Back in 1983, the first Swatch quartz watch had 51 components. For a 30th anniversary celebratory piece, Swatch took up the challenge to make a mechanical watch with the same number of parts. This is the Swatch Sistem51, a revolution in mechanical watches that hasn’t yet come to American shores. We recently got our hands on one.
SET IT AND FORGET IT
Up or Down, it's high art
The LM1 Xia Hang, which gains its surname from Xia Hang, a Chinese artist known for his “comma men”, is a high-art version of an already high-art watch: the MB&F LM1, a beautiful timepiece that takes classic pocket watch characteristics and adds 21st century — hell, even 22nd century — twists.
The award-winning De Bethune DB28 has seen over a dozen variations added to its family tree — and this year at Basel, the DB28 Digitale will be yet another. It’s essentially the ultimate combination of minimalist appearance and jam-packed innovation.
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.
We Have All the Time in the World
From the Archives: In a wristwatch, any function beyond merely telling the time of day is called a “complication”. This term encompasses simple functions such as the date, poetic ones like the phases of the moon or even something as esoteric as sidereal time. But perhaps the most useful watch complication is the ability to tell the time in more than one time zone. Since the advent of the traveler’s watch, we’ve seen every conceivable variation of the traveler’s watch — for pilots, divers, businesspeople — but all still live up to their raisons d’êtres: keeping track of the world’s times at a glance, no matter the complication style. Here are five of the best out there (yes, we said best, so gird your wallets) that are ready to take flight.
Dive watches are more popular than ever, despite most divers choosing not to wear them. Never mind. We’re all for getting our watches wet. Here’s a selection of our favorite dive watches and some adventures we’ve had with them.
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.
The Time of Your Life
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.
Come on, Eilean!
If you’ve yet to install navigational instruments on your restored 1930s luxe sailboat, Officine Panerai has you covered. Inspired by the Eilean, a beautiful restored 22-meter Bermudian ketch owned by Panerai, the watch brand has developed a set of sleek, robust and beautiful navigation instruments that includes a clock, thermometer, barometer, and hygrometer.
An empire once again?
The 1700s really were the halcyon days of horological innovation and most of it was happening in the British Isles. In 1800, some reports say that Britain made half the world’s watches, around 200,000 a year. By 1900 however, production numbers had fallen to roughly 100,000, though worldwide consumption was by then in the millions. So what happened? And where does British timekeeping stand today?
Showdown at High Tea
The modern pilot’s watch resembles those of the 1940s and ’50s as little as an F22 Raptor resembles a P-51 Mustang. Nowadays, it’s all about materials, ruggedness and functionality. Modern pilot’s watches are also getting as stealthy as the planes they’re modeled after, all blacked out for night maneuvers and flying under the radar. Today we look at two stealth fighters from England, both high flyers, but one that won’t dive bomb your budget.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.