Editor and Publisher at Insurance Edge magazine, over 20 years experence as a journalist. Always keen to cover industry news, new insurtech products, regulation and we accept opinion & comment articles.
Yes, there is always a place in watchmaking for the one-off, the bespoke, the just plain out there tech tour-de-force.
You get that from brands like Jaquet Droz, who still produce watches called Automata, because they feature tweeting birds or stuff that moves on the dial, apart from the hands that is..
That’s how much of watchmaking in Europe was before the French Revolution; luxury, bejewelled automata for the noble elite, who had more money than was good for them, some might say. Now watch brands are keen to do more social good, times change.
Here’s the word from JD;
For the ninth consecutive time, Jaquet Droz is proud to donate a unique piece of its own creation, designed exclusively for Only Watch, a charity sale to benefit the Association Monégasque contre les Myopathies (Monegasque Association against Muscular Dystrophy), and featuring a degree of technical ambition and aesthetic never-before achieved: A Grande Seconde Skelet-One Tourbillon adorned with a plique-à-jour enamel dial.
The original idea was to extend the initial purpose of the Grande Seconde to provide its owner with the finest and most accurate reading of the seconds—hence its largely dimensioned and off-center dial at 6 o’clock, exclusively dedicated to this effect. How could this precision be achieved? By adding a tourbillon.
This escapement, itself a genuine watchmaking complication, aims to compensate for the harmful effects undergone by a timepiece that performs across multiple planes, all subjected to the force of gravity which alters its precision.
The tourbillon of the new Grande Seconde Skelet-One Tourbillon “Only Watch” was born of Jaquet Droz’s in-house expertise, but entirely reworked in the purest chronometric approach. Thanks to its realization in titanium and the elimination of the sapphire bridges, the cage has been lightened and optimized with regards to its chronometric functions.
The balance spring and pallet lugs are made of silicon. Highly open to let light pass through, the tourbillon gives the illusion of being both large and lightweight all at once. Completely revised and placed at noon, it accords the piece a dedicated identity of strength and technicality.
The underlying aesthetic architecture is as technical as it is unique. The skeleton structure is brand new: while the original Skelet-One favored soft and supple curves, the Grande Seconde Skelet-One Tourbillon “Only Watch” focuses on straight lines, angles, modernity and perfect symmetry.
This very contemporary skeletonization is as technical as its highly precise tourbillon movement can be, furthering the technical and aesthetic consistency of the piece. Its bridges, finished in black, confer a powerful matte appearance. The tourbillon cage follows the geometry of the skeleton movement, with a triple cross shape which, once a minute, aligns perfectly with its bridges.
For Only Watch, Jaquet Droz put to work its Ateliers d’Art as well, in order to produce a highly exclusive plique-à-jour dial, made specially for the famous charity sale. Once again, whereas the Maison’s most recent plique-à-jour creations featured curves and soft, slightly domed lines, the Skelet-One Tourbillon “Only Watch” is made up of various straight and geometric sections separated by white gold, thus forming a dial which has been entirely polished flat. The Maison achieved this unprecedented result by applying an extremely fine diamond powder polish to each area of the enamel, the only kind capable of achieving this thickness.
Every tone of enamel has been painstakingly selected for the model and fired at a very high temperature several times in a row. The choice of these colors therefore owes nothing to chance: a color chart was proposed by Only Watch associating different tones with certain characteristics. The Maison thus translated these variations of red, orange and yellow into an expression of happiness, passion, optimism and even energy—all values that support the cause championed by Only Watch.
Every brand is doing smartwatches now, including one of the biggest names in Japan, Citizen. It is a wide watch at 46mm and that might not suit everyone with a slim wrist, just saying.
Here’s the blurb from Citizen on their new CZ Smartwatch;
The new CZ Smart smartwatch is designed for every moment. Inspired by the rich design of Citizen’s iconic sport technical timepieces, CZ Smart marries modern technologies with the style and quality you expect from Citizen.
The sport edition features a colour touchscreen dial and black anodized aluminum top ring, framed and finished with a silver tone stainless steel case and comfortable blue silicone strap. CZ Smart also features a 46mm three-piece case construction and a rugged blue bezel design.
Powered with Wear OS by Google™, CZ Smart is compatible with both iPhone® and Android™ phones to fit your lifestyle. Plus, the customisable menu of dials and technology that provides the information you need at your fingertips.
The latest watch from Boldr is an eco-friendly number that recycles, rather than consumes more of the planet’s resources. Has to be a good thing, although the washed out grey tones look like a coat of primer on a Vauxhall Astra to us. At $299 it isn’t cheap, but you are getting a titanium case, so super tough and durable.
Here’s the word;
For a while now, we’ve been aiming to achieve usage of 80% sustainable materials In our products & packaging, and we’re glad to have taken a step forward in that direction.
Introducing the Venture Earth, a super tough & lightweight beater encased in recycled titanium. Those familiar with the Venture will be accustomed to its full titanium build by now, but did you ever wonder what becomes of the unused titanium scraps and filings in factories?
We did too – it turns out that titanium is relatively easy to recycle and when done correctly, maintains its toughness & versatility.
Thanks to our partner suppliers, we created a revitalized Venture with a tactical stealth dial design, sharply contrasted with Japan Superlume watch hands. Each piece comes with a NATO strap made from recycled nylon which helps reduce the impact of plastic waste in the environment. If you find yourself in a position to do the same, remember every small step counts.
The Venture Earth is available for purchase right now on www.boldrsupply.co. Buckle up this Earth-friendly, challenge-ready trooper and meet the day head-on. #beBOLDR
The Blackbird SR-71 is one of the huge leaps in engineering that blows your mind. In the early part of the jet age, it was impressive that an English Electric Lightning could hit Mach 2 in the mid-50s. But just a decade later the Americans were building a project that could crack 2000mph – basically outrun, or catch up to, an intercontinental missile.
To celebrate that engineering and the bravery of the test pilots Ball Watch is putting a new Engineer Hydrocarbon AeroGMT on pre-order at £2770. It has the multi-lume dial that you expect from Ball, plus GMT hand, 100m water resistance and a very cool SR-71 logo at the 6pm position.
Inside there is a Ball in-house, COSC level movement, so you are buying a quality Swiss product.
I’m going out on a limb with a controversial take on this one; the Ball watches in general are better value watches than most of the Bremont Pilo/Chronometer range, as they do the same job – with more lume – for about 2 grand less. The only thing I don’t like about Ball watches is the name, as Ball is just too basic somehow – illogical I know, but there you go.
We love motorsport themed watches here at NWC magazine. They could be the eternally cool TAG Monaco, or an Accurist Retro Racer for just over £130, we love `em all.
So this Pista model from Ferro & Company ticks the right boxes, especially the Gulf Racing dial option. There’s a silver and black dial choice too. All models are 42mm across, contain a Miyota auto movement, with sapphire crystal, plenty of superlume, see-thru caseback and a soft Italian leather, perforated strap.
At $690 it is an expensive watch considering there’s no STP or Sellita movement inside.
But yeah, style-wise they have it boxed off neater than Giles Villeneuve braking late into Woodcote. The chequered flag rotor on the Pista is a really sharp touch.
We like Norway, we love Vikings. The TV show deserves its own watch frankly, but fans will have to make do with this tribute to athletes who don’t storm beaches in longboats, but whack a volleyball about until they win gold meadals. Hey, it still isn’t easy. Here’s the word from Maurice Lacroix. Oh yeah, it’s quartz, but we love the design so it gets a mention.
Two years ago, Maurice Lacroix was delighted when Anders Mol and Christian Sørum joined the ML Crew. Throughout their careers they have won numerous gold medals and are currently ranked number 1 in their chosen sport. Building on its relationship with Anders and Christian, Maurice Lacroix has created a limited-edition timepiece encompassing the ideas of the ambitious duo. Indeed, both athletes played an active role in the design process.
Anders and Christian wanted a watch they could wear while competing on the court. This meant the watch had to be light, comfortable to wear and precise. It was for this latter reason that a quartz movement was selected. Moreover, the watch needed to be shock resistant, a useful attribute when the players are 100% committed to the game. By taking into account the requirements of Anders and Christian, the AIKON Quartz Chronograph – Limited Edition Vikings came to fruition.
The AIKON Quartz Chronograph – Limited Edition Vikings, a limited-edition of 250 pieces, is suffused with Beachvolley Vikings’ team colours. This chronograph stylishly combines blue, red and white tones, conferring a young, vibrant appearance. The watch is housed in a 44mm stainless steel case. Dressed in red, the dial features a sun-brushed effect and incorporates three snailed counters presented in a contrasting shade of blue. Since the outset, the AIKON has always been known for blending different finishes on its dial and case, enriching the ownership experience. The AIKON Quartz Chronograph – Limited Edition Vikings proves no exception.
Can you believe that actual radioactive paint was applied to watches in the past? Yep, and watchmakers plus watch factory workers died prematurely because of it. But that was just one of several hundred industrial risks that affected European and North American people in the past, for times were harsher and life was cheap. Yep, even white lives.
Now Blancpain has released a watch to celebrate the end of the radioactive dials, much loved by armed forces procurement officers during WWII and the Cold War. Here’s the press info from Blancpain on this latest limited edition dive watch, which is a tribute to an age of enlightenment as regards tool watches.
Blancpain reinterprets one of its emblematic historical timepieces, the Fifty Fathoms “no radiations”. This mid-1960s diving instrument, of which one version was used by the German Navy’s Combat Swimmers, had the characteristic feature of being stamped with a “no radiations” logo indicating that Blancpain was not using luminescent materials
composed of radium. This distinctive symbol on the watch dial has forged its success; the timepiece and its variants are now among the most iconic Fifty Fathoms models, which
the new Tribute to Fifty Fathoms No Rad intends to honour. Collectors take note: this watch is issued in a 500-piece limited series.
The Tribute to Fifty Fathoms No Rad watch revisits the historical model that inspired it. Its matt deep black dial is punctuated by geometrical hour-markers, combining traditional round dots as well as rectangles and a diamond-shaped mark at 12 o’clock. The chapter ring, the hands and the time scale on the bezel all feature “old radium”-coloured Super-LumiNova® reprising the beige-orange hue of vintage indicators bearing the patina of time. At 3 o’clock sits a date aperture highlighted by a white rim, as seen on one of the 1960s models. The yellow and red “no radiations” logo remains the dominant element on the dial, adding to the already strong character of this timepiece.
FOUR DAY RESERVE
The unidirectional rotating bezel, featuring a graduation typical of the initial Fifty Fathoms models, is fitted with a sapphire insert, a distinctive feature of the contemporary collection. Its domed profile contributes to the depth effect of the watch face, already enhanced by the use of a glassbox-type sapphire crystal. Water-resistant to 300 metres,
the steel case measures 40.3 mm, a diameter exclusive to limited-edition Fifty Fathoms watches. It houses Blancpain Calibre 1151, a self-winding movement equipped with a silicon balance spring and endowed with a four-day power reserve. Its two barrels are wound by means of a rotor with a cartouche-shaped aperture, a nod to some of the historic timepieces in the collection, including the very first Fifty Fathoms. This now atypical detail was formerly used to increase the suppleness of the oscillating weight in order to safeguard the movement in the event of impacts. The watch comes with a strap in “Tropic”-type rubber, a material very popular with divers back in the day because of its durability and wearer comfort.
With this limited series, Blancpain is restoring a cult instrument from its past as a supplier to the navies of numerous armed forces worldwide. In 1953, French Combat Swimmers were the first to use the Fifty Fathoms for their underwater missions. Thanks to its watertightness, legibility, safety and robustness, the watch immediately became an indispensable component of their equipment. Others were to follow, including the German military, which in the mid1960s acquired the Fifty Fathoms RPG 1 model, now better known as “BUND No Rad”. This name refers to the term “Bundeswehr” (armed forces), engraved on the back of the watches that equipped the “Kampfschwimmer”, the elite German frogman commando unit, until the early 1970s. The distinguishing attribute of the RPG 1 model was the “no radiations” logo, featured for the first time on the dial of a Fifty Fathoms.
In the early 1960s, radium – a radioactive element used in watchmaking for its luminescent properties – was declared harmful to health. To reassure professional divers, as well as experienced amateurs who purchased their Fifty Fathoms watches from specialist equipment providers, Blancpain thus decided to clearly indicate that its timepieces were radium-free – and hence harmless. The special symbol consisting of three red segments on a yellow background with a black cross was accompanied by the words “no radiations” designed to ensure that the message was easily understood. The same logo subsequently appeared on the Fifty Fathoms RPGA 1 model, a calendar-based variant of the “BUND No Rad”, for which it would remain the main criterion. These diver’s watches, whose dial indicated the absence of radium through the “no radiations” logo, have become particularly sought-after collector’s items. They now form part of the Fifty Fathoms’ legendary heritage spanning almost 70 years.
UK Price is £11,800, which is kinda tasty but you get a watch that has undeniable credentials underwater, and might just be a collectable item in 25 years’ time.
I only ask the question because according to trade magazine WatchPro, one quarter of the entire Swiss watch industry is Rolex sales. The UK is arguably one of the most Rolex obsessed markets in the world, as the 2020 launch of the new Oyster, GMT and Subs showed. Flippers who managed to bri-sorry, get allocated a much prized Submariner were able to sell it on for around 50-80% above the RRP, depending on the dial colour, bezel etc.
Recently UK retailer Goldsmiths announced that it was rolling out a new store concept, based on Mayors of Miami, where watch brands would have dedicated zones. This offers consumers the chance to look at particular brands in detail. The danger with this idea is that it mirrors the disaster that is the Premiership in English football – all the money, marketing and top talent is concentrated on a handful of brands. Goldsmiths will have Rolex, Breitling, Omega, Cartier, TAG and Tudor – which is of course part of Rolex. You could say it’s Rolex-Lite, but that does minimise how good a Tudor Black Bay is in terms of value when compared to a Rolex Sub; same build quality for half the price, some might say.
But this focus on a handful of brands, with Rolex as the `One Watch To Rule Them All’ is going to damage the market in the end. Because history teaches us that every bubble, whether it’s a UK housing market, Tesla, South Sea, tulip bulbs or spices, will go pop eventually. When it does, then confidence is buying luxury watches as an investment will largely evaporate. It will have a catastrophic effect on watch retailing, as chains like Goldsmiths, Beaverbrooks and Watches of Switzerland depend on luxury Rolex and other watch sales to help keep them afloat, now that the government has decided that house arrest is a good idea long term. Footfall is NEVER coming back to pre-lockdown levels, and many older people – who make up a high percentage of luxury Rolex buyers – don’t trust the inetrnet. They also don’t want their Rolex purchase data to be held online either, as they rightly assume that various thieves and accomplices will hack that info at some point, leaving them vulnerable to house burglary or card fraud.
The final reason why Rolex domination is a bad thing is that it stifles innovation, to the extent where many of their watches are often quite boring. The Oyster range really needs a kick up the rear, as it’s becoming the Honda Jazz of the watch world; safe, steady, reliable but entirely uninteresting to any serious watch collector. There is nothing to talk about if you own an Oyster, exept its value.
Rolex don’t really do anything left field, quirky or challenging in their range, except perhaps the Milgauss, which is a 1950s idea still in production for some bizaarre reason. Personally, I like the Milgauss because I love the blue dial, but you have to admit that it’s a one-trick pony as a modern watch. Rolex could be creating some 21st century ground-breaking watchmaking tech instead, not just anti-magnetic as regards digital devices, but with tourbillions, liquid-powered chrono functions, or maybe a MODshop where well-heeled customers could order truly one-off Rolex models, created in the same way that Bamford London are doing. But better, with all the resources that a global brand can bring to bear.
When you are number one there’s only way you can go, and that is down. Change and development is necessary, despite the risks associated with it. Rolex is in a sweet spot right now – apart from the ongoing customer anger concerning waiting lists. Demand could not really be any higher and it is consistently voted the number one brand in any marketing survey you read. It is amazing that so many people believe that Rolex is the best watch in the world, despite the obvious truth to anyone who has taken their watches apart. They are not the very best, but they are brilliant at mass production to a very high level. But resting on those laurels is not a strategy for long term progress and it will also damage the entire watch industry when consumers decide that buying a Rolex is no longer as safe an investment as buying a Premium Bond.
Maybe that’s the future, the Rolex Fantasy Share Index? You basically mine your Rolex data like Bitcoin and when you get to GMT III level you cash in. Stranger things have happened…
Ball Watches has a new twist on their Engineer III, the Marvelight Chronometer. Now we love the bright lights of Vegas here, but the rainbow tubes dial just isn’t dinging our bell, and we are big fans of Saturday Night Fever. The power reserve feature is very cool though, we love it and you can choose a conventional gas tube lighting variant. Here’s the word from Ball;
Superior corrosion resistance, virtually indestructible strength and brilliant polish. The new Engineer III Marvelight Chronometer is forged from 904L stainless steel – a material unlike any other in watchmaking, resulting in the ultimate explorer’s watch built to withstand extreme conditions. Design ingenuity is the name of the game.
Not only have we employed a unique technique to set the micro gas tubes, the incomparable luminosity also comes in 2 different colorways: a classic glow or a rainbow motif. Inside, the C.O.S.C. certified movement with 42-hour power reserve has been expertly modified by our watchmakers, the power reserve hand is seamlessly integrated into the central pivot, while the indication scale is located at the six o’clock position. With patented protection guarantees flawless performance, the watch that once ran America’s railroads now empowers world explorers to live freely and fearlessly.
Encased in toughness, the movement and its precision ensure that exploration never stops. And thanks to testing by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (C.O.S.C.), the timepiece is a certified mechanical chronometer built to deliver perfect time keeping in the most imperfect conditions.
Featuring a 42-hour power reserve when the watch is unworn, the in-house modification of the movement allows all 4 watch hands originating from the center, creating a wider angle perspective and ensuring easy readability of the power reserve hours.
Available exclusively online, the latest addition to the Engineer III Marvelight Chronometer series is limited to 1,000 pieces each.
It’s on pre-order until 21 April 2021 at an exclusive price.