When the Mercury program started putting men in orbit, American astronauts largely chose their own watches to wear. John Glenn strapped a Heuer stopwatch to his wrist and Scott Carpenter wore a specially-modified Breitling known as the Cosmonaute. But by the 1960s, NASA saw a need to qualify every piece of vital equipment in the capsule, and the wristwatch was one of them. Wally Schirra had already worn his own OMEGA Speedmaster on his Mercury-Atlas 8 mission in 1962, and it was included in a quiver of chronographs selected by NASA for rigorous testing. Subjected to extreme temperature fluctuations, violent shocks, vibrations, vacuum and humidity, the Speedmaster outperformed watches from the likes of Rolex, Wittnauer and Longines to be named NASA’s approved timepiece. It was March 1st, 1965.
The Perfect Storm
For many, Harry Winston is synonymous with stratospherically priced jewelry and awards shows, but for watch aficionados, the house of Harry Winston also brings to mind some truly ground-breaking horological masterpieces. The Histoire de Tourbillon No. 4 is a fitting tribute to the eponymous escapement, which is considered by many to represent the epitome of the watchmaking craft.
Order it this minute, man
Samuel Adams and Paul Revere would be proud of this one. The Minuteman MM01 PVD ($398+), a handsome timepiece, is built by the CGA Company in the great state of Ohio. A portion of the profits from sales will go to selected charities focusing on veterans of the US Armed Forces, a worthy cause indeed.
The new Luminox RECON NAV SPC ($450) (that’s reconnaissance team navigation specialist for you civilians out there) is 46 millimeters of tough black carbon-reinforced polycarbonate strapped down with a specially designed synthetic strap. It’s got all the trappings of an orienteer’s best friend.
Think inside the box
Watch winders can seem like pretentious, esoteric toys for one-percenters with six-figure watch collections until you own more than one automatic watch. Unfortunately, many of them are trimmed in padded leather, faux carbon fiber, or built into a 16-cylinder Bugatti engine block. These excessive centerpieces for the nouveau riche can be as expensive as that self-winding OMEGA you just bought, or much, much worse. The Swiss KubiK Startbox ($460) isn’t part of that snobby crowd.
Rock You Like a Hurricane
There are a slew of complications that are easy to overlook if you’re not in the market for a watch that costs as much as a nice starter home in Phoenix, but some are interesting enough to merit spending a few minutes gawking at. The Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane ($280,000) has not one, but two complications that clear this bar, so lest we leave you unprepared should you hit the Powerball, read on.
Vintage watch buying is enjoying incredible popularity, thanks to a community of savvy collectors, great internet resources for both learning about and buying old watches, and a nostalgic yearning for quality products from an era before planned obsolescence. Old watches also represent great value, the chance to wear a piece of history and, if you’re lucky, a good investment. Not to mention, they just look cool. We explore just how you should go about buying one of these beauties.
This is not your grandfather's clock
Miki Eleta debuted his latest masterpiece, the Hippocampus, at MB&F‘s M.A.D. Gallery in Geneva, Switzerland. To call the Hippocampus a mere clock, however, is to miss the forest for the trees. Yes, it tells time — quite accurately, thanks to Miki’s eponymous escapement — but its raison d’être is to inspire the soul through both sight and sound.
Frozen in time
Where better to design a wristwatch for the extremes of polar exploration than Iceland? After all, the northern tip of this island nation is above the Arctic Circle, and its people are notoriously hearty. Michelsen Watchmakers of Reykjavik dates back to 1909, and to celebrate their centenary a few years back, they began to release their own branded watches. The Arctic Explorer (~$2,900) is the first watch designed entirely by the company.
It Was the Best of Times
Nothing helps shake off the doldrums of mid-winter like a visit to Geneva for the annual Salon International Haute Horlogerie. For the uninformed, SIHH is the watch trade show put on by the watch brands under the Richemont Group umbrella and some of their friends. Familiar names like IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Panerai set up shop next to lesser known watchmakers like Parmigiani and Gruebel-Forsey in the grand confines of the Palexpo convention center. We asked Gear Patrol’s Timekeeping writers to weigh in on what impressed them the most from this year’s crop of timepieces. Their picks vary from the classic to the outrageous (see the Tourbillon Yohan Blake, below), and together they represent a great range of SIHH 2013.
We like our astronaut watches, and one’s just hit us out of the wild blue yonder — the Halda Space Discovery (~$13,200), a beautiful piece of technology that hides its dual personality a hell of a lot better than Dr. Jekyll. The watch features interchangeable timekeeping modules: the Space Module (electronic) and the Mechanical Module (well… mechanical). Both are integrated into the bracelet so well that it’s difficult to tell they’re swappable pieces.
Know the course like the back of your hand
Golfers looking to escape the winter weather and start working on gloved tan lines will be all too happy to let the Garmin Approach S2 Golf Watch ($250) remove a stripe of sun from their arms and a few strokes from their scorecards. Much like the S3 Approach, the S2 comes preloaded with maps to…
Wax on, wax off
We rarely come across a dive watch with a moonphase complication, let alone a moonphase complication that piques our interest, but the Linde Werdelin Oktopus II Moon ($29,400) has managed to do just that. Why does a dive watch need a moonphase display, you ask? Perhaps it’s to track the tide or plan a night…
An Oris with an orifice
When diving, it is as important to know your depth as it is your time. For most divers nowadays, this means using a digital dive computer that puts all the data on your wrist. But for those who prefer to dive old school, or who subscribe to the “two is one, one is none” philosophy of having backups, using a dive watch and a separate depth gauge is required.
The Sinn 140 A Space Chronograph ($4,930) is a Limited Edition update of the 140 S that German physicist/astronaut Reinhard Furrer wore on his voyage to SpaceLab in 1985. Furrer’s 140 S was reputed to be the first automatic chronograph to be worn in space (the Seiko 6139 may have beaten it though), proving once again that a self-winding watch would work just fine without gravity.
A bold standout
There is a certain ragtag group of watch aficionados who regularly meet in a Manhattan bar to do some horological horse-trading, share their latest acquisitions and shoot the shit on industry gossip. When Girard-Perregaux’s New York boutique invited them to preview their new 2013 models, the revamped Sea Hawk dive watch ($11,350) was the biggest…
British elegance and a seafaring tradition
Even a gear guy puts on a tux once in a while. The new HMS1 ($15,165) from Arnold & Son is just the watch for the occasion. It’s sleek and elegant in 18K rose gold, with an anthracite dial and hand-stitched alligator strap. The HMS1′s classic nautical styling is steeped in the 249-year history of…
The watch company that came in from the cold
Gear Patrol’s Jason Heaton travels to Saxony, home of A. Lange & Söhne, to explore the region, experience the watchmaker and learn its storied history. Read on for our short film, photo essay and his story — filled with snowy drives, German culture, precision watchmaking and an incredible company that came out of the cold.
Right on time
If you’ve been to Switzerland — or just watched The Eiger Sanction or The Bourne Identity — you may have seen the clocks of the venerable Schweizerische Bundes Bahnen (SBB), or Swiss Federal Railway service. The clock design, created in 1944 by then-SBB employee Hans Hilfiker, is instantly recognizable. Black points stand starkly against a…
Phone? What phone?
Let’s face it. As convenient as smartphones are, sometimes it’s just not convenient (or tasteful) to break it out. The Casio G-Shock Bluetooth Low Energy Smart Watch ($180) helps you stay in touch without looking like a complete ignoramus at your friend’s birthday dinner. Utilizing Bluetooth v4.0 (Bluetooth low energy technology), the watch connects with…
A workout for your fingers? Worth it
We’ve been watching New Zealand niche watchmaker Magrette since the 2008 release of their Panerai homage, the Regattare. Founder and designer Dion Wynyard McAsey based the brand on his love for watches, design background and passion for his home country. Since the company’s founding, he’s released a host of beautiful watches, many at affordable prices with the kind of quality that makes a name in this very competitive industry. One of his newest releases, the Moana Pacific Chronograph PVD, is a wonderful example of solid components, great design and affordability.
What's old is new
We’ve never heard of a 1970s vintage dive watch that still carries a factory warranty, but hey, there’s a first time for everything. Aquadive’s NOS Model 77 ($990+) takes “new old stock” cases and bezels that were manufactured in the 1970’s but never used and fits them with newly produced hands, dials, crystals and gaskets….
How to tell time when there's no time left
Clearly Mayan watchmakers hadn’t cracked the horology of the perpetual calendar complication before their ateliers closed for good. Whether December 21st, 2012 portends an ominous implosion of this rock on which we live, a collapse of civilization or just severe disappointment for the crazies no one knows for sure. But it sure does present a great excuse to stock up on bombproof gear. We’ve got five timepieces to see you through the fire and brimstone — and if the Mayans were wrong, well, you’ve still got yourself a pretty badass watch.
Back to the future
It’s that time of year: when the eyes of the watch industry turn to Geneva and the annual event known as Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, or SIHH. In 2013, IWC Schaffhausen is the first across the starting line with the introduction of their entirely revamped Ingenieur family of watches. The Ingenieur’s history stretches…
Christmas came early in Saxony this year, at least for Gear Patrol and a few other journalists who were given a rare sneak preview of one A. Lange & Söhne’s novelty timepieces for 2013. On a snowy night in a villa overlooking the Elbe River in Dresden, Lange CEO Wilhelm Schmid introduced the Grand Lange…
12 gifts for the traveler
These guys seem to have racked up a bigger airline status than Clooney and more time on the road than Kerouac. They call ports of call home and know how to navigate the TSA, border checkpoints and a nasty comped bar hangover with ease. Whether a job takes them to exotic first-world destinations or their…
36 gift ideas for the stylish man
Nothing sets the teeth to rattling like the task of gift buying for a style zealot (except maybe an in-law’s icy glare). Rolled or cuffed? four-in-hand or windsor? Double breasted or single? Brown or black? Personal style is, well, personal; a faux pas can have lasting consequences. That’s why we’re throwing you a life line:…
From the deck to the desk
The history of maritime exploration and discovery would read a lot differently without the advent of the marine chronometer. Prior to its development, ships hung close to familiar coastlines; when they ventured further out to sea, sailors had to rely on celestial navigation and plain dumb luck to get where they wanted without crashing on…
Let’s say you’re in the hunt for a quality dive watch — but you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg, you don’t like derivative styling and your wrists don’t resemble Clubber Lang’s. Numerous dive watches with fat diameters, some as big as 50mm, won’t work for you. And while big is still…
A revved-up timepiece
We love Autodromo’s automotive-inspired timepieces, so we’re excited to see them expanding the line with the Monoposto ($875), their first mechanical wristwatch. As with the other pieces in their collection, the Monoposto is an unabashed homage to the Cult of the Car. It takes design cues from the bare-bones, single-seat racers of days gone by,…