vulcain Cricket Aviator GMT Dragon which comes in two dial variations.

So when the folks at Crystal Time showed me one of the lady's range - the Vulcanova, I had to buy it for my significant other.

The Butterfly Lovers is a Romeo and Juliet story inspired by a tragic Chinese love story around Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai. Considered as one of the most famous Chinese folklore, story goes that Yingtai disguised herself as a male so that she could attend school. And that was where she met Liang. But fate would have it that they never married as Yingtai was betrothed to another. Liang fell sick and died shortly after hearing of the marriage. On the day of her marriage, Yingtai's processing was to pass a route where Liang was buried. As the story goes, she wished she could be with Liang and the earth opened up at tomb where Liang was buried and Yingtai jumped in to be with her soul mate. Their spirits turned into a pair of butterflies and never to be separated again. That's how the story goes...

This Vulcanova pays tribute to that pair of lovers. Case of steel and dial with a mother of pearl setting and diamonds to boot.

The two butterflies symbolises the lovers and is well decorated. I had to change the lighting to highlight the MOP dial.

The case back shows that this piece was unveiled to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the brand. The timepiece comes with an automatic calibre V-53 with a power reserve of about 40 hours.

Another view in normal lighting. The timepiece measures a dainty 36x29mm, just nice for the ladies.

I understand this range comes in three dial types.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

English Maker, Swiss Quality - Peter Speake-Marin

Fact is that English watchmakers are now making their mark in the world dominated by the Swiss and Germans.

Peter Speake-Marin is as English as it gets. A member of the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants (AHCI) which represents all independent watchmakers, Speake-Marin has been member since 2004. The timepieces especially the Resilience series are instantaneously recognisable with their oversized screwed lugs and the case style.

I recently acquired an earlier model Resilience called the Piccadilly PS4E4S. The case type is called the Piccadilly. According to Peter, this Resilience was one of the first two pieces he had designed in 2002 and first made in 2003.

I particularly like this simple three handed timepiece - great proportions and with an oven fired enamel dial to boot. The watch I have is an early Resilience and the dials were made at that time by a company called Donze.

The dial work is excellent as one would expect of an enamel dial. The enamel dials are fired repeatedly in an oven at temperatures exceeding 800 degrees Celcius to achieve a consistent and lasting look. The hands are hardened flamed-blue steel hands.

Another recognisable feature of the Speake-Marin timepiece is the large pleated crown. The Resilience comes in two sizes - 38mm and 42mm. Mine is the 42mm version with a steel case.

The back featuring a modified ETA 2824 movement. The setting mechanism was simplified, the rotor bridge and mass changed as well as hand finished and personalised components. Peter also changed the Canon pinion and hour wheel to a higher version.

One of the feature of the movement is the large balance for precision timekeeping but Peter also spends time regulating the movements to ensure proper timekeeping. And unlike in other ETA movement watches, the Resilience comes to live after just three turns of the crown. The rotor wheel is another signature of PSM - the watchmaker's topping tool.

I have to thank my friend Kevin for pointing out this particular version - the one made with a modified ETA2824 movement which is Peter's earlier works. The current series of Resilience uses a Vaucher movement instead. The earlier Resilience feels heavier and more solid as the case is made in steel. Now this is a timepiece that you can keep for generations to come as the enamel dial will never tarnish and the movement is equally easy to service.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Girard Perregaux - A New Chapter

The Girard Perregaux Minute Repeater Tourbillon with Gold Bridges is the start of better things to come for the brand.

Thanks to the people at The Hour Glass, they invited us for a meeting with the new CEO of Girard Perregaux, Mr. Antonio Calce and their International Sales Director, Mr. Jean-Marc Bories. Mr. Calce laid out plans for the brand - they way forward and around that, five product lines. Amongst them are the Minute Repeater Tourbillon with Gold Bridges as well as the Neo-Tourbillon with three bridges.

This is probably the highlight of the event - the Minute Repeater Tourbillon with Gold Bridges. The timepieces comes without a dial which displays the movement as well as allows better resonance. The front of the timepiece shows off the two gold bridges...

Under the Haute Horlogerie category, this timepiece is a Limited Edition - only 10 will be made. The in-house developed manual winding movement is Calibre GP09500-002 and has a power reserve of 58 hours. And the third bridge is hidden behind the movement - so it is still Three Gold Bridges.

Equally mesmerising is the Neo-Tourbillon with Three Bridges. GP is famous for their Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges - such an iconic piece. With the Neo-Tourbillon, it brings a certain architectural dimension to the timepiece. In this case, the timepiece was on the wrist of Mr. Bories and the case is made of titanium with DLC. What is incredible is the weight of the Tourbillon - made in Titanium and weighing only a mere 0.25 grams!

The movement is the GP09400 with a minimum power reserve of 60 hours. Finished to the highest level of course. And this is the prototype.

Another category that GP is proud of is the lady's timepieces. Another icon for the brand is the Cat's Eye range. Featured here is the Cat's Eye Small Seconds - very feminine and very attractive IMHO. The new Cat's Eye range has less complications unlike the Zodiac Annual Calendar piece.

Alas, time for the stunning Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges. The rose gold timepiece is simply stunning!

Featuring Calibre GP09600 with a minimum power reserve of 48 hours, the timepiece is water-resistant to 3 ATM.

Exciting times ahead for the brand. Having heard from Mr. Calce and with his credentials, I think GP is going places. The icon of the brand will be even more iconic and they will find their place in Haute Horlogerie as they should. Stay tuned for more developments and thanks to the folks at the Hour Glass again.

Photos taken with an iPhone 6.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Chinese Dragon by a Russian!

I have always wanted a "Dragon" theme timepiece (no thanks to Vincent) and was lucky enough when my friend SJX introduced me to the Vulcain Cricket Aviator GMT “The Dragon”.

Recently, I got to know a Russian watchmaker Stefan Vinogradov. Stefan is based in Moscow, Russia and he tells me he used to work for a Russian watch brand Tsedro. It seems Stefan handles the engraving for the dials and movements. We corresponded via email and Stefan made a sketch of the dragon and then a few more emails to and fro and he started work.

And this is the final result!

The engraving is rather well done but I wish the Dragon's head were more prominent. The shiny gold plate gleams and probably a little too shiny.

The engraving is best evident on the body of the Dragon especially the scales.

On the back is a skeletonised Unitas 6497 manual winding movement.

The movement is decorated and finishing is well done. And to personalise the timepiece, my initials are engraved on the barrel.

Another look at the timepiece hand engraved by Stefan.

I will put out another post on the steps taken (as far as I know) on how it is done. Thanks Stefan!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Vacheron Constantin - Historiques Cornes de vache 1955

Bold creativity and rigorous technicality for a legendary chronograph.

The Vacheron chronograph is one of the most iconic column wheel chronograph around.
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Celebrating a heritage forged by 260 years of uninterrupted expertise and innovation, Manufacture Vacheron Constantin is enriching its Historiques collection with a classic chronograph fitted with iconic ‘cow-horn’ lugs. This contemporary interpretation of a legendary model created by Vacheron Constantin in 1955 embodies a remarkable blend of rigorous technicality and bold creativity. Featuring a central complication in line with the heritage of the Geneva-based Manufacture, the Historiques Cornes de vache 1955 is powered by hand-wound Caliber 1142, housed in a 38.5 mm- diameter platinum case. This timepiece bearing the Hallmark of Geneva and issued in an exclusive production run is joining an exceptional collection dedicated to connoisseurs and which revives legendary Vacheron Constantin creations in a spirit of timeless excellence.
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The new Historiques Cornes de vache 1955 model - A reinvented legend, the new Historiques Cornes de vache 1955 appears in a 950 platinum 38.5 mm- diameter case that is water resistant to 30 metres and features delicately polished ‘cow-horn’ lugs. The screwed-in caseback is fitted with a transparent sapphire crystal serving to admire its entirely hand- decorated complex mechanical heart. The original layout of the 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock and small seconds at 9 o’clock is scrupulously reproduced on this reinterpreted version, while its more contemporary diameter enables an airier display ensuring optimal readability of its functions. This broader opening reveals a silver-toned opaline dial punctuated by Roman numerals, applied hour- markers and hands in 18-carat white gold, while the central seconds hand, the 30-minute counter hand and the tachometric scale feature a royal blue shade further enhancing the perfect legibility of its display. In addition to bearing the prestigious Hallmark of Geneva, the Historiques Cornes de vache 1955 chronograph also meets the numerous demanding criteria of this independent and sovereign label that is a guarantee of provenance, top-notch precision, durability and watchmaking expertise.

The case is a classic 38.5mm and in platinum. The open caseback features a manual winding calibre 1142. Fitted with two classic round pushpieces, the Historiques Cornes de vache 1955 model houses an exceptional mechanical heart, hand-wound Caliber 1142, beating at a frequency of 3 Hz to ensure the improved precision of the chronograph matched by greater better shock resistance of the balance wheel.
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Endowed with a 48-hour power reserve, this movement comprising 164 entirely hand- decorated movements drives displays of the hours, minutes, small seconds and central chronograph seconds, complemented by a 30-minute counter. Like the other new chronograph movements by Vacheron Constantin, the column-wheel screw is shaped like the Maltese cross that has become the emblem of the Manufacture.
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This timepiece will be on display at the Watches & Wonders Exhibition in Hong Kong. Be sure to see it for yourself when you are there.

Pictures and contents as provided by Vacheron Constantin.