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So it begins....

Some months ago the lower tiered brands had announced the possibility of adapting new electronic tech into their watch development but it seems even the premium luxury (or wannabes) are looking to enhance their current range of timepieces with the use of connected devices to their current models.

Whether it will succeed will largely depend on the functions provided by these connected devices - and how it will impact on the aesthetics of the mechanical watch.

The question is, are luxury brands expanding into this arena because they believe it is an evolutionary step forward in watch making - or is it as a result of running out of ideas within the brand itself?

Check out the teaser video released by IWC this afternoon.

 


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One of the impressive aspects of the new Tudor watches today is its wonderful NATO style fabric strap supplied with its sports watches. The quality of materials and manufacture is top notch unlike other NATO straps I have had. The quality of the metal runners and buckle are details that shows up nicely.
To appreciate the TUDOR straps, have a look at the video at this website.
http://www.craftermag.com/portfolio/tudor/

 


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APPLE, SAMSUNG, SONY etc... Please, if you really want your product to succeed, start by marketing your new product as SMART WRIST DEVICE. Stop calling it a watch just because the device tells the time - amongst the many functions it is designed for. My iPhone or any smartphone also tells the time too and it spends a lot of its time in my trouser pocket but its not called a pocketwatch. 
On the same logic, why is the iPhone still called a "Phone"?  In reality, it spends less than 2% of its time in use as being a phone but more of a connected device to access data, information and messaging etc. 
For the same reason, realise the market you are selling to is a market that wants a connected smart device. Not another watch. Just because it's on a wrist does not require it to be a watch. 
So do yourself a favour and sell them as "Smart Wrist Device". Design the device to be different and look different from a watch. That would be a start.

 


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Apple is finally delivering on the watches it launched some months back. It was a historical launch as it was the first major new Apple product line since the passing of Steve Jobs. Much has been published about this new product line and even Jony Ives (chief designer and others at Apple) had intimated that the new Apple watch will seriously challenge the Swiss watch industry. 
The last time the Swiss watch industry went through an unprecedented sea change was when the Quartz movement was developed and made into mainstream watch designs, brands and marketing. In the beginning the first generation of quartz was astronomically expensive but as production cost of the movement was reduced, the pricing dropped dramatically. In the 70s the quartz movement sold extremely well because not only was it affordable but it was far more accurate than the mechanical watches sold back then. Due to the quartz development, many Swiss brands suffered huge losses over time. Some even had to cut their losses by reducing production and move over to quartz movement to remain viable. 
Will the new Smart Watches have the same impact on the watch industry as the quartz movement? Smart watch developers, it seems, hope it will. 
The premise of such hope depends on the market having remained unchanged between 70s all through to 2015.
What has changed in the course of the past four decades? Watch buyers today buy watches with a different decision matrix - i.e. statements of fashion, functional devices, status symbols or statements of personality. No longer is the main premise to be absolute accuracy. Most have discovered too that quartz movements have a limited lifetime, not just having to replace the batteries but that there are real wear and tear issues and quartz movements cannot be repaired (unless at an exorbitant rate) and usually replaced. Replacement is only possible when that quartz movement is still in production or at least available. As a result, most brands today market their quartz watches as low cost, disposable items unlikely to last no more than 5-10 years. Even though the quartz movement remains today with many brands, it has seen its zenith of popularity and importance many years ago. It has its place in the Watch Industry but no longer considered desirable as a preferred movement. 
From the mid 90s the Swiss mechanical watch industry saw a renaissance due to the growth of the internet. The new electronic communications environment introduced a means for people to learn about mechanical watch movements and to appreciate good quality timepieces - especially those of vintage pedigree quality. With the popularity of forums and growth in numbers of enthusiasts, the fuel was lit and the growth of understanding, appreciation and demand for good quality, well made, beautifully designed timepieces has not abated until recently. Since early years of this decade, many observers had bemoaned the inflating prices of luxury watches had gotten out of hand (maybe this timing is perfect for Apple!). Nevertheless, the essence of the growth of the Swiss luxury watches was mainly from informed consumers who not only wanted and demanded for quality mechanical timepieces, but was willing to pay a premium for them - hence the ''luxury" segment.    
Even non collectors today when considering buying a timepiece, they will default into a common decision making process. Buyers generally do not need a watch because almost everyone carries a phone or a smartphone that not only tells the time but a lot more information provided by the calendar function. Yet, buyers of watches have specific needs. e.g. need for a dress watch to compliment dinner wear; a sports watch for outdoor activity or lifesytle (whether a Casio G Shock or a Steel Mechanical Diver); or a gift that is expected to last a lifetime. 
Mechanical watches - when made well - promises to last a long time. In most cases, more than a lifetime. It does one thing and one thing well but often not worn just for that one thing - to tell time - but to convey a sense of well being of ownership to the wearer. Whether it was a gift, or a purchase to commemorate a milestone, or even as mundane as wanting to be associated with a status. Mechanical watches today represent a value of a time long gone. When things were made with love, attention to great detail, and reparable. Most buyers who are ready to spend large amounts of their hard earned money hope to buy a product with the characteristics that reflects the price paid. The Design, Quality of Materials, Quality of Finishing. For many, an additional factor is branding value (sometimes its their primary factor). 
Accordingly, for Smart Watches to become the new deriguer of wrist wear, these current purchasing behaviour has to evolve to different purchasing decision processes. The most primary factor pundits failed to understand about mechanical watch market is that buyers often do not buy watches for functionality.  
Fortunately, the Smart Watch success will not be at the cost of Swiss Mechanical Watch industry. While there may be some issue at the entry level market for luxury Swiss mechanical watches, those who are in the market for mid to top tier luxury brands will not see any impact.     
Smart Watches by their description are multifunction devices. Unfortunately, today's smartwatches are predominantly designed to work in conjunction with a smart phones to enhance its use rather than being devices capable with it's own independent functions. This may effectively be its main problem. Why would a consumer who has a mechanical watch on his wrist with a smartphone in his pocket need or wish to have another watch to simply make his smartphone easier to use? Add on to the problem of short battery power life of a smartwatch requiring daily recharge to the current tedium of recharging smartphones. Smart tech consumers already know that each new smart tech technology is not upgradeable and will have a fixed limited life of no longer than 2 years.
However, Smart Watches have the capacity to become the product of this decade. It's true success will be it becoming the first true wearable technology. But Apple's Smartwatch future is not assured. The failure of Google Glass as a mainstream wearable tech product has shown that the promise of functionality must be delivered with products that not only work but will work seemlessly and be reliable. 
In the long term, the best case scenario for Smart Watches (as it stands today), is that it will be like quartz watches - i.e.  part of the solar system of watches (and even possibly replace the segment in the market covered by quartz movement). 
In the long term worst case scenario, it will become redundant and product failure (as was the Newton was for Apple until they figured out iPhone) because it merely provided features that only a small segment wanted or desired. 

But the future may look far more positive if the wearable tech developers refrain from marketing their wearable tech as Watches - because technically they are not watches. They are multifunction devices that happen to tell time. They should design wearable technology and have them marketed as Smart Wrist Wear or Smart Wrist Device that compliments mechanical watches on the other wrist. New tech should not displace what is important to the customer. It should enhance it or compliment it.


 


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The growth of appreciation of Independent watches from AHCI (association of independent watch makers) over the past decade in the region of South East Asia had been largely due to the staunch support of The Hour Glass management who understood the sophistication of the market of collectors here as well as the value proposition of the independent brands over the mainstream. The mainstream are predominantly represented within large conglomerates like LVMH, Swatch Group and Richemont. All are leading houses in the world of luxury goods. Within each group there will be a spectrum of different brands reaching out to different strata of the market. Independent Watchmakers clearly do not have the capital nor the capacity to produce to a wider market and as such often design and manufacture to a very narrow corner of the market. Independents generally offer to astute collectors degrees of the three following components of value. Design, Quality and Rarity. The most respected Independent Watchmakers have arguably achieved a high level yet balanced in these three components. 
At the very top of the pecking order of Independent Watchmakers, the most important differentiating component that distinguishes each of them from others is Design. Not just aesthetic design but design of its component parts. It is the design or a specific look that creates the identity of each Independent that will draw fans or turn them away. 
The three brands featured at this event represents different design philosophies from different parts of the spectrum. All three approach Design of their watches differently. 

The invitation card, menu and dinner placement:



The Cocktails





The Dinner and Forum Discussion:







The enthusiastic fans of the brands looking over the new 2015 collections:





The URWERKS

The MB&F

The DeBethunes

The Dinner......




 


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Blancpain has for awhile been involved with efforts to conserve the Oceans and several of its projects while low key, are important as part of the overall effort worldwide to bring attention to the public why the Oceans needs to be saved.

At the evening where Blancpain launched its new limited edition Bathyscape Chrono, they took pains to show case through a small exhibition, the various Ocean conservation projects they were supporting.













Several renowned conservationists were guests of honour who presented and shared their life's work.

Ernest Brooks an adventurer and diver for many decades working with Blancpain on the Fifty Fathoms Award.


Laurent Ballesta who works with National Geographic and Blanpain shared his work on filming and photographing the extremely rare Coelacanthe in difficult conditions. His wonderful photographs for the Coelacanthe Project were published as a coffee table book.


Ai Futaki and Gianluca Genoni are world record freedivers. They swim in open sea diving for long distances and holding their breathe for extraordinarily long time. A dangerous sport that had taken many lives.



For more information about Blanpain and their commitment to Ocean Conservation, visit: http://www.blancpain-ocean-commitment.com/

 


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MOVAS or Movements of Asia is a Singapore based watch brand founded by Sean Wai. Sean trained as an architect started out Movas a few years ago having moderate success with his earlier pieces. His latest watch, the Bronze Diver IV has all the elements of a potential winner. While not intended for the mainstream, it would interest those looking for large imposing divers wristwatch made with bronze. 

While I have long stopped wearing large watches, seeing the prototype steel version of this watch and later its first bronze case, I was ready to wear it as my weekend or casual watch. This watch has been through a year of refinement of its design which caused its delay in its launch. But now that it has been finally finished, the watch is worth the wait with a thinner bezel than its prototype and matching tone in the date plates to the dial. The green dial compliments the bronze tone of the case and the olive green leather combination makes for a genuinely interesting and handsome watch. 

Here is how it looks on the wrist with jeans. 




The watch comes with a nicely design and weighted buckle made of bronze with Movas's own logo. Note the thick olive green leather strap. 

The watch features a exhibition back with a Seagull movement with a bronze rotor. An unusual and unique feature not seen before in other watches. 

The overall quality, details, casework belies the retail price of S$1800. 


Sean himself wears the original prototype model of the bronze diver. 
Movas also will be delivering the new T2 tourbillon shown below. The brand does not lack in imagination nor ambition. For those who are looking for daring design with lots of design details there are all too few in the market at this price segment.  
Click on the images to view them in higher resolution.





 


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The relationship between Sinn and the Hour Glass has always been a strong. This is the fourth Sinn Hour Glass limited edition - but the third U1 variation. The original U1 was a runaway success and continues to be a sort after watch by those looking for a durable, scratch resistant diver's watch. I still am amazed by my basic U1 which I continue to wear with great satisfaction and joy. I was one of the earliest to acquire a piece when it was launched - and it did not disappoint. I still recommend it to anyone who wants or need a mechanical beater.

The new Sinn U1-D Mission Dune is meant to commemorate the 35th Anniversary of the Hour Glass.  There will only be 350 pieces made and retailing at $4800. It will be delivered with the stressed calf show below. Also provided is a Zulu strap in camouflage design. The U1's key unique feature is its submarine steel - which in its natural original form is a steel with a slight tone that is commonly seen in titanium. However, unlike the aircraft material, submarine steel is very dense and hard. Specifically created for the German navy submarines to deal with the harsh effects of sea water on steel.

The Hour Glass U1 limited editions have always featured all black Tegiment on the submarine steel case and bezel. Even the bezel had always been black with changes only in the colours of the markers and hands. This time round, the U1-D features a grey dial with beige numbers on the bezel and partially on the hands. The grey dial is quite unique in that the tone changes slightly in different light. 


The one key change that makes this new watch attractive is the use of the distressed brown calf that creates a nice contrast with the case and dial. Even the camouflage Zulu makes the U1-D look like a serious military issue timepiece. 


Sinn perfected the patented Tegimenting process to create a coating that makes the metal scratch proof in addition of providing a new tone to the metal. Only a ceramic case could possibly be even more scratch resistant but that would also mean the risk of the case shattering on high impact. 

I expect that orders will be pouring in quick on seeing how the watch looks in real life. At 44mm and rated at water pressure resistant to 1000m and featuring double sided antireflective coating on the sapphire crystal, there are many things going for this watch. The U1-D may be a variation on a theme but it's overall combination makes it a more interesting piece than the predecessor limited editions. Judging how quick the previous limited editions sold, those interested in this piece need to be quick. 


For reports of the launch of the earlier Hourglass Limited Editions:


 


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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. 


  

 


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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.





 





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