Are connected chronographs the next big thing in competitive sailing?
Breitling thinks so. The 46 mm Yachting offers the same features as the other Bluetooth-enabled Exospace watches (text and call notifications, a dedicated smartphone app, digital/analog quartz movement, rapid USB charging). But there are now regatta-ready features, including split timing and a dedicated countdown system, allowing multiple resets to synchronize with the judge’s timer.
It’s happening slowly and all at once; more and more, tomorrow looks a lot like yesterday, run through a funhouse mirror. Did you see Star Trek: Discovery, the next-gen period piece that’s set a decade before the original series? Catch high-fashion’s astro-chic looks on the runways last year? Or hear that S.J. Clarkson, a young Netflix director, will helm the franchise’s next film? Welcome to life inside the supercollider of “back then” and “right now” and “in a moment.” It’s pretty weird in here.
It’s also harder than ever to put a finger on the zeitgeist. But that’s exactly what Girard-Perregaux is doing with its current collection. The latest entry into that heady catalog, the new Neo Tourbillon Three Bridges Skeleton, arrives steeped in tradition; its triple-arch layout, the brand’s signature motif, dates back to 1884. One hundred and thirty years later, Girard-Perregaux reinterpreted the idea with the Neo Tourbillon. The bridges, traditionally gold, have been enlarged and hewn from titanium, a nod to modern cable-stayed structures, like Southern France’s Millau Viaduct, the tallest in the world.
The new Skeleton conveys all that history, while also introducing decidedly futuristic design elements. Girard-Perregaux’s flagship automatic movement carries over here, composed of 260 components, with a lightweight, titanium tourbillon cage and 18k white gold micro-rotor, offering a 60-hour power reserve. But the 45 mm case is taller and, crucially, the baseplate is gone. Exposed screws now sit deep into the structure of the openwork movement, holding the polished and bevelled bridges in place.
Somehow, the resulting piece, a mash-up of heritage and progress, feels cohesive. The Neo Tourbillon Three Bridges Skeleton isn’t a limited-run proposition. But its $138,000 price point ensures exclusivity, and, in a way, it’s the rarest piece of all: one that’s both timely and timeless. Like the rest of Girard-Perregaux’s contemporary portfolio, it would look right on the wrist of William Shatner’s Kirk, or Patrick Stewart’s Piccard, or Jason Issacs’s Lorca, in any galaxy and on any planet, a watch sure to remain fashionable and collectible well into the future—even if that future is just a colorful sendup of the past…
Neo Tourbillon Three Bridges Skeleton
It starts with the case, steeply-cambered, anti-reflective-treated sapphire front glass and sapphire crystal caseback. Inside, the unidirectional, self-winding mechanical movement features a brilliant 18k white gold micro-rotor. Still, the bridges remain a highlight. They’re made of titanium, sandblasted, blackened via PVD process. Their shape is so complex, composed of interior angles, arches, extensions and overhangs, that their machining is a watchmaking feat in itself. The result is a taut and powerful shape. Gravity, mass, transparency—what do you need with a spaceship? This radical new skeleton has it all.
The L.M.’s avant-garde, titanium case contains an innovative solution to the age-old horological concern: how to maintain the precision and regularity of a mechanical watch. Introduced as a prototype in 2008, this award-winning movement uses an integrated, microscopic silicon blade; it serves as an intermediary device in the escapement, metering energy to ensure constant power delivery to the oscillator, and, in turn, constant amplitude and constant rate. Sound like science fiction? Consider this: Even with Girard-Perregaux’s master watchmakers gave ‘er all they had, the super-complicated L.M. still required eight years of research and development.
The Laureato is sports watch icon. Designed by a Milanese architecture studio, it was released in 1975, flourishing in an era that celebrated leisure for leisure’s sake. In 2016, Girard-Perregaux brought out a limited-edition re-release; it was so well-received, the brand upped the ante, bringing out a whole new range. This Laureato 42 mm beams the octagonal case styling of its iconic 1975 predecessor straight into the present, but brings two thoroughly modern touches: a handsome rubber strap in place of the old integrated bracelet, and the acclaimed mechanical GP01800 caliber (designed, produced, assembled, and adjusted in-house) in place of the original’s quartz movement.
That new Laureato collection? It now includes dozens of references, housed in a variety of case sizes and materials. Among them, a skeletonized ceramic, which uses a thin, suspended, indexed ring as a dial, in turn offering a glimpse deep into the heart of the movement, dubbed GP01800-006, those last three digits denoting a skeleton variant. It’s a self-winding labyrinth, comprised of 173 total components, sand-brushed and treated using a galvanic process (“anthracite gray ruthenium,” according to the Girard-Perregaux’s master watchmakers), decorated by hand in a “unique and contemporary manner.” Which is all to say: the Laureato Skeleton Ceramic is a collector siren. Resistance is futile.
Working alongside Steve Jobs, a young watch collector named Tony Fadell helped create the iPhone. Ten years later, he reflects on the fallout—and shares his vision for building a better future.
By Oliver Franklin-Wallis Portrait by Céline Clanet
It’s a crisp January morning in Paris’s 13th Arrondissement, and outside Station F, the former freight terminal that is the epicenter of France’s startup scene, twentysomethings climb out of cars hailed using iPhone apps. They approach the huge, glass-fronted concrete arches, heads bowed over screens, thumbs dancing out social media updates, pristine white earphones poking out from under beanies or from behind shoulder-length hair. The gates are activated by QR code, so they hold out their iPhones to get into work, where they’re probably building iPhone apps themselves, to connect our homes, cars, everything, to the device in our pockets.
This is the world that Tony Fadell helped build. Fadell is known in Silicon Valley as the father of the iPod, which, with its iconic wheel and those classic white earbuds, helped transform Apple’s fortunes from a struggling computer manufacturer to the most valuable public company in history. He played a central role in the creation of the iPhone, helping Steve Jobs and Jony Ive usher in the smartphone age. After leaving Apple, in 2010, Fadell founded the smart-home company Nest, which Google bought in 2014 for $3.2 billion. Few have played bigger roles in shaping today’s technological landscape. No iPod, no iPhone. No iPhone, no Instagram, Snapchat, Uber, or Pokémon Go.
But lately Fadell, like many in Silicon Valley, has been reconsidering the changes he and his colleagues have brought about. In recent months, several former engineers and executives from Google and Facebook—including the inventor of the “like” button—have spoken out publicly about the dangers of smartphones, in particular the design of apps that are intentionally addictive. In June 2017, Fadell told an audience at London’s Design Museum, “I wake up in cold sweats every so often thinking, What did we bring to the world?” This January, after two of the largest investors in Apple called on the company to take action against smartphone addiction in children, Fadell joined in, publicly urging both his former employers to do more.
When I meet him, two weeks later, the subject is still on Fadell’s mind. To be clear: He doesn’t blame Apple—“We can’t say all iPhones are bad”—or even social media companies, although he admits there are “what some people judge as bad actors out there.” Instead, he believes that today’s shocks are a symptom of society reckoning with an unprecedented technological change.
We’re sitting on a bright yellow sofa in Station F, where he has set up his own investment firm, Future Shape. At 48, he is a lean, energetic presence, wearing a teal V-neck, cords, and black zip-up boots. “My first son was born three weeks before the iPhone was released, so my kids have never known a world without them,” Fadell says. He believes that Silicon Valley’s current crisis of conscience can be traced back in part to the architects of the mobile age having children and seeing the impact of their creations. “Your worldview changes dramatically when you have your first kid. You change from ‘me, me, me’ to family and community.” Fadell has three children and, although two of them have smartphones, the family imposes time limits, “screen-free Sundays,” and parental controls.
“When I think about digital well-being, I go back to packaged and mass-produced foods,” he says. “We have created a nomenclature around fats, sugars, proteins. What is obesity? What is bulimia?” Like food, Fadell argues, apps should be subject to their own health classifications. But our smartphones, he says, are just refrigerators. “They’re not going to cause you to be an addict or not. But they always stock themselves, and will give you the ability to buy anything you want.”
When Fadell stepped back from Apple in 2009, the family went traveling. They fell in love with Paris; the city suits Fadell, who has a taste for European culture and design. They later moved back to the Bay Area when Fadell was working on Nest, but when he quit Google in 2016 the Fadells moved to France for good, buying an apartment in the Seventh Arrondissement, and enrolling their children in school.
Station F might be downtown Paris, but it feels very Silicon Valley. It’s midmorning, and young startup workers are playing foosball over cappuccinos. There’s a “Creative Zone” complete with craft supplies; food trucks linger outside. Funded by the French telecommunications billionaire Xavier Niel, it’s vast, with space for a thousand companies. Facebook, Microsoft, and LVMH have already moved in. France’s high taxes and red tape have previously been seen as inimical to startups, but that’s changing: President Macron toured Station F last summer, and the government even has an office here.
Future Shape was still settling in when I visited. The space wasn’t much to look at: a few tasteful chairs and a conference table in a glass-fronted former shipping container. Fadell had ordered a clock—it currently hangs in London’s Ham Yard Hotel—but it hadn’t arrived yet.
Fadell began investing nearly a decade ago (he won’t reveal the extent of his personal wealth, but given Apple stock and Nest’s sale, it’s likely substantial) and has stakes in around 200 companies. They range from OpenROV, a manufacturer of underwater drones, to Grenoble-based Aryballe, which develops biosensors to detect smells and tastes, and Karius, a medical startup that claims to be able to diagnose more than 1,000 infectious diseases from a single blood test. “We get to put ourselves in two hundred different scenarios—in agriculture technology, food technology, financial technology, pharma, and drugs. For me, that kind of stuff is oxygen,” Fadell says.
Living in Paris has also given him time to work on personal projects, such as Ressence, the Brussels-based luxury watch brand, which has won acclaim for its blend of traditional craft and modern technology. Fadell met its founder, Benoît Mintiens, after buying a Ressence Type 3, which has an innovative oil-filled display. (He’d explored similar approaches when developing touchscreens at General Magic in the early 1990s.)
“When I saw it, I was like, ‘This must be a Photoshop.’ Because it was stunning. The dial was just so pristine,” Fadell says. “Then I started reading the description, and I thought: that’s genius! I need to get this watch. I went crazy.”
The week before we met, at the 2018 Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie watch fair in Geneva, Ressence unveiled the “E-crown”—a mechanical movement that connects to a smartphone to regulate its own time, meaning it never requires winding. It’s being acclaimed as a breakthrough timepiece. Fadell, a longtime watch collector, whose tastes range from vintage Heuer and Ikepod to contemporary Panerai and Patek Philippe, consulted on the design.
“Two and a half years ago, Benoît sends a text message and says, ‘Hey I got an idea. It’s really secret, but I want to make a next-generation mechanical watch. We have watch winders today that are little robots. So let’s put [one] inside.’ That’s where the two of us started brainstorming,” Fadell says. “He had a whole list of things that he wanted. I had my list of things, both electronically and mechanically, that I wanted. We had to find and strike the right balance … The whole magic was, how do you make a better mechanical watch, not [just] a smartwatch?”
“We look at products in a similar way,” says Mintiens. “Tony is someone who is putting the user in the center. In the end, with watches, it’s about: How efficiently do you express time?”
For Fadell, user experience is everything. “If we look at the major Cambrian explosions of digital technology, it’s always come from a disruptive combination of cutting-edge technology with cutting-edge user experience,” Fadell says. Every detail should be intuitive and create delight from the moment of unboxing; it was this, he says, that drove Jobs to create Apple Stores and ship iPhones with pre-charged batteries. “When you get that experience right, you put that device in somebody’s hand and they go, ‘Wow.’”
The first time Fadell tried to create the iPhone, it was 15 years too early. Born in Detroit, Fadell picked up engineering from his grandfather, a lifelong tinkerer who helped Fadell buy his first computer. Fadell showed a prodigious talent for computing; in college, he even sold a new microprocessor design for the Apple II to Apple itself.
After graduation, Fadell joined General Magic, a now-storied Silicon Valley company (alumni include eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and Android creator Andy Rubin) that was working on an early personal communications device. “We had email, we had downloadable games, downloadable apps, we had shopping, we had books,” Fadell recalls—in other words, the key features of today’s smartphones. General Magic built two devices, for Sony and Motorola, but neither took off, and the company folded. “It was too soon,” says Fadell.
Shortly afterwards, Philips appointed Fadell, then just 25, as its chief technology officer. It was at Philips that Fadell started thinking about digital music. “He had a vision for music being liberated from CD players—how music and portability could be reinvented,” recalls the designer Yves Béhar. The pair sketched out ideas for a portable MP3 player.
In 1999, Fadell formed his own company, Fuse Systems, to build it. However, as the dotcom bubble burst, the company struggled to raise money. Then, in 2001, Fadell was approached by Apple to consult on the design of an MP3 player—what would become the iPod. Steve Jobs hired him to run the new division.
Today, it’s easy to forget the iPod’s significance. “When I started, [Apple] had $25 million in the bank and $500 million in debt,” says Fadell. The iPod, with its navigation wheel and crisp white aesthetic, was far superior to anything on the market. But it wasn’t an instant success. “Steve was always saying the iPod’s going to help us sell more Macs, so the iPod can only work on the Mac,” says Fadell. Infuriated, he lead a skunkworks effort to make a PC-compatible version. “[Steve] said, ‘Over my dead body.’” It was only after Jobs relented that the iPod exploded, selling by the hundreds of millions. Mac sales also began to take off. “It was the gateway drug.”
When Jobs decided to build the iPhone, he initially appointed two rival teams to develop it. One, headed by Fadell, worked on integrating phone functions into the iPod’s click wheel design. The other, lead by then head of software Scott Forstall, attempted to slim down the Mac’s operating system to work on a touchscreen. Ultimately, the latter won out, but given Fadell’s experience with the iPod, he was brought in to oversee the hardware development. Inside Apple, Fadell had a reputation for being a troublemaker. He’d argue fiercely with Jobs, and occasionally quit or get himself fired. “His aggressive, combative style is what endeared him to Steve,” says David Bell, a friend who then worked for an Apple semiconductor supplier. “[But] he would sometimes be too argumentative, and that would piss people off.”
When Google bought Nest, in 2014, Fadell’s style caused conflict again, and although the products racked up design awards, the connected home didn’t take off as expected. After Google restructured in 2015, becoming Alphabet, Nest came under financial pressure. “When Google decided they wanted to sell Nest, I said, ‘Fine, I’m not staying,’” Fadell says. (Alphabet reportedly tried to sell Nest in 2016, but failed to find a buyer. This February, Nest was rolled into Google’s hardware team.)
In Paris, we talked about what Fadell has learned about mentorship. “When someone works for me, they say, ‘Tony pushed me harder than I ever was, and it was frustrating, but I did work that I never thought I’d do,’” he says. “That’s what people did for me. They pushed me when I wasn’t thinking properly, when I was being an idiot.”
“It’s difficult. You’re not always loved, and you’re not always liked.”
Recently, he’s started taking meetings in museums. “Steve Jobs and I would go on walks. You’d just walk and talk, and get to know somebody,” he says. In museums, “you get to be inspired, and also get to know the person. How do they think about that art? Can they look at things and think differently?”
He likes the notions of artists having creative periods. I ask if, after Nest, his own entrepreneurial period is over. “Maybe there’s something that pops up that’s like, ‘I have to do it,’” he says. “I’ve been close. But everything takes time.”
Today’s technology landscape is very different than when Fadell started. Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook loom above everything, with near-infinite reach and financial capital, buying every promising startup—as Fadell himself experienced. I ask if it’s possible that the next big breakthrough could come from outside those companies.
“[If we thought] that you can’t unseat giants, we would have never made the iPod,” says Fadell. “When we were doing that first iPod, I said ‘Steve, Sony is the number one in the world. They own every single audio category. How are we going to beat them?’ And he goes, ‘We will beat Sony. Watch me. If you guys build this, we’re going to put every single marketing dollar behind it.’ And where is Sony in audio today? Where is Nokia?”
His focus on “deep tech” companies at Future Shape—the portfolio includes new types of transistors and microscopic LEDs—is intentional, he says. “I’m doing the things that I know can unseat the big guys. If we get [the technology] right, we can build product companies around it.”
One area that particularly excites him is biotechnology. “Computational synthetic biology is a whole new world,” he says. “We can literally write code, like you would write code for a computer, synthesize it in DNA. We are at the cusp of making biological computers.” Future Shape’s investments include Impossible Burger, which makes lab-grown meat substitutes, and Modern Meadow, which has created a lab-grown leather alternative. “He’s been more than an investor,” says the latter’s founder, Andras Forgacs. “Tony really understands where design and technology come together to create great consumer products. That is not common among investors.”
Fadell is skeptical about the current hype around autonomous vehicles. “The self-driving cars world is making lots of progress, but there’s so much more to do. People don’t understand: They don’t work in certain weather, they don’t work in certain times of day, they don’t work in a fog.”
Robotics and artificial intelligence, Fadell thinks, are also further off than most people think. “We are so far away from being able to create real humanoid kinds of robots,” he says. “These robots are so fragile. And we’re not even talking about intelligence. We’re just talking about grasping and picking up and and walking.”
“The one thing I learned, especially from my General Magic experience, is sometimes the technology is not there, and sometimes society is not there yet.”
Fadell is starting to think about the generation that will succeed him. In 2015, Fadell cofounded an electric go-kart company, Actev Motors, with David Bell. “I said: ‘What was the experience that I had that was formative for me?’ And that was being in a workshop with my grandfather, fixing things, building the soapbox derby racer, and learning about different technologies.”
Actev’s go-kart is designed to be taken apart and modified: Parents can set speed and safety limits, while kids learn about electronics and basic coding skills. “It gives kids some opportunity to do ‘do it yourself,’” says Bell. “It’s really a modern version of what he and his grandfather would do.”
I ask Fadell about one of the tech industry’s growing problems, planned obsolescence: the relentless cycle of waste driven by constant product updates. Apple has recently been the subject of global furor and ongoing lawsuits after it was revealed that the company intentionally limits the performance of older phones, supposedly to protect battery performance. “Everyone went really crazy with the iPod because it [had] a sealed battery,” he recalls. Today, he worries about the environmental impacts of devices. “Reuse is really important. We have limited resources on this planet. That was the reason for Nest,” he says, noting that the company’s products are designed to last decades.
Increasingly, Fadell thinks the next generation of technology designers should commit to a kind of Hippocratic oath: first, do no harm. He has lobbied Apple and Google to introduce a “digital scale” function, to help us track our smartphone habits. “They’re tracking our physical well-being. Why don’t we have the same thing for our digital life?” At Future Shape, he’s pushing founders to think about impact early. “What is the purpose? How does it affect society?”
Fadell remains optimistic about the future. He often thinks back to his childhood in Detroit, building racers and taking apart radios with his grandfather. “What my grandfather would tell me is, ‘If a human made this—and they did—you can fix it,’” he says, his eyes shining. “‘And you can make it better, too.’”
New York’s architecture and design community is having something of a moment. Over the past decade, the city has played incubator to a fresh crop of talent, business-savvy collaborators and self-producers with an eye on the future and a healthy appetite for risk. They aren’t siloed by specialization. Buildings, interiors, graphics, lighting, product, branding—anything goes. They use 3-D printers, run pared-back studios and are sought after by premier European manufacturers. Basically, they’re making the job cool again.
Naturally, we wondered about their taste in watches.
In keeping with the spirit of our Design Issue, Watch Journal rounded up a selection of fine timepieces, an eclectic mix of classics and newcomers, all of them with blue dials. (Naturally.) Then we met with five of New York’s best young architects and designers, laid out the watches, and let them choose what went on their wrist during our photo shoot.
Consider this an introduction to the design bellwethers of the moment, a snapshot of their personal styles, and an insight into their horological leanings.
Name: Dror Benshetrit From: Tel Aviv Studio location: Chelsea Known for: Architecture on Zaya Nurai Island, named the “World’s Most Luxurious Project” by Newsweek; designing the “Peacock Chair” for Cappellini, featured in Rihanna’s “S&M” music video; his signature line of home goods for Target; designing WeWork interiors Picks: Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Quantième, Girard-Perregaux Laureato
Dror says: “My first important watch was a strange choice. It was a Hamilton Ventura, the famous one with the triangle-shaped case. Somebody gifted it to me, and it really got me into the culture of watches. Then I was wearing, for a very long time, the classic Bell & Ross and also a Hublot. I’m really not so used to small watches. So this one [the Jaquet Droz] feels very good. The Girard-Perregaux, I like the shape. I’m drawn to the elegance of it.”
Name: Stephanie Goto From: New York Studio location: Union Square Known for: Designing three Michelin-starred restaurants in New York (Piora, Corton, Aldea); the homes of several notable chefs, including Daniel Boulud; selecting furniture for the Museum of Arts and Design; overhauling the project space at the Calder Foundation; editing the Journal of Architecture’s fifth volume Pick: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin
Stephanie says: “I’m actually in the process of acquiring [a Royal Oak] right now, so this is sort of my test run. I met an Audemars executive at Art Basel a few years ago, and tried on the watch. It felt a little big, at least for me, but when they came out with the Extra-Thin, I was like, ‘Okay, this is perfect.’ . . . It’s just so classic, that Royal Oak shape, and the stainless band is very in line with the work I do. Understated, but detailed. I think there’s a real beauty in the design of the mechanics, too. It’s so beautiful. I love it! When is mine coming?”
Name: Marc Thorpe From: Nashville, Tennessee Studio location: DUMBO Known for: “The Mark Table” and “Blur Sofa” for Moroso, featured at Salone del Mobile and in Vogue Living; creating retail spaces for Acqua Di Parma and Under Armour; the Ducati Project E electric motorcycle concept; Infiniti Pavilion at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance Picks: Panerai Luminor Due, Patek Philippe Complications Annual Calendar
Marc says: “The Panerai is more my style. I like simple watches. Well, simple faces at least. IWC Portugieser, Rolex Explorer, Omega Speedmaster. I’ve got a little collection, you know, just six pieces, my go-to watches. One of them is a Panerai Radiomir Black Seal, which I really love. But the Patek is just so beautiful. If one of you doesn’t ask me to give it back soon, I’m going to walk out of here wearing it. Actually, wait. . . . [retrieves iPhone] Can I take a photo of it on my wrist?”
Name: Todd Bracher From: New York Studio location: Brooklyn Navy Yard Known for: Serving as creative director at Georg Jensen; “Distil Table” for Herman Miller; “The Architect’s Chandelier” for Swarovski; creating 3M Architecture’s award-winning LED lighting installations; packaging for Issey Miyake fragrances; the SodaStream Fountain Pick: IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII
Todd says: “I don’t like the Apple Watch, but it opened up my mind to the idea of getting a Garmin watch, which is really big, like 50 mm. It’s funny how dainty another watch feels after that. But the IWC, yeah, this is a proper watch. Quiet, introverted in some ways, while being fiercely precise. I like the [dial] color. The blues tend to be quite polarizing, and this one’s not the most obvious shade…. There’s something about the joy of going backwards, too. I’m in the process of dumbing down my phone, turning off push notifications, that kind of thing. The IWC captures a sophisticated simplicity. That speaks to me.”
Name: Joe Doucet From: Terrell, Texas Studio location: DUMBO Known for: “Duet Task Chair” for Bernhardt; “Alba Decanter” for Nude glassware; “Minim” playing cards for Areaware; the bottle design for SŌTŌ sake; packaging for Hugo Boss bodywear; cofounding the 3D-printed premium household products brand OTHR Picks: NOMOS Glashütte Metro at Work
Joe says: “My first real buy was a Panerai. I got it when I made partner [at New York creative agency KBP]. It was my little treat to myself, you know? Now I’ve got a few watches. Got the vintage [Rolex] Submariner. But my daily go-to is an IWC Portofino. Simple, blue dial. I tend to go for things that look and feel quite understated. The NOMOS, I like the overall aesthetic, especially that little pop of color on the subdial hand. Plus it feels really light on the wrist. I know it’s not the most expensive, but it’s the one I’d go for.”
When it came to the next-gen Carrera, TAG Heuer boss Jean-Claude Biver was, as he put it, “faced with a choice between a vintage-inspired piece and a modern reworking.”
Clearly, he went the latter route.
This new iteration, introduced at the Baselworld watch fair, keeps the Carrera 01’s modular-skeleton-meets-circuit board aesthetic, but incorporates the brand’s latest in-house automatic chronograph caliber, called Heuer 02, boosting power reserve from 50 to 75 hours.