Tag

mechanical watch

Browsing

Zenith again taps into its past as it today debuts a special Chronomaster Revival watch, which the Le Locle manufacturer is releasing as a special North American edition.

The new Zenith Chronomaster Revival Liberty.

The new Zenith Chronomaster Revival Liberty, a red, white and blue limited edition of 150 pieces, echoes earlier Zenith Revival pieces with a design firmly rooted in the brand’s 1969 El Primero A384 automatic chronograph tonneau-cased debuts. As a reminder, it was in 1969 that Zenith debuted its El Primero caliber, the world’s first high-frequency automatic chronograph movement.

Domed sapphire

The latest edition, like recent Zenith Chronomaster Revival models, retains the 37mm case size of the original models and features Zenith’s modern El Primero 400 automatic movement with a 50-hour power reserve. Also echoing the vintage look are the tachymeter scale and the original chronograph hand design called “Barley Sugar Cane.”

Zenith says it consulted original blueprints and production plans from five decades ago to recreate the case. In this new version Zenith caps the dial with a newly domed sapphire crystal and adds a modern clear sapphire caseback. Also new is the model’s blue rubberized cordura strap, complete with a single red stitch on each side.

Zenith creates the model’s Liberty theme with a matte blue gradient dial paired with white chronograph counters. In greater detail, Zenith has painted red and white stripes on the central chronograph second hand. Furthermore, Zenith colors the numerals on the white date wheel in red.

Zenith if offering the new Chronomaster Revival Liberty as a limited edition of 150 pieces exclusively in the United States and Canada and on Zenith’s American online boutique. Price: $8,700

Specifications: Zenith Chronomaster Revival “Liberty”

(Reference: 03.US384.400/57.C823, Limited Edition for North America.)

Movement: Automatic El Primero 400 column-wheel chronograph, frequency of 36,000 VpH (5 Hz), 50-hour power reserve. Functions: Hours and minutes in the center. Small seconds at nine o’clock. 
Chronograph (central chronograph hand, 12-hour counter at six o’clock, 
30-minute counter at three o’clock), tachymetric scale, date indication.

Case: 37mm stainless steel, water resistant to 50 meters.

Dial: Blue gradient with white counters and tachymeter scale
, markers and hands are rhodium-plated, faceted and coated with Super
Luminova.

Bracelet: Blue cordura-style strap and red stitching, stainless steel pin buckle.

Price: $8,700

MB&F wants you to wear its new Legacy Machine Perpetual EVO anywhere you go.

The new watch, which MB&F debuts today, is an exuberant, ultra-tough version of its innovative and GPHG-award-winning Legacy Machine Perpetual (from 2015) that MB&F has now dressed in a new case and outfitted with enhanced shock resistance and increased water resistance.

The new MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual EVO.

Cased in lightweight zirconium, an extremely durable silvery-grey metal frequently used by medical instrument makers, the new watch immediately differentiates itself from the earlier LM Perpetual by displaying no bezel. Instead, MB&F has fused the watch’s domed sapphire crystal directly to the 44mm case.

This re-configured case/crystal configuration opens up the wearer’s view of the watch’s eye-catching, hovering balance wheel, a signature MB&F design element. But more than that, the new design also decreases the watch’s overall height-to-diameter ratio, which can reduce the chances of accidental impact to the crystal.

Zirconium, while difficult to machine, makes for a particularly lightweight case; it also features enhanced hypoallergenic and anti-microbial properties.  MB&F has only used zirconium to case two previous watches, the HM3 Frog and HM5.

FlexRing

Perhaps the most critical addition to the original perpetual calendar’s movement design is a one-piece stainless steel dampener called the FlexRing. MB&F fits this new round component between the watch’s case and movement to enhance shock protection along the vertical and lateral axes.

MB&F designed a new shock-resistant component called FlexRing for the new movement.

According to MB&F, the new component “makes for the most robust Machine ever to emerge from MB&F.”

In addition to these adjustments, MB&F has transformed the watch’s pushers, which are larger and oblong instead of small and round, and has enhanced the water resistance of the crown (which is now screw-down) on this updated perpetual calendar. The sleeker pushers in particular signal the EVO’s sportiness.

To increase the watch’s water resistance to 80-meters MB&F has connected the crown to a new type of winding stem that disengages the crown from the winding mechanism when it is pushed in and tightened. This also prevents the wearer from over winding the mainspring barrel.

The movement

As a reminder, Stephen McDonnell effectively redesigned the traditional perpetual calendar when he first devised the LM Perpetual for MB&F five years ago.

McDonnell built the LM Perpetual with a “mechanical processor” (a series of superimposed disks) that takes the default number of days in the month at 28 and then adds the extra days as required by each individual month. This removes the chance that the date will jump incorrectly. He also built in a safety feature that disconnects the pushers during the date changeover to eliminate any risk of damage to the movement when the date is changed.

One of three plate color options, dubbed Atomic Orange, is new for MB&F.

New colors

In addition to bolstering the shock and water resistance of its perpetual calendar, MB&F is also emphasizing the LM Perpetual’s EVO’s sporty nature with new movement plate PVD or CVD colors and a rubber strap that fits snugly between two polished lugs.

One of three plate color options, dubbed Atomic Orange, is new for MB&F. The watchmaker says it has devised a new coating material and CVD coating technique that allowed it to add this sporty hue to its component color options.

The clear caseback reveals superlative hand finishing throughout respecting 19th century style with internal bevel angles and hand-polished bevels.

MB&F is offering two other dial-plate colors, PVD black and CVD blue, for the LM Perpetual EVO and is producing each of the three shades in a limited series of fifteen pieces (in celebration of the brand’s 15th anniversary). Strap colors are white, grey and black. Price: $167,000.

 

Specifications:  MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual EVO

Movement: Fully integrated perpetual calendar developed for MB&F by Stephen McDonnell, featuring dial-side complication and mechanical processor system architecture with inbuilt safety mechanism. Manual winding with double mainspring barrels, bespoke 14mm balance wheel with traditional regulating screws visible on top of the movement. Superlative hand finishing throughout respecting 19th century style; internal bevel angles, polished bevels, Geneva waves, hand-made engravings. A FlexRing, an annular dampener fitted between case and movement, provides shock protection along the vertical and lateral axes, screw-down crown, 72-hour power reserve, 18,000 bph balance frequency (2.5Hz).

Functions/indications: Galvanic black dials with both SLN numerals and hands (except for the leap year and power reserve). Hours, minutes, day, date, month, retrograde leap year and power reserve indicators.

Case: 44mm by 17.5 mm zirconium, water resistance to 80 meters, sapphire crystals on top and display back treated with anti-reflective coating on both faces

Strap: Rubber strap with titanium folding buckle.

Price: $167,000.

Earlier this year Nomos celebrated its 175th anniversary by offering a trio of anniversary themed Nomos Ludwig models. This week, the Glashütte-based watchmaker launches another anniversary trio, this time featuring Lambda models. And for this special series, Nomos is creating the first set of steel cases within the historically gold-cased Lambda collection.

One of the new Nomos Lambda 175 Years Watchmaking Glashütte steel models, offered with black, white or blue enamel dials.

The novel case material is not the only special feature here that sets this anniversary edition apart from existing Lambda models. Nomos has also endowed the trio with particularly glossy enamel dials (in black, white and blue) and is debuting a new 40.5mm case, which measures just between the existing 39mm and 42mm gold Lambda collections. Nomos will make 175 examples of the Lambda 175 Years Watchmaking Glashütte watches in each dial color.

Polish and elegance

Each enamel dial, framed by dressy thin bezel, is highly polished to match the Lambda’s polished steel case. As with existing Lambda models, the hands here are quite thin, with the power reserve hand in special focus at the top of the dial.  That hand, which sweeps across the dial to denote the unusually long 84-hours power reserve of the DUW 1001 manual-wind movement, make Lambda perhaps the most elegant of all Nomos collections.

The Nomos manual-wind movement, DUW 1001, showing sunburst finish.

That long power reserve stems from the dual barrels of the DUW 1001, a movement Nomos nicely decorates with six hand-polished screwed chatons, polished edges and serious black polishing on individual steel parts.

Nomos hand-engraves the movement’s balance cock with “Lovingly produced in Glashütte” in German.

Most notably, Nomos finishes the traditional Glashutte three-quarter-movement plate with the same fine sunburst polish the brand debuted within this collection years ago. Similarly, Nomos continues to hand-engrave the movement’s balance cock with “Lovingly produced in Glashütte” in German.

Price: $7,500.

 

Alpina revives the hunter-style flip-open caseback with its new limited edition Startimer Pilot Heritage Automatic. The new model, which features a vintage-style dial and a new case, includes the hunter design, in part to reference an earlier Startimer Pilot watch from 2015 that also featured the retro style.

The new Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage Automatic.

This latest addition to the pilot series is built with a 44 mm steel case that frames a matte black dial displaying luminescent beige hour, minute and 24-hour markers that nicely replicate a typical shade used on pilot watches starting in the 1930s and 1940s.

Additional vintage details include the triangular Alpina logo on the dial, which utilizes the original font used by Alpina during the peak of the manufacturer’s mid-century pilot watch production. The logo, which differs from the logo Alpina places on its contemporary pilot models, also serves a practical purpose by separating the 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock markers. A colorful red counterbalance on the seconds hand accents the all-business dial, which includes a date indicator.

Alpina decorates the outside of the revived hunter caseback with a fine perlage pattern. When clicked open by pressing the button at 4 o’clock, the back exposes a Sellita-based AL-525 automatic movement sporting a darkened rotor, and otherwise basic finishing.

The crown and the strap also echo the vintage pilot design. The former is large and grooved while the latter is brown and calfskin, accented with beige topstitching.

With this launch, Alpina continues its support of the National Park Foundation as an official partner. For every Startimer Pilot Automatic 40mm purchased through the brand’s U.S. website, Alpina will donate $100 to the parks.

Limited to 1,883 pieces, the new Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage Automatic is priced at $1,295.

 

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 back of the Armin Strom ARF17 caliber.


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.

The Essentials

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).

The back of the Greubel Forsey QP à Équation

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.

The Essentials 

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.

Price: $695,000.

 

At the beginning of the 20th century, German-based Junghans was the largest clock manufacturer in the world. When it needed new, larger facilities in which to manufacture those clocks, the company teamed with architect Philipp Jakob Manz, who designed Terrassenbau, a dramatically terraced set of workplace buildings for the clockmaker. The building, in Schramberg, is one of the most spectacular industrial buildings worldwide to be built on a sloping site.

The Junghans Terrassenbau buildings.

The building, which today houses the Junghans museum, instantly became the centerpiece of the sprawling Junghans factory. During the 1950s and 1960s, the heyday of firm’s mechanical movements manufacturing era, Junghans created and manufactured numerous calibers in the building just in front of the site, with caliber and watch assembly conducted in the terrace building itself.

The Junghans Terrassenbau assembly room, pictured in 1920.

The long expanse of windowed floors allowed watchmakers to work with perfect daylight on assembly and regulation, uninterrupted by workers conducting other watchmaking processes.

The Terrace Building now houses the Junghans museum.

New watches

Just two years ago, Junghans celebrated 100 years of the architectural history of the facility with a limited edition, 40.7mm gold-cased Meister Chronoscope Terrassenbau. This year, Junghans debuts two steel-cased, non-chronograph Terrassenbau models, each a 1,500-piece limited edition.

Junghans Meister Classic Terrassenbau, an automatic model. ($1,895)

One, the Meister Classic Terrassenbau (Master Classic) is a three-hand automatic watch with date in a 38.4mm steel case. The second is a 37.7mm steel-cased, manual-wind time-only watch, the Meister Handaufzug Terrassenbau (the Master Handwind) with small seconds. Both watches feature ETA-based calibers upgraded by Junghans.

The Junghans Meister Handaufzug Terrassenbau, a manual-wind model. ($1,695)

In addition to their Terassenbau-colored dials, these new models incorporate elements of the Schramberg facility into their design. For example, the minute track of the matte-silver dial reflects the meandering design of the wall decorations in the terrace building, while the green alligator leather strap echoes the dark green of the wall tiles in the stairways.

The Master Handwind (Meister Handaufzug) Terrassenbau , showing caseback with ‘windows’ exposing the movement.

Even the caseback of each watch reveals a detailed image of the source of inspiration itself, applied using Junghans’ own printing plant. Also from the back, small windows provide a view into each watch’s movement.

The new watches are limited to 1,500 units each. Prices: The Jungians automatic Meister Classic Terrassenbau is $1,895 and the Junghans Meister Handaufzug Terrassenbau, the manual-wind model, is $1,695.

 

When Louis Erard debuted this watch late last year, we knew its days were numbered. This week the independent Swiss watchmaker announced that only a handful of models remain in the limited edition collection featuring a design by famed architect and watchmaker Alain Silberstein.

Available in two limited editions of 178 watches, the watch not only was Silberstein’s first-ever regulator, but it was also the first time Louis Erard had ever turned over its atelier to a guest designer. While the watchmaker did collaborate with watch designer Eric Giroud earlier in 2019 with a redesign of the Louis Erard Excellence Regulator, the collaboration with Silberstein gave the designer carte blanche.

As it turns out, Silberstein hadn’t designed a regulator in his four decades of making colorful, modernistic watches, so the function appealed to him on several levels. Fortunately, this also perfectly tied into the focus function of many existing Louis Erard offerings, primarily within its Excellence collection.

As a display seen historically on clocks used in watchmaking ateliers to set the hands of pocket watches, the regulator focuses the eye on a larger minute hand. Technically, by separating the indications of the hours, minutes and seconds, chronometric precision can improve.

As Alain Silberstein relates in Louis Erard’s promotion of this collaboration, the regulator transports him “far away to the clocks on buildings which historically told the time with just one hand, or to train station clocks.”

The 40mm steel watch is powered by an ETA 7001 manual-wind movement with Louis Erard’s own regulator module.

Two colors

Silberstein created one design with two color combinations for Louis Erard. He started with a large arrow for the central minute hand, which is yellow on the black-dialed version of the watch and deep blue on the white version.

The remainder of the dial shows us pure Silberstein: the geometric simplicity of rectangles, triangles and circles. Bauhaus movement, which in 2019 celebrated 100 years since its birth, inspired Silberstein’s use of primary colors.

The 40mm steel watch, powered by an ETA 7001 manual-wind movement with Louis Erard’s own regulator module, is a bargain at its CHF 2,800 price tag (approximately  $3,000).

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Louis Erard Excellence Le Régulateur Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein

Movement: Manual winding regulator with power reserve, ETA Peseux 7001 movement with Louis Erard RE9 complication, 21,600 VpH (3Hz), 42 hours of power reserve. Côtes de Genève decoration, blue screws and Louis Erard engraving. Functions: hours, minutes and seconds. Hour hand on counter at 12 o’clock, central minute hand, seconds hand on counter at 6 o’clock, power reserve hand at 9 o’clock.

Case: 40mm steel or stainless steel + black PVD, 3 parts, sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on both sides, case back with screws, top grade movement visible through the transparent case back, water-resistant up to a pressure of 50 meters, specially-decorated case back crystal with “Alain Silberstein X Louis Erard 1 of 178.”

Dial: Black and white matte or opaline (matte silver). Signature hands designed by Alain Silberstein. Red lacquered hour hand, yellow or blue lacquered minute hand, blue or yellow lacquered seconds hand, white or grey lacquered power reserve hand.

Strap: Black calf leather with signature stitching in red or brown calf leather with signature stitching in blue, pin buckle in stainless steel or stainless steel + black PVD.

Price: CHF 2,800. Developed in collaboration with Alain Silberstein in two limited editions of 178 pieces.

Greubel Forsey has re-engineered the unusual ovoid case it developed for the 2019 GMT Sport to develop the all-new Balancier S,  showcasing a large, high-precision inclined balance wheel and gear train.

Greubel Forsey’s new Balancier S

Now fit with a new movement, the new, sleeker version of that ovoid case frames a dramatic double suspended arched bridge holding an inclined gear train, all adjacent to the large (12.6mm) inclined balance wheel that gives the watch its name.

The Balancier S’s balance, which parallels the lower dial portion and sits at a 30-degree angle, provides what Greubel Forsey terms an “outstanding solution for limiting timing errors due to the effects of gravity on the regulating organ (balance wheel, spring and escapement) in stable positions.”

Recall that the watchmaker has utilized this escapement angle with great success within numerous tourbillon debuts in recent years, including the Tourbillon 24 Secondes, Quadruple Tourbillon and the Double Tourbillon 30°. For the first time however, we’re seeing the inclined balance alone rather than as a component within a tourbillon cage. 

Oval crystal

Like last year’s ovoid debut, the Balancier S appears circular from above, but once seen on the wrist betrays its extensive angular and curved attributes, including an oval, arched sapphire crystal, curved hour and minute hands, integrated lugs and strap and a satin-finished bezel engraved with the familiar script outlining Greubel Forsey’s ‘values.’

The new movement in the Balancier S operates with two coaxial barrels mounted in series offering a 72-hour power reserve (shown at 2 o’clock via a skeletonized red-tipped hand). A small seconds hand at 8 o’clock, also placed at a 30-degree angle, underscores the impressive depth Greubel Forsey built into this new caliber.

The watch’s unusual titanium case, sealed for 100 meters of water resistance, is echoed in a beautifully finished titanium mainplate and titanium bridges, which the watchmakers here say “proved much more difficult for manual hand-finishing than steel or even nickel silver.” Likewise, Greubel Forsey’s finishing reaches its usual high standards with extensive frosting, polished bevels and countersinks, circular and straight graining.

This Balancier S continues Greubel and Forsey’s foray into the sporty frontiers of high-end chronometry. Now that many collectors have made peace with the watch’s unusual ovoid case, expect many to look forward to additional sporty high-horology designs from this highly technical team. I already do.

Price: 195,000 Swiss francs. Eighteen pieces will be made.

 

Specifications: Greubel Forsey Balancier S

Movement: Balancier S manual-wind with 72-hour power reserve, escapement inclined 30 degrees, two coaxial series-coupled fast-rotating barrels, relief-engraved text, circular-grained, black treatment, polished chamfer, titanium and frosted bridges and mainplate, multi-level, suspended-arch bridge, polished with black treatment in relief, polished beveling and countersinks. Movement side: frosted bridges, polished edges and beveling
, gold plate with engraved limitation number.

Case: 45mm by 13.75mm titanium with curved synthetic sapphire crystal, three-dimensional, variable geometry-shaped bezel with raised engraved text, profiled lugs, case band with rubber, transparent back with high domed synthetic sapphire crystal, titanium security screws
, raised engraving. Crown is titanium and rubber with GF logo, color-coded rubber capping, interchangeable.

Dial: Three-dimensional, variable geometry hour-ring, lacquered hours and minutes indexes, power-reserve indicator, engraved and lacquered, gold small seconds dial, rhodium-colored, polished bevel, curved hour and minute hands in polished steel, small seconds w/red finish.

Strap: Rubber with text in relief
, titanium folding clasp, engraved GF logo

Price: 195,000 Swiss francs

We know Jeff Stein as a leading collector of vintage Heuer chronographs, who occasionally dabbles in the newer TAG Heuer models.  It caught our eye when, twelve hours after he received his Fragment Design Heuer 02 chronograph in July, Jeff posted on Instagram that this watch was his “favorite TAG Heuer chronograph, ever . . . and even though you won’t see the name on the watch, the best looking Autavia-inspired chronograph, ever.” 

Below,  Jeff tells us more about his infatuation with this very interesting watch.

The new TAG Heuer Fragment Design Heuer 02 chronograph.

Can you give us the “elevator version” of the Fragment Design Heuer 02 chronograph?

The watch was designed by Hiroshi Fujiwara, a god in the world of streetwear and the creator of Fragment Design. Fujiwara has designed all sorts of interesting things such as guitars for Eric Clapton, sneakers for Nike and Converse, and headphones for Beats. In the watch world, he has designed watches for Rolex and Zenith, as well as a Carrera for TAG Heuer, in November 2018. 

On the Heuer 02 chronograph, Fujiwara incorporated the design language of a 1970s Heuer Autavia into a TAG Heuer Formula 1 chronograph case, with the watch powered by the Heuer 02 movement. 

Why has the Fragment Design Formula 1 chronograph been controversial among the vintage Heuer enthusiasts?

Much of the controversy probably arises from the fact that the watch was inspired by the 1970s Autavias, but resides in the modern case that TAG Heuer uses for its Formula 1 chronographs.  There is no model name on the dial, neither “Autavia” nor “Formula 1,” so some traditionalists might see the watch as something of a Franken, which may be lacking the pure pedigree of either model.

Hiroshi Fujiwara

So how do you come to terms with these issues? 

For years, I have listened to the debates about what is and is not properly identified as an Autavia, a Carrera or a Formula 1.  Some traditionalists say that an Autavia has to be a chronograph, rather than a three-handed watch, or that a Carrera cannot have an outer bezel, because these were the rules when the models were launched in the 1960s. 

I have pretty well gotten over these hard-and-fast rules.  If Jack Heuer had felt constrained by such rules in the 1960s, the Autavia would have never made it from a dashboard timer to a chronograph and we might never have seen Heuer’s automatic chronographs.  Right now, I am more impressed with a brand making great looking, high quality watches and less concerned about the model name on the dial. 

Perhaps there is no requirement for watch models to be binary, so that the brands can incorporate elements of one model into another one.  We saw this recently when TAG Heuer incorporated the colors and style of the 1970s Montreal chronograph into a 1960s-based Carrera, and people liked the result.

The Successor – The last version of the Autavia produced by Heuer in the mid-1980s (Reference 11063, at left) and the Fragment Design Heuer 02 Limited Edition, introduced by TAG Heuer in June 2020.

As a physical object, what are your favorite elements of the Fragment Formula 1 chronograph?

I am a big fan of minimalist design, in general, and like the matte black and charcoal gray tones.  This is a great look in cars and Fujiwara has followed a similar approach with the new Formula 1, using a matte black dial. 

The hands and bezel are taken directly from the 1970s Autavias, but Fujiwara has deleted the elements that made those watches busier — the contrasting white registers, the concentric ridges in the registers and the frame around the date window. 

This is like deleting the chrome on a blacked-out car, and it makes the expanses of black more dramatic.  The red and white accents on the dial are the final touches that give the watch its pop. For several years, the Formula 1 chronographs have been housed in a case with geometry that is very close to the c-shape cases of the 1970s Autavias, so this Autavia color scheme from the 1970s looks right in the Formula 1 case.

And what are the intangibles that you enjoy with the new Fragment Design Formula 1 chronograph?

The Autavias of the 1960s and 1970s were the chronographs worn by the top drivers in motorsports.  We see them on the wrists of Mario Andretti, Jo Siffert, Graham Hill, Derek Bell and many other racers.  Beyond the top professionals, Autavias were popular among the amateurs and club racers, particularly with the Viceroy promotion, which offered a $200 Autavia for $88 with proof of purchase of ten packs of Viceroy cigarettes.  

The tachymeter bezel is the symbol of a racing watch, whether on the Autavia, or the Rolex Daytona or the Omega Speedmaster.  TAG Heuer is positioning the Formula 1 collection as the brand’s racing watches, and there is no better flagship for that collection than a watch that incorporates the design elements of the Autavia, the ultimate racing watch of the 1960s and 1970s.

People in the watch world may think of the Formula 1 as TAG Heuer’s “entry level” model.  How do you reconcile that with the $6,150 price tag on this model?

Essentially, this watch, and a couple of other Formula 1 models recently released by TAG Heuer, serve as a clear statement that the TAG Heuer collections will no longer follow a price hierarchy.  There is no entry-level collection or high-end collection.  Instead, the collections are defined by their aesthetics and purposes. 

The Formula 1 is TAG Heuer’s racing watch and the Autavia will be positioned as the watch for adventure.  To me, this is a much more sensible way to position the collections than just based on their price ranges.  TAG Heuer now offers its in-house Heuer 02 movement in four of its six collections, confirming that no model is relegated to “entry-level” status. 

How do you compare the new Fragment Formula 1 with the other Autavias that have been re-issued by TAG Heuer?

With the arrival of this Fragment Design chronograph, there are basically three series of Autavia re-issues.

The TAG Heuer Fragment Design Heuer 02 Limited Edition flanked by the first of the automatic Autavias, Reference 1163 (circa 1970), and the last one produced by Heuer, Reference 11063 (circa 1983).

In 2003, TAG Heuer offered two versions of a cushion-cased Autavia, one with the black / orange colors and the other with the white / black / blue Siffert colors. 

In 2017, TAG Heuer offered a new Autavia, modeled after the Rindt model from the late 1960s.  After the initial model with the black dial and white registers, we have seen several limited editions, incorporating other color schemes into this same case. 

I like these watches, but the case lacks the real connection to either the manual wind models of the 1960s or the automatic models of the 1970s. 

Every collector will have their own favorite, but to my eye, the Fragment Formula 1 captures the spirit of the 1970s Autavias, with the color scheme, the hands and bezel, and the case geometry. There’s no “Autavia” on the dial, but there’s no doubt about the origins of this watch.

How is the watch on your wrist?

It’s a big watch at 44 millimeters, and I have a small wrist, but it’s a great fit.  The more important measurement might be the thickness, and TAG Heuer has shaved the case to 14.4 millimeters.  That’s not exactly thin, but it makes the 44 millimeter case very wearable.  The bracelet is entirely new, and is relatively thin with a butterfly clasp, which also makes the watch wear smaller.

TAG Heuer has created a new style bracelet for the Fragment Formula 1 chronograph. It’s a five-row stainless steel bracelet, with a folding butterfly clasp.

Why does this watch have the TAG Heuer logo on the dial rather than the Heuer shield?

I believe that TAG Heuer is reserving the “Heuer” shield for re-issues of the heritage models, like the Carrera 160 Years models that we saw earlier in the year.  This Formula 1 is not a re-issue of a heritage model, but a new creation for TAG Heuer.  So it gets the TAG Heuer shield rather than the Heuer shield.What are your personal preferences, as far as the re-issues that so many brands seem to be offering in the year 2020?

In recent years, there has probably been more hand-to-hand combat in the vintage community on the subject of re-issues, re-editions, homages, tributes and the like than on any other single topic.  We see everything from one-to-one recreations of some of the classics, like Breitling and Omega have done with great success, to watches that carry the name, but bear no resemblance to the original models. 

I really like the approach of the two Fragment Design models: take an iconic model, boil it down to find the essence of the design, then punch up the elements that provide the style and feel of the original period. 

Echoing the TAG Heuer Fragment Carrera, Fujiwara also places thunderbolts at the center of the case back and the word “Fragment” between 4 and 5 o’clock.

On the Fragment Carrera, we see the power of the oversized registers; on the Fragment Formula 1, we see the dramatic black paint and the red accents, with the distinctive hands and bezel.  These elements defined the racers chronograph in 1970 and, fifty years later they continue to capture the excitement of racing.  To me, capturing this timelessness is the ultimate success of a re-edition.

Other than the Fragment Design models, which are your favorite of TAG Heuer’s heritage-inspired models?

I like the Limited Edition Skipper that was a collaboration with Hodinkee back in 2017, and the Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition from earlier this year. 

The Skipper captured the colors and spirit of one of the Heuer grails, the original Skipper from 1967, but took some liberties (for example, having a 30-minute register rather than the 15-minute count-down register). 

The Carrera Montreal took even more liberties, incorporating the colors and vibe of a wild-looking 1972 Montreal chronograph into a Carrera case. Once again, the traditionalists may frown, but if you like the look of these watches and enjoy the connection with the Heuer heritage, these are fun watches. 

If you could only have one of the Fragment models, the Carrera or the Formula 1, which would it be?

My first instinct is to dodge the question. The same way that the 1960s Carreras were different from the 1970s Autavias, the choice between the two Fragment models comes down to a matter of the mood and look that you want on a given day.

Fragment Design has developed two limited edition chronographs for TAG Heuer, the new Heuer 02, which draws from the Formula 1 and Autavia models, and the Carrera Heuer 02, from November 2018.

The quiet elegance of the Carrera is very different from the loud excitement of the 1970s Autavias.  Looking at my collection of vintage Heuers, I probably have four times as many 1970s Autavias as 1960s Carreras, so the Fragment probably gets the nod. 

If there will be a third Fragment Design chronograph for TAG Heuer, what are you hoping for?

Fujiwara has done a Carrera and an Autavia, so his third model will have to be a Monaco.  It would be fantastic to see what he would do with the extra-large canvas of the Monaco.

(Click here to read Jeff Stein’s “On the Dash” post about the TAG Heuer Fragment Design Heuer 02 Limited Edition.) 

 

By Laurent Martinez

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.

 

Estimate value

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.”

Be wary

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.

Online queries

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