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.