There is a certain amount of irony in the strength of the Chinese marketplace for luxury Swiss watches. Despite the fact that Western manufacturing has suffered as a result of competition from the Chinese, it seems that the Chinese marketplace is the thing that is supporting luxury watch manufacturing at the moment.
In another sign of the importance of China for Swiss manufacturers, Jaeger LeCoultre has become heavily involved with the burgeoning Chinese film industry, as a sponsor of the Shanghai Film Festival and contributing several commemorative timepieces over the past few years to a special benefit auction held at the Shanghai event, the proceeds of which have gone to help restore classic Chinese films.
Everyone who’s ever been a dealer of Seiko watches knows they have a gray market problem. Anyway, it’s a problem for dealers, but perhaps not a problem for Seiko and definitely not a problem for consumers.
Ok, it’s pretty certain Seiko doesn’t really care anymore, because their biggest authorized dealer, Amazon, also carries gray market stuff now. A few years ago, when Seiko at least put up a facade of protecting their authorized dealers, I can’t imagine them letting that happen.
I think sloppy distribution channels will come back to bite you at some point, but I’m out of the watch business, and it really doesn’t matter much to me anymore what they do with their brand.
But, the old curiosity remains. Where does all that gray market Seiko come from? Here’s an interesting article I ran across today. Really, Seiko is selling 4 million watches a year into Saudi Arabia population 28 million? That’s a phenomenal success, or…? Well, Seiko, if you want to get to the bottom of your gray market problem, you might at least want to talk to your distributer in KSA, or not.
Eberhard & Co will introduce the Chrono 4 Geant Full Injection at Basel this year. The “Full Injection” unlike many of the oxymoronic luxury sport watches not only looks tough, it is tough. The steel case is plated with black, DLC-Dianoir (diamond-like coating). The carbon treatment penetrates the surface of the steel for a super hard surface with a super strong bond to the steel.
The 46mm case is large, but not excessively so for a dive/sport watch. The EB 25o Calibre automatic movement has four horizontally aligned subdials: a minutes and hours counter for the chrono function as well as small seconds and a 24 hour/2nd time zone display.
The watch also has a date window, countdown timer bezel and tachymeter scale.
Longtime Ulysse Nardin owner and Chairman Rolf Schyder passed away suddenly last year. He was truly one-of-a-kind, a visionary and inseparably connected to the Ulysse Nardin brand. Many aficionados of Ulysse Nardin watches, including myself were concerned the company would lose its way upon his death. Would it remain independent? Would it continue along its bold path of innovation? While some concerns remain, it’s interesting and somewhat reassuring to watch this interview from ABN Digital with Patrik Hoffman, who is now CEO at Ulysse Nardin.
Part 2 of the interview after the jump. (more…)
If you have ever had the privilege of meeting the late Rolf Schnyder of Ulysse Nardin, you might know that he used to take great pride in showing off a one-of-a-kind, day, date and month annual calendar which Ludwig Oechslin had built by hand and given him as a gift.
It was fashioned entirely of simple brass and though unrefined and rough in appearance, it had an elegant simplicity about it. It was the first annual calendar watch to display day,date and month, in-line at 3 o’clock.
Of course it was a concept watch and therefore only minimally finished, but Oechslin, among the greatest living watchmakers, seems to be utterly uninterested in the outward finish of a watch, perhaps believing that excessive outward adornment is only useful to distract attention from a mundane movement. It is well known that he won’t design and build a movement unless it represents a significant technological advance. For him, the challenge of a watchmaker is not to complicate, but to simplify a movement. I don’t think he’s ever built a tourbillon; not because he’s incapable of it, but because it has no useful function and needlessly clutters a watch with excessive moving parts. His approach to watchmaking is first and foremost sound engineering and he is a decidedly an “outside the box” thinker.
So a few years ago, in 2006, Ludwig Oechslin’s career took an interesting turn. Along with a partner, Beat Weinmann, he founded ochs und junior. The “ochs” part of the name is a play on Oechslin’s surname, and junior refers to his son who also plays an active role in the company. I believe Ulysse Nardin also actively invests in and supports ochs und junior. (more…)
Peter Speake-Marin represents the best of independent Swiss watchmaking. An emphasis on high-quality, low production, labor-intensive timepeices which acheive a perfect balance of technology and artistry. While Mr. Speake-Marin is himself English, he received advanced training in watchmaking at WOSTEP in Neuchâtel and has his company in Switzerland.
Like many independent watchmakers, he got his start doing restorations and building high-end complications for larger houses. He introduced his first Speake-Marin labeled watches a few years ago, and appears to have steadily improved his craft. I’m not sure how many watch makers he employs now, but his collection is most impressive for a small, independent house.
It’s always refreshing to see ateliers like Speake-Marin thriving in an industry that sometimes seems to dominated by mass-producers masquerading as traditional Swiss watchmakers. Not that there isn’t a place for the larger houses and mass production, but people like Peter Speake-Marin will always be the heart and soul of watchmaking.
Best wishes to Speake-Marin. Let’s hope we continue to see more of their work in future years.
Here’s an item form the Christie’s Auction House: Eric Clapton is selling a platinum-cased, Patek Philippe 2499 perpetual calendar. The 2499 series was launched in 1951, and although this one was manufactured in 1989, only 349 were ever made. Eric Clapton’s watch was one of only two ever made in platinum. This combined with having graced the wrist of the greatest rock guitarist of all time is thought to push Christie’s selling price as high as £2.6 million.
I like Eric Clapton, and would have guessed he’s probably got impeccable taste. The PP 2499 isn’t gaudy or blingy, but understated and confident. It knows what it is, much like it’s owner.
Patek Philippe’s horological achievements are so numerous that sometimes when they come out with something like the new Ref. 5204 with a split-seconds chronograph and perpetual calendar, nobody is surprised, but the fact that we have come to expect Patek Philippe to routinely turn out masterpieces shouldn’t diminish our appreciation of spectacular new pieces such as this one.
Despite a pretty complex task of combining two very sophisticated complications together in one movement, Patek manages to keep this one confined to a 40mm platinum case. In addition, the conservative watchmaker includes interchangeable sapphire and solid casebacks. Something tells me that many of Patek’s purist customers have probably never warmed up to the exhibition caseback.
The new L11 is the first watch with a rectangular case by Armand Nicolet. Although the primary feature of this watch is an original 1959 hand-wind movement, reworked and finished to modern standards, the appearance of the watch is exquisite.
While a thin, rectangular watch with a narrow bezel like this can sometimes ere on the side of being overly delicate looking instead of elegant, the sharp geometric angles cut into the steel case of the L11 lend an understated masculinity to the overall impression of the watch. The case is the primary visual feature of the watch and the designers have not allowed any other feature including a clean white dial and good quality handstitched, but plain black alligator strap to detract from it.
The Armand Nicolet L11 will be limited to 499 pieces, because apparently, they only had that many of the vintage 1959 movements on-hand. The movement by the way is a hand-wound caliber AN0712A with 16 jewels, 18,800 vib/h and a 34-hour power reserve.
Just in time to capitalize on the excitement that is already building for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Steelcraft, a small Swiss company with some impressive designs, is out with it’s Brasil Concept Watch which pays homage to its namesake country with Brazil’s national colors, colors which I will be wearing frequently in the summer of 2014.