Keeping an eye on the time: new releases in the watch world
by Richard Holt
For people that don’t really see the point in mechanical watches, particularly ones that cost a lot, there is no sense trying to persuade them. They are very likely to be the same people that would look at a Lamborghini and think just how much more shopping you could fit into a Mitsubishi Mirage.
In the accuracy battle, of course, spring-powered watches lost out to quartz decades ago. And now smartphones are midway through the evolutionary process of spawning straps, so that they can inhabit our wrists. Despite these twin assaults, more and more people are discovering the joy of wearing a watch based on technology that has been around twice as long as the steam train.
It is an appreciation of design for its own sake. There will always be accusations that the watch serves the purpose of reflecting glory onto its owner, but nice things always attract cheap shots.
Certain luxury brands are of course guilty of the occasional bit of over-blinging. But that could never be said about Patek Philippe, which has not only produced some of the most beautiful watches ever made but is also a master of complicated movements.
Patek was a front-runner in developing the world timer, invented by Louis Cottier in the 1930s. It involved two concentric circles that could be used at a glance to tell the time anywhere in the world. The latest model to feature an evolution of this is the Patek World Time Chronograph. It has a seconds hand on the main dial and minutes on the subdial. Adding this on top of the 24-hour and world city rings could be a recipe for clutter, but the fact it works so well is testament to Patek’s design mastery.
The two pushers on the right operate the chronograph, and the one on the left changes the local time. Clicking through the different timezones gives the same feeling of perfectly harmonised engineering as slotting through the cogs of a good-old manual gearbox. Yes, there are easier ways of doing things – your smartphone updates its own time zone automatically as soon as your plane lands. But where’s the fun in that?
Both Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were wearing Omega Speedmasters when they landed on the moon. As the first official Nasa space watch, Omega has understandably made much of the Speedmaster’s reputation. But it wasn’t conceived to go into space, being designed as a stopwatch for motor races and other earthbound sporting events. This latest version comes complete with moonphase display – so the moon watch now comes complete with its very own moon.
There are few watch brands causing as much of a stir as Tudor. It was launched in the 1940s as a cheaper alternative to sister brand Rolex, and for that reason spent many years in its sibling’s shadow. This all changed in 2012 with the launch of the Black Bay Heritage, a design that won legions of admirers. Latest in the collection is the Black Bay 36, with a smaller (36mm) stainless steel case that lacks the diving bezel of previous Black Bay models. It was one of the most talked-about watches at the recent Baselworld watch extravaganza, showing how Tudor’s ascendance as a brand in its own right shows no signs of slowing.