Photo Essay: Robots vs. Skeletons

In the impending age of automation and artificial intelligence, the Swiss carry out aesthetic experiments on a most human device:
the wristwatch.


Bell & Ross BR-X1 Black Titanium
$18,600; bellross.com


Ulysse Nardin Executive Skeleton Tourbillon
$20,900; ulysse-nardin.com


Hublot Classic Fusion Aerofusion Chronograph
$15,100; hublot.com


Piaget Altiplano Ultra-Thin Skeleton
$57,000; piaget.com


Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider Double Tourbillon
$322,000; rogerdubuis.com


AG Heuer 45 mm Heuer 01 Chronograph with Skeleton Dial
$5,450; tagheuer.com


Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Squelette Steel Sapphire
$22,500; parmigiani.com


Vacheron Constantin Malte Tourbillon Openworked
$305,000; vacheron-constantin.com


About the photographer: Junichi Ito was born and raised in Tokyo. Based in New York since 2005, he has photographed major commercial campaigns for Armani, Barneys, Estée Lauder, Moët & Chandon, Nike, and Victoria’s Secret. He has also shot original editorial content for Allure, Fast Company, Real Simple, Vogue Japan, and Wallpaper. His Instagram is a must-follow.

Hit List: Frédérique Constant Hybrid Manufacture

And now, for something completely different—but not so you’d notice.

Inside the Hybrid Manufacture’s 42 mm case sits a 33-jewel, self-winding mechanical movement, driving the conventional second, hour, minute, and date functions. The twist? Built into this caliber is a battery-powered digital module, which, via subdial display and iPhone app, brings next-gen functionality, including sleep tracking and fitness coaching. It also logs analytics for the mechanical movement, measuring rate and beat error, and adds a worldtime complication.

$3,795; frederiqueconstant.com

Forbidden Fruit: Testing the New Apple Watch Series 3

Apple’s third-generation digital connectivity wearable has been with us for several months now, and it’s proven itself moderately desirable, moderately useful, and, one imagines, moderately frustrating for the folks in Cupertino. Apple has addressed every issue users brought to their attention—did their best to fix every problem, real and perceived. Yet its utility is being challenged by “hearable” assistants, like Google’s Alexa, and although sales are very respectable, well…

There are some who say the Apple Watch’s most notable accomplishment has been replacing the rudeness of checking your phone while someone’s talking to you with the more traditional rudeness of looking at your watch while someone is talking to you. That’s absolutely unfair, because whatever its cultural niche, this latest version of the device is a technical marvel, and should be acknowledged as such. To be clear: It’s the first mass-market smartwatch that’s so good that it’s possible to top asking whether or not it’s capable and start asking whether or not it’s desirable. And that’s an intriguing question.

Because what the Apple Watch does, it now does very well indeed. The battery-life issue has been addressed, and a full charge will see you clear for a couple days’ worth of normal use, even in the honeymoon stage when you’re texting people from your wrist with the thrill of novelty once felt only by phoning people from the plane. Voice assistant Siri is now more or less seamlessly integrated, meaning that if works for you on your phone it’ll work for you here. And the slow, stuttering interface has been remedied with new, faster processors, so response to input is now instant. On the main screen, as you roll through the array of app icons with a careful finger, the tiny symbols move so smoothly it’s like they’re suspended in oil. It’s a very pleasant GUI-based illusion, and reinforces the feeling of deep quality that carries through the entire experience; even the haptic feedback is well-considered, with the watch responding to your taps and long presses with crisp, sharp little raps of its own, not the wheezing, asthmatic whirr of some competing devices.

Even the added capabilities function well—within the limits of current technologies, at any rate. The 3’s biggest hype point has been its ability to break free of phone tethering, allowing the owner to knock about town without a phone ruining the line of their slacks—more likely, their running togs, if we’re being honest—but also without the terrible social risks of breaking connectivity. All the basic phone functions are present on the Watch 3’s LTE connection, which is surprisingly strong and easy to set up; we experienced no appreciable loss of signal or function whether in Downtown L.A. or a Wisconsin state forest. Generally speaking, we found that if the iPhone shows a couple of bars, your watch will work, allowing you to get texts and make calls right on your wrist, if you wind up liking that kind of thing. (More about that later.)

As it stands, though, the aforementioned limits of current technologies come right to the forefront when you realize how much battery power you’re burning when the Watch 3 is off on its own. You’ll have to toss it back on the charger after a freewheeling outing of any reasonable length of time. Potentially bad news for runners, a group Apple has targeted particularly hard: You’ll most likely want to have a full charge before tackling anything more than 10 miles, assuming you’re tracking progress, getting messages, and listening to music over Bluetooth, which is a safe assumption because why wouldn’t you? And once you’re back from this unusually sybaritic jog, the watch will most likely go right back on the charger.

But of course battery technology will improve, though so far it stubbornly refuses to obey anything like Moore’s Law of huge advances in short periods of time. And the platform is evolving; big news for devotees is that a Spotify app is coming this summer, which will allow users to opt out of at least a part of the Apple ecosystem. In short, the watch just keeps getting better. In fact, it works so well that it’s finally lifted the smartwatch from the status of interesting toy to that of possible tool.

“There’s a social hurdle, one aided and abetted by Apple itself. For many people, the smartphone replaced the wristwatch. Now the company wants us to buy a wristwatch to enhance the smartphone experience.”

That may be somewhat of a problem, or at least a situation. Here’s the thing: It took a while for people to adjust to taking phone calls in public, and some people still can’t do so within the bounds of the etiquette that evolved to fit the new social reality. The same thing happened with Bluetooth calling: Walking down the street talking into your phone was one thing, but walking down the street talking to nothing visible was quite another. Now we have the Dick Tracy option to speak into our wrist, which you will, because although the watch can interpret letters drawn on its screen, using voice-to-text is still the best way to respond to text messages, and we couldn’t find a Bluetooth device that worked anywhere near as well for that as speaking directly into the watch itself. And there’s the looking-at-your-watch thing again.

There’s another social hurdle to overcome, one aided and abetted by Apple itself. For many people, the smartphone replaced the wristwatch; now Apple wants us to buy a wristwatch to enhance the smartphone experience. Okay.

As beautifully and seamlessly as it works, the Apple Watch’s looks have always been somewhat less than beautiful. Because it’s locked into the brand’s minimalist, function-over-form design language, it’s basically a thick rectangular lozenge with a crown on the side. This is without a doubt the best—perhaps the only—choice for a touchscreen-based digital assistant, maximizing tactile real estate without metastasizing into an embarrassing digital lump. It’s a brilliant lozenge, as lozenges go, with the proportions carefully considered, the edges radiused just so, the single knob of the Digital Crown proportioned precisely and set in exactly the right place, the strap disappearing into the body of the watch so cleanly that you won’t notice it unless you make a point of looking. And isn’t there a long tradition of rectangular watches, from the Cartier Tank on down, for Apple to buy into?

Sure. But those are wristwatches. They have mystique. They tick and wind down and mark time whether you’re looking at them or not; to their users, they have a complex inner life, and if you doubt this you’re ignoring the long tradition of windows allowing you to view the movements and complications. People like to see their watches move, to literally see what makes them tick. But when you’re not using it, or receiving a notification, the Apple Watch simply goes blank. This robs the user of some of its best design, the digital watch faces, some of which are well-executed versions of standard dials, some of which are entertainingly weird, and all of which, sadly, disappear after a few seconds of inactivity. It’s a battery issue again, and it’s one the engineers have to get cracking on now, because having the Watch go blank is possibly a bigger problem for the watch as a product than the limited LTE connectivity.

One of the reasons early LED watches haven’t really caught on as classic collectibles, despite marking an interesting chapter in horology, is that unless the button was pressed to display the time, they were inert hunks of expensive billet. When LCD watches hit the market, with their lower power consumption allowing the time to be displayed constantly, designers found that incorporating some sort of motion made their gadgets much more desirable, which is why the colon flashes once a second on your vintage Casio. That it marks the passing seconds is, well, secondary—the fact is, people like the blinking “tick.” It’s the visible complication of the late 20th century.

Apple, on the other hand, from its computers to its phones to this watch, is notorious about concealing any sort of complications from the user. They most certainly do not want you to see what makes their stuff tick. That may work for media players and phones, but it ignores a large part of what the experience of luxury watch ownership is about. Whenever you look at it, or even happen to glance at it, or catch it in your peripheral vision, a traditional watch is dynamic by design; something is moving, a spinning tourbillon or sweeping second hand, or that flashing separator, but something. The Apple Watch is glossy, black, empty. It looks sleek in photos; in person, it suffers from a near-complete lack of presence. It’s one thing for Siri to be silent until you need her. But the Watch, when not actively telling you something, doesn’t do anything at all. It just looks… not dead, exactly, but certainly lifeless.

Those with a use for it, the hyper-connected and the hyper-fit, will like it, because it makes sense as a tool for those who run the world and those who just run. Those who don’t need it, though, will continue to have a hard time wanting it. That’s a shame, because the Apple Watch 3 is an exceptional wearable. And just a tick shy of being a brilliant watch.

Hit List: Breitling Exospace B55 Yachting

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.

$7,170; breitling.com

Girard-Perregaux: The Final Frontier

The divide between past and future is collapsing.

 

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.

 

 


 

 

Constant Escapement L.M.

 

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.

 

 


 

 

Laureato 42 mm

 

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.

 

 


 

 

Laureato Skeleton Ceramic 

 

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.

 

One (Perfect) Day in Berlin With NOMOS Glashütte

Spending time at work, hours and minutes can often feel slow and deliberate. But when visiting a foreign city on vacation, rules change. Scheduling becomes irrelevant. In a recent issue of Watch Journal, we featured a travel story about Berlin, a city our friends at NOMOS Glashütte know well. Concurrently, the German watch brand brings us a new series of watches with a significant update: Tangente, Orion, and Ludwig, each with a radically redesigned caliber, the neomatik date DUW 6101. These pieces require less maintenance, provide greater precision, and offer super-legible date indicators. Perfect for getting the most out of a day in Berlin, a bustling city that demands punctuality.


8:00 am –  The Tangente neomatik 41 Update at the Hotel Oderberger

NOMOS Glashütte Tangente neomatik 41 Update. (Photo courtesy of NOMOS Glashütte)

The ideal watch to start the day, the Tangente easily synchronizes to local time (GMT +2). Gained or lost a day in transit? A simple turn of the crown sets the date backward or forward, with a cool, red marker that travels around the outer ring of the dial.

Facade of Hotel Oderberger, formerly Oderberger Stadtbad

“This boutique hotel occupies an old public bathing house [designed by architect Ludwig Hoffmann in 1898]–the rooms still have some of the old features, and, more importantly, the swimming pool is open to all. We held an event here last summer to launch our Aqua series.” 

– NOMOS Glashütte
NOMOS Glashütte Tangente neomatik 41 Update. (Photo courtesy of NOMOS Glashütte)

10:30 am – Tour The Boros Collection, but keep an eye on the Tangente. The museum can only accommodate 12 people at a time, and German-language tours start on the full hour, English on the half-hour. Open Thursday thru Sunday, 10 am to 8 pm. (Make sure to book a viewing in advance.)

The Boros Collection. (Photos, including opening image, by NOSHE)

“Only in Berlin can you find 3,000 meters of exhibition space in a converted war bunker. We share the Boros’ love for clean and creative design, rooted in the 20th century but constantly in dialogue with today’s developments.”

– NOMOS Glashütte

NOMOS Glashütte Tangente neomatik 41 Update Specs:

  • Oxidized black hands
  • Steel case with anti-reflective sapphire crystal dial
  • Automatic movement
  • Diameter: 40.5 mm
  • Height: 7.9 mm
  • Weight: 58 g
  • Horween black cordovan leather strap
  • Reference 180

12:00 pm  – The Ludwig nemomatik 41 Date at the Berlinische Galerie

NOMOS Glashütte Ludwig neomatik 41 Date. (Photo courtesy of NOMOS Glashütte)

Midday is ideal for contemplating great German design. The Ludwig has it in spades. Its date window sits at the 4 o’clock position, displayed in Arabic type—a smart, contrasting twist alongside the dial’s elegant Roman numerals.

Berlinische Galerie. (Photo by Nina Strassguetl)

“This is one of our favorite museums in Berlin, as it focuses on local art from the past 150 years, giving a real insight into the cultural history of the city.”

– NOMOS Glashütte
NOMOS Glashütte Ludwig Neomatik 41 Date. (Photo courtesy of NOMOS Glashütte)

3:00 pm – Visit the Istanbul-inspired Turkish Bazaar. Again, timing is everything here. The open-air market is only open on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11:30 am to 6:30 pm.

Turkish Bazaar. (Photo by Neil G Hamilton)

“NOMOS employees can often be found here on their lunch breaks, having a stroll, or getting groceries.”

– NOMOS Glashütte

NOMOS Glashütte Ludwig neomatik 41 Date Specs:

  • Steel case with anti-reflective sapphire crystal dial
  • Tempered steel blue hands
  • Automatic movement
  • Diameter: 40.5 mm
  • Height: 7.7 mm
  • Weight: 54 g
  • Horween black cordovan leather strap
  • Reference 260

7:00 pm – The Orion neomatik 41 Date for an evening at Katz Orange

NOMOS Glashütte Orion neomatik 41 Date (Photo courtesy of NOMOS Glashütte)

Nighttime is ideal for the Orion, named after the constellation, with its elegant golden indices, small seconds at the 6 o’clock position, and date window at 3. Ideal for a stylish night out on the town. Here, that means a fabulous dinner at Katz Orange. Reservations can easily be made online via OpenTable.

Kate Orange Courtyard. (Photo by Thanasis Boucharas)

“We also think [Katz Orange] has great taste in desserts—try the petit fours, to which we have dedicated our latest series of Tetra watches.”

– NOMOS Glashütte
NOMOS Glashütte Orion neomatik 41 Date. (Photo courtesy of NOMOS Glashütte)

NOMOS Glashütte Orion neomatik 41 Date Specs:

  • Steel case with anti-reflective sapphire crystal dial
  • Tempered steel blue hands
  • Automatic movement
  • Diameter: 40.5 mm
  • Height: 9.35 mm
  • Weight: 58 g
  • Horween black cordovan leather strap
  • Reference 360

Hit List: TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 02

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.

$5,500; tagheuer.com

Hit List: Longines Avigation Big Eye

Even Longines president Walter Von Känel was taken off guard when this chronograph took home the Revival Prize at last year’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie. In retrospect, we shouldn’t have been so surprised; the BigEye oozes authenticity. It’s a straight reissue of an obscure 1930s pilot’s watch, rediscovered by a collector and brought to the attention of the brand’s heritage team.

They revived it, shoehorning a modern automatic movement (54-hour power reserve, 4Hz frequency) inside a 41 mm stainless case, while faithfully recreating the original’s dial arrangement. Between that quirky, oversized sub-register at the 3 o’clock position, the neat backstory, everyman price point, and GPHG pedigree, this one’s a no-brainer.

$2,650; longines.com

Hit List: Bremont ALT1-C/BL

The world’s oldest independent military air fleet, England’s Royal Air Force, turns 100 this year.

Fittingly, it’s Bremont kicking off centennial celebrations, skipping Baselworld to debut a fresh iteration of its flagship chronograph in London. Here, the ALT1-C ditches Arabic numerals for dial indices, and gets a new handset, a 43 mm satin case, and an enlarged exhibition-style caseback. Plus a blue dial and matching nubuck strap, a nod to the RAF’s signature color.

$6,495; bremont.com

Hit List: Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision Coral Bay

If the Freak Vision—a small-batch, all-platinum, self-winding, 45 mm wristwatch without a crown or hands—wasn’t wild enough for you, check the Coral Bay.

In the foreground, red and white acrylic paints go onto the barrel bridge; behind it, lacquers are mixed directly on the dial and heat-treated at 90 degrees between each application. Details are hand-applied, requiring some 20 hours of painting time.

$108,000; ulysse-nardin.com

Hit List: Zenith El Primero Range Rover Special Edition

Building stately, capable 4×4 rigs for expedition remains Land Rover’s core competency.

But modern customers are more Moschino than Magellan. The new Range Rover SVAutobiography fills out the brand’s rugged backbone with next-level luxe accoutrements. It’s offered exclusively as a long-wheelbase model, guaranteeing limo-like legroom. Highlights include hot-stone-massaging rear seats, an onboard Champagne chiller, and push-button-operated electronic doors.

The El Primero Range Rover Special Edition strikes a similar balance between style and utility, putting Zenith’s venerated high-beat chronograph movement inside a unique 42 mm ceramised aluminum case with a perforated leather strap. For making an entrance at far-flung locales, nothing else comes close.


Range Rover SVAutobiography, from $207,900; landroverusa.com
Zenith El Primero Range Rover Special Edition, $7,700; zenith-watches.com

Mini Mania Hits The Big Time

Iconic watches get comfortable with small-scale replicas of furniture classics. 

(Photo: Doug Young)

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional Chronograph 42 mm, $5,250; omegawatches.com
+
DKR Wire Chair by Charles & Ray Eames from 1951, $325; vitra.com


(Photo: Doug Young)

A.Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase Black Dial, $29,000; alange-soehne.com
+
Marshmallow Sofa by George Nelson from 1956, $795; vitra.com


(Photo: Doug Young)

Cartier Santos de Cartier Large Model, $20,400; cartier.com
+
Bocca by Studio 65 Sofa from 1970, $795; vitra.com


(Photo: Doug Young)

Vacheron Constantin Overseas Dual Time, $24,700; vacheron-constantin.com
+
Lockheed Lounge by Marc Newson from 1986, $1,395; vitra.com


(Photo: Doug Young)

Bulgari Octo Ultranero, $6,950; bulgari.com
+
Heart-Shaped Cone Chair by Verner Panton from 1958, $335; vitra.com


(Photo: Doug Young)

Breguet Classique 7787 Moon Phase, $30,200; breguet.com
+
Johnson Wax Chair by Frank Lloyd Wright from 1939, $410; vitra.com


(Photo: Doug Young)

Piaget Altiplano 38 mm, $15,200; piaget.com
+
La Chaise by Charles & Ray Eames from 1948; $355; vitra.com


(Photo: Doug Young)

Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Black Matte Ceramic, $3,500; bellross.com
+
Tulip Chair by Eero Saarinen from 1956, $285; vitra.com

Hit List: Louis Vuitton’s Radical Transparency

On March 6, Louis Vuitton designer Nicolas Ghesquière unveiled his fall/winter 2018 fashion collection in a little-used hidden courtyard at the Louvre Museum, in Paris. An inspired visionary, Ghesquière’s ideas of how we’ll want to look in six months will, no doubt, have repercussions on fashion for years to come. Science fiction references have always been an integral part of his work, interweaving idealized concepts of the future and what humans will want to wear. The latest garments referenced multiple time periods, paired with a single long glove, astronaut style name tags, and printed bags resembling circuit boards. The models emerged on what appeared to be the hatch of a spaceship, introducing the Vuitton fall/winter collection with a startling intergalactic appeal.

Two weeks earlier, on the other side of the globe, La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton, the equally visionary watchmaking division of LVMH, unveiled another avant-garde timepiece, the Tambour Moon Mystérieuse Flying Tourbillon, with a little less fanfare. Resembling the clean lines of Star Trek’s Enterprise, the platinum Tambour Moon updates the 19th-century “mysterious” concept to propose a modern-day movement that appears to be floating in space.

Created using sapphire crystal discs with imaginative ingenuity, the optical illusion plays an important technical part in the mechanics of the watch, but magically disappears before your very eyes. And, like the iconic Vuitton luggage, the back of the tourbillon cage can be personalized with the customer’s own initials. The mesmerizing gleam of the spinning mechanical elements brings to mind the interlocking initials and fleur-de-lis symbols of the iconic “LV” monogram.

The LV 110 caliber, which boasts a remarkable eight-day power reserve, is concealed within the 54 mm Tambour Moon’s concave platinum case. The manual wind mechanical movement displays hours and minutes, along with a tourbillon cage designed to resemble a monogram flower that rotates around the dial every 60 seconds. Beneath the Monogram Flower at 12 o’clock lies the co-axial double barrel, above the central wheels dedicated to the hours and minutes, followed by the tourbillon carriage at 6 o’clock, all forming a vertical straight line.

This is where the “mysterious” use of transparent sapphire crystal comes into play, allowing for the appearance of the lack of connection between the winding crown and the double barrel, along with the spinning flying tourbillon that rotates around the dial once every minute. The introduction of the Tambour Moon propels Louis Vuitton into the stratosphere of high watchmaking, while still adhering to the original fundamental codes of the house.

Founded in 1854, Louis Vuitton has always played a supporting role in developing transportation technologies by creating innovative goods for all types of travel. This has helped the maison evolve, keeping pace with changing times by proposing solutions for passengers and operators of automobiles, passenger liners, trains, and airplanes, all intended for ease of use, freedom, and, of course, style.

It will only be a matter of time before Vuitton introduces goods for space travel; the day of taking your moon phase to the Moon (and someday Mars) will be here before you know it. Just as fashion shows allow us, however briefly, to look seasons ahead, the Louis Vuitton Tambour Moon Mystérieuse Flying Tourbillon envisions the future with startling clarity.

This Isn’t Your Grandmother’s Cartier

If Gérald Genta is the Phil Spector of watch design, then Cartier is the Berry Gordy, having produced some of the 20th century’s greatest hits: the Tank, the Santos, the Ballon Bleu. The past few years have seen Cartier paying homage to its most iconic watches—2017 marked the 100th anniversary of the ever-popular Tank and the reintroduction of the Panthére, born of the 1980’s glitzy excesses. This year, the spotlight turns to the Baignoire, a style that epitomizes the house’s penchant for pieces with sleek, geometric lines.

Named for its distinct oval dial (the name translates to “bathtub” en français), the Baignoire was designed by Louis Cartier in 1906, though it truly rose to popularity in the 1960s after being donned by screen sirens Catherine Deneuve and Romy Schneider. With its elegant curves and delicate proportions, the Baignoire is pure feminine grace.

Cartier Libre Baignoire Débordante

But the latest batch of Baignoires, debuted at Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie 2018, leave all of that demure heritage in the dust. The new collection, called Cartier Libre, takes the classic oval form and turns up the volume, distorting and reimagining the shape in four limited-edition styles: These are all about big, bold extravagance, pushing the Baignoire’s silhouette to extremes.

The Baignoire Débordante, which translates roughly to “overflowing bathtub,” features an elongated black dial surrounded by white gold rays dripping with diamonds and black spinels. The Baignoire Infinie uses a thick cuff bracelet as the base for a microdial surrounded by rings of sunburst marquetry, inlaid with a mix of diamond baguettes, black spinels, and white-and-gray mother-of-pearl.

Cartier Libre Baignoire Etoilée

The Baignoire Etoilée turns the oval horizontally, with a quilted dial suspended from a fluid bracelet of cascading white diamonds that fade into black spinels. The Baignoire Interdite also features a horizontal dial, but oversize and obscured by glossy black Roman numerals that haphazardly wrap around the face and diamond-studded bezel like very luxurious bondage.

Each of the styles will be produced in numbered editions of between 15 and 50 pieces, making them inherently collectible. But the appeal of Cartier Libre goes beyond mere exclusivity. Not only are these four designs imaginative displays of the brand’s decorative savoir faire, they are evidence of what is surely a rare occurrence: Cartier throwing orthodoxy out the window and reveling in its wild side.

The Hero Family Behind Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Watch Straps

Inside a modest workshop on the western outskirts of Buenos Aires, four men are hard at work.

They measure patterns and heat irons over an open flame, methodically whetting and polishing and hammering. The tables are covered in awls, spurs, wrought-iron pincers. Rolls of exquisite calfskin and horsehide are stacked waist-high. Rows and rows of hardwood shoe lasts line the shelves.

Welcome to Casa Fagliano, a bastion of traditional bootmaking. The workshop first opened in 1892, across the street from the Asociación Civil Hurlingham Club. The latter establishment grew into the nation’s equestrian sports epicenter, hosting Abierto de Hurlingham, one of the world’s most prestigious polo tournaments. Casa Fagliano found an eager clientele. English-style polo boots became a specialty.

Germàn, the Fagliano clan’s youngest member, shows off his wares.

Four generations later, the operation remains a family affair. Rodolfo, the 86-year-old patriarch, cuts leather and welts soles alongside his sons, Eduardo and Hector, and his grandson, Germán. To them, “mass-production” is a four-letter word; these guys make each boot by hand, one at a time. Order a bespoke pair with matching kneepads and wood trees, and you can expect to join a six-to-eight-month waiting list—albeit one that includes Prince Harry, Tommy Lee Jones, and the Sultan of Brunei.

Also Jaeger-LeCoultre. The Swiss watchmaker first collaborated with Casa Fagliano seven years ago, commissioning straps for a limited-edition Reverso Tribute to 1931. Now, the two firms have teamed up again, this time on a special version of the Reverso Tribute Duo, which features a Cordovan leather strap, designed and handmade in the Fagliano workshop. According to Geoffroy Lefebvre, deputy CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre, the continued partnership is a matter of values and pedigree.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Duo (Casa Fagiliano strap), $22,900; jaeger-lecoultre.com 

“Both our realms share a passion for the product, respect for expert craftsmanship, meticulous attention to detail and the pursuit of perfection,” says Lefebvre. “The Reverso was originally created in 1931 for British Army officers in India who were anxious to protect the glass of their watches while playing polo…. Therefore the relationship between the inventor of the polo watch and the most prestigious polo boot manufacturer was natural.”

The two-tone Fagliano band complements the Duo’s pink-gold case, which, as ever, features two dials. The main face is sun-brushed satin gray; it swivels and tucks away to reveal a secondary dial, silvered with Clous de Paris guilloché detailing and a day-night indicator. Both sides have formal dauphine hands, gold-plated hour markers, and run off a manual, in-house movement, offering a 42-hour power reserve.

Just 100 examples of the Reverso Tribute Duo will be offered on a Casa Fagiliano Edition strap, an order that took the leather-workers an entire year to fill. But, unlike the previous Tribute to 1931, which was exclusive to American stores, this new watch will be available at Jaeger-LeCoultre boutiques worldwide—and, yes, that includes the Buenos Aires store.

Hit List: NOMOS Glashütte at Work Metro Rosegold

The notable, the collectible, the just plain cool…

 

For a no-nonsense take on the modern office watch, consider going German. The NOMOS At Work line (seriously, nonsense is verboten) puts the company’s thinnest, lightest automatic caliber into a larger 38.5 mm case, then adds a super-sleek, mega-minimal face. The collection encompasses more than a dozen pieces, all of them exceptionally sharp. Even in that company, the Metro, now available in brilliant rose gold, is a standout.

PHOTO: NOMOS Glashütte
PHOTO: NOMOS Glashütte

 

NOMOS Glashütte at Work Metro Rosegold, $9,700; nomos-glashuette.com

Hit List: A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Tribute to Walter Lange

The notable, the collectible, the just plain cool…

Walter Lange was a horological titan, equal parts technical maestro and visionary businessman. When the Berlin Wall came down, he seized on the opportunity to resurrect his great grandfather’s watch company; within a decade of relaunching, the firm was turning out instant-classic designs and developing superfine mechanicals in-house. The felicitously-named Tribute to Walter Lange celebrates the man, who died last year, by debuting an all-new movement. It’s a hand-wound, 36-jewel beauty, featuring an independent, stoppable seconds function—one of Lange’s favorite complications. The watch is available in pink, yellow, or white gold, limited to 145 pieces total and retailing at $47,000 each. The stainless steel example seen here? It’s a one-off made for charity, set to be auctioned by Phillips in Geneva on May 12.

*** Final Hammer Price: Sold for $852,525. Read more about it here.

A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Tribute to Walter Lange,  alange-soehne.com & phillips.com

PHOTO: Courtesy A. Lange & Söhne

Hit List: Montblanc Timewalker Rally Timer 100 Limited Edition

The notable, the collectible, the just plain cool…

 

The standout piece from Montblanc’s Timewalker collection defies categorization. Fundamentally, it’s a dashboard lap timer. But it’s designed to detach from the mounting bezel, effectively becoming a monopusher stopwatch. There’s also a deployable leather wrist strap, so you can wear it as an oversized chronograph. The kicker? Two legs fold out from the caseback, transforming the Rally Timer 100 into a handsome desk clock.

Montblanc Timewalker Rally Timer 100 Limited Edition (Limited to 100 pieces) $33,600; montblanc.com

Hit List: Breitling Navitimer

The notable, the collectible, the just plain cool…

 

While the name begs for nostalgia—“eight” translates to huit in French, an allusion to Breitling’s Huit Aviation Department from WWI—the execution here is unsentimental. The latest Navitimer has no slide rule, no winged “B” logo, both breaks from long-standing tradition. (It was also unveiled on Instagram and launched in Shanghai, a decidedly progressive approach for one of Switzerland’s oldest marques.) The familiar in-house automatic chronometer movement does carry over. But consider the B01, the first new watch under Georges Kern, who departed IWC to take over Breitling last year, a harbinger of change for the brand.

$7,710; breitling.com

 

What Drives Michel Parmigiani?

The backstory is the stuff of horological legend. In the mid 1970s, as the Swiss watch industry teetered on the brink of collapse, Michel Parmigiani decided that somebody should be protecting the country’s old-world relics. The finicky pocket watches and fragile objéts d’art seemed particularly precious and vulnerable. So he opened a workshop in Fleurier, Switzerland, and he started fixing them.

 

The move proved cathartic—“Restoring antique timepieces saved me from nihilism,” Parmigiani says—and it allowed him to amass a singular wealth of knowledge. Partial backing from the Sandoz Family Foundation, an artistic-leaning venture capitalist outfit, turned Parmigiani’s once-modest operation into a full-blown manufacture, dubbed Parmigiani Fleurier, in 1996. The brand’s first in-house movement was rolled out two years later.

 

Known as PF110, the inaugural calibre was a manual-winding marvel, brimming with artisan details and boasting an epic eight-day power reserve. Watch nerds swooned. Collectors did the same when the movement debuted inside Parmigiani Fleurier’s flagship wristwatch, the Kalpa, in 2001.

 

This year, that iconic piece will enjoy a renaissance of sorts, as the company introduces three new creations under the Kapla banner. Each offers a clever reimagining of the original watch’s signature styling, incorporating the classic tonneau-shaped case and teardrop-shaped lugs. The Kalpa Hebdomadaire even uses an updated version of that original PF110 movement, making it a surefire hit with brand devotees.

 

On the eve of its premiere, we sat down with Michel Parmigiani to discuss the virtues of independence, finding inspiration in Southeast Asia, and the future of his namesake manufacture.

 

“Restoring antique timepieces saved me from nihilism,” says Michael Parmigiani, world-renown horologist and founder of Parmigiani Fleurier.

 

***

 

You’ve spent your life making and restoring luxury watches. What keeps you going?

 

Curiosity. Curiosity, and the desire to discover this noble work.

 

Why is it noble?

 

It’s a vocation that requires mastery of your own hands, mastery of your actions. And before you can do that, you must first master your mind. It is a life discipline, similar to that of a surgeon. One must learn how to use tools, while maintaining complete control over them.

 

I’ve read that you initially wanted to be an architect. Is this true?

 

Architecture has always captivated me—building houses and bridges, the ability to measure and produce a certain form. It is a source of inexhaustible inspiration, and horology is very similar. At first, I really hesitated between these two professions. But there was a watchmaking school fifteen minutes from my place in Fleurier. So I enrolled there.

 

You launched your brand in 1996. The watch world was a very different place then—we barely had the internet. What’s different now?

 

The simple parts of watchmaking have become industrialized, and computers certainly help us achieve more, and more rapidly. But in the end, a fine luxury watch must still be made by hand. Take our 1950 Tourbillon, for example. Its creation requires a very high-end process that we’ve been developing for twenty years. You need both machines and experienced watchmakers to deliver it. There is no other way to compose this work of art but by patience and experience.

 

Why did you choose the Toric Memory Time as your debut watch?

 

Before we launched, I was walking on a beach in Malaysia and picked up a shell with a striking shape. It was thick in front, but if you turned it just forty-five degrees, it gave the impression of being very thin. I said to myself, When I launch my first watch, I’m going to capture this optical illusion. Toric Memory Time also displays a second time zone for travelers. For the launch, it was important to demonstrate my know-how, my savoir faire. This watch is particularly complex, and I’ve been developing different models of it ever since.

 

Back in 2011, you created a movement based on the Hijri Calendar, which tracks the lunar cycles of the Islamic year. Why did that interest you?

 

The moon has great importance in our lives, and we don’t pay much attention to it. So I wanted to create a perpetual lunar calendar, which meant I had to be able to measure it. The lunar year is faster than the solar year, with difference of about eleven days. It’s not religious symbolism. It’s a scientific instrument that depicts the lunar cycle in mechanical form. When you look at it, you can see the days, months, and years of the moon.

 

This took years to develop. Did your colleagues call you crazy?

 

I’ve always been considered crazy for doing this job in the first place! When I started in watchmaking, the industry was in a quartz crisis. But, for me, it is very important to develop new projects and new ways of thinking—which allows the industry to evolve.

 

You also spent a great deal of time restoring a 200-year-old gold-and-pearl pistol that fires a chirping mechanical bird. Why?

 

It wasn’t working. Before launching my brand, I was known for restoring old timepieces, including pocket watches. When you see what has been created in the past, it’s very humbling. As for the pistol, and it took a year and a half to restore. I ended up restoring three of them for our collection.  

 

The world’s top watchmakers enlist your company—which employs roughly 400 watchmakers, in five separate manufacturing houses—to make parts for their products. How do you explain what sets you apart?

 

We’re masters of the tools we use. We’re nimble, efficient, and a hundred percent Swiss-made. Not many houses can say that.

 

How do you see Parmigiani Fleurier evolving?  

 

We don’t plan to buy anything, or expand. We just want to make beautiful mechanical watches and remain independent. Over the past twenty years, we’ve invested in a strong staff that has truly mastered the tourbillon and chronograph. Of course, we won’t stop there. For me, it’s simple: I want to break the rules and making something you cannot find anywhere else.

Bell & Ross Vintage Bellytanker

 Bell & Ross channels the heyday of American Land Speed Record



Looking for a retro-style timepiece with a killer backstory? Look no further than the Bell & Ross Vintage Bellytanker collection, inspired by early Land Speed Record racecars, which invaded dry lake beds and salt flats during the 1940s and ’50s. Like hot rods, bellytankers were highly customized in nature and home-brew in spirit. Unlike hot rods, they weren’t recognizable as Mercurys or Chevrolets; Land Speed Record car bodies were streamlined fabrications, often utilizing World War II fighter plane emergency drop tanks—“belly tanks,” in military parlance.

Bill Burke, a former Coast Guardsman, is widely credited with building the first bellytanker, repurposing a P-51 Mustang spare that he purchased for $35. The resulting creation, once equipped with a hopped-up V8 engine, was capable of reaching 130 mph. (For reference, most family sedans of the era struggled to hit 70 mph.) But Burke soon realized the 165-gallon tank couldn’t accommodate a full-size driver seat. So he welded in a bicycle seat.

Repeat: These guys went 130 mph, inside a scrapped fuel tank, sitting on a bicycle seat.

Bellytanker-style concept car, built by Bell & Ross to promote the new watches

Wherever there’s history, airplanes, and lunatic speeds, Bell & Ross is sure to be nearby. The company honors Burke and his breed of hot-rodder with Bellytanker editions of two pieces from the Vintage collection, the time-and-date BR V1-92 and the BR V1-94 chronograph. The former offers a simpler, plain-bezel look and smaller 38.5 mm size, while the latter measures 41 mm and features a fixed-position tachymeter.

Bell & Ross V1-92 (left) and V2-94 chronograph (right) — the latter is also available on a stainless bracelet for an additional $300

Both employ an automatic mechanical movement, boast a satin-steel-polished case and gorgeous gilt metallic copper dial, offer 100m water resistance, and feature a too-cool custom casebook design. Unsurprisingly, these Bellytanker watches are a limited-run proposition. Only 1000 will be made in total—500 of the BR V1-92 and 500 of the BR V1-94.

Bell & Ross BR V1-92 Bellytanker ($2,300) and BR V2-94 Bellytanker ($4,400 – $4,700); bellross.com 

Hit List: Rado HyperChrome Bronze Chrono Limited Edition

Black bezel, bronze details, leather strap. Rado cranks up the contrast.

More than a century after the company was founded, Rado remains synonymous with pioneering use of ceramic. The material is handsome, hypoallergenic, lightweight. It’s also tough as hell, and that means most Rados won’t score and scuff like a comparable steel watch. For those who like a little patina on their wrist, there’s the new HyperChrome Bronze Chrono.

Limited to 999 pieces, special-edition takes the classic 45mm HyperChrome design and introduces bronze elements—the chrono pushers, side inserts, and crown are all hewn from the stuff. The addition of rose gold hands and indexes emphasize the metallic sheen, creating a neat contrast with the high-tech black ceramic. It’ll only get more striking with age, as the bronze continues to wear-in around the rest of the scratch-resistant case.

Inside, there’s a 37-jewel ETA automatic chronograph movement, offering 42 hours power reserve, and Rado says it’s water resistant up to 100 meters. Unique engravings (on the side, “CuSn8,” the code for bronze alloy, plus requisite caseback numbering) and a vintage-look leather strap (instead of the standard HyperChrome bracelet) round out the look.

Like what you see? Keep an eye out, as the Bronze Chrono is set to debut at Baselworld next month. Expect a price tag around $5,000 when it reaches retailers later this year. 

 

Hit List: NOMOS At Work Metro Roségold

NOMOS Glashütte does white collar in rose gold.


We love complicated divers and bold pilots’ watches as much as the next guy. But unless you’re James Cameron, or currently enrolled in the Top Gun program, those might not be suitable for the office. For a stylish alternative, check the latest Neomatik models from NOMOS Glashütte, which bring a nononsense approach to the modern office watch. Simply called “At Work”—seriously, nonsense is verboten—this new line matches a slender automatic caliber and larger 38.5 mm diameter, then adds super-refined dial layout. The collection encompasses 14 pieces, all of them exceptionally sharp. Even in that company, the Metro, available for the first time in 18-karat rose gold, is a standout.

NOMOS Glashütte At Work Metro Roségold Neomatik 39, $9,700; nomos-glashuette.com

Hit List: Ralph Lauren 867



Sleek. Geometric. Detailed. The integrated steel bracelet and case of Ralph Lauren’s new 867 timepiece (now enlarged to 35 mm) feels unabashedly art deco, harking back to the architectural splendor of 1930s New York. The dial injects Jazz Age swing, agreeably mixing Arabic and Roman numerals with Breguet-style hands.
To maximize the effect, go for that off-white lacquered face. It’s like Benny Goodman standing in a Raymond Hood lobby, sitting on your wrist. Sure, there’s a trusty Sellita-based, self-winding Swiss mechanical movement ticking away inside. But make no mistake: This one’s an American classic. 

Ralph Lauren 867 Steel, $4,600; ralphlauren.com

 

 

Hit List: Hermès Cape Cod 2018

Hermès updates a high-class classic: the Double Tour Cape Cod.


Hermes Cape CodMore than a quarter-century after its introduction, the Cape Cod remains a smart-prep staple. The design marries nautical callbacks (the case shape comes from Hermès’ “Chaîne d’Ancre” link, aping an anchor chain), high-fashion flourishes (the “Double Tour” strap, added in 1998, was famously designed by Martin Margiela), and Parisian whimsey (Hey, square-inside-rectangle!)

This latest iteration emphasizes the maritime element, replacing the traditional Arabic numerals with Chaîne d’Ancre hour markers at the cardinal positions. It also introduces an handsome new blue-lacquered dial. Double down with the Malta blue grained strap, for full oceanic effect.

Hermès Cape Cod 2018, $4,300; hermes.com

 

Hit List: From Glashütte With Love: A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Tribute to Walter Lange

A. Lange & Söhne honors the inimitable Walter Lange with an inimitable special-edition timepiece (and an all-new movement.)


Walter Lange (Credit: A. Lange & Söhne Archive)

Walter Lange was a horological titan, equal parts technical maestro and visionary businessman. When the Berlin Wall came down, he seized on the opportunity to resurrect his great grandfather’s watch company; within a decade of relaunching, the firm was turning out instant-classic designs and developing superfine mechanical movements.

A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Tribute to Walter Lange
A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Tribute to Walter Lange

The felicitously named A. Lange & Söhne Tribute to Walter Lange celebrates the man, who died last year, by debuting an all-new movement. It’s a hand-wound, 36-jewel beauty, which features an independent, stoppable seconds complication. In a nice touch, the caliber name (L1924) and reference no. (297) also point to Lange’s birthday (July 29, 1924).

Lange & Söhne 1815 Tribute to Walter Lange, $55,775; alange-soehne.com

 

Hit List: Think Thin: Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat

Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Automatique

Breguet’s super-slim tourbillon gets a minimalist makeover.


Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Automatique
Looking for a thin tourbillon? Talk about being spoiled for choice. In recent years, we’ve seen remarkably slender movements from Arnold & Son (2.97 mm) and Bulgari (1.95 mm). But both of those are manual-wind. Breguet’s caliber 581, found in the Classique line, lays claim to the thinnest automatic tourbillon on the market today. 

The Classique Extra-Plat 5367 brings a new grand feu off-white enamel dial, sans power indicator, offering maximum contrast with minimal clutter. The 18-karat rose gold case retains the customary open backing—all the better to study the mechanical triumph therein: an 80-hour power reserve, at 4Hz frequency, from a 3mm movement.

Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Automatique 5367, Price Upon Request; breguet.com

Cover Story: Hublot Goes Clear

Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire

With a completely transparent encasing of its Grand Complication, Hublot redefines the concept of what a precious material can be.


By Stephen Watson

Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire
(Photo: Doug Young)

Pink gold? Platinum? Titanium? Market trends predict a return to a new type of discretion. So how about a grand complication that can barely be seen yet has nowhere to hide?

We’re talking, of course, about the magnificent watch on this month’s cover: Hublot’s Big Bang Unico Sapphire. What at first glance appears to be a timepiece made out of clear plastic is, in fact, an ingenious see-through case cut from a solid block of sapphire crystal. Incredibly scratch-resistant and almost as tough as diamond, the case lays bare the inner workings of the HUB1270 UNICO Manufacture self-winding perpetual calendar and chronograph movement in all its technical virtuosity. It’s a watch that must be seen to be believed.

Watch Journal had the opportunity to speak with Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO of Hublot, about the brand’s cutting-edge creativity, mechanical innovations, and enduring devotion to the Art of Fusion.

Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire
(Photo: Hublot)

How did the concept of the clear watch come about?

The idea was to play with the visible and the invisible—to present the heart of an exceptional timepiece as if it was suspended in the air. With a transparent case, a movement can be admired at 360 degrees. Our dream had long been to produce such a watch entirely in colorless sapphire, which is light, nearly invisible, and virtually scratch-proof. Sapphire is one of the hardest materials on earth, second only to diamond.

We also liked the idea that a transparent watch would allow us to highlight Hublot’s tradition of constant innovation in using and developing new materials.

Speaking of cutting-edge materials, Hublot is known for what it calls the Art of Fusion. How has this helped to define the brand’s DNA?

Combining two materials that never coexist in nature is the driving idea at Hublot. Even the first Hublot models from 1980 merged gold cases with rubber straps—quite extravagant for that time! Just like watchmakers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, we will use classic materials such as gold for the case or brass for the movement—however, we combine them with other materials like titanium, ceramic, carbon fiber, Kevlar, even rubber. And we don’t stop there, because we also develop our own new materials. For instance, we have worked in conjunction with the EPFL in Lausanne on basic scientific research for many years. And from this cooperation has arisen a scratch-resistant gold and ceramic alloy that Hublot calls “Magic Gold.”

As a motto, the “Art of Fusion” refers not only to the materials themselves but also encompasses more abstract ideas: the fusion of past and present, tradition and innovation.

Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire
(Photo: Hublot)

How is the sapphire material generated?

Sapphire can be generated by various types of processes, but the ones we use are the Kyropoulos and Verneuil processes. Because sapphire is so hard—measuring 2,000 on the Vickers scale—it requires specific machines to manufacture it and to polish it. Making the sapphire crystal itself was not the issue for us—it was the manufacturing of our components in sapphire that was challenging.The material comes to us in a raw block, which then to be cut into the correct shape. We invested several million Swiss francs in machinery to be able to produce the components and we also invested in machines able to polish the transparency of the sapphire. It took us nearly twenty years to develop the tools and technology that could create the watches to our satisfaction.

What are the possibilities of generating this material? Colors? Textures? Patterns?

The standard color for sapphire is “clear,” but by adding additives during the growth of the crystal, it is possible to create different colors. In 2017 we introduced the sapphire in red and blue. Regarding textures and finishes, it is possible to have a matte or a polished surface finish. Regarding the patterns, for the time being, we use black metallization (for the realization of black smoked sapphire) as well as laser engraving and fill with color lacquer for engravings on the caseback of the watch.

Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire
(Photo: Hublot)

Can you talk us through some of the steps of the watch’s fabrication?

The different essential steps include diamond wire cutting for the raw material, diamond milling for the components to roughed out and diamond polishing of the finished components, so that the surfaces are perfectly polished, revealing the total transparency of this material. The polishing step is very complicated because this is not easy to do on complex shapes and there is a considerable risk of breakage. Sometimes the end step of polishing will also reveal minimal defaults in the crystal.

How long does the process take from start to finish?

It takes between twenty to thirty days to grow a crystal which weighs around 110 to 150 kilos. After this time, we need to cut the raw material, mill it, and polish it. Depending on the component, it can take hundreds of hours to achieve a finished component. And the results aren’t guaranteed until we polish  and carefully examine the result.

How do new elements, such as sapphire, help reimagine traditional luxury?

Hublot stands for always being first, unique and different. I think there will always be a place for watches like ours because we are producing watches that are eternal. You have a world of emotions in a box that will last for the next fifty, hundred or two hundred years, but we give them a contemporary design thanks to the unique materials we use and create.

Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire
(Photo: Doug Young)

 

Great Performances: Rolex Cellini Moonphase

The first Rolex moon phase in more than 60 years.


By Sara James Mnookin

Rolex Cellini Moonphase (Photo: Courtesy Rolex/Jean Daniel Meyer)

The world’s earliest civilizations kept time by observing the moon—tracking the days from one new moon to the next. The ancient Greeks took the process a leap further, inventing the Antikythera, one of the first-known complex machines. Housed in a wooden box with more than 30 bronze gears, the instrument could predict the moon’s phases and position in the sky. According to historians, the Antikythera’s four-annum cycle was used for adjusting to leap years or pinpointing the best city—sans eclipses—to host the next Olympic games.

Alas, this innovative tool (along with the instructions needed to replicate it) was lost at sea, near the isle for which it was later named. Other tinkerers wouldn’t catch up to the Antikythera’s technology for more than a thousand years. But by the late Middle Ages, Italian astronomer and engineer Giovanni Dondi dell-Orologio of Padua had created the Astrarium, an astrological clock that mapped the positions of the five then-known planets, along with the sun and the moon. This time, the device was reproduced—and shared widely—greatly influencing the burgeoning clock (and future watch) industries.

Rudimentary moon pointers—special discs that rotated on the dial to aim at numerals signifying the moon’s monthly age in days, from 1 to 29—can be found on pocket watches dating back to the turn of the 17th century. But since the real moon’s cycle is about a half day longer, these early versions required manually adjusting the watch at least every couple of years. Over time, the moon-phase complication became both more accurate and more beautiful as elaborate sky scenes were painted on or beneath the rotating discs (which sometimes had open holes to reproduce the waxing and waning of the moon). Adding more teeth to the gears turning these lunar mechanisms resulted in watches that needed far less correction. Some moon phases can now stay true for more than a thousand millennia.

A close look at the Cellini’s meteorite moon. (Photo: Courtesy Rolex/Jean Daniel Meyer)

Of course, in the current age of smartphones communicating with satellites in real time, moon phases no longer serve any functional purpose. Their value is purely historic and aesthetic, enhancing traditional timepieces with often gorgeous complications. Take the new Rolex Cellini Moonphase (reference 50535), for example. A handsome, oversize 39 mm case in 18-k Everose gold contains a self-winding movement made by Rolex with the company’s Superlative Chronometer certification, with an accuracy of plus or minus two seconds a day. The blue enamel disc at 6 o’clock tracks the various phases of the moon, indicated by an arrow indicator on the subdial. A full moon is depicted by a meteorite appliqué, while the new moon is designated by a simple silver ring.

The Cellini, the most elegant of Rolex’s styles, has long been overshadowed by the brand’s sportier models, like the Daytona and the Submariner. But this particular edition, designed with a subtle brown alligator-leather strap and spare white lacquer dial demands the spotlight—not least because it’s the first moon phase Rolex has issued in more than six decades.

Meterorite known as Siderites, hundreds of million years old. (Photo: Courtesy Rolex/Jean Daniel Meyer)

“Rolex watches with a moon-phase indication are exceptionally rare—among the rarest of all of the brand’s historic and modern models,” says Paul Boutros, Americas & International Strategy advisor and senior vice president at Phillips auction house. Boutros points out that, before the new Cellini, only two Rolex moon phases were ever manufactured: “Reference 8171 and reference 6062 were both produced for only a few short years, from about 1950 until approximately 1954. Due to their timeless beauty, size, and rarity, these references are among the most sought-after of all vintage Rolex watches.”

One particular example, the Bao Dai Rolex, a 6062 moon phase in yellow gold with a black dial and diamond indices, once owned by the last emperor of Vietnam, has set records at Phillips both times it has come to market. It sold for $372,346 in 2002 and $5,034,084 in May of 2017, marking the highest price ever fetched by a Rolex, not once, but twice.

“The new Cellini is especially noteworthy since it is the first modern Rolex wristwatch to include a moon phase,” Boutros says. “Due to its large size and classic aesthetic, we believe it will sell well to collectors of modern, complicated wristwatches.”

Resale value is but one reason to get moonstruck.

WHERE TO WEAR IT

The Metropolitan Opera House in in New York City. (Photo: Courtesy Rolex/Ambroise Tezenas)

With the once stark line between work and leisure dissolving into a blur, few opportunities remain for true formal dress—and the Cellini Moonphase is, undoubtedly, a formal watch. Perhaps that’s why Rolex has become such an ardent supporter of the arts? It’s certainly one way to ensure the brand’s devotees can find suitable venues to exhibit their finery.

The company underwrites select performances at Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Royal Opera House in London, the Opéra National de Paris, the Sulzburg Festival and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in Austria, and the Metropolitan Opera in New York, which just celebrated its 50th year at Lincoln Center. Even at the Met, though, dress codes have eased. “Monday nights at the old Met [on Broadway and 39th Street] were all white tie,” says Susan Froemke, a filmmaker who documented the Met’s 1966 move to the Upper West Side in this year’s exceptional The Opera House. “Everybody adhered to those rules,” she adds. “The old house was built by the nouveau riche—the Vanderbilts, if you can believe it—people who couldn’t get boxes at the old Academy of Music. They wanted a place to be seen in their ermine and jewels.”

The auditorium of the Metropolitan Opera, and its magnificent starburst chandeliers.
(Photo: Jonathan Tichler/Metropolitan Opera)

Now, at Lincoln Center, inside Wallace Harrison’s sleek Modernist temple to the arts, there’s considerably more variety in audience attire. “Today, people are coming straight from work,” Froemke says. “But luckily, they do still make an effort.”

Under the starburst “sputnik” chandeliers, the Cellini will look right at home.

Rolex Cellini Moonphase, $26,750; rolex.com

Hit List: Chanel Code Coco

With runway references and an emphasis on crafting in-house movements, Chanel fuses high fashion and watchmaking artistry.


Tanya Dukes

The Chanel Code watch, plus essentials. (Photo: Doug Young)

There’s no arguing that Chanel is a newcomer to the haute horlogerie block. In an industry that measures legacies in centuries, Chanel launched its first watch a mere 30 years ago. But the commitment to the category—bolstered by collaborations with independent watchmaker Romain Gauthier and ownership of watch assembly company Châtelain—has helped it quickly gain on the old guard. Chanel’s mix of technical expertise and its seemingly endless archive crammed with Parisienne elegance makes for a formidable combination.

Coco Chanel circa 1937 (Photo: Lipnitzki, Courtesy of Chanel)

The jewelry watch Code Coco is a case in point. It borrows design elements from one of Chanel’s iconic handbags, the 2.55, and features crisp, sophisticated engineering. Since debuting in February of 1955, the 2.55 has had a bar-shaped closure called the Mademoiselle Lock, a moniker that—according to lore—referred to Coco Chanel’s perennially unmarried status (or perhaps her alleged habit of secreting love notes in her handbag). The same lock serves as a closure for the quartz-powered Code Coco. It clicks into two positions: When horizontal, the black lacquered dial, which measures 38.1 by 21.5 mm, is fully visible. When the lock swivels into a vertical orientation, it conceals the watch’s hands, obscuring the passage of time. It’s a fitting gesture from a brand whose founder declared, “I don’t know how to be anywhere but in the present.”

The Chanel Code watch and the bag that inspired it. (Photo: Doug Young)

The Code Coco’s flexible stainless-steel bracelet unfurls from a bangle to a flat position once opened. A grid pattern that evokes the quilted leather exterior of the 2.55 decorates the polished metal—even the faintest movement scatters light across its textured surface. Another degree of glitz comes from diamond accents. Stainless-steel models include a single diamond on their dials and bezels with or without diamonds. A version in white gold, completely covered in diamonds, is available too—but in a limited edition of five, Chanel’s lucky number and the numeral associated with a certain famous perfume.

 

Hit List: 5 New Watches We’re Eying This Month

Skeletons from Bell & Ross and Girard Perregaux, a race-inspired TAG Heuer, and more.


(Photo: F.P. Journe / Holland & Holland)

F.P. Journe Chronomètre Holland & Holland

Catering to the world’s most discerning sportsmen, Holland & Holland has been manufacturing guns since 1835, in a store that conjures visions of time-honored country life, with its deeply ingrained British traditions and quirks. Joining forces with watchmaker F.P. Journe, they used two 100-year-old barrels from the Holland & Holland museum to create limited edition “browned” Damascus steel–patterned dials using traditional gun-making techniques. The two barrels were registered by hand in the company’s books. Barrel No. 1382, dating back to 1868, yielded 38 dials, while barrel No. 7183, dating to 1882, produced 28 dials.

$46,000 ($45,000 CHF); fpjourne.com & hollandandholland.com

(Photo: Laurent Ferrier)

Laurent Ferrier Galet Square Porcelain Limited Edition

Third-generation watchmaker Laurent Ferrier plainly states on his website his horological values: simplicity, precision, and pure, uncluttered beauty. These ideals are exhibited perfectly in his limited-edition porcelain-dial Galet Square watch, which houses an exclusive in-house movement developed and assembled in the Laurent Ferrier workshops. The gentle curves of the case bring to mind the shape of a pebble, the direct translation of the French word galet. Breguet numerals with a red 12 o’clock and gold-colored minute outer rail beautifully set off the glossy white dial—so difficult to produce that only 10 pieces will be made worldwide.

$64,000; laurentferrier.ch

(Photo: Bell & Ross)

The Bell & Ross BR-X1 White Hawk

Bell & Ross is well known for its aviation association, with distinctive square-shaped watches resembling instruments taken directly from a cockpit control panel. Made of titanium, matte white ceramic, and rubber, contrasting red details provide excellent readability of the automatic skeletonized chronograph movement. The BR-X1 White Hawk looks precisely to business aircraft for its stylish inspiration, the white-and-gray materials taking their cues from private-jet interiors.

$19,700; bellross.com

 

 

(Photo: Girard Perregaux)

Girard Perregaux Laureato Skeleton Ceramic

First launched in 1975, the sporty and versatile Laureato design from Girard Perregaux continues to evolve with the all-black Laureato Skeleton Ceramic. Brushed and satin finishes enhance the dark surface of the Laureato by intensifying the dramatic black PVD-treated openwork movement with exposed 18-k pink-gold details. The Laureato style is entirely adaptable, the stealth and contemporary look making this version appealing to a new generation.

$38,000; girard-perregaux.com

(Photo: TAG Heuer)

TAG Heuer AUTAVIA Jack Heuer 85th Anniversary Limited Edition

2017 will go down as the year of the chronograph, especially for styles referencing the golden age of auto racing. The 42 mm polished-steel TAG Heuer reissue, a limited edition of 1,932 pieces, features the new Heuer-02 caliber proprietary chronograph and all the best features of the 1960s original redesigned by Jack Heuer himself. Jack says, “The story of the Autavia is a rich drama, full of twists and turns. It is one of my proudest achievements to have successfully converted chronographs into the Autavia wristwatch in 1962, so this collection has a special place in my heart.”

$5,900; tagheuer.com

 

Creating a Timepiece Worthy of the Tour de France

How a former Formula One champ turned cyclist helped Richard Mille design his latest ne plus ultra watch.


By James Jung

Formula One legend Alain Prost with British procyclist Mark Cavendish. (Photo: Antonin Vincent / DPPI)

Richard Mille may be one of the world’s most preeminent watchmakers, but he’s almost as famous for his obsession with race cars. Ever since bursting onto the scene in 2001 with his radical and highly technical take on the classic, barrel-shaped tonneau, the charismatic Frenchman has drawn inspiration from the high performance machines of Formula One. 

In the stone-and-timber garage of his 18th-century château in Brittany, you’ll find one of the world’s most coveted vintage-car collections (replete with iconic open-wheel McLarens and Ferraris), while his eponymous brand name can be spotted scrawled across racing grids the world over. But it’s in Mille’s unmistakable skeleton-dial watches that his obsession truly manifests itself. From aluminum-and-carbon fiber casings to shock-resistant movements as precise as a four-stroke turbocharged V6 engine, the similarities between Mille’s sleek, ultra-luxe watches and the world’s most bleeding-edge racing cars are striking.

And yet, for his latest limited edition timepiece, the bearded, rakishly stylish 66-year-old  turned to an unexpected inspiration: cycling. It’s a sport that Mille—like any self-respecting Frenchman—grew up with, and one that has recently joined his ever-growing list of passions. 

Worn on the right wrist, the new RM 70-01 is designed for ultimate legibility while cycling. (Photo: Antonin Vincent / DPPI)

“I am stunned by the power cyclists churn out,” says Mille, who can be found logging serious miles on his local country lanes when he’s not bombing around those same roads behind the wheel of his Lancia Stratos rally car. He has also been following the Tour de France in person, often in the backseat of a commissioner’s car embedded in the fast-moving peloton. In 2016, after Mille struck up a friendship with professional cyclist Mark Cavendish, he gifted the Welshman his personal Felipe Massa Flyback Chronograph. The decorated sprinter won his 29th Tour de France stage the following day, the timepiece strapped firmly on his wrist. 

Such are the fortunes of a man who has built a business based as much on spontaneity as on rigorous devotion to detail. But, as befitting any true gear head, it was the technical innovations of modern racing bikes that most intrigued Mille. “The introduction of composites, the lighter materials, the performance gains in gear assemblies, these were revolutionary,” Mille says. “As a tech fanatic, I appreciate the many subtleties involved.” 

To create a Tour de France–worthy timepiece, Mille knew he needed a collaborator. But rather than looking toward any number of world-class cycling companies for this venture, the watchmaker returned to his first love—Formula One. As it turned out, Mille’s longtime friend, four-time F1 champ Alain Prost, had been bitten by the biking bug as well.  

“Richard is the one who had the idea for this watch,” recalls Prost, who at the height of his career was known as “The Professor,” due to his cerebral approach to car racing. “He wanted to blend automobiles and bicycles.” Prost himself began cycling at the behest of his trainer more than two decades ago. (The idea was that the sport would help better condition him for the demands of F1 driving—a sport where heart rates consistently exceed 160 bpm.) Today, Prost rides upwards of 200 kilometers a week, and regularly competes in races like the vertiginous L’Étape du Tour and the prestigious Masters World Cycling Championships. 

The RM 70-01 Tourbillon Alain Prost—which is limited to 30 collectors’ pieces—is the result of Mille and Prost’s three-year collaboration. On it, you’ll find numerous nods to cycling. Take, for instance, aesthetic details such as a barrel ratchet resembling a spoked wheel and a dynamometric crown evoking a pedal. For those more concerned with engineering, there’s the Grade 5 titanium used for both the baseplate and the Allen screws, which provides a stiffness capable of withstanding the roughest of road conditions, whether the local tarmac or the cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix. 

Of course, this being a Richard Mille creation, form always follows function. So, much like he’s done before for athletes including tennis star Rafael Nadal, golfer Bubba Watson and Jamaican runner Yohan Blake, he’s created a watch perfectly optimized for the day-to-day demands of sport. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the tonneau’s rectangular and asymmetrical carbon cage, which molds to the wrist without ever digging into the skin no matter where you grip the drop bars on a road bike. 

The biggest innovation, however, belongs to the titanium odometer, a five-digit roller readout that allows riders to easily add the day’s distance to their ongoing tally. Cyclists live and die by their metrics. But while most will rattle off figures like their maximum heart rate or the average amount of watts they can generate in an hour, Prost found that few can recall the total mileage they’ve logged at the end of the season. The RM 70-01 solves that problem. By pressing the pusher at 2 o’clock, a cyclist can activate any of the odometer’s five rollers, while the pusher at 10 o’clock allows the rider to increase the number by increments of one. And there’s no danger of slipping up, thanks to a spring-lock neutral position that protects you from accidentally moving the wrong roller. 

(Photo: Didier-Gourdon)

Sure, most cycling computers offer an odometer—one that automatically calculates total miles—at ten-thousandths of the cost, but anyone who’s resorting to basic bean counting clearly isn’t in the Richard Mille demographic.

For those who are, the RM 70-01, which is priced at a cool $815,000, comes with an added bonus: a hand-built Colnago carbon racing bike with an electronic Campagnolo drive train and thoroughbred Italian pedigree that evokes the spirit of Formula One.

 

Eternally Tank

Alain Delon Cartier Tank

The timeless Cartier Tank celebrates its first centennial.


By Sara James Mnookin

“I don’t wear a Tank to tell the time . . . I wear a Tank because it’s the watch to wear.” – Andy Warhol

It was sleeker than the Santos, evoking an aerial view of the tank, with elongated brancards on either side of a square compact case—a design innovation that also solved a nagging dilemma in those early days of the wristwatch: how to join a flat band to a round face. “The majority of men’s wristwatches during World War I were converted pocket watches,” says Nate Borgelt, international senior specialist at Sotheby’s. “The Tank, a design directly based on a machine for war, was masculine, made from the ground up to be worn on the wrist.”

According to Cartier lore, the first Tank was offered to General John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces (who would later rise to garner an unofficial six-star status as General of the Armies). Soon thereafter, Cartier placed six pieces in its stores, which sold out in record time.

General John J. Pershing.

“It was really the first high-profile celebrity watch,” says Marion Fasel, founder and editorial director of the fine jewelry blog, The Adventurine, who points to the precise moment that cemented the Tank’s iconic status, when “silent-film star Rudolph Valentino insisted on wearing it in The Son of the Sheik.” Dubiously dressed in a turban and a wristwatch, Valentino may have made little narrative sense on screen, but he changed sartorial history, inspiring men from London to L.A. to shelve their pocket watches for good.

“Stars have been wearing the style ever since,” Fasel adds. Its strong lines and formidable military credentials have indeed drawn a platoon of famous admirers—among them, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Marcello Mastroianni, Alain Delon, Frank Sinatra, and Warren Beatty. Truman Capote claimed to own no fewer than eight Tanks—enough to pull one off his wrist and give it to a passing journalist whose style he found lacking. Capote’s friend Andy Warhol never even wound his, famously remarking, “I don’t wear a Tank watch to tell the time… I wear a Tank watch because it’s the watch to wear.” Yves Saint Laurent evidently agreed.

So did many women. Greta Garbo, trailblazing androgyny, naturally wanted a Tank on her wrist. Sex bombs Brigitte Bardot and Elizabeth Taylor used it almost as a counterweight, to cool off their curves. Ingrid Bergman and Grace Kelly ensured the style became de rigueur for willowy WASPs throughout Europe and the U.S., while Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis carried the Tank trend well into the unisex-obsessed 1970s.

One of Jackie’s beloved Tanks, a gift from her brother-in-law, Prince Stanislaw Radziwill, sold for a staggering $379,500 at Christie’s in June. The anonymous buyer was said to be Kim Kardashian—a plausible theory, given how recently  the reality star had been robbed at gunpoint in Paris.

Alain Delon Cartier Tank
Actor Alain Delon, with director Jean-Pierre Melville, on the set of 1972’s Un Flic.

It seems that, for many women, the Tank has become a kind of armor. Recall Princess Diana’s frequent appearances in her black-strapped Tank L.C. or yellow gold Tank Française in the years after her painful split from Prince Charles.

“It is neither too masculine nor too feminine,” Fasel says. “The design is really the golden mean.”

Such wide reach is hardly mere happenstance. The Tank not only pioneered watch design, but also its marketing, as one of the first styles to be sold by size rather than sex. Freed from traditional boundaries, many men found they preferred the trimmer lines of the smaller case, and a few ladies elected to size up. The Tank opened up new ground between genders, carving out space for vanguards to challenge fashion (and thus societal) norms—and all long before most of the world was ready to grapple with the concept of that sort of fluidity.

“If all tanks were made by Cartier, we’d have the time to live in peace.” – Jean-Charles de Castelbajac

The De Stijl movement, also born in 1917, called for simplicity in design, isolating elements down to form and color. Cartier’s Tank thus has its own specific vernacular—a crisp roman-numeral dial, blue-steel hands, and a sapphire cabochon crown, although the house has never shied away from tinkering with this formula. “The style has a very recognizable language, modified to keep it relevant and new,” Borgelt says. By changing small aspects—size, angles, the way the crown is elongated or shortened, the colors of the stones and cabochons—Cartier prevented the classic from ever feeling quite done.

In 1921 alone, the face was stretched into the Tank Cintrée, which followed the natural curvature of the wrist, and the case lines were made to overlap the brancards for the luxe Tank Chinoise. An extra-flat version, the Tank Normale, arrived in 1964, and the bolder, sturdier Américaine, in 1988. Bucking the gritty minimalism of the ’90s, the Tank Française flashed its shiny steel and gold bracelets, starting in 1996.

Today, Borgelt says the most collectible Tanks tend to be “any limited editions or vintage pieces, particularly from their London workshops or with European Watch and Clock Company movements.”

Cartier Tank
The 2017 Cartier Tank Cintrée Skeleton in pink gold. (Photo: Cartier)

To celebrate the style’s 100th birthday, Cartier has released 13 new models in four of the Tank families: the Tank Louis Cartier, Française, Américaine and Cintrée. The dearest are a pair of Cintrée skeleton watches with mechanical movements and manual winding, in pink-gold and platinum, for $56,000 and $62,000 respectively.

Flammarion published a sumptuous new book, The Cartier Tank Watch, on November 14. In it, frequent collaborator Franco Cologni charts the Tank’s evolution, reminding the world that, in the age of the Apple Watch, there is still only one definitive rectangular timepiece.

“Tanks will be with us as long as watches are worn,” Borgelt predicts. And presumably that will be for at least a few more days.