Imagine a time before quartz watches, when the technology of timekeeping was still springs and gears made in workshops in the Swiss mountains. While the Americans and Russians were racing to put men into space, a different sort of race was going on between watch companies sprinting toward the milestone of the first self-winding, or automatic, chronograph. No matter how you frame the discussion, the debate over who created the first automatic chronograph is a heated one. One path to clearing confusion is to say that Zenith produced the very first Swiss-made, fully integrated automatic chronograph — the El Primero.
Worth far better than third place
Bronze has been around almost as long as horology: finding form in weaponry and decorations at the same time water clocks first appeared (4000 BCE), it’s mankind’s oldest alloy. Concocted in varying combinations of copper and tin, bronze can pack a Vickers hardness rating higher than that of wrought iron and stainless steel combined, and is also anti-magnetic and resistant to the corrosion caused by seawater.These characteristics, along with its ability to stand out in the seas of stainless-steel wristwear, make it an ideal alloy for your wrist.
39 HOURS IN A DAY
The Seiko Astron ($2,115) is billed as a World’s First: a watch that recognizes all 39 current world time zones by tapping into the global network of GPS satellites for location and time. It also does so while remaining remarkably uncluttered. We break it down.
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.
In the Oktopus's Garden
Watches, especially dive watches, tend to follow a set formula: black dial with white markers, round case, rotating bezel. But while we like classic aesthetics, sometimes it’s nice to see a watch company pushing at the edges of design, whether it be through a splash of color, a new case shape or an innovative function. The Linde Werdelin Oktopus II (~$9,873) checks all these boxes.
Rising to the top
Another BaselWorld is in the books. Journalists, retailers and watch nerds alike are retreating as we speak to their blogs, stores and web forums to debate who the winners, the losers, the biggest surprises and the biggest disappointments were at this year’s show. Of course, all of the hype surrounding the biggest watch event on the planet is a sign of the times. Watches have become big business, and the launch of a new OMEGA or TAG Heuer attracts the same buzz as a new U2 album or Bond film. Watches are cooler now than they’ve ever been.
Our intrepid band of watch experts has elbowed past the hype and tirelessly pored over the onslaught of new watches shown this past week to distill a list of the most interesting, groundbreaking and just plain sexiest new timepieces of BaselWorld 2013.
Prepare for a Watch Nerd Overload
If you like your watches and pay any attention at all to the watch industry, then you know about BASELWORLD, the annual industry show in Basel, Switzerland. Otherwise, you may never have heard about the exhibition, which is the wristwatch equivalent of the Detroit Auto Show and takes place April 25th to May 2nd. There’s plenty of fine jewelry too, for those who like sparkly things — but we’re here to talk watches. We’ll round up our favorite new timepieces after the dust settles, but until then, here’s a bit of a primer on one of our favorite events of the year.
Time for a timekeeping trip
New York City’s renowned Frick Collection is currently playing host to an exceptional exhibition celebrating the history of timekeeping, and of course, we’re all too happy to geek out about it. “Precision and Splendor: Clocks and Watches at the Frick Collection” is housed in their new Portico Gallery, and features notable pieces dating from the mid 14th century through the 19th century from the bequest of noted horology expert and collector Winthrop Kellogg Edey.
We’ve always had a love for the timepieces of Victorinox Swiss Army, so a new limited edition version of the Victorinox Swiss Army 1989 Original Chronograph ($495), the first watch they ever made, really tugs at the heartstrings.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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,…
A man dressed in an all brown uniform just dropped off the “grail” watch on your “work” from home day. You feverishly tear the packaging open and hold up the culmination of your hope and dreams as if it were a cub named Simba. Spending two months of salary on this iconic piece of horological…
App your service
GEAR PATROL SPONSORED POST Smartphones are the ultimate connectivity security blanket for a new generation of consumers. But the gift of talking, texting and tweeting from anywhere we fancy comes at the price of distraction. Today, we’re all seemingly at the beck and call of a chime or vibration, pausing life to dig into pockets…
Time to grow up
You get your shirts made to measure, store your shoes on trees and you know the difference between a Windsor and a half-Windsor. So what are you doing with that giant dive watch under your cuff? And don’t give us that rubbish about James Bond. There are times and places for sports watches but none…
Evolution of a watch nerd
Someone once said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. But while I’m sure music critics have their own challenges, I suspect they have an easier time explaining what they do than we watch writers, who fetishize the arcane minutiae of an anachronistic art. But I’ve learned to respond to questions about my…
A definitive read on the indefinite
Writing a half-decent book on watches is no small feat, but authoring a history of time? That requires a level of prowess and dedication beyond the reach of most, but Dominique Fléchon, historian and expert in fine watches has done just that. His book, The Mastery of Time: A History of Timekeeping ($63) casts much…
Breaking stereotypes, one watch at a time
When the average Joe thinks of Swiss watchmakers he probably thinks of wizened old men with white hair and white coats, perennially hunched over workbenches assembling miniature mechanical masterpieces with impossibly small gears and screws. And you know something, he’d be right. Sort of. Yes, they wear white coats, and yes, they do spend an…
Go deep, or go home
Yes, they’re doing it again. Are we surprised? Not at all. In 1960, Rolex created the Deep Sea Special with the express purpose of joining Jacques Piccard and Lt. Don Walsh on their record-breaking descent to the bottom of Challenger Deep in their submersible, the Trieste. Unlike Mr. Piccard and Lt. Walsh, however, the Deep…
LACO (LAcher & CO.) has built some of the finest pilot’s watches since the 1920s and has been in the business for nearly 90 years. Known as ‘Fliegeruhr’ or ‘flyer watches’, they are highly legible and classic in style. Having been one of the five authorized watch manufacturers to supply watches to the German Luftwaffe…
Veloce e furioso
People buy watches for all sorts of reasons. Some buy a historically-important watch for its collectability, some for its name or its appearance, and some buy a watch for the artistry or innovation of its movement. Still others buy a watch because of a tie-in with a celebrity or marketing campaign. But sometimes a watch…
The Reactor Poseidon LE is a watch that enters the room like an 800 pound gorilla in a tuxedo with the sleeves ripped off. We recently tried to tame this beast ourselves. Check out photos and the full review after the jump.
Charge the Depths
What defines a good homage watch? The horological essentials have to be there, not just the aesthetic cues. A good homage watch doesn’t equate to an exact copy, by any means. Rather, it’s defined by quality, echoes of the original and a less than original price. The new Zuriner Depth Charge ZV-01 ($1,370) salutes the…
Affordable Diver Sophisticate
Earlier this year, we introduced you to the Magrette Regattare prior to its much anticipated release. Well, we were able to get our hands on one to see for ourselves if the horological fanfare was justified. More photos and the full review after the jump.
Stealing the Thunder
The burgeoning niche watch market isn’t always the safest place to conduct business. Many rise and fall. Many more never rise. Peter Helson has made some very good choices to ensure this doesn’t happen to his company. Helson has focused their watchmaking on divers and unique ones, at that.