Mention watches and traditional watchmaking, and you’d be forgiven for thinking of Switzerland, Germany or even Japan. But France, and more specifically Besançon, has perhaps one of the strongest histories of traditional watchmaking in the world. And when you think of French watches, the one brand that stands out above all others is Lip.
Lip is indelibly linked to the French psyche much like Timex has been to those of us who grew up in the United States.
Lip has become something of a cult brand, even in the U.S. And for good reason. The Lip Mach 2000 is something of an anomaly among watch fans. If we are honest about it, in its current format it is essentially a quartz chronograph, and Lip has made few cosmetic changes to it.
More than a watch
But this is a watch that demonstrates that a watch is far more than the sum of its parts. Think I’m kidding?
While in France I received a Facebook message from a fellow watch journalist stateside asking me to pick one up while I was there and bring it back for him. There are certain watches out there that hit visceral nerves, and for me Lip has a few models that speak to me on levels I can’t really quantify. They are emotional as much as pragmatic. Lip, at its very heart, is as much a feeling as it is a brand.
Lip is well known throughout the Francophone world, and famous with hard-core watch and design fans ache for the Mach 2000, as well as the now iconic Nautic Ski.
And the Nautic Ski is enjoying a best “second life” ever, with the return of smaller watches on the radar of most watch fans. When I visited Lip four years ago, the brand had been living sort of a diluted life, really treated by the (then) owners as only a brand label for watches and not the watch brand that Lip truly is.
Enter the Berards
At the time of my visit, the Berard family was producing Lip under a license, but had not yet fully taken formal control.
The Berards, Philippe and his son Pierre-Alain, have now taken full ownership of Lip – and have reinvigorated it. I am not here to criticize the previous owners. I am, however, here to applaud the Berards, and the entire team at Lip.
How do you manage a legend? Curious to relate, Lip stirs a lot of emotions in not only watch fans, but in the French consciousness. But prior to the Berard’s, that emotional connection was more of a sense of nostalgia. But have no doubts as to how serious they are taking their stewardship of Lip.
The latest Lip release, for example, underscores their commitment with a reissue of the Rallye Chronograph.Recently only available as a quartz piece, this new limited edition is much closer to the original with an automatic movement.
The watch was announced recently as a pre-order item, and by all accounts it has been a pretty hot item.
In the years before the Berards, Lip was really not what it once was, or even what it could be.Since the Berards? I hate hyperbole, but walking around the streets of Besançon, Paris, and the offices and workshop at Lip, I really felt a new sense of energy and the passion. I really felt why Lipconnects on the level that it does with fans and the public at large.
It would be easy to do a Blancpain and “start from year zero,” but the team at Lip live in the real world, one where you don’t manufacture history. To that end, they have a rather unusual (in today’s watch world) department that handles vintage Lip questions, assessments, and if I understood correctly, possible restoration.
And while it would be easy for the Berards to simply have bought the name and turn to a white label company for everything, it was very clear to me that Lip clearly represents something special to them, and I got that same feeling touring around the new facilities that they have installed for the watchmakers working on more complicated and vintage pieces.
It is not enormous, but it is not insignificant either. And I think what is encouraging about it to me is that it represents the first step forward.
While it would be easy for Lip recreate itself as a reborn pricey brand, which is something it is not and never was, Lip has held the line on pricing. In a world where brands both big and small jack-up their prices only to jettison their unwanted stock to the grey market where it is discounted down to the bare bones, Lip offers something novel – a great watch at a fair price.
Now I realize that everyone wants to go to Switzerland to visit the historic Maisons, and that’s fair enough. But if you are really a fan of watches, history and culture I urge you to get yourself to Besançon and soak up all of the history and charm that this wonderful city has to offer.
James Henderson pens the Tempus Fugit website, where this article first appeared.
At the end of every issue of International Watch, we present a one-page item about a watch with a particularly handsome rear view. It’s a popular feature we’ve published for many years– in print only and within our online full-on digital editions.
If you’re not subscriber to our quarterly print publication, perhaps you haven’t seen this feature. If you haven’t, below we remedy that sad state of affairs with just a few of our more recent BackStory items.
Enjoy the view.
BackStory: Armin Strom Masterpiece 1 Dual Time Resonance
Even from the back of this unusual 59mm x 43.4mm oval titanium case, Armin Strom’s Masterpiece Dual Time Resonance looks like no other wristwatch. While on the front you’d see a dual-time display, a 24-hour dial and two oscillators, from the back the view underscores that four barrels power these movements. As they delightfully unwind simultaneously, they become synchronized.
As a result of this resonance, a physical phenomenon, the watch creates a highly stable timekeeping rate that heightens overall precision. Resonance, a technically difficult (and hard to regulate) technique used by only a few other watchmakers, also means the watch is more efficient and is less prone to shock-inflicted error.
Indeed, Armin Strom say that its own laboratory testing has revealed gains in precision of 15-20% for two COSC chronometer-level regulated movements placed in resonance.
Armin Strom says that its Resonant Clutch Spring (which was initially developed for an earlier watch called the Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance) can take up to ten minutes to synchronize the two systems. To further back its claims regarding the technology, the CSEM (Centre Suisse d’Electronique et de Microtechnique) has officially certified Armin Strom’s resonance system based on the clutch spring as being a true system in resonance.
As is evident in this back view, Armin Strom has underscored its technical proficiency with and equally impressive high level of finish on the Caliber 17 ARF bridges and plates.
The Armin Strom Masterpiece 1 Dual Time Resonance, pictured here with a titanium case, is also available with a rose gold and white gold case. Armin Strom has also introduced the watch cased in a clear sapphire case.
Movement: Armin Strom manufacture calibre ARF17 with manual-winding, frequency of 3.5 Hz (25,200 vph), patented resonance clutch spring, dual off-center time indications, 4 mainspring barrels, two independent regulation systems connected by a resonance clutch spring 419 total components, power reserves: 110 hours for each movement,
Case: 59mm x 43.4mm x 15.9mm grade 5 titanium, sapphire crystal and case back with antireflective treatment, water resistance of 50 meters Price: $169,000 (titanium case) to $268,000 (sapphire case)
BackStory: Greubel Forsey QP à Équation
Not long ago, Greubel Forsey debuted a red gold version of its QP à Équation, an exquisite ultra-complicated timepiece with complete perpetual calendar, tourbillon and equation of time function.
The watch, which was awarded the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève award for the best Calendar in 2017, utilizes a type of ‘mechanical computer’ to manage all the changes in the displays.
This ‘computer,’ which is Greubel Forsey’s seventh ‘invention,’ is an entirely integrated twenty-five-part component composed of a stack of cams with movable fingers that shift the indications on the dial and caseback. The month’s cam changes the month (seen on the front of the dial).
But at the same time, different cams within that stack moves the Equation of Time disc, the year indicator and the seasons indication disc on the back, which is the focus of this issue’s Backstory page.
With it color-coded indicators, the Equation of Time display is the most visible of the back displays. . Essentially, the Equation of Time is the conversion factor between solar and mean time. This still rarely made complication seeks to distinguish the difference between solar time and mean time, which can vary from a few seconds to as much as sixteen minutes during the year
Greubel Forsey’s QP à Équation makes these calculations internally. The watchmaker-led construction team created an easy-to-read, color-coded display of the results on the caseback. The red portion shows when the sun is ahead of the solar mean time while the blue means the sun is behind solar mean time.
On the number scale, you see how many minutes the time is behind or ahead. The other colors show the seasons, the months are indicated using letters and two semi-circles show the equinoxes. An also-rare four-digit indicator displays the year.
And finally, if you’re wondering how all these calculations are made, feel free to watch the ‘mechanical computer’ itself, which is visible directly below a sapphire disc.
Case: 43.5mm by 16mm 5N ‘Rose’ Gold
Movement: 36.4 mm by 9.6mm, 624 parts total w/86 tourbillon cage parts, flat black-polished steel tourbillon bridges, 75 olive-domed jewels in gold chatons, two coaxial series-coupled fast-rotating barrels (1 turn in 3.2 hours), 21’600 vibrations/hour, with a power reserve of 72 hours, Phillips terminal curve, Geneva-style stud, nickel silver main plates, frosted and spotted with polished beveling and countersinks, straight-grained flanks, nickel-palladium treatment, 4 engraved gold plates, one with the individual number, synthetic sapphire mechanical computer bridge.
Bulova recently dug deep into its vast design vault and – with the assistance of collectors – emerged last week with the Accutron Legacy collection, twelve limited edition automatic watches that re-imagine eye-catching 1960s and 1970s Accutron designs.
The collection, available now online and in select stores with each design limited to 600 watches, all feature sapphire crystals, a Sellita-based automatic movement and are water resistant to 30 meters. All are priced at less than $1,500.
Most retain what are now unisex sizes, from 34mm to 38.5mm in diameter, and almost all are sold in both silver-tone steel and gold-tone steel cases. While several offer steel or gold-tone bracelets, most echo the era and come with croco-embossed or retro-style leather straps.
Rather than display all the new Accutron Legacy models, here is an edited selection of our favorites.
—Antoine Preziuso (winner in the Craftsmanship, Creation category) for his “systematic approach to mechanical watchmaking in his exceptional creations and his perseverance in developing his brand and his dedication to sharing his passion.”
— Denis Savoye (winner in the History, Research category) “for his exceptional career as a theorist, historian and builder of sundials.”
— Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei (winners in the Entrepreneurship category) for “the pioneering role their company (Urwerk) has played in defining watchmaking in the 21st century watchmaking.
The public ceremony (entry only with prior registration due to the health measures) will take place September 17 at the Musée international d’horlogerie (MIH) in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
The MIH created the Gaïa Prize in 1993 to honor those who have contributed — and who continue to contribute — to the reputation of watchmaking – through its history, its technology and its industry.
In addition to the three award categories, the MIH also presents the Horizon Gaïa, an incentive grant for ongoing work made possible by the Watch Academy Foundation to encourage new talent.
The 2020 Horizon Gaïa incentive grant has been awarded to Zoé Snijders, who is taking her Master’s in Conservation-Restoration for technical, scientific and watchmaking instruments at the Haute École Arc in Neuchâtel. Her knowledge means she will be able to understand a mechanism as complex as the Delvart astronomical clock, an object that combines science with belief, history and watchmaking expertise, and which entered the MIH collections in 2015. Snijders will study the origin, symbolism and operation of the clock, with the aim of raising its profile among the museum’s visitors.
Ulysse Nardin this week launches Blast, the latest of the Le Locle-based watchmaker’s Executive Skeleton X series of open-worked watches that feature distinctive rectangular and X-shaped bridges within a broad, round bezel. The four new 45mm Blast watches accentuate the collection’s see-through X design with a new silicon tourbillon placed within its own X-shaped cage.
With these shape-within-a-shape bridges, the new Blast retains the geometrical focus we’ve seen in recent Ulysse Nardin X models, including the three-horned strap link, a smooth, often colored bezel and the barrel at 12 o’clock.
But the new Blast offers much that differs from previous Skeleton X offerings, especially with its new case architecture and a new tourbillon movement employing Ulysse Nardin’s first-ever micro-rotor.
The new skeletonized UN-172 movement (an evolution of the UN-171), with its silicon escape wheel, anchor and balance spring, powers each of the four Ulysse Nardin Blast watches.
As the first automatic tourbillon within Ulysse Nardin’s Skeleton collection, you’ll find a platinum micro-rotor (visible only from the front of the watch) winding the mainspring, supplying a three-day reserve when fully wound.
Ulysse Nardin has also restyled the lugs, making them more angular and finishing each triangular surface differently. The lug surfaces, polished by laser using a new technique devised by Ulysse Nardin, alternate between polished, satin-finish and sand blasted. The idea, according to Ulysse Nardin, is to mimic “sharp rocks that jut out of a volcano.”
Also new here is a self-deploying, three-blade buckle that releases with a single click. When closing, the system simultaneously pulls both ends of the strap toward the clasp.
Ulysse Nardin is making four distinct Blast models: White, Blue, Black and Rose Gold. Each offers its own set of color or design accents – even within the tourbillon itself. The Black Blast, for example, comes with a ceramic upper middle case and bezel, black rectangular bridge, red and black double “X” pattern and a stunning new red balance wheel – the first time Ulysse Nardin has ever colorized its balance wheel.
Several strap options are available for each model, including structured rubber, leather and velvet.
Bulgari advanced its six-year run of horological record-breaking this week with the new Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic, the sixth ultra-thin watch in as many years claiming ultimate horological thinness.
Measuring a wispy 7.4mm thick, thanks to a 3.5mm thick skeletonized movement and a thin, sandblasted titanium case, the watch now claims the title as the thinnest watch with both a tourbillon and a single-push chronograph.
In addition to this headlining debut from Bulgari’s slate of three debuts at Geneva Watch Days, the Italo-Swiss watchmaker also showed the Gérald Genta Arena Bi-Retrograde Sport, a new model inspired by the famed Gerald Genta Arena design from 1969. Bulgari also debuted the Bulgari Aluminum, another retro-inspired watch based on the very successful aluminum-cased original from 1998.
Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic
This new watch combines features Bulgari has already mastered within an ultra-thin package: an automatic tourbillon (seen in the 2018 Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic) and the chronograph (debuted just last year with the Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic).
Here however Bulgari has transformed the chronograph from a three-subdial layout to a two-counter display, and is now activated, stopped and reset by pressing the top of two rectangular pushers. The lower pusher, at the 4 o’clock location, sets the crown to either allow for hand-winding or for setting the time.
The chronograph subdials are the only real dials here as Bulgari has skeletonized the Caliber BVL388, including the tourbillon’s bridge, exposing more of the movement to the wearer. From the back, the wearer can also enjoy a view of the peripheral rotor Bulgari first added to the Finissimo series in the 2018 Chronograph GMT Automatic.
The new watch’s gold oscillating weight races around a skeletonized BVL388 displaying a horizontal clutch with a column wheel, all of which Bulgari has finished and designed with eye-catching contemporary flair.
Bulgari will make fifty Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph watches, each priced at $142,000.
Gérald Genta Arena Bi-Retrograde Sport
This release is the second of the revived Gerald Genta collection dedicated to its namesake, the premiere watch designer of the past fifty years. You might recall that Bulgari debuted the first commemorative Gerald Genta model last year with the 50th Anniversary platinum Arena bi-retro watch.
That release, first seen in Geneva last year, recalls Bulgari’s acquisition of the Gérald Genta and Daniel Roth brands in 2000, a purchase that has played a significant role in building Bulgari’s haute horlogerie expertise.
Gérald Genta, who died in 2011 at the age of 80, designed many of the icons of modern watch design, including the Universal Genève Polerouter, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the IWC Ingenieur, Cartier’s Pasha, the Omega Constellation, the Bvlgari Bvlgari and the Patek Philippe Nautilus. Many of these designs remain bestsellers for their respective brands.
Like the 2019 Genta release, the 2020 Gérald Genta Arena watch also focuses on the jumping hours display, here framed in titanium instead of the highly polished platinum seen last year. Bulgari places the watch’s characteristic jumping hours in a large window at 12 o’clock while the minutes are tracked on an arc that spans the top half of the matte black dial with brilliant yellow numerals and broad, skeletonized hands.
As with most Genta jumping hour watches of the past, the minute hand travels across the top of the dial, snapping back to zero every sixty minutes. The date is set in a smaller arc at 6 o’clock.
Powered by the BVL 300 Caliber with jumping hours, retrograde minutes (210°) and date (180°), the watch’s bidirectional self-winding movement boasts a 42-hour power reserve and is visible through the clear sapphire case back. Bulgari will match a matte black alligator strap and a titanium buckle with the titanium case.
A surprising hit when it debuted in 1998, the original Bulgari Aluminum was quickly spotted on the wrists of celebrities and collectors alike. Made of rubber and aluminum, a combination not seen among higher-end Swiss watches previously, the watch was casually sporty and worn by men and women.
The new Bulgari Aluminum echoes the original in most respects, from its case and bracelet materials (still aluminum and rubber), its wide, black rubber bezel and its large markers
But for this re-edition, Bulgari has replaced the mechatronic-quartz movement of the earlier model with new automatic movements. Bulgari has placed an ETA-based caliber B77 inside the time-only model and has fit Caliber B130 into the chronograph model.
In addition, Bulgari has reshaped the watch’s lugs to better fit the new 40mm case size, and it has utilized a new aluminum alloy, which Bulgari says is stronger and more resistant to wear than earlier alloys. The rubber quality has also been improved, says Bulgari.
Prices: $2,950 (time only, either dial color), and $4,250 (chronograph)
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic
(Limited edition of 50 pieces.)
Movement: Automatic Bulgari manufacture BVL 388 caliber ultra-thin skeleton with automatic winding, chronograph single-push and tourbillon, (3.50 mm thick). 52 hours power reserve, 21,600 vph (3Hz).
Dial: Solid chronograph subdials within skeletonized movement. Round primary bezel with eight-sided and marked inner bezel.
Case: Stepped eight-sided 42mm sandblasted titanium with transparent caseback; 7.40 mm thick, sandblasted titanium crown and push buttons; skeletonized grey matte dial with plain counters. Water-resistant to 30 meters.
Bracelet: Sandblasted titanium with folding buckle.
Bulgari Gérald Genta Arena Bi-Retrograde Sport
Movement: Manufacture mechanical movement bi-retro BVL300 caliber with automatic winding (bidirectional), jumping hours, retrograde minutes (210°) and date (180°). 42 hours power reserve, 28,800 vph (4Hz). thickness: 6.10mm.
Case: 43mm brushed titanium (12 mm thick), water-resistant to 100 meters;
Dial: Black and anthracite dial with yellow indexes and hands.
Bracelet: Matte black alligator strap with titanium buckle.
Movement: Mechanical ETA-based movement with automatic winding and date, B77 caliber, 42 hours of power reserve.
Case: 40mm aluminum with titanium caseback with DLC treatment and rubber bezel, titanium with DLC treatment crown, water-resistant to 100 meters.
Dial: Warm grey or black with SNL indexes and hands
Bracelet: Rubber with aluminum links, aluminum buckle.
Movement: Automatic chronograph with date, B130 caliber, 42 hours of power reserve.
Case: 40mm aluminum with titanium back case, DLC treatment and rubber bezel, titanium with DLC treatment push buttons and crown
Dial: Warm grey with black counters and SNL indexes and hands, water-resistant to 100 meters.
Bracelet: Rubber with aluminum links, Aluminum buckle.
After the Horological Society of New York appointed its former president Nicholas Manousos to a new position as the Society’s Executive Director (succeeding Edwin Hydeman), and with the addition of actor and horological designer Aldis Hodge as its newest Trustee, we thought it might be a good time to catch up on the latest news from the Society.
Below you’ll find our recent interviews with both Manousos and Hodge.
Nicholas Manousos, Horological Society of New York Executive Director
The necessary cancellation of all our in-person events has definitely been the biggest challenge for HSNY. HSNY has a reputation for holding standing-room-only lectures, sold-out watchmaking classes, and a packed annual gala. Very quickly, COVID-19 made our consistent ability to attract large crowds into a problem.
Our annual Gala & Charity Auction was canceled, as well as our May and June lectures and all of our watchmaking classes. Although our Gala was canceled, HSNY still awarded its Henry B. Fried Scholarships, Howard Robbins Awards, and Working Watchmakers Grants ($155,000 in total).
Even with these difficult cancellations, HSNY remains a resilient organization. Looking back at history gives some context. HSNY was founded in 1866 and has survived through the 1918 flu pandemic, the Great Depression and both World Wars. HSNY will continue to serve watchmakers, clockmakers, and the interested public during the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future.
How has HSNY been keeping in touch with its members?
HSNY has an amazing marketing and Public Relations director (Carolina Navarro) who has been doing a great job communicating with our members and the public, even through the most difficult part of New York’s lockdown. Our monthly newsletter, The Horologist’s Loupe — which began publishing in 1936 and is one of the oldest continuously running horological publications in the world — has continued publishing throughout the pandemic, keeping everyone up to date on HSNY’s activities. HSNY maintains an archive of vintage copies on our website offering a fascinating look back at watchmaking history in New York.
Are the virtual tutoring classes working out for HSNY?
HSNY’s new Virtual Horological Tutoring classes are working out really well! Our instructors are all professional watchmakers who teach for HSNY on a part-time basis, and all of them had their day jobs affected by the lockdown. This left a lot of time for our traditional in-person class curriculum to be adapted to online classes.
The multi-camera setup that the instructors use is impressive. It allows for students to look at the instructors as they explain certain topics and also get a close-up view of the movement as it is being worked on. The Virtual Horological Tutoring classes complement our in-person New York classes and Traveling Education initiative allowing HSNY to reach anyone in the world with an internet connection who wants to learn what makes a mechanical watch tick.
Our instructors are based throughout North America allowing us to accommodate people in different time zones and we even offer courses in French upon request.
Can you tell our readers about the Working Watchmaker’s Grant program?
In April, when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak in New York, I began hearing stories of watchmakers around the country who had been furloughed or lost their jobs, and it made me think about the origins of HSNY. HSNY was founded as a guild by and for watchmakers, similar to what we today call a union. Benefits were offered to help colleagues in times of need, and no one was turned away.
With this in mind, I approached HSNY’s donor network with the idea of giving grants directly to working watchmakers in the U.S. who were negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In just a few days, $100,000 was raised, and the program was announced. In one day, all grants were reserved, and HSNY staff began the large project of issuing one hundred $1,000 checks to working watchmakers.
Today, HSNY has evolved into a non-profit organization that welcomes enthusiasts and collectors, but the spirit of generosity and support of professional watchmakers from our early years is still there. The Working Watchmakers Grant is today’s version of the altruism that led to the founding of the Society in 1866.
Are the newest goals of the HSNY based on necessary evolution?
I think of it more as an accelerated evolution. For example, we had been looking into offering virtual classes and live-streaming lectures for quite a while as we now have members from all corners of the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the timeline for these now very important projects. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, the amount of financial assistance HSNY distributed in 2020 was over five times what it was in 2019 ($155,000 in 2020, versus $30,000 in 2019).
Behind the scenes, HSNY is working on a number of other projects that have also been accelerated due to the pandemic, and I look forward to sharing them with everyone soon.
When do you expect to start scheduling events again?
Luckily, HSNY has only experienced one true month of inactivity. On March 2, we held our last lecture before lockdown with François-Paul Journe and Osama Sendi lecturing on the Phenomenon of Resonance.
I remember that night vividly; it was a great lecture and a good note to pause on as New York entered lockdown later in March. In late April, HSNY started offering its Virtual Horological Tutoring classes and on September 9, our world-famous lecture series will resume in an online format.
As far as in-person events, only time will tell. Not only are we complying with New York City and state guidelines, but we are also seeking our members’ feedback on how they envision HSNY reopening.
Are any HSNY classes nationwide (or worldwide) currently in operation?
No, all in-person classes are on hold for the foreseeable future. New York is doing well with the coronavirus at the moment and its reopening plan is moving forward. We will continue to monitor the situation and will restart our in-person classes only when it is safe.
Our traveling education classes will likely take longer to restart because of travel restrictions in place around the world. Our Virtual Horological Tutoring classes are filling in the gap quite nicely during this time.
What opportunities from HSNY are available to any International Watch reader eager to expand his or her knowledge about horology?
HSNY’s YouTube channel is a great resource for anyone interested in expanding their horological horizons. Our lecture series has been running continuously since 1866, attracting the world’s brightest minds to share their expertise.
For 150 years, the only way to experience a HSNY lecture was to attend in person. In 2016, HSNY started video recording its lectures, and we now have 33 lectures available to watch for free. Lectures cover technical, historical, collecting, business, and cultural topics so there is something for everyone.
What are the benefits of an HSNY membership?
Joining HSNY as a member shows that you care deeply about advancing the art and science of horology. HSNY’s vast membership is what allows our non-profit to offer such a wide range of educational programs and deliver its critical financial assistance every year.
In terms of tangible benefits, all HSNY members receive an exclusive lapel pin. Members also receive priority access to lectures and special events, immediate access to video-recorded lectures, and library access in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.
What have been some of the highlights of your tenure as the President of HSNY, and how does your role now change?
Every year in late March, I make a number of phone calls to watchmaking students across the country to let them know that they have been awarded the Henry B. Fried Scholarship. These phone calls are a definite highlight for me, as I know how difficult it is for students to balance studying and paying their bills.
Every year in the U.S., more watchmakers retire than graduate. HSNY will continue to do everything possible to help watchmaking students, including expanding our financial assistance programs. I also greatly enjoy meeting the lecturers that travel to New York to speak at HSNY. I have learned so much from our world-class speakers, and I am very much looking forward to restarting our lecture series in September (in an online format).
As Executive Director, my responsibilities will now include all of the operational aspects of the organization. This year has been very challenging for the entire watchmaking industry. I am looking forward to meeting those challenges with HSNY, and making a positive contribution to the art and science of horology.
Aldis Hodge, HSNY Trustee
How did you initially learn about the Horological Society of New York?
When I began teaching myself how to design watches at around nineteen years old, I sought every way to self-educate. I started studying the history of horology, which is how I stumbled upon HSNY.
I would fly back and forth to New York City often for work, and whenever I was there I’d try to attend the meetings to learn. I wanted to begin establishing my own connective community within the city so that every time I went there, I’d be able to maintain a constant state of educational growth.
I knew of Nick Manousos and his accomplishments, and as I remember it, I met him at one of the meetings. I approached him really as an admirer of his prior and current work. We kicked up a conversation, which turned into a friendship and the rest is history.
What has your involvement with the Society been up to this point?
I’ve been a proud member of HSNY since 2016. My travel schedule is demanding but luckily requires me to be in New York City often, so I attend lectures whenever possible. I remember the day I received my membership lapel pin and I still wear it proudly today.
How will that change now that you are a Trustee?
Now that I’m a Trustee, I have the opportunity and responsibility to directly impact the Society. I can use my voice to represent HSNY and contribute to its growth. I’m excited about the challenges that lie ahead and I’ve already discussed several of my ideas with the board. I’m determined to accomplish the goals set forth within the time frame of my tenure.
What do you see as the Society’s responsibility to the watchmaking industry?
Education, education, education! As a seasoned designer, I’ve realized that the primary challenge of maintaining the validity of traditional watchmaking is obtained through education.
I love having conversations with people that may spark a newfound interest in horology or a new way to appreciate our artistically mechanical world from a refreshed perspective.
I really enjoy teaching people about ways to understand value and quality regarding the many difficult techniques that we as horologists apply when creating our work. And my joy is equally matched when I get to introduce someone to the world of “independent watchmaking”.
I also see a great opportunity for HSNY’s continued efforts to be a major asset towards the resurgence of American horological manufacturing. This, I would dare to say, is the potential accomplishment I’m most ambitious about being a part of.
My mind overflows with ideas about the jobs and opportunities we could create, the horological wonders we could develop, and the history that we could establish. There was once a time when America was known for great watchmaking and that time has come yet again.
Over the years, I have noticed a recurring pattern with collectors that are new to the vintage watch market. There seems to be a tendency to compulsively buy too many watches at once without clear motivation as to why.
However, it appears that many new collectors who have taken this approach are ready to part with at least half of their new collection only a few months after building it. Perhaps they were attracted to a certain style. Maybe they enjoyed the mystery of discovering something special.
Or maybe they purchased a watch thinking they got a good bargain despite never having seen or heard of the watch before.
I remember meeting a young collector in Paris who wanted to sell his watches. He came to me with bags of timepieces, but he did not really know what he had.
I unfortunately had to let him know that most of his watches were worthless. Out of the one hundred or so timepieces, he only had a few interesting pieces from Croton and Lip.
Of course, this type of collecting can have a serious impact on your wallet. Buying a watch without knowing much about its value ends up being a waste of time and money. It may end up costing you more to fix the watch than it is actually worth. You may not be able to resell the watch for the price you paid for it or worse; you may be unable to sell it at all—even at a loss.
Do your homework
So, how do you start a vintage watch collection? The most important thing to do is to do your homework to build some guidelines. This does not necessarily mean having to spend hundreds of hours researching watches, but at the very least you should invest time into setting some parameters.
For example, define your preferred style. Dressy or sporty? Simple three-handed dial or a more complex chronograph? Stainless steel or gold? Civilian watches or military-issued timepieces? While you may like all of the above, it is always better to start with some restrictions in mind to avoid getting carried away. This approach will narrow your options and give you more focus.
After you have thoughtfully acquired some pieces that fit your initial criteria, then you can expand the parameters.
In terms of estimating the value of a watch, you can always visit websites like eBay and Chrono24 for well-known brands to see what people are asking for. Yet, keep in mind that there is a difference between asking price and market price. Listed prices on eBay are a reflection of what people want to sell the watch for and not necessarily what buyers are willing to pay.
You can choose the “Sold Items” filter to see how much a watch was purchased for. What’s more, you have to also consider commission fees, state taxes, and other dues.
If possible, I always recommend going to flea markets, local watch shows or auction events to have the watch in hand before buying. This approach allows you to inspect the details of the watch and speak to the dealer to ask any questions you may have.
Talking to the seller face-to-face will give you a better sense of how accurately priced the watch is. You learn a lot this way, and most importantly doing this can give you a better feeling of what watches you actually like “in the metal.”
Buying online can be trickier since some websites are full of retouched images and incorrect information. However, if you have no choice but to buy online, then my advice is to only purchase from a domestic seller. Buying internationally is always riskier whether its complications with shipping and customs or sourcing from regions that are known to be flooded with counterfeit products.
I would also advise purchasing watches that are priced at the lower end of the market rather than the higher end. It is easier to come to terms with making a mistake that costs a few hundred dollars over one that costs a few thousand.
Quartz or automatic?
As always, it is all about the details. For instance, new or vintage quartz watches rarely hold their value as well as mechanical watches. There is hardly any interest in quartz watches in the secondary market. You would fare better with a hand-wound or automatic watch. If you purchase a lower-priced quartz watch, the financial loss would not be too great.
Yet, remember that high-end brands like Breitling and Omega sell quartz watches and these battery-operated timepieces lose tremendous value in the pre-owned market.
Even in the mid-range market, you would be better off buying an automatic Invicta watch instead of a quartz one. I have a friend who collects mid-range priced watches and he is very successful. There is a flourishing market for mid-priced watches and they sell quickly. He is well versed in these particular watches and understands their specifications and how they differ from high-end timepieces. As such, I always try to pick his brain and ask his advice when I am about to get one of them.
Another great tool to gain watch knowledge is checking watch forums. There are some very knowledgeable people there that are especially focused on the technical aspects of watchmaking, which can be very helpful. The great thing is that forum members are usually very helpful and willing to share information. Always cross-reference your information with several sources to make sure it is accurate.
When looking at a watch, always start with the basics. I recently saw a watch with chronograph pushers, but the watch had a calendar dial! Obviously, it was a fake.
And sometimes people pretend to know more than they do. A lady contacted me to appraise a watch she bought at a tag sale. Five of her friends told her it was a real Audemars Piguet with a tourbillon.
I had to regretfully inform her that it was not a tourbillon at 6 o’clock, but in fact, a running seconds subdial.
Take your time
In short, educate yourself, ask questions, and take your time. Do not buy on impulse and set a budget for yourself. If you can, see the watch in real life instead of just photos, but if this is not possible, do not be shy to ask for more pictures.
Most importantly, listen to your gut. Keep these tips in mind when building a watch collection and things should go relatively smoothly. Good luck!
Laurent Martinez is the proprietor of Laurent Fine Watches, Greenwich, Connecticut. Read more by him at blog.laurentfinewatches.com or visit his store’s site at www.laurentfinewatches.com
Watches of Switzerland and Grand Seiko invite collectors to check out, online or in-person, the largest collection of Grand Seiko timepieces in the world at an exhibition space on Spring Steet in New York’s Soho neighborhood, just a few blocks from the Watches of Switzerland Soho boutique.
The gallery, at 119 Spring Street, displays all Grand Seiko boutique collections, including the recently released Watches of Switzerland exclusive Toge Special Edition GMT, the complete Grand Seiko Nature of Time Collection, limited edition sixtieth anniversary pieces, and – in a U.S. exclusive – rare Grand Seiko watches made exclusively for the Japan market. All watches showcased at The Nature of Time Experience are available for purchase.
With special high-tech exhibits, the Nature of Time Experience will offer visitors the chance to learn how Grand Seiko designs and manufactures its mechanical, quartz, and Spring Drive movements.
“We’re extremely proud to open The Nature of Time Experience for Grand Seiko clients and all watch enthusiasts in the heart of New York City,” says Brice Le Troadec, president of Grand Seiko Corporation of America. “We are passionate about ‘redefining retail’ by creating this immersive, personalized, and safe experience for the watch collecting community.”
Grand Seiko explains that it designed the Nature of Time Experience to recall “the fleeting beauty of the “sakura” cherry blossoms. Based on the ancient Japanese philosophy of mono no aware – appreciate the beauty of ephemeral things – sakura season inspires celebration as well as contemplation.“
Later this summer visitors will also be able to visit a bar at the exhibit called the Takumi Lounge, which Grand Seiko designed in true Ginza-style.
The exhibit space is located at 119 Spring Street in SoHo and is open through the end of September. The Nature of Time Experience is open to walk-in visitors, but reservations are highly encouraged due to limited capacity. Masks and social distancing will be required.
I would like to share a hopeful story with you about an American Master Watchmaker working to achieve his lifelong dream.
For the past forty-five years, Don Loke has enjoyed a long and successful career as a professional master watchmaker and most recently has launched D Loke, his eponymous bespoke watch collection.
Loke’s deep watchmaking training and industry history has prepared him well for this most recent venture.
Don Loke graduated in 1978 from the Bowman Technical School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and then worked with a master watchmaker in Meriden, Connecticut.
After this experience, he went back to Bowman and took clock making courses to finally finish in 1984. After Lancaster, Loke attended WOSTEP, the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program, in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, where he graduated first in his class.
Learning from Masters
While he was at school he met Michel Parmigiani and Philippe Dufour—two master watchmakers and renowned personalities in the Swiss luxury watch industry.
This was just the beginning. Post-graduation, he was invited by Breguet and Jaeger-LeCoultre for training in Switzerland and became the official after-sale person for Breguet in the U.S. when it was still owned by Chaumet. He also worked for two years with Master Watchmaker Dennis Harmon, in Waterbury, Connecticut, after which he became Technical Director of movement maker ETA for the American market. Loke soon joined UTAC Americas (which distributed Audemars Piguet, Breguet, Bertolucci, and Girard-Perregaux) as its technical director.
During this time, Loke also learned from Master Watchmaker Daniel Roth in Switzerland, who taught him the ins-and-outs of the highly complex tourbillon mechanism. By the mid-1990s, Loke worked with prominent companies such as Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Gerald Genta, and Daniel Roth.
When Loke found out that Michel Parmigiani was striking out on his own, Loke reached out to his old friend and eventually became the U.S. representative for Parmigiani Fleurier for more than six years. Don even interacted with legendary horologist George Daniels, discussing his new escapement and the double-wheel escapement Loke eventually developed. After seven years, he turned the escapement into a Solidworks program.
When Don Loke is not working on his own bespoke projects, he services incredible watches, ranging from minute repeaters to chronographs. He also restores intricate timepieces that require special attention, recreating parts from scratch to make identical versions of the original components. At the same time, he currently is in charge of the North American Service Center for Louis Moinet—a brand that makes exceptional watches that range between $80,000 and $350,000.
As you can see, Loke’s specialty is working on high-complication timepieces and his passion for watches and watchmaking has only augmented over the decades.
Own brand: D Loke
After all these years of dedicating his time to other brands and watches, Don Loke recently began to make eponymous bespoke watches. He established two shops. One is the “clean room” to house machinery for fine turnings, cuttings, wheel making, and pinion producing. He has a microscope for measuring, a guilloché machine with forty-two discs for dial decorating, and an oven for enameling.
This room is also where Don Loke stores his sketches, drawing, layouts, and 3D modeling. The other is the “dirty room” for more heavy type work. Prototyping takes place at his shops and production models are executed with CNC technology.
The first D Loke watch model is a chronograph dress watch—an idea Don Loke stored in the back of his mind for decades—where the chronograph pushers are hidden from sight.
Inside the 5 ATM water-resistant titanium case is a dial with asymmetric sub-dials and ornately cut center hands resembling blades. The rich blue details on the dial change color depending on the light, and there’s a crown at 9 o’clock to rotate the inner timing bezel.
The limited edition D Loke dress chronographs run on chronometer-rated Concepto calibers, a hybrid Swiss movement based on the ETA Valjoux 7750.
The watches took six months from design to manufacturing, and while the watch is made in Switzerland, the quality control and finishing are done in the U.S. There are twenty-five examples of the white-dial version, twenty-five examples of the white dial (with a blue bezel) version, and 300 examples of the blue dial version.
Although the watches are currently only available for purchase directly from Don Loke, his goal is to be in stores like Manfredi Jewels or Betteridge.
Loke is already working on his second watch model and is currently completing the prototype of a new lever escapement. At the heart of the watch will be a 100% proprietary movement, based on Don Loke’s design and technical drawings – his very own invention.
Loke says he will source handmade gold dials from J.N. Shapiro in California. As a result, this will be a handmade watch made entirely in the United States. Don expects to manufacture five prototypes in the first year and he will become the first American watchmaker to make his own high-end watch powered by his own movement. The aim is to present this timepiece to the U.S. market by the end of 2020 with a price tag of $65,000 to $75,000.
The third D Loke watch model will be a model with a double pivoted and spring detente escapement—invented by Don Loke based on conversations he had with George Daniels.
Yet again, this is his invention, with designs and technical drawings built from scratch. With already twenty-five orders in the books for this upcoming watch model, the American market should see it by the second quarter of 2021 with a price tag of $175,000.
Ultimately, it is Don’s dream to have his own watch on his wrist. Another goal of his is to bring his three children into the business. All are highly skilled engineers.
With all of these ideas and designs, including a future tourbillon piece, Loke is going to need plenty of talent and skill.
I love this spirit of entrepreneurship, and I wish Don Loke the very best and abundant success with his new company. Stay tuned for the end of the year when he unveils his new watches.
Laurent Martinez is the proprietor of Laurent Fine Watches Greenwich, Connecticut. Read more by him at blog.laurentfinewatches.com (where this article first appeared) or visit his store’s site at www.laurentfinewatches.com