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Mechanical alarm watches combine a truly useful timekeeping function with the collector’s love of automatic or manual-wind movements. This week the recently revived watchmaker Benrus, founded in New York in 1921, debuts a superb retro-inspired alarm watch that offers these enticements, but also adds another compelling component: a vintage movement. 

Inside the Benrus Wrist Alarm you’ll find a fully rebuilt A. Schild manual-wind movement from the 1970s.

Thus, inside the new Benrus Wrist Alarm you’ll find a fully rebuilt A. Schild 1931 manual-wind movement from the 1970s. Benrus is utilizing movements that were never used and have been carefully disassembled and fully serviced in Switzerland to assure they are operating as if they were new. More than 330,000 original AS 1931 movements were sold between 1970 and 1974, according to Benrus, which offers more details about the history of the original movement on its website.

The new 38mm steel Benrus Wrist Alarm allows the wearer to set the alarm hand as desired using the crown at the 2 o’clock position. After winding the alarm with the same crown, the user can expect a fairly loud buzz for about ten seconds at the chosen time.

The watch itself echoes the look of a Benrus alarm watch circa 1956. Within its steel case you’ll see an off-white linen patterned dial, applied polished stainless steel numerals and markers and domed sapphire crystal.

Benrus sets the Wrist Alarm with a dark blue genuine leather strap with deployant buckle. The watch is water resistant to 50 meters and has an enhanced 50-hour power reserve. Benrus will make 500 Wrist Alarms. Price: $1,295.

 

Watchmakers have been multiplying their automotive and motorsports collaborations in recent years. In this four-part series, we review a few of the most prominent timekeeping/racing alliances.

 

By Y-Jean Mun-DelSalle

For many connoisseurs, the love for watches and cars often go hand in hand. The similarities are endless: Performance, precision, complex engines, material innovation, new technologies, stunning design and the pursuit of excellence. Horological brands are rarely without a carmaker or racing team by their side.

This is not a new phenomenon. The watch and automobile industries have a long history of collaboration.

Starting out of necessity, watchmakers began working with car manufacturers to supply dashboard clocks. Horological brands then started partnering with motor racing teams as official timekeepers, from recording lap times to race times, and automotive timepieces have become an accepted part of watch companies’ marketing strategies.

Today, watchmakers are creating timepieces to pay tribute to a specific car model, race, racing driver or event. In this special three-part series, we’ll take a closer look at the automotive alliances forged by Bell & Ross, B.R.M Chronographes, Casio, Ernst Benz, Girard-Perregaux, Richard Mille and TAG Heuer.

This week, we highlight Bell & Ross and B.R.M Chronographes.

 

Bell & Ross 

Since 2016, Bell & Ross has partnered with the Renault F1 Team – rebranded the Alpine F1 Team after the famous racing cars. This year Bell & Ross has become its official timekeeper, releasing ultra-sporty watches every racing season.

The Bell & Ross BR X1 Tourbillon RS 17, cased in forged carbon.

Launching the Alpine F1 Team collection this year, Bell & Ross welcomes a sixth generation of Renault timepieces. The three A521 chronographs – referencing the current Alpine A521 single-seater – echo Alpine’s visual identity, especially the constructor’s blue, black and white color codes and the advanced materials tested on F1 cars.

Common features may be found on the vintage round BR V3-94 and the square BR 03-94 timekeepers, both in steel: two stopwatch counters reflect the racing car’s wheel rims, the counterweight of the central second hand adopts Alpine’s stylized “A” and a tiny red, white and blue flag at six o’clock recalls Alpine’s French origins.

One of three Bell & Ross A521 chronographs, all referencing the current Alpine A521 single-seater.

In a limited edition of fifty pieces, the more sophisticated BR-X1 in titanium, ceramic and rubber showcases ergonomic toggle push-buttons reminiscent of the paddles on a F1 racing car steering wheel, while a rubber shell protects the case from impacts. The open-worked dial offers a glimpse inside the skeleton mechanism that features a symbolic X-shaped central bridge. Alpine F1 Team members will wear these watches throughout 2021.

Side view of the Bell & Ross BR-X1 RS19 chronograph, showing Renault colors.

Last November, Bell & Ross initiated a collaboration with Bollinger Motors, an American electric vehicle maker founded in 2014 by Robert Bollinger. Bell & Ross paired the BR 03-92 Black Matte timepiece with the off-road Bollinger B1 SUV, both taking the square shape, functionality and minimalism to the extreme.

Bell & Ross has paired the BR 03-92 Black Matte timepiece with the off-road Bollinger B1 SUV.

“If the BR 03 were a car, it would be this one,” says Bruno Belamich, Bell & Ross creative director and co-founder. “The Bollinger B1 is to the automobile what the BR 03 is to watchmaking: a 100% utility object designed by engineers for extreme thrill-seekers.”

The Bollinger B1 SUV.

 

B.R.M Chronographes

As a French watch brand with multiple motorsports collaborations, B.R.M keeps strengthening its competitive pedigree and producing timepieces fully embracing the racing spirit so dear to its founder and CEO Bernard Richards. He notes that even during the past year B.R.M hadn’t ceased developing new collaborations and exclusive models.

This year, B.R.M. is still signing partnerships while gradually finding its way back to racetracks and a full calendar of events worldwide. This is an encouraging signal for the future of the independent, family-run manufacture.

The BRM V12 44 is the result of a partnership with DS Techeetah.

Perhaps the most significant news this year for B.R.M. is official timing partnership with DS Techeetah, the most successful Formula E team. For the deal, B.R.M has created a three-hand watch and a chronograph in the colors of the Chinese racing team, each limited to twenty-one pieces.

In North America, B.R.M’s involvement in racing started in 2009 as official timekeeper of the Atlantic Championship. Since then it has participated in pretty much every series in the United States. B.R.M is present at IndyCar with Colton Herta and Steinbrenner Racing, and in Nascar with Santino Ferrucci.

The BRM V12-GT James Hinchcliffe.

IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe signed on with B.R.M. this year, as did Nascar driver Corey LaJoie. Both drivers co-designed and now wear a special B.R.M watch.

The BRM V6-SA made for Nascar driver Corey Lajoie.

B.R.M also joined forces with Derek DeBoer of the TRG team in SRO GT racing and just released a new watch collection with the Skip Barber Racing School, America’s premier racing school. DeBoer is a brand ambassador for the school.

This 44mm B.R.M (model V644NAGSB) features a black PVD carbon fiber dial with the Skip Barber Driving School logo.

B.R.M has also collaborated with Corvette and Corvette Racing since 2015, launching multiple timepieces. For the Historic Sportscar Racing series, with which it has partnered since 2014, B.R.M sponsors the Endurance Challenge.

The BRM R6-46 Corvette VGS.

And finally, since 2017, B.R.M has produced numerous models with Martini Racing, whose dials are adorned with the Italian brand’s famous blue and red stripes, matched with B.R.M’s trademark drilled holes on the hands, crown, pushers and strap.

Next Week: Casio and Ernst Benz 

 

Y-Jean Mun-DelSalle is a freelance journalist and editorial consultant who has lived on three different continents. She meets with inspirational individuals in pursuit of excellence: emerging and established artists, designers and craftsmen, engaging entrepreneurs and philanthropists, and the movers and shakers of the world today. She contributes regularly to regional and international titles such as Artsy, Asia Tatler, Design Anthology, Forbes, Portfolio, Robb Report, Shawati’ and Vogue, shining a spotlight in particular on art, architecture, design, horology and jewelry.

Alongside the many new dome clocks and pocket watches Patek Philippe is debuting during its wide-ranging Rare Handcrafts 2020-2021 exhibition in Geneva this month, the manufacture is also presenting six ongoing-collection wristwatches re-interpreted with new artisanal craftsmanship.

These debuts include a Ref. 6002R-001 Sky Moon Tourbillon, a diamond-set minute repeater with retrograde perpetual calendar (Ref. 5304/301R-001), a minute repeater with perpetual calendar (Ref. 5374-001), the Ref. 7040/250G-001 Minute Repeater for Ladies, a richly decorated Golden Ellipse (Ref. 5738/51G-001), and a white gold Nautilus set with diamonds. Prices for all these models are on request.

The Ref. 6002R-001 Sky Moon Tourbillon Haut Artisanat.

The Ref. 6002R-001 Sky Moon Tourbillon Haut Artisanat

Patek Philippe has given this ultra-complex watch (with twelve complications) a stunning hand-engraved rose-gold case with a brown dial in grand feu champlevé and cloisonné enamel.

Patek Philippe’s engravers spent more than 100 hours creating the ‘volutes and arabesques’ case, crown and repeater slide. As Patek Philippe’s second most complicated model, the Sky Moon Tourbillon combines a tourbillon and a minute repeater that strikes on cathedral gongs, a perpetual calendar with a retrograde date, a moon-phase display and the leap year cycle.

The reverse side of the Patek Philippe The Ref. 6002R-001 Sky Moon Tourbillon Haut Artisanat.

From the back, you’ll see a celestial chart showing the apparent motion of the moon and the stars. Patek Philippe will deliver the new Ref. 6002R-001 Sky Moon Tourbillon with hand-engraved cufflinks in rose gold. It replaces the Ref. 6002G-010 in white gold with a black grand feu enamel dial.

The new Ref. 5374G-001 Minute Repeater with a perpetual calendar.

The Ref. 5374G-001 Minute Repeater with a perpetual calendar

Initially available in platinum, this chiming watch with cathedral gongs now boasts a white-gold case with a glossy blue grand feu enamel dial. Also new are the slightly larger perpetual calendar (day, date, month, leap year cycle) displays, placed on slightly enlarged subsidiary dials. In addition, the white gold hands are now highly luminous, while the  moonphase aperture is made using the champlevé enamel technique and then framed in white gold (see below).

Up close on the Patek Philippe Ref. 5374G-001 Minute Repeater with a perpetual calendar.

Ref. 7040/250G-001 Rare Handcrafts Minute Repeater for ladies

This groundbreaking minute repeater is now extra luxurious with a blue grand feu flinqué enamel dial and a bezel with a Flamme diamond setting. The new model is slightly larger (36m) than the earlier models, and also boasts a diamond-set bezel.

The stunning Ref. 7040/250G-001 Rare Handcrafts Minute Repeater for ladies.

If you recall the dial on the Patek Philippe “Siamese Fighting Fish” pocket watch from 2019, you’ll see a similarity with this new model. Artisans fully guilloche the dial’s gold plate and then coat it with transparent blue enamel that allows the underlying decor to shine through. This method is an old technique called flinqué enameling. Patek Philippe insures that this watch remains thin (5.05mm) by using its self-winding caliber R 27 PS, powered by a 22-karat gold eccentric mini-rotor.

The new Patek Philippe Ref. 5738/51G-001 Golden Ellipse Haut Artisanat.

Ref. 5738/51G-001 Golden Ellipse Haut Artisanat

This new design takes full advantage of one of Patek Philippe’s most classic case shapes. Here in white gold, the Ellipse boasts a stunning champlevé enamel dial that has been manually engraved. The watch’s curly-cue decor, known technically as ‘volutes and arabesques,’ nicely complements the oval case shape of the Golden Ellipse.

Inside Patek Philippe places its famed automatic Caliber 240 powered by an off-center recessed mini-rotor in 22-karat gold. The thin (6.58mm) watch joins the current Golden Ellipse collection, which also includes Ref. 5738P-001 in platinum with a blue sunburst dial and the Ref. 5738R-001 in rose gold with an ebony black sunburst dial.

The new high-glitter Patek Philippe Ref. 7118/1450G Nautilus Haute Joaillerie.

Ref. 7118/1450G Nautilus Haute Joaillerie

Released in rose gold just a few months ago, this newest highly reflective diamond-set Nautilus can now be had in a white gold case. Set with a random pavé setting (also called snow setting), the watch’s case, dial, bezel, and the bracelet are decorated with nearly 13 carats of diamonds. Still, despite the glitter, the blackened white gold hands remain visible thanks in part to a generous coating of luminous material.

The watch’s blackened white gold hands remain visible thanks in part to a generous coating of luminous material.

This 32.5mm white-gold case is fitted with the automatic Caliber 324 S movement that has been elaborately finished and visible through the sapphire-crystal case back. Sunglasses please.

The Ref. 5304/301R-001 Minute Repeater with a retrograde perpetual calendar
 is now framed in baguette diamonds.

Ref. 5304/301R-001 Minute Repeater with a retrograde perpetual calendar


Now in a 43mm rose-gold case set with eighty baguette diamonds, this grand complication was first launched in 2006 in a platinum case. Its new diamond frame boasts 6.22 carats of diamonds on its bezel, lugs and clasp, dramatizing Patek Philippe’s seriously complicated system for clearly displaying the day, month, and leap year cycle with transparent sapphire-crystal disks. To add subplots to the drama, Patek Philippe has also added white-gold inlays with engraved leaf motifs in the case flanks and the repeater slide.

The back offers its own window into the architecture of the self-winding caliber R 27 PS QR LU movement, most notably the minute repeater mechanism with two gongs. The viewer can also watch the whirring of the centrifugal governor during chiming. Finally, Patek Philippe artisans re-imagined the finished here with a leaf motif now visible on the rose gold mini-rotor. Patek Philippe has built so many stunning technical and artisanal highlights into this watch, we highly recommend you view the brands’ own visual tour, available here.

A clear view into Patek Philippe’s R 27 PS QR LU movement, showing the minute repeater mechanism with two gongs.

 

The dial on the latest elegant Grand Seiko Spring Drive watch beautifully mimics the undulations of lake Suwa when its surface is frozen, a natural phenomenon called Omiwatari.

Grand Seiko says its watchmakers and dial designers were inspired by the lake to create the ice-blue dial on the new SBGY007, a 38.5mm steel watch.

The new Grand Seiko SBGY007.

To make the dial, Grand Seiko artisans at the Shinshu Watch Studio near Lake Suwa hammered the dial’s mold to create the visible edges and the round shape, then polished the indexes and sharpened the hands.

Thanks to these angles and colors, light glimmers across the hands and dial, a result said to reflect Grand Seiko’s Nature of Time design philosophy.

Grand Seiko powers the watch with its own hybrid, super-precise Spring Drive Caliber 9R31, with dual barrels that deliver a power reserve of 72 hours when fully wound. Turning the watch over, viewers can eye the nicely finished Spring Drive movement, beautifully flecked with tempered blue screws and its power reserve indicator.

Grand Seiko Spring Drive Caliber 9R31

Grand Seiko expects this new SBGY007 to be made available in early July at Grand Seiko Boutiques and retail partners. Price: $8,300.

Specifications: Grand Seiko Elegance Collection SBGY007

Movement: Manual-winding Spring Drive Caliber 9R31. 
Driving system: Spring Drive with accuracy: ±1 second per day / ±15 seconds per month (average) power reserve: 72 Hours.  

Dial: Hand-hammered ice blue, polished and faceted hands and markers.

Case: 38.5mm by 10.2mm steel, water resistant to 30 meters.

Strap: Black crocodile with blue stitching.

Price: $8,300.

De Bethune’s new diver, introduced late last year and affectionately called the Yellow Submarine, brings a whole new look to the dive genre. While the DB28GSVY embraces the warmer tones of gold, amber and orange, its case and components are not crafted in gold but are actually made from heat-treated titanium and steel.

Mounted on De Bethune’s articulated case/lug platform, the Yellow Submarine embodies the past and future of watchmaking in a single case. Space-age design and materials are married to traditional watchmaking solutions and then taken to the next level.

The De Bethune DB28 Grand Sport ‘Yellow Submarine.”

Powering the watch is the DeBethune manual-wind caliber DB2080, which is comprised of 400 individual components, including 51 jewels. Power reserve is stretched to five days thanks to a dual-barrel system as well as the fine-tuned escapement, with its titanium balance, white gold inserts and a profile designed to minimize fluid friction. The balance wheel cycles at 28,800 beats per hour.

Releasing power to the unique balance is an escape wheel crafted in silicon. The entire escapement assembly is protected by a triple Pare-Chute system developed in-house by De Bethune. Other unique aspects to this particular timepiece include that it eschews the normal practice of slathering luminous paint everywhere to read the time. Only the hands have slim strips of lume while an amazing electro-mechanical system creates light via a micro-dynamo and LED lighting system activated by the push of the actuator at 6 o’clock.

Push the button and watch the repeater-like regulator spin while four LED sources cast light across the dial. Since this is technically a dive watch it also incorporates a rotating bezel, but in this case the outer coin-edge grip actually rotates an inner rehaute with pierced cutouts showing beautiful blue numerals. The 44mm case mounts the crown at 12 o’clock. Each example of the twenty-five in this very limited edition is priced at $110,000.

Junghans celebrates its 160th anniversary this year with an impressive array of new watches that primarily feature the German-based watchmaker and clockmaker’s historically based Max Bill and Meister collections.

The new Junghans Max Bill Regulator is one of three Max Bill watches offered as part of a limited edition set.

In addition, Junghans adds a limited-edition model to its newer, minimalist Form line while also reviving a long-time favorite kitchen clock/timer it originally debuted in the 1950s.

Junghans has revived a kitchen clock/timer originally sold in the 1950s.

Here, we’ll focus on the additions to the Meister line, with special attention to the Meister Signature Hand-winding Edition 160. Look to future postings for details about the clock and the Max Bill collection updates, or check them out here on the Junghans website.

Gold Meister

The new Meister Signature Hand-winding Edition 160 is a manual-wind model cased in 18-karat gold and fit with an interesting Junghans movement that oscillates at a leisurely 18,000 bph. Measuring a wrist-friendly 39mm in diameter, the limited edition (of 160) watch recalls dress watch styling from the 1960s and 1970s, which Junghans underscores with a decidedly retro rendition of its brand name, as seen on Junghans products of yore.

The new Junghans Meister Signature Hand-winding Edition 160.

Junghans produced the original J620 hand-winding movement between 1966 and 1975 and utilized it for a wide range of mechanical three-hand wristwatches. The J620 can also be found in the Junghans Olympic series of 14-karat gold watches made in 1971 and 1972.

The original Junghans J620 manual-wind movement (right) and the new gold-plated caliber.

For the new watch, Junghans has disassembled, decorated and reassembled existing, historical J620 movements, plating each with a coat of 18-karat rose gold for good measure. And Junghans has thoughtfully provided a clear sapphire caseback to view the work.  Price: $9,800.

Meister Power Reserve

Displaying an unusual vertical power reserve indicator just above the 6 o’clock position, the new Meister Gangreserve (power reserve) Edition 160 echoes a similar design Junghans released in the 1950s.

On the steel Junghans Meister Gangreserve (power reserve) Edition 160, the power reserve indicator gradually changes from green to yellow to red as reserve is reduced. 

As the power reserve recedes, the indicator’s color on the steel-bracelet model gradually changes from green to yellow and finally to red, which indicates that it’s time to wind the automatic watch again. Two leather-strap models are more subtle: When fully charged, the indicator shows the dial color (see example below). At fifty percent power, the indicator turn gray, and when power drops to zero, the indicator shows red. The Meister Gangreserve Edition 160 is limited to only 160 watches in each of three versions. Prices start at $1,700.

Meister Fein Automatic

This very modern design features a new convex case to frame its minimalist dial. Though not technically thin, it appears so on the wrist with a 39.5mm diameter, almost absent bezel and long hands and markers.

The Junghans Meister Fein Automatic.

Only a date window interrupts the finely detailed dial. Inside, Junghans places a self-winding (ETA-based) J800.1 movement with a power reserve of up to 38 hours. Prices begin at $1,450.

A side view of the Junghans Meister Fein Automatic shows the new convex case.

Meister S Chronoscope, Platinum Edition 160

Junghans cases its most limited anniversary model in polished platinum. The Chronoscope is one of the brand’s top sellers, and here Junghans creates a twelve-piece numbered edition, with the limited edition number cleverly noted within the twelve-hour counter.

The new Junghans Meister S Chronoscope, Platinum Edition 160.

The 45mm by 15.9mm watch features a screwed solid platinum case back with edition logo engraving and a platinum screwed crown (and tube). Its dial reflects the precious case with a gold-hued markers and a nice lacquer finish that fades from matte silver-plate in the center to grey at the edge, set with luminous markers.

The new Junghans Meister S Chronoscope Platinum Edition 160 dial

The synthetic rubber strap features an alligator leather inlay and a platinum buckle. Price: $19,200.

 

Specifications: Junghans Signature Hand-winding Edition 160 (160- piece limited edition)

Movement: Historical hand-winding Junghans movement J620 with a power reserve of up to 45 hours, 18,000 bph, rose-gold plated, sunburst ratchet wheel, polished barrel bridge, gear bridge and balance cock with fine longitudinal grinding, stones in polished, bowl-shaped countersinks, outside with fine diamond cut, polished steel screws, Junghans star and caliber number engraving.

The Junghans J620 manual-wind movement.

Case: 39mm by 10.3mm rose gold, five-times screwed gold caseback with sapphire crystal with anti-reflection coating on both sides, domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflection coating on both sides. Water resistant to 100 meters.

Dial: Matte silver-plated, minute track with applied dots, dauphin hands with diamond cut.

Strap: Leather with 18-kt rose gold buckle.

Price: $9,800.

If Ulysse Nardin’s Freak isn’t unconventional enough for you, this week the Le Locle-based watchmaker unveils a limited edition of the famed Freak that doubles-down on its dial-free carrousel-movement display with an even freakier pattern. Where earlier Ulysse Nardin Freak X models show the time atop a blue or black movement plate, the new Ulysse Nardin Freak X Razzle Dazzle offers a hypnotic black and white movement plate.

The new Ulysse Nardin Freak X Razzle Dazzle.

Those with wartime nautical knowledge might recognize the pattern from a painting technique employed to camouflage British ships in World War I, and to a lesser extent in World War II.  Called ‘dazzle camouflage,’ or  ‘razzle dazzle’ or ‘dazzle painting,’ the pattern was one of many unusual warship patterns created to attract attention.

Drawing from its long history as a manufacturer of nautical timekeepers, Ulysse Nardin explains that the crossing lines are “meant to confuse the viewer and make it difficult to estimate the range, speed and direction of the ship, therefore misleading the enemy in regard to the ship’s course and resulting in the adversary making poor target firing decisions.”

Ulysse Nardin’s artisans devised a new movement plate finish that combines three different dial-making techniques.

To create the razzle-dazzle pattern on the Freak X, Ulysse Nardin’s artisans devised a new movement plate finish that combines three different dial-making techniques: lacquer, electroplating or galvanic treatment, and laser cutting. The resulting pattern is essentially a miniature optical illusion on your wrist.

Remember that since the Freak X has no traditional dial and no standard hands, its central bridge acts as a minute hand with one of the wheels indicating the hours. Thus, the entire movement plate turns once an hour to indicate the time. As it slowly rotates, the black and white lines create eye-catching patterns, ostensibly to dazzle the viewer.

Ulysse Nardin is making thirty Freak X Razzle Dazzle watches, each cased in titanium with a black DLC 43mm case and a black openwork rubber leather strap with “point de bride” stitches and rubber, or a white openwork calfskin leather strap with “point de bride” stitches. Price: $27,300.

 

Specifications: Ulysse Nardin Freak X Razzle Dazzle

References: 2303-270LE-9A-RAZZLE/0A (black strap), 2303-270LE-9A-RAZZLE/0B (white strap)

Movement: Caliber UN-230, self-winding flying carrousel movement rotating around its own axis, extra-large diameter silicium oscillator, super-light 3 Hz silicium balance wheel, extra-wide, with nickel flyweights and stabilizing micro-blades. 
Index & bridges with SuperLuminova, 72-hour power reserve.

Case: 43mm titanium with black DLC, sandblasted & satin finish, sapphire crystal back, 50-meters of water resistance.

Dial: Razzle Dazzle pattern (decorative plate).

Strap: Black openwork rubber leather strap with “point de bride” stitches and rubber or white openwork calfskin leather strap with “point de bride” stitches.

Price: $27,300 (30-piece limited edition).

 

Just ahead of Mother’s Day, Franck Muller unveils a bouquet of blooming beauty with the new Vanguard Rose Skeleton. And unlike many floral-themed timepieces, the new watch’s petals are more than an afterthought. The flowers on the watch are actually cut from the bridges and the bottom plate of the Franck Muller manual-wind movement.

The new Franck Muller Vanguard Rose Skeleton comes in a variety of color and case material variations.

This design enhances the technicality of what might be a classical skeleton movement that exposes the balance, barrel and gear train. Franck Muller’s artisans have hand-painted flowers within the caliber, varying the hues to match a rainbow of strap and case color options.

With a case measuring a moderate 32mm by 42.3mm, the Vanguard Rose Skeleton is sized for thinner wrists. This fit is enhanced by the caliber’s trim design, keeping the watch a fairly thin 9.9mm from crystal to back.  

Bloom time

Franck Muller has built its own high-efficiency escapement for the movement, which helps provide a full four-day power reserve to the watch. And beyond the eye-catching floral enameling, the watchmaker’s artisans have attended to smaller, traditional finishing details. Artisans have mirror-polished and chamfered the bridges and the main plate, brushed and chamfered of all the steel components and have added fine circular brushing to the barrel and wheels.

As noted, Franck Muller is offering its Vanguard Rose Skeleton in a variety of color and case material variations. These options include models set with diamonds on two or on five of the roses, as well as options with a diamond-set case. Prices begin at CHF 20,800 (about $22,800) for a non-diamond model.

International Watch recently spoke with Omega CEO Raynald Aeschlimann, a watch industry veteran who first joined Omega in 1996 and who has led the watchmaking giant as CEO since 2016. He discussed Omega’s focus on innovation and precision, especially regarding the Master Chronometer certification process. In addition, we learn more about Omega’s celebrity sponsorships as well as its development of pre-owned Omega sales.

Read the full interview below.

   

By Vasken Chokarian

 

iW Magazine: Having been at Omega for more than two decades, how do you see your brand’s evolution to date?

Raynald Aeschlimann: When I first joined Omega in 1996, the brand was beginning to really make some important moves. It was around that time that we signed our first ambassador, Cindy Crawford, as well as forming new partnerships such as James Bond and Team New Zealand. It was a really critical era for growing our brand around the world.

Since then, I have been a part of so many fantastic changes and evolutions within the company. Especially in terms of Master Chronometer precision and the development of new materials and digital sales, we are constantly seeking to improve and lead the industry. I am very proud of the company we are today.

The new Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Black Black.

Omega invested quite heavily on in-house movement production and creativity. How important is that for the future direction of the product development and the Omega philosophy?

Precision has always been at the heart of Omega. It has always been our ambition to research, innovative and invest in better accuracy. To me, it shows the customer how much we care.  It proves that we give everything possible to improve even the smallest margins of quality. For that reason, exceptional movements are a symbol of Omega’s identity and we will continue to maintain that philosophy into the future.

Tell us about the essence of the Master Chronometer certification at Omega.

To gain a chronometer rating, most watches in the Swiss industry are certified once by COSC (The Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute). They have specific criteria that a watch must pass. At Omega, we believed that our standards of precision, performance and magnetic resistance were even better than the COSC criteria.

The Omega De Ville Trésor Power Reserve, new in 2021.

To prove it, we developed “Master Chronometer” certification with the help of METAS (The Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology). Today, after passing the COSC tests, our Omega watches also face an additional eight METAS tests, which are much more stringent and with even finer criteria.

For the customer, this adds trust and confidence. They can buy an Omega Master Chronometer knowing that it has been double certified and proven at the very highest level of excellence.

After twenty-two years of the Co-Axial, what have you learned from both a technical and consumer perspective about this movement?

From a technical perspective, Co-Axial has been a massive success. It has showed that Omega is able to revolutionize the watch movement, not only in terms of quality, but also doing it on an industrial scale. That was the challenge that other brands couldn’t overcome. For our customers, it’s yet another improvement on quality.

The Co-Axial system produces less friction, and therefore less wear, so you don’t need to have the watch serviced as often. But it has also been the gateway to achieving more movement innovation, such as the silicon balance spring and other non-magnetic materials. All of these improvements are the main reason that our Omega watches are given a full and impressive five-year warranty.

Back view of the new Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Black Black, showing Co-Axial Master Chronometer Caliber 8806.

There seems to be a migration of brands to the sustainable and/or carbon neutral approach. How will Omega engage if at all on these causes?

The environment is an important consideration for our brand. In recent years, we’ve partnered with organizations such as the GoodPlanet Foundation and NEKTON to raise awareness about the planet’s needs.

At a watchmaking level, we’ve also been making changes to the way we work. Our newest factory is perhaps the most impressive example. The sustainable development was built with an ingenious indoor climate and renewable energy concept, along with other beneficial systems. I think it’s important to adapt to this modern way of working.

Omega’s newest Constellation, with small seconds subdial.

Do you believe in the perception of investing in R&D is the way forward for a Swiss watch manufacturing brand? How challenging would that be with the business aspects of the industry?

I believe innovation is the key to any progressive business. Watchmaking is a traditional industry, but we still need to find ways of pushing ourselves forward and keeping our products relevant to the modern consumer. Investment is a big part of that, and the Swiss industry needs to maintain its position as the leader of global watchmaking. Every brand does it differently, but I know that Omega is always seeking to innovate. Having the support and expertise of the Swatch Group is a big part of helping us to do that.

How bad has it been at Omega with the global pandemic?

I wouldn’t use the word “bad”. Certainly, it’s been a challenging time and we’ve all ensured some unexpected months. But Omega is a company that has been going since 1848. We’ve witnessed massive global and economic upheaval during our lifetime, but we’ve always found a way to adapt and progress.

Right now, we’re adapting our strategy to what is going on, but I’m confident we’ll see more positive times ahead.

The Omega Bronze Gold Seamaster 300 is cased in a new Bronze Gold alloy with a brown ceramic bezel ring and a diving scale in vintage SuperLumiNova.

Are there plans for Omega to be involved in the pre-owned sphere of their own brand? If so, how?

Absolutely. In fact, we are already underway in this area. The interest in the pre-owned and vintage market is increasing rapidly around the world, and we feel we have a duty to help and support its growth.

Just recently, we launched the Certificate of Authenticity, which enables pre-owned Omegas to be checked and verified by our experts in Switzerland. It helps to create trust and confidence for those buying and selling, and provides a bit more transparency in the market.

The new Omega Seamaster 300.

Omega celebrity-ambassadors and sponsorships are a huge segment of Omega commitments. Do they add a lot of pressure to constantly perform year in and year out?

It’s not pressure, it’s enjoyment! The heritage and passions of Omega are unlike any other brand and they give us so much to celebrate every year. We have teams and experts dedicated to every area, so we’re always on top of each project. And with so much diversity, comes a lot of creativity. Things like James Bond, the Olympic Games and golf allow us to craft some very special timepieces that people around the world really love. If you plan well and use your time wisely, there shouldn’t be any pressure.

How committed is Omega to Swiss Made?

Omega is proudly Swiss Made, and it’s an important part of our identity. We see it as a mark of quality and a world-renowned symbol of excellence. Omega goes beyond the required Swiss Made standard, with almost every single part of our watches being made and assembled right here in Switzerland.

Inside the Omega Museum in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland.

What challenges await the Swiss watchmaking industry and its future development?

Perhaps the most obvious challenge is keeping watches attractive to a new and younger generation of wearers. They have access to so much information, videos, blogs, reviews and opinions, so you have to be able to cut through. A big part of that is being authentic and having quality products they can believe in. It’s also important to build a digital presence, not only through social media and websites, but also the development of online sales and communication. I’m pleased to say that Omega is already well ahead in this regard.

Vasken Chokarian is director of iW Middle East.

 

Among its many notable 2021 debuts, Patek Philippe earlier this month unveiled two particularly interesting calendar watches. Each introduces a new approach to full-spectrum timekeeping, and, notably, neither debut is cased in gold. 

One, the much-discussed in-line Perpetual Calendar (Ref. 5236P-001), is a new perpetual calendar that shows the day, date, and month in a single panoramic aperture at the top of the dial –the first such display in a Patek Philippe wristwatch.

The new Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar (Ref. 5236P-001), cased in platinum.
The new perpetual calendar is thin, measuring 11.07mm front to back, all in platinum.

The second calendar model, the Ref. 4947/1A-001 Annual Calendar, places an annual calendar in a steel case and on a steel bracelet. Recall that Patek Philippe pioneered the annual calendar for the wrist in 1996, and this new model is the brand’s first annual-calendar-only watch not cased in a precious metal.

The Perpetual Calendar

A close look at the in-line calendar display on the new Patek Philippe Cal. 5236P perpetual calendar.

Patek Philippe has previously created in-line calendar displays, but strictly for pocket watches. Interestingly, these were made first for the American market. One example from 1972 (No. P- 1450) features a calendar format in the American style (“à l’américaine”), showing month, date, and then day.

Taking a cue from this historic model and a few others, Patek Philippe several years ago challenged itself to devise such a display in miniature for a wristwatch.

Patek Philippe’s watchmakers decided to design a system with two date disks – one for the tens and one for the units. This meant that the entire calendar display would require four disks, one for the day, two for the date, and one for the month, and all needed to be embedded in the same plane.

Stay thin

To accomplish this, and to maintain a thin caliber, Patek Philippe’s watchmakers built the new movement based on the caliber found in the Ref. 5235 Annual Calendar Regulator from 2011. The caliber in the Ref. 5235 features an off-center micro-rotor, which opens up space for the additional 118 components required to construct the in-line display.

The new Patek Philippe Caliber 31-260 PS QL AMB.

Patek Philippe then had to re-engineer the caliber to more efficiently drive the extra energy required by a perpetual calendar. The firm’s watchmakers increased the torque of the spring barrel 20 percent and boosted the winding power by utilizing a platinum rotor rather than the more typical gold rotor.

And finally, Patek Philippe improved the caliber’s overall rate stability by increasing the frequency from 3.2 to 4 Hz (28,800 semi-oscillations per hour).

The resulting new automatic, ultra-thin caliber 31-260 PS QL boasts a recessed mini-rotor and a customized module for which Patek Philippe has filed three patents. In addition to powering the date display, the movement also powers two round displays that show the leap-year cycle as well as the day/night indications. A further window displays the moon phases.

Patek Philippe is launching the Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5236P-001 in a hand-polished 41.3mm x 11.07mm platinum case. Its handsome blue dial offers nicely gradated black at the edges. It arrives on a matching navy blue alligator leather strap secured with a fold-over clasp. Price: $130,108.

 

Annual Calendar

The new Patek Philippe  Ref. 4947/1A-001 Annual Calendar finds the manufacturer re-designing the ultra-practical complication to fit within a steel Calatrava case for the first time. Equally interesting, the Calatrava is attached to an all-new steel bracelet.  

The new Patek Philippe Ref. 4947/1A-001 Annual Calendar.

You might recall that Patek Philippe invented the wrist-borne Annual Calendar in 1996, effectively creating an entirely new calendar watch category for itself (and many other high-end watchmakers.)

Requiring only one manual correction per year (at the end of February), the annual calendar brings with it a convenient, and moderately priced, calendar function to those who would like the all-encompassing coverage of a perpetual calendar, but balk at the high cost of nearly all examples of the mechanical complication.

Until this new model, Patek Philippe has offered its annual calendar in various ladies’ and men’s models, all in either gold or platinum cases.

The new 38mm steel-cased Patek Philippe  Ref. 4947/1A-001 Annual Calendar offers a polished steel bezel that matches the new, totally integrated steel bracelet. Patek Philippe has created a luxurious five-row bracelet made of fully polished links and a fold-over clasp.

The blue dial on the new watch is patterned with vertical and horizontal satin finishes that appear textured, as on a matte linen fabric. This assures that the dial contrasts nicely with polish of the case and bracelet, creating a surprisingly contemporary overall appearance.  

The watch’s calendar displays are easy to read: Two subsidiary dials between 9 and 10 o’clock indicate the day and, between 2 and 3 o’clock, the month; the date appears in an aperture at 6 o’clock just below a moon-phase display rounds out the calendar functions.

From the back, the wearer can enjoy a clear view of the beautifully finished automatic Patek Philippe caliber 324 S QA LU movement. The watch is nicely sized at 38mm and not too fussy, particularly given its array of calendar functions. It also holds a unique position within the Patek Philippe lineup, especially with its steel case and bracelet. If you’ve been waiting for a steel-cased Patek that is not a Nautilus and not a chronograph, this might be your new watch.

Price: $47,904

 

Specifications: Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar (Ref. 5236P-001)

Movement: Self-winding mechanical Caliber 31‑260 PS QL. In-line perpetual calendar. Day, date, month, leap year and day/night indication in apertures. Small seconds.

Dial: Blue, black-gradient, vertical satin finish, gold applied hour markers.

Case: 41.3 by 11.07 platinum. Interchangeable solid and sapphire crystal case backs. Water-resistant to 30 meters.

Bracelet: Alligator leather with square scales, hand-stitched, shiny navy blue. Fold-over clasp.

Price: $130,108. 

 

Specifications: Patek Philippe Annual Calendar (Ref. 4947/1A-001)

Movement: Self-winding mechanical movement. Caliber 324 S QA LU. Annual Calendar. Day and month by hands. Date in an aperture Moon phases. Sweep seconds.

Dial: Blue, vertical and horizontal satin-finish (“shantung” finish), gold applied numerals.

Case: 38mm by 11mm steel, sapphire crystal case back, water-resistant to 30 meters.

Bracelet: Steel. Fold-over clasp.

Price: $47,904