Bell & Ross just gave one of its most popular Vintage models a full-dial luminescent treatment. The brand’s new Vintage BR V2-94 Full LUM glows with a full base dial of pale green SuperLuminova, assuring full visibility in low light or total darkness.
But Bell & Ross didn’t stop with the green base-dial lume. In addition, the watchmaker has placed a second SuperLuminova color, a metallized pale yellow, on the dial’s skeletonized numerals, indices and primary hands. At the same time, and with clear definition, the 30-minute counter and chronograph seconds hand turn fluorescent blue.
This three-hue lume effectively creates an unusually high level of clarity in low light environments for the retro-styled aviation automatic chronograph. The watch’s luminous trifecta very effectively enhances visibility, in large part due to the strong contrast between the luminescent colors and the black contours of the numerals, indices, hands, and counters.
The watch is the latest in an expanding collection of Bell & Ross LUM models, all of which feature fully luminous dials.
Befitting the retro tag, the Vintage BR V2-94 Full LUM’s 41mm steel case is topped with a domed glass-box sapphire crystal. And the bezel, composed of black anodized aluminum, offers a fixed 60-minute scale. Finally, the watch’s nicely proportioned chronograph pushers are screwed down.
Bell & Ross will make 250 examples of the Vintage BR V2-94 Full LUM, which will be supplied with a strap made from woven black rubber that provides the final vintage touch to the watch. Price: $5,100 (rubber strap model). A steel bracelet to fit the watch (see below) can be ordered separately for $520.
Specifications: Bell & Ross Vintage BR V2-94 Full LUM
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds at 3 o’clock and date. Chronograph: 30-minute counter at 9 o’clock, central chronograph seconds.
Case: 41 mm in diameter. Satin-finished and polished steel. Fixed bezel with anodized black aluminum ring and 60-minute scale. Screw-down crown and pushers. Steel and sapphire case-back. Crystal is domed sapphire with anti-reflective coating. Water-resistance to 100 meters.
Dial: Bi-compax-style chronograph layout with luminescent green painted in SuperLuminova. Numerals and indices coated in SuperLuminova. Metal skeletonized yellow SuperLuminova-filled hour, minute and seconds hands.
Strap: Black rubber with pin buckle in satin-finished and polished steel. Also supplied with a steel bracelet.
Price: $5,100. A steel bracelet to fit the watch can be ordered separately for $520.
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.
iW spoke with Zenith CEO Julien Tornare during LVMH Watch Week 2021 in January. He detailed how Zenith developed the hot new Chronomaster Sport and why the watch is an especially important launch as Zenith continues expanding its appeal globally in 2021 and beyond.
IW: How important is the Chronomaster collection to the Zenith identity?
Julien Tornare: It is clear that Chronomaster is a key product collection for us. You may remember that in 2017 we launched the new Defy, and not everybody was pleased that we were emphasizing that Defy collection. At the time I had issues with the Chronomaster collection because it was going in too many directions at once. This made some people confused. It had a variety of size, shape, colors, and it was too much of a patchwork.
But Defy was selling well; we have been fortunate. Defy was giving the brand fresh air, exactly what we – with Mr. Biver – wanted at that time. And it gave me time to sit back with my friend Romain Marietta (products development, heritage director at Zenith) and think about the key design elements for Zenith, specifically for Chronomaster. We started to show some new designs in 2019 with the 50th anniversary celebration of the El Primero.
Of course we were scheduled to launch the new Chronomaster Sport this past June. Plus, we were to launch a new classic version later during 2020. So now we are on a slightly delayed schedule.
Are you pleased with the reaction to the new Chronomaster Sport?
We knew that we would bring back an iconic watch with the Chronomaster, which many people were waiting for.We expected a good reaction, but put the reaction since it was launched has been incredible. We did not expect the enthusiasm to such a great extent.I am very happy and proud and I congratulate our entire team.
The morning after we launched the new Chronomaster Sport I had messages from all over the world. I had so many retailers I have known call and say they needed this new Chronomaster.
Does the Chronomaster Sport complete the collection?
Now it is very clear what Chronomaster is.We have the Revival, we have the Chronomaster Sport, and coming up next we’ll have the Classic side. This repositions Chronomaster very clearly for us. Chronomaster for me is the past and present.And Defy is the present and the future. So they are connected and complementary.
How did you approach development of the Chronomaster Sport?
We looked at three pieces in 2018 to help us design the new Chrono master sport.
The Zenith A277 was made in 1965, four years before El Primero. But you can already see this sporty influence on the new watch, especially with the sporty bezel and a bracelet. Then, a few years after that, we launched the Luka. This was also a big deal for us. Here you see it again the black bezel, the sporty chronograph look, and the same basic bracelet.
And finally, we looked at the Rainbow, which was also very important for us in the 1980s in the 1990s. That case, and again with the sporty bezel, were influential.
All three of these watches help us create the new Chronomaster Sport.
Of course we added the Zenith three-color chronograph counters.We worked on those colors to have them elegant and more beautiful – not too flashy.The blue and the grays are quite light and very slightly shiny.The watch is 41mm in diameter and 13.6mm thick, so still elegant and not too thick. Easy to wear.
And you used a new movement inside?
Of course, we worked on the movement, which is the El Primero 3600.The upgrades from the earlier El Primero include the column wheel in blue, which makes it clearly visible.We added ten hours to the power reserve to reach a total of sixty hours of power reserve.
And for me a real chronograph should be one-tenth of a second, like the El Primero. When you get 36,000 vph, which is 5 Hz, you can measure one-tenth of a second exactly.With 3 Hz and 4 Hz you measure the one-sixth or the one-eighth of a second, which is not really how we measure any event. And here we really wanted to show off our ability to measure one-tenth of a second.
Zenith can now showcase three different watches with chronograph hands rotating around their dials at three different rotation speeds.
What were the biggest challenges to making the new Chronomaster Sport?
We wanted to keep the identity of our caliber very clear.I also told Romain that I want it to be most comfortable watch available in the industry.
I still believe that is very important to put any watch on your wrist to see how it feels. I am too often disappointed by the way certain watches feel on your wrist. This new watch is smooth as silk.It is super easy to wear.
I wanted a very simple way to measure the one-tenth of a second. And with one of the very first samples, like took it home and gave it to my ten-year-old son.And he looked at it and he could explain how it worked. I wanted this watch to be that easy to read.On many watches it is easy to get lost, especially if you’re not familiar with watches.
Of course, here we have a counter for the seconds, a counter for the minutes, and the one at 9 o’clock for the small seconds.
Can you tell us more about other 2021 Zenith debuts?
Our new brown-dialed A 385 Revival watch is also quite interesting. We have done some research, and it seems that this original watch in 1969 is the first gradient type dial. When we launched the A384 Revival in August 2019 it became immediately a bestseller, in part because of its original 37mm size.
You might remember that ten or twelve years earlier we had lunched this in a larger size (42mm) which I thought lost the proportions of that original. At 37mm you get perfect proportions.
Will we see additional sports watches from Zenith?
Yes of course. Overall, we have a Revival, the soon-to-be released Classic, and then the Sport. This is a very clear organization within the Chronomaster collection. There’ll be additional sport variations.
How did you choose the newest Zenith ambassador Aaron Rodgers?
In 2019 I went to the United States several times to meet various possible ambassadors. I was in search of someone who could represent the philosophy of ‘time to reach your stars’ for the Zenith. And I didn’t want a celebrity who would just show up on the red carpet with the watch.I wanted someone who could talk about his or her story and who could explain what kind of a star he or she has been following over the years to reach an objective. We have done this in China and Japan, and in Europe.
It’s more about the personality. I met actors and singers and other sports celebrities, but when I met Aaron Rodgers I thought he was just a great guy. He’s a good spirit. Nothing to prove anymore.
Can you preview any additional watches for 2021 from Zenith?
We will have the third category of the Chronomaster collection.This will be about elegance, thinness and an A386 spirit, because Chronomaster would not be complete without that particular offering as well. Also look for a new Defy. That will be an amazing watch also. For the United States that will be a big one.
And of course we do not forget high complications within the Defy collection. This year we will present some of our iconic high complications – and in a crazy material. This will be in a very small edition and it will include an experience that I can almost guarantee none of the future owners have done in their lives.It will allow him to really feel what a high complication is in real life.
Will we see new watches for women?
I don’t like to talk about women’s watches particularly at Zenith because we focus on making beautiful, authentic watches with our own movements with our own philosophy, and then make them beautiful.
We don’t really separate them as men’s watches or women’s watches.I think we make beautiful watches that can be worn by men and by women. Diamonds are used sometimes yes, and in some parts of the world diamonds are very popular among men, and in some others less. If you look at the Chronomaster Sport, it is a typical 41mm watch that can be worn buy a man or woman.
At Zenith we like to live in a balanced way between the past, present and the future.Between tradition and innovation. And it is clear that we are gaining market share in terms of vintage.You just need to follow the recent auctions.We have launched the Zenith Icons program to great success. Chronomaster Sport is bringing a contemporary dynamic into the collection. This will live perfectly alongside the vintage, or Revival, collection, as well as the more classic directions that you will soon discover.
A re-made Accutron 521 was among the many eye-catching designs Accutron included in its premiere Legacy collection debuts last September. For Elvis Presley fans however, the retro design was a particularly notable revival since the original asymmetric-cased gold model 521, from 1960, was known to be one of Presley’s favorite watches.
For others, the debut also resonated because of its attention to the original’s perfectly designed proportions. For its Legacy collection, Accutron wisely resisted the modern tendency by watchmakers to upscale retro editions by housing them in larger cases.
Thus, the new Accutron Legacy 521 retains the same ‘TV-shaped’ design framed by the same incredible Space Age lugs as the original, complete with the modest 32.8mm x 32.5mm case dimension, silver-white dial and stylized double-stick hour markers. And while Bulova’s Accutron division in 1960 cased the original in fourteen-karat gold, Accutron has created its new Legacy 521 with a gold-plated steel case.
The original Accutron 521 was unique among the era’s debuts in that it was the only model in the series topped by a mineral glass crystal and a snap-on case back. Accutron today replaces the mineral glass with sapphire and clears a partial view of its movement via a clear sapphire caseback.
And while the original Accutron 521 was among the first designs to house the groundbreaking Accutron electronic tuning fork movement, this new edition will be powered by a modern Sellita automatic caliber.
Accutron also fully embraces the new watch’s 1960s vibe by attaching the 521 case to a gold-hued steel bracelet patterned to echo the mesh-style bracelet popular during the era, with double-press deployant clasp. Alternatively, Accutron offers a version with a brown lizard-embossed leather strap. The new 521 is limited to 600 pieces in each bracelet option.
Prices: $1,550 (mesh-style bracelet) or $1,450 (leather strap).
Zenith reaches back to 1969 once again with its latest Revival debut, the Chronomaster Revival A385, a near-exact 37mm reproduction of the original El Primero chronograph from 1969.
As one of very first automatic chronographs, and the very first operating at a high frequency of 36,000 vph, Zenith’s A385 debuted alongside the Zenith A384 and A386. The A385 was notable for its smoked brown gradient pattern, which Zenith revives on this new release.
To accurately echo the original, Zenith says it conducted a “reverse engineering” of the 1969 watch to create the new model. As a result, each part of the A385’s 37mm tonneau-shaped stainless-steel case (even its pump-style pushers) mimics the original. The only differences here are the domed sapphire crystal, which replaces an acrylic version, and a clear sapphire back that replaces instead the original’s closed solid steel caseback.
The clear back offers a view of the newer El Primero caliber, Zenith’s 400 chronograph movement with column-wheel, that powers the watch.
But it’s the dial here that draws eyes, and Zenith has nailed the attractive brown gradient dial, which notably features a vignette effect that blackens towards the edges. This colorful slight of hand appears to deepen the dial, mimicking the light-bending effect of a domed crystal, but without the dome.
To further deepen the nostalgia, Zenith adds the same red chronograph central second hand and silvery-white chronograph counters found on the original model.
Zenith offers the Chronomaster Revival A385 in two options. One is equipped with a steel “ladder” bracelet, a modern remake of the Gay Frères bracelets Zenith utilized on those original models. The second option is a light brown calf leather strap that will develop a patina over time.The Zenith Chronomaster Revival A385 is available at Zenith Boutiques and online shop, as well as at authorized retailers.
Price: $7,900 (leather strap) and 8,400 CHF (approximately $9,500) for steel bracelet model.
Case: 37mm steel with sapphire back, 50 meters water resistance.
Movement: El Primero 400 automatic column-wheel chronograph with 36,000 Vph (5 Hz), power-reserve of 50 hours.
Functions: Hours and minutes in the center, small seconds at 9 o’clock. Chronograph: Central chronograph hand, 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock, 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock. Tachometric scale. Date indication at 4:30.
Dial: Smoked brown gradient dial with white-colored counters. Rhodium-plated, faceted hour markers and hands, coated with beige Super-LumiNova.
Bracelet: “Ladder” bracelet with stainless steel double folding clasp, or light brown calf leather strap with protective rubber lining and a stainless-steel pin buckle.
Price: $7,900 (leather strap) and 8,400 CHF (approximately $9,500) for steel bracelet model.
For most collectors, there’s always one coveted piece that stands above the rest—the so-called grail, if you will. And in the world of vintage watches, most would agree that the Patek Philippe Reference 2499 holds that honor.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest timepieces designed by the renowned Swiss watchmaker, Reference 2499, a manual-winding Perpetual Calendar Chronograph with Moonphase produced in very low quantities, is the quintessential Patek.
Few have had the privilege to see a Reference 2499 in real life, let alone touch one. Watch experts recognize this very special timepiece as one that perfectly combines incredible exterior design with a masterful internal movement.
Given the rarity and collective fascination with the Patek Philippe ref. 2499, when one comes up to the auction block, the vintage watch world pays attention. Collectors won’t want to miss the chance to see it, study it, and most importantly, share a room with other fellow enthusiasts whilst witnessing the inevitable bidding battle that will ensue to claim this watch as his or her own.
Sotheby’s New York on December 15th will be hosting a holiday season watch auction with a magnificent example of the revered Patek Philippe Reference 2499 as the star of the event.
Few were made
Succeeding Reference 1518 and preceding Reference 3970, Patek Philippe produced Reference 2499 from 1950 until 1985. Despite only 349 pieces ever made, there are four distinct series of the ref. 2499 to note.
The first series was in production from 1950 until the mid-1950s and features square chronograph pushers, applied Arabic numerals, and a tachymeter scale on the dial. There are less than four-dozen of these ref. 2499 watches in existence. The second series, manufactured from 1955 until 1966, include round chronograph pushers, applied baton or Arabic numerals, and a tachymeter scale on the dial.
Next in line was the third series, made from 1960 until 1978, with round chronograph pushers, applied baton indexes, and no tachymeter scale on the dial.
Finally, the fourth and last series of the Reference 2499 is dated from 1978 to 1985 (with later examples taking on the reference 2499/100) and the watches have round chronograph pushers, applied baton numerals, no tachymeter scale, and sapphire crystals shielding the dials.
Fourth series star
The Patek Philippe Reference 2499/100 coming up for sale on December 15 in New York at Sotheby’s belongs to the fourth series family. And it is simply a magnificent piece manufactured in 1981. While the creamy dial is in very good condition it is not perfect.
The dial does have some discoloration owing to the humid conditions of the Southern United States, where its owner resides. The customary applied gold batons mark out the hours while the three subsidiary dials for minutes, date/moonphase, and running seconds sit at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock, respectively. The double windows displaying the day and month are placed at 12 o’clock while the gold hands at the center are in the “Dauphine” style.
A closer look at the dial reveals the coveted “Tiffany” branding, which makes this example of the Reference 2499 even more exceptional and rare. Sotheby’s consulted with Patek Philippe to see how many Tiffany marked examples were made but there are no records in-house.
The winding crown is furnished with the Patek Philippe logo and of course, the chronograph pushers are round in shape. The interior of the yellow gold case back is engraved with Patek Philippe Co – Genève – Swiss – 2499 – 100 – 2.779.174.” Housed inside the yellow gold case is the manual-winding Caliber 13-130, featuring 23 jewels and numbered 869.425. Potential bidders will be happy to know that the watch keeps very good time.
This Patek 2499 is fitted with a brown lizard Patek Philippe strap with a gold Patek Philippe buckle. The width in between the lugs is 20mm and 14mm at the buckle end. The interior of the buckle is engraved with “To AIL – Love – BKL – 7-5-96” and both the case and buckle include all the required poinçons or hallmarks.
Under the sofa
The watch was first appraised 20 years ago but it was lost for some time inside the estate. After a long period of searching, this superb Patek Philippe 2499 was finally found inside the house, underneath the sofa. No one knows quite how long it had been lying there, hidden from the world.
As a one-owner Patek Philippe Reference 2499, this is the first time this watch comes to auction. The estimated price is between $500,000 and $800,000, even though I think it is a conservative figure.
For any inquiries about the watch, please contact Richard Lopez, SVP, Senior Specialist, and Head of Online Sales at Sotheby’s at [ Richard.Lopez@sothebys.com ]
Wishing you a safe, happy, and joyful season.
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
Bell & Ross expands the raw sportiness of its Vintage collection this week as it adds the BR V3-94 Black Steel, a black-dialed, steel-cased chronograph measuring 43mm in diameter, which is a two-millimeter boost in case diameter for the popular Vintage series’ Black Steel edition.
While the case size matches that of Vintage V3-94 models within the existing Bell & Ross Renault series, here the watch boasts a steel bezel set with a cleaner black aluminum 60-minute scale and without the Renault-yellow flange and accents.
The new case’s solid strap/bracelet attachment offers buyers a new option with its subtle cushion shape, marginally bolder than the classically round case of the 41mm Vintage BR V2-94 Black Steel.
Of course, with more room on the dial, Bell & Ross moves from the smaller model’s two-register chronograph dial to a more contemporary three-subdial chronograph. Inside you’ll still find the watchmaker’s Caliber BR-CAL.301, an enhanced ETA-based chronograph movement, which Bell & Ross makes visible through a sapphire caseback. White numerals and indexes contrast nicely with the black dial.
Bell & Ross will offer the new BR V3-94 with a polished and satin-finished steel bracelet ($4,600) or with a black leather strap ($4,300).
Specifications: Bell & Ross Vintage BR V3-94
Movement: Calibre BR-CAL.301, and EA-based automatic caliber
Case: 43 mm satin-polished steel, bi-directional rotating steel bezel with anodized black aluminum ring and 60-minute scale. Screw-down crown, sapphire case back, curved sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, water-resistance to 100 meters.
Dial: Matte black, numerals and indexes coated in SuperLuminova, metal skeletonized SuperLuminova-filled hour and minute hands. Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds at 3 o’clock and date. Chronograph: 30-minute counter at 9 o’clock, 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock, central chronograph seconds, tachymeter scale on the flange.
Strap: Black calfskin or satin-polished steel with folding satin-polished steel buckle.
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.
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.
Mention watches and traditional watchmaking, and you’d be forgiven for thinking of Switzerland, Germany or even Japan. But France, and more specifically Besançon, has perhaps one of the strongest histories of traditional watchmaking in the world. And when you think of French watches, the one brand that stands out above all others is Lip.
Lip is indelibly linked to the French psyche much like Timex has been to those of us who grew up in the United States.
Lip has become something of a cult brand, even in the U.S. And for good reason. The Lip Mach 2000 is something of an anomaly among watch fans. If we are honest about it, in its current format it is essentially a quartz chronograph, and Lip has made few cosmetic changes to it.
More than a watch
But this is a watch that demonstrates that a watch is far more than the sum of its parts. Think I’m kidding?
While in France I received a Facebook message from a fellow watch journalist stateside asking me to pick one up while I was there and bring it back for him. There are certain watches out there that hit visceral nerves, and for me Lip has a few models that speak to me on levels I can’t really quantify. They are emotional as much as pragmatic. Lip, at its very heart, is as much a feeling as it is a brand.
Lip is well known throughout the Francophone world, and famous with hard-core watch and design fans ache for the Mach 2000, as well as the now iconic Nautic Ski.
And the Nautic Ski is enjoying a best “second life” ever, with the return of smaller watches on the radar of most watch fans. When I visited Lip four years ago, the brand had been living sort of a diluted life, really treated by the (then) owners as only a brand label for watches and not the watch brand that Lip truly is.
Enter the Berards
At the time of my visit, the Berard family was producing Lip under a license, but had not yet fully taken formal control.
The Berards, Philippe and his son Pierre-Alain, have now taken full ownership of Lip – and have reinvigorated it. I am not here to criticize the previous owners. I am, however, here to applaud the Berards, and the entire team at Lip.
How do you manage a legend? Curious to relate, Lip stirs a lot of emotions in not only watch fans, but in the French consciousness. But prior to the Berard’s, that emotional connection was more of a sense of nostalgia. But have no doubts as to how serious they are taking their stewardship of Lip.
The latest Lip release, for example, underscores their commitment with a reissue of the Rallye Chronograph.Recently only available as a quartz piece, this new limited edition is much closer to the original with an automatic movement.
The watch was announced recently as a pre-order item, and by all accounts it has been a pretty hot item.
In the years before the Berards, Lip was really not what it once was, or even what it could be.Since the Berards? I hate hyperbole, but walking around the streets of Besançon, Paris, and the offices and workshop at Lip, I really felt a new sense of energy and the passion. I really felt why Lipconnects on the level that it does with fans and the public at large.
It would be easy to do a Blancpain and “start from year zero,” but the team at Lip live in the real world, one where you don’t manufacture history. To that end, they have a rather unusual (in today’s watch world) department that handles vintage Lip questions, assessments, and if I understood correctly, possible restoration.
And while it would be easy for the Berards to simply have bought the name and turn to a white label company for everything, it was very clear to me that Lip clearly represents something special to them, and I got that same feeling touring around the new facilities that they have installed for the watchmakers working on more complicated and vintage pieces.
It is not enormous, but it is not insignificant either. And I think what is encouraging about it to me is that it represents the first step forward.
While it would be easy for Lip recreate itself as a reborn pricey brand, which is something it is not and never was, Lip has held the line on pricing. In a world where brands both big and small jack-up their prices only to jettison their unwanted stock to the grey market where it is discounted down to the bare bones, Lip offers something novel – a great watch at a fair price.
Now I realize that everyone wants to go to Switzerland to visit the historic Maisons, and that’s fair enough. But if you are really a fan of watches, history and culture I urge you to get yourself to Besançon and soak up all of the history and charm that this wonderful city has to offer.
James Henderson pens the Tempus Fugit website, where this article first appeared.
Bulova recently dug deep into its vast design vault and – with the assistance of collectors – emerged last week with the Accutron Legacy collection, twelve limited edition automatic watches that re-imagine eye-catching 1960s and 1970s Accutron designs.
The collection, available now online and in select stores with each design limited to 600 watches, all feature sapphire crystals, a Sellita-based automatic movement and are water resistant to 30 meters. All are priced at less than $1,500.
Most retain what are now unisex sizes, from 34mm to 38.5mm in diameter, and almost all are sold in both silver-tone steel and gold-tone steel cases. While several offer steel or gold-tone bracelets, most echo the era and come with croco-embossed or retro-style leather straps.
Rather than display all the new Accutron Legacy models, here is an edited selection of our favorites.