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.


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.

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.

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?

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.

Breitling Boutique: Up Close & Personal

As some of you know, I was supposed to go to Breitling’s first US boutique on 57th street in Manhattan about 87 times last winter, but snow storms always prevented me from going.  No blizzard could stop me this time around, as I finally got the chance to go check it out on Tuesday, and it did not disappoint!  I was extremely impressed to say the least.

Simply put, the boutique is gorgeous.  The layout is great with three stories of hardwood floors, paintings, clocks and Breitling paraphernalia.  There are watches on the first two floors, while there is a bar and small museum of vintage timepieces on the top floor.  They also have an authorized watchmaker on site that can help out with any repairs that may need to be taken care of.

The entire building has great character and feel to it; it makes you feel very alive.  Of course they have almost every Breitling model imaginable and even some special boutique edition versions of some watches that I had never seen before.  For instance, they had the Superocean II with both an orange inner ring and a light blue inner ring.

Speaking with several of the Breitling officials confirmed for me that the brand is really heading in a positive direction.  I am very thankful that they had me up.  There are a lot of extremely passionate people behind Breitling that care very much about the supporters of their brand.

I will be sure to post some pictures of the vintage pieces they had on the top floor soon.  I love their old-school watches; most of them showcase their numerous ties towards the world of aviation. 

While Breitling definitely has a lot of history behind it, their best days may be yet to come.  With plans to launch their third and fourth in-house movements next year, and then three more by the end of 2015, I am pumped to watch the brand continually evolve.

Jetman Takes Flight

History was made last weekend when Yves “Jetman” Rossy completed a historic flight through the Grand Canyon West.  Jumping from a helicopter at 8,000 feet with a jet-propelled wing pack attached to his back, Jetman soared amongst the eagles and rockscapes.  Moving at 190mph and steering only by the movement of his body, Rossy remained in flight for over eight minutes!

When I saw the video this morning I was blown away.  There was the Breitling logo flying high above the Grand Canyon!  Sick!

Apparently, Saturday’s flight was meant to just be training, but it was the only time Jetman could fit in between the 46mph winds that were circling all weekend.  Video from helicopters is the only proof of Rossy’s flight.

Jetman had already accomplished worldwide acclaim for successful jet-powered flights across Lake Geneva and the English Chanel, however, flying through the Cayman was his ultimate dream.  “My first flight in the U.S. is sure to be one of the most memorable experiences in my life, not only for the sheer beauty of the Grand Canyon but the honor to fly in sacred Native American lands,” he stated. Rossy made sure to thank both Mother Nature and the Hualapai Tribe for making his dream come true.

As we all know, Breitling has long been associated with the world of aviation. Jetman’s incredible flight is just another example of their serious accomplishments in the realm of air travel!

Don’t Forget About U.S.

I have written several blogs about how the Asian market is currently booming and has kept the watch industry alive during the toughest of times.  Luxury item sales have more than doubled over the last five years in China.  Meanwhile, Chinese consumers buy approximately half of the watches sold worldwide either in their home market or abroad.  Consequently, many brands have decided to open up more and more boutiques in China and Hong Kong.  For instance, Bulgari is opening up 18 boutiques in China this year.

In order to stock these Asian boutiques, brands have to take away many of the watches that would normally be sent to the European and US markets.  A lot of companies cannot produce more watches than they are currently manufacturing.  They simply do not have the watchmakers, the facilities or the parts.  It could take brands five to ten years to increase production.

A mistake I think a lot of watch brands could easily make during the next few years is overinvesting in China.  One brand that definitely will not is Patek Philippe.  Patek Chaiman Thierry Stern recently was quoted as saying, “I’m not putting all my eggs in the same basket.  It’s a big mistake I think that a few brands are doing by going only in China.  They focus everything on China and it’s dangerous.”

Could it be penny wise and pound foolish for brands to focus too much on China and lose concentration on other markets?  Is China going to continue to grow?  What if things slow down in China?

With the dollar at an all-time low to the Swiss Franc, brands have another reason to send their watches to other markets aside from the US.  The weakness of the dollar is what has led many brands to increase US retail prices this year.  Rolex, Jaeger LeCoultre, IWC, Breitling, Patek Philippe, Glashutte, Ulysse Nardin and Omega have all had one or are going to have one, while Audemars Piguet and Hublot have had two!

I think it is essential for brands not to lose focus on the American market.  The world is constantly changing, and it is important to have a worldwide presence and following.

“For three to five years it should be fine,” in China, Stern said.  “After that, it’s hard to know, but one day, of course, there will be something happening.  This is why you have to really watch out.”

I will take the Patek Philippe Chairman’s word for it!

The Art Of The Movement

I read an incredibly interesting article in the NY Times this week on the Swatch Group. The watch manufacturing company is unable to meet the current demand for its products. To combat that problem, Swatch is looking to add 2,000 employees and expand their factories.

The statistics mentioned in the article are astounding. Exports of mechanical timepieces increased 32 percent in terms of units from 2009 to 2010. Meanwhile, Swatch group’s net profit in 2010 was a record 1.08 billion Swiss Francs.

The most interesting part of the article for me was reading how Nick Hayek, the Swatch Group CEO, wants to change what it means for a watch to be “made in Switzerland.” Swatch has supplied the base movements for watches manufactured by brands outside of their group for years and controls 70 to 80 percent of the industry’s current overall watch movement production.

As Hayek says, “We are in a ridiculous situation that would be like having BMW supply all the engines for Audi and Mercedes. In no other industry do you have one company supply all the critical parts to the people who then compete directly with it.”

Patek Philippe, Rolex, Zenith, Girard-Perregaux, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Glashutte are all true manufacturers that make all of their watch movements in house. While numerous other brands produce some of the movements for their watches entirely in house, most of them outsource movement parts from Swatch and other manufacturers.

The threat of Swatch no longer supplying movements to various watch brands is what has led brands like Breitling into investing millions upon millions of dollars towards producing in-house movements. If Swatch decides to completely stop supplying other manufacturers with movements, it would certainly stir things up in the watch industry. Each brand would have a much stronger individual identity.

Some watch collectors and enthusiasts are very particular about the movements used in their watches. Others care more about aesthetics and case materials. What matters the most? I think the answer varies depending on whom you talk to. We all have our different values. Regardless, I think it is crazy to undervalue the art of watch movement production. Nick Hayek clearly agrees.

New York Times Article

Brand Sponsorship

Who would you want as your sponsor?

I always love seeing which watch brands famous actors, athletes, musicians and events are sponsored by.  I was fortunate enough to go to Wimbledon a couple years ago, and Rolex was everywhere at the All England Club.  Meanwhile, I could not help but notice Rory Mcllroy had an Audemars Piguet patch on his shirtsleeve while playing the Masters a couple weeks ago and rocked an AP stainless steel Royal Oak Chronograph with a silver dial once he was done.  I love that AP by the way!

I am now reading that Longines is the official timekeeper of the upcoming Kentucky Derby and that the winner of this year’s race will get a Longines Column-Wheel Chronograph.  I remember Hublot was the official timekeeper of this past summer’s World Cup in South Africa and how a huge Hublot digital game clock was used and held up when substitutions were made.

I cannot help but dream about which brand I would choose as my sponsor if I had my choice of the litter.  You probably have never seen Patek Philippe sponsoring a person or an event because they never have!  Regardless of who you are or what you do, Patek Philippe never gives out a watch for free.  If they did, however, and were part of the field, what watch brand would you choose as your sponsor?  Would you go with a big brand name or a brand that flies more under the radar?