Stowa is an old German watch brand that has been around for quite some time. The watches in their collection consist of simple classic designs. Stowa has a series of pilot watches consisting of self winding and automatic movements. Primarily sold online direct to customers, Red Army Watches succeeded in partnering with Stowa to create the Lady Chin Swee Limited Edition. This limited edition has no apparent difference. Only on the reverse side of the watch does one find the engraving of the Singapore edition.
As with all pilot watches it is an understated austere simple 3 handed watch. The movement is a clean polished Unitas cased in a tall 41mm. Unlike many of the pilot watches of today sporting large cases like 44mm and larger this model is well balanced and sits handsomely on the wrist. When matched with Stowa's dark brown aviator strap, it has a strong authentic vintage look and feel. While there are quite a few brands that retails pilot watches Stowa has managed to keep its pricing for this model at sensible levels (around 1000 Euros). Overall this watch deserves to be given a Highly Reommended status.
One of the most anticipated new watches of 2014 was the Blue version of the Tudor Black bay. The original crimson bezel found itself to be quite popular with reviewers and new collectors. In large part the unique pseudo vintage look and the relatively reasonable list price (in comparison to other watches today). Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an affordable Swiss mechanical timepiece anymore as inflationary prices over recent years made that a certainty. Even some brands not seen as luxury brands are pricing themselves out of the market. Tudor however, seems to have found a sweet spot in their market segment. A recognised brand with good pedigree willing to hold back on inflationary pricing. But is the Blue going to be as popular as the original crimson bezel version?
Certainly judging by the positive turn out of the number of invited guest keen on viewing this piece on its arrival here in Singapore, the interest in the model seems to be there.
There are two versions of the watch. Both are identical using ETA 2824 automatic movements. The difference is the steel bracelet or stressed blue leather. Both versions comes with a woven blue fabric strap.
The watch appears far more contemporary than the crimson bezel version which features off white markers. This sense of contemporary makes the watch look more akin to the Tudor Pelagos.
On the stressed blue leather, it does work well as a combo but somehow in person, the watch looks more attractive in the steel bracelet. The oddity there is while it looks better overall in a steel bracelet, it does make the watch more anonymous when compared to the crimson bezel version. I suspect that some may see it as potentially anonymous like the many divers watches found in the market today especially with the white markers. While the blue bezel is nice, it is neither unique nor making it recognisable from the many other similar designed divers watch.
This Tudor is a well made watch worthy of consideration. However, if one starts to consider it in light of alternatives in the market, one only had to look at the Tudor Heritage Chrono Blue 2013 to realise the design, chronograph function and distinctiveness at a small price difference would probably warrant more consideration.
So finally, or so it seems, SWATCH Group has fixed a date at which it will halt supply of movement ebauches and parts to non-Swatch brands. Many Swiss watch brands had been crying foul (as with the recipient of this German letter from Swatch who published the letter in Facebook) and there had been threats of anti-competition legal action and there had been delays for years since Swatch announced this. This profoundly ground shaking step will have both positive and negative impact on the Swiss watch industry. No one can fully predict accurately the extent of the impact and whether it would be as negative as so many have feared or much more positively if the gears of capitalism kicks into play.
For many decades, the growth in number of brands everywhere depended on the supply of ETA ebauches from SWATCH. It may be a reflection of how well the ETA movements have evolved but it could also reflect how poorly the rest of the industry had not made efforts develop their own mechanical movements. The reality is that there are many Swiss movement manufacturers that could easily step into Swatch shoes and help fill the void. The key issues are probably the skills and training needed to retool assembly plants (and service technicians) and the potential issues of supply from smaller manufacturers.
The greatest risk at hand for the Swiss watch industry is the temptation to source movements from non Swiss manufacturers or use non Swiss movements. Regulators of the industry need to be even more vigilant to maintain the branding of "Swiss Made". For the consumers, when buying watches from brands not part of the Swatch stable of brands - they now need to be much more careful to determine where the calibers come from and whether it that caliber has a positive and strong record of performance.
Will this step by Swatch means the death knell of independent watchmakers and small watch brands? Probably there will be some that would not be able to survive the change especially in light of how consumer behaviour has changed over the past 24 months reflecting a slow down in the industry worldwide. Independent watchmakers how had been using different ebauches in light of the notice by Swatch some years ago will be better prepared for the sea change.
How will this Swatch step impact on consumers? Eventually, within the near future, prices of Swiss watches as a whole will invariably rise even further than the annual inflation rate usually implemented by the different brands. For the non Swatch brands, relying on the Swatch ebauches, their cost will invariably go up in finding and using alternatives. Swatch group itself will in time raise the prices of all their ETA movement watches as the group will no longer be able to rely on sales of the movements to raise their annual profit accounts.
But overall, despite the negative impact of higher costs to the consumer, the positive outcome is that the brands have to evolve, innovate, compete or die out. This will mean more choices for consumers. Third party movement manufacturers will enjoy quantum growth rates and hopefully more innovation and development will follow.
- The immediate impact for watch buyers today is that they have be very careful with models with ETA movement from Non Swatch brands. Reason being the current industry standard of providing two year or more on warranty would mean the brand will have some difficulty or worse not be able to repair a watch post 31 Dec 2015. Buyers will probably see a higher rate of discounts being given by retailers. Even potentially clearance sales. It is advisable that buyers get some written assurance of continued support during the warranty period that goes beyond 31 Dec 2015. Unfortunately after the warranty period, it could be a challenge to find quality third party watchmakers to service the watches. Not likely to be impossible but much more difficult.
The brand Manufacture Royale (MR) had been around for some years but only just made its appearance in Singapore this year. A small but elite watch company run by an experienced family of the Goutens and Guten. The company uses designers such as Eric Grioud and Charles Grosbety. Arnaud Favire, the Founder and CEO is involved in the development and engineering of the watches at MR.
At the showcase dinner organised by The Millenary
on the 10th June 2014, held at Buona Terra
Restaurant along Scotts Road, guest were treated to a wonderful dinner of exotic dishes. The quality of the food served was good and the service excellent.
As with showcase events, there was a presentation table of the MR watches laid out by the staff from The Millenary, was tastefully presented and decorated.
The small select group of guests included Who's Who from the local watch collecting scene.
Mr Marc Guten, the Managing Partner and Co-Founder of MR was on hand to introduce the brand and the watches on show.
Currently the brand has three watch designs in its stable. The 1770, the Androgyne and the Opera. The 1770 is the "simplest" design of MR with a clean dial save for the tourbillon cage located at the 7 marker. Currently, every single watch that MR produces has the tourbillon making the entry level piece 1770 in steel to cost over S$70,000.
The highlight piece on show was the Opera Black Gold featuring over 1600 small diamonds in its accordion retractable style mechanism - which is reputedly designed to be the sound chamber for its repeater bells. The Opera is a tourbillon minute repeater. The price of the watch shown below was not disclosed but it is known that the bicolour gold retails for US$1.2 million. The Opera however is sized at an enormous 50mm which will probably put off many who are not willing or able to wear large timepieces.
The Androgyne is also a skeleton dial tourbillon but in a more reasonable 43mm case. The case looks similar to the Opera but sans the accordion mechanism. On the wrist the Androgyne is slim although somewhat largish due to its round bezel of square case.
On close inspection, the Androgyne is a well made timepiece, finished well and clean. The movement in skeleton form is pleasant and uncluttered. The diamond embeded version looks a tad too fussy compared to the stainless steel version shown below.
Manufacture Royale is a daring brand that has created a few interesting models. Unfortunately the models that it makes are only for those who have the liquidity of Donald Trump. Nevertheless the brand's annual output numbers will be so small that the branding to a select eligible few potential customers should not prove to be too difficult.
GP hosted a lunch with a handful of collectors and bloggers to showcase the new GP watches and to announce its new role as GP authorised dealers. The CEO of SOWIND Group, Mr Michele Sofisti was at the lunch to introduce the new watches and spoke of the new partnership with the Hour Glass.
The most important development at GP was the launch of last years's Constant Escapement. A very large watch with a 48mm case.
The tri-axial tourbillon (below top left) may not be a new innovation but it is nevertheless a monumental engineering feat. Close study will show it is probably the best finished multi axis tourbillon in the market.
GP is most renown for its three bridges tourbillons and an example seen below. The bridges and tourbillon cage will please the most demanding collector.
Heartiest congratulations to GP and The Hourglass on their new partnership.
On the 30th May 2014, Omega Singapore hosted a small intimate dinner at OTTO Ristorante for a small handful of watch bloggers and journalists to show case the Baselworld 2014 Omega collection. The guests in attendance were Cheng Yaw (Jaw) and Zach Toh, Ralphael Too, Bernard Cheong (& Dolly Cheong), Peter Chong and Su Jia Xian.
The kind and warm hosts were Mr David Ponzo, Ms Pauline Tang, Ms Maria Kong and Ms Fiona Lim.
The dinner was a sumptous affair of mostly great dishes and wine (although the fish was somewhat dry which remained unfinished). The White Asparagas starter was wonderful and the Pork was delicious. The Foie Gras was a little underdone but the dessert was divine. So in all a culinary mixed performance.
Guests and hosts were seated along a long table where the food, drink and conversations were conducted until midnight. All the while the new 2014 Novelties sat on 5 plinths in the middle of the table. Mr David Ponzo welcomed us formally in his short opening that included the review of the past year of events, launches and developments at Omega. He proceeded to the main event - where he provided detailed information about the new 2014 pieces that included new pieces in all the ranges at Omega.
The ladies watches for 2014 featured a new dial design of engraved butterflies using an age old method.
This year's mens watches included some quite special and handsome pieces in a bumper crop of new models. Most interesting of which are featured in the collage below. The blue seamaster aquaterra with blue crocodile strap is an understated daily wearer quite handsome on the wrist. Featuring a brand new Master Co-Axial movement - which means that the whole watch has the capability to resist up to 15000 gaus of magnetism (in point of fact, it probably could be higher but the measuring device could only go that high) using silcium in place of metal parts that are at risk of being affected by magnetism. This watch will be sized at 42mm list price at S$7600.
The much wrote about Seamaster 300 which is a throwback and a reissue of the original issued in the 70s. It features all the new component movements and materials but in the guise of a 70s watch and even with the 70s type aged luminova. The size reflects the return to sanity eschewing the larger 44mm and 45mm for the 42mm case. On the wrist, the new Seamaster has a nice presence and at a price point not far away from sanity.
The Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional Mark2 using the self winding calibre 1861 features a titanium case and sedna gold accents on the bezel. The brown dial and brown NATO strap gives this watch a new presence. It is a handsome watch with an altogether new look. Did I mention it looks great on the wrist? The one piece that could easily become either a dress or workday watch is the new Tresor Deville - a favorite of Mr David Ponzo. Unfortunately this model comes only in precious metals which means they will retail over S$20k.
The final new piece is the 2014 Darkside of the Moon was not available at the dinner but was shown in the presentation (see the above pic). It still features the ceramic case but instead of the original all black version, the ceramic is superheated and treated with plasmatic process to create that grey look. Its going to be available later in the year but like the black original, it will be a low production model. If the demand for the black Darkside of the Moon is anything to go by, the 2014 is going to be a much sought after piece.
Overall, the 2014 range has several pieces that warrant serious consideration from collectors. Omega is clearly listening to its customers and bringing back historical pieces of interest using modern materials and movements while pushing the envelope in developing the mainstay series of the constellation, deville, seamaster and speedmaster.
Now, if only they heard me asking for a reissue of the Flightmaster.
The MB&F Legacy Machine watch series garnered a lot of interest from collectors because it heralded an interesting development in Swiss watchmaking. While it is not the first brand to attempt at merging old world classical watch building with modern design and approach that is able to give the character of a old watch yet using modern materials and production methods. The Legacy Machine No.1 brought dual time concept one step ahead with a single movement that allows two time zones to adjust not just the hours but the minutes as well. The Legacy Machine No.2 brought in production the old grail concept of double balance wheel to compensate for the effects of gravity (recently seen in the Dufour Duality timepiece )- instead of the more commonly seen tourbillon method.
The LM101 is MB&F's effort to bring a simpler model to its fans delivering a suspended balance wheel as before but this time with no complications. A watch with more modest intent and measurements. The beauty of this watch is in its overall character that clearly has its roots in the LM1 & 2. The high dome crystal provides the same sense of a miniature environment for the large oscillating balance wheel. Sized at 40mm wide and 16mm high, this case is much more modest than its elder model (see the side by side below with the LM2) and just about capable of being a daily watch or even dress for evening wear.
The new MB&F Calibre was jointly developed with Kari Voutilainen, bringing together the best influences creating a watch that is truly distinctive from other watchmakers. One would even conclude the LM series is far removed from the design philosophy of the earlier MB&F watches. The movement finishing is of the standard collectors have come to expect from Kari Voutilainen.
The LM101 will probably be one of the most exciting watches of 2014 for collectors and fans of the brand as production numbers will probably be higher and pricing considerably lower than LM1 and 2.
If you were in the market for a high horology three handed time only watch, should you consider this model? The answer would be, if you had been considering a Kari Voutilanen's own three handed watch, the LM101 is in the same price bracket and this model comes with one of the most interesting designed movement with a central floating balance wheel. Note however, the LM101 is expected to have the retail pricing of USD75,000.
However, if you are ever so fortunate to be able to consider acquiring the LM2, do not let the LM101 distract you. The LM2 is currently the only dual balance spring watch still available in the market today. Dufour only made a small hand full and FP Journe is not producing his dual balance wheel model. The dual balance wheel is a high complication that exists in these brands only. The only downside to the LM2 is that it is an enormous 44mm.
(Please click on the images above to view them in higher resolution)
Ulysse Nardin just had its official opening of its Singapore Boutique (at Marina Bay Sands) and Patrik Hoffman the CEO and Datin Schnyder the Chairman of the brand was in town to meet collectors and media to show off its latest models.
The stainless steel prototype Diavolo (top left) was the highlight of many of the new offerings from UN.
Mr Patrik Hoffman, the CEO of Ulysse Nardin sat for a quick series of portraits.
Since early 2013 Tudor showed to the world that they were serious in their efforts to return to the forefront with collectors. The launch of the 2012, 2013 and the new 2014 (the new Blue Bezel Black Bay at the recent Baselworld 2014) all becoming highly popular with the different markets around the world. The Tudor Boutique opened in Singapore late last year and the following clearly grown going by the number of guest turning up at the recent cocktail showcasing all of the Blackbay and Heritage collection. Tudor has emerged away from the shadow Rolex and has gradually succeeded. All stocks of its lauded Blackshield models have been sold out at all retailers due to its appealing price.
Looking forward to future offerings in addition to the heritage series such as the Black Shield.
The Breva Genie 01, a mechanical watch that not only tells time but also forecasts the weather and the altitude of where the wearer is located. It is the brainchild of Mr Vincent Dupontreue (Founder) and Mr Jean-Francois Mojon.
The brand itself was launched in 2010 and it took the team 3 years to develop its first calibre and launch it as the GENIE 01.
This time dial is located at the 8 o'clock position. at the 2 o'clock position is the weather dial indicating the different degrees of probablility of Sun, Rain or Thunderstorm. Both of the subdials are on smoked crystals that allows the user to see the level below them. At the top of the dial is a retrograde scale altimeter. It features a 65 hour power reserve which is also indicated at the 4 o'clock position. The standard crown that is commonly expected is located at the 9 position. The crown at the 2 o'clock position is for the barometer adjustment and reseting of the altimeter. The crown at the 4 position is the valve to allow the watch to take the air pressure readings.
Overall the watch is impressive on the wrist and an achievement in designing a sensitive barometric instrument in a watch case.
The watch was presented at a small gathering at The Equinox with a small selected group of guests. At the launch was also Mr Jean-Francois Mojon (who was the watchmaker behind the Opus 10).
During the dinner proceedings Mr Vincent Dupontreue spoke passionately at length about Breva, their philosophy and the development of their new GENIE 01.
The Star Trek franchise is able to lay claim for inspiring many special and highly desirable watches. Many of the MB&F had featured several design elements and most notable was the Klingon battle axe on its rotor. The most recent is the Vianney Halter Deep Space Tourbillon which was inspired by the design of the Deep Space Nine space station.
Here is one influence that some would probably conclude as purely coincidental. The Federation logo on the DeBethune open dial.
Is there any resemblance or do you think there was subtle influence that even David Zanetta (founder and CEO) and Denis Flagollet (chief designer) did not realise? You decide.
Parmigiani is one of those brands that had been flying under the radar of collectors and forums. However, for those who in the know and serious collectors, they would be familiar with the name and know the long history that the brand enjoys. While it had not been as aggressive as some brands with its marketing, Parmigiani has nonetheless endeavoured to focus on its core strengths and reaching out to its customers who know what it does. However with its partnership with their Singapore authorised dealer, The Hour Glass, it seems that the brand is now making a stronger and more effective step towards marketing and raising its profile in Singapore and Asia.
On 14th November, Parmigiani and The Hour Glass celebrated the grand opening of a new boutique at the Marina Bay Sands.
The evening included a grand dinner at the Science Museum where guests were treated to aerial performances and some beautiful arias while enjoying a wonderful dinner.
Parmigiani appears to have found a retailer that understands its market position and knows how to help it fulfil its future plans.
Martin Braun the founder of Antoine Martin was this week in Singapore to launch the brand's partnership with Yafriro as its local authorised dealer. Hosting a small dinner for collectors and media at St Regis Hotel, Martin Braun spoke at length how the new company was formed in 2011 and showcased at Baselworld 2013 the Slow Runner. The food served was impressive as expected from the six star hotel whose reputation for quality is thoroughly deserved.
The function room hosted the 20 guests and representatives of the authorised dealer and Antoine Martin. It was a congenial event where many who are unfamiliar to each other and to the brand found themselves enjoying the music food and the watches laid out for guests to inspect.
Martin Braun seen here in this collage speaking passionately about how after creating the brand Martin Braun, he partnered with a backer to create the new brand Antoine Martin for the purpose of creating watches not previously featured in the market. This was the motivation for the creation of the Slow Runner which has the largest balance wheel ever seen in a wrist watch. Running at only 7200 beats per hour the balance wheel is somewhat hypnotic to look at.
The watch seen here in stainless steel is priced in excess of SGD 30,000. The aesthetic novelty of the large movement would be attractive for those who are enamoured by mechanical movements. The simplicity of this large balance wheel belies the difficult engineering problems that had to be solved.
Notably there are large rubies at the end of each spoke of the balance wheel which are probably to assist in dealing with the potential friction.
The delivery of this model is expected very soon. While the style and design of the new balance wheel may not be universally popular, there are some who liked the novel idea of a large pulsating balance wheel.
Please click on the images to view the higher resolution versions.