The Swiss watch making industry is in fact enjoying a great year with record sales - despite the economic downturn in many countries. The main reason for this is the sustained or even growth in demand for luxury goods and luxury watches in the China market. But is the luxury goods industry recession proof? Clearly it depends very much on the disposable income and the willingness to continue such purchases in the target markets despite the much predicted global downturn.
Nevertheless, it is not often recorded in economic history that there is a growth in demand for luxury goods in times of economic downturn. Is it irrational behaviour or are the Chinese so flushed with cash that there is no particular concern about the global downturn coming ahead? Clearly the watch brands will be looking to pushing their watches in China more than any other parts of the world in the foreseeable future.
It was this rectangular gold Omega that was a gift from the then Irish Prime Minister. The watch was acquired by Omega and now displayed at the Omega Museum with the black and white photograph accompanying the watch in a glass case.
The Omega curators kindly allowed me the privilege of taking the watch out for a photo shoot. Following the trend of that time, the watch was a smallish watch by today's standard but it still had great presence on the wrist.
This was how the watch looked like on my wrist. An important watch belonging to one of history's most dynamic modern leaders.
For more information about this watch from official Omega site - CLICK HERE.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
posted by Harry SK Tan0 Comments
It was such a great privilege that Omega hosted for us a candlelit dinner at the Omega Museum on our first night of our visit to the Omega Manufacture. Apparently this was the first time ever that a dinner was hosted at the museum. The dinner was catered by "E-Mulsion" and the chef was Mr Benoit Martin. The ambience was wonderful and it was very private as there were only 12 dining guests. Six bloggers and staff from Omega. The cuisine was French at its best and I particularly enjoyed the Filet de fera (or Filet of Freshwater Whitefish).
It was a night of horological heaven to enjoy a private event at a location filled with truly special and rare timepieces, with great food and wine - and of course intense horological discourse between the bloggers and Omega staff. Thank you Omega for hosting such a special horological event!
As always, click on the image below to view the collage in high resolution.
I wonder how many having read the article and watched the video was convinced that luxury watches is a viable alternative investment (as reflected by the byline). It is curious that in the video describes watch investment (comments that seemed to be left out in the article) as an "investment of passion". Unfortunately, they made no definition as what that phrase means but I wonder whether its a clever phrase to describe an investment that lacks cold and calculated financial reasoning?
More significantly the London second hand dealer actually says "I cannot say with a 100% that everything that is bought from my shop will guarantee to go up (in value)". Clearly in every specific investment market, there will be duds and there will pretenders trying to look like the blue chip deal. There are no quick bucks to be had and as with all kinds of investment - e.g. art, wine, cars etc) you just have to spend a a lot of time learning about horology and observing the watch market.
Interestingly, the narrator ends the recording by, "Remember this is a passion investment and do not bank on a profit..."
Saturday, November 26, 2011
posted by Harry SK Tan2 Comments
The Omega Museum was first opened in 1984 but was recently refurbished and under the guidance of the current Curator Mr Brandon Thomas, the museum ably conveys the long history and achievements of the brand.
The museum has four rooms taking all of the second floor of the building. The first room houses all the important movements from its early history. The room is packed with movements from pocket watches as well as small clocks.
In the second or main room, complete watches was displayed including timing equipment for the Olympics, Apollo Space Programme related hardware and of course the James Bond watches. Important pieces owned by famous people including Presidents and Actors. The third room contained the collection consisting of models from different periods of Omega history. Early Constellation, Quartz, Seamaster are showcased. Finally the fourth room houses all the current models of Omega.
A visit to this museum for serious collectors is a must if one is in Switzerland. Spending half a day listening to the audio commentary at this free museum will be a rewarding experience.
I will be posting more about a few of the watches I found completely intriguing at this museum. Meanwhile, click on the image below to download and view the full high resolution image. Please note its a large file, so please be patient if you are not on high speed bandwidth.
Here is a fascinating video made by Omega about the museum. Well worth viewing.
One of the highlights of my trip to the Omega manufacture was the Co-Axial Assembly plant located up in the Jura District high up in the mountains. Spent half a day just learning and observing the whole assembly process of the new escapements in Caliber 8500 series. What struck me most was how labour intensive the whole process despite the use of high tech assembly line processes and use of RFID chips on each movement. Each Omega technician is tasked with one or two roles from the basic base plate all the way to testing. Expecting the assembly to be by robotics, the only time robotics are involved is inserting a few basic screws on the base plate and the transport of the movement through the whole assembly floor (click on the collage below to view it in a larger resolution).
The late George Daniels, inventor of the Co-Axial escapement crafted an escapement system intended to be more efficient and wear resistant. Now owned and perfected by Omega after years of testing which proves to be so reliable that it is the only luxury brand that provides a four year warranty on their new watches. Matched with a silicon balance spring the new escapement has provided the brand with a more consistent and temperature resistant movement providing accuracy that could easily match even tourbillons in the market today.
Has Omega discovered the grail solution to both reliability and accuracy? Based on their warranty promise as well as their statistical performance data of their Cal 9300 - it would seem Omega is confident that it has.
Here are two videos by Omega explaining how these two technologies are being harnessed for their watches today.
The Silicon Balance Spring
The Co-Axial Escapement
The one combination of the Co-Axial Escapement and Silicon Balance Spring is that caught my eye is the Calibre 9300 series found in the Seamaster Professional Co-Axial Chronograph. The version photographed below is the Titanium (Grade 5) with the "liquid-metal" bezel. The Grade 5 titanium allows it to be polished to a high shine like steel. The liquid-metal bezel is the fusion of metal onto a ceramic type compound making it extremely hard wearing and scratch resistant unlike other diving bezels that uses aluminium plates.
I am certainly enthusiastic about the achievements of the new Cal 9300 series movements. I just have to wait for Omega to release one with a 42mm titanium case to suit my taste.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
posted by Harry SK Tan0 Comments
I just returned from a trip to Switzerland visiting the Omega Manufacture, dining with Mr Stephen Urquhart (President of Omega), spending a day at the new Omega Museum and then visiting the Omega Co-Axial assembly plant (observing in detail the assembly of the Calibre series 8500) as well as the very secretive Nivarox plant. More about these visits later here.
What is exciting is that Omega has apparently a host of significant new offerings for 2012. Most significant of these is the new James Bond movie (and of course the requisite Omega watch to match), the Speedmaster Anniversary and the London Olympics.
Mr Urquhart hosted a sumptuous lunch for the six invited bloggers (Mr Robert-Jan Broer from Fratellowatches, Mr Blake Buettner of Hodinkee, Mr Ariel Adams of ABlogToRead, Gabriel and Nicolas from Lesrhabilleurs and myself) on the first day of our visit and the conversation covered not only about news of the forthcoming watches but also sharing of how they are expanding their strategy in growing markets.
At the lunch, Mr Urquhart wore the new Titanium 45mm Seamaster Liquid Metal Co-Axial Chronograph on bracelet. The familiar blue dial and bezel in titanium is quite a large watch but I can see why many will be drawn to it. If Omega's new offerings are as daring and as dynamic as the Liquid Metal Co-Axial Chrono, it will be lots to look forward to.
Seiko's 130th Anniversary Road Show has finally arrived in Singapore having been to several locations including KL Malaysia recently.
Organised by Thong Sia (the regional authorised dealer for Seiko), the road show will be at Vivocity from 8th to 13th November 2011.
For enthusiasts of all things Seiko, this road show should prove to be a worthwhile visit. The road show will exhibit displays and historical timepieces from the Seiko Epson collection of watches. For connoisseurs, rare Grand Seikos and Spring Drives models will be shown as well as the Limited Edition 130th Anniversary timepieces.
Friday, November 11, 2011
posted by Harry SK Tan0 Comments
Earlier this year at a pre-Basel lunch showcasing the 2011 Hamilton models, a select group of collectors had the great fortune of inspecting and handling the new models - which turned out to be a surprise as many of the models had so much to offer to watch enthusiasts (see this report). Apart from the affordability of this brand, Hamilton has had a long (albeit inconsistent) history. Of recent years, most of the attention was given to the Ventura range made famous by Elvis and its connection with the Men in Black movie (worn by Will Smith).
However, 2011 is to be a year where Hamilton takes stock of its historical pieces, rendering its popular pieces from the 70s in today's higher quality materials and finish. Many of the 2011 models caught my eye but none more so than the Pan-Europ 1971 (which is a limited edition model of only 1971 pieces worldwide). It has all the hallmarks of early 1970s designed case and rally style leather strap. It is a big watch with a case size of 45mm.
For some years now, I have been avoiding larger watches but I somehow was willing to make this exception due to vintage look and feel and most of all the beautiful metallic blue hue of the dial and bezel. As many have come to discover, the dividing line between the quality makes and the run of the mill - is in the details. I am especially impressed by the dial work for the design of the high contrast subdials against the blue dial.
The watch comes with a folding buckle deployant that sites the tongue on the inside of the strap while its being worn. I have not seen the quality of the fit and finish of such deployants at this price point - USD2100 or SGD 2520.
For movement fanatics, the Pan-Europ is fitted with the new Calibre H31 (H for Hamilton) which is a modified Valjoux providing a 60 hour power reserve - a reflection of how the Swatch Group is developing specific movements for the brands in its stable and how important this model is.
The watch feels balanced and substantial on the wrist. Not overly heavy nor uncomfortably big. For collectors who are not brand snobs, I would recommend this model for its historical significance and fun value of being a weekend watch. It will be quite a task to find another watch with so much going for it at this price point today. As always, click on the images to view them in higher resolution.