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.