PRIMETIME – Watchmaking in the News – October 2019

PRIMETIME – Watchmaking in the News – October 2019

Hello and welcome on PRIMETIME – Watchmaking
in the News and we have quite a dense edition to share with you as there were plenty of
new products, business and gossipy things happening recently, Baselworld/SIHH saga update,
serious auctions to come, records to be broken, GPHG prognostic, as well as a rich November
agenda to announce, so hang in there and let’s start with a super quick wrist check as I
am wearing one of my favorite watch, an old school Bovet chrono from the 50’s, it’s
my second one in this theme and I do wear it a lot, simple and nice, works well, what
do you want more? Well, I do have a few ideas, but for today this will do just fine. Before talking about all this, just wanted
to mention that we’ve added a few books in our online boutique, books on some iconic
brands and watches, but also some more technical ones with for instance this book used in all
Swiss watchmaking schools called the Theory of Watchmaking and it’s available in English,
French, German, Italian and Spanish. Ok, let’s talk watches and I have to start
with A. Lange & Soehne who shocked the watch world with their first ever steel sport watch,
something they said they would never do, but there you go and business is business as the
German brand introduced the Odysseus, a 40.5mm in width, 11.1 in height, totally new timepiece,
new movement and actually this will be a completely new line of products additional to the current
brand’s offering of 5 collections; Lange 1, Saxonia, 1815, Richard Lange, Zeitwerk
and now the Odysseus. So Lange insisted on the sport dimension of this new timepiece
and I think that the term “sportier” would fit a bit more, as they went pretty conservative
and could have gone a bit more wild to prove their point. For instance for me one of the
only sporty features is this red number 60 found at 12 o’clock and it’s so tiny.
Ok, you have a screw-down crown and the watch is water resistant to 120 meters, but that’s
about it. Ok, the dial is nice, very nice, but again I would say more elegant than sporty
and seriously is a big date and especially a big day indicator a sporty attribute? Well
not really in my opinion and this is really what stands out when you look at it. Ok I
get that it respects some design codes of the brand, kind of “zeitwerkish”, but
is it really necessary? I doubt and of course what to say about the integrated jubilee-like
bracelet? Well this one for sure got people dubious to say the least and personally I’m
no big fan, though I admit that it is quite comfortable and the clasp has a nice feature,
which allows you to easily adjust the size by a few millimeters, up to 7, something seriously
quite convenient, for instance when you’re flying and your wrist just gets a bit swollen
after your eighth gin and tonic. Anyhow and contrary to Audemars Piguet who went all in
when they introduced the Code 11.59, really can’t get over this name, well when AP introduced
early this year this new collection, they came with nothing less than 13 references,
from a 3-hander, the one that got so much love from everyone, all the way to a Supersonnerie
minute repeater version. Well in this case Lange was much more prudent, not even showing
a simple colour dial variation, but as they did mention that it will be a new collection,
so we can definitely expect other versions coming in the near future, other complications
and so forth and based on initial feedback received, well they will be able to make the
small and needed adjustments to really fit this sport dimension if that was really the
goal. But to summarise things, the watch has potential, the case is pretty nice, again
more classic than sporty, the corrector buttons for the day and date are precise when activated,
this German luxury car closing door feeling, the movement beating at 4Hz is nice, was constructed
in a way to allow the addition of modules, is of course automatic and holds 50 hours
of power reserve, it’s priced a bit short of 30’000 Swiss Francs, Dollars, Euros and
I’m not saying that Lange need to go the full Off Shore route, but I hope you get my
point and personally I would just like to see it on a nato strap and even if they previously
said never ever, well I guess almost every brands have to have a steel sporty watch in
their portfolio, these are simply so hot today, so it’s a rationale business decision to
do so. So bravo for trying and an even bigger bravo when they will get it right. And regarding
this never ever attitude, well I think brands believe that people will easily forget what
has been said before, a bit like in politics, think of Roger Dubuis which claimed for years
and years that all their watches will be Geneva Hallmark certified, it was a distinct brand
marker and recently kind of ditched that principle, well at least I doubt that we will see a quartz
Blancpain anytime soon, but now who knows right? Ok, next big launch or let’s say big budget
spent on that launch and I will talk about the new Chopard Alpine Eagle, which is also
pursuing the grail of the steel sport watch opportunity. Ok Chopard is enjoying since
many years a solid success with the Mille Miglia, a sport collection for sure, but this
one is positioned as an entry product if I can say so. So with the Alpine Eagle, we can
clearly feel that they are looking to narrow the gap in terms of price point between their
very nice high end L.U.C pieces and the Mille Miglia and be a bit opportunistic but in these
troubled times for watchmaking nothing wrong with trying. So in the last edition of PRIMETIME,
I had a good time and laugh talking about the new Bell & Ross BR05 collection with this
mix of so many existing icons and then when I saw this new Chopard, I said oh please no,
not again!!! Screws on the bezel, integrated bracelet and the likes, but actually this
Chopard mimics slightly a 1980’s collection of the brand called at the time the St. Moritz,
which had these features. So honour is safe, more or less, and this new watch comes in
two sizes, a 41 and a 36mm version, price starting at around 10’000 Swiss francs,
but up to 45’000 for a solid gold and diamond version. It holds an in-house automatic movement
beating at 4Hz with 42 hours of power reserve, it’s COSC certified, the steel used is called
Lucent steel and is more scratch resistant than regular steel and for the eco-touch,
this steel is made of recycled steel, Greta will be happy. And for the marketing story,
well the name of this new collection comes from the iris of eagles which is being transposed
on the dial with this look alike effect, do you follow me on this one, are you mesmerized
by my story, I hope so. But something seriously interesting about this watch is the proposed
sizes, especially coming with this 36mm version clearly demonstrating that small has become
beautiful again. Ok enough of these sport watches and let’s
talk about more bizarre time telling objects and we’ll start with HYT which introduced
a totally new proprietary movement coming in the H5. This timepieces uses the convincing
shape of the H0, but now has its own movement which took a bit more than 3 years to develop
with the help of master genius watchmaker Eric Coudray and the team of TEC Group, a
name you’re about to hear a few times by year’s end on this chanel, just a little
teasing, but coming back on this new timepiece, the main development particularity resides
in a new cam system which clearly improves certain reliability issues when it comes to
the precise synchronization of the complex hour fluidic system found in the capillary
with the more traditional mechanical minute indicator found at 12 o’clock. HYT introduced
2 variants, one with black fluid and green numerals on the circumference of the case
and the opposite version, green fluid, black numerals. Each is limited to 25 pieces and
price is set at 55’000 Swiss francs. Ok, next one with Romain Jerome which continues
with its Marvel character inspired watches and now coming with a rather original model
called the Arraw Spiderman Tourbillon. As its name implies, this watch features a tourbillon,
a pretty large central one, the cage reminding us of spider web and is placed above the main
barrel, also large, enabling a power reserve of 150 hours, almost 6 days. The peripheral
time indication display is quite original with a planetary gear system for the hour
and minute, the minute one overlapping the hour indication 12 times per cycle. The 45mm
case combines black carbon and red fiberglass with a matte aspect and one cool feature is
how you wind this watch since it has no apparent crown. On the case back side you have a hoop
that you pull up and you then simply turn it in one direction and to set the time, you
have an extra little button hidden on the case at 6 o’clock between the lugs and by
pressing on it and by turning the hoop, you adjust time in both directions. Ok, quite
a playful timepiece costing nevertheless 92’000 Swiss francs. And the last product launch I will quickly
come back on is this really crazy colt clock that I had the pleasure to review and just
wanted to say that the first time I saw this thing, I immediately said to myself ok this
will work and actually it did. It was launched during the SIAR in Mexico and this new company,
the Unnamed Society sold them like hot cakes and I’m seriously not too surprised and
we will soon see some really crazy versions, as the goal is to create only unique pieces
and I let you imagine what this can lead too, kind of the El Chapo version if you see what
I mean. Ok let’s now talk business news and there
were a few interesting stories worth coming back on. As you can imagine the current situation
in Hong Kong is playing pretty hard on all watch brands and as a reminder Hong Kong represents
20% of Swiss exports, doesn’t mean all watches remained in Hong Kong, but nevertheless this
is now starting to seriously hurt as I’ve heard from various sources that some brands
have simply not sold a single watch since many weeks and I’m talking big brands. So
some of this market necessarily shifted to other places, but it will for sure have serious
consequences on the overall performance of the industry by year’s end and some brands
are already taking this very seriously as there are many rumours and in some cases actually
more than simple rumours about some important layoffs that will either occur or have discretely
started, jobs positions left vacant etc. So as mentioned already a few times on this channel,
today you have clear winners, this club of ten brands or so that are enjoying stronger
and stronger positions, positions mainly attained by the power and efficiency of their marketing,
then on the other side of the spectrum you have the nicher smaller brands that we particularly
like here on, brands producing small numbers but of much higher horological
substance, where the notion of craft and art is at the center of what they do and who they
are and then in the middle, well you have a huge ecosystem that will simply suffer more
and more and this has naturally already started many years ago, but no one really wanted to
see the truth. So I don’t want to sound too alarmist and I’ve been saying this for
a long time, but nothing wrong with overall production going down, it’s just that there
is a huge antagonism as most of these brands in this middle sector belong to groups and/or
are publicly traded companies where the business model only values eternal growth and higher
yield, something today I believe is unachievable with the dynamic of the watch market. Adapting
to these changing rules is a must and think of this for instance, a few days ago I read
a very interesting market analysis which suggests that 50% of the entire Swatch Group turnover
is generated solely on the Chinese market, whether purchased there or abroad by Chinese
tourists. Well a small chinese market contraction will have massive consequences for the Swatch
Group and it also means that Chinese consumers are the only ones purchasing some category
of products that not many people buys elsewhere. If their taste change and there is no reason
why they shouldn’t, well I let you imagine the backlash that this could trigger. But on this good note, I naturally still and
totally believe in the power of mechanical watchmaking and there are still so many fantastic
stories to uncover together, but we’ll indeed focus a bit more on the art side of the spectrum. Ok, next news and it’s been a while since
there hasn’t been significant updates on the Baselworld/SIHH saga and the evolution
of these types of trade fairs and today we have a few things to share with you. As a
quick reminder, both fairs will now happen back to back of each other and at the end
of April beginning of May next year. These dates don’t really satisfy anyone on the
brand side, a bit too late to take orders for the year, so Baselworld has already announced
that the 2021 edition will take place at least 3 weeks prior to next year’s show. Baselworld
also announced that they managed to convince a few brands to come back inside the fair,
such as Maurice Lacroix and De Bethune and some further announcements are expected soon,
but in general we are hearing good things, good ideas, a new will and new state of mind
and we really hope that it will be for the better of the fair. On the SIHH side, the
big news is a cosmetic one, but a strategic one nonetheless since it drops this incomprehensible
acronym to many, SIHH, Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, for a new brand name
already used by the organisers in other circumstances: Watches & Wonders. The first time this was
used was a few years ago for the Asian version of the SIHH which took place in Hong Kong
on a bi-annual rhythm. The cost for brands to attend was just prohibitive, even for Richemond
brands and the salon was later dropped, but a couple of years ago, this name was re-used
for some kind of a small american spin off version taking place in Miami in early February.
This event was much less formal than the Geneva event, more brands could participate, costs
reduced and visitors were welcome, sounds like a good recipe no? Well there is a massive
probability that I will attend next year’s venue; Miami, February, watches, nice people,
that’s a good enough program for me. Anyhow the SIHH or should I say the FHH, the Fondation
de la Haute Horlogerie in charge of organising the SIHH has now decided to use the same Watches
& Wonder wording for the Geneva event and at the same time they will try to implicate
much more the Geneva watchmaking scene, whether opening manufactures during this week, more
activation in the various brand’s boutique in the city and many more activities in general
happening. This is of course a good thing and actually the FHH had already tried to
organise some kind of watchmaking week in Geneva in the spring of this year, but this
didn’t go through, too complicated to pull together, but the ambition was there and now
with the ever growing competition between the two main fairs, well this accelerated
the FHH of going forward with this. But there is of course a bit more at stake than just
a name change, as both fairs would indeed like to build their brands beyond their main
events. They would like to replicate small international versions of their shows. In
that respect, Watches & Wonders has a small lead based on what I just mentioned, but an
international version of Baselworld would also make sense. Is there space for both?
Maybe as we are not talking about the same brands and they could alternate venues such
as Watches & Wonders in Miami in February and a Baselworld version in September, maintaining
therefore some kind of continuum. Ok, this might be a bit unlikely, but a Baselworld
in Los Angeles or elsewhere in the US at other dates why not. Well it is highly probable
that we are going to see some concrete announcements in the coming months, both showing more openly
their ambitions and they really need to become pure allies of the brands and don’t see
the brands as sole customers paying the check for the organisation of the events. Personally
I think there is room to do more and anything that enables to increase visibility and appreciation
towards quality watchmaking makes me happy, even when we’re talking marketing watchmaking.
And last consideration about this evolution of these shows is how the Swatch Group will
react to all this, since they prefer to do their own thing having pulled out of Baselworld. Ok next news and there will be plenty of important
auctions in Geneva in the coming days. The most fun one will of course be Only Watch
hosted by Christie’s and this one will occur on Saturday the 9th of November and I really
can’t wait to live the ambiance of this special sale and of course witness the stratospheric
price which will undoubtedly be reached by the unique Patek steel Grand Master Chime,
but how high, well still a few days and we will know. We’ll come back on this specially
for you. But there are other auctions and one lot that particularly interests me and
this to benchmark and demonstrate the hotness of brands as Christie’s is auctioning a
tonneau shaped minute repeater Patek Philippe wristwatch from the 1920’s which belonged
to famous US banker Henry Graves Jr, the man who commissioned Patek for the world’s most
complicated timepiece at the time, a pocket watch sold in 2014 here in Geneva for around
24 Million US Dollars, that’s still the ultimate price record and a watch I had the
immense privilege of holding in my hands, yes these hands have been pretty spoiled over
time and by the way we use this name, Henry Graves on our Patreon campaign for the highest
level tier of person supporting us and I must say that I am extremely proud that we indeed
do have a Henry Graves patron, hallelujah to you and more are welcome! Anyhow, let’s
go back to the subject of the moment and the point I wanted to make. This special timepiece
holds a movement from 1895, meaning that it wasn’t meant for a wristwatch, but nevertheless
used as such here and delivered to this illustrious client in 1928, estimates are set between
3 to 5 million. So the interesting thing is that a few months ago we had seen a more spectacular
piece, also tonneau shaped, fully commissioned by a client, with calendar function, from
the early 40’s but from Vacheron Constantin and this piece was finally sold 750’000
Dollars approximately by Philipps. Not a bad price of course, but the price gap between
the two is really huge and exemplifies quite rapidly that one brand is seriously hotter
than the other, but the good news with this is that you can find some very interesting
and quality Vacheron vintage timepieces at some rather decent price point. I’m not
saying that they will massively increase in price any time soon, but at least there are
some opportunities for some nice watches and I’m not talking necessarily ¾ of a million
needed either. Beside this, well of course Sotheby’s will host their auction, Philipps
Bacs and Russo too with naturally some pretty sweet lots, plus a special sale with double
branded timepieces, meaning watches where you will find the name of the retailer added
on the dial or elsewhere on them. But something additional that will take place this time
is that Watchbox, the second hand resaler, will try to benefit from all the auction action
by placing a pop up store for a few days just in the middle of all these events, opportunist
but clever I must say. So another big event that will take place
soon is the GPHG ceremony held on the 7th of November here in Geneva, the ceremony that
likes to think of itself as the Oscars of watchmaking but with the little flaws we already
mentioned a few times here on this chanel. So the ceremony will honor 14 different watches
in as many categories and then we will know which one will be judged best of the best
of 2019 with the Aiguille d’Or award. Personally I wouldn’t be too surprised if that top
prize went to Vacheron Constantin with its Traditionelle Twin Beat introduced during
this year at the SIHH, a watch with two regulating organs enabling the wearer to choose which
one to be used, a 5hz one for daily usage, but then a 1.2Hz one if you want to leave
your timepiece in your drawer and providing a significant improvement of the power reserve
going up to 65 days in that mode, something obviously very handy as this timepiece holds
a perpetual calendar and you don’t want to reset this all the time. So we’ll see
in a few days who won what and if my gut feeling is correct. In terms of other events, I would like to
mention two. The first one and I can’t wait to go there is the Dubai Watch Week that will
take place between the 20th and 24th of November at the DIFC and there will be many exhibitions,
panel talks, masterclasses, even product launches that will occur over these four days, but
for me the most fun part is all the nice and informal talks we can have with all the fantastic
guests and public present there, a moment of enjoyable lightness, meaning people free
to talk their minds on serious matters such as the evolution and future of the industry,
as grave as that. Well it’s always a very inspiring moment that I am lucky to attend,
I just love the mix of action and I seriously believe that this event really contributed
in some kind of necessary general awareness problem with watchmaking education and this
I can only salute, something which is precisely being copied a bit now by the two main fairs
of SIHH/Watches & Wonder and Baselworld. Well, looking forward meeting friends there and
bring you back some juicy info. The second noteworthy event is the second
edition of the Shanghai Watch Festival, which will take place at the end of the month of
November and hopefully I will also have the opportunity to attend. Always interesting
to meet new people and watch friends around the world. I didn’t receive too many info
regarding this year’s event, but apparently it will be much larger than the first edition
and I had heard only positive things regarding the first one. And we’re reaching the end of PRIMETIME,
but just wanted to mention that in October I attended the Aurochronos festival in Poland,
I was even a judge in the jury and this was a really cool experience, saw some really
interesting small brands, cool products, cool stories and really felt the passion driving
everyone there and this is what I prefer, fresh and inspiring enthusiasm and has given
me some ideas for some additional video reports. And then I went to Singapore for the very
first time and attended Jeweluxe, this was also a fantastic experience, met some great
people again and we have some nice stories that we will share with you shortly in a dedicated
video report, but just wanted to share with you a crazy timepiece viewed there in the
beautiful Hour Glass boutique, a special Zenith Pilot watch, ok so far nothing special, but
then listen to this, 60mm in width, full sapphire case, limited to 5 and I had to ask myself;
why? Didn’t find an answer to this fundamental question and if you have any idea, don’t
hesitate to share your thoughts. Ok, I guess this is it for this month’s
edition of PRIMETIME, I warned you it would be quite long but next edition might not be
in early December but a bit later with some kind of yearly wrap up. We’ll get back to
you on this. All the very best, stay tuned for some serious watchmaking videos in the
coming days and weeks, thanks for watching, a huge thanks to our patrons, come and check
our online boutique with our new stuff and Viva Watchmaking!!

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. Enjoying life, good for you my friend, great report as always, cheers Marc, Keep on "trucking" by the way you can use the last watch as a belt buckle, at least you'd be original really bad taste but original LOL 🙂

  2. First Youtuber I see, that criticizes the bracelet of the Lange Odysseus👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻 I love Lange but the bracelet ruins the watch for me, I don‘t like it (except for the movement of course)🤷🏼‍♂️

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