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Post - Pifpaf

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Hello Pifpaf, welcome back and thanks for this in-depth review. 
I believe pictures are not clear enough to show the beauty of the piece. Honestly, i don't like this piece so much to spend the required amount for it. but for sure there's a lot of passion in it and therefore, bravi!

Grazie Mille !

Love it, or hate it. But please, I don't want that this watch let you indifferent.


Hello friends ,

I turned 40 on May 10th, 2018. Tradition has it that you offer yourself a watch. As watchmaking addicts, the question we should be asking ourselves is, how to go beyond the simple act of buying ?
I’ve been blogging for about ten years, worked for Greubel Forsey, created the most disruptive media in watchmaking history. By elimination, what other aspect of the business did I still need to explore? 

The answer was to design a watch, to travel to the end of watchmaking. But I’m not a designer, that’s rotten luck, isn’t it? The big question of watchmaking is design, as demonstrated by the success of The Royal Oak, the Nautilus, the Luminor and so on.   

When you are blogger, you are regularly contacted by young creators wishing to test their concept.
Three years ago, some Belgian guy called David Rutten came to me to ask my opinion about his watch. The man just blew the roof off! He presented me the most groundbreaking and accomplished project I had seen in ages. The design was pure and radical. It was an impactful project, a meteorite blowing the Gulf of Mexico into stardust.   
Rutten is simply the new Genta.

At this very moment, I felt like De Niro in Analyze This.

In this bloody life, you just can’t miss out this kind of chance, because you might never get it again…
It is a dark time the business is tracking fashion trends like cars or clothes. All it takes is a brand to come up with a weak idea and everyone else… The XXL watches fashion, then neo vintages, blue dials, white dials for the Chinese, etc., all of them are good examples of that. 

It takes more than a pleasant or well-priced product - see this excellent article :  https://imgur.com/a/6CNO8 - to start a new brand.
What you need is a heavy concept, a flawless pitch and a fucking radical design.

The very second when David Rutten started to tell me about “Meteorite”, he pronounced the word that drives you mad. A few weeks earlier I had seen the De Bethune’s Dream Watch 5, crafted from a meteorite block.  One of the most powerful pieces I’ve ever held in my hands (LINK Foudroyante album DB).  450.000 euros. Ouch… Thus, this extraordinary piece suffered from the endemic disease of watchmaking  prices.

Instead our decision is to base the production of the project on the meteorite, in order to make this unique metal affordable.

As it randomly falls from space from the asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter, lies 320 million kilometers away. We must look at the creation of the universe to understand the value of this metal.

13.8 billion years ago, in the middle of an abyssal darkness of an infinite density and a deafening silence: BANG.
The two primal atoms, hydrogen and helium, came into being, forming the stars. Then, in their wake, the nucleosynthesis generated the elements. Over the course of cyclopean stellar detonations, some atoms spread out, agglomerated and ended up forming planets, or for the less fortunate, asteroids… 
The cores of the asteroids are made of iron and nickel. Unlike planets, asteroids went extinct veeery slowly… Without thermal conduction and at the mercy of collisions. The solidification process experienced an enthalpy of approximately 1C° every million year, which led to the fact that the most massive bodies took more than a billion years to solidify .

This considerable delay combined with zero gravity brought forth a phenomenon that’s impossible to replicate on earth the typical alloy of iron and nickel organised according to an eight-sided crystal structure called Widmanstätten pattern.
But before cutting the octahedrite and find out whether its pattern is exploitable, we need to get our hands on it. In the best-case scenario, there about 3 tons a year  of exploitable metal meteorite falling on earth to compared with the 3000 tons of gold mined every year.

Between : private collectors, research, museums, all of them own most of it, and there’s only a small amount of octahedrite available on the market every year, which imparts exclusivity. Even if we could, commercially speaking, we would still be forced to limit our production to just a few hundred pieces per year.

Since octahedrite has been central in this project, David radically chose an guichet watch to maximize the space for the raw material. An additional bonus of this design is an immersion into the 30’s to the 60’s, at a time when watch design was at its pinnacle. Today as in the past, watchmakers worthy of the name swear by art deco. Guichet watches with analog discs emerged in the 20’s-30’s. The Roaring twenties, following WW1, witnessed the massification of the first wristwatches, designed to coordinate charges into the trenches. Wristwatches also meant new problem of glass breakage. This need to decrease the exposed surface of glass combined with art deco inspired a new style of sport watch. Reverso on the one hand, and guichet watches on the other hand… Along with the cushion cases before the emergence of Panerai, this shape is among those who have been left out of contemporary design. David was able to feel the mysterious power of guichet watches laying low under the casing when he set his eyes on them. This required the eye of the designer, trained at La Cambre® (THE best design school in Belgium, which means the best in the world - David told me  about the teaching: a blend of the Dirty Dozen’s training and Ikki’s from Knights of the Zodiac).

The three main ideas that were behind the creation of the Streamline were: retro science fiction, especially the Space Opera from the 40-50’s, all chrome-plated and curved. Unfortunately government money ran out, and David had to settle for a telescope and a meteorite collection to satisfy his passion for space, grounded by the Earth looking at its feet… While wandering into the cosmos may not be realistic, he wanted to spread his appreciation of the extraterrian metal, providing watches exclusively made out of meteorite.

In order to enhance this retro design, David provided the DR01 with vertical gadroons in line with the streamline spirit, this art deco sub-genre, indissociable from the golden age of the American dream. We still have in mind the gorgeous trains and buses, the creation of which  was partly made by the French man Raymond Loewy… This design and its retro SF look  remains the swansong of modernism, and the allegory of the American way of life.

I know a little bit about design, and I am a sensitive connoisseur of watchmaking, so the moment David introduced this work to me, I knew I was dealing with a genius designer, and that I no choice but to get involved in the project. I don’t want to be telling my grandchildren that I let the Union Pacific M-10004 go by. To conduct this project, David needed a watchmaking expertise, a guide in this brass-teeth shark tank.

Our first challenge was to find a movement. We’re providing a genuine watch, that means that this piece is built around its movement. More specifically, the size of the discs of jumping-hour complication was the condition for the opening of the aperture, as well as the size of the case and ultimately the design details like the number of gadroons...

At this stage, we were not expecting to waste 18 months of our precious time on this step. We sought most market players (with the notable exception of Swatch Group), going from failure to frustration. As surprising as it may seem, only Vincent Calabrese and our supplier truly master this  the in-line jumping hour. Most of jumping-hours on the market are in parallel, and therefore suitable for round cases. We had to turn a quite reasonable offer from Vincent Calabrese down because he wanted to work on a 2892 base. Indeed, the overall cost of raw material and the complex machining of the meteorite (both hard and inhomogeneous)approaches the cost of a machined gold case. Knowing this, there was no way we could board on this costly case a Valjoux.

Our calibre had to be good-looking, of a large diameter, easy to handle, featuring a plate with discs in line, as well as an affordable and a customised cut of the bridges… that’s squaring the circle. We knocked countless doors, I racked up the kilometers drifting through Jura mountains. Nothing, going just empty-handed. Always the same old highwayman conditions.

And then I got an enigmatic message from David, claiming he might have found something about a far-fetched  jumping-hour watch. I found it a few clicks later, in German-speaking Switzerland. We quickly found out that, in addition, he owned the caliber we needed. Finally some fluidity! FTL, at last! Now we could travel right across the watchmaking galaxy !!

So, that caliber, what about it? A few years ago, I noted that mid-size calibers between the 7750 (30mm 13 ½ lines) and the Unitas (36.6mm, 16 ½ lines) were nowhere to be found on the market.
That was before the DR01 caliber with jumping-hours : round caliber, measuring 33.3mm, or 14 ¾ lines, about 8mm thick with its discs. The frequency is 28800 bph (4hz), with a 120-hours power reserve, which is a working week without having to wind it up.

David Rutten has opted for a sober “octahedron” decoration and a “Ruttenium” bridge treatment. You’ll notice that the Geneva waves are flush with the gadroons, in order to preserve a visual coherence between front and back. Of course, the decoration remains semi-industrial. Our objective is to provide an independant, watchmaking experience for the price of a nice standard diving watch.
Amongst the great pleasures of running a project like this one, discovering the new calibers holds a top position. I started to play with the crown until the hour jump  : “Clack”, nice and clean, flawless. A rebel torpedo fired right in the heart of the Death star. The conception of jumping-hour system is relatively new. The jump takes place without preliminary coupling of the hour-disc. There’s no perceptible shaking or oscillations. And above all, you can still hear it jumping even when cased up, which is an additional sound complication.   

Once the dimensions of the caliber were known, we could finally begin the machining of the case. At first, David wanted the dimensions to be thinner with a case of about 33-34mm, but that was problematic on two levels. First of all, easy-reading was made difficult because the dimensions of the aperture were too narrow. Then, according to me, this size was too “art deco jewel” connoted, and not enough “space instrument”for space marines on punishment mission… The 14 ½ lines movement was our justice of the peace. With a 33mm movement, leaving just 2mm on each side, the watch would measure 37mm, with a caliber cased up with a shoehorn, as in the blessed time of serious watchmaking industry...

Once the sized known, we had to face the great unknown: was it only possible to machine the meteorite with the necessary level of accuracy ???
The discussion I had had with Denis Flageollet about the De Bethune’s Dream Watch 5 wasn’t very comforting because it seemed almost unrealizable. 
 As is often the case with David Rutten, he adopted a tireless optimism.
Well, it was no easy business, but achievable, and the series-production was possible.

That may not seem like much but in ten years of watch blogging, I’ve seen lots of projects wallow on the finish line. Machining sizing issues, incorrect settings or conception of complications, and whatnot. 

Well, no, it IS. First slap in the face: it looked much larger than the model version and the synthetic image. Coming to life had given it extra energy.
The second good news was that the proportions we had empirically defined were correct. The guichet was at the right place, sufficiently open to enable an easy-reading, but not too much so it kept the mystery and power of the watch.  This last feature was the real surprise for me.
Now I realise that a good old steroid treatment and a proper facelift can be necessary to enhance a drawing. This piece genuinely rocks. It looks like some extraterrian beast, some biomechanical insect curled up in the space vacuum stoically waiting for its lunch.

My personal watch, with a cobalt inclusion on the left side.

The armoured aspect of  first guichet watches is magnified. It’s kind of a mysterious object. It would be difficult for a neophyte to figure out what this unidentified watchmaking objet is.

This should allow you to refine your flirtation technique. Simply explaining your target that this watch was made of a metal that was gravitating 320 million away from Earth until recently should be enough to take her home with you. If still in doubt, all you’ll have to do to finish convincing her is to show her the fascinating and inimitable geometric pattern of the meteorite.  Unique pattern, as every watch will feature its own Widmanstätten array. But some of them will also feature cobalt inclusions, which finish amazingly contrasts with the near-white colour of ferronickel. The cobalt is embedded within the matter in its liquid state but without merging with the rest. Inclusions take the form of anthracite oil drops in a  glass of clear water. It’s really impressive and impossible to achieve in zero-gravity!! My personal watch features this type of inclusion, because it makes the experience of a raw natural material  as a watch case all the more intense. Like bronze watches, bear in mind that the material will acquire a patina, making some patterns more visible.

First paid, first served. Those who immediately support the project will have first crack at the choice of the current vintage case…
Comfort was central in the design process. First, reading comfort through the large aperture  and the index colour which will be exchanged for a  garish yellow. But also wearing comfort. The case-back and the crown are made of titanium, in order to prevent allergies.   

The case is curved and features low horns to fit any wrist. That will make you forget about it, despite its 120 grams, wristlet included…. Speaking of which, there will be two wristlets in the presentation-case :  a satin black python one, and a nubucked-calf sports bracelet.

At that point, I know what you’re thinking: “cut the crap Malik”! How much?
The issue of the price was the most sensitive. But there is one sentence from independent watchmakers that convinced me to adopt this pricing strategy : “yes, our piece is splendid, but we can’t afford it”. Every blogger has heard that one before.  One of the most frustrating things in watchmaking business.

So, we chose to apply an aggressive price for the Streamline, so that it is affordable to all enthusiasts, at least for once. It is the price of a Rolex or a nice Panerai: € 8,500, or $ 9850, or chf 9850 (the base price is calculated in this currency in case of a boom in exchange rates). Yes, you heard me well, less than 10k.

We’re making very little money on each watch. But as watchmaking enthusiasts, we want to offer the unique opportunity to access a piece crafted by an independent. We want it to remain a living project. All collectors should be able to live Rutten’s meteoritic experience, and share it on forums, social medias or during watchmaking diners.
We do not make watches for vaults, we make them for enthusiasts.

That’s why the first 88 pieces will be on sale until the last trimester of 2019. Of course, beyond this limit for subscription, the ordinary rate will be applied: € 14,850, or $ 16,850, or chf 16,850 (provided that exchange rates remain stable until then - the base price is in chf).

The far-sighted subscribers will have two payment options, and three types of discounts. The subscription alone represents 40% of the total (or € 3,400, usd/chf 3,940 ). The balance should be paid before delivery, during the second half of 2019.
Cash transactions will be eligible for an additional 10%, for a total of € 7,650, or usd/chf 8865.
If you introduce another person, you will have a further reduction of 10% (sponsorship validated only after payment from the sponsored party has been received).
Finally, if you are a journalist, moderator, administrator of watchmaking, cars or lifestyle forums, or if you are a blogger in one of those fields, you will get a 5% discount.
Moreover, the discount system for sponsorship and press will be preserved for the following series.

As you can see, as enthusiasts, we revisited watchmaking in depth to escape from the straightjacket of the business. Our will is to provide a total experience that we hope will take you off this global village, through the artifact, to the final frontier, to infinity, where all is still possible.

Long version of this topic on Foudroyante : http://www.foudroyante.com/en/david-rutten-streamline-meteorite-watch-baselworld-2019/

The David Rutten website : https://davidrutten.com/?lang=en

If you want to see the watch “in the flesh”, feel free to ask.

Many thanks.

Hi friends,

You may have noticed it, I was absent from the forum in 2014, as I was writing chronicles about the NM adventure:  http://www.legardetemps-nm.org/

Le Garde-temps, la Naissance d’une Montre is aiming to safeguard and transmit traditional know how.

It has started a few years back, almost by accident, in a discussion between Robert Greubel, Philippe Dufour, Kari Voutilainen & Vianney Halter. As they were exchanging views, they realised the full extent of the erosion of know how...

The main reasons for this  lie in the different crises of watchmaking industry, especially that “of quartz” and the progressive robotization of industry by means of numerical controls. The leavings, the deaths and the race for profits were the primary vehicles.

As Philippe Dufour put in: “cemeteries are full of secrets”.

Aware of that problem, and facing the industry’s relative indifference, Robert Greubel decided to take the bull by the horns, initiating a preservation of know how project, on the modest scale of Greubel Forsey. The best way to tranfer knowledge is to have some teaching skills, and it’s even better to actually be a teacher.

So, in July 2010, Robert contacted a long-time friend: Michel Boulanger.
The latter, motivated by learning, moved back to his workshop in Chartres, France, to teach in Paris. They had been considering collaboration for a long time, and this was a godsend for Michel. In order to stimulate his creativity, Robert asked him to think about a project that would reflect his vision of transmission.

Robert suggested Michel create a watch from start to finish, using traditional tehniques called “conventional” that would allow him to  become a learner again.
That also meant that Michel couldn’t use any numerical control machine. the whole production had to be either  done by hand with the appropriate tool, or with a lathe or a milling machine. However,  the design stage had to be run on a computer.

The intellectual maturation phase of the project had been quite long before the selection of the tool was made. During this phase, Michel presented some ambitious projects, perhaps too much, as he wasn’t yet aware of the inherent constraints.   

Indeed, La Naissance d’une Montre is one of the rare pieces produced on the basis of a brand new designing, which means that the mechanism was born from the imagination of Michel and developed by the NM team rather than being the copy of an existing calibre.

During that phase, Robert decided on two major aspects: le Garde-temps has to be a simple watch (HMS) with a traditional tourbillon, and Philippe Dufour must be one of Michel’s teachers.

Now that the stage is set, and before Michel tells you about the first years of the adventure, here’s a brief overview of the main players:

Robert Greubel :
although relatively unknown to the general public, he’s the conductor of Greubel Forsey. In the middle of the 90’s, he founded CompliTime with Stephen. Then they commercialized their first invention,  le Double Tourbillon 30°, in their own names as no brand wanted it… The verdict of the collectors spoke: in only ten years, GF got tremendously succesful and the brand positioned itself at the pinnacle of  modern watchmaking...
Robert is the project manager of NM, he allows the members of the adventure to push back their personal limits.

Robert examining le Garde-temps at the SIHH

Stephen Forsey :
he’s Robert’s partner and also the ambassador of GF and NM. During the long conception phases, he intervened to validate the main technical orientations. He started watchmaking early on, in the family workshop. Using pieces of meccano, he validated the technical concept of the Double Tourbillon 30°.

Stephen & Robert at Philippe Dufour’s birthday

Philippe Dufour :
the master Yoda of watchmaking. In Japan, “ “a living national treasure”. He is so cult down there that he’s even portrayed in a school manual in the form of a manga.

By presenting the Simplicity in the early 90’s, Philippe pushed the finishing standards of watchmaking.

His knowledge is as vast as his hand is sure, and even excellent watchmakers such as Didier Cretin can hardly keep up.  This is the failure of Philippe, he hasn’t been flexible enough with his apprentices to transfer them all of his expertise. As Master Yoda, Philippe isn’t a whiz at teaching, but everything has changed with his Padawan Obi-Wan Boulanger.

Philippe in the swirling pipe smoke

Didier Cretin : a few years back, prior to working for GF, I have had the opportunity to meet Didier. We had spent over an hour talking about watchmaking. Didier is an enthusiast who have worked for the most prestigious  watchmaking houses, Breguet, Audemars Piguet, Philippe Dufour (he produced 18 Simplicities) and above all Greubel Forsey. He’s a designer at GF, and he’s also, as part of NM, the main acolyte of Michel, who validates the plans of the Garde-temps...   

Didier (right) & Michel, at the SIHH

Sévérine Vitali :  Those who know well Greubel Forsey have already met her. She undertook a classical watch training at the French border. She also worked for Renaud & Papi, prior to joining Greubel Forsey at the beginning of the adventure, in 2004 (remember,I talked about it in the interview of Nathalie Jean-Louis LINK). Since then, she has substantially honed her craft and she’s currently responsible for the finishing workshop at Greubel Forsey. Notably, she teaches the sand-blasting techniques to Michel.


Jean-François Erard : though not yet a household name, he’s an elite precision mechanic, who has worked a lot for the greatest manufactories. In particular, he designs gongs for striking watches. He changed the supply picture by developing monobloc gongs at Renaud & Papi in the 90’s. Jean François is about to retire, and the NM project is an opportunity to share his know how with Michel. He assists Michel with the design of the production procedures of the garde-temps’ components, in particular with Schaublin 70 & 102 lathes and the milling machine.

JF (right), Didier & Michel at the Greubel Forsey permises

Michel Boulanger : he’s “the hero of the adventure”. At 46, the six-foot-tall  watchmaker is litterally the tallest of his generation. Michel fell into watchmaking as a child, as his father owned a clock restoration workshop in the south of Chartres.
After obtaining watchmaking qualifications, he had a taste of Swiss industry, working at Renaud & Papi, where he met again Robert and was introduced to Jean François.
But Michel was interested in teaching, so he passed the  competitive examination of the French National Education, and he’s  been teaching watchmaking for many years now at the technical college Diderot, Paris 19th.

Michel and his coat « La Naissance d’une Montre »

The Schaublin 70 lathe :   any self-respecting hero has his super-tool: car, sword or gun in all good movies, novels or series. From Arthur and Excalibur to the dirty Harry’s 44.Automag, or the Michael Knight’s Pontiac Trans Am K2000.

The point is Michel’s 70 lathe is a lot more customisable than the latter, which however have caused scores of wet dreams among tuning fans. The 70 lathe is crucial in NM, as it’s Michel’s main tool, the one he uses two-thirds of the time ( and 90% of the “tool” time).

The 70 lathe was presented in 1925.  It was requested by the watchmaking industry, with a will to standardise the equipment, with a versatile lathe allowing to work on micro-scale. It’s  600mm long*120mm high for a tare weight of 13,5kg. It is particular in that it is still produced nowadays, and thus endowed with a plethora of accessories specially designed for a watchmaking-scale use. Any young watchmaker can purchase a second-hand 70 for 3000€, and fit it  with accessories as it goes along.

But the story of Michel’s 70 lathe is way more excinting. This lathe belonged to Robert, and he gave it to Michel in the beginning of the 2000’s, just when the GF adventure started. Within the context of NM, this handover  is hugely symbolical.

Le Garde-temps : this piece is something of a Holy Grail, as it is more of a pretext for an initiation quest through the lost paths of traditional know how rather than an end in itself. Intellectually, while a car or a pair of shoes have practical purposes,a watch is a pure abstraction, an artistic creation. This one will be the vehicle of the perpetuation of old contemporary watchmaking master’s expertise.

The production target is modest, 11 finalised Garde-temps. It actually means that Michel should probably produce triple, if account is taken of the rejected pieces and components retained to ensure the future after-sales service.

The Garde-temps will be round and will have a dimension of 45mmx32mm, for an approximate weight of 220 grams, with a frequency of 18000bph for a minimum of 36h of PwR, in the spirit of vintage pocket watches. It will be a simple piece with no stricto sensus complication, but however equipped with a large one-minute tourbillon of 18-mm diameter.

For the real watch enthusiats out there, it will also be fitted with the following devices:

●   Double click called “de la Vallée de Joux”, instead of the Breguet pinion. This system can be found on the Grandes sonneries. This implementation was a Philippe proposal.
●   No seconds hand on the frame.
●   Independant time-setting system (no motion-work system attached to the going train, the time-setting is connected to the barrel).
●   Wolf-tooth at the barrel level.
●   Bevel gear.


In order to narrate to you the first years of the adventure, I interviewed Michel:

Hi Michel Boulanger,

Hi Pifpaf,

PP : how did the adventure start for you?

MB : by the end of June 2010, I got a phone call from a member of GF. I didn’t understant what he wanted. I listened carefully and I said yes. Then I hung up, went on holidays and forgot about it...   

PP : like Gary Kildall who missed the MDSOS sale at IBM in 1980, you nearly missed the deal of the century too, didn’t you!! 

MB : yes and no, everything worked out, because Robert is much nicer than IBM, he called me back a month later and gave me the details of the project. I would have found it hard to believe if I hadn’t known what he is able to produce. I came to Switzerland and we discussed it in detail, and it  appealed to me immediately.  I wanted to take a step back from National Education. As a teacher, if you want to do the job well, you have to keep connected with the professional world to remain competent. I felt I had an opportunity here. Robert told me: “try to picture a handmade watch mechanism you’d like to produce conventionally”...   

PP : what did you have in mind?

Several complicated projects, including chronographs, countdowns, grandes sonneries… some stuffs that might not have worked. Besides,  some of them were focussing too much on watchmaking, and not enough on the learning process.
So we decided to go back to the beginning: I make the watch from A to Z (apart from a few elements, such as the rubies, the balance-spring and the barrel spring), with pre-quartz-crisis tools and alloys: watchmaker lathe (including the 70), spiromatic, mechanical calculator, profile projector, jig-boring machine, tap and die, ect… I work with tools from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s 99% of the time, and most importantly, the constraint is the following: no numerical control machine (LINK the watchmaking farmer). Every action is manual: I push the chariot myself toward the chisel, and if I’m nervous or tired, I spoil my part.

Michel at the watchmaker lathe

PP : how did you manage to master all those old tools?

MB : Robert suggested that Philippe joins NM, which strenghtened my desire to move forward on the Garde-temps and I wasn’t disappointed. Philippe transmits openly, in full-hearted partnership. He’s very generous, the antithesis of  “taiseux” (for montain dwellers, the term refers to an individual who remains silent). He’s as communicative as he is difficult to work with, with a high level of demands, which is not unnecessary given the NM constraints.       

PP : can you tell us more about those constraints?

MB : the NM project combines as many constraints as possible: the use of old and little productive tools, diffucult to adjust , together  with the high level of demand required by GF and Philippe Dufour in terms of finishings, reliability, chronometry or level of interchangeability  of the parts. 
It is intrinsically very challenging to produce 11 pieces from A to Z in my own garage, with Robert and Philippe as excellence keepers. It’s a constant challenge to go beyond myself to reach the ultimate objective.

PP : When did you start the production?

MB : wooh, not so fast, we’re in septembre 2011. I got 100% involved in NM, it was the beginning of the adventure and the work sessions were full of people. We wasted a lot of time during the first year, because every one had an opinion (some said I should try to do like this, like that...). The postive side is that all this contributed to the tremendous evolution of the drawings. Compare the first version of the calibre and the one we have today, it’s like night and day. There have been around ten different drawings of the calibre and more than twenty of the tourbillon cage so far, mostly in 2011.

PP : here we are, early 2012...

MB : it was the SIHH: we presented NM to the public for the first time. Most of the people had come to see Philippe.  We hadn’t communicated much on the project, we’d just said that we were making a watch without any CNC intervention. It was well received, but the people didn’t really understand. They were still a bit sceptical, which is natural. It was difficult for them to picture what we had in mind, as we still hadn’t presented any concrete watch. 

PP : then you started the production?

MB: We continued the discussions from 2011. By confronting the theories of 2011 with the reality, we realised that they were obsolete, for lack of a  global vision of the production of a piece from A to Z with no numerical control. 

With Didier Cretin, we conducted historical research at the storeroom of the International Watchmaking Museum (thanks to Mr Piguet) and at the storeroom of the Musée du Château des Monts (thanks to Gerald Vouga). We only met really cool people who gave us complete accessibility. We consulted everything between 1750 and 1850.
Our discussions mainly focused on the production of the pieces, how many and what type of wheels, and the methodology of the traditional fabrication. This was a crucial step to push back limits of my mastery of the 70 lathe.

PP : destination SIHH 2013 ?

MB : we wanted to introduce the finalised tourbillon cage to the public. We made some mistakes in terms of production. Thanks to JF Erard, the drawings evolved considerably. I took two months to produce the first frame. At the same time, we continued to develop the winding/time-setting part of the Garde-Temps.
Once at the SIHH 2013, we had achieved our goal: the frame was there: partial case (bottom, top + the two carriage-bridges)+ balance, all installed on the plate. As it started to look concrete, we could feel a slight quivering, in particular because we communicated on the functions of the Garde-Temps.

The tourbillon cage, SIHH2013

PP : This is 2013, is the project taking shape now?

MB : we’re clearly at the heart of the action. Our objective was to hear “tic tac” from the movement at the SIHH2014, without targeting the chronometric accuracy. This was a huge challenge. Indeed, I had to produce 90% of the components (mainly the moving parts)and make it all work!

In addition, like every year, we slightly improved the plans… In particular, we removed an arm and a screw on the tourbillon cage, which reduced the weight by 30%.

This year was especially intense, because I thought that the plans were definitive. I produced some micro-series of 5 or 6 pieces.  The numerous videos on the Garde-Temps web site were made at that period.

PP : 2014, after three years of maturation, the first concrete result?

MB : the big issue for the SIHH2014 was to have this working movement… I worked very hard. Eventually, I was ahead of schedule, I could hear “tic tac” the saturday morning before the SIHH!!
And above all I was very proud because the mechanism, in its most basic form, worked during all the SIHH despite a simple glass dome covering it, and it’s still working today!!

The calibre of the Garde-temps, 2014

PP : were there any changes during the year 2014?

MB : well, indeed, Didier suggested an in-depth re-examination of the plans of the Garde-Temps, which Robert accepted, still with this orientation for excellence... it was complicated for me, I wanted to improve my movement, already produced in micro-series... additional constraint: I had to go back giving classes in september 2014, and lastly, I had to perfect the production of the Breguet-overcoil spring with Philippe. 
Finally, iI made a whole new movement. I saved a few parts, but most of it had to be revised, in particular the plate and the bridges . I remanufactured 60% of the parts that year.

PP : impossible task ?

MB : yes and no, because without the help of Jean-François Erard, I would have waste some time as the latter was becoming a rare commodity. His precious advices provided me a better understanding of the turning and milling, and I could produce and assemble the components. 
The case was another issue. We agreed to use a service provider, who had to respect our qualitative requirements and production constraints: no use of numerical control.
During the whole year, I juggled between many trips back and forth to Switzerland, especially to learn how to raise the balance-spring with Philippe… to give you an idea of the athmosphere: on Christmas day,  I was having lunch with my sister’s family in Picardie, and I hastily left at 2 pm to go back to my place and start working at 7pm...

Philippe Dufour on the balance-spring

PP : that’s crazy !! you even worked on Christmas day to present the assembled Garde-Temps at the SIHH? 

MB: Yes, but it was worth it, because I finalised the whole assembly of the Garde-Temps in extremis. The success was proportional to the stress, I couln’t take any lunch break during the show. I decided to accompany the Garde-temps wherever it was going. I thus attended the conferences, but also the meetings with the collectors and the retailers… And I have to say, it was kind of a strange feeling, when you have spent so many hours producing a watch in your cellar. Icing on the cake, I could bring two of my students with me, which was a beautiful symbol of the transmission spirit behind NM.   

MB: This copy of the Garde-Temps is going to be sold at Christie’s, in May in Geneva, as a school-watch, that’s to say without the finishings. This will be a good test of the enthusiasm of collectors for the Garde-Temps.

The Time Aeon foundation, which was at the origin of the project, has become the platform for knowledge-sharing of NM. Several institutions, retailers and watchmaking houses have joined us, and the project gets bigger as the Garde-Temps takes shape. For instance, the FHH offers us a whole little stand during the SIHH. 

Le Garde-temps set & functionnal

PP : what did you learn this year?

MB: The decoration, the last step! I approached it a bit differently, because I knew nothing about it. But to keep this experience fun, I wanted to keep a fresh eye.
In order to learn, I decorate and polish on my own, then I show the result to Séverine and Philippe so they can teach me their methods. The advantage is that failure provides an incredible experience: it’s tough, I spoil parts, but my learning isn’t linear, it’s more pertinent, I get a better understanding of the whys, and I recall information better. It also helps me perfecting my machinig skills: a well-machined component is easier to decorate.

To me, learning is a quest rather than a reproduction of knowledges.

PP : which aspects of the decoration have you worked on?

MB: The Garde-temps will be decorated according to the standards of the golden age of mechanical watchmaking, between 1750 and 1850, which therefore excludes the Geneva waves, typical of Switzerland (at that time, watchmaking was mostly based in London and Paris). Thus, I learned the roughening of the bridges, the axis polishing (arbors), drawing, circular graining, bevelling on the wheels, hand-polishing of the bridges flanks. This last part is innovative, because we try to find an expertise that had been lost since then...

PP : is the year 2015 much slower for you?

MB: Yes and no. The decoration part is super exciting, it’s great because the piece really gets magical at that point, it’s the culmination of the first phase.

PP : the first phase, isn’t the project completed yet?

MB: This is just the beginning. First of all, I have to finalise the production of the 11 Garde-temps, which is far from being done… Then, and this is the objective of NM, I have to train a few young watchmakers, so one day  some others will be trained by them. In a few years, I will probably be done with NM but, ultimately, the project is designed to outlive us all, so that the great watchmaking tradition will never again be forgotten .

Novità Orologi / Re:VicenTerra : Space Pirate
« il: Settembre 29, 2015, 00:29:48 am »
I don't post during a long time, because I've worked for a watch brand...

I take back my blog activies: www.foudroyante.com

Novità Orologi / Re:VicenTerra : Space Pirate
« il: Settembre 24, 2015, 15:33:46 pm »

Some news from the second subscription Vicenterra Luna,

As I predicted, it is obviously the Luna open dial which succeed with approximately 80% of subscribed watches. The prediction was not too risky; in my opinion the open dial is a bomb that outperforms other Luna.

The watch costs 11900chf representing a discount of 44% with a Vaucher caliber Seed VMF 3002. For the record, the rare combination of a Vaucher caliber & a barrel case is only used by Richard Mille, Parmigiani Fleurier and Vicenterra. The relative rarity of these movements can be explained by their price, about six times the price of an ETA Valjoux 2892 equivalent.

The Vaucher caliber is embedded in the complication module developed by Vincent Plomb. The effective height of the module is 2.85mm on 31.8mm diameter regardless flanks (which completely surround the Seed VMF 3002). The entire module is assembled thickness of 6.6mm, if we add the indications beyond, this explains a little better the size of Vicenterra Watches.

In this transparent view, we better understand the assembly of the globe and moon, a semi-hoop by sphere (invisible once cased), is anchored in the main plate. This image of the construction removes some of the mystery, but it guarantees impact resistance up to 5000G (FYI, the standard "Haute Horlogerie" is 3000G), this is possible in particular because Vincent fully controls the production made 100% in Switzerland (except the alligator that poorly acclimatized in the radioactive Lake Biel).

The tridimensional moon itself, if it looks a lot like the moon of De Bethune, will consist of two parts of equal size steel, only the blueing will make the difference.
The bridges of the Open Dial version are brushed & rhodium-plated to contrast with the main plate of the module, it will be treated in black.

The watchmaker content is very dense & (too?) cheap. You should also remember that the watch will make a leap of 10000chf in catalog version, with a retail price of 21250chf.

In my opinion the Vincent Plomb product approach is at the forefront of the future of watchmaking: reduced industrial margins (return to the real watchmaking, requires self-financing), semi-direct distribution, niche brand, micro-series, innovating products. The real question is, is it not too far ahead of its time?

The subscription ends September 30 and opens a new range of products in Vicenterra to be presented at Baselworld 2016. If you have the chance to go to Basel, Vincent will be happy to receive you.

Novità Orologi / VicenTerra : Space Pirate
« il: Luglio 09, 2015, 14:27:44 pm »
Spring 2010, I just got in Switzerland. In Business Montres, Gregory Pons publishes some computer-generated images of a stunning barrel watch: it features a mini-earth globe, a multi-level dial, a day/night indicator, a GMT, ect… for CHF5000 by subscription (paid beforehand to be later delivered).

This paltry sum, given the complexity of the project, make forumers doubt wether such a sophisticated piece can be realesed for so little money. We’ve been so accustomed to pay too much for watches… Me, I have to finance my moving in, and I don’t have the 5000 bucks required before the end of the subscription, yet the 3D earth continues to fascinate me.

Finally, 84 persons took the risk to follow Vincent Plomb. He convinced a large part of the skeptics by meeting and presenting them the project and the prototype (wich Vincent didn’t let me photograph, too bad, it’s my favourite VincenTerra). The customers of the first GMT-3 subscription  were mainly French and Swiss who believed in the project and the person.

It also shows you the limits of the internet: we can discuss, quibble, gossip, argue about a watch, but nothing’s better than the meeting IRL. Although we take much more beauiful photos with increasingly efficient cameras, a Playboy issue can never replace a real call girl...

Even if you think you have balls, meeting Vincent is kind of a swipe in the face, a lesson of courage: he had a moto accident twenty or so years ago. This drama confined him to a wheelchair, wich causes many other health problems... 

He doesn’t like when I talk about it, but we can only understand VINCENTERRA  through the Way of the Cross of its creator. He’s been rising for many years to run several professional projects, in spite of all the huge difficulties arising from his handicap. Vincent Plomb is someone who finds the energy to fight where some well and able persons would not. To me, it’s a fucking lesson of courage but also of watchmaking.

He’s been working for many years as a watchmaking designer-maker. He also works from home as a consltant for prestigious watchmaking houses.

On the one hand, the original idea behind the creation of the GMT-3 came from the fascination for 3D moons (like De Bethune’s), but mainly from the fact that there are often empty spaces in a barrel case, because a generic watchmaking calibre type 7750 or 2824 (such as those initially used by Frank Muller, who brought the barrel back) is a small round calibre floating in a large barrel case.   

In sum, Vicent used the vacant space of a barrel case, to stick a functional and fun complication in it: a 3D globe together with a GMT indicator.  

He worked for 3 years to achieve two functional prototypes. But as many great inventions, nobody wanted them (at the time Vincent presented his project, the Hysek Colosso at ½ million was the only one to feature a 3D world map). If one of his clients had opted for this concept, tens of thousands of GMT-3 (whatever the name and the final brand would have been), would have flooded the market, with a panel of journalists enthused by this stroke of creative genius.

If the big machine of watchmaking marketing ignored it, the stroke of genius was definitly there, since the GMT-3 has gathered from 2007 (when the initial idea was born) a large part of the new independant watchmaking concepts, which broke daddy’s watchmaking taboos: multi-element dials, vacant spaces between the sapphire and the case back, barrel case, opened dial, three-dimensional effects, and above all, the functional 3D earth.

Certainly scaled by the impossibility of selling his project, Vincent adopted a creative radicalism: independence, creation of his own brand and self-financing. A pirate project (latin root “Peiran”meaning “attempt, experience”) given that he didn’t abide by the fine watchmaking codes, from the innovation to the method of financing: subscription, a very horizontal and community financing, just as life was aboard the brigs with black flags. A daring, light, mobile and risky project! 

In pre-industrial economies, the subscription was a method of purchase for entry level watches, sold to rich urban bourgeois: the client paid a monthly rent before receiving his watch (the opposite of a leasing) to finance the production. At that time, Breguet or Harrisson had no acess to business angels to finance their creativity. Whithout money nor without computers, though, Breguet succeeded in designing the tourbillon...

When Vincent launched his first subscription, the money had been blocked on an account by a bailiff, until there was enough subscribers to start the production. This type of sale allowed him to finance his basic tool equipment without borrowing. As a finilasation of this community adventure, each customer of the first subscription received a share of the company. It wasn’t any better on the pirate ships: the spoil was equally shared, and only the captain, the cook, the doctor and the quartermaster were entitle to get an extra half-share. We’re far from the stratobonuses of Goldman Sachs.

Speaking of which, for those who don’t have the bonuses of a Wall Street trader, VICENTERRA is the only brand that offers a functional 3D earth globe into a mechanical watch, affordable for the average watchmaking enthusiast. The others, Monblanc, Hysek, Greubel Forsey offer superlative products (especially the fantastic Greubel Forsey GMT Platinium), for the price of a downtown condo. The Astronomia, by Jacob & Co, also features a 3D earth (still for half a million), but this one isn’t linked with hours, it’s just aesthetic, a pure gadget. 

The GMT have one point in common with those superwatches: it’s quite imposing (hard to stick a sphere into an extra-thin watch).

This barrel shape conjures up a brig or a frigate. Let us use naval vessels vocabulary to describe the complicated construction of the GMT-3 (GMT-1&2 are prototypes never commercialized):

The hull: the case. It measures 44.6mm * 54.5mm * 13.65mm, made of steel, horns included on the Tome 1 & 2. In response to the criticism about the size of the case, Vincent reduced it on the new versions (GMT-3 Tome 3 & LUNA), to reach 43.5mm * 53mm * 13.65mm, horns included, of course. The watch is 50m waterproof, which provides resistance to unexpected dives in the swimming pool (or in the sea, if the boarding goes wrong). The Tome 3 was produced in 3 gold series of 7 copies each, Pink, Yellow & white gold. There’s also a set version of 7 pieces, and a Tome 5, a Titanium DLC version. I’ll come back to this one in a moment... 

My favourite version is the titanium DLC case of the Tome 5 (the photos are those of a prototype, a bit different from the final version). It somewhat sharpens up the watch on the wrist, and above all, it gives the impression that the earth globe is floating in themiddle of the space. Appropriate & hypnotic.

The waves on the bottoms are just here on the prototype.

On the wrist, this barrel case is curved, and so hugs the arm. As often the barrel cases, the comfort is optimal (in spite of the large size). The flanks are slightly depressing, which helps to reduce the impression of thickness.

The mast: the cradles. That’s one of the special things about the VINCENTERRA GMT-3. Vincent wanted to achieve a three-dimensional effect, but couldn’t afford to develop an in-house calibre. The diameter of his globe being greater than the thickness of the ETA Valjoux 2892, the calibre had to be raised with respect to case back. The trick is to fasten the movement directly to the flanks of the case by its cradles, in order to keep the calibre off the ground (it’s not connected to the case back).   
The cradles are sanded. On the first versions, they are striated in continuation of the hour indexes. Personally, I prefer the Luna, where they’re just sanded.

The sails: the calibre. Depending on the version, the GMT-3 has an ETA Valjoux 2892, frequency 28800 bph for 42h of PwR. The 2892 is encrusted with 21 rubies, the module too, so it’s 42 rubies in total. The future Luna will be equipped with a Vaucher calibre (the entity calibre by Parmigiani Fleurier).

The deck: the dial. Its general arrangement also tickles our watch culture: it reminds that of Greubel Forsey with the multi-element dials. Each element looks alive, and the watch is a mosaic of finishings and style. There’s the retrograde date hand that opens on the movement, or the V pointing to the earth, to name just a few. You either hate it or love it, but you get what you pay for, and it’s hard to get bored. I have a slight preference for the Roman numerals version (Tome 2) which provides a little more poise to the GMT-3, and is finally more in line with the general appearance of the watch.

The hold: the case back. I’m not talking about the back of the watch, but rather about the case back, viewed from the front. Depending on the version, it has personalised decorations. We find stars on the GMT-3, aventurine on the gold cases (blue stone, reminiscent of the decorative features), and waves on some prototypes...

The porthole: the windows. There are 3 of those openings: two at the back, one on the side. The two small open onto the earth, with the fun inscription “De l’autre côté du monde” (“On the other side of the world”),and the large one onto he calibre with the decorated oscillation weight.

The stern: day/night hand. This disc at 12H contributes significantly to the poetic aspect of the piece (it is also visible through the large “window”), but this complications is still at an early stage of development...

The bow: hand GMT. This single-hand meter is positioned near the mini-globe, making the reading of this last one easier. It’s adjustable by means of the button at 8H (1 press = 1 hour).

The figurehead: the 3D globe. It turns in 24 hours, and can be adjusted via the button at 4H (1press = 1 hour). The three indications, main time, time GMT and mini planet Earth can therefore be set independently of one another, which allows a great reading flexibility for frequent travellers. This model is as practical as it is aesthetically pleasing (it lacks a 24h scale to discern its time zones very precisely). This complication is a functional elaboration of an old idea found, for instance, in the vintage Patek world time. When wearing it, it’s fascinating to look at, but only a wise eye could see that it’s not a watch to show off with, it’s rather a piece intended for those who already have a good level of knowledge of watchmaking.

VincenTerra will do its next boarding by night, with its new model: the Luna.

 If the 43.5mm * 53mm * 13.6mm steel case remains unchanged, the complication evolves: the GMT indicator is replaced by a moon phase, 3D, of course.   

To put things bluntly, what it laks in practical aspect, it gains in horological interest: first of all, it pirates even more the vacant spaces that we find in a barrel watch. But must of all, a combination of both 3D earth and moon into the same piece is a first in watchmaking. And as any other Vincent’s offer, it’s affordable for the standard enthusiast. 

When I speak about watchmaking content, it’s at all levels: the case back systematically enjoys a stunning aventurine decor, representing a starry sky. More imprtantly, the calibre evolves: the 2892 is substituted by the Vaucher Seed VMF 3002. It has the same features as the 2892:  11 ½ lines (26mm) by 3.7mm, 27 rubies, 28800 bpf for 50h of PwR, twin barrel. The only significant difference is the finishings: even the most basic ones get close to fine watchmaking. Vaucher’s strenght lies offering customised calibres with high quality finishes, such as those by Parmigiani or Richard Mille. 
From the synthetic images I’ve ssen, the most attractive Luna is the version with opened dial.

I speak of synthetic images and boarding because the Luna is a prototype. Vincent has just launched a second subscription, he offers a Luna for less than 10k...

Let us be clear about this piratesque metaphore, which I’ve used and abused throughout the article. Vincent will not show up from a rope, sabre between his teeth, screaming “yo ho, yo ho” and other “buccaneering, here I come”. This may be regrettable.
To undestand this metaphore, it’s necessary to know that sailors’ living conditions on board Spanish, French and especially English galleons were horrific. The crews were barely better treated than the slaves they were in charge to escort. There were many mutinies, the mutineers formed cooperatives and became pirates. Fundamentally, this practice and social organisation was a response to the machine to crush humans that was the race for colonial  wealth.   
Furthermore, the founding act of Vincenterra,and the resulting sequences of actions, stame from the same sense of freedom, justice, independence as the big machines: offer a very original watch, allowing to access rare and innovative complications, at an affordable price for any watchmakig enthusiast.  

Novità Orologi / History of farmer watchmaker from 1384 to 1952
« il: Marzo 02, 2015, 02:11:25 am »
Hello my friends,

I was absent from the forum in past year, as I was working for a watchmaking company, for which I was involved in preserving know-how projects.

But I missed my blog activities! I don't feel I am cut off to sit behind a desk, so I created a new website:

Let's talk about watchmaking, without complacency, and also about history and know-how. Here is a condensed version of an article I wrote recently about the Farmer-watchmaker, from 1380 to the beginning of the « glorious thirties ».

In Europe, Roman Empire collapsed by the end of the 5th century, but it left behind a continent more united than ever, using a single language, Latin, and a single religion, catholic Christianity.

This unity led to one of the longest period of deadlock in European history: the middle ages. Its economy was based on the clearance of vast forests that covered the continent. In these conflictual times of relative stability, the population
grew until the end of forest cleaning, in 1280. Contemporary Europe was less wooded than it is today.

Celtic and Gallic agricultural skills had been forgotten and the yields were minor: between 5 and 10 quintals per hectare.
The current productivity in comparison is 80-100 quintals per hectare in intensive and 40-50 in organic. It was only in the 17th-18th century that Europe started its first agricultural revolution, with new techniques of crop rotation, accompanied by forage plants.
Doubling yield were translated into savings on labor, and feeding several generations of scientists. One of them was
Christian Huygens widely regarded as the inventor of modern watchmaking concepts. This will be the beginning of the industrial revolution.

Let us return to the 14th century, the darkest period in Middle Ages history, which unfortunately tends to provoke a skewed vision of that period, yet relatively prosperous and peaceful.
Poor crop yields were hardly sufficient to feed the increasing population. In addition, in the early 14th century, a series of years of drought followed by years of torrential rains caused widespread famine in Europe. Malnutrition was a fertile compost for diseases, especially for the terrible black plague.

The tensions related to the resources led to a war series, in particular the one hundred years war. To finance wars, taxes rose disproportionately, provoking violent jacqueries. It is thus in this particularly dark context that ended the 14th

Imier De Ramstein, Prince-Bishop of Basel was elected in 1382. His bishopric included the Canton of current Jura. Its debt remained huge at that time. Imier made repeated attempts to boost the local economy. In 1384, he published a ery innovative edict: a tax exemption for those who settle 1000 meters above sea level.

Many farmers, by the end of the century, weakened by a hundred years of shortages, diseases and violence, set out to conquer an environment famous to be inhospitable, even hostile.

In the year of our Lord 1384, the Canton of Jura wasn't completely wild, as evidenced by the village of Montfaucon, built in the early 11th century.
However, the nature remained particularly wild, probably unchanged since the last glacial era. Wolves and bears reigned supreme over the fauna. The common point of these species is their adaptability in the conditions of height, thanks to their coat, their muscular power, their overdeveloped vascular network or their large-scale wings. If this fauna prospered, it was because Jura was protected for a long time from the human presence, thanks to a rough microclimate and to a steep topography.

In spite of a modest maximum height (1720 meters), the drafts and the high perched valleys cause very low temperatures during the winter : in the Vallée du Joux, or, even worst, in the vallée de la Brévine, the temperatures
Sometimes dip as low as -40°C.

Nowadays, Jura is divided between Switzerland and France. The wars made the border move, notably during the 30 years war (1618-1648) and also during the Napoleonic wars (1798-1815). The imperial desires of the French autocrats
Sometimes overflowed on the future territory of the Swiss Confederacy, the people from Jura have always shown themselves to be extremely supportive, especially in the Franches-montagnes, where contraband (notably watchmaking) was wisely organized.

But in 1384, our « Franc montagnard » had to become established. As he often does, man changed his environment and farmer-watchmaker ancestors organized vast slash-and-burn, in order to increase the building and arable surfaces.
That is how a multi-thousand-year-old forest of broad-leaved trees disappeared. The inhabitants of Jura planted coniferous trees which push away much faster in extreme montain conditions.
This choice of essences made them precursors of sustainable forestry exploitation. With a view to preservation, fences were forbidden in « Franches montagnes » by the Bishopric of Basel. That explains the presence of these magnificent demarcation low walls in the fields.

It should be pointed out that contrary to common beliefs, until the industrial revolution, serfs in traditional society did not work a lot, three days a week in average. The rest of the time was dedicated to parties or celebrations (religious or not), household activities, collection in the forest, handiwork and wine.

But the farmers of Jura had to work a lot more. In order to gather enough provisions to get through the cruel winter, the brief six month sunny season was a period of intense work. Thus, in the summer time, they had to get up even earlier for long days of agricultural labor: do the transhumance, plant and collect cereals, fruits and vegetables quickly, cut hay, and take refuge with the hearth before the snowfalls. The agro-sylvo-pastoral balance was particularly fragile in such a hostile context. Moderation, patience and precision were essential to the survival mountain farmers. They also needed those virtues for craft sector, and even more for watch-making.

From the beginning of the 15th century, the « Franc-montagnards » farmers knew the torments of contemporary work pattern, with the stress of a "deadline", literally!

At this beginning of the Renaissance, the leisure society was still distant. The future farmer-watchmaker were about to spend their winter time making crafts.

And as the constraint makes the man, they adapted their crafts to logistic constraints, in a typical Darwinian logic. It takes a daytime to walk 15km in the mountains. This difficulty of access weighed against any manufactured product of consequent size, so they specialized in small accessories with high added value.

From the 15th to the 18th century, as the raw material was plentiful, they worked mainly the wood of conifer.
They began to excel at the following fields: The turnery, the white cooperage, the pipe, the toy...

But in spite of the sustainability of the model farmer-craftsman, history came into the mountains: by 1450, a goldsmith called Johannes Gutenberg improved an old Chinese invention: printing.

Gutenberg and his successors massively printed the Gospels, as the Bible was the only best-seller of this period. The holy word quickly spread to wealthier classes and then to working classes of the beginning of the Renaissance.
The possibility of interpreting freely the Christian writings without intermediaries led to a schism between the partisans of Roman clergy and the reformist’s partisans of a free reading of the Bible. Protestantism was born.

One of the founders of the Protestant thought, Calvin, sought refuge in the cities of the future Helvetic Confederation.
He lived in Basel and finished his days in Geneva in 1564, where he forbade notably the bearing and the sale of jewels. To by-pass this ban, Jewelers moved into the luxury accessory, watch cases in particular. The watch-making industry was born.

In those days, current Switzerland did not exist, but the current cantons existed under other names and were already more or less independent. By the 15th century, the social tolerance, particularly regarding religion, encouraged many great reformers, artists, philosophers, such as Calvin, Voltaire, Rousseau, Patrick Mac Goohan, ect... To settle in the confederation.

Therefore, numerous religious minorities, mostly protestant, streamed in the « cantons », and so did some Jews, running away from the commonplace judeophobia in Europe.
The reform offered a greater freedom as for money or work, just as judaism. Although wealth was frowned upon by
Catholics, the Protestants and the Jews were storekeepers, craftsmen, intermediaries... And every storekeeper needs a factory. Progressively, the Chaux de Fond or Neuchâtel became meeting places between the « Franc montagnards » producers and the merchants.

Thanks to those new outlets, the « Francs-montagnards » specialised even more in precision crafts, such as stone cutter, diamond worker, eyewear, pottery work...
It's an important step in watch-making farmer's history, because he left the wood processing sector to turn to strong value-added occupations.
In a more melancholic way, it is also the first time that the Franche-montagnes farmer's agro-sylvo-pastoral balance was disrupted.

As well as the Middle Ages were not so dark as we let it think, the Renaissance was not so flamboyant.
Golden from the Americas made a large majority of the imperial courts crazy, and the religious wars plunged the populations into inhumanity.

Thus, the revocation of the Edict of Nantes led many protestant refugees to flight to Geneva, including some talented watchmakers. Consequently, from the 18th century, Swiss Romandie became a major watch-making place.
Until the French revolution and during the first empire, the watchmakers benefited from a crucial role in society …
In this time, for the French, British and Dutch sovereigns, the key to maritime domination was the precise chronometers.

 The attraction represented by the technological skills made that the Genevan workforce was quickly overworked, so people from the mountains provided reinforcement.
From the 18th century, the craftsman farmer became farmer-watchmaker. This phenomenon accelerated after 1750 thanks to flat movement of Lépine. Jean-Antoine Lépine was born in the « Pays de Gex », at the end of the Jura chain, close to Geneva. He took advantage of the improvement of the quality of springs to put forward an innovative construction of watches allowing to reduce their thickness.

The watch-making technology progressively reached maturity and demand increased as watches were getting more compact and more precise. The rugged Franches-montagnes became fertile watch-making lands.

Every farmer-watchmaker's family specialized in the making of a single type of component, wheel, pinion or bridge.
The pieces were gathered at an « établisseur » who made the assembly and the possible endings.

At the time of autumn fairs, he took orders in the local village. The delivery was made during the spring fair.
Within a season, the farmer turned into a skillful assembler. The more windows a watch-making farm counts, the richer the farmer is: that meant he could afford to get a lot of family members working.

From cheese, wine and fodder productions, which allowed humans an animals to get through the winter, to education and craft, autonomy was imposed by the climate and the topography. And contrary to what one might suppose, farmer-watchmakers were extremely efficient. The educational level was very high from the 18th century. Most of the
Francs-montagnards were able to count (essential to produce watch-making components), read and write. Mothers played a crucial role in basic skills learning process, and they were at the root of the creation of a craft elite.

This anarchist social organization (in the original sense) was close to the libertarian thought of the American pioneers, with this fierce will of independence, this cult of the free enterprise, this autonomy... And the end arrived subtly precisely from the United States of America.

By 1850, the American watch-making industry woke up in a thundering way. The Americans from Waltham led the watch-making production to a new era: industrialization.
In their manufactures, they imposed standardization: all the parts were to be exchangeable, which was in contradiction with the tradition of “appairage”.

As the distribution methods had also been modernized, American watches killed the market. Swiss watchmaking had to reform to remain competitive.

Step by step, Switzerland industrialized too, but the investments were expensive and it was necessary to cover them.
After 1870, the situation gets really tricky. The Americans almost started with a clean slate, and their workers were very flexible.
To the contrary, Switzerland had an enormous watch-making heritage, and this powerhouse of skills and also the long history were a burden to the scientific organization of work. Farmer-watchmaker had to become an employee.
The rural exodus and the employer’s' pressure on ébauches prices jeopardized the farmer-watchmaker activity.

The 14-18 butchery had an unexpected consequence on watch-making: the small wristwatches. Soldiers wore them in the trenches in order to coordinate the artillery barrages.
This led to an unprecedented miniaturization: watchcases moved from about 60mm to 35mm. As a consequence, the average size of movements moved from 20 to 10 lines. For the Watchmaking famer, it was almost an impossible task to adapt : all the precious tooling, passed down from one generation to the next, had to be replaced to produce twice smaller components according to traditional methods.

As always, Americans adaptation was quicker, but it did not last long, because the 1929 crisis brought to an end the good old days. The impact of the crisis on the old continent was limited, as France and Switzerland remained rural and their financial centers were not yet fully developed. It provided respite to our Farmer-watchmaker from Jura; they kept on feeding the market with pocket watches...
While European industry was bled dry because of the hostilities, Switzerland worked twice as hard to supply the
belligerants (the GI were often equipped with Swiss watches).

Finally, as Worl War II was ended, discoveries of nuclear energy and computing were made. It was a fantastic technological leap forward, just as it was after the First World War.

As regards watch-making, it was a paradigm shift, as wristwatches were no longer a fashion: they were watch-making.
Indeed, pocket watches seemed old-fashioned and their demand was in freefall.

Europe was euphoric, as a result of the Marshall plan. The glorious thirties began. In the United States, the American
Way of Life was born. American laboratories created the digitally operated machine tool.

In the early fifties, the first numerical controls were presented in the USA. It was certainly at this moment that the last farmer-watchmaker went out of business.

Until the next time my friends!

Longines Avigation A-7

The history of modern mechanical watchmaking is marked by two innovative periods which have certainly influenced the Heritage Military 1938 and the Avigation Type A-7, Longines pilot's watches.
The first one took place at the turn of the 19th century, when the likes of Breguet, Lépine and Janvier developed modern mechanical watchmaking. It was the period of the French Revolution, the Napoleonic adventure, and the resurgence of British colonialism. In order to meet the needs of the army and particularly the naval forces, the founders of modern watchmaking pushed the boundaries of precision further, especially when it came to marine chronometers.

The second great innovative period coincided with the First and Second World Wars. These further boosted the industrialisation of watchmaking. Until the early 1900s, watches had been more or less considered a luxury product. The WWI did allow for industrialisation and miniaturisation thanks to the rapid growth in popularity of the wristwatch for the army at first. All non-commissioned officers, and even privates, needed to have watches to better coordinate attacks on the front with the artillery (which was in full-blown expansion mode) often far in the rear. But they also needed their hands and eyes free for combat. Wristwatches, which until then had been mainly for women, were the perfect solution, and as the war stretched on, solutions to miniaturise and industrialise the product improved.

In addition, military watchmaking had inaugurated a new style, the watch with a black dial, radium-painted indexes and unadorned round cases. There were two main categories.

The first comprised small watches, around 37 mm in diameter and generally with three hands. These watches were the ones included in the standard issue equipment for both Allies and Axis soldiers during the Worl War II.

The aesthetics or movements were occasionally modified to suit the needs of the artillery or aviation. But generally, at the time, companies opted for the second category, the XL cases,  either for their readability (B-Uhr, Panerai), or because small calibres for chronographs  (particularly the split-seconds chronographs) were neither as common nor as reliable as these.

The new Longines Avigation is the perfect representative of the second category. It combines a 49-mm case with, at least in its vintage version, a large calibre.


In fact, the military name A-7 was coined by US Air Force officials in the early 1930s. The A-7 used to be given to navigators, notably those in the B-17 bombers, the "Flying Fortress" and bore the term "Avigation"  engraved on the back of the case. Then, in 1943, this watch was replaced by a smaller one, the A-11.

In the 1930s, specifications were determined by both the pilots’ needs and the style of American watches during that era. Funnily enough, it was three Swiss manufacturers – namely Gallet, Meylan and Longines – who won the call for tenders at a time when Swiss and American watchmakers were engaged in an acrimonious commercial dispute. This situation is comparable with the recent war of words about the Airbus A400, which was chosen as a military cargo plane in the United States over American competitors.

The watch is a 49-mm polished steel chronograph with a single push button and almost straight lugs. The black dial was creatively turned 45 degrees and has Breguet Arabic numerals.

Pilots typically wore their watches in unusual places, such as on the inside of the wrist or on the leg. That is why the crown was placed at 2 o'clock.

But truth be told, it took some time to learn to read the time on this watch, since it was difficult to tell apart the watch's hands from the big indexes. The finishing on the watch's hands is strange, to say the least; they seem to have been galvanized but have an exceptionally matt coating. It's an original touch, but in the end a very much welcome one since it reinforces its tool-watch/military appearance.

But there are more things that surprise us about this watch. Why, despite the fact that it was advertised as being 49 mm in diameter, have the dial's edges have been rounded, reducing the actual diameter to only 46-47 mm. (Current owners of a 47-mm Panerai will know the feeling).


Even its fit is original. Indeed, the lugs are too big sit snuggly on the wrist, so we find it a shame not to be wearing it over the sleeve of a bomber's jacket.

Turning the watch over, you will find an additional thickness, the hinged back of an officer's watch, which opens to reveal a Caliber 7750 modified to fit a column wheel. Longines named this particular caliber L788.2. It beats at 28,800 vibrations per hour and has a 56-hour power reserve.

Together with the column wheel, the timepiece's other great particularity is the single push button. For detailed information concerning the 7750, please refer to my Wikipedia article.

Furthermore, readability is quite limited because of the inconvenient position of the dial and the absence of Luminova, which makes the watch unsuitable for poorly-lit spaces.

This all begs the question: does this watch have any qualities at all?

Well, we should bear in mind that it is a genuine piece, and that is where its quality lies. Longines were not trying to produce a politically correct watch or an "easy" watch. Instead, they opted for a very faithful reproduction of a US version of a B-Uhr  to be sold for less than CHF 5,000, an authentic watch that had its place in the other Great War. So this particular A-7 is not just a marketing operation or a made-up story about aviation. This watch is the quasi-identical reproduction of a most legitimate piece.

The very fact that it is in no way an "easy" watch means that it is a great watch, even a unique one. Hats off to Longines, then, for the production of an almost-without-concession (it’s the date that guilds the lily) neo-vintage piece with an excellent finish. The black colour of the dial is beautiful, as are the indexes on the dial), and all that for a fair price.

The Longines Type A-7 makes one wonder what the point of watch collecting is and, in a broader sense, what is the meaning of the passion for horology. Is it about purchasing watches with 40-mm opaline dials (typical of the Chinese market)? Or is it a matter of deliberately choosing to acquire completely out-of-the-ordinary instruments representing a specific era? In other words, would you prefer a beautiful object for your wrist as a sign of your social success, or would you prefer being adventurous?

If you prefer the latter, then this Longines A-7 re-issue is a must, because it is a timepiece that bears a greater history than the B-Uhr (American military aviation was already a at the top of the league in the 1940s).

Besides, this model is incredibly faithful to the historical one and that makes it a radical watch in almost all respects. And all this for the modest sum of CHF 4,850.

Longines Heritage Military 1938

Longines did not really specify the source of inspiration for this Heritage Military 1938… What can be said is that it seems to have been modelled on the small generic watches troops used to wear. This watch is the prototype of the soldier’s functional watch.

The 40-mm Military 1938 features three hands, a steel case and, obviously, a black dial and white Arabic numerals and indices for better contrast. An interesting aspect of this watch is its beautiful sword-shaped hands, rarely seen in recent watchmaking.

Optimum versatility is guaranteed since, unlike the A-7, it makes use of Luminova. However, it shares a common feature with the new Avigation type A-7, an automatic calibre which was not the case with their ancestors.

Longines revisited the calibre: an ETA 2892, here called L.619/2, with a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour and a power reserve of 42 hours.

Another commonality with the A-7 is the date that sits on the 6 o'clock spot, which was obviously not a feature on the original watches. This puts practicality before authenticity, which is a pity.

The Longines Heritage Military 1938 fits the wrist very well and is very easy to read. It can be worn with all clothing styles and is suitable for all occasions thanks to its sober look. But what really makes this watch fascinating is that only an expert will recognise it, as it takes someone who is passionate about horology to identify a genuine military watch.


Its main advantage is that it is user-friendly, in contrast to the A-7. Its main disadvantage, however, is that it lacks the devastating charm of the A-7.

In keeping with the Longines tradition, its price is reasonable, CHF 1,250. This puts it in direct competition with pilot watches manufactured in Germany.

However, the fact remains that the Heritage Military 1938 is a versatile timepiece with one of the great names in watchmaking written on the dial.

Longines presented the A-7 and the range of models of the Military 1938 at Baselworld 2012 and 2013. In so doing, the company showcased a duo a pair of timepieces that are authentic reproductions of two completely different watches in terms of functionality but that are both deeply rooted in history. Thanks to their reasonable pricing, they remain accessible to a great number of watch aficionados.

In sum, we might well ask, which brand other than Longines has the history, industrial capacity and creativity to achieve such a feat nowadays?

Carrera MikroPendulumS concept.

Before examining this design-watch in detail, let’s have a flashback of 2010, when the first design Pendulum rhymed at 6Hz had been presented. You have noted above that the implementation stage of this first prototype has been relatively long (3 years).

If the problematic caused by the first Pendulum introduced in 2010 is examined in detail, one will get close enough to the problematic encountered by the blued steel paleo-balance-springs (18th and 19th Century), namely:

•   Resistance to magnetic fields.
•   Stability on the thermal amplitude range.
•   Torque’s linearity all along the power reserve.

In addition to this classical problematic, another layer of problems linked to the pendulum’s magnets’ materials is further added. Moreover, contrary to traditional horology, it is almost-impossible to mask an average quality of alloys through an excellent pairing and regulating work.

The problematic is so new and so far-off hammer blows that one had to go to the atom’s heart to develop the MikroPendulum.

For the amateurs, the ferromagnetic used is of the «hard» type; meaning that they are strongly charged with energy, presenting a great stability in time and have to yield to an electromagnetic charge at least equivalent to the one laid up during the manufacturing to be neutralized.

The alloy of magnets constitutes Cobalt, Samarium and Gadolinium (these two last materials are referred to as «rare earth»).

The Samarium-Cobalt complex is well-known in the magnetism world. It is currently the alloy enabling obtaining the highest resistance to magnetic fields. It is used in all fields: IT, military, aeronautics as well as, in a more astonishing way, in the medical field: pacemaker projects consisting of Co-Sm magnets exist.

The Co-Sm alloy thus enables solving the major problematic of the parasitic magnetism; it may be referred to as the equivalent of the Invar for the classical balance-springs. However, as it is, the temperature alterations pitfall determines a precision of +/- 45 seconds per day…

To counter the thermal amplitude effects, one had to add another element, which was much more specific: the Gadolinium. During a rise in temperature, while the materials were expanding, the magnetic fields tend to increase their influence zone. As the magnetism effect is exponential as one gets closer to the source, the expansion effect is disastrous on the isochronism. It is at this moment that the Gadolinium intervenes: this metal has the propriety of being an atomic «sponge»; it absorbs the surplus of particles generated by other chemical elements and thus enables the neutralization of the thermal amplitude effects.

To solve the linearity problems of the torque, the Co-Sa-Gd magnets have been subject to a more watchmaking-oriented work, with a regulation of the elements’ geometry.

With the solution to this problem found, the Pendulum’s « v1.0 » enables obtaining a precision of +-1/sec per day, the best which can be obtained with an Elinvar balance-spring.

It is necessary to understand that it is a « v1.0 » and that with the feedbacks of the alloys’ (the Gadolinium proportion in particular) refinement experience and the improvement of the geometry, the system should improve in precision in the coming years.
This is so as the Tag Heuer research is characterized by a permanent laboratory aspect, a prototype chasses another prototype and the last innovation is immediately integrated in a commercial watch… All this happened very very quickly: we thus went from a MikroGirder of 1/2000 seconds during the 2012 SIHH to a MikroGirder at 1/10.000th of a second at BaselWorld 2012, that is, a multiplication by five in three months’ time.

Which naturally brings us to the latest Tag Heuer prototype, the MikroPendulumS. It is basically a MikroTourbillonS (described in this article LINK), with the Pendulums instead of the balance-springs.

On the visual level, the MikroPendulumS brings three major modifications with regards to the MikroTourbillonS. The abandoning of the Côtes de Genève for brushing like the ones found on the MikroGirder, a 90° movement rotation and a modification of the tourbillon bridges, the indications and functions keeping the status-quo. This implies a « Bullhead » configuration of the push-pieces, which can be found at the 11, 12 and 1 o’clock positions. This year, this configuration has obviously been reviewed on the Jack Heuer. The MikrotourbillonS or the Mikropendulum (without the « S ») configuration, seems more harmonious and is more consistent with the Carrera history.

However, the main question is the technique; and here, just like with the advent of a new prototype, the Tag Heuer laboratory extends the boundaries of the possible.

If henceforth the case’s design is known, the same cannot be said of its material. Here, reference is being made to a Chrome-Cobalt alloy, usually used in «aeronautics», for the turbines’ blades. The volumic mass of the Cr-Co is equivalent to that of steel and bronze, that is, slightly less than 9 times water’s mass.

If there is no significant mass gain, the gain is made on the proprieties’ side: this alloy is more resistant to all types of constraints, more lasting and harder, 530 Vickers, that is the double of the majority of steel alloys used in horology.

The Cr-Cro is manufactured by laser sintering, which is the industrial technique from which the 3D printers are inspired: a powder is fused layer by layer at 1300°C, which enables obtaining finish shapes and levels inaccessible to the traditional CNC… Will this open the door to new possibilities in the movement outlines field?

For the time being, the metals used in the automatic movement of the MikropendulumS are more common. However, it is not the case for its architecture. The calibre measures 15 ¾ (that is, 35.8mm), for 9.84mm in width; it is composed of 454 pieces and 75 rubies.

The escapement unit reserved to time count is equipped with a Pendulum tourbillon of 12Hz (that is, 86400 vibrations per hour) for a 24-hour power reserve (the more the frequency is high, the more the autonomy diminishes) and its frame makes 3 turns per minute (thus it is a 20 seconds tourbillon).

The escapement unit reserved for the chronograph is a Pendulum tourbillon of 50Hz (360000 vibrations per hour) and its tourbillon frame makes 12 rotations per minute (it is thus a 5-seconds tourbillon) for a 60-minutes power reserve (it is less than the Mikropendulum, a tourbillon consumes a lot of energy).

Like the MikrotourbillonS, the MikropendulumS tourbillon chronograph launching is remarkable, it goes like a ground-to-ground missile, or rather like a sports car equipped with an integral transmission and of the launch control. It goes right down, immediately and very quickly. Once again, the MikrotourbillonS is slightly more demonstrative. In any case, we are in a post –horology field.


Initially, the Carrera, sports chronograph, was barely derived from classical watches of the 50s. This Swiss style of the 50s, functionalist-but-elegant, was still influenced by the 30s’ modern art; Swiss people, with their proverbial precaution, are often lagging behind on trends.

Thus, the first Carreras were streamlined; however, in the course of the 60s, these chronographs will rapidly run wild, integrating more and more exotic movements following display needs. Indeed, one of the particularities of the Carrera series is indeed to have adapted displays and movements to the needs of the final users.

Thus, instead of just producing railways or bezels dedicated to a specific usage, Heuer has often reviewed the whole mechanics to better adapt to needs.

To that effect, Heuer’s quest was to adapt the tool to one need, rather than asking the human to adapt themselves to one tool. Nowadays, it would be termed as « user-friendly ».

The dials equally benefitted from a great variety of finishes and styles, always in view of adapting oneself to the final users’ needs. However, it is also in the will to adapt oneself to another human need: the taste of beauty.

This aesthetic will is also found in the cases; the first case of the 60s unquestionably remains the purest: at the time when one knew how to make cases, which appeared very fine while the movements were relatively thick. Later on, aesthetics was given privilege over fashion; today, solidity is privileged…

The Carrera history is so rich and complex that it merits a book. These watches consist of an almost-exhaustive catalogue of mechanical sports timing in these past 50 years. Thus, obviously, this history is a bit chaotic and the connecting thread is not as evident as it is for other mythical watches. But this chaotic aspect is what precisely constitutes the Carrera range richness, an original soup, an Amazonian forest, a horology culture medium, the founding watchmaking chaos.

Despite the purchases, the hand changes and even the integration in a big luxury group, the successive CEOs of Heuer, then TAG Heuer, have continued to believe in innovation and even daily applying the TAG from the 80s: Technique d’Avant-Garde.

The current team, directed for a long time by Jean-Claude Babin (recently replaced by Stéphane Linder) needs a special acclaim since it has had the courage to give carte blanche to the team directed by Guy Sémon to maintain a high innovative level.

It is in no way easy for a great horology brand to maintain a high level of research and development. Inertia and feebleness are colossal in the great watchmaking firms; they prefer investing enormous amounts of money in institutional communication rather than giving money to the laboratory. And even if the R&D services are well equipped, the innovations end up in a drawer, the industrial will for risk-taking being absent.

On the one hand, this can be explained, as you know, by the Heuer innovation tradition, but equally by the bureaucratic structure of Tag Heuer: the firm is directed like an SME, the administrative, commercial and marketing departments all in all count approximately 50 collaborators. As a contrast, the R&D department consists of 45 persons and there are millions of employees in the various manufacturing subsidiaries which manufacture watches…

Eventually, this creativity is reflected in patents about high frequency: today the La Chaux-de-Fonds brand has got a head start by introducing various major advances in the space of a handful of years. This constitutes a historical revenge for Heuer since in its days, the Calibre 11 had progressively been distanced by its competitors.

Today, the Mikropendulum distances the competition in a flash, while having the cheek to be sold at an ultra-aggressive tariff with regard to its exceptional mechanics. Quite like the Muscle Cars design.

If the Carrera’s 50 years assessment is made, the bet initially launched by Jack Heuer has incontestably won.

Tag Heuer Carrera Calibre 36 ref: CAR2B11.BA0799

Beware, we are focusing on BaselWorld 2013 without transition since the Carrera series still exists and innovation remains present in this mythical model’s 50th anniversary year. You will find that at each generation, the references become more complex… By making an almost 30-year jump (including a long ten-year interruption, from the mid-80s to 1996), the 6-number reference has been transformed into this type of reference: CAR2B11.BA0799. Phew.

Before getting into the details of this Calibre 36, which particularly seduced me, two other models deserve a special mention on the occasion of this anniversary year.

It is thus obviously, the anniversary model, the Jack Heuer Carrera declined into two versions, which correspond to two founding decades of the Carrera series.

The first model is thus the Jack Heuer Calibre 17, 80th anniversary (Jack Heuer’s) which is the direct descendant of the 2446 evoked at the start of this article, 41mmsteel, Calibre 17, it even takes up the panda dial! Consequently, it virtually resembles the first Carrera, in a more modern format. Perennially fashionable, efficient.

The second model is the Jack Heuer calibre 1887, in the Bull-head format! This layout results from a 90° rotation, where the push-pieces are at the 11 and 1 o’clock positions and the crown at the 12 o’clock position.

It is the most emblematic chronograph configuration of the 70s, directly inspired from the Stopwatches (Heuer in particular) buttons’ layout, typical of Olympic stadiums as well as 70s’ EPS courses!
Surprisingly, against all expectations, there was no Heuer Carrera with this type of configuration at the time. It almost seems like Heuer wants to make up for this oversight by introducing such an emblematic watch. The case measures 45mm in diameter, it is in steel and DLC titanium at the level of the bezel, and is equipped with the calibre 1887. This watch deserves a long review, so that its historical, technical and cultural aspects may be examined…

Back to the Calibre 36, it is equipped with a bi-coloured dial and this watch is exciting at several levels. It is a synthetic watch of the trends which have passed at Tag.
Before embarking upon the analysis of its aesthetics, the focus needs to be put on its motor. The watch is equipped with a Calibre 36, that is, a Zenith El Primero modified for Tag Heuer.
Today, Zenith and Tag Heuer work together in the midst of the LMVH group. However, this has not always been the case: at the end of the 60s, these brands had launched themselves in a technological course, to know which would first introduce an automatic chronograph.
Without any suspense, with its longevity as proof, the El Primero hit two birds with one stone: on the one hand, it had been introduced some weeks before the 1969 Calibre 11; but it had above all turned out to be a better solution in terms of frequency, reliability and even aesthetics: it was the most beautiful automatic chronograph caliber from that time.

No one is perfect, the central timers are too close to one another and due to its high frequency the power reserve is often slightly short according to the type of barrel spring that the EP embeds…

In this recent version, Tag Heuer has nevertheless done the necessary modification work: the 36-hour power reserve has been increased to 50 hours, which is sufficient to set the watch down for the week-end. As a reminder, the EP/Calibre 36 is rhymed at 5Hz/36000 vibrations per hour, measures 30mm in diameter and is fitted with 31 rubies.

Likewise, a trick has been employed to propose an aesthetic giving sense to the too close sub-timers. This Calibre 36 of 43mm in diameter takes up the aesthetics of the vintage stopwatches, pocket watches above all intended for sports timing. The big railway justifies the sub-timers drawn together.

Obviously, we had already seen this dial with the outdated charm on the Mikrograph and Mikrogirder of 2011-2012; besides, one of the watch’s forces was to make a mechanism stemming from aerospace cohabit with neo-classical external parts.

Here, owing to cost issues, the mechanism is evidently less innovative. However, the calibre 36 is nevertheless very beautiful and is in accordance with this two-toned dial. Moreover, it is one of the most qualitative watches introduced by Tag Heuer: the white lacquer does not excessively shine; the central grey satiny gives discreet but warm reflections off and the hands/index whole is in conformity with the vintage Carreras.

The latters’ case is less heavy than the 43mm in diameter one, but the watch is not too large according to the current criteria.

It is to be noted that this CAR2B11.BA0799 has elicited unanimity with the profession, almost all of our journalist and blogger colleagues having succumbed to this piece’s charm… Its price is in the average range of the market for equivalent products, that is, approximately 8000CHF.

Carrera MikroPendulum.

You got it, the Carrera watches are a dynamic history made of innovations and research. Yet, in these past years, Tag Heuer has been the most innovating mass brand, very much ahead its direct competitors…
The innovations are centered around two principal axes: the very high frequency (more than 5Hz) and magnetism. It is advisable to remember that, as per the rules of quantum mechanics, magnetism is one of the four forces which govern the universe, the others being the strong interaction (which maintains atoms’ cohesion), weak interaction (initiating radioactivity) and gravitation.

Electromagnetism is particularly the force which animates the photons, the one which is the daily light provider and harvest grower… Additionally, it also maintains the shopping list on the refrigerator.

In short, this major force of the universe has paradoxically always been disputed by the watchmakers, which have tried everything, with a certain success margin, to discard horology movements from it (non-magnetic watches, low-magnetic watches, etc.), the most critical point being the escapement unit. The vintage balance-springs were very sensitve to magnetic fields and even today, magnetic balance-springs are a frequent cause of after-sales service return.

Anyway, in a mechanical watch, magnetism, such as water, was evil incarnated. Until the arrival of the Pendulum by Tag Heuer.

This design watch introduced in 2010 proposed a technical revolution never seen before: the disappearance of the balance-spring in favour of a double pair of magnets generating a pendulum effect through the attraction/repulsion of opposed magnetic poles. You remember magnets, which repelled each other from your childhood? It is this phenomenon at work in the Pendulum. The aim is to replace the mechanic torque of the balance-spring by the Pendulum’s magnetic torque.

Before continuing the explanation, it is advisable to review the Seiko Spring-Drive compared to the Mikropendulum system. As you are aware, Seiko is one of the watchmaking partners of the La Chaux-de-Fonds brand, particularly through the assortments and centring supply.

This could cause confusion. However, there is no link between the Spring-Drive and the Pendulum.

The Spring-Drive is a mechanical watch regulated by quartz commanding a magnetic brake.

The Mikropendulum is a pure mechanical watch, without quartz, of which the balance-spring is uniquely, drove by the interaction of magnets.

Besides, the MikroPendulum movement construction is very classic; apart from the absence of the balance-spring, the rest resembles what we know and love in a mechanical watch.

A Pendulum is equipped with a classical balance. On the other hand, below the latter is a balance-spring point. You need to search at the level of the plate, which is situated at the foot of the balance’s rod, plate which is linked to the pallets.

This is no ordinary plate: it is equipped with two magnets each occupying 180° of the plate; one is positive whereas the other is negative. Here and there of the plate, there is a ring which includes two other magnets (each occupying 90° of the circumference, there are two 90° neutral zones), once again a positive and a negative.

The principle is finally very simple, of a great fluidity and on top of that enables the slight diminishing of the frictions… The energy unwinds through the barrel in a classical way but the magnetic forces, which are opposed in the magnets, will regulate this energy instead of the balance-spring’s elasticity phenomenon.

Before looking into the problematic that this may generate, it is appropriate to ask oneself about the added value?

The classical balance-spring has a maximum precision of +/-1 second per day. This limitation is due to manufacturing procedures that do not enable going below 0.1 micrometer. This conditions an average precision of approximately 0.99 second per day, at best (great diffusion calibers are generally very precise, thanks to the super industrialization of the escapement unit’s manufacturing process).

To extend the relatively vague boundaries of precision in a mechanical watch, a new type of regulating organ is thus needed; which uniquely calls on mechanical principles, else it would be called the Spring Drive… Silicon is a solution because the manufacturing margin is even lesser than the one of the Elinvar and company balance-springs. However, if silicon is an innovation in terms of material, it does not question the balance-spring’s principle. Besides, in this environment, silicon is potentially more fragile than the Elinvar.

Anyway, this material is not segmenting enough to create a true technical revolution. This may be considered as an answer to the subject dedicated to the use of silicon in horology… ;)

The Pendulum (named in tribute to a Huygens pendulum, modern horology theorist at the 17th Century) enables extending some boundaries of traditional mechanical horology, as much in terms of precision as shock resistance, or even, to some extent, resistance to magnetic fields.

During its presentation in 2010, it was regulated at 6Hz and while it was functional (which is rare enough in the dream watches world to be pointed out), its stability was not ensured.

Thus, the MikroPendulum will demonstrate that henceforth this magnetic regulation functions.

This watch takes up the aesthetics and even a share of the technology implemented in the Mikros series. Here, reference is obviously being made to a modern Carrera case, inspired by the 60s. The watch is in grade 5 titanium and measures 45mm; the case presents a quite successful alternation of polished and sanded surfaces, which is difficult to concretize on such a hard variety of titanium. If the finish is perfect, one can ask how a more streamlined and more vintage Carrera case from the 60s would be depicted on this model…

On the level of the dial, it is the MikroTourbillonS style which is taken up, in however a colder aspect: while the latter was two-toned, the MikroPendulum presents a grey on anthracite with an ash-coated point. It is cutting-edge technology, it is serious.

The finishes are at the level of the MikroTourbillonS, thus excellent, but one must not expect classical Haute Horlogerie (of the Parmigiani, Lange type), no engaging angles, no subtly sprinkled dial or rural engravings, despite the beautiful finishes (CF the tourbillon bridges), it is cutting-edge technology, one is not here for fun, the Swiss classicism does not at all reign in this watch.

The pit between the brushed side of the dial and the side consisting of the Côtes de Genève is very successful. The latter are evidently an allusion to the numerous vintage Carrera dials and their Geneva waves.

The power reserve is displayed at the 12 o’clock position, the second’s totalizer at the 6 o’clock position (because the chronograph hand makes one turn of the dial per second).

The major innovation concerns the movement. While the watch takes up the Carrera case in the MikroTourbillonS version, it uses the Mikrograph’s architecture adorned with a high-speed magnetic regulating organ.

Remember the Mikrograph, a magnificent special version which had been sold at the 2011 Only Watch and which had had an article dedicated to it.

This base movement consists of two escapements, one traditional with an Elinvar balance-spring, with 28800 vibrations per hour (4Hz) for the hour/minute/second. Added to that, another Pendulum regulating organ, thus a magnetic regulator of 50Hz for the chronograph (that is 360.000 vibrations per hour). The chronograph hand thus makes a turn of the dial per second, which is very very fast. The railway is equipped with 100 graduations, to give the hundredth of a second. A classical chronograph seems totally torpid and outdated when you have had the chance to play with a Mikros… I have a preference for the 1/100, because if it is not the fastest frequency developed by Tag, it is the one presenting the best visibility/speed compromise.

If you are ever lucky enough to hold the watch in your hand, observe the Pendulum balance (thus the one visible at the 9 o’clock position at the dial side), there is a very slight inertia time at the moment the watch stops. Really bluffing.

When one sees watches all year long, one becomes a bit jaded, which is regrettable; but the « Mikros » series is the type of technical slap which immediately puts one back on the right track of horology passion.

The automatic movement measures 15 lignes ¾, that is, 35.8mm for 9.79 mm in width. It is thus a big calibre of which the important thickness has not been well managed: the watch does not seem any thicker than the average. It is obviously a complex watch, with 371 components and 58 rubies. The Pendulum with a frequency of 50Hz owns 90 minutes of power reserve, which is normally enough in everyday use. The HMS movement turns at 4Hz for 42 hours’ use. The unique system of energy regulation enables the COSC certification of the watch side as well as the chronograph side; for the moment, only Tag Heuer owns a technology level necessary to the COSC certification of a functioning chronograph.

What is surprising with this watch is that such an important innovation has not been manufactured by a visionary watchmaker, working for an independent firm and developing his work in a lost barn at the depth of a bucolic valley. No, here it is a great brand supposed to be conservative, even unadventurous just like its colleagues, which is presenting such an innovation!

What it is more impressive but ultimately logical, given Tag Heuer’s reasonable tariff positioning, is the price. The MikroPendulum is sold at 35’000 CHF, the price of a sports chronograph of Haute Horlogerie (it is common knowledge that this notion is very vague). Tag has the impudence to propose a product with an analogue finish level, but with an embedded technology making numerous recent innovations obsolete…

Whereas during the MikroTourbillonS essay, I knew that the elitist tariff did not even allow me to dream buying it, here, at the announcement of the price, I immediately called my banker to create a MikroPendulum-savings account.

At a deeper level, it is a watch that is fully successful where the 1969 Calibre 11 was subdued. This time, Tag Heuer gets the award for innovation and the supremacy of this innovation.

1963. A pivotal year in horology history. It is the year that undoubtedly marks the last great epoch of the “utilitarian” mechanical horology. At this time is created the legendary chronograph Heuer Carrera.

Jack Heuer transcends the Helvetic neo-classicism of the 50s to introduce functionalism into the chronograph. The reason behind this decision? Mechanical sports.

The connivances between mechanical sports and Tag Heuer are old and intimately linked to the La Chaux-de-Fonds’ brand history. This adventure began before the Great War. In 1963, Tag had already been manufacturing pocket watches dedicated to sports timing for more than fifty years. For instance, the “Mikrographe” vintage was manufactured at the start of the 20th Century or, some years before the Carrera, the “Rally Master”, a dashboard chronograph.
As an opposition to what the neophyte may presume, the Carrera name is not linked to Porsche; it was rather inspired by the mythical race of the 50s, the Carrera Panamericana AKA “Pan Am”. What can be seen as an astonishing paradox is that before 1963, this event had not occurred since 1955, following a decision of Mexican authorities. This interruption was the result of the psychological trauma caused by the tragic accident of the Mercedes 300 SLR at the 24H of the Mans 1955… However, Jack Heuer turned out to be a visionary by betting on the resurrection of this anthology race... The event is back on track since 1988.
It is this vision, this intuition, this understanding which are the forging factors of the Carrera history…

Heuer Carrera 45 Dato "Cobra Shelby" 3147

Likely to be seen as something minor nowadays, one was aware that even the most minor detail was relevant in performance research at the time.
Heuer applied the solutions giving a maximum readability to military watches of the interwar period to sports watches: greater aperture and black dial for a maximum of contrast.
The first reference of the Carrera is the 2447. Bicompax, panda or full black, it is a round watch of 36mm (which was relatively big for the time). Animated by a Valjoux 72, a standard movement during the after-war; its frequency is at 18000 vph for 45 hours of power reserve.

It presents numerous similarities with the Rolex “Pré-Daytona” ref. 6238: the calibre, the dial and the push-pieces. What is even better is that the future 6239, just like the Carrera, will adopt the name of an automobile event across the Atlantic: Daytona.
However, even if the Daytona and the Carrera started off at almost the same point (in the 60s, the products were less “identity-oriented” than today) and were presented in the same year (the Daytona also celebrates its 50 years this year), they had diametrically opposed destinies.
On the one hand, the Daytona evolved very little, as much in terms of motorization as aesthetics, since Rolex privileged reliability and durability above all.
On the other hand, the Carrera became a permanent, aesthetic and technical laboratory.

Here, we have to make reference to the Heuer Carrera 45 Dato « Cobra Shelby » 3147. In fact, in 1963, it was rare to have “branded” watches (the 70s and 80s were the Golden Age of the “branded” watches).
It is thus due to the logo of the British constructor that the 3147 will be of more interest to us than the 2447.
Despite the legitimacy and the explosive potential of a partnership between the AC Cobra and Tag Heuer niche constructor, the Dato 45 was not a commercial watch.
In the 60s, Carol Shelby, ex-racing driver (he won the 24h du Mans in 1959 Mans with Aston Martin), decided to create the American racing car; he turned to Ford, which was able to supply the motor and the money and was helped by AC, a British constructor which owned the European know-how in terms of chassis.

The AC Cobra was born; it would know a qualified success: sales during the 60s did not exceed 1000 copies, divided into diverse versions.
The car is too early and too pointed, it precedes the Muscle Cars era; however, the latter will aim higher in the objective set by the Cobra Shelby: be as powerful as the GTs of the moment for much less money.
Shelby had opted for a compromise between the dynamic qualities of the automobile and its cost. The Muscle Cars would be much more radical, leaving behind all equilibrium in terms of behavior, in favor of atmospherics V8s under steroids, at dumped prices…

To motivate sales forces, the Ford group asked Jack Heuer to manufacture its Dato 45, declined into two series : the first (1966-67), Bicompax and the second (1968-69) more radical, Monocompax, the latter consisting of the AC Cobra initials.

It is obviously this version which will be of interest here since it prefigures various heavy trends through its aesthetics. First and foremost, the automobile/horology partners which are henceforth the forgotten passage of any large-scale watchmaking firm.
The dial is decorated with an automobile brand’s logo (a first?!) And what a logo! AC’s Cobra is incredibly aggressive and perfectly corresponds to Shelby’s sports vocation: combine the best of European and American automobile.
Then, the watch proposes a big date and a big white timer of graduated minutes up to 45. Obviously, everything is done in the scope of a maximum readability: with its great aperture at the dial, the watch cuts more than the announced 36mm.
The case is the embodiment of simplicity; its horns are very long which is logical given its size. Besides, the current Carreras will conserve this characteristic but with a greater-sized case.
Furthermore, the watch is motored by an unusual caliber (in the Carreras only; it was relatively common at the time) of manual chronograph: the Landeron 189, 31mm in diameter for 6.85mm in width. It has a frequency of 18000 vibrations per hour for 42 hours of power reserve.

It is to be noted that the steel case resonates quite a lot and that the sound characteristic of 2.5Hz is quite audible for such a small watch.
If the Heuer Carrera 45 Dato “Cobra Shelby” is almost impossible to find by chance, you may find a 45 Dato without logo for approximately 3’500 CHF…
Which is much less expensive than an original Cobra Shelby, because let’s admit it, it is much more simple (and economic!) to wear a vintage watch than to drive an appropriate car.

Heuer Skipper 7754 « Skipperera »

Another model which is slightly off-beat but very much iconic of the creative medium that defines this series is the Skipperera. The Skippers are a bit difficult to classify in the Heuer lines, as they are sometimes Autavia and sometimes Carrera. Experts air varying opinions about it…

As far as the aptly named “Skiperrera” presents a Carrera case, one can consider that it is a full Carrera.
The interest of this watch lies in its aesthetics. It neither distinguishes itself by its case, which is the standard version of the Carreras, neither by its calibre, a Valjoux 7730.
However, before focusing on the dial, it is useful to linger on this calibre a bit. The Valjoux 7730 is a calibre of manual chronograph having a frequency of 18000 vibrations per hour for 45 hours of power reserve, it measures 31mm on 6, that is, almost the same dimensions as the Landeron 189.

One will note that at the time, the size ratio of the caliber/size of the case was different from that of today. Back then, like sports cars’ motors, big calibers were cased up in small cases, at shoehorn.
What makes the particularity of this 7730 (which is probably the reason for his choosing this Skipper) is that it offered the possibility to display 30 or 45 minutes on the sub-dial at the 3 o’clock position. And here, Heuer had driven this function into a corner: by modifying a wheel, it was possible to display only 15 minutes by thirty jumps of thirty seconds.
Why is that? The answer is, as always, that it was for this famous countdown of the regatta launching. One will equally note that the minutes’ timer is graduated in the inverted direction: it is launched 15 minutes before the regattas start, the last third indicating the “warm-up” of the event.

However, the main interest of the watch does not concern the above but rather the dial, which is one of the most beautiful that I have ever held. The dials from that epoch are of a great quality and are no less appealing than the current productions. The reliefs are qualitative, the textures very clean and above all they grow old in a very good way, of which the good quality of the epoch’s lacquer is proof.
The colour scheme of this Carrera 7754 is perfect: night blue, almond green, orange, in ideal proportions. In a visionary way, it synthesises everything that was best made in sports and summer dials of the next 40 years. Night blue for looking good, orange for relaxation and almond green for nostalgia.

Moreover, the very streamlined context of the Carrera (white railroad, index and simple hands) further highlights the colour scheme.
The collectors are not wrong; it is approximately quoted the double of a Carrera from that time, often as from 7’000 CHF.

Heuer Carrera « Automatic 70’ » 110.253, Côte de Genève

Directly moving on to the year 1978, we will interest ourselves with the Heuer Carrera 110.253 since the latter joins numerous emblematic elements of the 70s’ Carrera.
The first major change was the case: it became barrel, was enlarged by 2mm and lost its long horns, very characteristic of the 70s. For the purists, it is undoubtedly slightly shocking; so much as this model distanced itself from the 60s’ models. However, in opposition to a Daytona, which is monolithic by vocation, it is a laboratory; it is thus legitimate that its creators attempted to change the shape of its case.

From a personal point of view, I prefer the 60s’ case due to the fact that its streamlining seems completely achieved to me. Here, the case is very sympathetic, very funky but slightly clumsier than the one from the 60s. While the 60s’ case was the avatar of Jack Heuer’s modernism passion, the 70s’ case ensued from a simplification wish of a case already very streamlined, of postmodernism all in all… Consequently, the case called “automatic 70’” has two advantages: its more solid horns and its superior diameter; as a result, these Carreras seem much bigger on the wrist than their predecessors.

It seems that Tag Heuer has made the same choice for its contemporary watches, in preserving the 60s’ case shape (this will further be developed at the end of the article).

If the case has been named «Automatic 70’», it must be known that a good deal of the watches it equips are manual!

In fact, the 70s are the time at which automatic chronographs appeared right in the middle of the quartz crisis… Between financial and suppliers problems, reliability issues of the automatic chronographs, a great deal of the Carreras from the 70s were equipped with manual movement.

However, this is not the case for this 110.253, which is equipped with a variant of the legendary Heuer Buren Calibre 11: the vintage calibre 12.

The calibre 12 is thus an automatic chronograph with 21600 vibrations per hour, contrary to the vintage calibre 11, with an intermediary frequency of 19800 vibrations per hour. The caliber has a 42-hour power reserve and measures 31mm for 7.7 in width.

It has been nicknamed «Chronomatic» and the oscillating mass will not be visible on the photos: which is normal since it has been hidden by the chronograph’s mechanism.
Like the Calibre 11, the vintage calibre 12 is a Buren 1281 with a Dubois Depraz 8510 chronograph module.
Nevertheless, if it is more classic in its frequency, it is also more legitimate: a six jumps per seconds basis is the most legitimate in a sexagesimal time system.

Last detail, the crown has been fitted at the 9 o’clock position but the push-buttons (less protruding than that of the 60s’ models, alas) are in their usual position, namely at the right of the case. The contrary might have been more ergonomic, it seems more instinctive to activate a chronograph with the right hand’s thumb rather than with the index…

On the dial’s side, like the other vintage Carreras, it is sportive classicism with a touch of madness, the whole served by an execution level which is no less appealing than the most beautiful current productions.
Proof of this? The dial is crossed by three big blue Côtes de Genève, very well made, the black sub counters almost break its harmony. In fact, the latters are flat and matt with white indexes. However, despite the beauty of its dial, this Carrera 110.253 is a tool watch, thus the functional aspect prevails.

Besides, the whole of the index/hands remains very classic, polished steel, streamlined design. Priority is given to efficiency.

It is not very hard to find one at approximately 2’500 CHF, which isn’t much if the dial’s execution quality and the embedded legendary movement are taken into consideration.

Heuer Carrera « Automatic » 510.511, military aviation.

Just like the Skipperera, the 510.511 is a rarity, outside the Carrera series. So why is this piece being described?

Contrary to the Skipperera, it is not the most beautiful of the Carreras, but its technical interest is enormous.

As an introduction, it is worth knowing that this watch has a false twin, the 510.513, identical with a dial presenting blue Côtes de Genève arranged horizontally. Unfortunately, this piece was not available at the Tag Heuer museum where the photos of this reporting have been taken.

The watch exists in two versions: one in steel (ref 510.523), and one in PVD steel, this latter finish reinforcing its military aspect. The case takes up the design of the « Automatics 70’ » (even if the watch dates from 1984), but it is slightly bigger, with 40mm in diameter. The watch is water resistant to 100 meters and the push-pieces are of the right size.

This watch’s interest resides in its caliber: back then, Lemania was not in the Swatch Group circle (Lemania’s industrial tool served to build the Breguet firm) and produced numerous watches and calibers to the destination of armed forces.

Thus, the legendary Lemania 5100 which equips this Carrera 510.511 is an automatic chronograph mechanism of second generation intended for military aviation, including fighter pilots. It is why this movement presents an extraordinary resistance to the accelerating forces (11G) and to strong decelerations (7G).

It may be used for several years without service and is exceptionally robust. Its construction is unusual, the movement is structured around pillars, like a building and has some nylon pieces (which was trendy at the time…)

It has a frequency of 28800 vibrations per hour for 48 hours of power reserve and measures 31mm for 8.2, thus slightly bigger than a 7750.
Many wrote that it is not very beautiful. It is certainly not the incarnation of sex-appeal, but apart from the El Primero (Calibre 36 at Tag Heuer), the automatic chronographs’ movements from the years 70-80 were much less beautiful than the manual chronographs’ calibers of the after-war.

Moreover, this movement has several functions. The most noteworthy and playful is the central minutes’ timer, materialized by the aeroplane-shaped orange hand. The watch has four hands which pass through the central cannon: hour, minute, chrono second and chrono minute.
In addition to the 60 seconds and minutes at the center, the chronograph indicates the twelve hours cumulated at the 6 o’clock position, the 24h time at the 12 o’clock position, the small second at the 9 o’clock position and finally the date at the 3 o’clock position. Even if it is relatively charged, it is no less readable.

A relatively rare and totally mythical watch, which can be found at approximately 3’500 CHF, which is completely correct given the product’s quality. I cannot advise strongly enough the 510.513 if you bear it an interest, less military-aviation in its look and more Funky-Carrera.

Novità Orologi / Re:MB&F - Legacy Machine n°2 - Tutte le FOTO!
« il: Ottobre 09, 2013, 16:59:57 pm »
I thinks it's the most interesting, aesthecally and technically MB&F since the beginning of the brand.

Novità Orologi / Re:Parmigiani Fleurier SIHH2013 : Elite dial making
« il: Ottobre 09, 2013, 16:58:50 pm »
estetica discutibile....però dentro.....


Novità Orologi / Re:Parmigiani Fleurier SIHH2013 : Elite dial making
« il: Ottobre 09, 2013, 16:58:22 pm »
beh il tonda è strepitoso
thanks for sharing
nice pictures as usual


Novità Orologi / Parmigiani Fleurier SIHH2013 : Elite dial making
« il: Settembre 15, 2013, 00:03:33 am »
Parmigiani Fleurier’s SIHH is taking the opposite course of the current trend: the Show-Off.
SIHH being the high mass of Haute Horlogerie, especially this year, we witnessed an abundance of scenography stands. Hostesses were praising the virtues of ultra-visual complications whereby the regulating organs were evolving all through the case.

When approaching the PF stand, one could see the contrast set by the muffled atmosphere. Discretion was the day’s motto and visual abundance was rather to be found in its minimalist aspect.

Just as for the SIHH2012 let’s have a look to the highlights of the 2013 edition, rather than going through a fastidious exhaustive review.

The Transforma CBF

For the uninitiated, let’s have a reminder of Transforma concept: the case is removable (a « watch head », as per the brand denomination) and may be fitted into two types of receptacles: the pocket watch or the wristwatch support. Here is the perfect opportunity to buy this magnificent and extremely expensive three-piece from this Italian tailor.

Until now, a Transforma at Parmigiani was thus a watch head and two receptacles. Up till now…

The Transforma CBF pushes the design further by adding a second head and an additional container. The third receptacle is a «table watch»; in fact, it is a very beautiful watch-winder which will have the capacity of welcoming the other four elements of the set:

•   Pocket support
•   Wrist support
•   Annual calendar watch head
•   Chronograph watch head

In everyday life, it will be useful in winding the annual calendar to the colours of the Confederação Brasileira de Futebol.

Yes, this Transforma set is dedicated to the CBF, the manager of the famous Seleção, the most titled football team in the world. Until now, the series dedicated to the CBF was inspired by the Pershing series sports case. However, the classical style of the new case transforms the partnership into a clearly more dressed aspect. This is a quite surprising and praiseworthy choice since it dissolves the cliché of the football fan who never wears a suit at work and who wears tracksuits throughout his life and chants in stadiums. Parmigiani introduces a watch for the discreet fans of the Brazilian team.

For example, the annual calendar displays the five stars (corresponding to the five World Cup wins) of the CBF’s flag on the moon phase!
The watch is uses the PF339 calibre already seen in the Tonda Quator QA. This movement is based on the PF331, the module adds an annual calendar and a retrograde date.

The calibre is makes approximately 12’’’ (lignes), that is, 27.1mm for 5.5mm in width. It has a frequency of 28800 vibrations per hour for a 50 hours power reserve, supplied by two barrels. The plus factor of this configuration resides in the fact that it guarantees an optimum couple on the power reserve as a whole.

The pink gold case is 43mm in its biggest diameter. At first glance, the utilisation of pink gold might seem unnecessary since the two steel shafts cover it almost entirely once the watch is cased up.

However, the heart of the piece is not to be found here.

What strikes immediately having the watch in hand is the exceptional quality of the dial’s finish. Of course, details such as the green or yellow hands subtly remind one of the set’s theme; it is however the intensity of the blue colour which remains most memorable.

Apart from the Pershing Abyss below and the famous blue De Béthune obtained following an entirely different technique (oven bluing), the dial of this CBF Seleção is the most beautiful one that has ever decorated a watch.

According to light intensity, it oscillates between magenta and midnight blue without being aggressive; it is the embodiment of a purity and smoothness never seen before. The other «watch head» of the box set is a chronograph with a 43 mm carbon case. The atmosphere is here very different and much more sportive than on the annual calendar.

The movement is the PF 334, 13’’’1/4 (30mm) for 6.8mm in height. It also runs at 28800 vibrations per hour for 50 hours power reserve, once again ensured by two barrels. Having a module, it is extraordinarily fitted, with 68 rubies.

This price of the box set is 56900€, which is reasonable for an annual calendar and an Haute Horlogerie chronograph, accompanied by all the necessary accessories …

Pershing Tourbillon Abyss

Another watch equipped with a one-of-a-kind blue dial is the Pershing Tourbillon Abyss.

Nowadays, the watch market of more than 20k€ is divided in several categories, which can be classified into two sociological families.

•   Watches for the well-informed, who join traditional and independent Haute Horlogerie. Most of the time, the brand’s name makes itself discreet to leave complications, finishes and tradition in the spotlight.
•   The «Show Off» watches, which join average brand-name watches, strongly set, and the very distinctive «Jet Set» watches. The finishes and beautiful watchmaking leave the stage to a maximum amount of show-off: name in bold, gleaming stones, emblematic design.

Until now, the attempts in reconciling traditional Haute Horlogerie and « show-off» have not been very numerous.

With the advent of the Pershing Tourbillon Abyss, Parmigiani Fleurier registers itself in this ecological niche.

The watch is in fact covered with the imposing titanium 45mm case from the Pershing series, water resistant to 100m; even if 300m would have been preferable for such a sportive watch. An impressive pink gold bezel is on top of the case… The horns are prominent and when one is having a drink at a luxury hotel in Monaco, the watch will not lose face in front of a ROO, a Big Bang and the likes. The titanium ensures comfort. Whether we like it or not, this very distinctive case is the main characteristic of this style exercise.

What makes the dial even more impressive is that it steals the spotlight from the tourbillon which is a rare (or even unique ?) feat !!! The «wave» finishes calling upon two levels of blue are astounding, magic, and with as much varieties of reflections that can exist in lighting conditions.

In the context of pure texture, the annual calendar’s powder is slightly overboard; here, the brushing hardens somewhat the light, but the waves are just fa-bu-lous since they make everything that one may have seen pertaining to this theme simply obsolete !

However, the fact that the escapement is eventually side-lined becomes problematic; and yet, it is an Haute Horlogerie tourbillon (the use of this term pertaining to Parmigiani is not demeaning). At the 12 o’clock position one can identify the power reserve hand, graduated up to the 7 o’clock position and at the 6 o’clock position is the tourbillon.

It is clocked at 21600 vha, has a 168h power reserve and performs a rotation in 30 seconds.

The case housing the calibre measures 15’’’ in width for 5.55mm in height, with 30 rubies. Those are particularly unusual dimensions, the world seeming to be divided among the 11, 13 and 17’ calibres…

The finish, the tourbillon’s bridge in particular, is of high quality, the blued silicon of the escape wheel is quite magical in the marine context of the piece.

This hybrid watch is a great success as making it a true mission to increase the general level of watchmaking is important, even at the wrist of the most uninitiated!

Marquetry 15 days Clock

Another piece equipped with the exceptional «blue dial» is the marquetry 15 days Clock. Yes, Parmigiani manufactures a table clock.

In wristwatches’ universe, it is always slightly off-beat to manufacture a beautiful table watch. Generally, only the most prestigious Swiss firms launch themselves into such an exercise.

A clock’s large volumes and surfaces give leeway to creative liberties, which cannot even be imagined in a wristwatch.

This type of piece has marked out the watchmaking pathway of Michel Parmigiani. In the 70s, students from watchmaking schools were working on school clocks very close centring-wise. In the last decade of the 20th Century, when Michel Parmigiani moved from restoration to the manufacture of modern pieces, his first creations were small clocks. Manufacturing table clocks has become of one the hearts of jobs of PF, just as recently illustrated by «Le Chat et La Souris», «Le Dragon» and the brand new «Le Faucon et l’Outarde» (included in the family named «exceptional pieces»).

The clock owns a mass volume close to that of water. The rhodium-plated sterling silver case and the spaces between the glasses and the movements have compensated the calibre’s weight and its heavy barrel’s.

This mass (around one kilo) is equally useful for stabilizing the piece while being wound up. In general, particular attention is given to the user’s sensations, which are well present: it is quite heavy and one requires some strength to wind the barrel, so that the experience of the bi-monthly winding is as amazing as ever.

One piece of advice: don’t use it in the bedroom, it makes quite a lot of noise… The advantage is that its low frequency of 18000 vibrations per hour and its big barrel compose a perfect tuning-fork clock.

The manufacturing of such a watch takes about four months, counting the accumulated working hours. The pressing and finishing operations are distributed among the exterior craftsmen and the firms of the Parmigiani Fleurier industry, namely the Manufacture Horlogère de la Fondation (MHF). The metallic elements are first machined and decorated; then, they go through several treatments, in particular an electrochemical polishing.

The decoration is exceptional. The unusual scale of the finishes disturbs the finishers. Even the supposedly simplest finishes, such as basic anglings, are in fact more complicated due to two factors: on the one hand, it is very delicate to perfectly angle on large surfaces and on the other hand, this work requires a craftsmanship and endangered boxwood buff wheels.

Once the pieces are completed, the next step is the assembly and the exquisite development of the powerful energy system. This work is fully assured by one and only one watchmaker, who will take two weeks to assemble its clock. At the technical as well as security level, the challenge is the big barrel assembly.

It has to be admitted that generally, watchmaking is not a risky profession. The pieces are light, the rare machines are small and harmless and Val de Travers (Fleurier’s lies) is one of the safest places on earth; it is unlikely that one will be attacked by a hooded buff at a red light.

As a precaution against accidents, the movement has been equipped with a technology typical of the 21st Century: a barrel flanging system through a Geneva drive allowing it to progressively unwind.

This Geneva drive has many tricks up its sleeve: obviously it ensures the increase in chronometrical performances while guaranteeing the arrival of controlled energy.

However, its most important asset resides in the fact that it paved the way for the development of a new power reserve system display as exclusive through its technical procedure as through the positioning of its four hands.  Spider hands overlap the barrel cylinder to allow the power reserve to be visible whatever the angle.

The result is paradoxical since Parmigiani has designed a complex, exclusive and patented system (composed of 13 pieces for the whole of the spider hands) to obtain the simplest power reserve display!

To ensure utmost precision of the ancient architecture clock, the Geneva drive regulation system has been lined with a constant force escapement system. Well-trained eyes will see a second balance-spring on top of the escape wheel.

To sum it up, it is a technical feat, which consists of making steam engine function with the punctuality of a TGV.

This version, dedicated to music (Parmigiani is in partnership with the Montreux Jazz Festival), has been ornamented with a representation of musical instruments in Pietr Mondrian’s style, famous for being one of the pioneers of abstraction. Marquetry consists of assembling pieces of natural or stained wood veneer to obtain motifs. Each piece is cut and stained individually before being assembled; a task as precise as the assembly of a watch movement!

Parmigiani Toric Tecnica Minos

The SIHH2013 has been the opportunity for many prestigious companies to introduce quite innovative great complications, with the three-dimensional escapement being the central theme. However, Parmigiani has secretly introduced a more-than-classical great complication: the Toric Minos.

This watch will however only be on display since it had been a custom order and is thus already sold. It is marvellous as much for its technicality as for its aesthetics.

Let’s focus on the technique first. Being a great complication, it combines:
•   A minute repeater.
•   A perpetual calendar
•   A tourbillon (even if it is not exactly a complication)
•   A power reserve display

At the 12 o’clock position, the watch displays the date and the power reserve. The day of the week is displayed at the 3 o’clock position and the date at the 9 o’clock position. As for the tourbillon at the 6 o’clock position, it rotates in 30 seconds.

The movement measures 13 lignes for 12.3mm width. Its frequency is 21600 beat per hour for a 43 hours power reserve.

The dial’s finishes are part of the elements contributing to making this watch extraordinary. For example, the dial embodies the labyrinth of the mythological Minotaur. The maze walls are in locked polished white gold, a contrast with the ground made in sanded white gold. The edges of the Perpetual Calendar indicators are made in satiny pink gold.

The combinations of contrasts among these elements make up an exceptional visual with the dial shimmering under the light and the amazing tourbillon are a true pleasure for the eyes. One of the greatest dial ever produced !

For the movement’s part, the «labyrinth» motif is slightly less demonstrative, but usually one will be absorbed by the hammers’ repetition work. The sound is both clear and musical and the volume is quite correct.

Using gold for the case turns out to be not quite penalizing as it would first seem. In fact, the metal’s density is not the only factor affecting the resounding vibration. The other factor concerns the essence of the alloy, which ensures a good sound diffusion: the pink gold consists of copper as well, metal equally adapted to resonance.

Moreover, an interior milling ensures the hollowing out of matter on the inside of the case, to further improve resonance…

The demarcating line between this watch and other watches of great complications is that it perfectly fits one’s wrist. Everything is just fine when you wear this watch from the case’s dimensions to the labyrinth decoration, which extends up to the middle.

As for the dimensions, the two glass sapphires are ultra-fine because the watch measures only 13.2mm in width for 45mm in diameter. Despite its dimensions, it perfectly fits one’s wrist!

A homogeneous, equilibrated, complete piece, which above all is equipped with a fabulous dial!


This SIHH2013 is for Parmigiani undoubtedly a power display of the Quadrance (the dial part of Parmigiani) finishing work as well as the workshop Haute Horlogerie of Parmigiani Fleurier. While others are favoring sensationalism, the Fleurier firm stays connected to continuity and perpetuate horology history through a contemporary prism. A firm which prefers interacting with informed watchmakers over «prestigious» brands’ zealots.

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