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Chances are if you were looking to buy a chronograph, you would probably choose one of three chronographs. These three watches are the most iconic, most famous and easily recognised chronographs in the world. That’s not to say that there aren’t other hugely iconic or famous chronographs, but put simply they are not in this league. Let me introduce you to the “Chrono-trinity”. The Rolex Daytona, the Breitling Navitimer, and the Omega Speedmaster. Each with its own unique heritage, these are the worlds most desirable chronographs.

In October last year the watch world went slightly crazy as Paul Newman’s own Rolex Cosmograph Daytona ‘Paul Newman’ came up for auction with Philips and sold for a record breaking $17.75m. Making this watch arguably the most desirable watch in the world. The Daytona’s fame was solidified by the romance and ownership of the watch by Paul Newman, who was photographed for an Italian magazine wearing the watch and subsequently its popularity rose exponentially. A talented and celebrated actor but also an avid motorsports enthusiast, political activist, and generous philanthropist, Paul Newman was in the public eye and and extremely fashionable man who many looked up to. Paul’s wife Joanne bought him the watch and had the back engraved “Drive very slowly Joanne”. So if you were looking for a chronograph, a Rolex Daytona would be as good as any place to start, however since the starting price of a new Daytona is over £9000 it is expensive, and pre-owned Daytona’s hold their value very well. “Paul Newman” Daytona’s are worth many, many times more.

In the 1940s, Breitling added a circular slide rule to the bezel of their chronograph models for use by aircraft pilots, and this became the famous Navitimer model. This allowed pilots to perform time/speed/distance calculations for navigation purposes and became an essential instrument. As a pilots watch these were big at 47mm allowing them to be read and used on the outside of pilots jackets. In 1961, Scott Carpenter, one of the original astronauts in the Mercury space program, approached Breitling with the idea of incorporating a 24-hour dial instead of the normal 12-hour dial. This was needed because of the lack of day and night during space travel. Breitling complied, and produced the 24-hour Navitimer which Carpenter wore on his 1962 space flight. Breitling then proceeded to produce the 24-hour version as the so-called Cosmonaute Navitimer. Although the Navitimer is significantly cheaper than the Rolex Daytona, it is still a significantly expensive watch. The 24 hour Cosmonaute Navitimer takes quite a bit of getting used to and is not a popular watch these days, however Breitling have continued to manufacture the Navitimer as one of the most popular icons in its range. Traditionally the Navitimer was powered by the Valjoux 7750, however Breitling now offer it with their latest B01 in-house chronograph movement.

The Omega Speedmaster – the one thats traditionally associated with space, is arguably the most iconic of the three and also the most financially accessible. This watch (very much like the Daytona) was a racing chronograph originally and only through NASA looking to find a watch that would serve their astronauts well in space did the Speedmaster become synonymous with space, creating the heritage it has today. Its heritage was further solidified by its use on Apollo 13 when it was used to time a precise burn of 4 mins 24 seconds to get the module on the right trajectory to get home. Interestingly the Speedmaster unlike the Daytona and the Navitimer is a manually wound watch not an automatic. While there have clearly been a number of variants and derivatives of both the Rolex Daytona and the Breitling Navitimer, none can compare to the quantity of models and special editions that Omega have released over the years – the number is quite staggering!

So each watch has its own unique heritage cementing its place in history and the hearts and minds of collectors.

The danger is that they are the obvious or lazy choices for a chronograph. They are typically bought by two groups. The first group are ordinary people who have come into some money and have decided they want a decentwatch and that they don’t want to buy a Rolex Submariner. So they these three provide an alternative at different price points. The second group are watch collectors who for some reason need to ‘tick a box’. They have to have a particularly famous or iconic piece. If you watch interviews with watch collectors you will hear them even use language like this “…. and of course I have the speedmaster……” its as if its a necessary thing for any serious watch appreciator or collector to have to do if they are to be taken seriously and that to me is ridiculous, because you’re buying a watch and adding it to your collection not because you actually like the watch or that it suits you, but because your collection wouldn’t be complete without it.

There is however a third group of people who buy these watches. Those who have admired for considerable time the visual aesthetics of one of these, and after trying on a number have bought one because it suits them & their personality, style, attire and they wear it on a regular basis & wouldn’t be without it. To those I give you my respect for this is the only reason you should buy one and to you I say: enjoy your timepiece!

For the rest who are tempted to buy one because they feel they need to, please dont. You will regret it as with all purchases, if your heart is not in it you will end up selling it at a later date or worse, never admit it to yourself and after having spent considerable money on it will be constantly defending the purchase to people who never see you wear it. Instead, there is a whole wealth of other chronographs that have been made over the last 80 years or so that offer so much. Take your time, investigate and find a piece that really suits you, and you will love it for years to come.

So what are your thoughts? Are you saving to buy one or have you bought one? what’s your experience of owning it been? We’d love to hear from you.

It never ceases to amaze me how much anticipation, excitement and then outcry follow an Omega release.

A year ago in recognition and celebration of the huge community of watch enthusiasts dedicating a specific day of the week to their beloved Omega Speedmaster, Omega launched the Speedmaster “SpeedyTuesday”. This was Omegas response to a conversation with Robert-Jan Broer the founder of Fratello watches who asked Omega to do something special and “not a cap or a T-shirt or a pen or a button..”. So omega agreed produced the ‘SpeedyTuesday’ watch.

The release went public on their website and their Instragram page and as Omega chose to release 2012 watches – the year ‘#SpeedyTuesday’ started, and these sold out in hours.

However Omega are renown for producing limited edition watches. Quite probably more so than any other brand in the industry. The limited editions of just the Speedmaster’s alone borders on the ridiculous. Here are just some…

  • Speedmaster Racing
  • the First Omega in Space, aka ‘FOIS’
  • the Moon Watch 42mm – celebrating, 40 years since Apollo 15
  • The Moon watch 40mm –
  • Omega Speedmaster Apollo
  • Omega Speedmaster 2998
  • Omega Speedmaster snoopy
  • Omega Speedmaster missions (22 separate mission watches available individually or in a combined case)
  • Omega Speedmaster ’57

However its not just the number of ‘limited editions’ that Omega have produced, but also the production run that really is not that limited. Take for example the 2008 Omega Seamaster Professional Bond watch (ref:212.30.41.20.01.001) of which Omega only made 10,007 watches as a limited edition. yes you did read that correctly, ten thousand and seven watches as a ‘Limited Edition’. In comparison Panerai’s typical yearly quota for models in their Luminor range are about 6500 watches.

So it was nice that Omega released the initial SpeedyTuesday in a relatively low numbers however as a consequence many were left wanting as this was a very popular watch.

Following on from last years initial “SpeedyTuesday” release Omega have this year produced another watch under the same label.

OMEGA’s 1967 “Moonwatch” has been a hit with collectors ever since it appeared in the Japanese TV show “RETURN OF ULTRAMAN.” Now, that popular chronograph has been reborn – in the form of an exclusive #SpeedyTuesday model that is limited to just 2,012 piecesOmega

On Tuesday 11th July, Omega announced via its website and Instagram the new #SpeedyTuesday Limited Edition  “Ultraman” Ref:311.12.42.30.01.001. The watch would be produced with the same production volume as the last – some 2012 watches in total and would come with its own special presentation case. Other details include a hesalite crystal, colour coded NATO, and a UV light on the end of the strap changer which when used on the dial reveals a silhouette of Ultraman’s face on the 9 o’clock subdial. Incidentally, the strap changer itself is shaped like Ultraman’s Beta Capsule

Although the watch is unavailable until mid-august, customers could make a reservation for the watch through their website and this year due to high anticipation that Omega were about to release another special edition, collectors were ready and poised on Tuesday morning to ensure they were able to acquire it. As a consequence, all the watches were reserved in exactly 1 hour, 53 minutes, and 17 seconds according to Omega!

And so follows the outcry. By the way in which Omega chooses to release these special edition watches, it provides no warning to collectors or consumers and massively disadvantages whole communities. In this instance all watches had gone before anyone in America had even heard about it. Furthermore Omega’s online reservation system kept crashing and provided wildly inconsistent results at times reporting it was “under maintenance”. Users on social media were reporting that they had tried multiple times to make a reservation only to find the system crashed at the confirmation stage with on screen buttons not working to accept confirmation.

Here is just a small excerpt from Instagram of the outcry to Omega..

Good job Omega! Had numbers 173, 1525 and 13XX reserved and couldn’t finish the reservation for any of them. How about a proper system for events like this 😡😡😡😡 j_sillanpaa
I collect omega watches and it is an absolute shame for such a successful watch company to not be able to spend the right money on a System that doesn’t crash every two second. Not me more anyone I spoke to could reserve one watch from the second it was launched. I’m extremely upset and hope omega will do something about it bisno10
@omega How about a reservation system that works? I had 3 watches at separate periods but reached the confirmation and the system flunked out. I couldn’t click your button! Really disappointed! mkcperspective
@mkcperspective same here. I actually got the confirmation email and confirmed within minutes only to get rejected anyway. Very annoying and waste of timecarmistine
@carmistine Best part… As a US/Canada West Coast. I waited until 3:00 AM, got my exact number, only to have a system error. I humbly accept if I lost out because I was late to the party but I wasn’t. I had 3 chances and the system failed 3 times. Not a fun experience if the confirmation button doesn’t work. @omega mkcperspective
Omg. I assume the wait list is worthless. Please release the next one at a reasonable hour for those in North America… watchfoodie
System kept crashing everytime I tried to confirm the reservation , @omega 😠 Not once but thrice. What’s with that 5min time limit anyways? kevinw73
I hate you guys for not producing more! I had no.1192 booked. And I was filling out the info and I kept clicking on confirm info but it didn’t work! The timer ran out and I ended up losing the watch!! mutawapawa
@omega the site in the bio is not working and says its under maintenance!!! ahmadb007
not fair @omega . your site won’t let me go through the confirmation page. got a preferred number and was very close to making a reservation. baynte_nwebe
Had a number, then site went unresponsive and timed out 😭watchanson
I filled in the info and suddenly it wasn’t available anymore… how can you reserve one? roy_hgvlt

For such a large company it is disappointing and unnecessary for customers to endure this kind experience. Omega have a huge and loyal fanbase and this is not how you treat customers. I would love to see a formal response from Omega to its loyal fans, but for now in the absence of being able to actually order the watch from Omega, all we will be able to enjoy are the press pictures.

 

…..or “why no one needs a helium release valve but everyone has one!”

If you’ve been reading articles in the watch world for a year or more it’s likely that you will have come across at least one article discussing the presence of helium release valves in modern watches. What most of those articles will quite rightly explain is that you simply don’t need one as most divers don’t dive with their watches – mainly because they now use dive computers, and for those who do, less than 1% are ‘saturation divers’ (the type of diving where a build up of helium on a watch is possible and likely). However what I’m going to explain is why they don’t need one either!

Firstly let’s cover the basics of what it is for and why a divers watch might need one.

When divers operate at great depths, they either live in a hyperbaric environment on the surface, or an ambient pressure underwater habitat. In order to counter the effects of nitrogen in the air breathed by the divers, the nitrogen is largely replaced by helium. And the pressure in these habitats is typically higher than sea level atmospheric pressure. Since helium atoms are the smallest natural gas particles found in nature, these gas atoms are able to work their way inside the watch, around any o-rings or other seals the watch may feature. So the helium is driven in by the more extreme pressure of the environment that they are living in (in a dry environment). Once there is a build up of helium is inside the watch, a drop in the outside pressure will mean the helium will want to escape to equalise the pressure. And without an ‘exit route’ it will force its way out usually popping off the crystal or damaging the watches seals elsewhere.

To counter this effect, manufacturers spent a considerable investment designing watches capable of dealing with helium and they do this in two different ways. Omega’s initial approach was to make the watch so impervious to helium getting in, that it didn’t have to worry about it getting out. This was the Omega Seamaster Ploprof. A watch case designed and made out of a single piece of metal with no opening case back. This was technically difficult to achieve as the entire movement had to be inserted through the front of the watch before the crystal was inserted. This was very effective but somewhat akin to wearing a cast iron safe on your wrist. Other manufacturers (including Omega in later years) chose to create helium release valves to safely allow the helium to escape as a more elegant solution.

There are two types of helium release valves created and used by watch manufacturers. Automatic and manual (no surprise here!) Automatic valves that operate a one way valve through a gasket held in place under tension from a taut spring (as used by Breitling and Rolex) . Alternatively, manual helium release valves usually resemble a second crown that the user unscrews to allow the valve to activate.

So why does a user need to unscrew the helium release valve? Well because in its open state, it’s not watertight, and would allow the ingress of water into the watch. In fact Omega specifically warns users to make sure the helium release valve is properly closed before entering the water to avoid water damage to the watch.

So to clarify, Omega (and many other manufacturers) have placed a helium release valve on a watch that can only be operated in a dry habitat to allow helium out of the watch. In addition this is only and quite specifically for what is known as saturation diving, and in no way improves the depth a divers watch can go in the water.

And this is the reason you don’t need one ladies and gentlemen: if you look carefully at your divers watch you will find you already have a watertight screw down crown used for setting the time. Merely unwind this crown to the first position when you would want to operate your helium release valve (thereby opening the gaskets) and your watch will beautifully stabilise it’s pressure without the crystal popping off or causing any damage your watch. Operating this crown in exactly the same manner as omega describe the operation of their helium release valve will achieve exactly the same results, and as you are operating it in a dry environment, there is no risk of water ingress.

This week I had the privilege of being invited to an Oris VIP evening where I had the opportunity to meet with their Chairman Urlich Herzog. I must admit that until very recently, Oris was not a company that I knew much about so this was a great opportunity to dispel myths, learn about the brand, and spend a little time in good company with some beautiful and somewhat unusual timepieces. 

Ulrich is not your typical Chairman. He’s warm, friendly and approachable, and certainly not what you think of as a typical “chairman of the board” but then again he’s not come from that corporate culture. You see, unlike many Swiss watch manufacturers, Oris is still a privately owned business and one of the few remaining Swiss watch manufacturers that maintains its independence and is not subject to the influences of a parent group. And to this extent Ulrich leads the brand much like a father leading a family. What is utterly apparent is that he has a personal passion for the company, the brand, it’s history and it’s place in Swiss watch making.

Founded in 1904, the company became the largest employer in Hölstein where it was founded. In 1925 it began to fit bracelet buckles to pocket watches making them its first wristwatches. In 1927 George’s Christian (ORIS co founder) dies and Jacques-David LeCoultre becomes president, who later will go on to found Jaeger-LeCoultre. A year later Oscar Herzog (Georges Christian’s brother in law) takes over as general manager and remains there for 43 years. In 1970 ORIS became part of what will become the Swatch group and barely survived the “quartz crisis”. With ORIS in decline, in 1982 Ulrich Herzog together we Dr Rolf Portmann lead a successful management buy out of ORIS restoring its independence electing to abandon quartz and leaning on its heritage, produce only mechanical timepieces. For the last 36 years like his ancestor, Ulrich Herzog has led ORIS as a father figure. 

This leads me to Oris’s more recent innovations. In 2013 ORIS created a dive watch with an integrated depth gauge. A special crystal with an integrated channel was created allowing water to enter a chamber under pressure and therefore mechanically indicating depth. This was integrated into the face of the watch without compromising the primary water resistance. An innovative approach by all means. 

In 2014 for the celebration of their 110th anniversary, they announced a new in house manually wound movement combining a 10 day power reserve with a power reserve indicator. Creating a watch with a 10 day power reserve is by no means easy. Considering that most watch manufacturers measure the power reserve in hours – typically 38-42 hours for most mechanical watches and a few delivering 70 hours (Tudor & Rolex), this equates to 240 hours. What’s more – recent innovations in movements able to deliver extended power reserves from other manufacturers have done so using twin barrels – where energy is stored and released using two separate springs connected through gears. ORIS on the other hand have accompanied this remarkable feat using a single barrel. This saves valuable space in the movement. 

It has always amazed me that manufacturers have added a power reserve indicator to an automatic movement as this seems a somewhat superfluous endeavour, as the watch will never run out of power while you’re wearing it. There is admittedly a small truth that a watch will be more accurate when it’s fully wound but it’s a trivial matter to wind and set an automatic and as long as it is worn, the movement will be constantly ‘topped up’.

However a power reserve indicator on a manual wind watch is the perfect complication for two reasons. First the obvious – it shows how long the watch will run before needing to be wound. Allowing the wearer to wind when necessary, keeping the watch in motion and not running out. However more importantly, automatic watches have a clutch mechanism that ensures no matter how much movement is exerted on the rotor, it cannot overwind and damage the movement. A manual movement does not have this and so it is very important the movement is not overwound, damaging the watch. So the presence of a reserve indicator on a manual movement is is clearly the most beneficial complication to have. 

Building on the foundations of this movement ORIS have continued to iterate and expand their movement range adding a date, second time zones, a moon phase, and more. With all of this innovation in house, most brands would command a price far in excess of ORIS’s proposition. However as we have seen, ORIS does not follow traditional corporate culture and it’s philosophy of real watches for real people prevails, keeping Swiss watch innovation affordable.

Have you ever looked down at your watch and either felt a sense of pride or dismay at the movement that it contains? For many buying their first “proper” watch, there may be many things that they consider including size, style, aesthetics, complications, and much more but usually there’s a romance with the mechanical. The feeling that inside your watch an array of tiny springs, cogs & gears engineered to the tiniest of tolerances are capable of displaying the current time with incredible accuracy all powered by the movement of the watch on your wrist.

I find it interesting that the discussion of a watches’ movement brings great opinion and controversy. Movements generally speaking fall in to two camps. Those that have been developed in-house to which a great sense of admiration is expressed and contrastingly those that have been “bought in” with many feeling a sense of disdain as if something is lacking or left wanting. However I feel many are too focused on the movement alone to fully appreciate how this could be a very good thing.

Consider for one moment a parallel from the motoring industry.

Few would consider McLaren an inferior supercar manufacturer – however they don’t make the engines that power their cars. The Legendary McLaren’ F1 for example was powered by a BMW V12 engine and for over a decade held the world record for the worlds fastest road going car before Bugatti eventually released the Veyron. Indeed today McLarens use Mercedes-Benz engines, and still produce some of the most desirable and sought-after supercars in the world. And it doesnt take long to realise why…..

Designing, building & testing engines is extremely expensive, so why not use a proven power plant from a robust & reputable company who can produce them to order and allow you to focus on the rest of the car – after all a supercar is MUCH more than just an engine. McLaren have therefore invested heavily in design & technology to produce ultralight carbon chassis’s, magneto-electric suspension, active airflow and much more and the end result is breath-taking performance coupled with almost everyday usability and reliability (especially when compared to the almost infamous “my Ferrari runs when it wants to” syndrome!)

In the world of Horology, consider ETA who were founded in 1793 by 4 master watchmakers. For over 200 years ETA have been creating and perfecting watch movements, and the results speak for themselves: ETA reliability is renown the world over.

However in response to concerns of a monopoly and to fuel innovation, ETA has been reducing the number of movements it supplies the industry and reciprocally brands have been forced to innovate. The upshot of this is that Tudor for one have generated a series of movements known as the MT5000 series movement (MT standing for “Manufacture Tudor”) and shared this movement with Breitling who reciprocally share their B01 Chronograph movement with Tudor. This reduces both companies dependency on ETA while meeting their own needs for a variety of movement complications.

Interestingly, both Omega and Hamilton used ETA movements as a starting point for creating their own movements. Omega chose the 2892 as a starting point for creating their first co-axial movement – the 2500 calibre, and Hamilton chose the 2824 as the basis of its H-10 movement with an incredible 80 hours of power reserve.

However unlike ETA who have been producing watch movements for over 200 years, these movements have not yet proven the test of time (no pun intended) and likewise Omega have gone through a number of iterations perfecting their co-axial calibre due to reliability issues. However modern ETA movements have been produced for decades and can be serviced by virtually any competent watchmaker. So in my mind, an ETA movement in my watch is a value-proposition – like having a BMW engine in your car without the ownership costs.

Unlike the motoring industry, many watch manufacturers have become the subject of damning criticism – suggesting that the price of the watches they sell is far too high considering it “only has an ETA movement”. In my opinion this reduces the value of a watch to only the movement alone. However the Tudor Black Bay – which when launched, housed an ETA 2824-2 movement has a legendary build quality. The Bezel has an action that is arguably second only to Rolex, the dial, case & finishing are superb as is the bracelet and straps.

Likewise with Bremont – while so many watch manufacturers make watches that are incredibly similar or generic across the industry, there is no such thing as “lazy design” here. Their unique approach to watch manufacturing and engineering, case quality and design have proven themselves – being asked to develop a watch which will survive the rigours of being ejected from an aircraft are a testimony in themselves to their investment. Much like the Omega Speedmaster’s heritage in space, I feel Bremont are carving their own heritage in aviation with their Martin-Baker range and are justifiably living up to their name-sake of “Tested beyond Endurance”. When you consider these two examples its easy to see a watch and its value is far more than the movement it contains.

One last and very interesting point is that for decades, Patek Philipe did not use its own movements but ones supplied by Jaeger LeCoultre. – Arguably the worlds most expensive watch company using someone else’s movement. Interestingly people don’t express the same criticism towards Patek for doing exactly the same. So if its good enough for Patek………

So whats your perspective? I’m interested to hear how you feel about the movement of the watch on your wrist, and what makes a good watch.

In early 2012 at Baselworld, Tudor launched the Heritage Black Bay ref 79220R with a red bezel and crown tube. Drawing on classic design cues from historic watches and specifically the 7922, the watch was an immediate hit. In keeping with its history, Tudor chose an ETA 2824 ‘top-grade’ movement.

Tudor made the bold move of shipping every watch with two straps, offering either a steel bracelet or aged leather strap with deployment clasp to be accompanied by a unique custom designed fabric strap. While this was cosmetically similar to a nato strap, it offered integrated springbars and an infinitely variable buckle. This gave it the benefit of a nato strap without the bulk while ensuring comfort on any wrist size.

Two years later at Baselworld 2014, Tudor released the Heritage Black Bay ‘Blue’ ref 79220B with a blue bezel and crown tube, again offering it with either the steel bracelet or the aged leather deployment strap accompanied by the Tudor fabric strap.

On October 14th 2015, Tudor released the Heritage Black Bay Black ref 79220N. This was the third release in the range and is the most true to the original heritage reference it was based on (the Tudor Submariner 7922) with both the black bezel and the red register.

During Baselworld 2016, March 17th, only five months later, Tudor discontinued all the Black Bay’s with ETA movements and present the 79230N, now with the in-house movement ref MT5602 and updated dial layout and riveted bracelet. Unfortunately amongst the cosmetic changes, Tudor also retired the iconic ‘Rose’ from the dial, replacing it with the more modern ‘shield’ emblem.  In addition, the new in house calibre MT5602 with its 70 house power reserve required a thicker case to house the movement increasing the depth by almost 2mm.

This makes the 79220N the shortest production model ever in Tudor’s history. There is huge speculation as to how few of these were produced with some prominent authorised dealers reporting only receiving two watches. Its not a limited edition, however this is the rarest Tudor ever produced.

For those who managed to buy one when they were on sale, these represent a huge value proposition for two reasons. Firstly their build quality is exceptional and it’s clear to see they will last a lifetime. Secondly they are already commanding a premium on the pre-owned market well beyond their original retail price, and prices are likely to climb the foreseeable future.

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