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.
NOT YOUR FATHER’S GMT
Of all the brands of the Richemont luxury group to exhibit at the annual SIHH in Geneva, Greubel Forsey may be the most ambitious and experimental. Their hand-wound Tourbillon GMT has been out a few years — 2011 saw its initial release in pink gold and the white gold version came out a year later — but this year it was released in weighty platinum as a truly fascinating timepiece. We break down the asymmetrical beauty.
DECYPHERING THOSE cool-looking rings
The watch is an instrument for telling time, but it can also be used to time a dive or a racing lap, take a pulse, or calculate remaining fuel or crosswind speed or the distance of thunder or artillery. How, you ask? The answer has little to do with the watch’s movement. It’s all about the bezel, that outer ring of metal (or perhaps, nowadays, ceramic) surrounding your watch’s crystal. How each type of bezel works is not complicated per se, but it is deserving of a quick guide.
Freshen Your Kicks
You’ve finally done it — you beat the living shit out of your beautiful new boots. Yes, it was painful at first (the initial scuff caused a minor breakdown), but in the end it felt fulfilling, like the right thing to do. Now your beautiful babies deserve the proper care. It’s time to clean and treat your boots properly. Here’s how.
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.
MORE BONES THAN FLESH
Skeleton watches, or squelettes in French, have been made since the pocketwatch days and typically are ornate, baroque displays of artistry. The Tissot T-Complication Squelette ($1,950) offers a far more modern and industrial take on this classic genre. We got our hands on one for a week and let it get under our skin.
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.
The intersection of leather and rubber
Rule one of motorcycling is to armor yourself from head to toe with the right gear; style comes second, but when done right, it plays its part in your staying in one piece as well. For that extra bit of protection and tasteful flair, we’ve gathered five great leather moto jackets for the upcoming riding season and paired each with a like-minded beauty of a bike.
A Jacket of All Trades
When we stopped by the Aether office and showroom to take a look at the second version of the Alto ($395) jacket, their crew handed us a sample and sent us on to their on-site testing facility — an industrial walk-in freezer — where we got a preview of how it would perform in the wild. Our adventures with the Alto would take us from chilly nights in Los Angeles to face-mashing wind in Detroit to a short stint inside New York’s polar vortex. And Vegas. That set of varying destinations is where the Alto, a true multipurpose jacket, is meant to shine.
These should come in handy
These, the five best winter gloves, will give you free range of motion, excellent grip and reasons to start conversations — all while maintaining a high standard of comfort. So whether you’re into something sporty, stylish, svelte or something else, we’ve found the right fit for you.
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.
Rough: The Way Your Face Likes It
One of the easiest ways to achieve clearer, cleaner, flake-free skin is to regularly rid your face of all the crap that builds up on and in it, but that’s no easy feat. The best way to defeat face gunk is to scrub it out. Here are our five favorite men’s face scrubs to get you started.
Empty Canvases, Waiting to be Filled
We know you love leather bags, and so do we. But there are times, say, when you’re toting your photography gear, that you need a more all-weather, utilitarian alternative. In fact, we’ll say it now — leave the leather for trips and commutes. We’ve rounded up our favorites and put them through their paces to come up with our list of the five best canvas camera bags for the discerning photographer.
The Good, the Bad, and the sometimes Knockoff
The phrase “Made in China” conjures up thoughts of inexpensive, low quality, and even knockoff products. While there is some fact behind these connotations, there isn’t an absolute truth. The Chinese watch industry is no different; quality is all over the map. But in recent years, Chinese watchmakers have started taking quality more seriously. Putting aside the ever-present knockoffs and replicas, “Made in China” watches have the ability to fit low-priced niches that Swiss watchmakers can’t or won’t touch.
The Best by Far from the Far East
When it comes to dive watches, many immediately think of iconic Swiss watches like the Rolex Submariner and the Blancpain Fifty-Fathoms. Of course, the story doesn’t stop here. In fact, there’s another country that can credibly lay claim to a long and storied history with the dive watch: Japan. If you need evidence of Japan’s dive watch prowess (or just a road map to buying yourself one), read on.
CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN
The new Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Altichron ($638) is a wild upgrade over the original that launched the Citizen Promaster series in 1989. The new piece has appropriate updates for the new millenium — color, size, Citizen’s Eco-Drive tech — but it continues the tradition of looking (and proving itself) every millimeter a tool watch. We break it down.
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. Today we present two vintage style, military-inspired chronographs, one that gets it right and the other that goes one better — for one tenth the price.
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.
Two Great Loafers, Two Different Prices
There are a few sartorial staples that no man should be without: the navy blazer, the white dress shirt, and of course the classic oxblood penny loafer. We mean the old-school, rounded-toe, brushed burgundy loafer, the kind your grandfather wore to his college graduation and yours. Today we compare a posh pair of loafers for the Harvard grad and a reasonably priced substitute that will produce the same trad effect.
Get more time on the clock
Greed is good, says Gordon Gecko. A strong businessman, to put it lightly, though we won’t get into his ethics. Not everyone agrees with his motto on the money front, but certainly every one of us is greedy as hell about two other things: time and convenience. With that in mind, the Qualcomm Toq, a smart watch that is in many ways the most clever offering on the market, aims to make you more efficient through a plethora of useful apps and a build, design and aesthetic you can count on.
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.
A grand vision and a noble idea
A century or more ago, watchmaking in the United States was the equal of any in the world. Unfortunately, in the intervening years that industry has largely gone away. Yet there are those who would like to see the industry and its uniquely American timepieces return, people who believe “Made in the USA” should be a label as valuable — and meaningful — on a watch dial as “Swiss Made” is today. Could such a thing happen?
Strapped for time
Whether or not you know exactly what a NATO strap is, you’ve definitely seen one. A trend item that has aggressively taken hold of the watch industry, NATOs can be found on just about any watch, from $35 Timex Weekenders to $7,000 Rolex Submariners to $50,000 Patek Philippes. While the straps have become fairly ubiquitous, their origin can be traced back to a single point in history — and it has nothing to do with NATO forces.
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.
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.
From Fighter Pilot to Armchair Pilot
For those of us stuck in an office instead of a fighter jet cockpit, a watch inspired by aircraft instruments can be the perfect way to scratch the cool readout itch. While Bell & Ross was arguably the first brand to introduce this genre, their price tags are of the type to bloat the defense budget; we’ve found an alternative that can help you decrease your own personal deficit.
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…