To refer to the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak as a mere icon is to almost willfully ignore the importance of the watch, the line it inspired, or, indeed, the genre that it gave birth to. Few, if any, timepieces have so thoroughly altered the industry or impacted our conception of watchmaking as the Royal Oak, and for good reason. This timepiece didn’t just save a company. It single-handedly created an entirely new class of watch.
Three top chronographs go head to head
The popularity and prevalence of chronographs might just make one think that it is an easy watch complication. Everyone from Hamilton and Tissot on up the line to the loftier likes of Patek and Lange & Söhne have one in their lineups. Something about the asymmetrical cases — those buttons poking out from under a shirtsleeve — and the gauge-like dials with tachymetric scales and multiple subdials seems irresistible to men everywhere.
So when we recently got our hands on three of the best available in-house built automatic column wheel chronographs from three legendary companies — Zenith, OMEGA and Girard-Perregaux — it presented an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. We’ll call it a shootout — loosely.
UNDER THE DOME
The Ressence Type 3 ($30,555) is a totally modernistic design, unique in every sense of the word — something very refreshing in today’s horological world of “my watch has more tourbillons than your watch”. Its interesting take on the regulateur style comes together in a timepiece you need to touch and feel firsthand to truly appreciate. We give you the next best thing in our breakdown above.
Cue the tiny violins
IWC is thoroughly Swiss and proud of it. So proud, in fact, that they’ve put together a little video in honor of Switzerland’s national holiday, which falls on August 1st, with a team of watchmakers playing the Swiss national anthem on suitably sized instruments. The conductor of the group is none other than Kurt Klaus, appropriately a national treasure and designer of some of IWC’s greatest complicated timepieces. Happy National Day, Switzerland, and keep the great timepieces coming!
There are dozens — if not hundreds — of guys making custom leather straps these days, and a few doing nylon. You can too. All it really takes is some serious time on Google and YouTube looking for information, a leather supplier, a few knives, needle and thread, and Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours of practice.
In case you don’t have that kind of time, we’ve rounded up some top current strap makers for your sampling pleasure. And lest you think these guys are dilettantes, at least two of them parlayed their passion into an OEM manufacturing concern for well-known watch brands.
Newman or Everyman?
Today we’ve got a vintage version of “Want This, Get This”, and its timing couldn’t be better. 2013 is the convergence of two important events in the watch world: it is the 50th anniversary of the Rolex Daytona and also the year in which Tudor makes its American market comeback. One is virtually unattainable to mere mortals and one will give you the same look and Rolex pedigree without having to mortgage your home.
Telling shit from Shinola? That's easy
Here’s the thing about Shinola: it gives off the right appearances, the right ethics, just the right amount of chip-on-the-shoulder pride; and then those things end up also being true, rooted in concrete examples like a city and the fingers of idealistic workers (who, outside of watches, also build excellent bikes) or abstract things like the American Dream. So it is with the Shinola Runwell ($600), the brand’s flagship watch, which found its way onto my relatively inexperienced wrist with an obvious, immediate question: was this an American watch (the American watch) worth buying?
Crepas Watches out of Malaga, Spain is a niche dive watch company that elicits true horological lust. Each of Crepas’s three previous releases sold out, if that’s any indication. Using classic dive watches as their muse, Crepas issues one watch per year, and their latest release, the Cayman 3000 (~$1,190), found its way to our doorstep this summer.
There once was a watch from Nantucket
There are few scenes that conjure up summer more than white sails against a blue sky, whether you’re cruising in a 12-meter out of Newport, rounding buoys in a Laser at your lake’s weekend regatta, or just sitting on the beach watching the action. Our country’s lore and style are steeped in sailing culture, and watch companies haven’t ignored the nautical theme. Even if the closest you come to a boat all year is your company’s annual booze cruise, you can still channel a little bit of the maritime vibe and look like an old salt with any of this year’s fleet of nautical watches.
Zenith has had its share of ups and downs. After decades of success making watches for everyone including Mahatma Gandhi, the brand may have reached its zenith (sorry) in 1969 with the release of the El Primero chronograph, arguably the world’s first full-rotor self-winding chronograph. The ’70s and quartz bottomed out the brand, but it has since recovered. We break down Zenith’s Stratos Flyback Striking 10th ($9,500), released in tribute to the Austrian BASE jumper Felix Baumgartner, the man who would jump from a balloon 130,000 feet above the Earth — with this watch on his wrist.
European history is rife with stories of natives and immigrants pursuing passions in the name of business. Eponymous brands that have flourished from single-person outfits into enterprises both small and large — some luxury and other more municipal in nature — tout their victories loudly. Rightly so. Enormously successful brands almost always have traveled a long, meandering and difficult path to gain their current success. Recently, we were invited to peer into the opulent world of Bulgari (or Bvlgari proper), a company whose unique track has led to excellence in a relatively new niche for the brand: watchmaking.
While haute horlogerie is all about insane complications these days, even basic mechanicals are lots of fun when we get to peek under the hood. But quartz watches? They give one the feeling of an absolute black box: no clue what goes on in there.
So sure, we’d rather go mechanical, but to overlook quartz watches is to ignore unique performance and a form-follows-function vibe in some pretty cool purpose-built watches. Quartz timepieces are, by their very nature, more accurate and often more comfortable to wear than their mechanical forebears. Sometimes those traits are welcome, like when you’re swinging a golf club, marching into battle or just lifting a cold one on a hot afternoon. We take a look at a few electromechanical beasts that would add some much-needed variety to your watch box.
You'll want to make time for this
Bespoke: a word that conjures much fantastical imagery; namely, unique style, desirability and extravagant (read: prohibitive) expense. After all, you don’t visit Savile Row so you can blend in. Made to measure suits are one thing, but you don’t have to take out a mortgage to acquire custom-made wristwear. Last year Universal Watch Company introduced the Boccia id Watch Configurator, making it possible for customers to shop online and personally choose the case, bezel, dial, hands, sub-hands, strap and crystal used to make their next watch. There are over 12 million variations possible — about enough for everyone in Shenzen, China and Portland, Oregon to get one watch, each of them different.
A thoughtful look behind the case back
After Jason Heaton tells people that he writes about watches, the question inevitably arises: why do some watches cost so much? (This after the incredulity that one can actually make a living doing what he does.) The answer is not so simple. Good thing Mr. Heaton has the time to explain. Read on for his argument.
The Gear for Rainier
To take on our recent ascent of Mount Rainier, we rounded up some of the latest and greatest mountaineering gear. And after two days, 9,000 vertical feet of climbing and weather that ranged from downright scorching to subzero wind chills, we’ve got a thing or two to say about each piece. So whether or not you plan to use any of this gear in your urban, or more rustic, adventures, you can be assured we’ve put it all through rigorous testing in a worse place. Just don’t take an ice axe on the subway.
A mix of precision and ruggedness has long defined the history of British watches, and that tradition is being carried forward by young companies like Bremont and Schofield, whose designs and sensibilities conjure up images of ships’ chronometers, RAF flying aces, lonely lighthouses and polar explorers. The latest British brand to jump into the fray, Meridian, hopes to espouse the same in their MP-01 ($6,000) timepiece. Does the Prime MP-01 achieve its goal? We aimed to find out.
A Complicated Beauty
We’ll never own a watch like the A. Lange & Söhne Double Split, the world’s only mechanical split seconds and split minutes chronograph. Not many people will. But just wearing it for a month was a privilege, like taking a lap in a vintage Aston Martin DBR or sipping a dram of 1962 Macallan. To try to distill down its essence to a mere hands-on review seems almost blasphemous. So we won’t. This is a watch to be gazed on and lingered over. Enjoy the photos.
WELCOME RACE FANS
In this age of touchscreens, electronic this, and digital that, you might be thinking the good old analog timepiece — you know, actual hour and minute hands pointing to numbers on a dial — might be in grave danger. This is especially true in racing applications where hundredths of a second are pretty important. As if to reach an accord, the recently released Tissot T-Race Touch ($575) combines the best of the digital and analog worlds. We break it down.
Calling All Top Guns
Pilots are daring. They wear cool clothes. They have sunglasses that are named after their profession. If you fit the mold — or even if you don’t — no one will blame you for some “finest form of flattery”, and a pilot’s watch is an excellent way to do it. In this week’s Want This, Get This, we compare two prime examples: the Breitling Navitimer 01 and the Sinn 903 St.
We Have All the Time in the World
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.
Challenger of Record
If you’re a sailing nut, or if you’ve just been following the news lately, you’ll know that this year’s America’s Cup is in a bit of trouble. Fortunately, we still get to enjoy the special edition timepieces put forward by watch brand sponsors. First up is the OMEGA Seamaster Emirates Team New Zealand Limited Edition. We were invited to OMEGA’s launch of the new timepiece and also got to watch the Emirates Team New Zealand boat launch for a training run in the bay.
Over the years the Reverso — created in 1931 as a watch that could withstand the rigors of a polo game — has seen countless versions, alleged patent squabbles, clones and wannabes from both sides of the Atlantic, a brief suspension of production, and perhaps even a flirtation with quartz. We delve into the storied past of this absolute icon.
An Enigma -- no, seriously
The boys at Bremont have done it again, this time with their limited edition Codebreaker ($18,700 in steel), honoring the UK’s Government Code and Cipher School (GC & CS) at Bletchley Park. As with their previous limited edition pieces (like the HMS Victory and the P-51), Bremont co-founders Giles and Nick English weren’t content to merely limit production and slap a number on the case back.
The time of your life
To those who like timepieces, a watch can be many things: a piece of art, a collectible investment, an accessory to an outfit. But true to our name, we prefer to see watches first and foremost as gear. Whether you’re wearing it to dive with sharks, drive a supercar or get married, it is that portable, reliable companion that keeps the time of your life. These are not objects to keep in a safe deposit box, but rather worn, used and appreciated.
We’ve covered watches here for quite a while, but now, in the same vein as our new series LIMITS and OCTANE, it’s time to formally (re)introduce TIMEKEEPING, a discerning and slightly different take on watches than maybe you get elsewhere.
From Geneva with Love
Patek Philippe has a well-earned reputation as one of the premiere watch manufactures in the world, and their recent exhibition in New York City underscored this fact with what can only be described as a shock-and-awe campaign of stunning effectiveness. We would know — we were there. Read on for our photo essay of the event.
Jump in, the water's fine
You’ve been bequeathed plenty of hard-earned watch knowledge from Gear Patrol’s Timekeeping team. So, what’s taking you so long to get out there and buy your first real timepiece? A diving watch is a great way to start — a good one can toe the line between dress and active, suit and wetsuit, and they certainly follow the current large diameter trend. Before your wallet gets intimidated (some timepieces tend to do that), remember that you don’t have to take out a loan or hit the jackpot to get a great dive watch. Gear Patrol shows you seven great watches, all under $1,000 — many well under. Who knows, maybe strapping on a dive watch will get your dormant mojo going this summer and get your certified for the beautiful open water.
Go Speed Racer
Heuer’s venerable chronograph has an up-and-down history, but 2013 sees a triumphant 50th anniversary of the Carrera name. The limited edition Carrera Monaco Grand Prix ($5,600 on rubber) is one example of the new breed of TAG Heuer Carrera, a chronograph that looks back on its first half-century but is more than ready to face the next one. We got our hands on one.
An enigma wrapped in a riddle inside of a mystery
Today, the Daytona is one of Rolex’s most popular models, and no one is surprised when a rare vintage model achieves a half-million dollar hammer price at auction. This is ironic, because not that long ago, Rolex dealers could hardly give these models away. It’s not too often that a watch goes from a sales dud to a piece for which people will wait years (just for the honor of paying full retail price), but that’s what makes the Daytona such a fascinating story.
Time to Drive
Wheels and gears, second hands and tach needles, power trains and power reserves. Men have always been fascinated by time, speed, accuracy and power — and the beautiful combination of high-end timepieces and exotic roadgoing automobiles captures these obsessions appropriately. And whether the watch of choice is used to measure lap splits or to simply echo the same kind of quality and heritage as his car, you can be assured that careful time was taken to select both. We match up some of the best in timekeeping and automobilia in Gear Patrol style.
What’s a nearly broke watch collector in love with the IWC Ingenieur Automatic to do? In this week’s Want This, Get This, we searched for an affordable alternative — and found one in the Christopher Ward C20 Lido.