Ten years after debuting its first Legacy Machine, ground-breaking independent watchmaker MB&F debuts LMX, a new dual-dial Legacy Machine that echoes the premiere Legacy Machine, but with new dial angles, a dual-display power reserve indicator and updated precision.
Like the first MB&F Legacy Machine, the new LMX also features two white lacquer dials displaying hours and minutes in two different time zones. But where those dials were flat on that first model, the two white dials on the new LMX are tilted at an angle, much like dials we’ve seen on the MB&F LM Flying T and LM Thunderdome. This meant MB&F needed to add conical gearing to the movement in order to transfer the energy from the horizontal movement to the tilted dials.
Where the first Legacy Machine featured a somewhat traditional dial plate, the new LMX shows off its battle-axe-shaped escapement bridge and components of the gear train. Specifically, MB&F exposes three large wheels, namely the two gears that rotate when setting each dial, plus the gear at 6 o’clock, which is the common seconds wheel.
New power indicator
Also new is a much more complex power reserve indicator. While the first Legacy Machine itself broke new ground with a three-dimensional power reserve display, the LMX offers a nod to that debut with a three-dimensional, hemispherical display that is also customizable.
The wearer can select between two modes of counting down the power reserve. MB&F places two markers on opposite sides of the hemisphere. One features a scale numbered from one day to seven days, and the other scale shows the days of the week.
The new display, likely the first of its kind on a wristwatch, allows wearers to choose their preferred mode of power-reserve indication.
Finally, MB&F has built a new balance wheel for the LMX. The exposed balance, hanging from arched titanium bridges, is for many the primary characteristic of the first Legacy Machine and is repeated throughout the decade-long Legacy Machine lineage. MB&F has built a new balance wheel measuring 13.4mm in diameter with inertia blocks rather than more traditional screwed balances. MB&F explains that this choice “offers greater accuracy to the watchmaker in regulating the heart of LMX.”
MB&F is offering the new LMX in two limited launch editions:
– Eighteen pieces in red gold with black NAC treatment on plates and bridges ($128,000);
– Thirty-three pieces in titanium with green CVD treatment on plates and bridges ($112,000).
Specifications: MB&F LMX
Movement: MB&F three-dimensional manual winding with three mainspring barrels. Power reserve of 7 days (168 hours), new 13.4mm balance wheel with inertia blocks floating above the movement. Balance spring is traditional Breguet curve terminating in mobile stud holder; balance frequency is 18,000bph (2.5Hz), gold chatons with diamond countersinks, superlative hand finishing throughout respecting 19th century style; internal bevel angles highlighting hand craft; polished bevels; Geneva waves; hand-made engravings; polished arms of the straight bridges exposed on the dial plate, manually finished to a curved “bercé” profile on their upper surfaces.
Dial: Completely independent dual time zones displayed on two dials. Unique hemispherical power reserve with choice of weekday or 7-day indication; rotates to adjust the preferred power reserve indication. Left crown at 10 o’clock for setting time of left dial; right crown at 2 o’clock for setting time of right dial and winding.
Case: 44 mm wide x 21.4 mm in two launch editions: 18-karat 5N+ red gold case limited to 18 pieces or grade-5 titanium case limited to 33 pieces. High domed sapphire crystal on top and sapphire crystal on back with anti-reflective coating on both sides.
Strap: Black hand-stitched alligator strap with 5N+ gold folding buckle for red gold version, and grey hand-stitched alligator strap with titanium folding buckle for titanium edition.
With this week’s debut, the DB28XP Meteorite, De Bethune has underscored its fascination – and expertise – at using material hewn from meteorites as watch dials.
The independent watchmaker has placed the extraterrestrial material into several of its watches over the years, including as the dial material for the brand’s Dream Watch 5 Meteorite and on the DB28 Kind of Blue Tourbillon Meteorite. This latest example highlights the eye-catching dial by framing it with the well-known ‘floating lug’ De Bethune DB28 case, now dramatically finished in matte black zirconium.
De Bethune differentiates its meteorite dials from others by heating the space-borne slice, a process that results in a spectacular blue shade while also enhancing the material’s random geometrical crosshatched patterns.
As the newest example of this technique, the dial on the new DB28XP Meteorite mimics its own celestial origins, complete with varying shades of blue, black and even purple. De Bethune takes full advantage of the scene by adding small white gold pins that appear as stars and planets amid the celestial void.
With this ‘sky map’ in mind, De Bethune will allow each DB28XP Meteorite owner to choose to have the brand customize their watch’s dial by specifying a constellation at a specific date, time and place.
Each customized dial will be placed within the DB28XP case, which here remains 43mm in diameter with its familiar round, ultra-thin crown at 12 o’clock, its hunter-type back and, of course, those dramatic architectural lugs.
The dial’s hour circle echoes the darkened case and is topped by an almost hidden De Bethune signature at 12 o’clock. The watch’s pink gold hands are identical to those on the De Bethune DB28XP Starry Sky dial.
With distinctively terrestrial origins, De Bethune’s own Caliber DB2115v7 represents its own mechanical universe. The manual-wind caliber, with its balance visible at the 6 o’clock position, is built with De Bethune’s well-known, award-winning technical proficiency.
Among those proprietary techniques: the use of a titanium balance with white gold weights placed around the rim, a silicon balance wheel, an in-house balance spring with a flat terminal curve and self-regulating twin barrels that ensure six days of power reserve.
Price: $138,000. De Bethune will make ten examples of the new DB28XP Meteorite.
Chronoswiss refreshes the skeletonized Opus Chronograph, one of the Lucerne-based watchmaker’s best-known watches, with new colors and finishes. The new version, dubbed Opus Chronograph Flag due to its red, white and blue colors, spotlights recent technical upgrades that include stronger water resistance, shorter lugs and superior anti-glare treatment.
First seen in 1995, the Opus Chronograph quickly became a favorite of skeleton watch fans. Chronoswiss notes that it was among the first watchmakers to utilize the then-new pantograph technique for cutting skeleton components when it created the watch’s signature mix of finely cut, filigreed bridges topped with clearly marked subdial perimeters.
The pantograph technique requires the manufacturer to create an oversized depiction of the movement. Then, computer–assisted machinery follows a steel finger along the pattern while a mechanical arm guides the tool that mills the movement’s components, essentially skeletonizing them.
Underneath the newest Opus Chronograph’s blue and white subdial perimeters you’ll see the eye-catching blackened, galvanic-finished bridges of the Chronoswiss Caliber C.741S movement, which Chronoswiss creates using an ETA Valjoux 7750 base. The chronograph hands (center seconds, 30-minute counter and 12-hour counter) are red.
As noted, this newest Opus, which initially debuted last year, allows the wearer to view the skeletonizing clearer than before now that the watch’s curved sapphire crystal is treated with anti-reflection treatment on both sides.
Chronoswiss finishes with watch with a satin-brushed case band, polished lugs and the knurled bezel and large onion crown well known to the brand’s fans. Water resistance has also been improved, and now protects to 100 meters. Price: $11,400.
Movement: Automatic Chronoswiss Caliber C.741S from ETA Valjoux 7750 base, skeletonized and CVD-plated blue rotor with Côtes de Genève, ball bearings; polished pallet lever, escape wheel and screws, 28,800 vph, 46-hour power reserve, skeletonized bridges and base plate with perlage, galvanic black color.
Dial: Skeletonized, galvanic blue and silver, sweep hours and minutes, seconds, analogue date, red sweep chronograph seconds, 30-minute counter and 12-hour counter. Hands are lacquered and curved with minute hand bent by hand.
Case: 41mm by 14.8mm 23-piece solid-stainless steel with satin finish and polished, bezel with partial knurling and curved, double coated anti-reflective sapphire crystal, screw-down case back with satin finish and sapphire crystal, onion crown, water resistance to 100 meters, screw-in lugs with patented Autobloc system.
Bracelet:Louisiana alligator leather, hand-sewn with folding clasp.
Curtis Australia is perhaps best known for its bespoke jewelry and finely crafted writing instruments. But the Melbourne-based company has also been producing watches for more than a decade as yet another expression of its artisanal expertise and as an homage to founder Glenn Curtis’s generations-long lineage in watchmaking.
“My grandfather passed on his watchmaking and jewelry tools to me, and some of these tools were in turn his father’s, as were some of the [jewelry] production methods he taught me,” says Curtis. His company’s new Motima automatic models (the name is a loose portmanteau of “motor” and “time”) benefits from the same jeweler’s approach to watchmaking as the company’s earlier collections for men and women.
The new Motima Perpetual offers some notable diversity from Curtis Australia, which has previously focused primarily on jewelry-oriented models powered by quartz movements. The company makes its own gold cases and bracelets as well as the crowns and even the gold screws that affix the caseback to the custom-engraved rotor.
“We design everything here in Australia,” adds Curtis. “We then make prototypes of all these parts in house. By creating all the prototypes ourselves we ensure that the look, the balance and comfort are as we envisaged. We can also make adjustments and improvements as we go, resulting in a more efficient and seamless timeline from concept to finished watch.”
Made in Australia
Motima’s 9-karat rose, yellow or white gold 43mm octagonal cases are forged at over 1,080 degrees Celsius, and each is formed, hand finished, polished and assembled at the Curtis Australia atelier. The Motima’s three-step screw-down crown is 9-karat gold, as are the case screws, and the watch’s bezel is stainless steel set with a diamond set in gold above 12 o’clock.
“We concentrate our focus on the areas we are experts in—the metal parts, like bezels, casebacks, case screws, catches and screw-down crowns,” says Curtis, adding that other parts, like the dials, are outsourced.
The customized self-winding Sellita movement, visible via the sapphire crystal on the caseback, features 42 hours of power reserve and 25 jewels, and it operates at 28,000vph. The rotor is engraved with the Curtis logo.
The 43mm Motima collection includes models with blue, red or black sunray-finish dials, all of which display Roman numerals at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock and a date window at 3 o’clock. A red seconds hand traverses the blue and black textured dials, while a gold-finished seconds hand offers contrast on the red-dial model. The baton-style hour and minute hands have unobtrusive luminous accents running their lengths.
Curtis Australia fits its Motima is fitted on a leather strap or on a two-tone or solid gold bracelet. As noted, the manufacturer crafts the 18-karat or 9-karat gold bracelets in-house.
Price: $11,400 on leather strap or two-tone bracelet; $29,800 on 9-karat gold bracelet; bespoke 18-karat gold versions, price upon request.
Specifications: Curtis Australia Motima
Movement: Automatic Sellita with 42-hours power reserve and engraved rotor, visible through sapphire back.
Case: In-house octagonal-shaped 43mm solid 9-karat white, yellow or rose gold with steel caseback, sapphire crystal front and back, with engraved rotor. Screw-down gold crown.
Dial: Black, red or blue with gold-finished hands topped with luminous material. Diamond at top of dial.
Bracelet: In-house karat gold, steel or leather strap.
Prices: $11,400 (strap or two-tone bracelet). $29,800 (9-karat gold case and bracelet). Upon request for 18-karat gold case/bracelet.
Collectors already know the German-based Meistersinger for its unusual focus on one-handed time displays. But quite frequently the company underscores its rebellious nature with displays and dials that delight the eye with edgy contemporary designs, bold indicators and bright colors.
One such design, the Meistersinger Astroscope, indicates the weekdays quite unlike any other watch. Rather than highlighting each day within a traditional aperture or around the dial in their expected calendar order, the Astroscope denotes the days with a series of bright white dots next to both the abbreviation and celestial symbol. Even more unusually, the days are arranged in an apparently random pattern across the dial, from the 9 o’clock position to the 3 o’clock position.
This week, Meistersinger launches a new limited edition Astroscope, now offered with a bright orange strap that matches newly orange, luminous markers.
Myths and planets
Meistersinger explains that the Astroscope’s weekday celestial symbols are derived from ancient mythology, which don’t follow the current calendar.
The method most likely dates back to the Babylonians, who connected the days to seven celestial bodies: The Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn.
Meistersinger spreads the days across the dial as if along the horizon, with Monday at the top of the sky. Meistersinger then displays the appropriate celestial bodies and classical symbols next to the day, all of which seem to wander to and fro. The daily dots, imprinted on a rotating disc below the dial, ‘jump’ across the dial rather than appear in traditional calendar order.
Thus, the week’s displays begin on Monday with a white dot at 12 o’clock (next to the moon symbol), followed the next day just to the left at the Mars symbol. On Wednesday the day dot appears next to Mercury near 9 o’clock. And so on.
Apparently there is a pattern here, according to the brand. It has placed the seven day apertures in a layout that mimics a constellation only seen every ten to twelve years in the southern night sky of the northern hemisphere. Meistersinger doesn’t name the constellation.
The unusual day display, as well as the single-hand time indicator and the date display, are powered by an automatic Sellita movement, which Meistersinger displays through a sapphire caseback.
Meistersinger debuted the 40mm steel-cased Astroscope last year with a black or blue dial and white luminous markers. As noted, this newest edition, limited to 100 units, glows with orange markers and symbols atop a dégradé black dial. Even the calfskin strap is orange, nicely matching the dial accents.
In the world of watches, becoming a senior executive and department head at a prestigious auction house is one of the most rewarding positions to get. It is often regarded as a dream job that many want but few can attain. As expected, it’s a position that requires plenty of work, expertise and human skills.
I have had the privilege to meet and interview someone who is in this position: Richard Lopez, SVP, Senior Specialist, and Head of Online Sales at Sotheby’s.
Richard’s approachable demeanor and friendly smile are a clear indication that he loves his job and appreciates all the vintage and contemporary watches that surround him day-to-day.
When I asked Richard how he found himself in the watch business, he told me that he thought he would be an architect. But as is often the case, life had a different path for him. When Richard was an architecture student more than twenty years ago, he was looking for a job for a little extra pocket money.
One day, he passed by the famed Betteridge watch and jewelry boutique in Greenwich, Connecticut, where he saw a trainer teaching the staff how to use special software for engraving. He quickly realized that the software was very similar to the CAD programs that he used for architecture. After showing the Betteridge team that he could engrave a piece in a couple of minutes, he became the in-house engraver—and eventually added polishing to his duties.
Once Richard began learning how to solder and started training as a jeweler, he decided to take a break from school. After a handful of years as a bench jeweler at Betteridge, he switched roles to become the company’s watch repairs coordinator. Not only did he discover a wide variety of timepieces, ranging from quartz to grand complications, during this period but he also had the opportunity to learn from Swiss-trained watchmakers as part of his job. Lopez ultimately fell in love with watches and watchmaking.
After climbing the ranks at Betteridge, Lopez joined Christie’s as a watch specialist and online retail manager. Not long after he joined, the online Christie’s Watch Shop made its debut, which marked a major step in the company’s e-commerce strategy. Lopez’s foray into the auction house market gave him even greater access to extraordinary vintage and modern timepieces, and permitted him to hone his skills in the realm of luxury e-commerce.
Today, Lopez is head of online sales and a senior watch specialist at Sotheby’s and he is based in New York. It is a role that he took on earlier in 2020, a pivotal time for online sales due to the global pandemic.
Like most other industries, auction houses are shifting focus from live events to online channels. Since Sotheby’s will only host in-person auctions twice a year (June and December) for the foreseeable future, Lopez is responsible for launching weekly and monthly online auctions to make up for the current restrictions.
Additionally, he also has to organize lots for the two in-person auctions by curating, qualifying, and authenticating timepieces. Along with his team in the New York office, which also covers the East Coast of the U.S., Canada, and Latin America, there is the Los Angeles team. Most of the timepieces are sourced from private clients and a few dealers.
Lopez’s experience as a jeweler and in watch repair prepared him for his current role. It takes a certain type of hands-on experience to understand the nuances of vintage timepieces, particularly if information about a specific watch is not readily available from the manufacturers.
For instance, with vintage Rolex Daytona “Paul Newman” watches, it’s important to remember that Rolex has never disclosed how many were made, how many versions there are, and the exact years they each version was produced. Unlike some other watchmakers, Rolex does not offer any type of archival or authentication services, so it is up to collectors, scholars, and professional experts like Lopez to investigate, study, and compile the information.
Only with a great understanding of the watch at hand and the current market condition can an appropriate price estimate be given to the client looking to auction his or her timepiece.
Given the current times we are living in, Sotheby’s has decided to lean towards an online platform since the reach is vastly wider than the classic auction catalog. In addition to generating more traffic, an online platform provides plenty of data, such as how many clicks per page and which models have been viewed the most.
This type of information can then be analyzed to predict customer needs and potential trends. For a long time, auction houses never thought that they could convince a large number of buyers to buy expensive fine watches online. It was always understood that potential buyers had to see the watches “in the metal” before even considering placing a bid.
But that is no longer the case—seasoned collectors are happy to purchase online as long as the accompanying pictures and information are clear enough to tell the full story. Clients are also more comfortable if there is an easy return policy and if the watch is being sold by a renowned name like Sotheby’s. To further protect its clients, Sotheby’s always provides detailed condition reports and authenticity guarantees with each watch available for auction.
Having a team that truly understands how to navigate the online luxury business is one of Sotheby’s greatest assets. Plus, the team’s ability to make quick adjustments during all the uncertainties that COVID brought about, such as working remotely while still in full control of consignments and sales, allowed Sotheby’s to execute more than twenty online events in the summer compared to some competitors that could only complete a fraction of those numbers.
Sotheby’s weekly online watch auctions list around fifteen to twenty lots for bidding while monthly online sales can reach 200 timepieces in the mid to high-end watch segment.
The two annual in-person events are where Sotheby’s showcases incredible grail watches that command attention from collectors across the globe. These auctions will maintain the customary format of a preview of the watches available at Sotheby’s, followed by an auctioneer-hosted auction in the main room.
The supply of and demand for top-tier timepieces remains strong and it is projected to grow. Rolex and Patek Philippe lead the charge with a slew of coveted sports watch models that have hefty prices to match their insatiable demand. Consumers who are unable to buy popular luxury sports watches in the retail market are turning to the secondary market and discovering a bevy of other watch models from the likes of Audemars Piguet, F.P. Journe, Panerai, and others.
Although it must be said that while brands like Rolex and F.P. Journe have contemporary watches that are highly valued in the secondary market, it is the vintage segment that is the star of that market. More and more, consumers are treating watches as investments, which can sometimes outshine gold, diamonds, and jewelry as investment pieces. The current-production steel and ceramic Rolex Daytona that retails for about $13,000 is frequently being traded around $25,000 in the secondary market—a return on investment that is hard to beat.
As a professional in the watch industry and an avid watch collector, Lopez has learned that although a fine watch is most certainly a luxury and not a necessity, if you really want a timepiece and it fits your budget, go ahead and buy it. Not only will you enjoy the watch immensely, if you also take good care of it, it may sell for a premium in the future. His biggest advice is to keep your box and papers because a complete set will always be more valuable.
Talent, enthusiasm, experience, and hard work can open up an array of possibilities and, as with Richard Lopez, it may even lead to a dream job where the profession is dependent on a personal passion.
Yvan Arpa may not be a horological household name, but he is one of the true charismatic characters in modern watches. Avant-garde only scratches the surface of his raging design demeanor as he fearlessly walks the watch road less travelled.
From his Son of a Gun collection that embraces the feel of a firearm, to the eclectic electric lightning-struck bezels, Arpa’s crazy creations seemingly know no limits. From tough to tender, Arpa’s most recent ArtyA release embraces the natural world by incorporating actual butterfly wings into a watch dial like none other.
One recent design features a 38mm 316L stainless steel case struck by lightning, with luminous inlays. The dial is made with real butterfly wings and natural pigments created by Dominique Arpa-Cirpka using techniques never before applied to watchmaking.
Inside is a Swiss quartz movement with a white hand-made crocodile strap. This is truly a unique piece.
The Son of Earth Butterfly Parade will capture the heart of male lepidopterists. It’s cased in 47mm stainless steel (also struck by lightning) that houses a Swiss mechanical movement.
As with the smaller version, the colorful dial hosts real butterfly wings ensconced with natural pigments and gold leaf using the same techniques from Dominique Arpa-Cirpka.Also a piece-unique, the larger, mechanically motivated ArtyA Butterfly also features a high-quality hand-made crocodile strap. Prices start around $6,500.
You can find more details as well as exploring a host of watches unlike anything you’ve seen before at www.artya.com.
In the U.S., ArtyA is distributed by BeauGeste Luxury brands, which offers a selection of Arpa’s singular designs on its website. Or contact BeauGeste at 212-847-1371.
De Bethune last week launched the DB Kind of Two Tourbillon, a two-sided watch with a contemporary tourbillon dial that the wearer can flip to show a classical time-only dial.
Like other two-sided watches, the new De Bethune watch means the wearer can choose to expose one of two different dials on his or her wrist.
One side of the 42.8mm titanium watch displays the contemporary design with multi-level elements and delta-shaped bridge for which De Bethune is identified. This dial features the brand’s distinctive central hours and minutes hands and its high-speed tourbillon and a thirty-second indication. Here however, De Bethune altered its deltoid-shaped bridge just a bit to make it perfectly symmetrical, a design meant to create a stark sense of harmony.
On the other side of the DB Kind of Two De Bethune offers a more classical three-hand, time-only hand-guilloché dial, complete with Arabic numerals collectors might recognize from the brand’s DB8 and DB10. Note that the seconds indication on this side is centrally based, unlike the tourbillon-based seconds indication at the 6 o’clock position on the other side.
De Bethune notes that two-dial watches and clocks have a long history, starting with multi-face tower clocks and extending to similarly equipped table clocks. More recently, we’re familiar with the famed dual-dial Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. Serious collectors also wear certain two-faced watches from Bovet, Cartier and others.
To devise the new dual-dial watch, De Bethune had to re-design its famed floating lug case to allow the flip-over case to pivot easily, rotate on its central axis and then to click into place securely. This operation is a simple one because the brand equipped each side of the case with a clever rotating mechanism made up of twenty-eight steel and titanium components.
Equally important is the case’s middle section, which swivels naturally and frames the case and the crown. That crown lands gracefully at either 6 o’clock or 12 o’clock, depending on which side of the DB Kind of Two Tourbillon the wearer chooses to view.
Inside the watch De Bethune’s Caliber DB2579 features patented technical flourishes well known to De Bethune devotees. These include a titanium balance with white gold inserts (optimized for temperature differences and air penetration) and a self-regulating twin barrel. For the tourbillon, De Bethune utilizes the ultra-light, 30-second titanium design it first debuted in 2008.
Specifications: De Bethune DB Kind of Two Tourbillon
Movement: Manual-wind Caliber DB2579 with five-day power reserve, self-regulating twin barrel (De Bethune Innovation, 2004), titanium balance wheel with white gold inserts, optimized for temperature differences and air penetration (De Bethune Patent, 2016), balance-spring with flat terminal curve (De Bethune Patent, 2006), silicon escape wheel, and ultra-light tourbillon in titanium. 36,000 vibrations per hour. Finishing includes polished and chamfered barrel bridge with shot-blasted stages, polished and chamfered titanium minute bridge with microlight decoration and hand-snailed barrels.
Contemporary single-sided display: hand-polished and blued titanium for hours and minutes with polished inserts, ultra-light De Bethune 30’’ tourbillon in titanium. Hour ring and 30” polished titanium dial with shot-blasted stages, blued polished titanium hour-markers, silvered and relief minute dial.
Classic reverse side display: Hand-polished and blued titanium for hours, minutes and seconds. Dial silvered and relief, with convex levels and guilloché central part.
Case: 42.8mm by 9.5mm titanium with crown at noon on the front, at 6 o’clock on the back, and integrated into the case. Polished grade 5 titanium floating lugs (De Bethune Patent, 2006). Case turning mechanism that can be clearly positioned on the front or back. Water resistance to 30 meters.
If the design of this watch feels somehow familiar, you won’t be surprised to learn that Detroit Watch co-designers Patrick and Amy Ayoub have once again applied their classical blueprint to their American-based brand.
Two variations of the brand’s new stand-alone Pontchartrain collection are housed in an elegantly stepped 42mm stainless steel case. Both feature automatic ETA Swiss-made movements, one with a sub-second and the other with a choice of silver or gold moon-phase complication.
All the qualities you’d expect in a high-quality, high-value watch are here, including sapphire crystal, exhibition back, superior decoration on the Swiss movement and a calfskin strap, which all come together to make a fine watch. Under the loupe the hands are as superb as the dials, and even the crown looks, feels and functions beautifully.
Those outside the Detroit area might ask why “Pontchartrain” for a Detroit-based brand? The Ayoubs chose this name to recall the historic fort that was built in 1701 and actually ended up applying its name to the city. France’s King Louis XIV commissioned Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit as the first permanent French settlement in the area and as a center for the fur trade and French military power in 1701.
Built along the Detroit River in order to protect the French trade from the British, the fort was named in honor of Louis XIV’s minister of marine and colonies, Louis Phélypeaux de Pontchartrain. Le Detroit, French for ‘the strait’ eventually came to identify Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit and the surrounding area and after 1751, was known simply as Fort Detroit.
Porsche Design applies the principles behind the Porsche car configurator to its wristwatches.
Few topics rev up collectors as much as watches and automobiles. Porsche Design has known this ever since Ferdinand Alexander Porsche designed the first Porsche Chronograph 1 in 1972. It was the first-ever all-matte-black watch, and it set the stage for five decades of cutting-edge wristwatch creativity from his then-new studio, Porsche Design.
This year, Porsche Design has launched a program meant to inspire budding F. A. Porsches who, like Professor Porsche, want to design and wear a wristwatch inspired by –and infused with – Porsche’s automotive legacy.
Watch collectors and Porsche owners can now create a customized Porsche Design chronograph that perfectly matches the Porsche 992 or Porsche 911 of their dreams – or the one in their garage.
With the new Porsche Design Custom Built Timepieces program, fans can combine an almost endless array of colors, materials, fonts and displays using the new Porsche Design online watch configurator. The configurator, found directly on the Porsche Design website, offers options and operations far exceeding any other online watch customization program, effectively placing the Porsche enthusiast directly behind the leather-covered wheel, with a clear roadmap toward designing a truly individualized watch.
Porsche Design released the streamlined online configurator this September after six years of development. The process itself echoes the customization process that Porsche has offered buyers of its famed 911 for years, but expands the type and breadth of options from which a buyer can choose when creating a dream chronograph.
For more than thirty years, Porsche customers have been able to enhance their personal dream car with many individual details through Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur, even to the point of designing a one-off vehicle.
This experience has now been expanded with the ability to design a Porsche Design chronograph based on an individual’s personal taste or Porsche 992 vehicle configurations. It’s an experience that ultimately ends with the customer taking ownership of a Porsche they designed themselves.
“As with the online car-design process, the watch is digitally visualized down to the smallest details and customizations are shown to the customer in real time. The customer begins by selecting the case of the watch and then continues choosing from more than 1.5 million configuration possibilities,” explains Gerhard J. Novak, General Manager Timepieces, Porsche Design Group.
“Once the customer has finished designing the chronograph, an individualized configuration code is created, and from there it is sent, or brought in, to any authorized U.S. Porsche dealer where the order is placed. Delivery takes between eight to twelve weeks.”
The rendering of the watch is based on CAD data from the designers at Studio F. A. Porsche in Zell am See, Austria, and the Porsche Design engineers in Solothurn, Switzerland.
“It quickly became clear that these custom components had to be interchangeable without the need to develop a new watch each time,” explains Rolf Bergmann, Managing Director, Porsche Design Timepieces AG. “Offering a wide range of options while manufacturing small quantities of custom-built timepieces is possible thanks to the sequential production process transferred from Porsche sports car production. The principle of zero-defect tolerance was a necessary prerequisite for the implementation of a watch concept like this.”
A New Engine
Key among the components of the customer-designed watch is an entirely new engine.
Porsche Design developed a new movement to serve as the engine for the online-designed timepiece. The new Caliber WERK 01.100 is a COSC- certified chronograph movement that now enters serial production for the program.
But the WERK 01.100 offers Porsche Design customers more than simply its novelty.
“For the first time customers can individualize a part of a Porsche Design COSC-certified movement by choosing the winding rotor that features the various wheel designs of the latest-generation Porsche 911,” Bergmann says. “The color on the rotor edge can also be customized to match the color on the outer edge of the wheels of the 992,” he adds.
Customers select their choice of rotor design after choosing which case to place it into. Porsche Design offers a 42mm case based on the one it used in Chronotimer Series 1. The user can opt for a glass-bead blasted natural titanium or a black titanium case coated in titanium carbide via a PVD-process.
Next, the customer chooses his or her strap.
Bands can be titanium or leather and are offered in three sizes with up to 300 different configurations. All leather straps (with butterfly clasp) are crafted from the same hides Porsche uses for its car interiors and come in the fourteen official interior colors of the current Porsche 911 series. Leather wristband stitching is offered in the nineteen different colors of genuine Porsche yarn.
Porsche Design has created dial options for the program that start with the matte black look of the current Chronotimer Series 1, with its minutes counter at the top of the dial, hour counter at the 6 o’clock position and running seconds at 9 o’clock.
But the user can add color using one of many colorful inlaid ring options, with colors based on those used on the current Porsche 911, to frame the black dial to either complement or contrast the choice of strap.
More dramatically, the watch collector then opts for either a brushed bezel or a black tachymeter bezel set with minute markers in the style of the design-defining classic speedometer developed by F. A. Porsche.
Each custom-built timepiece can be further individualized with a laser engraving on the back of the case as well as on the exclusive watch box, according to Bergmann.
“If desired, the corresponding car visuals, a graphic logo or the fonts and lettering featured on the rear of the customer’s car can also be applied to the watch box,” he adds.
Porsche and Porsche Design
While watch collectors have long heard about buying “a racecar for the wrist,” from makers of auto-influenced watches, Porsche Design is confident that its new online configurator comes closest to the truth of that metaphor.
“Customers who order their own custom-built Porsche Design chronograph will take a piece of the Porsche sports car lifestyle with them when not behind the wheel,” notes Novak.
The direct relationship between the watch and the car is undeniable, he adds.
“The experience of designing a Porsche Design masterpiece based on the current 992 generation is one-of-a-kind – from the rotor and bezel to the genuine Porsche leather straps,” he adds. The program will be expanded to include additional Porsche models in the near future.
The six-year project required a deep restructuring of Porsche Design watchmaking and development, he explains.
“The greatest challenges certainly were in regards to the order and production processes; after all, this had never been done before. The idea of a “sports car on the wrist” was different for every customer, and it required us to rethink our entire process. Everything from engineering, sourcing and production had to be adjusted. To do so we tapped into the brand’s heritage and pulled key learnings from Porsche’s unique automotive production expertise.”
North American Launch
Thus far, with only a few months of processing orders, Porsche Design says reactions to the program have been very positive.
“The very first order we received after the program launched in the United States was actually from a Canadian customer,” Novak reports. “He had heard about the custom-built timepieces program and reached out to see if he could design a watch to match his 992 and place an order in the U.S. He will actually be picking up his “sports car for the wrist” at an East Coast dealership in the coming days.”
“We are looking forward to continuing to introduce the program to new Porsche Design and Porsche customers alike,” says Novak.
Indeed, customization has been a buzzword among high-end watchmaking for the past few years, and several watchmakers have embraced the possibilities of made-to-order watches, mostly with very limited color or material options.
Novak points out that as Porsche itself has enjoyed a positive customer experience with personalized automobiles, Porsche Design’s careful development of the process with timepieces makes perfect sense. “Introducing this unprecedented level of personalization in the luxury watch segment was a natural next step for us,” he says.
“The timepieces business unit is extremely important for Porsche Design globally and in the United States, and we believe we are keeping pace with the general desire for more individualization in watches.”
For Porsche, that customization perfectly unites its automotive realm with the burgeoning watch division of Porsche Design, as supported by its German engineering and Swiss manufacturing facilities.
“Not only does the program highlight the connection between Porsche sports cars and Porsche Design timepieces,” says Novak, “it embodies the premium aesthetic, attention to detail and optimal performance expected of all things associated with the name Porsche.”
Porsche Design Custom-built timepieces are priced starting at $5,150 and, depending on the selections made, can range up to $11,600.