A Legend Dies

It saddens me to say that the watch industry lost one of the best watch designers of all time yesterday.  Charles Gerald Genta was 80 years old at the time of his death.  We have him to thank for some of the most classic watch designs of today.  His influence was behind the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the IWC Ingenieur, the Omega Seamaster Constellation, the Patek Philippe Nautilus and the Cartier Pasha.

Over five decades ago, Genta started his own brand, which was eventually sold to Bulgari in 1998.  Genta’s true passion was for Grande Sonnerie watches, mechanical timepieces that combine a querter striking mechanism with a repeater.  The Octo Grande Sonnerie Retro he created was the world’s most complicated watch and priced at $2 million.  The movement has 950 parts and was worked on by a watchmaker for a full year.  Check it out above.

US Watch Consumption

Consumer spending has seen some dramatic changes since 2007.  The stock market crash and monster recession of 2008 hit us hard and forced all of us to reevaluate where we should be spending our income.  An article I just read comparing Department of Commerce statistics from consumer spending in the first quarter of 2007 and the same period in 2011 showed some pretty interesting results.

There are several industries that have been hit the hardest over the four-year span.  Postal and delivery services have been down a whopping 28 percent, while pleasure boats, tobacco and new cars have been down 12 percent, 16 percent and 12 percent respectively.

Cell-Phone services have seen the greatest increase in consumer spending at 31 percent, while foreign travel to the US is up 17 percent (I am sure the recent weakness in the dollar has something to do with this stat).  Up 13 percent?  You know it…watches!  I loved seeing that.  Even during the toughest of times, the watch industry has held strong.  Statistics continually show that the cell-phone generation truly does have an unparalleled appreciation for watches.

Images from Time Magazine

Boutique Exclusive Gems

It looks like Richemont is coming up with some pretty awesome boutique edition models this summer.  First it was IWC with a boutique exclusive Big Pilot Perpetual Calendar, and now it is Vacheron with a special edition stainless steel Overseas Perpetual Calendar.

The IWC Big Pilot Perpetual Calendar features a black dial with orange hands and orange numbers that really pop off of the black dial.  The orange stitching on the black crocodile leather strap compliments the dial perfectly.  The 46.2mm watch features an exhibition caseback and will be distributed in both the Las Vegas & Beverly Hills IWC boutiques.  Only 250 pieces will be produced.

Vacheron Constantin’s boutique exclusive perpetual calendar will be distributed in their brand new US boutique on Madison Ave. in New York.  The NYC store is Vacheron’s first boutique in the United States.  It is only fitting that their initial special edition model screams USA.  The boutique edition stainless steel Overseas Perpetual Chronograph has a blue dial, white luminescent hands and hourmarkers, and red chronograph hands.  The strap is blue on the exterior and red on the interior.  Doesn’t it just make you want to get up and yell “USA?”  Only twenty pieces of the model will be produced.

Permanent Bling

There are some watches that I am absolutely in love with, but almost certainly will never be able to own because of the price tag.  I am sure most watch enthusiasts are in the same boat.  If I could afford a Patek Philippe 5970P, I would buy that bad boy and never take it off my wrist.  There are several other pieces I feel the same way about.

One thing I never considered doing was getting a tattoo of one of my grail watches on my wrist since I am unable to afford it.  Apparently somebody else did, however, and opted to have a diamond bezel, diamond hourmarker, pink dial Rolex tattooed to his wrist!!!

I am somewhat at a loss for words on this one and the idea of getting a watch tattooed to my wrist.  It had to have been a bet gone terribly wrong, correct?  Maybe the guy just could not afford a Rolex President and figured this was a way to have one that would never come off his wrist! If only it could tell time…

Another Patek Gem

Any Patek Philippe annual calendar is extremely prestigious.  Patek is widely regarded as the best brand in the world, and their product is the top of the line.  The new Patek annual calendar coming out later this year is going to be particularly special, and I absolutely cannot wait to see it in person.

In addition to being an annual calendar that only needs to be reset every leap year, Patek Philippe Reference 5235 is a regulator.  Regulator watches are timepieces with hands positioned on different axes of the dial to enhance readability.  As you can see in the picture of the watch, there is only one center hand, which indicates the minutes.  The subdial at 12 o’clock then displays the hours, while the subdial at six o’clock shows the seconds.

The placement of the date, day and month round out the watch perfectly.  What a clean watch!  This Patek Philippe Caliber 31-260 movement is clearly no joke.  It has a micro-rotor, a 60-hour power reserve and is 2.43mm thin.  That is ridiculous!!!  I am sure the price tag will be pretty substantial for this 18kt white gold beast, but it is truly incredibly in many different ways.

Dirty Money Watch Auction

There is an extremely intriguing IRS auction taking place in Florida tomorrow involving a huge watch connoisseur’s collection.  Interesting enough, the collector is none other than ponzi scheme villain Scott Rothstein.  Rothstein now faces 100 years in prison for his wrongful, selfish acts that cost people millions upon millions.

Although Rothstein was clearly an unethical, greedy man, he did sometimes showcase good taste in watches.  The timepieces up for sale include models from Pierre Kunz, Panerai, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Gerald Genta, Daniel Roth, BRM, Franck Muller and more.  While some of the watches are definitely out there, others are truly gorgeous and incredibly well-made.

Since I have preached that watches are very sentimental and carry a lot more value than just something that tells time, I have to wonder whether I would want a Scott Rothstein watch.  How far would you go to get the watch of your dreams?  If you believe in karma and are particular about the history of a timepiece, would you feel weird wearing your grail watch if it was originally owned by Rothstein?

If you look at the history of the hope diamond, some people thought it was so cursed that Harry Winston eventually just gave it away it to the Smithsonian.  It was apparently stolen from an idol in India and sold to earn money for gambling debts.  Some thought the stone would bring bad luck and death to anyone who even touched it!

It is one thing to purchase a watch where the history is unclear and unproven, but wearing a watch that has caused so much suffering to people could make you feel a little queasy. Rothstein’s last auction involving all of his high-end cars generated $5.8 million, so I will acknowledge that I may be looking a little too far into this.  There is no doubt in my mind that all of his watches will bring a hefty penny, and I am looking forward to seeing the results.  I do think, however, that the watches offered are at least somewhat dirty.

The Cell Phone Generation

There was an awesome article in The New York Times this week about watches being rediscovered by the cell phone generation.  If you have yet to see it, I definitely recommend you check it out:


In today’s world, watches certainly are not necessary to find out what time it is.  There seem to be cell phones and apple products everywhere you look.  I wrote a blog a while back about when a couple buddies and I went out to brunch, someone asked what time it was and two of us reached for our cell phones.  We all had nice watches on at the time…

Once cell phones became prevalent in our society, many people thought watches would become obsolete.  After all, they are no longer as necessary.  But in the end, is the time what watches are all about?

Musician John Mayer is a huge watch collector, and in addition to having a great last name, he has an awesome outlook on watches.  He was once quoted as saying, “A man’s got two shots for jewelry: a wedding ring and a watch. The watch is a lot easier to get on and off than a wedding ring.”

There are not many way for a man to express himself in a material sense.  The best quote in the NY Times article is Mr. Thoreson’s about how a watch is “an understated statement about your station in life, your taste level.”  Watches are not just timepieces, and clearly that message is being accepted by the cell phone generation.

Only Watch 2011 Charity Auction

I traveled to Chi-town for the holiday last weekend and must say Chicago is an awesome city.  There is a great feel to it and a lot of cool places to go to.  I love to travel and could only imagine following alongside the Only Watch auction timepieces later this year.  If only I had an endless wallet!

The Only Watch auction will take place on September 22, 2011 in Monaco under the patronage of Prince Albert II.  39 different timepieces will be sold by the Antiquorum auction house at the Hotel Hermitage.  There will be live, online and telephone bidders, while the entire proceeds will go towards research on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

39 of the best watch brands in the world will make a special timepiece for the event.  The companies involved are as follows: Audemars Piguet – Bell & Ross – Blu – Blancpain – Bovet Fleurier – Breguet – Celsius X Vi Ii – Chanel – Chaumet – Chopard – Corum – De Bethune – Delacour – Dewitt – Franck Muller – Frederique Constant – Girard-Perregaux – Glashütte Original – Harry Winston – Hermes – Hublot – Ikepod – Jaquet Droz – Laurent Ferrier – Louis Vuitton – Maurice Lacroix – Mb&F – Montblanc – Patek Philippe – Piaget – Richard Mille – Romain Jerome – Tag Heuer – Ulysse Nardin – Urwerk – Vacheron Constantin – Van Cleef & Arpels – Vulcain – Zenith.

One of the coolest aspects of the Only Watch 2011 collection is the world tour the watches will be going on from August 30 to September 17.  All 39 watches will make a stop in Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York, Milan and Geneva at some point during that period together.  The tour will end with the two-day event in Monaco at the Monaco Yacht Show.  Pretty sweet!

I cannot wait to see pictures of the watches that are a part of this Only Watch auction.  I have seen some previews, and the watches look absolutely incredible.  Patek has decided to contribue a Ref. 3939 Tourbillon Minute Repeater, while Richard Mille will throw in a Rafael Nadal RM 027 Tourbillon and Bell & Ross will donate an 18kt rose gold Roulette Radar.  You know, just your average timepieces…  The fact that all of the proceeds are going to such a good cause is awesome.  What is there not to get excited about regarding this event?

Old School Gem

A new limited edition model that Breitling will launch soon is the Superocean GMT with a green bezel.  The 41mm model houses the Breitling Caliber 32 movement and is available on either a rubber strap or a stainless steel bracelet.  I have seen the standard production version with a black bezel in person and think it is pretty nice.  The price tag is reasonable at $4,105 too.  GMT models from some other brands go for twice as much.

While I think the Superocean GMT looks like it will be pretty cool, it is definitely not my favorite Breitling with a colored bezel.  I am still currently in the midst of my vintage obsession, and I cannot stop looking at the blue dial Brietling 2016 Sprint Chronograph.  This bad boy looks like it has some serious pop to it!  I absolutely love the blue bezel, and the red hands and white hour markers go together with it perfectly.

The 1970s model uses the manual-winding Valjoux 7730 chronograph movement and is 40mm in size.  The watch was originally designed for runners and is extremely light; it was named the Sprint for that reason.  While this Breitling does not have the brand’s signature slide rule, the bezel on the watch is calibrated to read your pulse.  Not too shabby of a watch, huh?

The Value of “Swiss-made”

I wrote a blog post a while back about The Swatch Group and their future plans with respect to outsourcing watch movements.  Swatch Group CEO, Nicolas Hayek, is still planning on reducing the amount of movements his company produces starting in 2012.  Meanwhile, Swatch currently makes approximately 80% of all of the Swiss-made watch parts in the world.

I now just read an article in last week’s Wall Street Journal that sheds some light on a potential predicament that could be facing the watch industry if Swatch decides to cut movement production too drastically.  It has really got me thinking…

Let’s say Hayek’s frustration elevates with respect to some brands being able to put their focus on spending money towards marketing and opening new stores instead of movement production. He now wants to completely stop supplying them with movements, since he believes they are somewhat taking the art of watchmaking for granted.  All of a sudden, some watch manufacturers are not able to completely absorb the costs of making all of their own movement parts.  Consequently, they start opening factories in countries where labor costs are much lower.

Eventually, some “Swiss-made” watches will really be teetering on the edge of the definition; they would not truly be made in Switzerland.  Would some collectors and watch enthusiasts be turned off by this?  Switzerland has been the heart of watch making for centuries.  Now some “Swiss-made” watches will have hairsprings, rotors or key movement components that are made in other countries.  Is it a turn off or really not that big of a deal?

According to Swiss law, a watch is “Swiss made” if its movement is Swiss, its movement is cased up in Switzerland and the manufacturer carries out the final inspection of the movement in Switzerland.  A watch movement is Swiss if it is assembled in Switzerland, it is inspected in Switzerland and the Swiss manufacturer’s componenets account for 50 percent of the total value.  This 50% rule for “Swiss-made” watches has been criticized for many years. A lot of people do not think it is tough enough and believe it is way too vague.  The WSJ article mentions how the Mercedes Benz C-Class is manufactured in South Africa, but people still consider it a “German-made” automobile.

The Switzerland Competition Commission does see Swatch’s dominance in the world of movement production as somewhat of a monopoly and will consider whether a reduction is an abuse of power.  They did agree in June, however, for Swatch to reduce their production by 15%. The brands that put forth extensive efforts to start producing completely in-house movements over the last several years sure look smart now.