You probably don’t associate the Philippines with watchmaking, but it is a huge centre for mass production of wristwatches, with Timex being one brand that has an assembly facility in Cebu City and Montrichard being another. They make Grayton automatics and MCS watches by the way.
But let’s talk Makina Raum, which is a recent addition to the Makina range and has a Sellita SW200 movement. The movement is visible via the see-thru caseback and there is plenty of gold/brass finishing on display. Not solid gold obviously, but it makes a refreshing change to see the SW200 jazzed up a bit and those countersunk caseback screws also add an industrial, bulletproof touch.
The case is 316 steel and has a kind of Meccano/Tonka Toy vibe, a definite chunky, solid feel. They also put the winding crown at 6 o’clock, which is a novel touch. The dial has those big numbers and the revolver styling. Have to say the Racing Green variant is the winner for us.
Priced at $700 it’s not cheap and nor is it expensive. That is a tough spot to be in these days, as the middle ground is where watch sales are falling, everyone seems to want super cheap under $100, or a luxury Swiss watch for over $3000.
Great to see something different and let’s hope Makina can carve out their own niche in the watch collecting market.
Alpina has revived the bumper automatic as part of their Startimer range and it really captures the vintage look. Inside there is a clever update on the traditional 1940s/50s bumper automatic, which as many collectors know usually has two big springs acting as shock absorbers for the bouncing weight, or rotor.
Here’s the word from Alpina;
Once again, Alpina sets itself apart from the vintage trend aimed at creating an exact reproduction of a bygone watch. The brand prefers to focus on one of its rarest features, one called the “bumper movement”. This is not a watch, a design or a dial, but a type of calibre.
The little-known story of the “bumper”
The “bumper movement” was used by Alpina in the 50s. Today, it is extremely rare – if not virtually impossible – to find. It is a movement with an oscillating weight that instead of turning 360° like a contemporary rotor, turns 120°.
On both sides of its course, a small spring serves to send the mass back in the opposite direction and facilitate the winding of the movement. The concept was simple and effective but gradually phased out in favour of the 360° rotor, becoming a rare movement sought-after by collectors.
Now, Alpina has drawn inspiration from this unusual winding in developing its sixth Manufacture movement. It beats within the new Startimer Pilot Heritage Manufacture, a prestigious piece, aimed at fans of Swiss Made watches.
Known as the AL-709, the movement is a contemporary, accurate and robust creation that incorporates the hallmarks of its predecessor, the “bumper”. This is because Alpina has designed its key component, the rotor, in the style of that from the Fifties.
The oscillating weight from the Startimer Pilot Heritage Manufacture and that of the vintage “bumper” are related, sharing the same geometry and the same inspiration, but for two details: the vintage version rotates 120°, while the new one rotates 330°. Secondly, the traditionally shaped springs originally used have been replaced by a blade for greater rotation. The AL-709 calibre can also be admired in all its glory through the open case back.
To celebrate its new movement, Alpina has selected the cushion-shaped case from its Startimer Pilot Heritage collection. It is the perfect combination of a circle in a square with delicately rounded edges, emphasised by a case middle that alternates between polished and satin-brushed surfaces.
The AL-709 calibre hugs each contour, as a mark of respect for watchmaking tradition. Previously, the calibre and the case had to have exactly the same profile (in the tradition of so-called “form” movements). The beating heart of the watch becomes one with the delicate cushion that follows the contour of the wrist. To complete the vintage look, Alpina has given the Startimer Pilot Heritage Manufacture a dial with an iconic design harking back to the pilots watches also created by the brand in the 50s.
There are just 188 pieces of the two variants of the Startimer Pilot bumper auto on sale. Price is not listed on the Alpina website at the time of going to press, but we are guessing around £1300.
Everyone would like a Rolex Sub, Daytona, or a Sea Dweller – better than money in the bank and a great watch to wear on special occasions. But in the real world, lots of people cannot afford to splash over 10K on a nice Rolex.
So if you like beautifully made watches and have a more modest collection budget than Ryan Reynolds, here are five watches under 500 quid that we spotted in 2021, the Year Of The Whitty in the Chinese calendar.
Yeah we made that up. Sounds plausible though.
5. Brew 8-Bit
This 80s arcade game themed watch is destined to be a collectors item. Like Miami Vice, Duran Duran or rah-rah skirts, the arcade machines like Space Invaders or The Firebird, defined the 1980s.
Pixellated graphics are an extra touch that shows Brew loves the 80s. Retails at $395.
4. Boldr Supply Freediver 40mm
At $519 the Freediver in vibrant orange or mint green is a proper 300m tool watch. Miyota automatic movement true, not Sellita, but if you love the quick-change strap, bright colours and the sheer value this offers, then this has to be on the wish list.
3. CIGA Design Z Series Skeleton Automatic
What a spec for £189. Sapphire crystal, Seagull 25 jewel auto movement customised by CIGA, plus 18K gold plated case. QR strap fitting too.
CIGA are a Chinese brand to follow in 2022, with big ambitions and this model will be a collectors item one day when CIGA are deemed cool by various watch websites more famous than us.
2. Tissot PRX 80 Auto
Hard to go wrong by paying tribute to the great Gerald Genta, watch designer supreme. Tissot really hit the spot with this one. The PRX has those classic, elegant lines, a Powermatic 80 hour reserve movement, tapering bracelet links and we found it online at £508.
OK, you’ve never heard of Zeitgeist, the Singapore watch brand who showcased this beauty on Kickstarter earlier this year.
But look at the spec; 500m of depth ability, bronze case, 13mm thickness, helium valve. Miyota movement or you can upgrade to an ETA if you prefer. Ceramic bezel, superlume, plus that Harrison H1 chronometer engraving on the caseback.
Brilliant value at $499 on pre-order. No wonder they raised over $90,000 on this one.
Magrette in NZ have a new watch on pre-order, the Leoncino. This is a limited edition, just 100 pieces and we love that bold stand-out dial design. Here’s the word;
The Māori creation story begins with a description of darkness and nothingness, out of which Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatūānuku, the earth mother, emerge. Initially, earth and sky are joined together, and their children are born between them. But the children conspire to separate their parents, and this allows light to flow into the world.
Features include thick double domed sapphire crystal, BGW9 Swiss Super-LumiNova hands, with cut out “sandwich” dial markers for added depth and lume volume. The detailed caseback includes multiple finishes, the Magrette shield raised proud of a bead-blasted background, and razor-sharp engraving of key technical specifications.
This timepiece is powered by the automatic Sellita Caliber SW200-1, a reliable and proven Swiss mechanical movement.
The Leoncino 40mm is complemented for the first time with a custom H-link bracelet featuring contrasting brushed and polished finishes. This is custom fit bracelet complete with quick release mechanism for tool-free strap changes. And features a discrete (and low profile) butterfly clasp with the Magrette logo crisply signed.
This limited-edition Māori dial is presented in black DLC (diamond-like carbon) finish with red-tipped seconds hand. The dial features a custom relief set against the black dial.
The Leoncino 40mm Māori is a limited edition release of only one-hundred (100) pieces.
We like Frederique Constant here at NWC, they do their own thing and they generally do it wonderfully well, but if you look at the plain jane dial on this moonphase, you ask the question; does this look expensive and Swiss, a true statement watch?
Yes, it’s gold plated and sparkly, but that dial looks..a bit flat maybe? On the upside, sometimes less is more and at just under 39mm wide, this one is easy to read at a glance. OK, there’s no retail price on the website but we guess this one will sell at just under £1500.
Not madly expensive for a Swiss automatic, compared to a Chanel or Cartier, but a Tissot T-Classic is about £350 and has plenty of sparkle.
Here’s the tech spec;
FC-702 MANUFACTURE CALIBER, AUTOMATIC, DATE AND MOONPHASE ADJUSTABLE BY THE CROWN
PERLAGE AND CIRCULAR CÔTES DE GENÈVE DECORATIONS
26 JEWELS, 38-HOUR POWER RESERVE, 28’800 ALT/H
POLISHED ROSE GOLD-PLATED 3-PART CASE SET WITH 60 DIAMONDS (0.46CT)
DIAMETER OF 38,8 MM
FRONT CONVEX SAPPHIRE CRYSTAL
WATER-RESISTANT UP TO 3 ATM
SILVER COLOR DIAL WITH APPLIED ROSE GOLD-PLATED INDEXES SET WITH 8 DIAMONDS (0.04CT)
HAND-POLISHED ROSE GOLD-PLATED HOUR, MINUTE AND DATE HANDS
DATE AT 9 O’CLOCK
MOONPHASE AT 3 O’CLOCK
Skagen have some new models out, just in time for the Christmas selling season and a couple of them caught our eye.
First up is the refreshed Melbye range with three dial colours; blue, blue and red and a charcoal grey. We love the segmented dial on this watch, which gives it a distinct edge with that inner chapter ring detail too.
Traditional three hand quartz, 40mm case, slim profile too. The case is 50% recycled steel and the mesh bracelet adds a classy touch. Priced at £149 it isn’t cheap but it does compare well with say an entry level Tissot with a mesh bracelet at about £270 online.
The blue and red combo dial is the winner for us.
Many people don’t associate Skagen with automatics but they do make `em and the new Ancher 40mm auto has a skeleton dial so you can see the tech at work too. Nicely decorated movement in black with a gold tone balance wheel. We are guessing it’s a Miyota movement inside.
Matching black coated mesh bracelet on the black PVD coated case. It’s a handsome watch but at £209 retail we would say check out Ali Express or eBay for a bargain gents auto in black before you take the plunge.
Creation Watches has an Orient auto online at £88, while the Timex Marlin with Milanese bracelet was online today at £225 if you think the Marlin might be more collectable than a Skagen in the longer term – that was at the Timex website by the way.
Farer are one of those Brit watch brands that rarely feature on people’s radar, but they should, because they’re excellent value especially when compared to something like Bremont.
Not every collector can afford three grand for a watch, and if you want to buy a British brand name, then Christoper Ward, Marloe, Duckworth Prestex and others all offer interesting timepieces at well under a grand.
So the latest three hand models from Farer offer a range of dial colours, 39mm cases, boxed sapphire crystal, see-thru caseback and a Sellita SW200 auto movement.
That is a decent spec for £790 retail. Fact. Three variants; Resolute, Discovery and Hopewell III offer blue, deep burgundy or white dials, with a neat little arrowhead second hand in a contrasting colour to stand out. No date window, just the basics of timekeeping.
Timex watch designer head honcho Giorgio Galli has inspired this high quality model from Timex. It’s quite a smooth number to be fair.
Now you might have a problem paying £425 for a Timex watch, indeed friends may say, `WTF, you could have bought a Tissot for that, or a nice used Zelos dive watch?’
This is true, but let’s look at the Galli auto and see if it’s worth collecting. First, there’s that single jewel in the dial, bold as you like, like a ruby in a sea of silver. Then there’s the classic 1960s dial; clean, nice hands & hour markers, with a 41mm case size being the perfect compromise for many a wrist. Got a bit of Madmen vibe in there.
You get a K1 mineral glass crystal, heat treated for a bit of extra scratch resistance. The see-thru caseback reveals a Miyota movement with a skeletonised rotor and a little bit of polishing and brass gear cogs – well, I assume they are brass. Could be gold tone.
Then there’s the fancy cut-outs on the sides of the steel case. Something different for sure and the case is made from four separate pieces. Kinda trick and that flish fit strap is another essential little detail that shows how complete the design is, how it flows. Look at the thread grooves on the case too.
This is stylish work and NWC mag reckons more luxury Timex models will be in the pipeline for 2022.
Verdict; We still aren’t convinced it’s worth over 400 quid. But wait for the January Sale, you might be tempted with 20 % off. Maybe this Galli model is a Timex that actually deserves a different brand name, in the same way that a Lexus isn’t just like a Toyota Avensis.
You know Timex once bought Polaroid from Edwin Land, who originally sold that famous readers wives snapshot device as a Land camera. Perhaps its time to launch a sub-brand called Edwin Land, or even a digital brand called Polaroid – a watch that’s a camera?
Just ideas…we don’t copyright `em because we’re poor.
Marloe has a new model on the runway, it’s the Pacific automatic, inspired by the jet age that transformed Britain back in the 1950s.
The range stretches from the Pacific 52 to the 76 model and traces the rise and fall of the British commercial aviation industry, peaking with Concorde, the fabulous supersonic aircraft that upset Boeing so much, they tried every trick in the book to stop it from flying to the USA.
Inside there is a Swiss Sellita with a 40 hour reserve, sapphire crystal, steel case and they put a magnifying crystal on the see-thru caseback. That’s a clever touch for all those who love watch engineering.
The dial of the Pacific 76 has a pillow cross-section – it rises up from the edge of the dial to a central plateau – which makes the dial jump out from the confines of the case. The applied indices raise up from the dial surface but, in a unique departure from the norm, the blocks are entirely machined from Superluminova C3. Not only is this a beautifully three-dimensional application of the numerals, but due to the whole block being of luminous compound, it glows with an unmatched intensity.
A classic British colourway adorns the 76 with a glossy white railroad track outer ring surrounding the central blue plateau and white numerals, whilst the subtle radial sub-dial sits in contrast to the little flash of red of the sub-seconds hand. It’s refined, modern and elegant. Much like the people who travelled on the supersonic white dart.
Well we sent this back to the Ali Express seller as it had a fault. They say it never arrived. Royal Mail don’t do tracking on surface mail to China, so no tracking data. No refund. No offer of another watch from the seller.
Our advice is think carefully before buying from YJwatch Store, as the customer service isn’t that great.
We love to review watches here at NWC magazine, so let’s take a look at this twin-tourbillon Ailang, which we bought on Ali Express recently.
At around £67 (inc postage) this is a typical budget watch, although there are a few extras included in the deal. For example, you get a proper box complete with outer sleeve, VIP warranty card, handbook – English as well as Mandarin – swing tag and protective covers on the crystal, caseback and clasp.
There is also a spare conventional leather strap, plus a wristband, kinda Harry Styles leather thing, with what looks a bit like an Iron Cross in the centre. Useful if you’re in the Vaccine Enforcement Stormtrooper Squad in Vienna I guess.
This watch measures 41mm across – excluding crown – and some 13mm high. It does feel chunky on my slim wrists, but not too wide, in fact 40-42mm across suits me fine. You won’t fit this watch under a fitted evening or office shirt, but maybe that’s a good thing, as it is a conversation piece.
The dial has a classic tourbillon face with those twin barrrels standing out, then a small time telling dial above, almost like an old fashioned mantel clock; black chapter ring, silver Roman markers. The tourbillion wheels are held in place by two steel triangles, which are exact replicas of the rotor on the movement, but segmented – like a slice of rotor pie.
CAGE NOT FITTED CORRECTLY
The sad thing is this watch is not quite right. If you look closely the tourbillon cage on the right isn’t in situ. Hard to believe it slipped out of alignment during transit but it’s possible.
More likely it’s poor quality control at the factory.
The tourbillion cages hide most of the balance wheel spinning action, with the second wheel kicking in as I shook the watch after winding the crown to get wheel number one started.
Quite impressed it ran OK given the manufacturing fault. But so far it’s still ticking and telling the right time. However it will be returned for a refund.
It is visually very striking, hypnotic and apart from an uber-thin second hand, which looks quite fragile, the dial is impressive.
An AR coated sapphire crystal sits slightly proud of the bezel, which is rose gold tone, just like the case and crown.
I wound this one for about ten turns, then shook it for ten seconds. After a day wearing it doing office stuff and one short walk to the shops it ran until 5.23am the following morning. Not bad. Most automatics I test from China tend to conk out in the early hours and I also own a vintage Lanco and Accurist which do the same thing.
By the way the one vintage watch I own which DOES continue to run through the night is a 20 year old Seiko 6309 basic gents automatic, which will run on the bedside cabinet for about 12-15 hours after being worn the day before.
One thing that does stand out is that changing the strap will not be easy. There’s no quick release slider on the pins and the strap is fitted very flush to the lugs, which means there is a risk of damaging the rose gold finish when you prise in a pin removal tool, to free the pin from the lugs.
On the upside the foldover steel clasp is well made and fastens with a reassuring, solid click, on both sides. The push button release works smoothly too. Many Chinese watches have less than perfect machining on clasps and retaining bands, but this leather deployment feels just as good as Rotary or Tissot in my experience.
This model comes with a silver tone case as well, plus blue, white or black dial options.
You know just 5 years ago I told people in the shop that I couldn’t try to repair Chinese watches as they were so hit & miss as regards build quality. Sad to say this is still the case, as the damaged tourbillon shows.