There are worse ways to spend your hard-earned money than on those pinnacles of the mechanical art. But there’s something to be said for wearing one watch all the the time. Buy one watch, wear it through thick and thin and create your own patina rather than purchasing someone else’s. Here’s how to do it.
The Mountain Series ~ Part I of III
From the Archives: The rotor wash from a Bell 212 helicopter is startlingly strong. Though I was getting used to the pick up and drop off routine — kneel, huddle together, cover your face — every time the helicopter landed I was nearly blown off my feet. Peering out the side window as we lifted straight up from a postage-stamp-sized rock atop a peak called “Kickoff”, I noticed that getting blown over here would have meant a very long fall. Note to self: don’t be the guy at the back of the huddle.
The Battle of Britain
The three watch companies at the vanguard of the British timekeeping renaissance — Bremont, Christopher Ward and Schofield — represent very different approaches, price points and designs. Yet they share one thing: a distinctively British take on the wristwatch. We spent some time with each to establish a solid cross section of timepieces from across the pond. Put the kettle on and settle in for our impressions.
Founder of Schofield Watch Company
Giles Ellis is a man obsessed with details. Though his pet project, Schofield Watch Company, has won high praise from watch connoisseurs, Ellis is still wary of being pigeonholed. Quirky hard goods and a premium line of straps prove it: Schofield is an adventurous brand driven by design yet still rooted in the traditions of watchmaking and a distinctive British pride. So what makes the man behind it all tick?
Insight from our man on the ground
I’m in Sochi this week, and guess what? I haven’t been blown up, my phone hasn’t been hacked, my hotel room is quite nice and the water from the taps isn’t brown. Instead I’ve seen some amazing athletes doing some amazing things on the ice and snow and had my preconceptions sincerely rattled.
Ready, set, go
Olympic timing is serious business these days and nothing is left to watches that need winding: it’s all lasers and photocells and transponders. Every two years when an Olympic Games rolls around, OMEGA comes out with some new technology that improves timekeepers’ abilities to be more accurate and avoid controversies. Two years ago, we looked at the Summer Games in London. Now let’s see what’s happening in Sochi.
To Russia We Fly
Packing for a trip to Russia for the Sochi Olympics is no small feat. There’s weather, international travel, technology and a desire to stay light on our feet to consider. Gear needs to be tough, functional, lightweight and understated. Here’s a sampling of what we’re packing to use on a normal day in Sochi.
Adventure-ready multifunction watches
Mechanical diver’s and pilot’s watches may have been indispensable instruments for explorers in decades past, but nowadays, state-of-the-art wristwatches have shifted toward lightweight, battery-powered and largely digital pieces. These are wrist-top computers, designed for wear during mountaineering, skiing, sailing, surfing and flying. We rounded up six of the best for your next adventures.
Time to Go?
For years and years, mechanical watches served not only as everyday timekeepers but also legitimate tools: a diver’s underwater timing mechanism, a doctor’s pulsometer, a driver’s tachymeter. The list goes on. But what about today? Has the advent of digital devices made mechanical watches irrelevant as tools? Two watch experts debate.
Best of Show
Every year we come away from Salon International Haute Horlogerie, the world’s most prestigious watch show, feeling privileged and awed. This year was no different. The competitive environment of the show, the electric vibe among the attendees and the enthusiasm of brand reps and watchmakers showing off their new creations make the Palexpo in Geneva a wonderful place every January.
After we’ve returned home and slept off the jetlag, we like to poll our team of Timekeeping contributors for their picks from the preceding week. So with our further ado, here are our favorite watches of SIHH 2014.
Building Watches the Old-Fashioned Way
We left Geneva early, before sunrise, our destination the tiny Alpine hamlet of Villeret. This was the home of the historic Minerva watch manufacture, now part of Montblanc, a brand more often associated with writing instruments than those that keep time. Stepping into the building was like stepping back in time to an era when small factories in these isolated mountain towns made a few watches a year.
Calling all watch fans
A resurgent interest in the mechanical timepieces has grown a whole new crop of watch enthusiasts, people hungry for not only eye candy (which we happily provide weekly), but also knowledge about wrist-based micro-engineering marvels. We’re here to help. This collection of our best educational articles might just save your precious timepiece from a busted date mechanism or save you from embarrassment the next time someone asks you what a helium release valve is for. We call it Timekeeping 101.
From Geneva with Love
This time of year, the horological universe revolves around the Palexpo center in Geneva. It’s SIHH — the Salon International Haute Horlogerie, where the watch brands under the Richemont Luxury Group umbrella (and a couple of outlying independents) convene to display their wares in elaborate and opulent “booths” that defy that pedestrian name. Journalists and retailers from around the world descend on Geneva to jostle for first looks at the latest and greatest creations from legendary maisons like Jaeger-LeCoultre, A. Lange & Sohne and Audemars Piguet. Follow our man on the ground, Jason Heaton, as he sends in the latest horological news every half hour.
Do You Wanna Go to the Moon?
When the doors open on the annual SIHH watch fair in Geneva, there’s a stampede of journalists to the A. Lange & Söhne booth to see what new timepiece miracles the Glashütte brand has introduced. The German brand never disappoints, and this year is no exception: the Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar Terraluna ($215,100+) is a spectacular timepiece, yet another tour de force from Glashutte. In this video Lange’s Technical Director, Anthony de Haas, explains the masterpiece.
Most Japanese dive watches are the best suited for real-world use. Their simple movements have legendary durability, even if they aren’t the most accurate. Designs that forgo adornment in favor of readability and functionality win out over fancy locking bezels, helium release valves and shiny slim hands. Of course, their affordability makes them not only more accessible to divemasters that live on tip money, but also more bearable should they be lost of broken.
In short, if you want a real dive watch, look to Land of the Rising Sun. We recently did just that, procuring three of Japan’s best dive watches representing different brands, styles and price points for a real-world shootout below the waves in the Caribbean.
Lewis Hine Visits Lancaster, Pennsylvania circa 1936
Today, the once great Hamilton Watch Company factory in Lancaster, Pennsylvania is an apartment complex. But these photos from Depression-era photographer Lewis Hine show the halcyon days at Hamilton, when even during our nation’s lowest days, American watchmaking kept people working and a country on time.
Since some press photos leaked from across the pond a couple of weeks ago, the online watch community has been buzzing about the next generation of IWC Schaffhausen’s Aquatimer dive watch family, which will be formally introduced in a couple of weeks at the Salon Internationale Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva. With this year’s refresh of the Aquatimer, IWC seems to have listened to some of its customers’ opinions, but also took a new approach, bringing back the internal timing ring, with a new (ahem) twist.
Dress diver par excellence
If the best dive watches tell a story or transport us to a different place, then the D-Star 200 Chronograph ($4,300), with its cool steel case and shimmering blue dial, conjures images of perhaps a teak-decked yacht, the Mediterranean, a cocktail in hand and boat shoes on the feet. This is a watch that does retro right.
It's That Time
We picked a good year to formally launch Gear Patrol’s Timekeeping series. We’ve never strived to make it the place for breaking watch news or regurgitated press releases, nor do we limit ourselves to talking about the most prestigious brands. We prefer to cover the horological world that appeals to us — watches as gear for life’s adventures, whether they be rough or genteel. 2013 was the year we rolled out this new vision, and we’re on to something…
SOS for Less
If you’re like us, you have a long list of watches you’d love to own. But reality (almost) always steps in, and your desires remain unfulfilled. Gear Patrol’s series Want This, Get This presents a lust-worthy timepiece along with a more affordable alternative that scratches the same itch. This week, we offer two very different ways to save your skin.
Out of the mall, under the sea
The Fossil name usually elicits sneers and scorn from watch cognoscenti as an emblem for shopping mall fashion dreck. But Fossil has quietly upped its game with a small line of Swiss-made watches, not to mention being behind the latest darling of the American watch scene, Shinola. Then, out of nowhere this year came the Breaker, a limited-edition dive watch that will make even the most cynical watch geek look twice.
Light, fast, local
There are big-name brands in the outdoor clothing market that turn out lustworthy, cutting-edge shells, baselayers and insulation pieces season after season. But every once in a while, we stumble upon a small brand doing things a little bit differently yet equally well. One of those is NW Alpine, based in that outdoor playground, Portland, Oregon. We got to test out three pieces of NW Alpine gear in the mountains this fall: the Black Spider Hoodie, the Fast/Light Pant and the Simplicity Jacket.
(Half) The World on Your Wrist
On the more affordable end of the scale, Montblanc is best known for its Timewalker collection, a set of modern sports watches that features chronographs, time-only pieces and GMTs. This year saw the introduction of the Timewalker Hemispheres ($4,900), a world time watch that was instantly one of our surprise favorites in Geneva. We recently got our hands on one for a spin around the world.
Hiking Hut to Hut in the White Mountains
For thru-hikers of the AT, the White Mountains are a cruel joke, coming near the end of a months-long journey that begins in the gentle hills of Georgia. With nary a flat mile the trail follows the spine of the Presidential Range before exiting into Maine and the final miles to Katahdin. But while the Whites can be cruel, they are also kind. Among the rocky steeps is a series of huts where a weary hiker can find a soft bed, warm smiles and hot meals.
I came to the White Mountains of New Hampshire with too much confidence and they kicked my ass. With the trail’s highest point barely above tree line and only one thousand feet higher than the starting point of my June ascent of Mount Rainier, I figured hiking here would be easy. I was wrong.
Gear for the Granite State
Even when you’re sleeping in huts every night, hiking in the White Mountains requires considerable planning. With New Hampshire’s notoriously unpredictable weather, it’s wise to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. That means shells for rain, layers for warmth and good footwear for all that granite. Here’s what we took on the final part of our Mountain Series, a three-day hut-to-hut excursion.
Tested by sheep
We’ve been wearing Icebreaker’s Sierra Long Sleeve Zip jacket ($180) all summer and fall for mountain hiking — and though merino sheep have a few more centuries of wear-testing on their coats than we ever will, we’ve managed to form some opinions of our own.
The clock is ticking
In staff meetings, he’s the one who always volunteers to be the timekeeper. On road trips, he insists on navigating with a sextant and chronometer. He wears a watch to bed and wakes his wife up at 2 a.m. to show off the SuperLuminova. You know this guy. He’s got a different watch for every day of the week. What could you possibly get him that he doesn’t already have? We’ve got you covered with the 12 gifts for the horologist in your life.
Part II of III in The Mountain Series
For alpinists everywhere, including those confined to armchairs, the name, “Eiger” conjures up excitement, fear and dread. Considered the most daunting climb in the Alps, the mountain’s north face, the “Nordwand”, is a 6,000-foot sheer wall of crumbling, often ice-coated, rock that is continually scoured by rockfalls and avalanches. First climbed in 1938, it has been the scene of countless adventures, tragedies and one Clint Eastwood movie. The name and the image of the Eiger were etched in my brain for years, and I read everything I could about the mountain. So to see it there, across the valley from the sundeck of the Berggasthaus First, seemed like a dream; I could hardly take my eyes off it.
Not far behind the invention of the wheel, in terms of ingenuity, is the wheeled duffel. The problem is, most wheeled duffels are either good at wheeling or good at holding gear, but seldom both; that’s not to mention most have a hybrid appearance that neither looks stylish on the concourse nor rugged in the outback. But that’s not true of the Victorinox Swiss Army Alpineer Wheeled Duffel ($250), a bag we’ve dragged around three countries and four mountain ranges since June.