It’s an illness!

I think this is about my 6th 6309 – when I don’t have one I want one, and when I have one I keep it for a while and then move it on. Oh well…

This one is an American market 7040, dating from 1984. It has it’s original non-Suwa dial and hands, but is fitted with a Yobokies double domed crystal with internal AR (hence the reflections!). It also has an aftermarket large dot insert on at the moment, but I do have an original insert on a spare bezel too. You can see that it has a lovely patina, and the other nice thing is that it had a movement service and new gaskets less than a year ago.

I only ever wear 6309s on Zulus, and I’m always swapping them over for a different look. In fact, as soon as this shot was taken the cherry came off and a black went on. When I look at it, it’s hard to work out why I ever sell them.

“My god, it’s full of stars…”

Not that long ago, the thought of another vintage sports watch – probably Rolex, because for quite a while that was the focus of my collection – would have kept me awake at night. It’s a funny thing, though, how tastes evolve and over the last couple of years I’ve found myself becoming increasingly disillusioned with and by what had become the staple additions. I sold quite a few (beauties, I might add), and found over the same period that I was also beginning to question my refusal to buy anything current. For a while now, in fact, I’ve had a nice balance of new and old, and a pretty even mix of sports watches and alternatives that are far more dressy.

A couple of weeks ago I met a friend from TZ for a few beers, and I was really impressed by what he called his “left field” collection. I didn’t consciously spend time dwelling on this but I was aware that I could have been a little more… I don’t know, daring. It was while I was in that frame of mind that something popped up on SC that I simply fell in love with, and over the subsequent week or so I edged closer and closer to a deal without even the hint of a second thought about whether I was being sensible or not. I have to say that, after a couple of days of wear, I’m really delighted that I followed my instincts.

Christiaan ven der Klaauw is a Dutch watchmaker, and is also the only watchmaker in the Netherlands producing movement parts with his own hands. He was born, in 1944, in Leiden, the city where the Netherlands’ greatest scientist of all times, namesake and inspiration Christiaan Huygens started his studies in 1645. Van der Klaauw attended the School for Instrument Makers there, and some two decades after commencing his work as a watchmaker became known for his “astronomical watches” that he now shows regularly at Basleworld to much acclaim. The watches are handmade, and the finished movements (based on ebauches that I can’t identify yet, although I’ve asked him the question by email) are heavily modified and then coupled with in-house modules that provide the incredible astronomical complications that set his watches apart. You can see the current CVDK collection here, in fact.

The watch that I found irresistible is the Ceres 1974. The dial is an amazingly textured starburst, on which an appliqué CVDK logo appears at 12 with the most gorgeous moonphase window at 6; applied roman numerals, in blued steel, are used for the 1-3 and 9-11 markers but the remainder of the dial is completely clean. The finishing touch is blued steel hands, in a Breguet style. The overall effect is, to my mind, quite beautiful, albeit that many will no doubt feel that the styling is a little too unconventional. Horses for courses, and all that.

The Ceres 1974 is part of the “Collection of The Stars” and the specification is as follows:

Movement: CVDK1068, automatic winding, 25 jewels, 42 hour power reserve complication (CVDK Ceres 1974 module).
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, complication; moon phase.
Case: Stainless steel, ø 40 mm, sapphire crystal, sapphire crystal case-back.
Dial: Silver with blue indexes.
Strap: Blue alligator leather.
Buckle: Logo engraved steel folding clasp.

I’m not sure that anything other than handling this watch could ever do it justice, but my attempt in photos is below… no, it’s not the usual safe choice, but I love it all the more for just that reason.

Oh, the irony…

A few months ago, I wrote an incoming post about an IWC Portuguese that I’d recently acquired. You can read it here if you feel inclined, but to cut a long story short I spent a while explaining the connection between IWC and a company that, back then, had taken the Russian watch market by storm. That company was Moser, and had I been able to fast forward to this week I’d have had to laugh. The IWC went because it was simply too big for me at 42mm (and all dial); and the most unexpected of incomings proved to be a Moser Mayu Marrone. (The Mayu collection is, interestingly, a tribute to Heinrich Moser’s first wife, Charlotte Mayu.)

This is a September 2014 watch that’s been worn just a handful of times, and it’s not the LE model that we’ve seen on the forum a few times of late. This one – the “standard” Mayu Marrone – has a solid brown dial and arabic numerals at 12; I think the numerals actually give the dial much more balance, with the sub-seconds at 6 providing a very elegant symmetry. The case, measuring 38.8mm without the crown and 9.3mm high, is white gold and whilst the difference from stainless steel is subtle it’s still very noticeable in terms of the hue and the effect of light as it hits from different angles; of course, it’s also a fair bit heavier. The wonder of this case, though, is in the contrast of flat and curved, brushed and polished… it’s multi-faceted and really is quite beautiful.

The finish on the movement is absolutely breathtaking, and it’s such a good fit for the case that Moser were able to dispense with a retaining ring and use every millimetre of the dial (as you can see, in fact, from the placement of the sub-dial); a really nice change, this, from the more usual small movement/large case approach that has predominated watch design in recent years. It’s an in-house Moser Cal. HMC321.503 hand-wound movement with 80 hour power reserve, modular escapement and PR indicator, all visible through a display back. I’ve actually had a really good look at it through a 10x loupe, and the finish is nothing short of perfect.

In fact, the entire watch is perfect, and it’s probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever had on my wrist.

It took a while, but…

I’ve always loved the Sea-Dweller. In fact, I’ve had a couple of magnificent Great Whites as well as both drilled and non-drilled versions of the 16600; I’ve even had a gorgeous stardust Triple 6. For a desk diver like me they’re a bit daft really, but the very things that polarise opinion when it comes to the Sub v SD debate epitomise why I’ve enjoyed owning them. For that reason, I don’t intend waffling on about the merits or otherwise of the SD 4000 over the Subc, because everyone has a view already and that view won’t change on the back of my comments. I do think the changes are worth a mention in the context of new v old SD, though.

Firstly, the case. I don’t know why Rolex decided that they needed a mid-size in the line-up but personally I think they’ve got it just right. The lugs on the 4000 are probably halfway between the old style of the 16600 and the newer maxi cases. This has the effect of giving the watch greater bulk and wrist presence without “squaring off” the shape like some of the other models in the current line-up. I think they’ve got it spot on, actually, but these things are clearly pretty subjective.

Secondly, much has been made of the matt maxi dial but to be honest the difference in finish is fairly subtle. Sometimes you can see clearly that it has a matt finish, but mostly the black is deep and rich, and not much different to the gloss dial of the 16600. The maxi sized plots are a huge improvement, though, as to my mind those on the previous model (and on the 16610, for that matter) are now looking far too small in the face of recent changes.

Finally, the ceramic bezel is a big change for sure, but whilst the look is completely different to the old aluminium inserts it’s really not “blingy” at all, as has been suggested more than once. In fact, in certain light it takes on a grey hue and almost looks matt itself, much like the bezel on the MM300 if anyone can picture that. I think this is a clear upgrade, as is the newer style glidelock clasp on the bracelet.

The only thing I can’t quite get my head around is the design of the end-links. I’ve taken a couple of shots to show the issue clearly, but the end-links are proud of the lugs where they curve downwards and are also on a different plane on the outside to the section in the centre. All in all it’s a bit confused, but needless to say it’s unnoticeable when the watch is on the wrist, and I’m being really picky.

I suspect that those who like the SD as a concept with still like the latest incarnation, and those that don’t will unlikely be swayed by the changes. I’m certainly very happy with it, though, and reckon it’s a perfect diver/sports watch and a close to perfect all-rounder. A few shots below, of course, which hopefully highlight the changes and demonstrate what I was trying to describe with regard to the end-links. In short, a bloody good watch.

And an iPhone shot from earlier today…


I’ve heard lots of people say, over the years, that the Daytona is a “bracelet watch”. Now, it’s one thing to have an opinion (and we all know what they say about opinions) but it’s another to make a contention that’s simply incorrect, and offer it as dogma. As most people will know, the Daytona has been offered by Rolex with a strap option for many years and whilst I don’t know if those gorgeous vintage models were similarly supplied from the factory they certainly look good on leather.

Anyway, one of my biggest flipping regrets relates to my absolutely mint and full set 16519; this was the white gold variant that was produced immediately before the current range, and I sold it for a good £2000 less than it was worth having picked it up for a similarly good price. Oh, and it was, of course, on leather…

Some months later, I managed to get hold of a 116520 – the stainless steel model from the current range – with a white dial and stainless steel bracelet. I always fancied putting a strap on it but that’s not an entirely straightforward matter; Rolex add a fixed end link for their gold watches that are produced to wear on a strap, and the gap one’s left with in simply swapping out the bracelet can be a bit unsightly. However, that’s no longer an insurmountable issue as there are now a couple of independent manufactures of OEM-spec end links that complete the look of the watch for anyone who wants to go down that route. A friend posted on TURF recently about a set he bought from George in Singapore and it was enough to prompt me to drop George a line and then place an order myself.

The end links arrived yesterday, and I have to say that they’re beautifully finished. I had already bought a shiny alligator Rios strap in preparation for the delivery, and last night I mounted the end links and strap and was absolutely delighted with the results. Now, there will no doubt be some that don’t like the combination, but please don’t tell me that the Daytona wasn’t intended to be worn on leather. It was, it is, and I am!

99.1 x 0.040363269 =

I posted the other day about how pee’d off I was to let my newly-acquired Dornblüth 99.1 go to a new home; as many have found before me, at 42mm it really does wear quite large, and – much as I liked it – I knew that in reality it was too big for me. Anyway, on Wednesday I met up with Kirk and Andrzej, some mates from TZ-UK, for one of our regular chats over a coffee in Radlett and Kirk bought along his Kal 04.0, just to rub salt into the wound.

Now, this is a genuinely rare watch; only one year of production (2006) and in total 75 pieces were made, of which 50 were in stainless steel and 25 in rose gold. With a very wearable 38mm case, the other striking difference to Dornblüth’s other models is that the internals in these are based on a GUB movement from some time around the early 90′s (not sure exactly when, but I’m about to mail Dirk Dornblüth to ask him). I quote from the Interweb:

The 04.0 caliber is based upon a small cache of antique movement parts produced in Germany by GUB. Largely reworked and augmented with other parts (some manufactured in-house) by D.Dornblüth & Sohn, it bears these attributes: 29.4 mm diameter; 3.8 mm height; 18 rubies; power reserve 36 hours (+/- 5%); 18,000 semi-oscillations per hour; rose gold three-quarter plate with yellow gold hand-graving of manufactory name and serial number; Geneva stripe finish; retracing ratchet; double sunburst finish on the crown wheels; flat polished, heat-blued screws with beveled edges; Glucydur screw balance with Nivarox 1 spring; swan-neck fine adjustment on the hand-engraved balance cock. [Gold chatons too - Ed]

The applied numerals are black steel whilst the hands are blued, and all in all it really is a wonderful watch. I’d been looking at/reading about them for a couple of years, but after realising how scarce they are pretty much gave up on finding one. Just trying it on was actually an unexpected pleasure, so I gave Kirk a withering look and advised him in no uncertain terms that my name was as good as on it.

Fast forward to 8.30 yesterday evening, and I had a message from Kirk. It took me a minute or two to realise he was actually offering me the watch, another ten minutes to transfer the funds and less than an hour to meet him and take the package – complete with some rather nice Lindt chocolates – from his hands. In truth, the timing isn’t great as I only recently stretched myself a bit to land a lovely JLC that I’d been after for some time. However, these just never seem to get sold, and I reckoned it was now, or never. Now appealed a bit more :)

These are obviously a bit rushed, but I’ll follow up with some more over the weekend…

Back in the fold

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to pick up a Dornblueth 99.1 that was listed on TZ-UK as unworn and pristine. It was a beauty, with applied blue numerals, but like many before me I realised after wearing it for a while that it really does need a slightly bigger wrist than my own. It bothered me as the 99.1 is a bit of a stunner, but at the same time I came to this conclusion a watch I’d been thinking about for many, many months also popped up for sale. A few PMs later and I’d sold one and bought the other.

The watch in question is a JLC Master Calendar in it’s newest guise (it’s actually a mid-2014 model, so almost NIB). Reminiscent of the Master Moon, gone is the power reserve from the old model, which allows the logo to go back where it belongs just under the 12 marker; and also gone is the large case, as JLC have reverted to a perfectly proportioned 39mm for what is essentially a pretty dressy watch. Since I sold my MUT Moon (I just don’t get on with ultra thins, for some reason) I’ve been sorely missing a JLC so I’m delighted to have one back in the fold. This one as a triple date moonphase so right up my street, and on the wrist it’s nothing short of gorgeous… much, much nicer than I was expecting, in fact. For those who like some technical details…

Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre

Number of pieces : 305
Vibrations per hour : 28800
Power-reserve : 43 Hours
Jewels : 32
Barrel : 1
Height : 5.65 mm

Hour – Minute
Moon phases

Stainless Steel
Water resistance : 5 bar
Diameter : 39mm
Thickness : 10.6mm

Silvered sunray-brushed, rhodium-plated hour-markers


Alligator Leather

Double Folding Buckle 16.0 mm

The black alligator strap that came with the watch is too long for me, but as I already wear my GO PC and IWC Portuguese on black leather I’ve ordered a dark hazelnut matt alligator with square scales from Camille Fournet. I think most people know by now that these are effectively the OEM straps that come with the watch, but buying from CF direct means they’re about half the price of going to JLC themselves. In the meantime I’ve mounted a Rios croc that arrived a couple of days ago, and that’s actually destined for my Daytona when the custom end links arrive from Singapore.

Anyway, apologies if I’ve rambled on a bit, but here are a few photos in customary fashion.

New lighting set-up

I’ve been tinkering a bit of late, so I thought I’d post a few shots taken with what may prove to be my default set-up. This consists of:

  • 1 x Speedlite 580EXII, used on camera (but bounced) and the trigger for
  • 2 x Bowens Esprit 500 studio heads

The flash was set to manual and used on 1/4 power, with the flash heads on 1/2 and full power respectively. The camera was also on manual, set to f/22, 1/200sec and ISO 200; I didn’t meter it but a couple of test shots left me happy. This is what it looked like…

And these are the shots taken today, with just a little sharpening and vignetting in Photoshop…

Feel free to post your thoughts, if any.

Dornblueth Delight

I remember about three years ago I was commenting on TURF that, amongst the mid-range watches that would make a nice change from the more usual fayre, Glashutte Original and Dornblueth had to be amongst the leading contenders. Since then I’ve managed to handle/enjoy/own quite a few of the former, but I have to admit that Dornblueth fell off the radar slightly, aside from when I saw some of the amazing photos that have been posted by the likes of Jocke and others. Anyway, I seem to have settled on the 42mm mark as a size that I rather like of late so when someone I know from TZ-UK listed his unworn 99.1 for sale I thought it might just fit the bill as a light-dialled all purpose watch that was also very different from anything I had.

The Dornblueth 99.1 comes in a 42mm case (manufactured by a supply partner who’s identity is a closely guarded secret, and who is not a supplier of cases to any other watchmakers), with a height of 11.5mm (in other words, it’s a substantial watch); the slightly domed sapphire crystal is AR coated on the underside. The movement starts life as a Unitas 6498 but Dirk modifies it to such a huge extent that it’s not surprising many people assume it to be in-house. There’s a long list of parts that are replaced – I was trying to hunt down some info on this from Mike Stuffler on WUS, but couldn’t find the post that I wanted and first read a couple of years ago. In any event, the movement’s a manual wind, beating at 18,000vph and providing a 50 hour reserve. The three-quarter plate is hand engraved in yellow gold and plated in rose gold, with a Côtes de Genève finish. Other nice touches are gold chatons, blued screws and a swan neck regulator, and overall the quality of finish is simply superb.

I was lucky in that the seller had originally ordered applied blue Arabic markers to match the gorgeous handset, and the movement plate is free of any personalisation. The only thing it doesn’t have is the quattro arret function to hack the movement, but at another €460 or thereabouts it’s not exactly a cheap option. All in all, I’m absolutely delighted, and whilst I haven’t (yet!) managed to get close to the quality of Jocke’s photos here are a few that didn’t come out too badly. As always, I’ll try to take some more when I’m less rushed.

Fancy some Portuguese?

Heinrich Moser was born in 1805 in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, into a family of watchmakers, and served his apprenticeship under the tutelage of his father, and the town watchmaker, Cantonal Moser. Heinrich was more than a watchmaker, though – he was also a pretty astute businessman; it was his entrepreneurial spirit that led to the founding of H Moser & Cie in (of all places) St Petersburg in Russia some 23 years later, and before long he had expanded his business into Moscow with a second sales outlet.

In order to maintain what he considered to be the necessary quality of his watches, Moser established a watch factory in Le Locle to produce watches exclusively for his distribution channels in Europe and Russia. We know of course just how wonderful the modern day Moser watches are, but this wasn’t the only legacy Heinrich Moser left when he died. He was also a successful industrialist, and to this day his Moser Dam provides power from the energy of the Rhine and has done so since 1866. In fact, at the time it was the largest dam in Switzerland.

Now, this pretty amazing guy also had a number of other industrial concerns, including grain production for which he owned a large production site in his birth town of Schaffhausen. And this is important, because it was his interests in Schaffhausen that led to a fairly fortuitous alliance with another young entrepreneur and pioneer, this time from the USA.

At the tender age of 27, an American engineer and watchmaker by the name of Florentine Ariosto Jones had been the deputy director and manager of the E. Howard Watch and Clock Co. in Boston, then a leading American watchmaker. In an attempt to steal a march on his competitors by taking advantage of both highly-skilled watchmaking techniques and relatively low wages, he looked to Switzerland and made the journey across the Atlantic to determine whether this pretty pioneering dream could become a reality. What’s more, he didn’t want to replicate the Swiss tradition at the time of tiny workshops, often run from family homes; he wanted to revolutionise the Swiss watch industry by marrying the skills he could find there with large-scale, modern and centralised production facilities. It was pure chance that Jones, whilst in Schaffhausen, happened upon Heinrich Moser. What transpired, though, was the founding of the International Watch Company, in premises built on the banks of the Rhine in the precise location of the IWC headquarters today.

Now, you may be wondering why I’m waffling on about IWC, and before I explain that I just want to touch on the history of their greatest ever watch (well, range of watches now) – the Portuguese. The original Portuguese actually dates back to the end of the 1930s when two Portuguese businessmen already operating in the watch industry visited the International Watch Company headquarters in Schaffhausen. Their proposal was for the development of a large stainless steel wristwatch housing a movement that could match the precision of a marine chronometer and with perfect readability.

The only way of meeting their request was with a pocket watch movement. With a case of 43 mm, the first Portuguese ever produced was considered huge compared to other wristwatches popular in 1939 and which were generally 33 mm or less. Nonetheless the Portuguese – the first wristwatch using a pocket watch movement – was probably the precursor the far, far larger watches that we know and love today. It was also beautiful in the simplicity and elegance of its execution.

The key design elements of the Portuguese were a streamlined dial with Arabic numbers, a very thin bezel contributing to make the watch look even larger, leaf (“[I]feuilles de sauge[/I]“) hands and a large sub dial at six o’clock for the seconds. IWC actually used a great number of dial variations, hands and indices for the Portuguese over the years, although the most often used combination was represented by silvered dial, applied Arabic numerals and leaf hands. Here’s another absolute beauty, this time dating from 1946.

In the years leading to the 1980’s IWC sold a relatively small number of Portuguese watches, never quite enough to justify large scale production of the pieces. A total of less than 700 pieces in total were sold, in fact, and to all intents and purposes the Portuguese was headed for a silent decline. But something totally unexpected happened at the beginning of the 1990’s. According to Kurt Klaus – the legendary IWC watchmaker nicknamed the Einstein from Schaffhausen for his contributions to horology generally and IWC in particular – during customer visit it was noted noted that he was wearing an original Portuguese, and he recounts that, as they gathered around him, they declared, “this is such a uniquely beautiful watch; we should make it again”.

Plans were quickly made to revive the Portuguese, developing an entire line around the design of the original. IWC’s 125th anniversary, occurring in 1993, was deemed to be the perfect occasion to introduce the new Portuguese in a limited edition; the resultant Portuguese ref. 5441 had a case diameter of 42 mm and a thickness of 9 mm, silver dial, applied platinum Arabic numerals, dot indices and typical leaf hands. It was produced in 1750 pieces: 1000 in stainless steel, 500 in rose gold and 250 in platinum.

And so the Portuguese line was reborn, and at that point I’ll bring to an end what must appear to be the ramblings of a lunatic. I wasn’t really rambling, though, as the history I’ve described is (very indirectly, it has to be said) responsible for me and a friend meeting for lunch a few days ago in order that I could admire in person his newly acquired Portuguese Hemispheres Perpetual Calendar in rose gold. And what a watch it is – possibly the most beautiful I’ve seen, with a quality of finish that really is absolutely faultless. I totally fell in love with it and to be honest pretty much fell in love with the Portuguese in general at the same time.

Now, I’d already been in communication with a fellow member of TZ-UK by then, to talk about the potential purchase of his nearly-as-beautiful 5001-09. I actually said to my lunch companion that handling his PC had pretty much convinced me that I had to try to arrive at a deal with said TZ member, and my intention was to drop him another line later that evening. However, fate often seems to play a part in my watch-related choices, and when I next logged on to TZ it was to find that he had that day (possibly when I was chatting over lunch – I’ll have to check that) dropped me another line with what turned out to be a proposal that suited both of us. An agreement was reached, money was transferred and a slight delay ensued in order that I could ensure that the timing suited my ability to take collection without having to fear not being around with all the frustration that entails.

The watch arrived today, in fact, and it really is as beautiful as I hoped it would be. At this point, I’ll quote from the IWC website, as it’s easier than paraphrasing…

“Since its debut in 2004, the Portuguese Automatic with date display has become one of the most successful Portuguese models ever to come from Schaffhausen. The balanced dial design, with its appliquéd Arabic numerals, railway track-style chapter ring and slender feuille hands, retains the classic appeal of the legendary original Portuguese, first manufactured in the 1930s. Its spiritual roots reach all the way back to the voyages of discovery undertaken by the Portuguese seafarers. The voluminous IWC-manufactured 51011 calibre integrates all the finest features ever to grace an automatic movement, such as the highly efficient Pellaton winding system and a seven-day power reserve.

Since 2010, the Portuguese Automatic’s 42.3 millimetre case has been available in warm-toned, 18-carat red gold. The appliqués on the silver-plated dial are likewise made of red gold. The steel model with its silver-plated dial (like the earlier steel versions) was fitted with rose-gold-plated hands, numerals and hour indices: luxury befitting of a watch model so much in demand. The Portuguese Automatic in 18-carat white gold and the other steel models complete the collection.”

The 5001-09 is the black dialled stainless steel model, with a genuinely wonderful 42-jewelled in house movement offering a 7-day power reserve. The detailed specification is as follows:

· IWC-manufactured 51011 calibre (50000-calibre family)
· Pellaton automatic winding mechanical movement (42 jewels)
· 7-day power reserve when fully wound
· Power reserve display
· Date display
· Small hacking seconds at 9 o’clock
· Glucydur®* beryllium alloy balance with high-precision adjustment cam on balance arms
· Breguet spring
· Rotor with 18-carat gold medallion
· Sapphire glass, convex, antireflective coating on both sides
· See-through sapphire-glass back
· Water-resistant 3 bar
· Case height 14 mm
· Diameter 42.3 mm

I was a tiny bit worried that, for work and other smart occasions, it would be slightly too large to wear with a shirt. In reality, though – particularly as most of my shirts are double-cuffed – it’s no problem at all and the overall size is also fine on my not overly large wrist. The contrast of the white gold hands, numerals and hour markers against the rich black of the dial is nothing short of breath-taking, and I love the wonderful balance of the dial with the sub-seconds at 9 and power reserve at 3. It really is a perfectly designed and executed watch and (as when I saw Tim’s the other day) my feeling was, immediately, one of near awe at the very obvious quality of every aspect of build and finish.

I think, even for me, I’ve written enough for what is just another incoming post so I’ll finish with a few photos that don’t really begin to convey enough the beauty of this iconic watch; due to the black dial and very blue-tinted AR coating, it’s a very difficult watch to photograph without little problems arising, and I’ll have to try again when I have some time to spare and I’m not so tired.

Different strokes…

I’ve always had a soft spot for the old GMTs. Some may recall the gilt PCG from 1963 – that was a watch – that I traded a year or two ago and although I loved it I was always a bit put out by the non-hacking and non-quickset movement. I waited a loooong time for the “right” 16750 to come along and when it did I bought it knowing it was a watch that I’d be holding for the long term. It really is the nicest I’ve seen, actually, much like the 5513 that sits next to it in the watch box when not on my wrist.

Anyway, when it arrived it looked like this…

Pretty lovely, I have to say. The thing is, I then saw a couple of photos of another GMT with a much newer insert and I decided to go on the hunt for a NOS Pepsi to see what it would look like. I eventually found one being sold by a guy called Niels in Germany, and who has a pretty good reputation over on TRF. I decided to give it a go, and as soon as I fitted it I knew it had been the right thing to do.

Amazing! Not only did it look glorious, but it also looked completely different to when it was wearing the faded insert. I was pretty much settled on the new look, but something kept nagging away at the back of my mind… what would it look like with a black insert instead? Try as I might I couldn’t ignore the need to have a look, and sure enough Niels had a lovely NOS black jobbie for sale. (In fact, the first one I bought got lost in the post, but he bore the cost of that and managed to come up with another one.) I popped it on this morning, and yet again it looks really nice, and [I]totally[/I] different.

I can’t say that I have a particular preference, as I love each of the different looks almost equally. However, it does show how effectively these wonderful old watches can change in appearance – to the extent that they barely look like the same watch.

A bit of Sunday (SOTC) fun

I’ve had a few messages suggesting that I haven’t done one of these for a while, and having just moved on my JLC it seemed like a good time to take stock. Eight is a couple more than I’m comfortable with in all honesty, but I can’t see any of these going any time soon so I suppose I’ll have to get used to the it.

The strange thing is that I seem to enjoy wearing the Seiko and CWC more than any of the others, probably because I don’t have to think about it once they’re on my wrist… that should probably tell me something. The Daytona has been the biggest surprise, because it’s just so versatile that it always seems “right” when I put it on; and the AP is as wonderful as I hoped it would be, but unfortunately I have to wait a few weeks for them to reopen in Switzerland in order to get a 1.5 link for the bracelet (it’s very marginally tight at the moment, or alternatively a bit too loose). It’s also quite nice that I’ve got the various bases pretty much covered; old, new, chrono, moonphase, GMT, three-handers, manual, auto, etc.

Anyway, here’s a single montage of all of them.

Well, it’s finally here!

About a year or more ago, I was mooching around the various new and second hand dealers in the Bond Street area and – for the first time – I tried on a Patek Nautilus 5711… a watch that I’d admired from afar but never actually handled or worn myself. There was no doubt that the finish was exquisite, but for some reason I couldn’t quite to get to grips with the case shape (or, rather, the hinged non-crown side). It did teach me one thing, if nothing else, though; sometimes, the only way you can appreciate the wonderful craftsmanship that goes into many of the higher-end watches is to actually pick them up, wear them and scrutinise them properly. I’m not saying that you’ll then be able to see where the “value” is because we all know that luxury products don’t work that way, but what I am saying is that photos alone will never do them justice.

I mulled and mulled over the Nautilus, but deep down I knew it wasn’t calling to me like it needed to. Around the time that I realised I wouldn’t buy one, my head was turned by it’s cousin from the other side of the tracks – the Aquanaut. Much more of a sports watch, in my opinion, and none of that strange hingey nonsense found on the Nautilus. It’s also a whole lot cheaper, especially on the fantastic rubber strap, even if residuals are horribly firm if you’re on the buying as opposed to the selling end.

The following months saw me try on both the 5167 and the 5164 (for those not into the numbers, the former is the basic three-hander and the latter is the dual time zone “Travel Time”). Both are absolutely gorgeous watches, but whilst I loved the 5164 what I didn’t love so much was the additional bulk it came with. Actually, I didn’t like the price differential either and – after considerable thought – I decided that the “simple” 5167 (on rubber) was the watch for me. In fact, I proceeded to work very hard indeed to track one down, politely declining the BNIB example that Boodles at the Royal Exchange had redirected for me and pretty much agreeing a deal with the manager of a branch of Watches of Switzerland for the next one they got in. (He had accompanied me and a friend on a trip to Blancpain last year, and he’s a lovely bloke; not only that, he offered me a deal that was better than anyone else’s and that made the thought of buying new somewhat more palatable!)

The next step was to wait – and this is where it all went somewhat pear-shaped, if I’m honest. Whilst I waited, I also thought, and looked, and considered. In fact I tried on as well, and one of the watches that made intimate contact with my wrist was an AP RO – not the 15300 or the classic Jumbo but the current 15400; just a tad wider than the other two at 41mm but very nicely proportioned. In fact, the more I thought about the AP, the more I was steering myself in it’s direction at the expense of the Aquanaut. I liked the fact that it was genuinely a horological icon (I know, it’s silly really, but for me it’s an element of that intangible added value that forms part of my decision-making); I liked that on the wonderful bracelet it was comparable price-wise to the Aquanaut on rubber; and – if I’m honest – I liked the fact that it just seemed a little more… I don’t know. Maybe a little more refined.

Just a quick word about the history of the Royal Oak before I go on, because since its release at the Basel fair in 1972 this watch has achieved a status that nobody would have assumed possible. Famously designed by the one and only Gérald Genta, it received a slightly mixed reception at first, with many finding what was then considered a slightly quirky, iconoclastic design a little too different for comfort. It has to be said that cost was also an issue, with the RO in stainless steel being listed for more than some of AP’s already-established models in precious metal. Quite a bold step when you think about it; it needed to be, though, because the Royal Oak was AP’s answer to the quartz crisis and they certainly needed to pull a rabbit out of the hat… things weren’t looking very clever for them at the time, anyway.

Also bold was the choice of Genta as designer. Born in Geneva some 40 years earlier, he had already forged an enviable reputation by the time AP approached him. It was a well-earned reputation too, as Genta had been responsible for some classic watches that included models for Universal Genève (Polerouter Microtor, White Shadow, Golden Shadow), Omega (Constellation) and Patek Philippe (Golden Ellipse). Incidentally, a few more fairly decent watches would follow these, including the Seamaster, the Ingenieur, the Nautilus and the Pasha de Cartier… it really is quite incredible, isn’t it? Here’s a photo of the fella himself, in case you were wondering what he looked like…

Word has it that, on the eve of the 1971 Basel fair (precisely one year before the RO’s official launch), AP’s managing director at the time, Georges Golay, called Genta at 4pm explaining that the market was expecting news of an “unprecedented steel watch” for which he needed a design by the following morning. Genta had just one night ahead of him to design a watch that would ordinarily take several weeks and call for hundreds of sketches. By early morning, the drawing perfectly conveyed his first idea: that of a diving-suit helmet featuring all the details of the watch that was to become the Royal Oak, a design that would in fact never be fundamentally altered. He later called it his “masterpiece” and the photo below is of the sketch he presented to Golay that morning:

Gérald Genta passed away at the end of summer 2011 having founded a brand under his own name and having never stopped designing watches. In fact, for a few years in the mid-1990s he also held the honour of being the designer of the world’s most complicated watch, with his incredible Grande Sonnerie Retro which – even back then – was priced at around $2million! He’s remembered, and will no doubt always be remembered, for some of the greatest designs in 20th century watchmaking, and for the avant-garde nature of his vision.

So, with that amazing and unique background not only researched but also very much appreciated, I proceeded to ponder the RO further, because deciding on the model – not to mention the dial colour – wasn’t very easy. Essentially, there are three in the range, each with their own merits:

• The 15300 – 39mm case, and a pretty classic choice (albeit superseded now). Blue, black or silver dial.
• The (current) 15400 – 41mm case but a seemingly slimmer profile than the 15300 and so just as wearable when all’s said and done. Black or silver dial, with a rarer LE Boutique Edition in blue.
• The 15202 “Jumbo” – an homage to the original RO, with an ultra-slim 39mm case. Too expensive, sadly, so dial colours are immaterial! Shame, though…

I had pretty much decided on the dial colour (blue) but not the model. I was leaning towards the smaller 15300 but then three things happened, each leading to the position I’m in today. Firstly, I finally managed to try on a blue-dialled 15300 (they’re quite hard to pin down in that colour, actually) and whilst I loved the watch I was a little disappointed by the actual hue of the dial; it wasn’t as vivid as the newer 15400 dials and was a little disappointing as a result. (I also started to wonder about the thickness of the case, perhaps because I was in a slightly more critical frame of mind than I’d been in previously.) Secondly, I tried on the Boutique Edition 15400 and realised that the perception of a slimmer profile more than compensated for the slightly larger case; not only that, but the blue dial was just sublime. And finally – just when I thought that the decision was becoming impossible – I learnt that the very chap from WOS who was trying to source me an Aquanaut was actually selling his own Boutique Edition 15400. Not only was it almost new (well, this particular one was sold in mid-2013 and was very lightly and carefully worn) but the watch had also just received a full service at AP and was winging it’s way back to its owner at the time. It didn’t need servicing, of course, but some people are just fussier than others :)

Now, AP only made a limited number of this model/dial combination for AP boutiques, and I liked the fact that it was a little scarcer than the more easily spotted models. That aside, though, it housed the same (gorgeous) in-house cal. 3120 movement as the 15300 and the other 15400 variants. I suppose the only other thing worthy of note is that the 15400 saw the end of the AP logo at 12; I like the cleaner dial, and I also like the fact that, if anything, it’s truer to the original. In other words, I found that my decision was made, and within about 48 hours of me hearing about the watch’s availability in the first place I’d agreed a deal with our friend at WOS and paid for it. Not that many hours later, the doorbell signalled it’s arrival and it was pretty immediately adjusted and on my wrist.

I hinted earlier that it’s hard to do justice to some watches, because they need to be handled and worn in order to be properly appreciated. I could ramble on about the simply fantastic casework, with wonderfully brushed finishes contrasting against adjacent highly polished facets. I could talk at length about the octagonal bezel with its perfectly aligned faux screw-heads that give it an appearance that quite a few have tried to copy without success. I could even talk about the integrated bracelet, which is of supreme quality and is one of the most comfortable that I’ve ever worn. Finally, I could try to explain the sheer depth and “blueness” of the tapisserie dial; it’s not just blue but it’s a whole range of blues – not in the way that Rolex achieve that with their sunburst finish but in a totally different way. It’s even subtler, if anything.

All of this could only fail to convey the reality of the Royal Oak, though, because descriptions and photos don’t even get close, in my opinion. All in all, it’s a bloody beautiful watch – perhaps not the one that I thought I was going to buy a year ago, but the one that I probably knew I’d buy the moment I first tried it on. I suppose all that’s left is the photos… not sure that I can do a good enough job, to be honest, but I obviously couldn’t stop myself from trying!


I know we tend to desk dive in these parts (okay, not all of us), but there is a commonly-held view that a collection of divers is – by definition – a bit “samey”. Even I’ve thought that in the past, and in fact made a supreme effort to build a collection without any at one time. I succeeded. too.

Anyway, a comment on a TZ member’s thread about his incoming Deep Blue made me think about this for a moment, and I realised that the four divers I have are all very different from each other; different enough to each warrant a place in the watch box on their own merit (and the one that’s presently listed for sale will pretty soon be back in there, and I’ll be happy to keep it). Anyway, this is what I mean…