The Witty, Wild World of Gucci Watches Online

Gucci hasn’t broken the internet, but it has cracked Instagram. And we can’t get enough.

Photographs by Martin Paar

For its new Instagram campaign, Gucci commissioned British photographer Martin Parr to capture its new watches at nine so-called Gucci Places—sites of brand inspiration, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Maison Assouline in London, and Gucci’s own Florentine garden. As with all of Parr’s work, the photos are hyper-saturated, acerbic, precisely observed. It’s the only luxury watch campaign this year co-starring a stale croissant, a pigeon’s gnarled claw, and a few spots of a tourist’s acne. #TimeToParr is as visually successful as it is ambitious. Which is saying something. 

ITALY. Gucci. Time to Parr. 2018.

The collaboration between Gucci, a brand that’s as Italian as bus strike, and Martin Parr, documentarian of British kitsch and quirk, was not self-evident. It owes its existence to one Roman Anglophile: Alessandro Michele, the visionary, maximally-coiffed creative director of Gucci.

Michele’s love of the British is foundational. His very first collections featured models that looked as if they were honey-dipped then dragged through the Elizabethan, Victorian and Edwardian eras; above the shoulders alone, accessories included ruffled collars, slips of tartan and silk scarves knotted under the neck, a look recognizable to viewers of The Crown. Another dream, realized in 2016, was a Gucci show staged at Westminster Abbey, the sight of all English coronations since William the Conqueror’s ascent in 1066. Cool, Britannia.

ITALY. Gucci. Time to Parr. 2018.

Now we have these Martin Parr pictures, which—not to put too fine a point on it—are about perfect. Timely, technicolor, absurd and charming. From the company that sells four-figure jackets embroidered with the Yankees logo, commissioning the former president of the Magnum photography collective to shoot an Instagram campaign makes a perverse kind of sense. It’s the full glory of high-low.

But there are many British photographers. What bound Michele’s cavalcade of prints, ruffles and horse-bit everything specifically to Martin Parr is a two-part epoxy: one part robust Anglophilia, one part dense, referential, mordant wit. Parr’s work is most often described as anthropological and satirical. What are Michele’s silhouettes, pulled from Renaissance paintings, if not anthropology? What is an interlocked-G Gucci logo the size of a focaccia if not satire?

Rather than flying in a phalanx of models, Parr cast subjects via their proximity to Gucci’s chosen locales and, in the case of one Chatsworth House groundskeeper, for the proximity of the green of his jacket to Gucci’s own trademarked hue. The man, gray and gentle, sweeps the pavement. Peeking from beneath the sleeve of his fleece: a 38mm G-Timeless, its band a perfect match to the worn broom handle.

GB. England. Gucci. Time to Parr. 2018.

Another photo from Chatsworth is a portrait-of-a-portrait: two teens taking a selfie. They’re demure and apple-cheeked. The boy’s phone case, garish and worn, would give most art directors an aneurysm. But follow his hand down to the wrist and you see the juxtaposition: cheap plastic foregrounding Gucci’s Eryx G-Timeless, sitting as serene and golden as a sphinx.

Across the Atlantic, a different shot shows a woman head to toe in pink: clothes, nails, eyeglasses, jewelry, hairdo, notably taut face. Whatever she’s regarding is out of frame, but it could be one of LACMA’s Rodins—her hand clasps her chin in homage to the sculptor’s “The Thinker.” The watch, Gucci’s Le Marché Des Merveilles, is appropriately Pepto-Bismol, plus serpents, studs, and shoe-leather from one of Shirley Temple’s old Mary Janes.

HONG KONG. TOKYO. LA. NYC. Gucci. Time to Parr. 2018.

Was commissioning Martin Parr, famed for biting meta-portraits of the leisure class, to photograph luxury goods a wise idea? Can such a surfeit of irony—Gucci’s current retro-indulgence plus Parr’s wicked perspective plus The Internet—trick the laws of metaphysics, piercing through layer after layer of critique, parody and burlesque, and end up engendering the glamour that makes a buyer point to a bauble, and say, Mine?

And so one might wonder: Is this #TimetoParr campaign the best Anglo-Italian collaboration since Spaghetti Westerns?

Indeed, we say. Decisamente, si.

Raptures of the Deep

Photographs by Junichi Ito
Styling by Stephen Watson & Jared Lawton

Doctors call it nitrogen narcosis. Diving’s old guard call it Martini’s Law. Both mean the same thing: For every 15 meters of depth, the physical effect is equivalent to one drink. Euphoria? Hallucinations? All that and more. But you don’t need an underwater trip to see that modern sports watches are reaching higher levels of dry-land appeal. Slowly surface. It’s time to decompress.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph, $26,600; audemarspiguet.com
Cartier Calibre de Cartier Carbon Diver Watch, $8,950; cartier.com
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date 70s, $12,700; blancpain.com
Hublot King Power Titanium Oceanographic 4000, $20,600; hublot.com
LEFT: Rado Tradition Captain Cook MK III, $2,550; rado.com RIGHT: TAG Heuer Aquaracer Calibre 5, $2,400; tagheuer.com
Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Oro Rosso, $26,700; panerai.com
Rolex Sea-Dweller, $11,350; rolex.com
LEFT: Vacheron Constantin Overseas, $20,900; vacheron-constantin.com RIGHT: Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Diver, $3,700; bellross.com

New Wave

On the rich history (and promising future) of Seiko dive watches.

By Jack Baruth

Ku areba raku ari. This Japanese proverb is often equated to the English speaker’s “Every cloud has a silver lining,” but a more literal translation might be: “If you struggle through bitter effort, you will have ease.” In 1953, as Blancpain was fusing high style and high function to produce the Fifty Fathoms for recreational diving, then a burgeoning leisure activity, Seiko was still wading through the bitterness. It was the first year in which the company would match its prewar annual production record of 2.3 million clocks and watches—more than half of Japan’s entire output. This strong footing would leave Seiko free to reach for the stars. It did just that.

In short order, the brand developed an in-house standard for chronometer certification and, in 1960, a Grand Seiko luxury watch to meet that standard. When the Summer Olympics came to Tokyo, four years later, Seiko produced more than 1,000 precision timepieces for the event. It was, in many ways, a coming-out party for Japan in general and Seiko in particular—one in which all parties demonstrated not just a willingness, but an eagerness to compete on the global stage.

Seiko tapped conservationist Fabien Cousteau, grandson of legendary underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau, as a partner for its latest collection, called Prospex. Cousteau and other marine specialists will document their activities, adventures, and discoveries by way of a dedicated Instagram account @seiko_prospex) this year.

The “62MAS” 150m Diver of 1965 was Japan’s first dive watch. Its bidirectional rotating bezel and non-screw-down crown, placed at the three o’clock position, serve as proof that there was not yet an agreed-upon feature set for this category. Yet it proved to be a commercially successful timepiece, rugged enough for use in Japan’s 8th Antarctic Research Expedition. Early examples are, of course, must-have items for committed collectors of the brand. So, too, is the Model 6159 300m Diver, powered by the 36,000 vph “Hi-Beat” Grand Seiko movement, released in 1968.

Shortly thereafter, the company received a letter from a Hiroshima-area professional “saturation diver.” Seiko watch crystals, he complained, were prone to cracking during ascent, due to accumulation of the helium gas used in SAT diving. (He also pointed out their inability to endure accidental strikes on rocks and other underwater objects.) Seiko’s response was to devote seven years of research and development to one goal: Create a nearly indestructible diver’s watch.

When the Professional 600m appeared, in 1975, it featured a variety of cost-is-no-object solutions to that lofty challenge. It was antimagnetic, shock-resistant, and highly luminous. The case was made of titanium, a material that at the time was sourced primarily from the Soviet Union and was far more expensive than it is today. And while Swiss competitors of the era used helium relief valves to address the problem of cracking crystals, Seiko chose the more difficult and elaborate route of preventing helium entry in the first place, scrutinizing everything from case design to gasket compound. More research. More development.

Soon, the dive watch became Seiko’s showcase for technological advancements. Quartz movements arrived in 1978, followed by special ceramic coatings, a low-battery warning feature, and a 1000m rating for new variants of the Professional. When dive computers replaced wristwatches for most commercial and deep-water divers, Seiko responded by creating function-over-form quartz watches, which incorporated all the features of a dive computer (including depth sensors).

At the same time, the firm continued developing its everyday-use dive watches by fielding variants with Kinetic and, eventually, Spring Drive movements. Today, there are Seiko dive watches for nearly every taste and budget, including the SNZH55 and its sibling variants of the Seiko 5, which are often modified in the aftermarket to create “Fifty-Five Fathoms” tributes to the Blancpain original.

The Prospex SLA019 is a modernized mean, green machine.

This year, Seiko is releasing a collection of six Prospex-branded divers’ watches, an homage to—and developments of—its distinguished lineage in this area. The S23626 and S23627 are recreations of the landmark thousand-meter 1978 quartz Professional, with titanium cases and an optional Cermet ceramic/metal composite coating in violet gold.

The remaining four are derived from the 1968 300m Model 6159, which has maintained an evergreen popularity with collectors. The SLA025 is a highlight. Limited to 1,500 pieces, each priced at $5,400, this piece uses Hi-Beat 36,000 vph movement and, in terms of design language, is the most faithful to the original. (Note the monoblock case and excellent silicone strap.) Customers wanting a more modern interpretation can choose the SLA019, which features a green ceramic bezel, a metal bracelet, and the 28,000 vph Caliber 8L35 which is an undecorated and unregulated variant of a Grand Seiko movement. It retails for $3,250 and, appropriately, is limited to 1,968 pieces.

The new Prospex SLA025, limited to 1,500 pieces, is a slick (and faithful) tribute to Seiko’s 300m dive watch from 1968.

But most pertinent for the majority of American Seiko fanatics is the “1968 Automatic Diver’s Modern Re-interpretation SPB077 and SPB079.” These are modern watches, powered by the hacking and hand-wound 6R15 caliber, and scaled to current tastes at a 44 mm case diameter. The SPB077 features a metal bracelet and black bezel, but our eyes were drawn to the silicone-strap SPB079 and its steel-blue bezel. It pays honest tribute to the look of the Model 6159 while also providing a few contemporary changes, such as an arrow hour hand and slightly smaller luminous markers. It retails at $850—sound value for a Japanese-made diver’s watch with ties to both past and present.

By providing everything from a by-the-numbers re-creation to a spirit-of-the-thing modern everyday watch, Seiko is displaying its ability to connect with customers and collectors on their own terms. They’re attracted to the brand because of its endearing ability to be both serious and playful, all while maintaining (and growing) what has become an enviable legacy. It has always been a substantial effort. But, in creating these new Prospex pieces, Seiko has never seemed so unencumbered. Ku areba raku ari. If you struggle through bitter effort, you will have ease.

Ancient Artifacts

Bulgari’s new watch pays homage to both the past and the future.

By Emily Selter

Photos by Doug Young

Emperor Caracalla, who ruled the Roman Empire from 211 until 217 A.D., was notorious for his cruelty. After ordering the assassination of his brother Geta, and murdering more than 10,000 of his sibling’s supporters, Caracalla enacted a damnatio memoriae, a “condemnation of memory.” This edict made it a capital offense to even utter Geta’s name. Sculptures that depicted him were destroyed, coins bearing his image were melted, and his moniker was wiped from papyrus records. Caracalla himself was assassinated six years later, but passing a damnatio memoriae on his name would have been futile. His memory will never be expunged from history—one of civilization’s largest and most important ancient monuments bears his name.

New lighting, courtesy of Bulgari, reveals centuries-old interior detailing at Museo di Rome.

The Baths of Caracalla were completed in 217 A.D., and were among the grandest public structures of their type in ancient Rome. The expansive complex encompassed saunas, salons, studios—even athletic facilities. They fell into disuse after the city was sacked but, miraculously, the pozzolana and marble edifice still stand today. The site contains numerous artistic treasures, from elaborate sculptures to ancient mosaics. Scholars and archaeologists have spent almost two centuries excavating and restoring the baths, but the monument remains shrouded in its own unique mythos, holding on tightly to its many secrets.

Treasures like these are what draw people to Rome from near and far; even after centuries, the city’s remarkable ancient ruins are a continual source of fascination. They are especially beloved by the proud Roman luxury goods brand Bulgari. Founded in the Eternal City in 1884, the company has long sponsored cultural conservation in its hometown. Recent endeavors include the painstaking (and dazzling) restoration of the Spanish Steps, the grand staircase between the Piazza di Spagna and Trinità dei Monti church, and, yes, a section of tiles in the famed Baths of Caracalla.

Restoring the mosaic tiling at the Baths of Caracalla in several phases during 2015.

The polychrome-marble mosaic flooring, located in the structure’s western gymnasium, had been in complete disrepair. (It also hadn’t been seen by the public in more than four decades; in an attempt to prevent further degradation, the tiles were covered with fabric and soil.) In 2015, Bulgari helped fund a complex, multiphase restoration effort. The following year, CEO Jean-Christophe Babin joined local officials in revealing the mosaic, a pattern of undulating geometric triangles crafted from brightly saturated tiles. It earned praise in the arts community, and garnered international news coverage.

Still, Bulgari’s investment in preserving Roman relics extends beyond goodwill or recognition. The brand’s designers frequently take inspiration from these monuments, channeling the city’s vibrant past to create some of the world’s most innovative watches and jewelry. Look closely, and you’ll see the shape of sidewalk joints along the glamorous Via dei Condotti reinterpreted as a bracelet link; the Spanish Steps in the arrangement of a diamond necklace; the Baths of Caracalla mosaic pattern in pendants and earrings of the Divas’ Dream Collection. Modern riffs on that rich Roman pedigree that Bulgari continues to protect.

The Octo Carbon’s matte-black finish feels at once antique and futuristic, and jibes with both bright and neutral tones.

Similarly, the new Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater Carbon represents a clever (and seamless) blending of classic references with contemporary materials and applications, a striking integration of the past and future, old-world Italian craftsmanship gone high-tech.  

As the name suggests, this new timepiece is made out of an epoxy thermosetting resin called Carbon Thin Ply, or CTP. The material is remarkably strong and incredibly lightweight. But it can be difficult and time-consuming to manufacture, and Bulgari hadn’t worked with the composite before developing this new Octo model.

Both the Octo Finissimo Carbon (above) and Tourbillon Automatic (next image) feature weight-saving techniques and geometric motifs inspired by the coffering on the ceiling of the Basilica of Maxentius from 312 A.D.

“The challenge of using this material was to transform its constraints into an opportunity to develop and propose a stunning timepiece,” says Fabrizio Buonamassa, the director of Bulgari’s Watches Design Center.

Traditionally, getting quality sound transmission from a minute repeater case demanded roominess and rigidity. Rose gold has long been the default choice, joined, in recent years, by titanium.  But CTP is lighter than either, and offers unique physical advantages—namely the rare acoustic properties of its polymers. Buonamassa went a step further with the Octo Carbon’s design, with strategic incisions that amplify resonance inside the case, compensating for the absence of substantial internal volume. This allowed Bulgari to employ its in-house BVL 362 movement, the world’s thinnest repeater caliber, while still endowing the Octo Carbon with powerful sound output.

Incredibly, the new watch is just 6.85 mm thick, nearly 10 percent louder than an equivalent titanium piece, and weighs less than a regulation PGA golf ball.

But this isn’t some hollow, artless technical study. True to the brand, Buonamassa paired his super-progressive design to ancient motifs, naming architectural elements among his inspirations. (The octagon was a common interior detailing motif in Roman antiquity.) Owing to variations inherent to CTP, the patterns and textures of each case and dial are unique. Like the Via dei Condotti or Spanish Steps or Baths of Caracalla, or Bulgari itself, every Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater Carbon is one of a kind, a timeless entity, simultaneously a product of Rome and, above all else, totally unforgettable.

Omega Attacks! The Return of #SpeedyTuesday

Watch out! 

A monster of a surprise has struck an unsuspecting watch-buying public once again…

(when you found out the #SpeedyTuesday Speedmaster was sold out)

The event occurred Tuesday, July 10, at approximately 6 a.m. Absolutely no one (and no wallet) was declared safe. Because, on this average summer day, Omega quietly snuck a new #SpeedyTuesday Speedmaster Limited Edition 42mm “Ultraman” under the radar, capturing watch enthusiasts off-guard. Tensions were high as collectors the world over debated how to avert this intense emotional decision. To buy or not to buy? Sadly, the Monster Attack Team was unavailable to aid in this crisis. The clock was ticking. What to do?

How did we get here? Flashback to 1967, when Japanese television introduced the science-fiction program “Ultraman.” A phenomenon of epic proportion, the show went on to reach mythological status, inspiring countless sequels and spin-offs. Among them, “Return of Ultraman” from 1970, in which the black-and-orange Omega Speedmaster was featured as an essential piece of the Monster Attack Team’s kit. Fact and fiction merged, the kaiju (“giant monster”) genre flourished, and the Moonwatch became part of Japanese sci-fi history.

Ultraman battles Oxter (Buffalo Monster) in Episode 30 of Return of Ultraman. 

This new 42mm Speedmaster is a fitting tribute; sci-fi design references abound. Ultraman’s superhero mode lasted approximately three minutes, indicated by a trio of orange markers on subdial at three o’clock. The strap-changing tool, made to look like Ultraman’s Beta Capsule, also holds an ultraviolet light; when illuminated, it reveals Ultraman’s hidden image on the nine o’clock subdial. The Speedy’s familiar caseback engraving (“FLIGHT-QUALIFIED BY NASA FOR ALL MANNED SPACE MISSIONS * THE FIRST WATCH WORN ON THE MOON”) is complemented by a unique serial number and #SpeedyTuesday etching, plus a vintage Omega logo and an orange-striped NATO strap, which matches the Monster Attack Team orange uniforms.

Still debating on how to handle this unsought and unsolicited pressure? Crisis averted. As of 8:15 a.m., all 2,012 pieces of the limited-run #SpeedTuesday Ultraman collection (retail: $7,100) have already sold out.

Gomen’nasai, tokei wa kanbaidesu. So sorry, the watch is sold out.

But! Like any good reoccurring installment, you won’t have to wait long: Netflix recently announced a new animated Ultraman series, slated for 2019. Chances are #SpeedyTuesday #3 will someday be appearing on a monitor near you.

Farewell, Ultraman! (for now).

https://youtu.be/kwOKA6mkUU8
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