The ultimate grab & go?

I’ve been on an almost constant quest for the “right” ana-digi, do anything, grab & go watch. I’ve tried a multitude of Aerospaces, an Airwolf, TAG Heur’s “Aerospace killer”, the Chronotimer… all have come and gone because I knew that the watch I really wanted was none of these. It was the B-1.

I’ve seen a few go on the forums… not many, as they’re bloody hard to find, and not always at the right price or in the right condition. Anyway, yesterday my quest ended. This is apparently the last new B-1 to have been sold in the UK, by Andrew Michaels to a mate on TZ-UK. They were discontinued in 2006 with the last stock sold for the most part in 2007; however, this was sold in 2009, and it’s obviously the later Superquartz A78362 with a spec as follows:

Model: B-1 SuperQuartz
Production Years: 2002-2006
Gender: Mens
Case Material: Steel
Movement: Breitling 78
Battery/Battery Life: CR2320/2-3 Years
Water Resistance: 50m
Bezel: Bidirectional
Crown: Push-Down
Crystal: Sapphire
Diameter: 43.2mm
Thickness: 16.5mm
Weight: 95.7g
Bracelet: Fighter
Lug Width: 22mm

I’ve just given the bracelet (which was nice and clean anyway) an ultrasonic bath, so took the opportunity to pop it onto a black Zulu. Whatever I wear it on I’m going to enjoy it a lot. Mind you, but I’ve got no idea what I’ll use the slide rule for :)

And on the Zulu…

There’s no such thing as perfection… is there?

The very first vintage watch I bought was a Grand Seiko from all the way back in 1968. The nanosecond I saw it I knew it had to be mine, and when it arrived it exceeded my expectations. Back in those days, the designs were all pretty simple but the modern variants can be found in all manner of guises, from some substantial divers to complications and snowflake dials. However, the watch that I chose to get married in was again something quite beautiful as a consequence of it’s simplicity; the SBGR061 is a three-hander with date, sporting a deep ivory dial, blued second hand and sub-40mm case. I love it, and whilst I do tend to flip my watches I’d like to think that I’ll keep this one for obvious reasons.

Bizarrely, the actual watch in question is not the same one I wore on my wedding day. For some reason, I told myself that the dial was a bit too ivory, and that the style wasn’t quite dressy enough to be a dress watch, nor sporty enough to wear casually. I have no idea what I was thinking, to be honest, and having stupidly sold it I jumped at the chance to snag one for a second time when the opportunity arose. Equally bizarrely, I recall speaking to Coady, a friend on TZ-UK, at the time of my “confusion” as he was contemplating getting one himself. In the end, he took heed of what I said and went for something similar but, in some ways, quite different – the SBGW001. His choice was a little smaller at about 37.2mm; was handwound, as opposed to automatic; had no date, so was a classic dress three-hander; and had a paler dial, which was somehow a little less… contrived. I always wondered, in fact, if his was the better choice, but have in any event been completely consistent in my view that the pair of them are arguably the most lovely of all the modern Grand Seiko references. (Well, aside from a particular anniversary edition that’s just about impossible to get hold of anyway.)

So, there I was, quite happily enjoying my “wedding watch” (and it does get worn regularly, as it happens) when Coady decided to move on his SBGW001. I saw it pretty much the moment that it hit Sales Corner, and read (and re-read) the sales post with a slightly quickening heart. I know how rarely these watches come up for sale, and it was fairly certain that if I didn’t buy it straight away someone else would do so and would almost certainly hang onto it. So, even though I knew it was fairly similar to the GS I already had we were soon engaged in correspondence, and not long after I’d paid for it. It took a while to get here as Fedex needed organising and for one reason or another that took a few days, but I’ve been waiting patiently and today the package was delivered to my office.

The SBGW is based around a handwound 9S54 movement offering accuracy of -3/+5 seconds per day and a power reserve of 50 hours; It beats at 28,800VPH, contains 20 jewels and is adjusted in 6 positions and at 3 temperatures (indeed, Seiko provides certification of this testing with each watch sold with the movement, all contained in a leather wallet inside the box). The movement finishing/decoration is by allegedly carried out by machine, but it really is very pretty and by all accounts the finish under a loupe is impeccable. I’ve pinched a web photo to show what it looks like, albeit that it can’t be seen on the SBGW001; however, Seiko has confirmed that the finish of the hidden movements is no different to those that are visible through a display back.

The case measures 37.2mm, as I mentioned above, with relatively long but gently curved and drilled lugs. The design is decidedly simple, but the casework is full of lovely curves and polished steel, and it has the feel of real quality. The domed sapphire crystal, with it’s double AR coating, stands about 1mm proud of the bezel before sloping upwards another millimetre or so. The view it affords of the pale ivory dial is just as it needs to be, and the richness of Seiko’s dial finishing is clear to see (and no surprise, as the GS dials are all similarly impressive). Because it’s a handwound movement there’s little text on the dial, and what there is (Seiko, the GS logo and Grand Seiko) is very subtle. The un-lumed dauphine hands and hour markers are typical of the GS dress watches, and add to the impression of simplicity.

Coady and I were chatting over PM yesterday, and we both came to the same conclusion about the SBGW001. If you want a watch that will get you noticed, this isn’t the one; it just does what it was designed to do, quietly and efficiently. However, if you’re the kind of guy that always noticed the shy but alluring girl, standing in the corner of the room and not looking anyone in the eye, then this is a watch that you’ll probably appreciate. It just exudes class, and – without needing to raise it’s voice – seems to be saying “I know what I am, and I don’t have to make a fuss about it.”

It really is a little piece of perfection.

(Sorry about the photos – it’s a tricky watch to get right for some reason, but I’ll add some new ones as and when I have time to shoot them.)

GS Heaven

I’m not even going to talk about how difficult this photograph proved to be, but suffice it to say that I’m now the very proud owner of arguably the two most beautiful modern Grand Seikos. The one on the left is the watch I got married in – the SBGR061. To be honest, I wasn’t planning on adding another, but when a member of TZ-UK popped an absolute beauty up on Sales Corner I simply couldn’t resist. It’s the SBGW001 – a tad smaller, handwound, with no date and a slightly lighter dial.

Yes, they’re similar, but it’s a bit like having a date and no-date Sub and I love them both. I’ll do a proper write-up on the incoming as soon as I can.

2 out, 1 in (and another plan comes together)

Well, this one has been a couple of months coming, and has taken a fair bit of planning. Anyway, it started when I realised I was going down my usual route with regard to my Daytona… I love them when I get them, I cool towards them after a few months of ownership and then I find I don’t reach for them any more. It’s happened with three of the four that I’ve owned, the only exception being the white gold Zenith that I stupidly sold a couple of years ago (and that’s another story, albeit not a particularly interesting one for anybody but me).

So, I decided that I’d have to move the latest one on, and then started to think about what white-dialled chrono I could replace it with. I didn’t want anything too dressy, as my collection has veered markedly in that direction over the last year or so. I toyed with GP, but couldn’t really make up my mind about them; then I started looking at the Royal Oaks in their various incarnations. They certainly seemed to tick the right boxes, but the biggest problem was that I already had the beautiful 15400, and two Royal Oaks in a smallish collection just seemed daft (as well as excessive). I also gave some more thought to the 15400 and to my more dressy watches generally, and realised pretty quickly that if I was going to reduce the number of three-handers I owned then the Moser was safe (it’s the most beautiful watch I’ve ever owned) as was my Grand Seiko (the watch I got married in, or at least an identical model thereto). Slowly but surely I came to realise that I could actually part with the Daytona and the 15400 and replace them both with a single watch from the ROC line. Hmmm… the decision was seemingly made.

I sold the Daytona on Watch Turf last month, and found it a relatively easy process. Letting go of the 15400 was far, far more difficult but I steeled myself as I agreed a deal and then posted it off with a churning in my stomach. Amazing that a trinket can have that effect, really, and in a sense I find it cathartic to break that bond (it’s a kind of strange cycle that I’ve been through before, and I’m sure one that will occur again at some point in the future). So, with two watches out it was time to get one back in, and after mulling things over and very nearly buying a different model I made what I now know to be the correct decision (and more on that in a moment).

The new ROC (reference 26320ST) is a large watch at 41mm, particularly with the design of the case and integrated bracelet adding to the perception of size. I tried it on a few times in the course of my deliberations, but realised almost immediately that it was too big for me. Certainly, the substantially thicker case wore much bigger than the 15400 that I had at the time, and I therefore knew that I’d have to look at one of the preceding 39mm models to make this work. Now, as an aside AP has been criticised in some quarters for not making it’s own integrated chronograph movement, although there is apparently one in the pipeline (with an as yet unknown release date). In the Offshore models the movement is essentially an AP 3120 self-winding calibre (as found in the 15300/15400) with a Dubois-Depraz chronograph module sandwiched on top. This makes the Offshore, inherently, a thicker watch by some 4mm so a different solution has had to be used inside the RO chrono.

What AP refer to as the calibre 2385 is in fact based on the F. Piguet calibre 1185. To quote Hodinkee, “The 1185 is one of the great movements of our lifetime, featuring remarkably smooth actuation, an 55-hour power reserve, an incredibly thin profile, and high-end technical traits like a vertical clutch and a column-wheel.” Technically, this is now a Blancpain movement, though despite the Swatch Group’s efforts to re-brand F. Piguet as “Manufacture Blancpain” the original name still has the cachet it always did. According to Swatch, this is one movement they have no plans on holding back from selling to at least two very important customers – AP and Vacheron Constantin (the latter of which uses it in its Overseas line). In fact, the very first RO chronograph (the reference 25860ST, launched in 1998) housed the same movement. Given the choice, I generally like to have an in-house movement when possible, but I see this as a splendid alternative; anyway, I visited the workshop were these FP movements are manufactured during a quite fantastic Blancpain factory visit, so I feel a kind of affinity towards them.

So, with two variations of the ROC designed around a 39mm case, and plenty of dial variations as well, decision-making was slightly difficult. Although I had a very near miss with a silver dialled 25860 I decided in the end to go with the newer 26300 and the relatively rare “panda dial”. I actually think it’s very reminiscent of the Paul Newman Daytona, with it’s dark subdials and chapter ring set against the near white of the machined brass dial; I love the dramatic appearance that gives, and the relative cleanness of the dial despite so much going on. Of course, AP’s famous Grand Tapisserie finish is a joy to behold, from the absolute symmetry across the face to the tiny little concentric circles that are visible through a loupe or a macro lens. AP offers the following about the process itself:

At the end of a long, brightly lit corridor in Manufacture Audemars Piguet at Brassus, the sound of ticking resonates continuously. The noise is far too rapid and loud to come from watch movements – it is generated by machines which perform the guillochage of Royal Oak’s dial. In other words, they make the weaving pattern that forms the square and lozenge motif of “Grand Tapisserie”. This highly intricate guillochage captures the light and accentuates the timepiece’s geometric relief.

“The brass dial is engraved by a burin (a precision metalwork chisel) that reproduces the motif on a disc attached to the machine, like a pantograph. A pointer rotates across the disc from the periphery to the centre. The system is combined with a tool that forms the little lozenges between the squares,” explains engineer Nicholas Prost, who heads the decorative engraving project. The process takes between 20 and 50 minutes, depending on the dial’s diameter. It’s a delicate operation. A mere skip is all it takes to damage the piece, as the slightest impact is as visible as dust on a mirror. As the ‘piquetage’ gets closer to the circle’s centre, the rhythm gets faster and hails the birth of a brand new dial, ready to be sent out for the finishing processes.

Since the birth of Royal Oak in 1972, the guillochage work had been exclusively subcontracted to a dial-work artisan. In order to produce this element in the workshop, the horology brand recovered 40 year old machines in Canada and the United States. The machines were then completely overhauled and improved over the period of a year before they took their place in the manufacturing process in 2008.

So, to pick up from earlier in this post the actual watch I was lucky enough to find (well, not down to luck so much as a solid eight hours of searching the planet) turned out to be remarkably close to me. Not only that, but it’s relatively new (being manufactured and sold in 2011) and comes to me via a single previous owner. It’s in remarkable unpolished condition and frankly I was lucky to find it – or, at least, to find one in the right condition that wasn’t with an overseas seller. Having worn it for the best part of the day now, I’m certain that the decisions I made were the correct ones. The ROC may not be a watch that ticks everyone’s boxes, but it certainly ticks mine.

Horological Husbandry

The end of December saw the completion of a project that required me to be office based for the preceding 15 months; not only office based, but in a pretty formal environment in the heart of the City. Over that period, and for reasons that are self-explanatory, my collection slowly but surely moved in a far more dressy direction than it had ever been before and I realised a week or two ago that a little “horological husbandry” was going to be required. In fact, I had more watches than I wanted, and as a consequence I’ve reduced the number from twelve to nine; I’ll probably move one or two others on during the next month or two as well.

Anyway, I very recently traded my lovely Christian Van Der Klaauw, as it was unlikely to be worn very much in my more casual surroundings at home (and yes, I’m more than happy with the Grand Seiko that came the other way, as I can dress that up or down very easily). I also realised that my remaining divers were both vintage – a Sub and a Tuna – and that I had nothing modern in that style whatsoever. It’s not that I needed anything modern, obviously, but it seemed a bit daft as I’d really enjoyed the rather short ownership of a ceramic Sea Dweller. This feeling of needing some change was exacerbated by the fact that my GO Perpetual Calendar and JLC Master Calendar were so similar in terms of style and functions. Hmmm… what to do?

Well, I knew that my GO wasn’t going anywhere – I’ve had that for the best part of two years now, and although I don’t wear it that often I do still get a real buzz every time I put it on. With that in mind, I started to resign myself to the notion that I may have to let the Master Calendar go; not an easy decision because it’s such a beautiful watch, but needs must (and it’s not as if they’re scarce, or never available with a discount). At the same time, I’d just completed a trade with another TZ-UK member and – as we were already talking – thought I might as well broach the subject of another trade, one that might just work out very well for both of us. That’s just what I did, and consequently I’m drafting this post with a Blancpain Fifty Fathoms on my wrist as I type.

It’s two years in March since my friend Tim and I enjoyed a really wonderful trip to the Blancpain manufacture in Switzerland. Aside from the fact that the company was so incredibly hospitable (they paid for the entire party’s flights, hotel accommodation and restaurants) it was quite an experience. The factory visit itself was like stepping back in time, precisely as I’d been hoping it would be. We were also in the heart of the Swiss watchmaking industry (the Vallée de Joux is, along with Neuchâtel, the birthplace of Swiss horology and it is still the home of the most famous Swiss watch manufactures such as Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Blancpain themselves)… it almost smelt of watchmaking history and craftsmanship. That aside, we also found ourselves hiking about two miles up a mountain one night in absolute darkness, with snowshoes on our feet and lamps strapped to our heads, to enjoy a delicious fondue dinner when we reached our destination. I’ll always remember the sight of Tim, sitting in the snow as his legs decided that they couldn’t go any further, muttering “Just give me a minute…”. All in all, a trip I’ll never forget, and there are some photos which get reasonably close to capturing what Blancpain is all about that you can peruse here.

Since that trip, I’d been looking at various Blancpain models, and ironically missed snapping up a Leman Complete Calendar Moonphase at a stupidly cheap price only this week. I missed it by a nanosecond, but had I bought it the JLC would probably have gone as a result and I doubt I’d be writing this post. I wasn’t yearning after a Fifty Fathoms, but knew what wonderful watches they are from some earlier reading and having tried one or two in the past. I remember well admiring the stainless steel automatic version from a GTG a few years ago, and more recently fell in love with Tim’s own in rose gold, which hit TZ-UK’s sales corner not that long ago. In other words, I was predisposed towards them in any event, particularly as a consequence of what is a real heritage that gives the FF a genuinely iconic status in the world of horology.

To trace it back to it’s roots one has to travel back all the way to the early 1950’s – even before Rolex released the first iteration of the Submariner at 1954’s Basel Watch Fair. In 1952, the French “Nageuers de Combat” (combat swimmers) was formed by the French government as an elite team of tactical soldiers – effectively, they were France’s early equivalent of the Navy Seals. Led by Captain Bob Maloubier, the mission of this elite group of frogmen was undersea intelligence gathering and acts of sabotage, such as attacks in sea ports or destruction of ships, all accomplished by teams of divers often working at night.

Beyond their diving tanks, scuba regulators, masks, flippers and suits, Maloubier understood the importance of robust and reliable diving instruments, of which there were three: a compass, a depth metre and a diving watch. The watch was central to many of the key tasks confronting the divers. Of course the timing of the dive was an essential (it would not to do to over-stay the supply of oxygen). A second, and perhaps somewhat less obvious need was timing for navigation purposes. After running tests of the watches then available on the market, Maloubier concluded that none were up to the task. Thus, he decided to undertake the conception and design of a timing instrument that would target the needs of military combat diving.

Maloubier drew up detailed specifications for his diving watch and farmed them out for bidding. Unfortunately, the reception from industry was decidedly cool, with one of the commercial directors of the firm LIP even commenting that such a timepiece “would have no future”. Eventually, Maloubier convinced the relatively small manufacture of Blancpain to produce his watch, and it found it’s way to the French Navy via Spirotechnique, which, at the time, was the official supplier of all wears to the French armed forces. Maloubier describes his first meeting with Blancpain: “Finally a small watch company, Blancpain, agreed to develop our project which envisioned a watch with a black dial, bold large numerals and clear markings: triangles, circles, squares; a rotatable exterior bezel which repeated the markings of the dial. We wanted at the start of a dive to be able to set the bezel opposite the large minute hand in order to mark the time. We wanted each of the markings to shine like a star for a shepherd.”

Blancpain fulfilled these needs and provided the first model of this very specific divers watch in 1953, the Blancpain “Fifty Fathoms”. Even at that time, it carried all the typical features of the more familiar models; a black dial with contrasting, self-luminous numbers and indexes, a notched bezel (unidirectional only for safety reasons) also in black with luminous numbers and indexes. In an era of small and dress watches, the round case of the first edition measured 42mm, with long and relatively massive lugs. The watch was designed to be waterproof up to a depth of 50 fathoms, which of course led to it’s name; this British measure corresponds to a depth of 91.45 meters, which was, at that time, considered as the maximum depth that divers could safely reach with a one-time use oxygen mixture. This high water-resistance (by 1953 standards) was achieved by using a screwed caseback and a newly developed crown with a double O-ring gasket. A screwed crown was not permitted because of an existing patent. As the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms relied on an automatic and antimagnetic movement, the need of pulling out the crown was considerably reduced, with no need to wind the watch every day in any event.

Here is is…

And here’s one being worn by Maloubier himself…

From the early 50s through the 70s, more than 20 different models of the Fifty Fathoms were produced, including one that was on the wrist of Jacques Cousteau in the 1956 Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or winning “The Silent World”. Beyond the French diving units the Fifty Fathoms was also adopted by the Israeli, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, and most famously, American fighting forces. When the Americans were looking for a dive watch, there was a resolute “Buy American” policy for all units – so no watch with “Blancpain” on the dial would ever pass muster. So, an American company named Tornek-Rayville took the 50 Fathoms and rebranded it – they may or may not have replaced the Swiss jewels with American jewels for good measure. About 1000 Tornek-Rayville Fifty Fathoms were produced, and most were destroyed by the Navy at the end of the commission, so they are indeed very hard to find.

What a genuinely fantastic heritage. For a while it looked like it was in jeopardy, as Blancpain ceased production for three years in the early eighties. However, a man named Jean-Claude Biver purchased the brand which is now part of the Swatch Group, sharing it’s premises with sister company Frédéric Piguet. In 1997, Blancpain reintroduced the Fifty Fathoms and there have now been some fifty variations to date, many of which were never intended for consumer use. So, then, to the watch that I’m wearing; at 45mm it’s no wallflower, but with quite short, curved lugs (they’re almost stubby when viewed side-on) it’s very wearable for it’s size. In fact, the effect is not unlike that of the Tuna, which on paper seems massive but actually fits all but the smallest of wrists). The most striking feature, though, is the sapphire bezel, with it’s gentle curves and fully lumed numerals and markers. It looks luxurious, but it’s actually quite hardy and seemingly pretty difficult to mark.

The dial is stepped, and has a deep black gloss that befits the bezel and, again, oozes quality. The manufacture and model text is small and subtle, the eye being drawn instead to the bold mix of Arabic numerals and pointed indices on the dial. The side of the case bears the Blancpain name, and all of this is set off to perfection by the wonderfully pliable and comfortable sailcloth strap. All in all, it’s a wonderfully comfortable watch that looks like the ultimate diver… which, perhaps, it is.

Inside the wonderful case is the in-house 1315 Calibre. It has a bidirectional rotor that provides energy to 3 barrels and thus gives the watch 5 days of power reserve. It also features a free sprung balance wheel, less sensitive to vibrations and shocks. The Calibre 1315 comes with large rubies, inserted directly in the bridges and plates, as well as a classical finishing with bevelled angles on the bridges, perlage of the plates and circular stripes. In the tradition of the historic “Fifty Fathoms”, the Calibre 1315 is surrounded with antimagnetic protection. The spec in summary is as follows:

Self-winding automatic movement
120 hours power reserve
36.60mm diameter
5.65mm thickness
25 jewels
3 mainspring barrels
Glucydur free sprung balance with gold regulation screws
227 components

In addition, the movement features a date mechanism that has a fail-safe design, and which not allows setting at any time but also enables it to be both advanced and/or retarded.

All in all, then, a truly wonderful watch that, in terms of my initial perception, far exceeds my already high expectations. All I can add to the very long preamble is the customary set of photos, and an apology if I’ve bored you unduly!

Wedding vows restated?

I had one of these – a GS SBGR061 – (and wore it when I got married) about three years ago. It’s a lovely watch, with an impeccable standard of finish typical of the Grand Seiko marque… can’t actually recall why I sold it, but then that applies to many of the watches I’ve sold! The history of the “Grand” element of Seiko is interesting, and one that I became quite familiar with when I first owned a vintage 61GS from all the way back to 1968. This is taken directly from Seiko’s website, but it encapsulates everything pretty well…

“Seiko won every accuracy competition in Japan in the 1950’s and then sought new challenges on the international stage. Seiko’s application to join the Neuchatel Observatory Contest in 1960’s was graciously accepted , but the first results were a disaster! Seiko finished no better than 144th. However, the results improved rapidly and, by 1968, Seiko achieved first place in the mechanical watch category of Geneva Observatory Contest. The rapid development of Seiko’s mechanical watchmaking expertise made possible the creation of the Grand Seiko standard and the determination to create the best, functional watch in the world.

Grand Seiko became a truly attractive commercial proposition when, in 1968, automatic winding was added to the already renowned accuracy of the first Grand Seiko creations. In 1968, a 10-beat automatic model 61GS was made, immediately followed by a 10-beat hand winding model 45GS and a10-beat women’s model 19GS. In 1969, specially adjusted models of 61GS V.F.A. and 45GS V.F.A. were created, delivering one- minute per month accuracy, which remains the gold standard in the mechanical watch industry.”

Impressive, eh?

Anyway, I picked this up over the weekend, and I have to say that I’m very happy with it; it really is a kind of all-purpose, classic style and i’ll be able to wear it both formally and casually without any problems. Should you be interested the spec is below, with details on the Seiko website here:

Drive system – Mechanical Automatic (Hand winding capability)
Caliber No. – 9S65
Case – Stainless steel
Case back – -through case back with sapphire crystal
Glass – High definition dual-curved sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating
Band – Crocodile
Buckle – Stainless steel with three-fold clasp with push button release
Accuracy – 5 ~ -3 seconds/ day
Water resistance – 3 bar
Magnetic resistance – than 4800 A/m (60 gauss)*
Weight – 84g
Case thickness – 13.1mm
Case diameter – 39.5mm
Jewels – 35

The movement is impeccable, although I have to say that the finish in terms of decoration is fairly utilitarian. That aside, it contains 35 jewels, regulated at six positions and three temperatures; this compares favourably with COSC, which I believe requires testing in 5 positions and two temperatures (Seiko’s additional temperature is one that is intended to match the conditions on the wrist). The daily variation is between -3 to +5 seconds per day (yes, even better than COSC, which of course permits a variation of between -4 to +6 seconds). The 9S65 beats 28,800 times per hour and provides a very good power reserve of 72 hours.

Finally, the obligatory photos…

Incoming Ana-Digi!

I posted a WTB on TZ-UK recently for an X-33 or a B-1, thinking that either would be perfect for a forthcoming trip to NY (and would in any event serve a purpose thereafter). I decided against the X-33 for various reasons, but before I could unearth a B-1 I was offered a nice minty Aerospace Evo and decided to take the plunge. I have to say that I’m glad I did.

The Evo is the largest Aerospace yet at 43mm, but it still retains both it’s legendary comfort and it’s lightness as a consequence of being titanium. Other changes are a slightly different handset (a half-lumed hour hand and a needle minute hand), re-styled rider tabs and a little more bling in the applied logo and numerals. On the wrist (and away from the bright glare of my lights), however, it seems almost understated and certainly doesn’t shout too loud. The size is fine on my 6.75″ wrist – bear in mind that the wrist shot is taken at close quarters with a wide-angle lens – but I certainly wouldn’t want to go any larger.

New Year in Paris

Some shots from a lovely trip in Paris – we went early on New Year’s Eve and came back on Sunday night.

I do love this city, and next time we go back a French guy I was chatting to is going to take us down to the unofficial catacombs!

Anyway, many of these were taken on my iPhone as we were so layered up with clothing, scarves and gloves that carrying a camera about was somewhat irritating.

2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 35,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 13 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The usual year end SOTC

Well, I don’t really want to break with tradition, so here it is… the collection as it stands at the end of 2014. I won’t bore everyone with a long commentary, as my infamous incoming posts will suffice for that. Just a few words, though, to go with the pictures…

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 15400: I spent months thinking about this one, and in the end it took precedence over the Aquanaut I’d been planning to buy. I still don’t know whether that was the right decision, but I do know it’s a lovely watch; RO’s need to be handled to appreciate just how well they’re put together, and there’s a good reason why they’re considered by many to be the archetypal sports watch.

Moser Mayu: Quite simply, the nicest watch I’ve ever owned; I’ll go further and say that there isn’t a manufacture that produces watches with a more perfect finish. This one is white gold, and every time I put it on I’m completely gobsmacked.

Christian Van Der Klaauw Ceres 1974: CVDK has won the European Watch of The Year award 3 times in the last 5 years. There’s a good reason for this, and some of the astronomical (by which I mean cosmos-related, as opposed to expensive, although some are very expensive) complications the company produces are awe-inspiring. This is a bit left field for me, which is why I like it.

Dornblueth Kal 04.0: A more wearable size (for me, at least) than the better known models, the 04.0 was limited to just 75 pieces (50 in stainless steel, and 25 in rose gold) and all were produced in 2006. Dirk Dornblueth kindly wrote to me a while ago, clarifying that “the Kal. 04.0 movement includes 50% parts of an old GUB movement and 50% of the ebauche movement AS 1560 from the 1950’s”. Nice!

Glashutte Original Senator Perpetual Calendar: just a wonderfully simple, and wonderfully finished PC that for me ticks all the boxes when it comes to an affordable higher complication. The cleanness of the dial typifies Germanic watch design, and the movement is a wonder to behold.

Jaeger LeCoultre Master Calendar: I’ve had a few JLC’s, but seem to have settled on what – for me – is the archetypal reference. This is the current model, which (like the earlier Master Moon) has dispensed with the power reserve and has the logo back where it belongs. Once again, a very wearable size at 39mm.

Rolex Daytona: I was bloody nuts to sell the white gold Daytona I’d owned previously, but couldn’t find another at the right price and in the right condition. I do enjoy wearing this newer model, though, and find that it’s an ideal watch for pretty much all occasions. In fact, I usually reach for this when I’m not sure what I want to wear.

Panerai PAM337: It would be impossible to overstate how much I like this watch. It’s one of the 42mm models, and being a Radiomir is so wearable on a smaller wrist that it’s easy to forget that it’s actually the size that it is. I can dress it up with an alligator strap, or dress is down as it is in the photo below (on an Assolutemante)… it always looks fantastic and it always flies under the radar.

CWC Royal Navy Diver: This is a great weekend watch, and whilst I didn’t lust after them in a general sense I certainly did lust ofter this specific watch with it’s heat-treated insert. I nagged a chap from TZUK for about 18 months before I got it… but I got it!

Rolex 5513: This is a Mark IV Maxi from 1981, and quite simply it’s the nicest that I’ve seen with an immaculate dial and lovely thick case too. It went to a watchmaker friend for a new crystal to be fitted followed by the usual seal and pressure test, and he reckoned it was the nicest he’d seen too. On the wrist it’s just sublime.

Seiko 7549-7010: I’d had a lovely example of these vintage Tunas previously, and stupidly let it go. When the chance arose to acquire another beauty – this one again from 1978 – I didn’t waste the opportunity. This is another watch that received the highest praise from my watchmaker when he popped a NOS Hardlex crystal on it, and on the shark mesh it’s nothing short of perfect.

Seiko 6309-7040: I’ve had loads of 6309s and never manage to hang onto them for long; then, when I sell them, I always seem to buy another! This one dates 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.

Right then – that’s it… far too many watches, really, but I rather like them all and am not planning on flipping anything. I’ve got a nice mix of dressy, sporty, old and new and reckon I’m pretty lucky!

G-Shock heaven

I seem to have amassed a mini-collection of G’s, albeit unintentionally. The two I had were joined yesterday by the stealth 5610 that was (and still is) being offered at half the list price over at The Watch Shop; it’s rather nice actually, and having never worn a G on the composite bracelet I have to admit that it’s very comfortable.

The 5610 joins the “King of G’s” GW-5000, with it’s steel case and screw back; and the 15 year old G-2000, which is the only model who’s number signifies the sole year of production. (Unfortunately I inadvertently changed the date on that one before I took the shot below, and as it’s not atomic it’s also a few seconds out time-wise).

A nice trio, actually, not that i actually need three G-Shocks :)

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 a non-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.