The Mr. Roboto from Azimuth is one of my favorite watches. Essentially this watch is the reason I fell in love with the brand in the first place.
Over the past twenty years, Azimuth has really established itself as a big player on the horological landscape. In particular the Azimuth avant-garde SP-1 collections have gained enormous critical acclaim. For this reason the brand has become synonymous for exceptional design and Swiss quality normally associated with more expensive watchmakers.
In fact it’s fair to say their progressive approach to watchmaking has led the pathway for many micro brands.
Over the last few years, I’ve frequently communicated with Chris Long and got to learn what makes him tick. As a brand owner, you can essentially invent a title and Chris playfully describes himself as the Chief Product Visionary. This perpetuates his approach to watchmaking, which is mainly inspired by childhood fantasies.
Ultimately this was the catalyst for iconic creations like Mr. Roboto that pay homage to the Golden Robot of the 1950s. The Mark I variant was originally released in 2008 and measures 42.6mm x 49.5mm. For the price, there was nothing comparable at the time and it instantly became collectable with watch enthusiasts.
What originally impressed me about the original Mr. Roboto was the meticulous attention to detail. This watch has a sophisticated geometry and several bespoke sapphire crystal windows. The eyes display the hours (left), and GMT/second-time zone (right), with his red triangular nose featuring seconds and minutes in a retrograde format.
Certainly, in 2008 it was an ambitious project for a small independent brand. However, for Chris Long, this became a perfect springboard.
In 2016 Azimuth took on another partner, Giuseppe Picchi, who now runs the technical side of the operation from Neuchatel in Switzerland. This allowed the brand to experiment with more sophisticated designs and build on a solid reputation.
In 2017 Azimuth unveiled the Mr. Roboto R2, which is a larger more muscular version of the original. The primary objective was to give the watch an ‘Haute Horlogerie’ aesthetic similar to MB&F and Urwerk.
In my opinion, they were very successful and this is an exceptionally fine watch. However, interestingly Long revisited the original version to create several limited editions constructed from bronze.
Notable highlights include the Mr. Roboto Bronzo Artist Series, a collection of unique 1/1 pieces. These feature hand-engraved bezels inspired by steampunk, bitcoin and motorcycle themes.
For those that prefer a natural finish there was also a 100-piece limited edition Mr Roboto Bronzo that’s long sold out.
Recently Chris Long informed me of a very special 43mm x 50mm sapphire crystal model, which will be limited to twenty pieces worldwide (to commemorate Azimuth’s 20th anniversary). Certainly, it’s the most exclusive model they’ve created to date and visually the boldest.
Not surprisingly Azimuth will be entering this masterpiece for a prestigious Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève award.
Personally, I feel it’s a perfect recipient for this type of accolade and maybe a natural conclusion to Mr. Roboto’s story.
Watches of Switzerland will host an exhibition the 2022 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) award-winning watches for three days at its New York SoHo location at 60 Greene Street.
The exhibition will be open to the public starting Friday, December 2 through Sunday, December 4.
Watches of Switzerland says it will host the tour to promote the art of watchmaking.
Often called the Oscars of the watch industry, the GPHG has previously honored the year’s winners at locations in Dubai, London, Moscow, Paris, Singapore, and Vienna. The upcoming exhibition at Watches of Switzerland marks the first such exhibition in New York.
MB&F won the grand prize at the 2022 Grand Prix D’Horlogerie De Geneve (GPHG) with its Legacy Machine Sequential Evo. The pioneering independent watchmaker also took home the Challenge Watch prize with its M.A.D.1 Red.
Hermès also took two awards, winning both the Ladies’ Complication and the Men’s Complication categories for the same model family in different sizes and iterations.
Similarly, Bulgari won in both the Jewellery Watch and the Audacity categories, while Van Cleef & Arpels took the prize in the Mechanical Clock and the Innovation categories.
The remaining GPHG trophies were awarded to Akrivia, Grand Seiko, Ferdinand Berthoud, Grönefeld, H. Moser & Cie, Krayon, M.A.D. Editions, Parmigiani Fleurier, Sylvain Pinaud, TAG Heuer, Trilobe, Tudor and Voutilainen.
The Special Jury Prize, which rewards a key figure or institution in the watchmaking world, was attributed this year to François Junod, automaton-maker and sculptor.
H. Moser & Cie combines two of its trademark minimalist components into one of its best-known collections to create the new red gold Streamliner Tourbillon Vantablack, which is also the first non-steel model within the award-winningStreamliner collection.
For this debut, the Schaffhausen-based independent watchmaker places its highly efficient, dual-hairspring automatic HMC 804 one-minute flying tourbillon caliber beneath a Vantablack dial, a design that features high-tech Vantablack, an ultra-black coating that absorbs more than 99 percent of all light.
The resulting ‘black hole’ dial beautifully contrasts with the finely wrought tourbillon at the 6 o’clock position, all framed by the Streamliner’s striking, Deco-influence cushion-shaped 5N red gold case.
H. Moser has created at least two Vantablack dials for watches in its Streamliner case. You might recall that H. Moser presented what may have been a precursor to this model with the steel-cased Streamliner Tourbillon with a Vantablack dial for the 2021 Only Watch charity auction. H. Moser also displayed a non-tourbillon iteration earlier this year at Watches and Wonders in Geneva when it displayed a one-off Streamliner ‘stealth concept’ watch.
Here H. Moser & Cie. carefully enhances a sharp black/gold contrast by fixing the dial’s red gold indexes from the back of the dial so that they appear or disappear against the Vantablack. All this is framed by a case that H. Moser finishes with vertical brushing alternating with polished lines — an effect mirrored along the fully integrated red gold bracelet.As noted, H. Moser’s automatic HMC 804 caliber powers the watch and is equipped with a double hairspring made by H. Moser & Cie.’s sister company Precision Engineering AG. This component, just one of many technical highlights found throughout H. Moser’s designs, reduces friction and improves the movement’s accuracy and isochronism. (See below for full specifications.) Price: $119,900.
Specifications: H. Moser & Cie Streamliner Tourbillon Vantablack
Movement:HMC 804 automatic Manufacture caliber, frequency of 21,600 vibrations/hour, automatic bi-directional pawl winding system, oscillating weight in 18-karat red gold with engraved H. Moser & Cie. logo, power reserve of three days, original double hairspring, one-minute flying tourbillon at 6 o’clock with skeletonized bridges.
Case: 40mm by 12.1mm 5N red gold topped by a slightly domed sapphire crystal, screw-in crown adorned with an engraved M, see-through sapphire crystal case-back, water-resistant to 120 meters.
Dial: Vantablack,hour and minute hands with Globolight inserts, indices secured from the back of the dial using a plate.
Bracelet: Integrated in 5N red gold, folding clasp with three blades in 5N red gold, engraved with the Moser logo.
Earlier this summer, Zenith hosted collectors and enthusiasts at its Master of Chronographs exhibition in New York. During the special three-day pop-up exhibit and watchmaking clinic, the Swiss watchmaker hosted hands-on demonstrations of chronograph movements and displayed a room full of historical Zenith chronographs.
We spoke with Zenith CEO Julien Tornare during the event to learn more about the purpose of the exhibit. His responses are below.
IW: What do you hope people will learn about Zenith when they see this exhibition?
Julien Tornare: If they know about Zenith, then they probably already know about the El Primero. But they may not know about our history before 1969. My objective is to show that starting from the end of the 19th-Century the race for precision and chronometry began. That’s how we got to the El Primero.
In the 1960s we did not wake up and suddenly decide we were going to make super precise integrated chronographs. No. This started much earlier in the minds of our watchmakers.
This exhibit is to show existence of our heritage and where we got to where we are today.
At the turn-of-the-century, the only argument for the best watches focused on the most precise. In those days precision not only meant accuracy but also security. Sometimes it was a question of life or death, for example in an airplane or in a train it was very important to be precise.
There was no digital backup or satellite at that time. That was the ultimate proof of quality. Zenith has won with so many chronometry prizes, 2,333, out of which 233 or ten percent, were won by the Caliber 135.
Today most clients aren’t going to check the super precision of their watches. During those years this was key and Zenith was the leader. In this exhibition we display this point clearly.
I wish we had more of these. This is unique. When we started the project we begin talking about the commercial versions of the Caliber 135. But the extra-specialized versions of that caliber, which were made strictly for racing contests, will never be done again.
We have only a limited quantity of those. We use these to get them on people’s wrists because we believe this is the best testimony to our incredible past achievements. The remaining pieces we will keep in our museum. All of the recent debut pieces are already sold out.
We will however have one more unique piece later this year with a different material, and a different dial, also by Kari Voutilainen. Phillips will auction that piece at the end of the year.
Many people wrote to me to obtain one of the ten limited-edition pieces. I told them you still have a chance when this piece comes to auction later this year.
Have the Skyline and new Chronomaster debuts met with your sales expectations in stores?
This is a fantastic program, one of the most exciting projects we have started. It is more than a project, it is happening. But we don’t produce those watches so we have to look for them and acquire them. The main challenge is the sourcing. Most of the time we have to find their watches and go to acquire them.
Last year, we acquired between twenty-five and thirty watches and ninety percent of those sold out. So if you go to one of the five Zenith boutiques today where we have these icons, you will see a few, but many of them are empty. Sold out.
We cannot produce these, so this is a great concept but we need to acquire more of the pieces. We are fully prepared with the restoration capabilities.
What are collectors looking for among the vintage Zenith pieces?
They are looking for a nice vintage watch that they know it is fully guaranteed and restored and certified by the brand. Many of them have purchased a vintage watch at auctions in the past. Or they bought them on other resale sites.
And when they receive their watch, it was not working properly. Or they realize much later that some of the parts in those watches are not genuine.
So we thought why not guarantee that you were getting something fully perfect. I’m not excited as much about the revenue from this project, but more about the concept and the message we give to our clients.
What is that message?
The message is that Zenith does commit. We will restore and repair every single watch since day one. You know there are some brands that just will not repair their own watches after twenty or thirty years. I don’t want to do that. I want to be sure that if anybody buys our watches, old or new, we can always restore them.
That is a strong message. The inspiration is there. When one of our employees is wearing an A386 from 1969, and we want to sell a new Chronomaster Original, the speech is right there. Just the presence of the vintage pieces in the stores will help sell the new pieces.
Are the late 1960s pieces currently most in demand among the vintage items?
Yes, primarily the A386, A385, A384. We are just starting to see interest in some of the vintage Defy pieces. The A277, the earlier Chronomaster Sports.
Next year we will begin the new generation of pilot watches, so I expect vintage pilot watches to also come back in demand.
Why should a watch collector today choose a new Zenith Watch?
When you buy a Zenith you buy three things. You’ve buying a brand that has a strong heritage. And when you get to know the brand, our history is so rich. This is a very important and it speaks to our legitimacy.
Second, look at our authenticity. At Zenith I can tell you that all of our stories are authentic. There are other brands that are successful commercially based on good marketing. Do you want to buy a marketing story or a true story?
Finally, we express our history in a very contemporary manner. We have, for example, the big Defy Extreme but also the Caliber 135, which is super elegant and decorated by Kari Voutilainen. We can do both of these things. We have the heritage, we focus on authenticity – and we exist in the 21st-century.