10 Milestone Moments in the History of the Wristwatch

Today it is common for a man to wear a watch on his wrist, but it was a different story around 100 years ago. World War I, which started in 1914 and ended in 1918, brought to the battlefield much that was new — airplanes, mustard gas, military tanks. It also brought something new to civilian society: wristwatches, formerly restricted to ladies, became military-issue equipment, supplanting pocketwatches in popularity among gentlemen. Soldiers returning home from the war brought their wristwatch-wearing habit with them, thus beginning the fascinating history of the wristwatch, an invention that has become an integral part of our modern life. In this article, you’ll discover 10 milestone moments from the first 100 years of the wristwatch’s history. It is an excerpt of the feature “A Wristwatch Timeline,” which you can download from the WatchTime Shop.


1. Breitling Chronograph

Breitling: Chronograph, 1915
Breitling: Chronograph, 1915

1915: Breitling launches one of the first wrist-worn chronographs. It features something new: a push-piece at 2 o’clock, separate from the winding crown, rather than integrated into it as on the pocketwatch chronographs of the time.

2. Cartier Tank

Cartier: Tank, 1919
Cartier: Tank, 1919

1919: Cartier introduces the Tank watch. The company says that the shape of the case sides was inspired by the treads on military tanks, which were first used in WWI.

3. LeCoultre & Cie. and Jaeger Reverso

Le Coultre&Cie and Jaeger: Reverso, 1931
Le Coultre & Cie and Jaeger: Reverso, 1931

1931: The Swiss company LeCoultre & Cie. and the French firm Jaeger collaborate to bring out the Reverso, whose case can be slid sideways and flipped over to protect its crystal. (The two companies will merge in 1937.)

4. John Harwood designs the winding mechanism

British watchmaker John Harwood, 1926
British watchmaker John Harwood, 1926

1926: Fortis introduces the first wristwatch with an automatic winding rotor. The winding mechanism was designed by the British watchmaker John Harwood, who modeled it on the one that Abraham-Louis Perrelet devised for pocketwatches in the 18th century.

5. IWC’s First Pilot’s Watch

IWC Schaffhausen: First Pilot's Watch, 1936
IWC Schaffhausen: First Pilot’s Watch, 1936

1936: IWC Schaffhausen makes its first pilots’ watch, which it calls the Special Watch for Pilots. It has a rotating bezel for measuring elapsed times.

6. A. Lange & Söhne’s factory is destroyed

A. Lange & Söhne: Company building destroyed, 1945
A. Lange & Söhne’s company building was destroyed in 1945

1945: Russian planes bomb the A. Lange & Söhne factory in Glashütte, Germany, nearly destroying it just hours before the armistice is signed.

7. First automatic chronographs

Zenith: Movement El Primero, 1969
Zenith El Primero movement, 1969

1969: The world’s first automatic chronographs are introduced. One, Caliber 6139, the first to hit the market, is from Seiko; another, the now-famous El Primero, is from Zenith; and a third, Caliber 11, is the work of a consortium of companies: Heuer-Leonidas, Breitling, Dubois Dépraz, Büren, and Hamilton.

8. Jean-Claude Biver and Jacques Piguet buy Blancpain

Jean-Claude Biver, 1983
Jean-Claude Biver, 1983

1983 Jean-Claude Biver and Jacques Piguet, head of the Frédéric Piguet movement manufacturer, buy the defunct Blancpain brand and relaunch it as an all-mechanical-watch brand with movements supplied by Frédéric Piguet.

9. SMH, now known as Swatch Group, is formed

Nicolas Hayek, SMH CEO 1983
Nicolas Hayek, SMH CEO, 1983

1983: The two financially troubled Swiss watch conglomerates ASUAG and SSIH are merged to form SMH (Societé Suisse de Microélectronique et d’Horlogerie), now known as the Swatch Group. Nicolas Hayek engineers the merger and becomes CEO.

10. Rolex’s new Cosmograph Daytona

Rolex: new Cosmograph Daytona, 2000
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, 2000

2000 Rolex launches a new version of the Cosmograph Daytona containing the new, in-house Caliber 4130. The introduction means that all Rolex-brand mechanical watches now have in-house movements.

These milestones are part of our 12-page timeline devoted to chronicling the first 100 years of the wristwatch’s history. Download it now for just $2.99 from the WatchTime Shop!

Merken

Merken

Save

Time Tools: 8 Tool Watches From Luxury Brands

The phrase “tool watch” was originally coined to describe watches that serve as tools to accomplish specific tasks, such as a divers’ watch with a rotatable bezel and high resistance to pressure that is designed to be used underwater. And while you wouldn’t want to use these tool watches to hammer nails, they emphasize functionality and are robust, accurate, legible and (ideally) not excessively expensive in case they suffer a scratch or two during rough usage. In this article from our archives, we present eight of them.

1. ORIS BIG CROWN PROPILOT DATE ($1,550)

Oris Big Crown ProPilot
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Date

This pilots’ watch from Oris achieves optimal legibility thanks to its matte dial and impossible-to-overlook hands and numerals, which are coated with plenty of luminous material. The big crown can be operated while wearing gloves. The textile strap is steplessly adjustable thanks to a clamping system; the clasp works like the buckle on a seatbelt aboard an aircraft. With a date display on its dial and a time- tested automatic movement inside its case, this watch offers everything you need. Stainless steel, 41 mm, Sellita SW 220, automatic

2. TUDOR PELAGOS LHD ($4,400)

Tudor Pelagos LHD
Tudor Pelagos LHD

The letters “LHD” in the name of this divers’ watch stand for “left-hand drive,” like a car with its steering wheel on the left. For a watch, LHD means that the crown is located opposite its usual position. This is convenient for a southpaw who wears the watch on his right wrist. But this watch can also be worn on the left wrist, thus keeping the crown especially well protected against impacts. Tudor’s own auto- matic movement has earned a chronometer certificate and accordingly runs with great precision. The titanium case is extremely resistant to salt- water and can resist water pressure to a depth of 500 meters. A helium-release valve rounds out the professional equipment. Titanium, 42 mm, manufacture Caliber MT5612, automatic; click here for more details.

3. CERTINA DS ACTION DIVER AUTOMATIC ($895)

Certina DS Action Diver
Certina DS Action Diver Automatic

The DS Action Diver Automatic upholds the ISO standard for divers’ watches. The stainless-steel case is water resistant to 200 meters and has a rotatable bezel with a diving scale. The dial has luminous indexes, along with plenty of luminous material on the hands to assure that the face is always clearly legible, even underwater and in the dark. The time-tested automatic movement and the robust stainless-steel bracelet equip this timepiece for every mission. The price is appealing, too. Stainless steel, 43.2 mm, ETA 2824, automatic.

4. SEIKO PROSPEX AUTOMATIC DIVER’S ($495)

Seiko Prospex Diver
Seiko Prospex Automatic Diver’s

Nicknamed “Turtle” because of the shape of its case, the Prospex Automatic Diver’s was introduced in the 1970s. With an indestructible urethane wristband, a case that resists water pressure to a depth of 200 meters, and a unidirectional rotatable bezel, this watch is optimally equipped to accompany a diver underwater. And despite its low price, it has a self-winding manufacture movement. Seiko makes the crystal from Hardlex, which isn’t quite as scratch-resistant as sapphire, but nonetheless harder than ordinary mineral crystal. Stainless steel, 44 mm, manufacture Caliber 4R36, automatic.

5. TAG HEUER AQUARACER 300M CALIBRE 5 ($2,800)

TAG Heuer Aquaracer Calibre 5
TAG Heuer Aquaracer 300M Calibre 5

This classic divers’ watch from TAG Heuer has a trendy military look with a black titanium case, sand-colored textile strap, and sand-colored elements and gray luminous material on the dial. The watch has plenty to offer from a functional standpoint, too: Black titanium-carbide coating resists scratches and the screwed crown contributes toward achieving pressure resistance to a depth of 300 meters. The nonreflective treatment on the sapphire crystal helps assure good legibility. Titanium coated with titanium carbide, 43 mm, ETA 2824 or Sellita SW 200, automatic.

6. BREITLING AVENGER BLACKBIRD ($5,105)

Breitling Avenger Blackbird
Breitling Avenger Blackbird

The militarily inspired Avenger Blackbird has a distinctive 48-mm case made of DLC-coated titanium. The coating helps prevent reflections from light, which could betray its wearer’s location. With a unidirectional rotatable bezel, screwed crown, and water resistance to 300 meters, this timepiece is also suitable for diving. In addition to the case, the dial and textile strap are also black. The luminous material on the hands and indexes is beige in daylight conditions. Breitling’s Caliber 17 is based on an ETA 2824 movement and has earned a chronometer certificate to confirm its accuracy. DLC-coated titanium, 48 mm, ETA 2824, automatic; for more on the Blackbird, click here.)

7. ROLEX EXPLORER II ($8,100)

Rolex Explorer II
Rolex Explorer II

This watch, which debuted in 1971, is made for adventurers, researchers and expedition members. Equipped with a second time zone, the continually updated design has become iconic. This model epitomizes a tool watch, although its high price might make its wearer feel annoyed if the case should suffer a scratch or two. The 904L stainless steel that Rolex uses is more resistant to saltwater than ordinary 316L steel. And Rolex’s manufacture caliber is regarded as the sturdiest and lowest-maintenance automatic movement. Rolex’s famous accuracy is assured not only by a chronometer certificate, but also by the brand’s in-house standards, which specify that the watch be so finely adjusted that it neither gains nor loses more than two seconds per day. Stainless steel, 42 mm, manufacture Caliber 3187, automatic.

8. ALPINA ALPINER 4 AUTOMATIC ($1,395)

Alpina Alpiner 4
Alpina Alpiner 4 Automatic

Developed for rugged excursions and mountain climbing, the Alpiner 4 is equipped with a sturdy, 44-mm stainless-steel case and a unidirectional rotatable bezel. A soft-iron inner case protects the automatic movement against magnetic fields. The hands and indexes are coated with white luminous material for good legibility. The screwed crown helps keep the case water resistant to 100 meters. Stainless steel, 44 mm, Sellita SW 200, automatic; more details here.)

This article appears in the July-August 2017 issue of WatchTime Magazine.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Merken

Save

Save

Save

Save

Il Dolce Orologio: Exploring the Eclectic Watch Families of Eberhard Co.

While Italian watch enthusiasts have embraced the timepieces of Eberhard & Co. for well over a century, only a relative handful of American collectors are aware of the brand’s rich history and diverse offerings. Now, buoyed by a surprise Geneva Grand Prix win for its most historically significant model, Eberhard is making the U.S. sit up and take notice.

Eberhard Scafograf WINNER GPHG 2016 poster
The modern version of the Scafograf 300 won the Sports Watch prize at the 2016 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.

When we discuss the history of diving watches, we usually focus on a handful of acknowledged icons, like the Rolex Submariner, Omega Seamaster and Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. When we discuss important historical chronographs, we inevitably bring up Heuer, Breitling, Zenith, and Rolex’s Daytona (which, of course, for much of its existence, used a Zenith-made movement). The Daytona, Heuer’s Monaco and Carrera, and perhaps Chopard’s Mille Miglia collection tend to enter the conversation when it turns to watches connected to auto racing. All this is as it should be, though another venerable Swiss watch brand – one that was founded in 1887, yet operated for much of its existence under the radar of many American watch aficionados – makes a fairly convincing case for inclusion in the conversation. Here is a family-by-family tour through the inventions, world’s firsts, and remarkable technical and design achievements of Eberhard & Co., a Bienne-based watch manufacturer that continues to innovate after 130-plus uninterrupted years.

Eberhard & Co. factory
The original Eberhard & Co. factory building in La Chaux-de-Fonds
Georges-Lucien Eberhard - Founder
Company founder Georges-Lucien Eberhard

Evolutions in Timing: Extra-fort & Contograf

Founded in La Chaux-de-Fonds by 22-year-old entrepreneur Georges-Lucien Eberhard, whose Bernese family traced its watchmaking heritage back to the 10th century, Eberhard & Co. adopted the chronograph as one of its specialties from very early on. The company’s first chronographs were pocketwatches, which were still predominant in the early 20th century prior to World War I. The company produced its first wrist-worn chronograph in 1919, and as stopwatch technology evolved (along with the popularity of wristwatches, which had eclipsed that of pocketwatches), launched increasingly advanced models: a double-pusher chrono in 1935, a watch with an hours counter in 1938, a flyback in 1939. Eberhard chronographs were worn by Italian Royal Navy officers during these pre- and post-World War II years, pioneering the company’s strong presence in the Italian market that remains today.

The culmination of all this advancement was the launch of the Eberhard Extra-fort in the late 1940s. The Extra-fort, which took its moniker from the toughness of its case (fort means “strong” in French), was notable for its sliding push-button that enabled the user to measure intermediate times, a device introduced to the watch industry by Eberhard. The Extra-fort quickly became a leader model for the company throughout the 1950s and influenced the design of all Eberhard chronograph watches that would follow. Among these models was one still prized by collectors today, the Contograf of the 1960s, which included another new and innovative feature, a fast- changing date, in a distinctly shaped trapezoidal window at 6 o’clock, and whose minutes counter was divided into three sectors meant to help its wearer measure the duration of a telephone call.

Eberhard Extra-Fort - 1940
An Eberhard Extra-fort model from the 1940s

In the modern era, producing reliable, competitively priced chronographs remains an Eberhard specialty. In 2014, the company issued a modern version of the Contograf, in a stainless-steel 42-mm case and a ceramic, counterclockwise unidirectional bezel emblazoned with a tachymeter scale. The movement is an ETA 7750, one of the many calibers produced by the Swatch Group-owned movement producer that are used in Eberhard watches – a corporate relationship unlikely to change in the near future despite the growing trend of watch manufacturers moving to in-house production, according to Eberhard CEO Mario Peserico. “We have always had a very good relationship with ETA,” says Perserico, who has been with the company more than 25 years. “We’ve always declared that our base movements are ETA, and this allows us to maintain the price position in our core collection between about $2,000 and $7,000. The technical aspects are important, of course, but we’ve found that at least 50 percent of the reason that a client chooses a watch is its aesthetical aspects. Obviously, of course, there are some special pieces that extend that [price] range.”

Eberhard Contograf 2014
The Eberhard Contograf launched in 2014
Eberhard Extra-Fort Roue a Colonnes Grande Date
The Extra-Fort Roué à Colonnes Grande Date

One of those outliers is the Extra-fort Rouée à Colonnes Grande Date, whose first generation was a 500-piece limited edition celebrating the company’s 125th anniversary in 2012. Equipped with a column-wheel chronograph movement and the titular big date indicator at 12 o’clock, the model is one of the few Eberhard watches available in precious metal cases, with rose-gold and white-gold versions priced at $21,070. The anniversary edition also paved the way for the further expansion of the venerable Extra-fort collection, which today includes a three-hand automatic, a three-hand with power-reserve indicator, and a limited-edition Rattrapante model in either steel or rose gold.

Eberhard Scafograf 200 ad
A magazine ad for the Eberhard Scafograf 200

Diving Into History: The Scafograf

Like most Swiss watch companies at the time, Eberhard invested much research, effort and capital into the development of water-resistant watches for diving, which was growing as both a commercial and recreational pursuit during the 1950s and 1960s. The company had in fact been an early adopter, patenting the Calotte Patrouille case construction, which protected a watch’s movement from dust and humidity, as early as 1921, and building highly water-resistant watches for sporting and military use in the years before World War II. It was the launch of the Scafograf in the 1950s, however, that secured Eberhard a spot in the annals of dive-watch history. The first Scafograf, released in 1958, had a 36-mm case, water-resistant to 100 meters, and a distinctive dial, with triangular hour markers at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock; it did not have a rotating bezel, a fairly new device at the time, which first appeared on one of the Scafograf’s more well-known predecessors, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. A 200-meter Scafograf would launch just a year later, with a similar dial design and a rotating bezel (but no crown guard) added. Only 200 pieces were made of each of these early models, perhaps indicating that Eberhard found it difficult to find an audience for them, competing as they were with the Rolex Submariner, the Omega Seamaster and the aforementioned Fifty Fathoms, among many others.

Eberhard Scafograf 300 1950s
The Scafograf 300, the most influential of Eberhard’s line of dive watches, debuted in 1964.

The third generation debuted in 1964. The Scafograf 300, as its name implies, upped the water resistance to 300 meters, expanded the case dimensions to 42 mm, and streamlined the dial design. It was also the first Scafograf to be powered by a self-winding caliber. The somewhat immodestly dubbed Scafograf Super followed it in 1984, deep in the heart of the Quartz Crisis, with a quartz-powered movement, a helium-release valve, and an extreme water resistance of 1,000 meters, a depth achieved by only a handful of other watches at the time. A professional-grade offshoot of the collection, the Scafodat, with a 500-meter water resistant case, an internal rotating bezel controlled by a large crown, and a dial design reminiscent of the first two Scafograf models, debuted in 2006 and remains in the portfolio today.

Eberhard Scafograf History
The evolution of the Eberhard Scafograf

It is the design of the Scafograf 300 that appears to have best stood the test of time and trends, as it was that watch that Eberhard resurrected in spectacular fashion in 2016. Decidedly modern in many of its elements – a larger 43-mm case in stainless steel, a ceramic unidirectional bezel, Super-LumiNova on its hands, indexes and 15-minute bezel dive scale, three color options for the central seconds hand, and an integrated black rubber strap – it is nevertheless a very faithful homage to the original in an era where retro-look watches, particularly dive watches, continue to grow in popularity. Under its screwed caseback, engraved with a starfish, beats the automatic ETA 2824-2 caliber, with a 40-hour power reserve. Eberhard’s modern-day stewards were no doubt beaming with pride when the Scafograf 300 took home the Sports Watch prize at the 2016 Geneva Grand Prix, against stalwart competitors like the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Dark and TAG Heuer Monza.

Eberhard Scafograf Black Sheep
The Scafograf GMT “Black Sheep” Edition

In the wake of the prize-winning re-edition, Eberhard has added two more versions of the Scafograf. The Scafograf GMT, introduced in 2017, adds a triple-time-zone indication to the dial, which is offered in both blue and black, with matching rubber straps. That model’s 43-mm steel case features a stylized globe, rather than a starfish, engraved on its caseback, and its bezel, also in ceramic, is bidirectional rather than unidirectional, the better to easily use it in conjunction with the GMT hand to set additional time zones. And since the watch is more of a “desk diver” than an actual dive watch, the water resistance is dialed down to a more mainstream, though hardly pedes-trian, 100 meters. At Baselworld 2018, the brand introduced a new feminine version, the Scafograf 100, in a 38-mm steel case with ceramic bezel and mother-of-pearl dial, as well as the limited-edition “Black Sheep” version of the Scafograf GMT, in a 43-mm black DLC-coated case, black ceramic bezel insert and dial, and a contrasting orange GMT hand. “We see the term ‘Black Sheep’ in a positive sense,” says Peserico. “It is a watch for someone who wants to stand out from the crowd.”

Pursuing Power: The 8 Jours

In addition to the ongoing quest for the most waterproof watch, Eberhard has also embraced the challenge of making a self-winding watch with a lengthy power reserve. In 1997, with the mechanical watch renaissance just ramping up, the maker introduced the simply named 8 Jours (“Eight Days”) timepiece, which incorporated a new, and now patented, winding module with two overlapping springs, which together are an extra-long 1 1/2 meters in length (compared to a standard spring, which is only around 30 cm). The device enabled the base movement to amass an eight-day power reserve, thus meeting Eberhard’s goal of offering a watch that its wearer would need to wind only once per week. The watch’s unconventional, asymmetrical dial had a left-side power-reserve indicator, and its caseback featured a sapphire porthole with the bridge of the large going barrel visible through a silhouetted number 8. The original version of the 8 Jours came in a 39.5-mm case, but Eberhard, once again at the forefront of a watch industry trend, debuted the 42-mm “Grand Taille” (big size) version shortly thereafter. The “Grand Taille” case size, which emerged as a response to consumer demands in the late ’90s and early 2000s for bigger watches, has since become a fixture in nearly all of Eberhard’s collections.

Eberhard 8 Jours Grande Taille
Eberhard 8 Jours Grande Taille

Auto Racing Inspiration: Tazio Nuvolari

Eberhard’s fondness for Italian design and culture, and Italy’s embrace of the brand, also brought about one of the most enduring relationships between a watch company and an auto racing icon. Tazio Nuvolari (1892 – 1953), known as Montovano Volante or the Flying Mantuan, was a motorcycle racer turned race car driver who won 24 Grand Prix races and raced for Alfa Corse, Scuderia Ferrari and Maserati. Once dubbed “the greatest driver of the past, present and future” by none other than Ferdinand Porsche, he remains revered by fans of racing history, especially in his native Italy.

Tazio Nuvolari - Automobile Club Mantova
Tazio Nuvolari in a vintage race car

Eberhard & Co. launched the first Tazio Nuvolari Chronograph in 1992, the centenary of the racing legend’s birth. It was the brainchild of Palmiro Monti, who bought the company from the founding family in 1969 and strengthened its ties to the Italian market. “Eberhard is a Swiss brand owned since 1969 by an Italian family,” says Peserico, “but the roots stretch back even further, because when Mr. [Maurice] Eberhard of the founding family used to travel to Italy during the 1950s he was building a very strong distribution network. At that same time, Nuvolari was becoming a myth in the racing world. So the idea to build a product that would honor the memory of this great pilot was one that made sense to us.”

Eberhard Nuvolari Naked Chrono
The Tazio Nuvolari “Naked” Chronograph

A milestone piece in the Tazio Nuvolari collection came in 2013, though its inspiration traced all the way back to 1936, the year that Nuvolari drove his 12-cylinder Alfa Romeo 300 miles on New York’s Roosevelt Raceway to capture the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup. The watch that celebrated that victory was dubbed the “Naked” Chronograph, and it was the first in the family to feature a black dial with white Arabic numerals. On the technical side, the watch also incorporated a chronograph stop-pusher that was co-axial with the winding crown, a feature that debuted in Eberhard chronographs of the 1930s. In 2017, Eberhard added a three-hand automatic to the line, which had previously consisted exclusively of chronographs, to woo customers with simpler tastes and, presumably, leaner wallets. The latest addition, which premiered at Baselworld 2018, is the Nuvolari Legend, a black-dialed chronograph with big, luminescent Arabic numerals, and a vintage-look spiral tachymeter scale in km/hr in the center, overlapping the minutes counter at 12 o’clock and hour counter at 6 o’clock. The driver’s Alfa Romeo Type 12C car is emblazoned on the screw-down exhibition caseback, and the watch, avail-able in both 39.5-mm and 43-mm sizes, secures its retro look with the addition of an “antiquated” leather strap.

Eberhard Nuvolari Legend - reclining
The Eberhard Nuvolari Legend

Dashboard Design: The Chrono 4

Perhaps the most recognizable model in the contemporary Eberhard collection made its debut relatively recently, in 2001, and its DNA can also be traced to Eberhard’s connection to the Nuvolari racing mystique. The Chrono 4 – another creation of Monti, who died in 2005 – brought to the world an entirely new design for a chronograph wristwatch, one influenced by the look of the dashboards of the race cars admired by Eberhard’s large Italian audience, and one that boasts yet another Eberhard patent. Below the central skeletonized hands and unusually placed 12 o’clock date window, four overlapping subdials line up in a horizontal arrangement, displaying chronograph minutes, chronograph hours, the time on a 24-houe scale and the running seconds. To accomplish this feat, Eberhard created its own module that would modify the base ETA 2894-2 movement. “If you look at chronograph dials over the last 20 or 30 years, they are all some version of 3-6-9 or 3-6-12. We wanted to change the positioning, to create a watch on which you can read the time in a different way,” says Peserico. “It took three years to develop, partly because of the difficulty in adjusting the existing movements for the positioning of the subdials.”

Eberhard Chrono4 - original
The Eberhard Chrono 4 debuted in 2001.

Making its debut in an era when large watches were in vogue, the original 40-mm Chrono 4 swiftly begat larger models in the ensuing years, first the 43-mm Grand Taille version in 2008, and eventually an even larger iteration, the Chrono 4 Géant, (“Giant”), whose case was a hulking 46 mm, in 2010. Arguably, the larger case versions were a sensible aesthetic choice, as they allowed the horizontally aligned subdials, which due to the design needed to be quite small, to be slightly enlarged and thus more legible. All three versions continued to adopt new dial colors and case materials, such as titanium, as the collection expanded. The most avant-garde version is the “Full Injection” Géant limited edition of 2013, distinguished by its carbon-coated steel case and côtes de Genève finished dial with sporty red accents.

Eberhard Chrono 4 Full Injection Geant
The Chrono 4 “Full Injection” Géant limited edition

Since its introduction, Eberhard has tinkered further with the design of the Chrono 4, with its most extreme iteration being the tonneau- cased Temerario, whose four subdials are stacked vertically, rather than horizontally, along the dial’s right side, and whose pushers are unconventionally positioned at 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock, somewhat reminiscent of a classical “bullhead” arrangement. Among the three patented innovations in this model are the clever crown-access system, which uses a hidden lever beneath the case to pop open the lid of the chamber that conceals the winding crown at 12 o’clock.

With Eberhard & Co. attaining a higher international profile after the GPHG prize, Peserico knows the time has come, after many years of spotty U.S. distribution, to pursue a larger footprint in the U.S. market. “We’ve been in the U.S. for several years, through some rocky times and some less rocky times,” he says. “The brand has always been there and hasn’t changed, but local distribution at times was difficult. But we think we have found the solutions. We have partners, we’ll be at some events, and we will be helping dealers with communication. We want to rebuild the American market because it is a market with huge potential. It’s only a matter of time.”

This article originally appeared in the September-October 2018 issue of WatchTime.

Save

Buying a Chronograph? Here Are 10 Things You Should Know

Sometimes, the analysis of which watch to buy proceeds little further than, “Wow, that one looks cool.” Chronographs, however, are often thought of as “tool watches,” and when it comes to tools, you want the right one for the job. To guide your choice we offer 10 factors to consider when selecting a chronograph, to help make sure it suits your wants and your needs.

1. It’s the Way That You Use It

daytona opener new

Salesman: “How will you use your chronograph?” Customer: “Use it? I hadn’t thought about that.” Chronographs are not just for timing races – they offer many practical uses. Tracking cooking times, parking meters, walks or runs, bike rides, exercise routines, meetings, and guaranteed pizza delivery are often cited. So is determining the shortest commuting route. With your chronograph, you can find out how long an “instant” oil change really takes. Or, try this: when they tell you your table will be ready in five minutes, press the start button. When your wife says she will be ready in five minutes, press the… no, wait, that’s a bad idea.

Lawyers and others who sell units of time can track billable hours. Or you can pass the time by measuring intervals spent stuck in traffic, watching TV commercials, or waiting for the doctor/dentist. Activate your chronograph for a short time when you have an idea you want to remember. Later, when you see the odd elapsed time, it will jog your memory (assuming the idea is still in there). Other uses require that the watch have particular features. For example, most chronographs can’t be operated under water, and many can’t time hours-long events. Some chronographs are designed to run continuously, while others are not (more on this later). Choose carefully if these are features you desire.

2. Can You See Me Now?

missing_seconds_detail

Legibility – the easy-to-read display of elapsed times – can no longer be taken for granted. In days gone by, manufacturers  assumed that chronographs would be used and relied upon, so legible elapsed times were a given. Today, elapsed-time indications are often sacrificed on the altar of fashion. Manufacturers will ditch them in a second for the sake of a design they think will induce the customer to say, “That one looks really cool,” and reach for his or her wallet

overlap_subdials
Hungry subdials: the IWC’s “eat” several chronograph seconds, while the Zenith’s eat each other.

But you’ll want displays that are easy to make out when you’re using your chronograph, so pay attention to the dial, and especially to what’s missing. If you need to read the chronograph in the dark (we won’t ask what you might be timing), you’ll have to search even more diligently, as very few chronographs will suit your needs.

3. The Origin of the Species

A. Lange & Söhne’s Caliber L951.6 from the Datograph Up/Down is a finely finished in-house movement.
A. Lange & Söhne’s Caliber L951.6 from the Datograph Up/Down is a finely finished in-house movement.

Chronograph movements come in a range of flavors: in-house, third-party and hybrid, integrated and modular, and more. To some, this is a virtual caste system, and place of birth and physical form confer status, or stigma, for life.

In-house chronographs are typically integrated, not modular, in design, and a column wheel usually occupies central command (more on these concepts below). In-house movements can offer fine functional finishing, careful adjustment, and the resulting smooth feel of quality. They can also be beautiful to behold. In-house production gives brands the freedom to produce singular designs, and offers control over every step in the manufacturing process. Of course, all of that requires investment. Chronographs with in-house movements tend to be rather dear, and service can be costly as well. The service is also likely to take a long time, and be performed far away. Collectors often joke about the number of frequent flier miles their timepieces have accumulated. That’s called using humor to mask pain.

Third-party movements offer their own advantages. Most have been around for awhile, or they are based on tried-and-true designs, so they are extremely reliable. Service is relatively inexpensive and can usually be handled without sending your watch overseas. Replacement parts are in ready supply. These movements are generally quite sturdy, and they can be excellent timekeepers. (ETA offers mechanical movements in various grades, and as you move up the quality ladder, the timekeeping improves. The top level is COSC-certified.) On the other hand, third-party movements are produced in large quantities, so they are not exclusive. They exhibit little or no hand work. Their components are often stamped, not milled.

Girard-Perregaux’s new chronograph caliber is an integrated, column-wheel design.
Girard-Perregaux’s new chronograph caliber is an integrated, column-wheel design.

They are rarely beautiful to behold. They tend to employ mechanisms designed primarily to reduce costs. Some of these calibers can be found in watches costing from hundreds of dollars to several thousand, even reaching into five figures, which can be distressing to those who buy in at the upper end of the spectrum.

4. Built-Ins and Add-Ons

T he Breitling Caliber 01 (above) and Rolex Caliber 4130 (below) b oth use column wheels to control the start, stop and reset functions.
The Breitling Caliber 01 (above) and Rolex Caliber 4130 (below) both use column wheels to control the start, stop and reset functions.

When it comes to chronograph movement design, purists prefer integrated to modular, because the integrated variety is designed to be a chronograph from the ground up. That means all components are optimized for that use. That can be important because a chronograph can be a “heavy” complication that requires significant power to operate. If engaging the chronograph generates a drag the base caliber was not designed to handle, that can affect timekeeping, which means the chronograph can’t measure elapsed time accurately (though most of us would never notice the split-second error). Modular movements, also called sandwich or piggyback designs, begin with a base caliber and add a chronograph mechanism mounted on a separate plate, usually on the dial side. If you want a nice view of the chronograph through the display back, an integrated movement is the way to go.

daytona column wheel lg

Some feel that in all but the finest executions, a modular construction will be less precise. The chronograph seconds hand may jump or stutter when started, the continuous seconds or the minutes hand may jump slightly when the chronograph is activated (even the date disk may move slightly), and the feel of the push-piece is not as smooth and buttery. As noted above, modular designs can also generate more amplitude-reducing drag when the chronograph is engaged. In two recent WatchTime tests, a modular chronograph’s amplitude dropped by 73.5 degrees on average when the chronograph was switched on, while an integrated model’s fell by 19.5 degrees. (The integrated model also used a vertical clutch – see below.) If you’re not sure which type of movement a given watch contains, there are some modular tip-offs. They include a high jewel count, no chronograph components visible through the display back, a date display that sits down in a hole and not directly below the dial, and a crown that is not on the same horizontal plane as the chronograph buttons (though some brands try to disguise this with oversized crowns, push-pieces, and guards).

5. Make It So

Imagine what would happen if you could activate the reset mechanism while the chronograph was running. The phrase “train wreck” comes to mind, and yes, the pun is intended. (Note to newbies: see “train” in Berner’s.) To prevent this and other disasters, chronographs employ systems to coordinate actions initiated by the push-pieces. As you might expect, there are different systems, and each has its supporters and detractors. The traditional system, favored by purists, is the column wheel, so named because the key component looks like a wheel lying on its side with a series of small, vertical columns rising up from it. Each push of a button causes the wheel to turn, and as it turns, the columns, and the spaces in between, move in small increments. This action moves the ends of levers that rest against the column wheel, and the levers control the chronograph’s start, stop and reset functions. Column wheels are traditional, expensive to manufacture and to adjust, and difficult to service. They also look great, and they provide very smooth push-piece feel. In other words, they’re made to order for luxury chronographs.

Column wheels were once ubiquitous, but some manufacturers searching for efficiencies developed cam mechanisms to take the column wheel’s place. The new system functions much like the traditional one, with an eccentric cam (a thin piece of metal with an irregular shape) replacing the column wheel. Cam systems are generally less expensive to manufacture, easier to adjust, easier to service, and not as nice looking. In use, cams generally perform as well as column wheels. NASA certified both the column-wheel and cam versions of the Omega Speedmaster for space flight. Chronographs powered by the Lemania Caliber 5100, with cam switching, were certified by several countries for military use. When the Swatch Group announced that it would halt Caliber 5100 production, watch manufacturers using the movement objected, saying it was the only caliber that could withstand large shocks without the chronograph seconds hand stopping. (The 5100 was eventually discontinued and replaced by an ETA caliber.) Finally, the ETA 7750, which is also known for being rugged, uses cam switching. If you’re looking for a tough tool watch and you don’t care about movement aesthetics, cam switching will fit the bill. If you care about tradition, a nice view through the display back, and the approval of purists, the column wheel is for you.

6. Let’s Get Engaged

An example of a vertical clutch mechanism from the Rolex Caliber 4130 chronograph movement
An example of a vertical clutch mechanism from the Rolex Caliber 4130 chronograph movement

The column wheel and cam issue orders, but other components further downstream transmit the mainspring’s energy to the stopwatch, and once again, there are competing systems. The traditional system uses horizontal or lateral coupling to transmit energy. When the start button is depressed, a wheel mounted on a moveable bridge or lever slides horizontally to link the fourth wheel, which rotates once per minute, with the chronograph center wheel, which drives the chronograph seconds hand. The intermediate sliding wheel is required because if the fourth wheel meshed directly with the chronograph center wheel, the chronograph wheel (and the seconds hand it activates) would run counterclockwise.

The horizontal meshing system is aesthetically pleasing because it enables the owner to watch the chronograph engaging and disengaging. However, meshing teeth can cause the chronograph seconds hand to jump when it starts, and because the teeth used for chronograph coupling have a different shape, or profile, than teeth used for continuous power transmission, regular or continuous chronograph use can cause the teeth to wear. The extra wheels in this system can also sap the mainspring’s energy, affecting the balance wheel’s amplitude, and so, timekeeping. The other main contender in this arena is known as the vertical clutch. Though not as aesthetically pleasing (because the chronograph engagement takes place largely out of sight), this system offers some advantages. It reduces chronograph drag, the chronograph seconds hand does not jump when started, and the chronograph can run continuously without causing excessive wear.

In simple terms, in the vertical system, the chronograph is  always “in mesh” with the timekeeping wheel train, and a clutch engages and disengages the chronograph. The clutch means smooth starts for the chronograph seconds hand, and the  “always in mesh” feature means that starting the chronograph does not generate significant additional drag. The drawbacks include cost, poor aesthetics, and the fact that the vertical clutch can be difficult to service. If you’re a traditionalist who will happily trade a bit of precision for the joy of watching your chronograph in action, the horizontal coupling system is for you. If you’re more concerned with precise starts and stops, or if you like to leave your chronograph running all the time, consider the vertical clutch variety.

7. The Need for Speed

The three wheels involved in the horizontal coupling system are highlighted in this image.
The three wheels involved in the horizontal coupling system are highlighted in this image.

There is a direct relationship between a movement’s frequency and the size of the fractions of a second it can measure. The higher the frequency, the smaller the fractions. So, as the average frequencies for wristwatch movements have increased over the years, chronographs based on those movements have become able to measure smaller and smaller fractions of seconds. Movement frequencies are often expressed in vibrations per hour, or vph. This relates to the speed of the balance wheel’s oscillations. Viewed from above, the balance wheel swings back and forth, left and right. Each swing to the left or to the right is a vibration. Each vibration, or beat, causes the seconds hand to make one jump forward.

The most common frequency for modern mechanical movements is 28,800 vph. To calculate how many vibrations that is per second, divide that rate by 3,600, which is the number of seconds in an hour (remember that vph is vibrations per hour). The answer is eight, which means that the movement is capable of measuring time to 1/8 of a second. Similarly, a watch with a frequency of 18,000 vph can time events to the nearest 1/5 of a second. A frequency of 21,600 vph yields accuracy of 1/6 of a second. A watch with a frequency of 36,000 vph can time events to the nearest 1/10 of a second. If the fellows making 1 Hz, or 7,200 vph, movements (they include the companies Grönefeld and Antoine Martin) ever decide to produce a chronograph, it will measure only half-seconds. Having mastered this bit of math, it is important to keep in mind that the movement frequency does not always translate directly to the motion of the chronograph seconds hand. That’s because the manufacturer can use gear ratios to change the rate at which the chronograph seconds hand moves around the dial. A chronograph with a 28,800-vph movement might be (and often is) geared to actually measure 1/5-second increments on the dial, not 1/8-second.

T AG Heuer’s Mikrograph can time events to the nearest 1/100-second.
TAG Heuer’s Mikrograph can time events to the nearest 1/100-second.

In recent years, some manufacturers, notably TAG Heuer, have started producing chronographs with two mainspring barrels, two wheel trains, and two escapements that run at different frequencies. The timekeeping escapement can tick along at a leisurely frequency meant for movements that run for years on end (offering low wear and a long power reserve), while the chronograph escapement can operate at a much faster frequency that allows it to measure hundredths or thousandths of a second and beyond. That faster speed means the chronograph’s mainspring unwinds quickly, so super-fast chronographs typically cannot time multi-hour events. For example, TAG Heuer’s Mikrograph, which measures to the nearest 1/100-second, can time events only up to 90 minutes in duration. If you need a chronograph that can measure specific intervals, such as 1/10s of a second, pay attention to both the movement frequency and the chronograph seconds track on the dial to make sure they meet your needs.

8. Exotic Extras

Anything one watchmaker can invent, another can make more complicated, which leads us to some exotic forms of the chronograph: the flyback and the rattrapante. The flyback, sometimes called the split-seconds flyback, can be used as a traditional chronograph, but a special feature allows the user to stop, reset, and restart the chronograph with a single push of a button, usually the one at 4 o’clock. The flyback’s drawback is that the reset mechanism makes it difficult to get a precise elapsed-time reading. When you depress the 4 o’clock push-piece, the chronograph seconds hand does not pause for you to take a reading – it instantly flies back to zero. If you’re looking at a finish line to judge when to push the button, you can’t also be looking at the watch to get the elapsed time. The flyback is much more useful when measuring fractions of a second is not required. For example, if a pilot has to execute a series of turns at specified time intervals, he can quickly reset and restart the chronograph before making each turn. Another exotic option is the rattrapante chronograph, also known as the split-seconds or doppelchronograph. Rattrapante means “catch up” or “catch again” in French, and doppelchronograph means “double chronograph” in German.

These watches have two chronograph seconds hands, one on top of the other. One, the rattrapante hand, can be operated independently of the other by means of a third push-piece, usually located at 8 or 10 o’clock. The extra seconds hand allows the timing of a second event, or splits within a single event, though with one significant limitation we will discuss momentarily. For example, in a 100-yard dash, you can start the chronograph, push the button at 8 or 10 o’clock when the first runner crosses the finish line, and the button at 2 o’clock when another runner crosses the finish line. The two chronograph seconds hands will show the two runners’ times. Pushing the rattrapante button again causes the rattrapante hand to catch up to the primary chronograph seconds hand, which is how you time splits in a longer race. For example, in a one-mile race, you might press the rattrapante button each time the runner passes a quarter-mile marker, reading the time for that split. After reading the time, you can press the rattrapante button again to reunite the chronograph seconds hands, until the next quarter-mile marker comes up. The limitation is that the rattrapante hand has no minutes counter of its own. So, you can time two events, or splits within a longer event, as long as the rattrapante hand does not have to measure more than one minute.

To overcome this limitation, you can purchase an inexpensive quartz stopwatch, or one of the most sophisticated (and, at $120,100, one of the most expensive) chronographs ever produced – the Lange Double Split, which offers a double rattrapante function – each chronograph seconds hand has its own counter on the 30-minute totalizer. The four chronograph hands (two seconds and two minutes) also have flyback functionality. And, the movement has two column wheels – one for stop-start-reset, and one for the rattrapante functions. Now that’s exotic.

9. Do You Need a Date?

Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Deep Sea Chronograph Cermet is a beauty with whom you will not get a date.
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Deep Sea Chronograph Cermet is a beauty with whom you will not get a date.

It’s a hard fact of life that some of the best looking and most popular modern chronographs, and many classic vintage models, do not have a date. Think Rolex Daytona, Omega Speedy Pro, IWC Portuguese, and vintage chronographs from Rolex, Patek Philippe, Breitling, and many others. Some of us want a date display, but the chronograph that has captured our hearts does not have one. That leaves the cellphone option, which, in our view, is acceptable, even for a true watch aficionado. As long as you’re wearing a watch, what you do with your phone is your business.

If you want to find out if you can live without a date display on your wrist, take a daily-wear watch and change the date so it’s wrong. Or, put a tiny bit of tape on the crystal to block the date. If after a week you have not experienced withdrawal, you’re ready for that chronograph sans date.

10. But Wait, There’s More

If Montblanc’s Vintage P ulsographe makes your heart race, you can use it to check the rate.
If Montblanc’s Vintage Pulsographe makes your heart race, you can use it to check the rate.

Adding a scale to a chronograph dial or bezel expands the range of information the timepiece can convey. Think of these scales as primitive apps that increase the chronograph’s usefulness.

One set of scales is based on the relationships between time, speed, and distance – if you know two values, you can calculate the third, and the scale makes the calculation for you. For example, a tachymeter allows you to calculate speed over a known distance, typically kilometers or miles. Most tachymeter scales start at 400, located at about eight seconds on the dial, and end at 60, at 60 seconds, or 12 o’clock. A simple example of tachymeter use involves determining the speed of a car, where time and distance are known. Start the chronograph when the car passes a mile or kilometer marker, and stop the chronograph when the car passes the next marker. Look at where the chronograph seconds hand points on the tachymeter scale, and that number represents the car’s speed.

Longines offers a chronograph with both an asthmometer and a pulsometer.
Longines offers a chronograph with both an asthmometer and a pulsometer.

The tachymeter can only measure for one minute, and it is typically graduated to show only a certain range of speeds (for example, between 60 and 400 kilometers per hour). The speeds of runners (too slow) and supersonic jets (too fast) fall outside the tachymeter’s range.

Baume_new
This Baume & Mercier features a telemeter at the edge of the dial and a tachymeter in the center.

A telemeter allows the user to calculate distance based on known speed and time. The scale is graduated using the speed of sound through the atmosphere. The scale allows the user to determine the distance to an event that can be both seen and heard. The two most widely cited examples are lightning and artillery fire. The user starts the chronograph upon seeing the flash of light and stops the chronograph when he hears the sound. The approximate distance to the event can then be read off the scale. Miles and kilometers are the most common units of distance.

This Omega Speedmaster has a traditional tachymeter bezel graduated from 60 to 500 kilometers per hour.
This Omega Speedmaster has a traditional tachymeter bezel graduated from 60 to 500 kilometers per hour.

Pulsometers and asthmometers work on the same principle to indicate a patient’s pulse or respiration rate, respectively. The scale is typically explained on the dial. For example, it may read “Gradué pour 30 pulsations” or “Graduated for 5 respirations.” The user starts the chronograph and stops it when the   indicated number of heartbeats or breaths has been counted. The seconds hand will point to the number of beats or breaths per minute on the scale.

With that, we’ve reached the end. Thoreau said, “Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.” We hope this little overview helps you catch the fish that is right for you.

This article first appeared in WatchTime’s February 2014 issue.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

10 Highlights in the History of the Dive Watch

In the beginning, dive watches were pure tools: essential swimming buddies that helped keep divers on time and hence, well, alive. Today they’re something else: fashion statements, conversation pieces, rugged companions for a trip to the beach or pool. This is an excerpt from Timeline: “Dive Watches Through the Decades,” which traces the history of the dive watch from its start in the 1920s, with the invention of the first truly water-resistant cases, to 2014. (Only mechanical watches are included.)

1. Rolex Oyster (1926)

Rolex Oyster, Ref. 679, 1926
Rolex Oyster, Ref. 679, (1926)

In 1926, watches constructed especially for use by divers appear. They have insulated crowns (the crown is the chief point of entry for water into a watch case). It was also the year that Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf introduces the Oyster case, which has a screwed crown, screwed caseback, and securely sealing crystal. It is the world’s first truly water-resistant case. One year later, Wilsdorf asks Mercedes Gleitze, a stenographer vying to become the first British woman to swim the English Channel, to wear an Oyster on one of her attempts. She doesn’t make it all the way, but the Rolex she wears around her neck keeps on ticking.

2. Panerai prototypes (1936)

Panerai watch, PAMPR004, 1936
F38F
Panerai watch, PAMPR004 (1936)

The Italian Navy commissions Panerai to develop the first prototypes of a watch that will evolve into the model now known as the “Radiomir.” The watches, water resistant to 30 meters, go into production two years later. The early Radiomir watches have movements and proprietary cases – cushion shaped and 47 mm in diameter − made by Rolex. They are named for the radium that makes their dials legible even in murky water.

3. Blancpain Fifty Fathoms (1953)

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, initial Model, 1953
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, initial model (1953)

Blancpain presents its first dive watch, the Fifty Fathoms. The watch is water resistant to 100 meters. (Fifty fathoms is equal to 300 feet, or about 91 meters. It is the maximum depth divers can go at the time with the equipment then available.) The watch is the result of a request by Captain Bob Maloubier, who was a secret agent for the British during WWII and then became leader of the French military’s combat diving corps. He asked Blancpain to make a watch with a black dial, large Arabic numerals, clear indications and a rotating bezel. “We wanted in effect that each of the markers be as clear as a guiding star for a shepherd,” Maloubier later recalled.

4. Panerai crown protection (1956)

Panerai crown protection, 1956
Panerai crown protection (1956)

Panerai receives a patent for a curved, crown-protecting bridge. Now a hallmark of the company’s Luminor collection, the bridge contains a locking cam lever that pushes the crown against the case so that it fits tightly against the crown’s seals.

5. Breitling’s first dive watch (1957)

Breitling Superocean, 1957
Breitling Superocean (1957)

Breitling launches its first dive watch, the Superocean. The watch is water resistant to 200 meters, thanks in part to its monocoque (i.e., one-piece) case and its especially sturdy crystal. The watch’s bezel can be locked in place so that it won’t be knocked off position during a dive. A chronograph version of the watch comes out in 1959.

6. First Rolex Sea-Dweller (1967)

First Rolex Sea-Dweller, 1967
First Rolex Sea-Dweller (1967)

Rolex introduces the Sea-Dweller, a deeper-diving version of the Submariner. Its distinguishing feature is its helium valve, through which helium that has entered the watch case during time spent in a diving chamber can be released. The watch is produced at the request of the French company COMEX (Compagnie Maritime d’Expertise), which specializes in deep-diving equipment and services, chiefly for offshore oil and gas extraction. The watch is water-resistant to 610 meters.

7. First dive computer (1983)

The first dive computer is introduced. In the 1990s, the use of dive computers becomes widespread, and dive watches are relegated chiefly to the role of back-up equipment.

8. ISO invents dive watch standard (1996)

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) issues standard 6425, defining the features that a watch must have in order for it to be designated a “dive” watch. They include requirements for water resistance (the watch must be 25 percent more water-resistant than claimed on the dial), legibility under water, resistance to thermal shocks and ability to measure elapsed time. Standard 6425 supplants the standard issued in 1984 and is still in effect today.

9. CX Swiss Military 20,000 Feet (2009)

CX Swiss Military 20,000 Feet, 2009
CX Swiss Military 20,000 Feet (2009)

CX Swiss Military unveils the 20,000 Feet, which breaks the Rolex Deepsea’s record for water resistance (20,000 feet is equal to about 6,100 meters) and enters the Guinness Book of Records. (CX Swiss Military had held the deepness record from 2005 until the Deepsea appeared in 2008.) The watch is a chronograph with a 28.5-mm-thick case and a domed back. According to CX Swiss Military, it is actually water-resistant to 7,500 meters, thus providing the 25-percent margin of safety required to meet ISO 6425.

10. IWC Aquatimer collection (2014)

IWC Aquatimer Deep Two, 2014
IWC Aquatimer Deep Two (2014)

IWC updates its Aquatimer collection, fitting it with an outer, bidirectional bezel and an inner, unidirectional one. The most impermeable of the new Aquatimer models, the Aquatimer Automatic 2000, is water resistant to 2,000 meters.

Discover the complete history of the dive watch in our download — available in the WatchTime Shop — which includes even more highlights and firsts, like the Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000 and the first Omega Seamaster!

 

Merken

Merken

Merken

Flight Fight: A History of IWC and Breitling Pilots’ Watches

When longtime IWC head honcho Georges Kern left his position at Richemont to become CEO of Breitling, some saw it as the latest salvo in the two Swiss brands’ historical duel for horological supremacy in the air. Here we explore in depth how both brands have made their marks on the history and evolution of pilots’ watches.

In contrast to dive watches, pilots’ watches do not have to meet any objective criteria. Good legibility under all light conditions is generally all that’s needed, and good design makes the watches what they are. A pilots’ watch looks like a pilots’ watch. But it’s precisely the design that shows the different approaches to pilots’ watches by IWC and Breitling. Both brands base their own unique designs on their long traditions and histories. In the case of IWC, the company relies heavily on its Big Pilot’s Watch from 1940, which it, and other companies like A. Lange & Söhne, supplied to the German Air Force.

IWC Big Pilot & Breitling Navitimer
Icons: IWC has offered its Big Pilot’s Watch with its accurate pocketwatch movement since 1940. Breitling introduced its first Navitimer with chronograph and slide-rule bezel in 1952. Both were originally designed for use in aviation.

Typical features included the military-style triangle with two dots at 12 o’clock, sans-serif numerals (a plain, unadorned bar for the numeral 1), and dagger-shaped hands. Today these same features are found on every pilots’ watch made by IWC. Even the Mark XVIII follows this same family design – although its predecessor had different numerals and hands (the pilots’ watch Mark 11, built for the Royal Air Force in 1949). The only exceptions are the models dedicated to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and his “Little Prince,” in which IWC uses serif numerals, elegant blue or brown dials, silver hands and polished bezels. A conical crown, which makes operation while wearing gloves easier, is found on many other IWC models.

But IWC really unleashes its functions. The collection ranges from a simple hand-wound watch to chronographs with and without split seconds, world-time watches, and perpetual calendars. And with its limited Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55, IWC even restores its original 55-mm diameter. It closely approximates the design of the original – with beige luminous material and a matte case – though it has a small seconds display (the original model had a central seconds hand).

IWC can also reveal its modern side. The brand’s Top Gun models have a matte-black ceramic case and a textile strap for a contemporary military look, while still maintaining other traditional features. For this reason, these watches are easily recognizable as IWCs. The Top Gun Miramar line presents another interesting variation of the design: a muted green dial, beige luminous material, a red hour track, a polished ceramic case and an olive-green textile strap come together to create an exciting mix of modern and retro elements.

Breitling Navitimer & IWC Big Pilot Watch
Today’s Classics: Breitling has been building the Navitimer (steel, $8,215) with visual features that have remained virtually unchanged since 1962. An automatic in-house caliber ticks inside. IWC has only cautiously changed its Big Pilot’s Watch (steel, $12,900) over the last several years. The newest version of IWC’s seven-day automatic movement has powered the watch for the past year.

Breitling can also look back on a long tradition of pilots’ watches. Today, its iconic Navitimer looks much as it did just a few years after its introduction in 1952, when it was given a light-colored dial. These chronographs, with their distinctive rotating slide-rule bezels, are available with numerals as well as markers. Both types are immediately recognizable as Navitimers. Traditionally, one can choose between a black leather strap with a lighter stitched seam and a seven-row metal bracelet with offset links.

Breitling offers its icon in 43-mm and 46-mm sizes. There are also models that offer various additional functions along with a chronograph: a second time zone, world-time indication, full calendar and perpetual calendar. A wide selection of limited editions varies the design – from the re-release of the first models issued in 1952 for the pilots’ organization AOPA and elegant brown or blue dials to the modern look of Blacksteel (matte-black-coated case with black hands and markers on a black rubber strap).

IWC Big Pilots' Watch
Homage to the Beginnings: With special editions in 2016, both brands recall the first iconic pilots’ watch models. IWC is offering a 100-piece special edition of its Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55 (titanium, $14,800, above) in its original 55-mm diameter. The Breitling Navitimer AOPA with logo is limited to 500 pieces ($7,655, below).
Breitling Navitimer AOPA

Breitling is also one of the manufacturers that react most strongly to prevailing trends; it introduces new models to the market almost on an annual basis. This is clearly the case with its pilots’ watches, especially in the Chronomat and Avenger lines. Both always have a rotating bezel with raised markers.

The Chronomat – with its distinctively detailed numerals on the dial, round crown, and polished markers, which originally formed a square on the dial – alters its pilots’-watch look with sporty-elegant and modern options. In addition, other bezel numerals and markers are offered in this collection. Black-coated models with black or anthracite-colored markers and hands lend the watches a touch of modern sportiness. The Airborne models represent a timeless military style with more practical-looking numerals and markers and textile straps.

IWC & Breitling Military Pilots Watches
Military Flyers: With black cases and textile straps, both brands offer a military-style look: IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun (ceramic, $36,000) and Breitling Avenger Hurricane (Breitlight, $8,390).

But Breitling’s Avenger line goes still further in this direction. Its stencil-like numerals recall the distinctive look of military equipment. And the crown and pushers are designed with function in mind. In contrast to the Chronomat collection, which features chronographs exclusively, the Avenger line also includes three-hand watches. The look can also be varied with different straps: a polished metal bracelet for classic sportiness, leather for a more retro look, a rubber strap for functionality or a textile strap for military appeal.

Breitling is known as a pilots’-watch brand to an even greater extent than IWC. At Breitling, this means maintaining traditions as well as satisfying the customer by offering contemporary designs. Watches are also produced to meet the demands of today’s pilots. For this reason, Breitling sometimes dispenses with the mechanical movements that have come to be expected in a luxury watch. This results in extremely precise multifunction watches that have countdown, alarm, and additional time-zone functions.

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition “Le Petit Prince”
Elegant Flyers: Polished surfaces, applied markers and decorative finishes on the dial add elegance: Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition “Le Petit Prince” (rose gold, $32,400, above) and Breitling Chronomat 44 (steel, $9,060, below).
Breitling Chronomat 44

Watches in the brand’s Professional line typically have a functional case and large numerals at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. Some have rotating bezels for quick calculation of flight routes. The hands are partially skeletonized to permit view of the LCD indications at the top and bottom of the dial. Breitling’s Emergency model attained fame with its integrated distress beacon. The chunky case houses a screw connector for the antenna, which wearers view as a positive feature of the watch, not a hindrance.

The newest addition to the Professional collection is the Exospace B55 for wireless connection to a smartphone. The user can set the time using the phone, as well as reading start and landing times on the phone’s large screen. With its black case and gray or blue hands with matching rubber strap, it has a modern, high-tech look.

IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Miramar & Breitling Chronomat 44 Airborne
Retro Flyers: Vintage luminous, functional design, unadorned textile straps and earthy colors come together for a retro military look: IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Miramar ($10,900, left) and Breitling Chronomat 44 Airborne ($8,030, right).

IWC and Breitling interpret the pilots’ watch in different ways. IWC uses an iconic model from its past and rolls out a homogeneous collection of pilots’ watches with unmistakable features. Different colors and materials transform the lines and push them in different directions for an elegant or military look.

Breitling chooses another path. This brand continues to offer and produce its pilots’ watch icon, the Navitimer. Variations are offered with special editions in which the company creates a feeling of greater elegance or modernity through its use of different colors and materials. Breitling has also created collections that are inspired by contemporary or military designs. Bracelets and straps also provide numerous possibilities to modify the design.

Both brands rely on distinctive features so it’s always immediately possible to recognize the model as an IWC or a Breitling. But where IWC tinkers with its design and continues to develop its look or make steps toward its origins, Breitling invents itself anew while still leaving its icon intact.

Breitling Exospace B55
The Breitling Exospace B55 (titanium, $7,180), with smartphone connectivity for flight times, has a modern, technical appeal with digital displays, a black case, functional design, and a dark gray rubber strap.

This article originally appeared in the March-April 2017 issue of WatchTime.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Eight Significant Pilot’s Watches That Landed in 2019

As we approach the end of 2019 and prepare for 2020 — surely destined to be another interesting year in the world of watches — we take a look back at some of the most noteworthy timepieces that came out this year, in various popular categories. Today, we look at eight watches from 2019 targeted at pilots and aviation enthusiasts.

Bell & Ross’s BR 03-92 MA-1 pays tribute to to the MA-1 “bomber,” whose parachute-derived nylon shell and reversible khaki green and orange design took it from utilitarian military gear in the ’50s to a stylish fashion statement in the ’70s. The 42-mm case is made of dark khaki-colored ceramic and The dial, also khaki-colored, is in the “sandwich” style with two superimposed metal plates, the lower one coated with orange Super-LumiNova that shines through the stenciled, cut-out numerals and indices in the upper layer. The calfskin leather strap — like the jacket, dark khaki on its its top layer and orange on its lining, and reversible — fastens to the wrist with a gunmetal-colored PVD steel pin buckle. This “flight jacket for the wrist” is powered by the automatic BR-CAL.302, based on the Sellita SW.300-1, which offers a 28,800-vph frequency and a 38-hour power reserve. More info, and original photos taken at the watch’s U.S. debut at CoutureTime 2019, are available here.

Bell & Ross Br 03-92 MA-1
Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1

Britain’s Bremont unveiled its latest aviation history tribute piece, the H-4 Hercules Limited Edition “Spruce Goose” at our 2019 WatchTime New York collectors’ event. The watch is named for an American prototype plane from the 1940s designed by Howard Hughes and nicknamed “Spruce Goose” by its critics for its use of wood in construction due to a steel shortage; the H-4, conceived as a World War II transport aircraft, had the largest wingspan at the time of any aircraft built at 320 feet, 11 inches, and is currently on display at Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. The commemorative watch uses the company’s Trip-Tick case construction, with an onion-style screw-down crown and stepped-bezel, and is available in steel, rose gold, and platinum. Each dial has an outer curved GMT ring around a pilot-inspired minute ring and syringe-style hands. Inside is Bremont’s automatic Caliber BWC/02, visible through a sapphire caseback, and featuring a four-bladed propeller rotor made of  birchwood from the original H-4 Hercules fuselage. Find all versions and more details here.

Bremont H-4 Spruce Goose - RG
Bremont H-4 Hercules Limited Edition “Spruce Goose”

As perhaps the quintessential aviation watch brand, Breitling as usual put out a wealth of pilots’ timekeepers in 2019, many of them worthy of the end-of-year highlight roster. But the new collection that stands out for us is the military-themed Aviator 8 Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, particularly the 43-mm B01 Chronograph below, the only one of the three pieces equipped with an in-house movement, Breitling’s B01. The watch is inspired by the warplane produced by American manufacturer Curtiss Wright between 1938 and 1944 and famously piloted by the so-called Flying Tigers, a group of American volunteers in the Chinese Air Force, during World War II. The COSC-certified, self-winding movement is distinguished by its column-wheel-driven chronograph function and its impressive 70-hour power reserve. The dial layout features silvery white subdials on the military green dial at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock, with a date window at 4:30. The B01 Chronograph is also the only one of the Curtiss Warhawk models with a transparent sapphire window in the caseback, albeit one that also features a printed image of the warplane with its “Flying Tigers” shark imagery and the historical Curtiss logo. For more details on the entire Curtiss Warhawk collection, click here.

Breitling Aviator 8 B01 Chronograph 43 Curtiss Warhawk - reclining
Breitling Aviator 8 B01 Chronograph 43 Curtiss Warhawk

In commemoration of the 30th anniversary (one of many anniversaries in 2019) of its sporty Promaster collection, Citizen introduced a trio of limited editions, one each built for land, sea and air. Built for the “Air,” and the pilots who make it their home, is the Eco-Drive Satellite Wave GPS Promaster 30th Anniversary, limited to 1,989 pieces (1989 being the year that Citizen debuted the first Promaster models). Its 47-mm case is made of Citizen’s “Super Titanium,” enhanced with a special surface-hardening treatment combining Duratect MRK and Duratect DLC for enhanced scratch-resistance. Its bezel sports an aviation-style scale using traditional pilots’ ground-air visual signal codes. The multi-level cockpit-inspired dial, with large hands and indices placed between a base dial and a clear crystal layer above, has orange accents and luminescent treatment. The Eco-Drive movement, powered by light and receiving time signals from GPS satellites, drives a 1/4-second chronograph timing up to 24 hours and displays the time in two different zones simultaneously. All three of the Promaster 30th Anniversary models can be found here.

Citizen Eco-Drive Satellite Wave GPS Promaster 30th Anniversary
Citizen Eco-Drive Satellite Wave GPS Promaster 30th Anniversary

Among the milestones of 2019 was the the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion of Normandy that turned the tide of World War II. Graham, a Swiss brand with a British pedigree, honored that historic Allied victory with the Chronofighter Vintage D-Day, in a 44-mm steel case with the hallmark trigger-style chrono pusher and powered by the automatic Caliber G1747, based on the ETA 7750. Its grained black dial has “D-Day” in large, bold white lettering directly below the Graham logo at 12 o’clock. At 6 o’clock is a subdial with “1944” and “June 6” printed in white, marking the exact date that British, American, Canadian, and Free French forces launched amphibious attacks on the five Normandy beaches in Nazi-occupied France. The circled star at 3 o’clock, a standard symbol for Allied military forces, marks the exact time on that momentous day that the Brits’ Mulberry Harbours — portable harbors built for rapid offloading of cargo until the major French ports could be recaptured from the Germans — set out across the English channel to resupply the invasion army. More details on both of Graham’s commemorative D-Day timepieces are here.

Graham Chronofighter Vintage D-Day - front
Graham Chronofighter Vintage D-Day

Like Breitling, IWC built much of its year on expanding its collections of pilots’ watches, with many remarkable pieces to choose from. We’re going with one of the rarest and most complicated: the Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Chronograph Edition “80 Years Flight to New York,” which continues the brand’s partnership with the estate of pilot and Le Petit Prince author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The watch, limited to just 80 pieces, commemorates the 80th anniversary of Saint-Exupéry’s trip aboard the French flying boat Latécoère 521 from Paris to New York, a historical moment in early aviation. This new execution of the Timezoner, which was introduced in 2016, features a 46-mm stainless steel case with a brown rotating bezel made of ceramic and a sepia-tone brown dial inspired by the color of pilots’ suits from its namesake’s era. Denoting this model as a special edition are the red-colored indications for “Paris” and “New York” on the bezel, which is inscribed with the names of 24 world cities, one for each time zone. The watch is outfitted with IWC’s Caliber 89760, which pairs a chronograph with patented, easy-to-use world-time function in which the wearer can easily re-set the time, along with the date and 24-hour hand, in a single turn of the bezel. Click here to learn more about this user-friendly function.

IWC Pilot's Watch Timezoner Chronograph 80 Years Flight to NY
IWC Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Chronograph Edition “80 Years Flight to New York”

Germany’s Mühle-Glashütte, which marked its 150th anniversary in 2019, announced a limited edition honoring 80 years of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the AOPA AeroSport Limited Edition.  The watch, designed with the input of AOPA pilots, has a 42.5-mm steel case with a screw-down crown, an anti-glare sapphire crystal, and a classical coin-edge rotating bezel. Emblazoned on the bezel is a triangular pip that can be used either as a fixed GMT indicator or to calculate the length of flight times. The jet black dial has an AOPA logo above the 6 o’clock position. The watch, limited to 500 pieces, contains a modified Sellita SW-200-1 caliber, with the woodpecker-neck regulation device developed at Mühle’s headquarters in Glashütte, Germany, and a custom-designed AOPA 80th anniversary rotor. Click here for details.

Mühle Glashütte AOPA AeroSport Limited Edition

In addition to a plethora of new timepieces celebrating the 50th birthday of its El Primero caliber, Zenith also added to its popular vintage-look Pilot collection with the Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Silver, the first Zenith watch with a case made of 925 silver, a precious metal rarely found in the watch world. The 45-mm case features a big, ratcheted onion-style winding crown, an element borrowed from vintage aviation watches made for early 20th Century military pilots. The silver-brushed dial has a riveted motif, with shiny reflections, that calls to mind the fuselage of a WWII-era warplane. The large, period-appropriate Arabic hour numerals are applied entirely in Super-LumiNova for maximum brightness and legibility in a dark cockpit. Zenith’s in-house-made, automatic Elite 679 caliber beats inside, with a 28,800-vph frequency and a power reserve of 50 hours. Mounted on a brown, riveted calfskin leather strap, the watch is a limited edition of 250 pieces. More images and details here.

Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Silver - flat
Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Silver

The Next James Bond Movie Watch Revealed: Introducing the Omega Seamaster Diver 300M 007 Edition

Earlier this week, after much anticipation and speculation, Omega has announced the release of the watch to be worn by cinematic super-spy James Bond in the upcoming Bond film, No Time to Die: the Seamaster Diver 300M 007 Edition. This new timepiece will feature a similar red, black, and brown color scheme to that seen on previous Seamasters, but is now updated using the Seamaster Diver 300M design, with different vintage-look details, and set to run as a non-limited edition.

For reference, the last official Bond movie watch was the Seamaster 300 “SPECTRE” piece, which was a neo-vintage-inspired model released in 7,007 editions in the fall of 2015 alongside the 24th Bond film, simply titled Spectre. This new model is designed in the style of the Seamaster Diver 300M, a descendant of the original Seamaster first released in 1993, which has since evolved to become one of the most popular luxury dive watches out there — in part because of its long-term presence on the wrist of James Bond throughout the popular movie series. It’s no secret that Bond — created by author Ian Fleming in 1953 and a mainstay on the big screen since 1962 — has been a major cultural influence on purchasing decisions. Regarded by many as the pinnacle of male sophistication and style, the character has made quite an impact over the decades on the wristwear of his legions of fans worldwide.

This newest Seamaster Diver 300M features a 42-mm titanium case, with a brown “tropical” aluminum bezel ring to match its dial. It uses crown guards on its side to protect the screw-down crown, and features a helium release valve at the 10 o’clock position. On the dial, you can find an outer minute ring, with applied circular and rectangular tropical accented markers for each hour. Toward the top of the dial is the classic Omega logo, with a red-line script “Seamaster” just below it. More dial details are found toward the bottom of the face, including the arrow marker above 6 o’clock that recalls the era of the very first Bond movie, 1962’s Dr. No; such an arrow was a common postwar feature seen on sports watches at the time.

Sweeping over the dial are two large hands for the hour and minute, in the style commonly used in the series, while a red-tipped lollipop pointer counts the seconds. Inside the watch, powering these hands, is the Caliber Omega 8806 automatic movement, which like all modern Omega movements uses a co-axial escapement, is certified as a Master Chronometer approved by METAS, and is resistant to magnetic fields reaching 15,000 gauss. The movement stores a 55-hour power reserve and is protected by a solid caseback engraved with commemorative 007 markings meant to hearken back to genuine military-issue watches from the time of the original Bond film.

If you think that all of these homage traits in the new watch seem indicative of a larger anniversary for the Bond franchise, you’d be right. The year 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of Omega’s association with the Bond films, which began in 1995 with Goldeneye. (Omega also released another special edition Seamaster Diver 300M in late September of this year, celebrating a half-century since the release of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969.) This new 2020 available model carries on the celebration into the next half century, with Omega taking particular care to invoke the pre-Omega origins of the series and simultaneously push it forward. In the development of the new Seamaster, Omega for the first time explicitly sought out feedback and consultation from longtime Bond actor Daniel Craig, making use of  his extensive experience in the role to best produce a watch fit for a modern 007.

No Time to Die is set to be released in April 2020 as the 25th official James Bond film, and also as the ninth outing in which an Omega watch will make an appearance as the secret agent’s watch of choice. Unlike previous Bond movie-specific watches, the new model will not be produced in a limited series, and will be available from Omega starting in February 2020. It will be available on either a NATO-style polyester strap for $8,1000, or on a Milanese bracelet for $9,200.

Omega Seamaster Diver 300M 007 Edition - reclining
Omega Seamaster Diver 300M 007 Edition – reclining

 To read more on James Bond and his watches, check out our in-depth history of all the Bond movie watches, from the Rolex Submariner Reference 6358 worn by Sean Connery in 1962’s Dr. No, up until 2015’s Omega Spectre watch, with all the additional models in between — from brands such as Rolex, Omega, Breitling, and Seiko — also included.

 

Anything But Ordinary: 8 Watches Made from Extraordinary Materials

Is gold too precious and stainless steel too commonplace for you? Several watch manufacturers are experimenting with case materials that add even greater excitement to unconventional timepieces. From the WatchTime archives, here are eight timepieces that incorporate these out-of-the-ordinary materials.

DAMASCENE STEEL: Christophe Claret X-Trem 1

Christophe Claret Xtrem 1 Damascene
Christophe Claret X-Trem 1 ($308,000)

Damascene steel is seldom used in the watch industry because fabricating this material is a very complex and laborious undertaking. To create damascene steel, several different types of steel are placed one on top of the other and then forge welded. After the forging, the piece of steel is halved and the two parts are again placed one atop the other. This so-called “folding” yields damascene steel, which unites the properties of the various steels used in its fabrication. Another special feature is the attractive grained pattern that appears after surface etching. Christophe Claret uses damascene steel in combination with rose gold for the X-Trem 1. This watch is distinguished by its unconventional time display, which uses small hollow steel balls moved by two magnets to show the hours and minutes.

BREITLIGHT: Breitling Avenger Hurricane Military

Breitling Avenger Hurricane Military
Breitling Avenger Hurricane Military ($8,840)

Anyone who wears the Avenger Hurricane Military will notice that Breitlight feels warmer than metal, has an interesting marbled grain,and is noticeably lighter in weight than stainless steel. Breitling says that the substance is 3.3 times lighter than titanium, yet also harder than that metal. And the innovative material is 5.8 times lighter than steel, which explains why the 50-mm Avenger Hurricane Military weighs only about 69 grams, not including the weight of its strap. The polymer fiber is also scratch resistant. Breitling introduced this new case material in 2016 with the Avenger Hurricane, which is also 50 mm in diameter. The Avenger Hurricane 45 was recently equipped with a Breitlight case, too.

COLORED SAPPHIRE: Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire

Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire
Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire ($85,000)

Hublot is famous for its watches that use unconventional materials, such as linen, osmium or carbon. In 2016,this Swiss manufacture unveiled a model made entirely of artificial sapphire. The sapphire became colorful one year later, specifically blue or red. And despite the color, the Big Bang Unico Sapphire hasn’t lost its translucent appearance. Although colored sapphire crystal has been available since the beginning of the 20th century, synthesizing it in precisely the same hue is very difficult. To accomplish this, Hublot combines aluminum oxide – the raw material of sapphire – with either chrome for blue sapphire or iron for red sapphire during the manufacturing process. The properties of the sapphire – high resistance to scratches, extreme hardness and transparency – do not change. These characteristics also make the manufacturing process quite expensive. The middle part of the case, the back and the bezel are each cut from a solid block of sapphire and then abraded into their desired shapes. This requires special tools, which wear out quickly and must be replaced frequently.

VANTABLACK: MCT The Sequential One–S110 Evo Vantablack

MCT S110 Vantablack
MCT The Sequential One – S110 Evo Vantablack (113,000 euros)

“Vantablack”is a combination of the acronym for “Vertically Aligned NanoTubeArray”and the suffix “black.” A plate of Vantablack, with a thickness of just 1 mm, absorbs 99 percent of incident light and accordingly looks inky black. The Guinness World Records book lauded this material as “the blackest of all man-made substances” until 2015, when Vantablack was surpassed by “dark chameleon dimers,” a material that achieves the same light absorption as Vantablack with a thickness of just one micrometer. Neither of these materials had been previously used in the watch industry. One of the first watch manufacturers to employ these is MCT (Manufacture Contemporaine du Temps), which uses Vantablack for the dial of The Sequential One – S110 Evo Vantablack. In order to be able to use this material, the brand entered into an agreement with artist Anish Kapoor, who has secured the exclusive rights to use the Vantablack pigment in a work of art.

METALLIC GLASS: Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 BMG-Tech 3 Days Automatic

Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 BMG-Tech 3 Days Automatic
Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 BMG-Tech 3 Days Automatic ($10,200)

It almost looks like titanium, and the resemblance is intentional, but “BMG-Tech” isn’t a metal. Instead, it’s called “metallic glass.” BMG stands for “bulk metallic glass,” a composite of copper, aluminum, titanium, nickel and zirconium. The alloy is fabricated using high-pressure injection at high temperatures,followed by extremely rapid cooling, which doesn’t give the atoms enough time to distribute themselves regularly. The resulting amorphous structure gives BMG-Tech extreme hardness, shock resistance and corrosion resistance, while simultaneously making it impervious to magnetic fields. Panerai also states that the material is highly resistant to wear. In addition, BMG-Tech makes this 47-mm divers’ watch comparatively light in weight and, therefore, comfortable on the wrist.

GRAPHENE: Richard Mille RM 50-03 Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph Ultralight McLaren F1

Richard Mille RM 50-03 McLaren F1
Richard Mille RM 50-03 Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph Ultralight McLaren F1

Richard Mille premiered the RM50- 03 as the lightest mechanical chronograph of all time. Together with its strap, this lightweight model weighs just 40 grams. To set this record, Richard Mille uses carbon and titanium to craft the movement,which weighs only seven grams. The case consists of carbon and a relatively little-known material called“graphene.”A modified form of carbon, graphene is six times lighter in weight and 200 times more stable than steel. It’s included in the artificial resin that permeates the carbon. The carbon, in turn, is built from 600 layers of fibers arranged parallel to one another. None of these fibers is thicker than 30 micrometers. When the individual strata are arranged at a 45-degree angle atop one another, they create this substance’s characteristic marbling. This combination of materials makes the case very resistant and light in weight. Richard Mille also integrates graphene into the rubber strap to make it elastic and prevent wear.

CERAMICISED ALUMINUM Zenith Chronomaster El Primero Range Rover Velar Special Edition

Zenith Chronomaster El Primero Range Rover Velar Special Edition
Zenith Chronomaster El Primero Range Rover Velar Special Edition ($8,700)

Black cases give watches a sporty- technical look. That’s why they’re so popular. In most instances, these watches have stainless-steel cases that are PVD coated, although some black watches are made from black ceramic. Zenith takes a different tack. The 42-mm case of this Chronomaster,which was created in cooperation with RangeRover, is manufactured from aluminum. “Plasma electrolytic oxidation” transforms the surface of the metal into ceramic oxide,which is highly resistant to scratches and corrosion. This treatment initially gives the case a beige color; it changes to black when the surface is sandblasted. Zenith describes the final product as ceramicised aluminum.

COBALT CHROME: RogerDubuis Quatuor Excalibur Cobalt MicroMelt

Roger Dubuis Quatuor Cobalt
Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor Cobalt MicroMelt ($400,000)

Cobalt-chromium alloys are often used for making dentures because these alloys are very hard, elastic and completely corrosion-free. A steel gray color is also a characteristic. Roger Dubuis uses this material for the 48-mm case of this Excalibur, which is limited to eight pieces. The addition of “MicroMelt” in this model’s name refers to the manufacturing process that was used to shape the case. The MicroMelt process is mainly used in aviation and astronomy. The alloy undergoes melting and pulverization. The resulting powder is then mixed and sieved to a defined diameter, poured into a canister, pressed, and then heat-formed into bars from which the final size is obtained. Unlike other manufacturing processes, this method can combine metals with nonmetals, which means the alloys have a higher porosity and stability.

Orange is the New Black: Our 10 Favorite Orange (Non-Dive) Watches of 2019

As my colleague Mark Bernardo pointed out during WatchTime’s post-Baselworld Round Table earlier this year, 2019 has often felt like it is “more about new colors than new complications.” Diverse colorways have no doubt been trending upwards in recent years with blue, green, and brown all making major headway onto the wrists of watch collectors. One color that we did notice on the upswing so far this year, especially at Baselworld, was orange.

Orange, being the drastic hue it is, has typically been the design fodder of dive and ocean-faring watches due to its head-turning color (Doxa being perhaps the most famous practitioner). After all, you wouldn’t want to wear a blue dive watch into the ol’ deep blue, would you? But more and more brands are focusing on bringing orange into the realm of daily wearability. In this article, we narrow down a few of our favorite watches released this year that utilize orange tones. We’re going to skip over the typical dive watch usage to focus on the color’s aesthetic extension into atypical watch designs.

Glashütte Original Sixties Orange

Glashütte Original Sixties Panorama Date Orange


1/2

Glashütte Original Sixties Orange


2/2

Starting in 2018, Glashütte Original launched a new initiative focused on bringing colorful variants of its vintage-inspired Sixties and Sixties Panorama Date watches to market. Last year, the German brand released two models with memorable green-hued dials; this year, it returned with an eye-catching, burnt-orange design. The dial, which transitions from a light yellow in its center to dark orange — almost black — on its sides, was achieved through a laborious process at the brand’s dial manufactory in Pforzheim, Germany. First, the dial receives a galvanic bath treatment which leaves it with an almost golden yellow tone. Then, the dialmakers apply multiple layers of orange and black lacquer to darken the sides of the watch and give it a transitional feel. Once the dialmakers are satisfied, the almost-finished product is fired in a kiln to burn in its final colors, making each watch produced totally unique. The three-dimensional texture is the result of a 60-ton press that leaves the dial with its embossed low-relief pattern. Other than the new dial treatment, the two new watches are practically identical to last year’s releases. Arabic numerals are found at 3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock, while all the other hour markers are fitted with diamond-cut indexes that sink into the dial and showcase its nickel silver base plate. Sizing for both models, at 39 mm x 9. 4 mm and 42 mm x 12.4 mm, remains the same, as does the choice of movement, with Caliber 39-52 and Caliber 39-47 inside the time-only and Panorama Date models, respectively. The cases are built from polished stainless steel and come attached to a brown Louisiana alligator leather strap with a stainless steel pin buckle. After the success of last year’s version in green, it makes complete sense for Glashütte Original to make the colorful Sixties an annual tradition. The new Glashütte Original Sixties and Sixties Panorama Date are priced at $6,400 and $8,000. You can read more here.

Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1

Petro Onysko
Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1

This year, Bell & Ross looked beyond its typical cockpit instrument inspiration and took design cues from an iconic piece of aviator apparel, the famous MA-1 flight jacket that was adopted by the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s. Bell & Ross describes the model, with its familiar square case and large, legible Arabic numerals, as its “purest” pilot watch yet, meaning it’s the ideal stage upon which to pay tribute to the MA-1 “bomber,” whose parachute-derived nylon shell and reversible khaki green and orange design took it from utilitarian military gear in the ’50s to a stylish fashion statement in the ’70s. The 42-mm case is made of dark khaki-colored ceramic. The dial, also khaki-colored, is of the “sandwich” style with two superimposed metal plates, the lower one coated with orange Super-LumiNova that shines through the stenciled, cut-out numerals and indexes in the upper layer. Orange, of course, is a color long associated with the military and aviation, and the combo of khaki and orange is a direct reference to the MA-1 jacket. The strap, made of calfskin leather and fastening to the wrist with a gunmetal-colored PVD steel pin buckle, continues the theme. Like the jacket, it is dark khaki on its top layer (even the stitching is in the same color, for a total camouflage effect) and orange on its lining, and reversible. For a pilot in distress, putting the orange layer on the outside served as a beacon for Search and Rescue teams; for the wearer of this watch, it essentially allows you to wear it with two totally distinctive looks. The Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1 is powered by the automatic BR-CAL.302, based on the tried-and-true Sellita SW300-1, which offers a 38-hour power reserve. It’s priced at $3,900 and you can learn more here.

Breitling B01 Navitimer Chronograph 43 Airline Edition – TWA

Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 Airline Edition – TWA

The first Breitling Navitimer, with its built-in chronograph, stylish design, and circular slide rule bezel, quickly became a favorite of airline pilots shortly after it debuted in 1952, around the dawn of what we now refer to as the golden era of commercial aviation, from the late 1950s to early 1970s. This year, Breitling pays tribute to that booming era of passenger flight, and the iconic airlines that emerged from it, with the release of a new Navitimer “capsule collection” produced in a limited volume and celebrating three historic carriers: Swissair, Pan Am, and TWA. All three of the new Airline Editions are reimagined versions of Breitling’s Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43, with 43-mm stainless steel cases and that famous bidirectional circular slide rule bezel, an innovation that allowed the pilots of the ’50s to make crucial flight calculations on their watches, essentially serving as wrist-borne onboard computers in those halcyon days of commercial flight. Inside each case is Breitling’s in-house Caliber B01, renowned for its integrated 1/4-second chronograph function driven by a column wheel, its substantial 70-hour power reserve, and its timekeeping accuracy, as attested to by its chronometer certification. All of the watches feature the classic Navitimer three-register dial layout, with a date window at 4:30, and each one has a sapphire exhibition caseback bearing the classical logo of the airline it represents. Speaking of, Trans World Airlines, better known as TWA, seems to be experiencing a renaissance these days with the recent opening of the new TWA Hotel next to New York’s JFK airport. The defunct airline’s momentum doesn’t appear to be slowing down here either with a silver-colored dial featuring anthracite gray subdials and bright orange on the hands and inner calibrated slide rule scale. You can learn more here.

Breitling Cockpit B50 Orbiter

Breitling Cockpit B50 Orbiter

Breitling sure knows how to stand out in a crowd, doesn’t it? Along with the new Airline Editions, Breitling released an updated take on its ana-digi, quartz-powered Cockpit watch that commemorates the 20th anniversary of the Breitling Orbiter 3, the first non-stop balloon flight to circumnavigate the world. For many years, Breitling was sourcing its high-end quartz models from ETA; however, starting with the first Cockpit B50 that was released in 2014, the brand began producing its own hyper-accurate quartz models thanks to its now-patented Superquartz technology which is thermocompensated, COSC-certified, and billed as accurate within 10 seconds per year. The orange dial of the new watch references the color of the Orbiter 3 and contrasts nicely with the black titanium case construction. The caseback features an engraving of the original Orbiter 3 superimposed on a globe and surrounded by the words “FIRST NON-STOP FLIGHT AROUND THE WORLD – 20th ANNIVERSARY – ETANCHE 100 M” as well as the limited-edition number (1 of 213). Functions include a 1/100th-second flyback chronograph, a perpetual calendar, countdown timer, the ability to set up to two daily alarms, and a second time zone display. Limited to 213 total pieces, the Breitling Cockpit B50 Orbiter is priced at $8,360.

MeisterSinger Metris Black Line Edition 2019

The new MeisterSinger Metris limited edition

Diverging slightly from the orange theme of this article, MeisterSinger released a fairly surprising model in its Metris collection during Baselworld this year. Distinguished by a bright yellow dial — there are hints of orange around its periphery — the new watch fits seamlessly within the Metris family. While most of MeisterSinger’s timepieces lean on dressier motifs, the Metris line has established itself as a robust alternative that can handle a bit more wear and tear. True to form, the new Metris features a blacked-out, DLC-coating on its stainless-steel case. The 43-mm case integrates its rounded bezel with curved lugs, and protects the 3 o’clock crown via rounded guards. Like all Metris timepieces, there’s a date window at 6 o’clock that is amplified courtesy a cyclops date window. Inside the watch is either an ETA 2824-2 or a Sellita SW200-1, both offering up a 38-hour power reserve.

Zodiac Aerospace GMT

Zodiac Aerospace GMT

The Fossil Group has been making remarkable advances in recent years as it continues to rebuild the Zodiac brand within the minds of watch enthusiats. For those that have followed the re-development of the brand, it’s obvious that there’s been a great amount of attention placed on bringing the Sea-Wolf, and the Super Sea-Wolf, back to their rightful place in dive watch history. We were happy to find out during Basel that the brand is continuing to expand its neo-vintage lineup in 2019 with a re-issue of the Aerospace GMT in two limited-edition colorways. There’s a model equipped with a black-and-gray bezel that directly references the Aerospace’s historical predecessor that was released in 1966 as an extension to the Super Sea-Wolf collection. The other model comes with a bezel featuring an attractive combination of baby blue and burnt orange, a playful look that should appeal to younger enthusiasts looking to move up from the main Fossil catalog into the more upscale — yet still accessible — Zodiac brand. The Aerospace GMT is nicely sized at 40-mm, comes on a three-link bracelet, and has a date window located at 3 o’clock. Rather than using one of the Fossil Group’s standard STP movements, Zodiac opted to use an ETA 2893-2 with a 38-hour power reserve. While Fossil does not yet have its own true GMT caliber, the success of this limited-edition run could help determine future development. Both of the new watches will be limited to a total production of 182 pieces in each colorway for a price of $1,695. You can learn more here.

Oak & Oscar Humboldt

Oak & Oscar Humboldt

Oak & Oscar was no doubt an early adopter of orange as a whole, making the color a key part of the Chicago-based company’s branding early on. For Oak & Oscar’s most recent release, Chase Fancher and his team introduced the Humboldt, a timepiece that doesn’t stray too far from the neo-classic design language that previous Oak & Oscar timepieces, like the Sandford GMT and Jackson Flyback Chronograph, have established. The sandwich dial, after being noticeably absent on the Jackson, makes a triumphant return and the colorways, with ample usage of blue, gray, and, of course, orange for the seconds hand, continuing over from the previous editions. What is new here, however, is the introduction of a 12-hour, bi-directional bezel, that can be used to measure elapsed time or a second time zone, and the option of a stainless-steel bracelet. The 40-mm model is inspired by Alexander van Humboldt, an influential 18th-century explorer, philosopher, and natural scientist that is perhaps most famous for his extensive travels and writing on the Americas. More importantly for Oak & Oscar, who have focused on naming their various models after Chicago-based historical figures, is that he’s the namesake for Humboldt Park located in the city’s West Side. The Humboldt features the kind of detail we’ve come to expect from Oak & Oscar, solidifying its standing as a brand driven by enthusiast appeal. These minuscule specifics, often laid to the wayside by bigger, more-established brands, include the date window at 6 o’clock being color matched to your choice between charcoal gray and navy blue dials, and the drilled 20-mm lugs that allow for a more fluid strap changing experience. Inside the watch is the workhorse ETA 2892-A2 caliber with a 42-hour power reserve that is visible through a display back. Water resistance is tested to 200 meters for additional reliability, while the sandwich dial layout that features Super-LumiNova on the bottom layer will ensure a high degree of legibility wherever you take the watch. The previously mentioned stainless steel bracelet, the first time the option has been available for an Oak & Oscar timepiece, was the result of 18 months of research and testing. Built to the brand’s specifications, the bracelet has a fully articulated link design that gradually tapers from the 20-mm solid end links to the 16-mm buckle. The Humboldt is priced at $1,750 on the bracelet and $1,550 on the leather. You can learn more here.

Zenith Swizz Beatz

Zenith Defy Classic – Swizz Beatz Edition


1/2

Zenith Defy Classic – Swizz Beatz Edition


2/2

Building on Zenith’s relationship with the hip-hop artist and record producer Swizz Beatz, the Swiss brand released a limited-edition version of its Defy Classic in ceramic with a bright orange design during its Geneva Days showcase in January. I’m typically not a fan of timepieces that are born from celebrity collaborations as more often than not they come across as lazy and thrown together. That’s not the case here as there is no outlandish branding visible on the dial; instead, Zenith and Swizz Beatz let the watch do the talking. The standard Zenith Defy Classic is a simpler, time-and-date-only sibling to Zenith’s flagship El Primero chronograph and features a 41-mm case made of ceramic. The dial of this specific version is openworked in a reference to the brand’s five-sided star motif and features orange detailing on the surrounding minute track, the seconds hand, and the rubber strap. The watch is powered by the automatic Elite 670 Caliber, which could be described as a more understated younger brother to the famous El Primero. The Elite, the first generation of which debuted in 1994, contains 187 components, including 27 jewels and an escape wheel and lever made of silicon. It stores a power reserve of 48 hours, just a little shy of the El Primero’s 50 hours, and oscillates at a frequency of 28,800 vph — speedy, but a far cry from the El Primero’s supercharged 36,600-vph frequency. While the new watch celebrates the brand’s continued relationship with the Grammy Award-winning musician, it also represents a new frontier for Zenith as the timepiece became the first watch to be sold exclusively through the brand’s e-commerce site. Limited to just 50 pieces, the Defy Classic Swizz Beatz is priced at $7,900.

Richard Mille RM 16-01 Automatic Citron

Richard Mille RM 16-01 Automatic Citron


1/2

Richard Mille RM 16-01 Automatic Citron


2/2

Richard Mille creations have always been easy to spot in a crowd. Thanks to the avant-garde styling, the generous usage of color, and the overall level of technical sophistication, it isn’t difficult to comprehend how the firm has evolved into one of the most recognizable brands in contemporary horology. The Bonbon collection, released at SIHH 2019, continues this trend with a spotlight on sweetness. That’s right, the lineup of 10 watches, each a limited edition of 30 pieces, borrows liberally from the candy of our youths and transforms the face of each timepiece into a scene straight from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. The entirety of the new collection uses the construction of previous Richard Mille timepieces as a base. Recognizable models such as the RM 07-03, the RM 16-01, and the RM 37-01 have been completely transformed and sport a refreshed aesthetic. Cécile Guenat, the daughter of Richard Mille’s founding partner Dominique Guenat, served as the artistic director for the series and focused on injecting each new model with an extra dosage of joie de vivre. The 10 releases are further divided into either the Sweets collection (four watches) or the Fruits line (six total). The watches in the “Fruits” grouping all use Carbon TPT® or Quartz TPT®, the same layering materials found in popular models like Rafael Nadal’s RM 27-03 Tourbillon; the watches in the “Sweets” line are encased in two-tone ceramic. All the new watches include various details that help them stand out. Some models have miniature fruits and candies sprawled across the dial, while the crowns and case bands on other models take the shape of cupcakes and bowls of gelato. Guenat and her team leaned on the expertise the brand gained during their work with the street artist Cyril Kongo for the RM 68-01 to complete the project. At first glance, it might be hard to comprehend the value of such a whimsical approach to watchmaking, but there’s no doubt it provokes a response. Prices for the Richard Mille Bonbon collection range from $122,500 to $158,000. You can learn more here.

Chronoswiss

Chronoswiss Flying Grand Regulator Skeleton Ref. CH-6723S-BKLB

Chronoswiss has never been afraid to express itself with bold colorways to match its equally recognizable regulator-focused designs. This year proved no exception to that rule with a number of electrifying looks — just check this out — including a new option in the brand’s limited-edition series of Flying Grand Regulator Skeleton timepieces that combines baby blue accents with apricot-orange hands. Produced in a run of only 30 watches, the new release is housed in a 44-mm stainless steel case, with satin-brushed and polished finishes, composed of 21 parts. The knurled finish on the sides and vintage-look onion crown, longtime Chronoswiss hallmarks, add to the case’s distinctive look. The silvered, openworked dial offers a glimpse of the watch’s mechanical heart. Inside the case is the manual-wound C.677S caliber, whose plates, bridges and gear wheels have been painstakingly skeletonized. On the dial side, the multi-level construction features funnel-type subdials for the hours and seconds, plus Poire Stuart hands that sweep over the main dial and subdials to indicate the hours, minutes, and seconds.