It wasn’t so long ago that watches with fashion brand names on their dials were routinely dismissed as pretenders, mere arm candy for people with more money than good sense or taste. While there are still plenty of those watches twinkling from department store jewelry counters, other brands — ones more often associated with jewelry, luggage and trench coats — have quietly elbowed their way into loftier company. These five made a splash at this year’s BaselWorld.
Davy Jones's (Dive) Locker
For centuries, man has found countless ways to send ships to the bottom of the sea. Since the advent of scuba technology, we’ve found ways to explore them. Whether it’s to search for booty, take eerie photos, or just to pay respects, wreck diving is a not a sport for the timid. Often found in deep, cold water with strong currents and dangerous reefs, wrecks demand expertise, experience, humility and marine-grade bronze balls — not to mention a lot of specialized gear. This isn’t tropical holiday diving, so be prepared to shell out for equipment that can stand up to the conditions the Gunilda, the Thistlegorm or the Doria present.
Spidey senses are tingling
When it comes to high-end mechanical watches, racers, pilots, and divers are all spoiled for choice. Unfortunately, skiers can’t say the same. One brand though, has been giving them a taste of what could be. Launched by two Danes in 2002, Linde Werdelin went straight after the skiing niche by introducing mechanical timepieces with digital clip-on devices meant for the snow. But today, the technology that made the brand stand out faces major questions. We tried out the SpidoLite Titanium Red ($11,900) and the brand’s latest Rock digital device on the slopes.
The Asian Phaeton?
Kia has far surpassed expectations in a relatively short time frame, shifting from a producer of poorly designed, poorly built econo-boxes to well-made, adventurously styled cars that square off with practical Asian stalwarts like Honda and Toyota. Recently they set their sights on the European luxury market with their 2015 Kia K900 ($59,500 base). We grabbed some seat time in a powerful, VIP-trimmed $65,000 Kia to decide for ourselves if it was worth the price tag — and to decide if the Germans should feel threatened by this Asian invasion.
Time to clean up
Yes, we’re inclined towards utilitarian sports watches, but every now and then a guy’s got to clean up. For those times, do yourself a favor and replace that Panerai with something a little more civilized — a jaw-dropping dress watch. Just how civilized (and how expensive) is up to you, but here are four worth suiting up for.
From Good to Great
Some car models start out great but then topple from grace — the Nissan Maxima comes to mind (as much as we try to push it out). Then there are those automobiles that have only gotten better with time, tweaks, and tender loving care. Some have evolved gracefully, while others desperately needed a hefty dose of attention. Here are five models basking in the glow of recent changes that have brought them into their primes.
It takes two to fan dance
Not that long ago, “Korean Luxury Car” sounded a lot like “Hardee’s Beef Wellington”. Something was clearly lost in both translation and execution — but those days are gone now. Both Kia and Hyundai have brought their own versions of luxo barges to our shores in the form of the K900 and the Equus. Sure, the snob factor isn’t nearly as present as in the German or Japanese offerings, but that could be just what the doctor (or lawyer) ordered. The Korean luxury sedan has arrived in a big way without making a big move for your bank account.
Head of the C-Class
In its past several generations, Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class has promised drivers excellent entry-level luxury — a promise on which the car has never quite delivered. GP editor Eric Yang travels to the South of France to find the soul of the new C-Class using his right foot.
The thrill of the hunt
What self-respecting watch nerd hasn’t spent countless hours trolling eBay for that elusive vintage treasure that no one has discovered? The Pre-Moon Omega Speedmaster, the MilSub, the Cosmonaute — the names alone are enough to get palms sweating and the heart racing. While the thrill of watch collecting is in the hunt, enough foiled plans and missed auctions will make anyone gun shy. We feel your pain. The best salve is this guide to vintage watches on eBay, featuring a strong mix of underdogs — those timepieces that fly under a lot of collectors’ radars. Not only do you stand a better chance of scoring one of these collectible tickers, once you do make the final bid, you’ll end up with a legitimate piece of horological history.
A beast in plainer clothes
The Subaru Impreza WRX (nicknamed “Rex” by loyalists) has a cult following to almost rival the Beatles (smaller and younger, but just as fanatic). New iterations or improvements often make fan clubs and enthusiasts both skeptical and nervous; you can’t mess with perfection, and the Subaru Impreza WRX is pretty close. In November of last year Subaru debuted the fifth generation 2015 WRX ($26,295) at the LA auto show, and we were quick to and hop in line to see if they’d truly made it better or simply messed up a great thing.
Don't Tread on Me
Most of the watches from American brands these days look back nostalgically for inspiration and design cues — Shinola with its round cases, small seconds and wire lugs, RGM with its pocketwatch-on-a-strap aesthetic, or MKII with its ‘60s tool watch vibe. But there’s another American watch company — Devon — that doesn’t bother with the past and may actually be the best brand to wave the banner for American watchmaking given its firm focus on the future and emphasis on innovation. The Devon Tread 2 is that brand’s new and improved take on haute horlogerie, Americana-style.
A Triumphant Return to the (kind of) British two-seater
When Jaguar introduced their iconic E-Type in the early 1960s it turned heads and changed lives; new for 2014, the Jaguar F-Type ($69,000) looks to do exactly the same thing. First coming to life as the C-X16 concept, the production version debuted at the historic Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2012 and, thanks to thrilling driving dynamics and a competitive price point, could be the most exciting offering from the Brits (under Indian ownership) since the tea trade routes.
Eight Small Steps for Timekeeping
A space watch is more than just branding. Torture tested to excel in the most inhospitable of environments, these timepieces are designed to survive instantaneous 200 degree shifts in temperature, acidic humidity and extreme g-forces (shocks up to 40 Gs). Much like the explorers who don them, there are but a lucky few that have earned special recognition. These are our eight picks of the best space watches (or their modern reinterpretation) available for the rest of you dreamers out there.
A watch by any other name
While the popularity of yellow gold watches has been on the decline in recent years, the use of rose gold is on the rise. Rose offers darker tones and a more masculine demeanor; paired with the right watch — say, any of these five great examples — a rose gold timepiece could be a great addition to your collection. But be prepared to shell out for one.
Get it dirty, just not inside, please
With a long history of producing rugged SUVs before that term even existed, Land Rover could sell incredibly well based on just their name. Still, they decided the all-new aluminum-bodied flagship Range Rover wasn’t enough. They’ve spiffed up their biggest seller, the Range Rover Sport, and we had the chance to drive it through one of Chicago’s snowiest winters see how it performed off the clean tarmac.
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.
Old-School Looks, Meet Modern Power
Some modern motorcycle manufacturers — some of the best, in fact — have designed and built bikes that harken back to timeless style. Though we don’t recommend that you get out there with a flimsy leather helmet and goggles, we do strongly urge you to invest in the right gear and then hit the road on any of these five fantastic vintage-style motorcycles, looking damn good while you do it.
Italian for batshit crazy
Limited in production but not in power, the Ducati Panigale 1199 R ($31,000) is a cross between a Navy Seal and Usain Bolt. It’s got carbon fiber and titanium for bones, a computer for a brain and a 195-horsepower engine revving to 12,000 rpm for a heart. We took it out for a few days — after we updated our will.
Deer now need fear iPads
TrackingPoint’s XactSystem Precision Guided Firearm System — which comes standard with an Integrated Networked Tracking Scope, Guided Trigger, and Tag Button — turns any layman into a marksman at up to 3,600 feet, depending on model. Terrifying? Yes — but also technologically impressive. We break it down.
Cool games, hot watches
OMEGA has long commemorated their connection to the Olympics by producing special edition pieces in honor of the games and their host city. Often serving as snapshots for a piece OMEGA’s lineup at the time of the games, these Olympic editions incorporate special coloring, dial and case back designs — and there have been plenty of great ones, including this year’s.
Aging well at 100
You know Buick, but you probably don’t know their rich motoring history: they won the inaugural race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, are the oldest American automotive brand still producing cars and led industry innovations such as the overhead camshaft, a closed body car and turn signals. So how does a brand more than 100 years old compete in the 21st century? The 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD ($40,000) has a few ideas.
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.
A New Motus Operandi
It’s hard enough to bring a brand new motorcycle to market that can compete with the existing best. Try doing it as a new company, charging up the hill of well-established sport-touring segment dominated by the likes of Triumph, Yamaha and BMW. Then try it as a new American company. Birmingham, Alabama-based Motus Motorcycles is doing just that with their own distinct flavor in the form of the MST ($30,975) and MST-R ($36,975) sport-tourers. We break ‘em down.
More crossovers than Iverson
Crossovers are the hottest segment in the automotive industry today thanks to solid fuel economy, practicality and bad-weather driving security. And while that popularity means the field is downright dizzying, there are quite a few excellent options from all corners of the earth. GP’s Octane crew drove five solid examples and came away with loads of insight on what the CUV market has to offer.
Have a Seat
Design often is the avant-garde when it comes to social and global trends, and this was especially true in 1950s Denmark. One of the most notable Danish designers was Hans Wegner, the creator of the iconic “Swivel Chair” in 1955. Dutch firm PP Mobler has recently decided to bring the iconic chair back, and we’ve decided to explore its rich history and details.
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.
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.
Power For The People
Volkswagen is making some driver-friendly improvements to their 2014 model line. Good: they’re replacing the somewhat disappointing 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine option in the Jetta and Passat with a torquey (for its size) 1.8-liter, direct-injection turbo four. Better: five models will be given VW’s hot rod R-Line treatment for the 2014 model year. Best: we got to drive them all.
Bletchley Park — sound vaguely familiar? During WWII it was a secret compound full of cryptanalysts just outside London where the encoded messages that communicated the movements of the Nazi U-boat fleet were decoded using human and mechanical intelligence. The important but largely unsung work done at Bletchley is said to have shortened the war by two years and saved countless lives. It’s this work, and place, that the Bremont Codebreaker seeks to honor. We break down this unique and historically rooted timepiece.
You can't be too rich or too thin
In celebration of its upcoming 140th anniversary in 2014, Piaget recently announced the upcoming release of its new Altiplano 900P (~$20,000). True to Piaget’s ultra-thin form, the hand-wound 900P has set another record: it’s the thinnest mechanical watch ever made. We break down this incredibly slender timepiece.