In this season’s issue: p.118 Singer Reimagined, latest releases from former rock guitarist’s brand p.120 Rolex ‘Pepsi’ returns p.122 Bremont’s Supersonic, fashioned from bits of recycled Concorde p.124 Autodromo Ford GT p.128 Bamford – aftermarket tuning for the wrist p.130 Porsche Design Chronotimer p.132 Farer, UK brand with a sense of adventure p.134 Watch winders p.136 Christopher Ward C7 Apex p.138 IWC Portugieser p.140 News round-up p.147 Luxury special
Rock guitarist Rob Dickinson’s Singer Vehicle Design might not yet be a decade old, but the fact that it was invited to display no fewer than eight examples of its ‘reimagined’ Porsche 911s right between Goodwood House and the Cartier concours lawn at this year’s Festival of Speed indicates that the Los Angeles-based firm has well and truly arrived.
It’s unlikely that any Motor Sport reader hasn’t heard of Singer but, in case there’s one who hasn’t, it burst onto the scene in 2008 with a mission to upgrade 964-model 911s and transform them into staggeringly beautiful supercars that combine old-school character with present-day performance for anyone with upwards of $500,000 to spend.
Such has been Singer’s success that it has now joined
forces with Williams Advanced Engineering and Porsche
doyen Hans Mezger to develop a programme called the Dynamics and Lightweight Study that will lead to the creation of 75 re-imagined 964s combining ultra-light bodies with 500bhp engines in the ultimate expression (to date) of the Singer philosophy.
Each car is expected to cost about $1m, and the first customer delivery is due to take place at the end of this year.
It’s become a truism, of course, that people who like interesting and valuable cars more often than not like interesting and expensive watches, too. So it makes sense that, last year, industrial designer Marco Borraccino teamed up
with Dickinson to launch a chronograph under the Singer Reimagined brand name to complement Singer’s cars and to appeal to its wealthy buyers.
The result could be described as a horological interpretation of the Singer philosophy in as much as it’s a watch with retro looks that combines a new and innovative movement designed by independent master watchmaker Jean-Marc Wiederrecht. His business, Agenor, invents and creates remarkably complex mechanisms for leading luxury houses such as Hermès, Fabergé and Van Cleef & Arpels.
The main feature of the 43mm Track1 watch is Wiederrecht’s innovative Agengraphe movement (also used by both Fabergé and Hermès) that brings together all the chronograph functions in the centre of the watch for ease of use.
Jumping minute and hour indicators enhance legibility, with the chronograph mechanism being connected to the timekeeping gears with a space-saving clutch of Wiederrecht’s own design, while the self-winding rotor is positioned on the dial side to allow an unimpeded view of the 477-part movement through the transparent case back.
We reckon a ‘Dynamics and Lightweight’ edition can’t be far around the corner…
Three versions of the Track1 are available: the titanium-cased Launch edition at about £30,500; the ceramicised aluminium Hong Kong edition £34,200 and the yellow gold Geneva edition £55,100.
It was at the International Meridian Conference of 1884, held in Washington DC, that the world was officially divided into 24 time zones and the Greenwich Meridian became recognised as the site of Greenwich Mean Time, with each 15-degree zone east or west of the line being decreed as representing one hour of time ahead or behind respectively.
By the 1930s, genius horologist Louis Cottier had created a wristwatch-sized version of the world time mechanism (most famously used by Patek Philippe) that showed the correct time in 24 different zones simultaneously – but it was another 20 years before the legendary Rolex watch company devised a simple, easy-to-use system that could display simply two times, ie the one ‘back home’ and the one at destination.
Rolex developed the watch for Pan-American Airlines during preparations for the first passenger-carrying intercontinental Boeing 707 flights that, while promising to make the world a smaller place, also introduced the phenomenon of jet lag.
Most of us are all too familiar with it these days, but back in the ’50s Pan-Am was especially eager to find a way for its pilots to minimise its effects. So before putting the 707 into full service, the airline asked Rolex to develop a wristwatch that would enable its wearer to tell the time at a glance in both the ‘home’ and ‘destination’ zones – partly in the quaint belief that being able to see both times simultaneously would trick the mind into not noticing the hours that had been lost or gained.
The result was the now highly collectable reference 6542 GMT-Master featuring a rotatable bezel calibrated into 24 hours and designed to be used in conjunction with a fourth hand – the 24-hour hand – which was coloured red to make it instantly identifiable.
The all-important rotatable bezel, meanwhile was made from steel with a Plexiglass insert, one half of which was coloured blue to represent night and the other half red to represent day. It was a simple matter to set the 24-hour hand so that it showed the destination time on the bezel, leaving the main hour hand on ‘home’ time.
Many Pan-Am pilots, first officers and navigators were issued with the original GMT-Master, but its combination of functionality and good looks led to it being adopted by an increasingly well-travelled public – and, despite a series of technical upgrades, the GMT-Master remains instantly recognisable today and is still one of the top-selling Rolex models.
The red and blue bezel has become synonymous with the watch, earning the soubriquet ‘Pepsi’ among Rolex bores (sorry, enthusiasts) – but, due to technical reasons surrounding the manufacture of the Cerachrome ceramic bezel used since 2005, the famous Pepsi scheme hasn’t been available on steel versions of the GMT-Master for more than 12 years.
Now, however, it’s back in the latest version of the watch, which also gets an ultra-hard 904L Oystersteel case, a Calibre 3285 Superlative Chronometer movement that’s accurate to plus or minus two seconds per day and the famous Jubilee bracelet first seen on the Datejust in 1945.
If the £6800 Rolex price tag is a bit strong for you, sister brand Tudor might have some good news – because it, too, has launched a GMT version of its top selling Black Bay that looks, er, almost the same as its loftier stablemate’s original, but costs just £2790 on a steel bracelet or £2570 on a strap.
Watch brands regularly tout limited editions on the basis that they are likely to become collectable and might even increase in value, but those with true investment potential are, in truth, decidedly few and far between.
Yet one maker that has consistently bucked the trend is the resolutely British Bremont.
After launching with an initial range of regular watches in 2007, Bremont introduced its first limited edition the following year in the form of the EP120. This contained parts made with material salvaged from a 1942 Spitfire MKV credited with shooting down six German aircraft in a single day during WWII. Produced in an edition of 120 examples priced at £6495 apiece, the watches quickly sold out and now change hands for upwards of £15,000.
In 2011, Bremont followed up with its P51, a 251-piece, £7450 edition incorporating aluminium from the fuselage of a 1944 Mustang fighter. Again, this sold out fast. Virtually unobtainable on the second-hand market, those that do occasionally appear typically sell for as much as £20,000.
And it’s a similar story with the brand’s other limited editions, the Victory watch of 2012 (containing original oak from Lord Nelson’s HMS Victory); the Codebreaker of 2013 (pine and paper from one of the Bletchley Park deciphering huts and parts from an Enigma encoding machine); the Wright Flyer watch (material from the wings of Wilbur and Orville Wright’s pioneering aircraft); the DH-88 (plywood from the undercarriage of the de Havilland DGH88 Comet Grosvenor House that performed a record-breaking flight from England to Australia in 1934) and the 1918, produced to mark this year’s centenary of the RAF and incorporating metal from a Hawker Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire and Bristol Blenheim.
So, if you want to sink some money into a good quality watch that – on the basis of the above – IS very unlikely to decrease in value, Bremont’s latest limited edition is probably worth considering.
Unveiled on October 24 this year, the new Supersonic celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first Concorde charter flight from London to Seattle via New York, during which the plane reached a speed of Mach 2.05 at a height of 63,500 feet. The Bremont Supersonic incorporates aluminium from the legendary plane into its movement in the form of a decorated ring within the case back.
Just 500 examples of the Supersonic will be made available, 300 in steel at £9495 (above) and 100 each in white and rose gold, respectively priced at £19,996 and £16,995.
New York-based Bradley Price was on a stellar path to long-term success as an industrial designer in 2011 when he decided to combine his twin passions of classic cars and vintage timepieces by creating the Autodromo watch brand.
Although initially intended to be nothing more than an interesting sideline to his day job, Autodromo touched a nerve in the car community and its initial quartz-powered offerings such as the Vallelunga, Veloce and Brescia – all designed by Price – soon attracted a cult following.
A 500-piece automatic model called the Monoposto was added to the range the following year and sold out rapidly, as did further special editions that paid homage to endurance racer Brian Redman and the thrilling Group B rally cars of the 1980s, among other themes
With Autodromo now in its seventh year, running the company and creating its new watch models is now Price’s full-time occupation – and a measure of how highly regarded it has become manifested itself in 2015, when he was asked by Ford to create an official watch to be made available exclusively to purchasers of the new GT supercar.
A high-end chronograph, the Ford GT watch uses a purpose-built La Joux-Perret flyback movement inside a specially shaped ceramic case. The honeycomb dial takes inspiration from aluminium castings found on the GT, the hands are made from sapphire crystal, the milled steel chronograph pushers match the controls found on the GT’s dashboard and the winding crown is an exact, miniaturised replica of the scroll selectors found on the car’s steering wheel.
In order to ensure that only Ford GT owners can get hold of the $11,500 watch, prospective buyers must create an account using a check code supplied by the GT concierge programme through which the cars are sold.
Once they have the code, they can order through the dedicated fordgtwatch.com website, where they will also find a configurator that will enable them to combine a wide range of colour and finish options to create their ideal watch – which can even be made exactly to match their GT’s paint colour.
For those of us who haven’t quite made it onto the GT waiting list, however, there is a more affordable option in the form of the £595 Autodromo Ford GT Endurance range that celebrates, among other things, the GT40’s outright
Le Mans victories of 1966/1967 and the modern GT’s 2016 class win.
Bamford Watch Department
Regardless of the object in question – be it a boat, a supercar, a private jet or a pair of shoes – it is generally agreed these days that ‘luxury’ is not luxury without a touch of personalisation.
And, if there’s one person who knows more about that than most, it’s George Bamford, the son of JCB tycoon Sir Anthony (whose stable of tastefully customised cars contains a fully restored ‘forward control’ Land Rover, a Jaguar Project 7, a Porsche 911 RS three-litre, a Ford GT and a Ferrari 550 Maranello – to name but a few).
But his enthusiasm for bespoke doesn’t stop at cars. More than 15 years ago, Bamford was inspired to start a business after noticing how much attention his custom-blackened Rolex Cosmograph Daytona drew from fellow horophiles.
The Bamford Watch Department subsequently became famous for blackening watch cases and bracelets using a ‘secret’ military-grade coating process that turned good quality, but run-of-the-mill, watches into something special, notably the most popular Rolex models –something about which the mighty ‘crown’ brand is said to have been distinctly unhappy. This meant Bamford not only had to buy the watches at full retail price, but also had to offer his own guarantee as the official one was rendered void by the customisation process.
But last year LVMH struck a deal with BWD that made it the official ‘customiser’ of Zenith and Bulgari watches, following up last March with the announcement that it would also become the official source of designed-to-order models from TAG Heuer.
The partnership means BWD is authorised not only to customise watches, but to sell them through its own website and through its international retail network, which now numbers more than 40 outlets and the Mr Porter e-commerce site..
BWD acquires Zenith, Bulgari and TAG watches and parts direct from the manufacturer and maintains an official inventory of spares, with alterations to the watches being made by the specialist watch makers and designers based at the firm’s London base in South Audley Street, Mayfair.
The TAG announcement coincided with the launch of a special Bamford 500-piece £6600 ($8100) edition of the square-cased Monaco with a carbon fibre case and a black dial highlighted in ‘Bamford blue’.
More fun, however, is to design your own TAG/Zenith/Bulgari using the brilliant BWD website configurator, which makes it possible to experiment with different colours for hands, dials and markings and combine various case finishes and strap options to create thousands of permutations – you could, for example, design a watch based on the livery of your favourite race team, your own car or, indeed, anything that takes your fancy.
Be warned, however: the BWD configurator is a very easy way to pass a great deal of time. And it also demonstrates just how difficult it is to create a really good-looking wrist watch…
Fans of the television series The Professionals – it ran from 1978 to 1983 starring Lewis Collins and Martin Shaw as the maverick law enforcers Bodie and Doyle, of crime-busting agency CI5 – might have been too distracted by the near constant action to have noticed Doyle’s wrist wear: the distinctive Porsche Design Chronograph 1.
Launched in 1972, the Chronograph 1’s claim to fame was that it was the world’s first all-black wristwatch, and also the first product to emerge from the Porsche Design studio set up that year by 911 designer FA ‘Butzi’ Porsche – an offshoot that evolved into the luxury goods subsidiary that today sells everything from luggage and sunglasses to coffee makers and clothing through branded boutiques around the world.
Back in Doyle’s day, Porsche Design watches were made for the studio by a firm called Orfina. That relationship lasted until 1978, when PD partnered with IWC to produce a string of ground-breaking models, including the nifty Compass watch (it contained a hidden compass) and the Titanium chronograph of 1980, the first titanium-cased watch.
In 1998, manufacture shifted to the historic Eterna brand but, when that was sold to Chinese jewellery group Citychamp in 2014, Porsche Design took over responsibility for manufacture.
The first watch to emerge under the new regime was a ‘cooking’ chronograph called the 1919 Chronotimer Eternity, launched in 2016 in a choice of pure or blackened titanium, but PD really got into its stride last year with the far more interesting Monobloc Actuator GMT Chronograph.
Four years in development, the watch substitutes conventional chronograph pushers for a single rocker activator that forms part of the case. It is available in three versions: titanium with a rubber strap, titanium with a titanium bracelet, and blackened titanium on a rubber strap.
And this year things got even more interesting with the introduction of a flyback edition of the Monobloc Actuator that’s limited to 251 examples at £4700, the 24 Hour Chronotimer All Black (£5100) and another flyback chronograph that pays tribute to the 911 RSR (£7200).
1919 Chronotimer Flyback Brown and Leather with polished and sandblasted titanium case, espresso-coloured dial and brown, calfskin strap, £5300
Monobloc Actuator Chronograph in titanium, £4700
There’s no shortage of UK-based watch brands that design their products over here and have them manufactured elsewhere, often in Asia. But one that really stands out is the fast-growing Farer founded just three years ago by four entrepreneurs, among them the highly experienced businessman (and classic car collector) Paul Sweetenham, formerly the European boss of retail giant TJX.
The name Farer (as in ‘wayfarer’) was chosen to reflect the brand’s adventurous side, and the various models in the collection are named after celebrated British travellers, adventurers, daredevils or expedition vessels – speed record breakers John Cobb, Ernest Eldridge and Henry Segrave, for example, the 19th century explorer John Oxley, or Charles Darwin’s ship The Beagle.
All Farer watches are designed in Britain, often using bold colours and contrasting textures that set them apart. Importantly, however, they are made in Switzerland by independent manufacturer Roventa-Henex, which creates watches for some of the most recognised brands in the business.
From an initial quartz-only offering, Farer now offers mainly hand-wound and automatic mechanical watches including a superb GMT model, a cushion-cased dive watch and a classic-looking three-hand automatic.
Its latest and most ambitious launch, however, takes the form of its first automatic chronograph, available in three variations. The Cobb features an unusual, asymmetrical dial design finished in matt navy blue with contrasting light blue sub-dials and a highly visible signal yellow chronograph hand, while the Eldridge and Segrave versions feature brown and black dials respectively, each with characteristically bright detailing.
All three models have an outer seconds track and tachymeter scale for speed and distance calculations, and the 39mm cases are equipped with Farer’s signature bronze crown that matches the polished bronze winding rotor visible through the transparent back.
As with a car, one of the worst things you can do with a mechanical watch is to shut it away and not use it. Leaving a watch dormant for a few weeks won’t do it any harm, but when those weeks turn to months and months to years, there’s a good chance that oils will clog, wheels will seize and springs will lose their spring – it probably sounds all too familiar.
One way of maintaining your mechanical watches in good working order, however, is to store them in a winding box equipped with an electric motor that oscillates the watch on a regular basis, so keeping the mainspring wound and the mechanism running – which is especially useful if you own annual, perpetual calendar or moonphase models that need to tick away constantly in order to avoid the need for complicated resetting.
Most winding boxes are designed for automatic mechanisms (although versions for manual-wind pieces are available) – and, in some cases, they are even more complicated than the watches they are made to accommodate, as this selection demonstrates.
SCATOLA DEL TEMPO
Undoubtedly one of the most prestigious names in the business, Italy’s Scatola del Tempo actually invented the motorised watch winder way back in 1990. Its products are so highly regarded that even Patek Philippe commissions the firm to create bespoke winders for some of its rarest pieces – and it will make a watch-winding system to any size or specification its clients desire. Provided they can afford it…
Rapport’s affordable winders start at £295 for the Evo model, which takes the form of a cube designed to hold a single watch. Available in bright and muted colours, the boxes can be built-in to a multi-winder modular system. Or, for £4750, you can have the four-watch Templa Ebony model with LCD control panel, LED lighting and smoked glass sliding doors.
Developed by watch industry veteran Philippe Subilia, Swiss Kubik winders run on alkaline batteries instead of mains electricity, making them fully portable and immune to power failures (they will work for three years without a battery charge). Starting at about £400, the 10cm cubes can be endlessly locked together and are available in a myriad of finishes, ranging from leather to carbon fibre.
The luxury specification of the winders made by Italian leather goods specialist Underwood accounts for their lofty price tags. The brand is especially proud of the fact that its winders are among the quietest on the market and use electric motors made by Maxon, a Swiss firm that supplies its products to NASA for use on Mars Rover exploration vehicles.
As well as being famous for its sophisticated clocks, Erwin Sattler makes the type of watch winders you’d expect to find in the lair of a James Bond nemesis. Perhaps the wildest is the Commander Safe, which boasts ‘parking’ for 20 watches, interior and exterior lighting, a Makassar wood case with quilted leather doors and gauges to show temperature and humidity. Check the strength of your floor, though – the Commander weighs 700 kilos.
When Jaeger-LeCoultre produced its €1.8 million limited edition Hybris Mechanica set of three high-complication watches in 2010, it commissioned German safe maker Döttling to create a six-foot, 800kg fire- and bombproof safe fitted with a bank of automatic winders and drawers for jewellery and watch storage. Give Dottling the measurements of the space you have available, and it will create a custom-made multiple winder system to fit it exactly.
BUBEN & ZORWEG
Austria’s Buben & Zorweg makes watch winders capable of holding up to 1000 timepieces in the form of ‘watch walls’ that can also be equipped with built-in wine coolers and cigar humidors. Buben & Zorweg winders, which start at a heady £2130, are computer controlled and can be programmed to simulate day-to-day wear.
Swedish-made Wolf winders are claimed to be the only devices of their type that actually count the number of oscillations. Models include the eight-slot ‘Roadster’ model at about £2500, although the entry level Meridian starts at just £250.
Although e-commerce is now being embraced by a growing number of leading watch brands, it was largely regarded with suspicion by the industry back in 2004 when three entrepreneurial British horophiles – Mike France, Peter Ellis and Christopher Ward – established the Christopher Ward dial name with the aim of direct-selling affordable, good quality products solely via the web.
The Berkshire-based firm retailed its first Chinese-made quartz watches in 2005 and soon gained traction through a series of positive reviews on internet forums. Early success led to a partnership with independent Swiss movement maker Synergies Horlogères in 2008, which enabled Christopher Ward to up its game and introduce mechanical movements.
It officially merged with Synergies Horlogères in 2014 and quickly announced the Calibre SH21, its first in-house mechanical movement that was developed from the ground up by a talented young German watch maker (and classic Jaguar driver) called Johannes Jahnke.
A slick rebrand followed in 2016 and now the firm offers dozens of designs across a four-family range of dress, sport, aviation and motor sport watches. Prices range from £350 for more basic quartz-powered pieces to £3370 for its C9 single-pusher chronograph – although the direct-selling approach means most models remain well below the £1500 mark, despite a bias towards the use of mechanical movements.
As reported in last year’s Precision, the brand is now the official watch partner of the Morgan Motor Company and has also capitalised on the synergy between automobiles and wrist watches with a regular range of driving models that’s complemented by a rolling programme of limited-edition pieces based on historic competition cars such as the Ford GT40, Ferrari 250 GTO and Aston Martin DBR1.
But, according to France, it was the merger with Synergies Horlogères that gave Christopher Ward real credibility by bringing all aspects of making and selling watches under one roof.
And to celebrate five years since the creation of the first working prototype of the SH21 movement, the brand recently incorporated it into a limited-edition watch called the C7 Apex that’s unlike anything it has ever produced.
The launch marks the first of four new Apex models which will respectively be dedicated to the styles of motoring, diving, aviation and dress – and the first up is a motor sport-inspired, 50-piece edition designed to show off the Calibre SH21 through a semi-open dial that gives the watch a ‘concept’ look.
With mechanical components highlighted in red, a brake caliper-inspired bridge design, Ruthenium dial details and white Superluminova hands and markings, the watch features a sandblasted steel four-piece case with a grey DLC central band.
Many horophiles associate IWC (the International Watch Company) with flying, due to the fame of its Big Pilot and MK 11 airman models that date back to WWII and remain strong sellers today – but there’s more to the brand than aviation.
As well as being the official timing partner of the annual Goodwood Members’ Meeting, the Schaffhausen-based maker offers a range of Mercedes-Benz-inspired Ingenieur tool watches, some of which it developed alongside the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team.
F1 fans might have spotted IWCs on the wrists of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas when they are out of their cars – and will certainly be familiar with the pretend ones that are ostentatiously printed on their driving gloves for the benefit of the cockpit cameras.
But IWC’s history dates back to before the motor car was invented. It was founded in 1868 by a 27-year-old American called Florentine Ariosto Jones who, having honed his horological techniques in Boston, decided to start his own business in Switzerland, where the skills base was rich and the wages were low.
After getting the cold shoulder from workers in the west of the country, where there was fear about his plans for mass production, Jones met Schaffhausen industrialist Heinrich Moser, who rented him factory premises beside his recently opened Rhine hydro plant. But Jones’s dream was not to last – IWC went bust in 1875 and was taken over by the Schaffhausen Handelsbank the following year.
Having passed through various owners and drifted ever closer to becoming a footnote in horological history, IWC was revitalised during the 1990s by watch industry doyen Günter Blümlein in advance of its purchase by luxury goods giant Richemont in 2000.
Since then, it has grown from being a relatively niche brand to one with 1000 points of sale around the world, of which 70 are stand-alone boutiques in locations such as Hong Kong, New York and Beijing.
The brand marks its 150th anniversary this year with a series of 29 limited-edition watches at prices ranging from £6900 to an eye-watering £210,000 and comprising special versions of its celebrated Big Pilot, Portofino and Da Vinci models, as well as a quirky, wrist-worn interpretation of the late 19th century Pallweber pocket watch, featuring its unusual ‘jumping numerals’ display.
But it’s the Portugieser line that has been afforded anniversary star billing with the launch of ‘150th’ versions of no fewer than five different models, the highlight being a constant-force tourbillon that will be made in an edition of just 30 pieces in platinum.
There is also a Portugieser perpetual calendar tourbillon in red gold that will be made in 50 examples, a perpetual calendar version in red gold featuring a double moon phase display that IWC claims will remain accurate for 577 years (250 examples) and a steel-cased chronograph that will be produced in an edition of 2000.
The fifth and final anniversary Portugieser, meanwhile, is the Hand Wound Eight Days Edition, which has a 43mm diameter case in red gold (250 examples) or steel (1000 examples), a stop seconds feature for accurate time setting and a sapphire crystal back that shows the nicely finished mechanism in all its glory – complete with its built-in power reserve indicator and gold anniversary medallion.
It’s the best and simplest of the lot – as well as being the version that’s most faithful to the original Portugieser that first appeared in 1939, as a response to a request from a couple of watch importers from Lisbon and Oporto called Rodriguez and Teixeira.
The pair had received requests from ship’s captains and sailors of the merchant marine for a large-sized wristwatch with the precision of a marine chronometer – in other words, a watch that was the exact opposite of the prevailing trend for small, neat timepieces with Art Deco styling.
IWC responded by fitting a highly accurate pocket watch movement into a plain 41.5mm case with the option of simple black or silvered dials. The ‘Portugieser’ was made in small numbers until 1958 (plus a very few for the German market in the 1970s) before being revived, appropriately enough, for the brand’s 125th anniversary in 1993.
The famously futuristic MB&F took a step back to the ‘50s in search of inspiration for its latest ‘Horological Machine’ HM9, which is based on the aerodynamic lines of the era’s streamlined automobiles. The titanium and milled crystal case resembles a jet engine and contains the specially developed, hand-wound movement in two lateral pods with its two balance wheels and two regulating systems being connected by a planetary differential. ‘Flow’ is available in two editions of 33 pieces, ‘Air’ with a dark movement and ‘Road’ with a gold-plated movement.
Vintage Seiko dive watches have soared in both popularity and value recently – making the modern-day models seem even more of a bargain. The Prospex Black Series 200m could be a future classic (especially now that Jacques Cousteau’s grandson Fabian has joined the brand as an ambassador) and can be had as a solar-powered version or a mechanical automatic. Both can be obtained from Seiko’s London boutique.
From £369, www.seikowatches.com
The historic Favre Leuba watch brand, now owned by a branch of Tata Engineering, has pledged its support to veteran Polar explorer Pen Hadow, who will wear a Favre Leuba Bivouac 9000 watch while carrying out a 15-year expedition programme to help establish a North Pole marine reserve. The Bivouac 9000 should certainly be up to the job – it has a 48mm titanium case and a hand-wound movement incorporating a mechanical altimeter capable of measuring climbs of up to 9000 metres. The device works through a tiny, air-tight alloy capsule that expands or contracts with slight changes in air pressure.
If you like your watches minimal, newcomer Optik Instruments should be on your radar. The Oxfordshire-based brand recently launched with a Horizon model that eschews the usual dial and hands in favour of a rotating disc marked with ‘waypoints’ that roughly indicate whether it is quarter past, half past or quarter to the hour. The disc turns 360 degrees every 24 hours and is divided into light and dark sections to represent day and night.
The current popularity of vintage dive watches is encouraging many makers to dip in with present-day versions of their old classics. One of the best recently to emerge recently from the archives is this Certina DSPH200M that’s based on a 40mm model originally produced in 1967. Although slightly larger at 42.8mm, the new version features the same 200-metre water resistance, lacquered black dial and rotating bezel as the ’60s model, from which it also borrows a back engraved with the image of a turtle. The watch is supplied with two straps (one leather, one nylon) and a fully waterproof Pelican storage case.
Zenith’s new Cronometro Tipo CP-2 Cairelli is based on a 1960s model originally commissioned by Rome jeweller A Cairelli for supply to the Italian Air Force. The 43mm reincarnation uses Zenith’s famed El Primero movement with an added flyback function that enables the chronograph to be stopped, reset and restarted with a single push of the button. A choice of aged steel or bronze cases with dark grey or brown dials lend a classic look. And it’s competitively priced – in relative terms.
Louis Cartier designed the first wristwatch for men in 1904 after aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont complained that he couldn’t use a pocket watch with both hands on the controls of his flying machine. Cartier solved the problem by devising a fumble-free ‘wristlet’ watch that he put into production under the Santos name seven years later. A cornerstone of the Cartier catalogue ever since, it gets a makeover this year with new large and medium versions in a choice of steel, gold, or steel and gold cases. Multiple quick-change strap variations are available, along with Cartier’s Smartlink quick-adjust bracelets.
From £5350, www.cartier.com
This year marks Chopard’s 30th anniversary as the headline sponsor of the Mille Miglia classic car rally – and to celebrate, the car-crazy Chopard watch boss (and regular MM competitor) Karl-Freidrich Scheufele has launched a range of five Racing Colours chronographs featuring dials in shades synonymous with some of the main competing countries – ie British Racing Green; Speed Yellow (Belgium); Rosso Corsa (Italy); Vintage Blue (France) and Speed Silver (Germany). Just 300 of each colour will be produced, all on calfskin straps with a tyre tread rubber backing. The watches are available individually or as five-piece sets, but can only be bought from Chopard boutiques.
Patek Philippe might be best known for making high-end, rare and decidedly traditional-looking wrist wear for wealthy connoisseurs – but it wowed the crowds at this year’s Baselworld fair with the new Aquanaut sports chronograph that combines a smoky black dial highlighted by orange detailing with a choice of black or vibrant orange rubber straps. The unusually shaped 42mm steel case contains Patek’s own flyback movement that can be seen through the sapphire crystal back. A screw-down crown ensures water resistance to 120 metres – but don’t drop it in the pool.
Hublot’s shamelessly ostentatious Big Bang models brought the brand back from the dead when they were launched by watch marketing genius Jean-Claude Biver 13 years ago. But, despite the hundreds of variations on the theme that have since been produced, none has been quite so eye-catching as the Big Bang Unico Magic Red that was unveiled earlier this year – it’s claimed to be the first watch to have been made from vibrantly coloured ceramic. It’s very red, and just 500 are available.
Originally an all-American company, Hamilton’s history as a supplier of military watches to allied forces at home and abroad is famously rich – and its new Khaki Field 38mm is a faithful recreation of the so-called ‘Hack’ watch that was made in the millions for the US Army (and others). There’s a choice of matt black dial with white luminescent markings for the purists, or brown matt with sand detailing for those looking for something more suitable for desert ops.
Baume & Mercier
Despite what many watch makers would have us believe, true innovation is becoming rare in the world of horology – but entry-level luxury brand Baume & Mercier has certainly demonstrated it with its innovative Baumatic model that uses an all-new movement developed by the group’s Research and Innovation department. Not only does it offer 120 hours of power reserve, it is COSC chronometer certified, anti-magnetic to 1500 Gauss and has a five-year service interval.
Back in 1965, Jaeger-LeCoultre tapped in to the growing interest in recreational diving brought about by the commercialisation of SCUBA with the creation of an innovative dive watch called the Memovox Polaris. Not only was it seriously waterproof, but it featured a mechanical alarm designed to warn the wearer when it was time to return to the surface. The watch has now been revived as part of a five-model Polaris range that includes automatic, world time, chronograph and date models.
Although it will always be known as one of the brands that kicked off the craze for oversize watches with the late 1990s revival of the large military dive models it produced during the 1930s and ’40s, Panerai is not afraid to experiment with its signature designs – hence the arrival of the Luminor Due that aims to make the famous crown guard watch more accessible and more wearable with a range of cases in 38mm and 42mm sizes, such as this version with a white dial and blue leather strap.
£5100 (38mm); £5500 (42mm), www.panerai.com
If you feel the urge to buy yourself a new watch next time you head for a lap of the Nürburgring, drop in at the new boutique recently opened on the site by French watch brand BRM. Short for ‘Bernard Richards Manufacture’, the firm was founded 15 years ago by motorcycle collector and racing car enthusiast Bernard Richards, who designs and makes his automotive-inspired watches in a workshop outside Paris. During the past decade-and-a-half the BRM name has become familiar at racetracks around the world thanks to the brand’s support of numerous up-and-coming drivers and its sponsorship of circuits as far apart as the Clark International Speedway in the Philippines and La Ferté Gaucher an hour east of Paris.
If (like me) you have always regretted not inheriting your father’s wartime-worn wrist watch, Longines is promising to provide the next best thing with its remarkable new Heritage Military model. Based on a 1940s army issue watch returned to Longines by a customer, the faithful recreation features a 38.5mm steel case, gorgeous blued steel hands and a dial that has been ‘pre-patinated’ with an authentic mottled finish to make the watch look as though it has really seen some action. And, best of all, you don’t have to join-up to get one.
A Lange and Sohne
Looking for a cast-iron horological investment and have £125,000 to spare? If so, A Lange and Sohne’s remarkable Triple Split should be on your shopping list – its mind-boggling mechanism comprises 567 parts and enables the watch to measure split times for seconds, minutes and hours. Just 100 will be made.
Linde Werdelin is a London-based, Danish-owned niche maker that became one of the first watch brands to sell almost exclusively via the internet when it launched commercially in 2006. All its watches are produced in small editions – always fewer than 100 – with only 33 of its latest model, the Ocean Blue Three Timer, being available. It features a 44mm steel case with a vibrant blue guilloche dial and matching strap in soft blue rubber.
Here’s a pub quiz question: what’s the oldest watch manufacturer to have remained in continuous production since the day it was founded? Answer: Vacheron Constantin, which was established in 1755 in Geneva and has been there, making watches, ever since. Many connoisseurs rate Vacheron’s products on a par with the revered Patek Philippe, and its watches are designed to appeal to a similar type of buyer – meaning they are generally expensive. But the firm has now set out to attract younger buyers with a new, entry-level collection called the Fiftysix that starts with this 40mm steel cased automatic with a vintage-look dial.
From £10,100, www.vacheron-constantin.com
The English dial name Vertex was started in 1916 by Claude Lyons and went on to become a major manufacturer that was among the famous ‘Dirty Dozen’ official suppliers to the British military during WWII. Despite its early success, Vertex fell victim to the arrival of quartz power and went bust in the early 1970s… but in 2016 the firm was revived by Lyons’s great grandson, former Aston Martin executive Don Cochrane, who got it back on its feet with a new limited-edition model called the M100. Now a military-style monopusher chronograph has joined the range, along with a blackened M100 at £2626 – but only 150 of those are available.
The late designer Gerald Genta is renowned for having penned some of the most successful watches of the last half of the 20th century, in particular the Royal Oak for Audemars Piguet – a model said to have been the world’s first, steel-cased luxury sports watch. In 1993 a young watch designer called Emmanuel Gueit rose to the task of making the Oak more appealing to the young and trendy by creating the Offshore chronograph that, at 42mm, was four millimetres larger than the original. To mark the Offshore’s 25th anniversary, Gueit’s design has been revived in this special edition. Vintage watch fans will be interested to know that one of the earliest Offshores, the personal property of Gueit, is due to cross the block at Phillips Geneva on November 10. It’s tipped to fetch as much as Sfr80,000 (£61,500) – complete with a sheaf of his original sketches.
Carl F Bucherer
Anyone who appreciates a classic-looking chronograph will drool over Carl F Bucherer’s achingly gorgeous Manero Peripheral in a new 43mm rose gold case with contrasting champagne dial. The ‘Peripheral’ in the name of this beauty refers to the fact that the automatic winding system is fitted to the outside edge of the movement, affording an unhindered view of the superbly crafted mechanism through the sapphire case back. Steel versions cost a more accessible £4700.
Danish brand REC has established its own niche during the past five years, by making dials using metal salvaged from interesting old cars. From the original Mini-based models, REC has moved on to use bits from a ’60s Mustang and various Porsche 911s – and its most interesting creation to date is the new 901 RS limited edition. It features metal from a 1973 911 2.7RS that was originally owned by German racer Clemens Schickentanz and later took part in the Monte Carlo and Lombard RAC rallies. The steel was salvaged from the car during a 30-year restoration completed in 2015. The 901 RS is limited to 250 examples.
Omologato, the UK-based car watch specialist profiled on the Precision page of last month’s Motor Sport, has just released a delectable new chronograph called British Racing Green as part of its 2019 collection. The clue, of course, is in the name – which refers to the gorgeous BRG dial colour that contrasts superbly with an urgent orange centre seconds hand and sub-dial border to evoke the livery of BRM racers of the ’60s. The 42mm stainless steel case makes for a highly legible watch, and the top quality Japanese-made quartz movement behind that lovely dial not only guarantees reliability, but makes for an affordable price – which includes the supple perforated strap in top quality Italian leather.
UK-based Hummingbird weighed in to the booming bicycle business three years ago – and has now developed the world’s lightest electric fold-up. Tipping the scales at just 10.3 kilos, this little marvel was designed in collaboration with Prodrive and features a one-piece carbon-fibre frame and a 250-watt electric motor that, together with its rechargeable battery, is elegantly housed within the machine’s rear wheel hub, thus avoiding the need for a cumbersome external battery pack. A three-hour charge will help power the bike to a top speed of 25kph over a 40km range, with prices starting at £4495 (£200 more for custom colours).
MONTBLANC AND PURDEY
The only thing pens and shotguns used to have in common was an appetite for cartridges – but now Montblanc has partnered with English gunmaker Purdey to create a series of limited-edition writing instruments that pay homage to gunsmithery. The pens feature the same Turkish walnut from which Purdey carves its stocks. Three versions are available, the Special and two limited editions of 81 (to mark the year 1881, when Purdey was founded) and nine (the number of crafts required to make a Purdey gun). Special, £2640; 81, £31,500; 9, £120,000.
NCN’EAN BOTANICAL SPIRIT
Given the seemingly unstoppable growth in the market for single malt whiskies and ‘boutique’ gins, it was only a matter of time before someone came up with the idea of combining the two. The first batch of NcN’ean Botanical Spirit was distilled last year as a ‘hybrid’ of the two containing botanicals such as grapefruit, wild herbs, bog myrtle, coriander and heather, much of it sourced from the area near the distillery at Drimnin, Scotland. Now ready for release, the first bottles of NcN’ean are available – or, if you’re really keen, you can put your name down for an entire 195-litre cask (about 320 bottles). That will be available for £3000, after a five-year maturation period. From £27.
MALLE LOST COLLECTION
Malle London was set up in 2012 by Robert Nightingale and his cousin Jonny Cazzolla who, having pursued careers as design consultants, decided to combine their love of motorcycles with work by developing bike-inspired luggage and clothing that can withstand the rigours of riding yet be elegant enough to wear every day. The latest range is called the Lost Collection and includes pieces made from top quality waxed cotton and canvas. Garment duffel, £449; backpacks from £229; Parker raincoat, £399.