Tag Archives: watchmaking

Swatch NASA Collection Has a Bioceramic Edge

With Space X sending rockets into the skies, and then landing the boosters back on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship – yep, the videos are so cool – the time is right for some 60s/70s Spaceman type watches.

So, Swatch Group has launched a new NASA inspired collection, plus it ticks the recycling box as they are using reclaimed plastic waste materials making these watches. Hopefully Elon Musk will sign a deal with a big watch brand to create some amazing Spaxce X watches, or manufacture them in-house. Now that would be interesting.

Here’s the word;

Time is what you make of it, and at Swatch, the sky’s not the limit; dreams are. While the perceptions of NASA differ across generations, one thing remains the same – the space agency’s ability to capture the public’s imagination and desire to explore the stars and new horizons. The brand’s latest collection taps into this feeling, inspiring people to dream big, create their own universe and make the most of their time on earth.

Fueled by a passion for innovation, the Space Collection celebrates NASA and reveals the next chapter of the BIOCERAMIC Swatch story. Two-thirds ceramic and one-third bio-sourced plastic, BIOCERAMIC boasts a silk-like touch and is extremely resilient—the best of both worlds. Three of the five watches feature elements of bio-sourced material and are directly inspired by the spacesuits worn by NASA astronauts.

BIG BOLD CHRONO EXTRAVEHICULAR looks to the iconic white spacesuit for inspiration. First worn in 1983 by NASA astronauts Story Musgrave and Donald Peterson, the white suits shield astronauts from the sun’s radiation.

The white chrono features a 47mm BIOCERAMIC case and a bio-sourced plastic glass. The chrono timer is not set to the usual full hour marker but ten seconds prior and highlighted in red as a nod to the final countdown to liftoff. The crown is positioned at 3 o’clock alongside two pushers, while the red and blue strap loops, hands with Swatch glow and NASA logo complete the design.

The orange Advanced Crew Escape Suit, also known as the Pumpkin Suit, inspires the BIG BOLD CHRONO LAUNCH. The bright orange color of the watch mirrors the highly visible suits worn by astronauts for the ascent into space.

The orange chrono features a 47mm BIOCERAMIC case and a bio-sourced plastic glass. The chrono timer is not set to the usual full hour marker but ten seconds prior and highlighted in red as a nod to the final countdown to liftoff. The crown is positioned at 3 o’clock alongside two pushers, while the blue and white strap loops, silver-colored dial, hands with Swatch glow and NASA logo complete the design.

The BIG BOLD JUMPSUIT echoes the everyday go-to blue jumpsuits astronauts wear for press conferences or working in the NASA facility. The blue watch features a 47mm BIOCERAMIC case and a bio-sourced plastic glass. The crown is positioned at 2 o’clock, while the white strap loops, hands with Swatch glow and NASA logo complete the design.

Rounding up the Swatch Space Collection is TAKE ME TO THE MOON ‘NEW GENT’ with a transparent case, and SPACE RACE ‘GENT’ with a mirror-effect ilver-colored dial.

Watch out for the Swatch Space Collection exclusive set that includes the youngest member of the Swatch family. Available in selected Swatch stores from June 3, 2021.

New Viqueria Heritage Mixes Poljot Movt & Modern Styling

Not gonna lie, lately the NWC mag has become slightly obsessed with MOD – Made On Demand – watches. The idea of recycling existing, sometimes vintage movements or a handy Seiko case n bracelet, has broad appeal. It’s also kinda sustainable/green/climate agenda friendly too, as you’re basically upcycling watch parts.

Yeah so kudos with the Jeminas n Lucys who dye their hair pink and superglue themselves to controversial statues n that.

The Viqueria Heritage is ahn Italian made watch that combines the trusty Poljot 2609 movement with a new case and some beautiful leather straps.  The case size is perfect at 40mm. The watch isn’t too thick either, plus it features a real mineral crystal. All this for £180 plus import duty and VAT. Not bad.

Here’s the tech spec from Viqueria;

Few months ago we found a bunch of Poljot 2609 movements. So we started to think about a new dressy timepiece with a lot of history inside.

Thanks to our Italian watchmaker we serviced, verified and regulated the Poljot movements and thus allowed us to create a limited edition of 83 pieces that we will deliver to you in May!

We have encased the Poljot in a 40.5mm case with a bezel that’s tight to the domed crystal. Short lugs with a curve flat enough to suit larger wrists yet angled enough to hug smaller wrists as well.

The Viqueria Heritage V1 has 3 sunray dials, blue, black and white. Applied high polish indices and applied numerals.

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Movement: Serviced and Regulated Handwind Poljot 2609;
  • Case: SS316L 40.5mm diameter;
  • Thickness: 12mm
  • Size: 46mm lug to lug – 20mm lug width;
  • Crystal: Super Domed mineral crystal with Anti Reflective coating;
  • Water Resistance 5atm
  • Caseback: Mineral crystal
  • Dials: Sunray dials with applied markers
  • Straps: Made in Italy leather straps. In the starting price is included 1 strap at your choice (vintage Tuscany leather or leather with high quality alligator stamp)
  • Warranty: 24months
  • Serviced, Regulated and Assembled in Italy

DELIVERY: The Viqueria Heritage is in production, so we expect to start deliveries by the mid of May.

Manufacturing: XRby & Ansys Offer Cutting Edge Crystal Creation

Technology is changing watchmaking, and in many ways it is making the entire process more democratic, more inclusive, since almost anyone can set up a watch brand, use computer software to design models, 3D printing on prototype parts and source low volume manufacturing and packaging from Switzerland to Singapore. Here’s a press release that we missed a month back, but it shows how new tech is helping watch brands create anti-glare crystals…without even making a prototype sapphire crystal. Clever stuff.

XRby is leveraging Ansys’  cutting-edge optical design simulation software to innovate métiers d’art limited edition luxury wristwatches that are engineered with tremendous speed and affordability. Using Ansys software, XRby is radically simplifying the development and enhancing the aesthetics of the wristwatches by eliminating physical prototype testing.

Jura Mountains watchmaker XRby is producing a limited edition of high-end métiers d’art mechanical wristwatches, which will incorporate costly materials such as organic fibers and precious stones. Historically, these customized watches would require at least one physical prototype to attract customers. Facing extremely high production costs and stringent sustainability goals, XRby pivoted to produce virtual protypes using Ansys® SPEOS, through the Ansys Startup Program. Adopting this Industry 4.0 vision equipped engineers with a numerical optical simulation approach, helping them innovate watch concepts, analyze light reflection and rapidly test numerous aesthetic options to achieve their optimum design.

Using Ansys SPEOS, XRby selected sapphire thickness and edge angles to improve watch aesthetics, tested several watch assemblies and evaluated more than 100 materials and elements. Additionally, SPEOS generated physics-based, true-to-life images of digital prototypes throughout the development process. This empowered XRby to not only understand how watch designs would appear in real-world lighting and usage conditions, but also make design choices more quickly — substantially reducing development time and cost.

“Adopting an Industry 4.0 approach and using SPEOS helped our engineers design a beautiful canvas less than two inches wide, conserve natural resources and introduce a new luxury brand to targeted elite clientele in a purely virtual manner,” said Xavier Rousset, founder at XRby. “With SPEOS, our engineers selected the optimal materials, shapes and decorations for the watch’s designs in mere hours, compared to traditional simulations, which may require days to deliver the same results.”

XRby utilizes SPEOS texture mapping early in the development cycle to forecast how watch materials will behave in different lighting conditions.

“SPEOS helps XRby perform accurate texture mapping to create next-generation optical simulations that demonstrate how their material choices will behave across numerous environments,” said Yvain Ballini, CEO at CADFEM France, XRby’s dedicated Ansys channel partner. “This helps them perfect the physical appearance of their extremely unique watch under practically any possible lighting scenario.”

Prospective customers are able to view SPEOS’ high-definition simulations of the watch design and place orders on XRby’s website.

“Using SPEOS through the Ansys Startup Program equips XRby with a state-of-the-art, Industry 4.0 method for simulating photons’ path across physical matter and creating an image just as it would be perceived by the human eye,” said Shane Emswiler, senior vice president at Ansys. “This helps slash development time, drives enhanced decision-making during the design phase and delivers unique product customizations for a highly discerning market.”

Nomos Glashutte: Confession of A Watch Polisher

Nomos Glashutte have sent us some info on polishing watches. Yes, we know it’s a bit geeky, but watchmaking is all about the details. If you love the technology, knock yourselves out;

The surfaces should be as smooth as glass—and creating this perfect finish for the hand-wound caliber DUW 1001 can take the expert watchmakers at NOMOS Glashütte hours. They work with high concentration, since a single speck of dust could leave behind a scratch. Smooth surfaces are more resistant to oxidation. In the past, this was essential—but now it’s simply beautiful.

During bevelling, as one of these polishing techniques is known, an angle of exactly 45 degrees is cut by hand between the surface and side of one of the movement parts, before being smoothed out with a tool crafted from hardened steel and polished to perfection with wood. This process is known as burnishing.

In order to polish the six tiny gold chatons in the movement, they are carefully pressed into soft elder pith. This holds them in place without exerting too much pressure. Then they are polished with very fine sanding paper—with a grain of one to five thousandth of a millimeter. Individual components—such as the regulator, click, ratchet spring, and swan neck spring—are smoothed out with a tin polish, also known as black polishing in the watchmaking world. The component is worked on a tin plate with a grinding paste, which is gradually ground down. The goal is to bring the surface to a high-gloss shine that reflects light completely. That is what makes the surface appear deep black to the eye.

The writing on the balance cock is not polished, but instead engraved by hand: It reads “Mit Liebe in Glashütte gefertigt” (lovingly produced in Glashütte). This beautiful component can be seen through the sapphire crystal glass back. But there are many details that remain hidden where only a watchmaker can see.

These are what make the DUW 1001 caliber and the NOMOS model Lambda it powers truly special. Lambda – 175 Years Watchmaking Glashütte is the first version of this model in stainless steel. Until now, it has only been available in gold. The watch is regulated according to chronometer standards and comes in enamel white, blue, and black—limited to just 175 pieces each. This limited edition is with select retailers now.

Titan Black Offers Bespoke Rolex Designs

Here’s a custom watch house we just discovered, but they have been around for about ten years; Titan Black has been producing amazing Rolex, AP, Patek and other luxury watches that are true one-off models. Famously, they designed the Chronolight Rolex for a Sheikh which has his name in illuminated script on the dial.

Illuminated, not Illuminati. Important to note that.

We also love their skeleton dial Rolex Daytona in rose gold. There are designs in vintage sepia, teal – all kinds of options.

OK, you might not be in charge of assets from London to Lahore, but if you can afford a Rolex Sub or Daytona and want something unique, there is a dashboard at Titan Black where you can customise it your way, and get a quote. It isn’t gonna be cheap, but then again, nothing Rolex related that’s really executed to a superlative standard is.

More info here.

The Watchmaking Craft of The Past is Worth Appreciating

The thing I admire most about the watchmakers of the past is their determination to solve what must have seemed like incredibly complicated problems. Take this Strigel verge watch from the 1760s for example.

It was no easy task making glass back then. No Pilkington float method had been invented, so glass had to be blown into shapes by skilled people, then carefully cut and trimmed to fit something like a pocket watch bezel. That’s why many 18th century pocket watches have `bulls eye’ glass – they had to cut it away from the blower which left a tiny flat top.

This particular example is typical of the era. The silver cases, usually pair-cased, would have been bought in batches from a silversmith in London. The reason watches were encased like this was that in the 1760s there were two modes of transport for the wealthy man about town; water craft and horseback. He would not walk very far in a country like Britain, which was largely lawless, with no roads as we understand them. So a silver watch – which at today’s prices would have cost about £10,000-£15,000 would have basically said to Highwayman, `come and get it boys.’

strigel verge 4

So a watch movement had to be protected not only by a tightly shut inner case, but another pair of silver cases to keep out seaspray, pouring rain, or the stench of the gin-soaked poor begging at your britches. This work was done by hand, not by machine, so imagine how many hours it took to get a perfectly set of halves to close upon the watch itself.

The verge movement has sturdy square columns joining the plates, which are like minature columns on a mansion – no coincidence that the architecture matches those grand houses and follies of the era, for a watch was a statement that you had made your money, serious money. Engraved plates state the makers name because brands didn’t exist then, everyone had a reputation, like Harrison, Mudge, Breguet etc.

strigel verge face 1

Dials and hands would be provided by an enamelling shop, the watchmaker concentrated on the movement. Imagine the basic lathes and drilling tools used, and how difficult it was to align hand-cut gear wheels, and match pins and axles to their correctly sized holes in the plates. No wonder it was a week’s work to assemble one movement, although many master watchmakers had apprentices making kitted plates and gear wheels in a sort of production line.

Typically housed in a freezing attic, with overhead windows for natural light, the watchmakers of the past had a tough life. Many made clocks as well, which of course demanded great care in transport and installation at some slave/sugar/silk/pepper trader’s newly built mansion in the sunny shires. Not many artisan watchmakers lived a long life like Thomas Harrison, the inventor of the marine chronometer, many only had 20-25 years of work before the untreatable illnesses of the times, a fire, bankruptcy or a family bereavement effectively ended their career.

Could you persevere in spite of everything back in 1766? Survive on no benefits, no central heating, and eat bland, rancid food and drink foul water or home brewed ale or gin? Probably not. We have it easy now and watches, superbly engineered and finished, are relatively cheap compared to wages. Enjoy these good times, they won’t last.

Baltic Drops Its Aquascaphe 300 Bronze & Blue Gilt Model

Baltic watches just emailed some interesting news; the bronze blue gilt Aquascaphe diver model is now available. There’s a numbered run of on the first 300 sold too. Price is £663.63 on the Baltic website.

So many divers watches now have 44mm case sizes or more, but this one is a more modest 39mm, which may well suit many wrists. Naturally, the spec includes double-domed sapphire crystal, depth resistance down to 200m, plus screwdown crown protector lugs on the case.

baltic divers watch crown

The case is made from bronze, rather than the usual 316 grade stainless steel that many indie watch brands favour. Bronze buckle on the strap by the way – nice touch.

You get a patina over time with bronze, which should add an extra level of interest for many true collectors, especially those who like to wear their watches in rotation. Love the sunray effect on the dial as well.

Inside the case there’s a Miyota automatic movement, which is a little bit disappointing at this price. Sellita SW200 would be more like it or STP-11? On the upside all Baltic watches are assembled in France, so this does offer a more hand-made, bespoke quality to the watch than something that is simply designed in Europe, but then outsourced to the Far East when it comes to assembly. Big difference.

 

 

Pinion Offers Something Bespoke: Swiss Engine, English Tailoring

There’s something of a revival in the idea of British manufacturing post-Corona. Why not? For too long we have relied on cheap imported products, and expensive luxury items too, instead of making stuff right here. Wages are too high, red tape, Corporation Tx, business rates etc – yes, these are all stumbling blocks, but let’s hope we can get our heads around tyhe concept of enduring quality, versus disposable consumerism.

Then there’s the circular economy. What Greta-esque greenery is that you ask? Well, it is the simple idea that stuff can be recycled, upcycled, re-purposed – basically used more than once. It makes sense, especially when you consider how great a Valjoux 7734 chrono movement was back in the day. Rugged, reliable, and relatively easy to service by an indy watchmaker – if you can find one in your area.

pinion r 1969 specs

So Pinion are doing something great. Taking a batch of 100 classic Swiss movements they’ve created a watch that oozes bespoke tailoring level quality. So it should, given the £3500 price tag, but then hand-making a watch in Oxfordshire isn’t going to be Sekonda cheap is it?

The R1969 is a true collectors timepiece. You get that old school movement, that found its way into a hundred different Swiss brands back in the 70s. Set in a 43mm case it has the right size for modern watch enthusiasts, with a 38 hour reserve on full wind. Nice superluminova on the batons, exhibition caseback with smoked glass too.

Pinion watches are designed and built in the UK, and the company offers a two year guarantee on all models. They even hired BHI staff to assemble their watches and they recommend that you wash you watch if it gets into contact with sea water – I like that touch, because it is advice borne of real experience, seeing the damage that can be done by salt water to expensive watches with 200m on the dial. Watchmakers offer that advice, whereas marketeers blather on about 100% waterproof all day long.

Sure, you could buy a well preserved Valjoux 7734 watch on ebay or Chrono24 for £1000 or less, you could buy a Christopher Ward and get Brit design and Swiss quality for £1500 or so. But choose a Pinion and you’ve bought a slice of history, it’s a true collectors item – never going to be mainstream at those prices. It’s also someone’s dream made metal, like a shed-built cafe racer, or a customised Les Paul guitar.

If we don’t celebrate craft, ingenuity and longevity – what are we buying?