Wempe Watch Blog

Wempe Watch Blog
2016-09-27
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Last week we covered how new materials are influencing watch performance both inside and out. In one of those posts we discussed how materials for cases, bezels, bracelets and straps are becoming more advanced in terms of durability, lighter weight and scratch resistance.

However, what we haven’t talked about is the very essence of the watch: the case itself. In fact, one of the most important design elements of a timepiece is its shape. From round to rectangular, from square to oblong, the look of a watch determines its appeal – and that starts with the case shape and its profile.

All cases are not created equal. A watch case can be artful, thoughtful, simple and elegant, or it can be bold, three dimensional, rugged and high tech in nature. One case may be easier to machine and put together than another case. In fact, cases can be milled from a solid block of material or can have dozens — even hundreds — of parts that must be put together.

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In the early years of the 20th century, during the Art Deco period, many cases were square and rectangular (such as the famed Cartier Tank or the iconic Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso). The Roaring Twenties yielded unusually shaped geometric cases and ergonomically curved cases, as well. However, by the late 1930s and into the 1940s and 1950s, we began seeing more round watches. This is because people were beginning to demand water resistant watches, and it was much easier to make a round watch water resistant than a square one with so many edges and angles.

Once the utilitarian need of water resistance was conquered, brands began working on cases that became art – and new shapes appeared, including sculpted cases, coin cases, Dali-inspired shapes and more.

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Today’s luxury watch brands offer a case for everyone. While certain sports watch companies may mill a case from a single block of metal to render it more sturdy and rugged, other brands build complex cases with dozens of parts to demonstrate their abilities to produce a case worthy of the movement inside. These multiple-part cases are no weaker or less water resistant than a solid-block case, as long as the brand has focused on gaskets, fittings, screw-lock casebacks and crowns, and an overall precision interplay of parts.

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The making of a watchcase starts from a mold—a plaster-like or 3-D printed rendition of what the case will look like. When all the parts and angles are approved, the case material is selected and high-precision cutting machines mill the case parts (lugs, sides, back, bezel, etc.). Each of these parts is then fitted together and properly fastened and finished with stunning angles, bevels and more — all of which lead to a highly recognizable finished timepiece.

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It is no easy feat making a case that is distinguishable from across a crowded room, but top watch brands do it. Stop into our store anytime and we can do a side-by-side comparison of some of the finest cases and shapes on the market.

2016-09-23
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While we are a retailer of many top watch brands, we are also a manufacture of fine jewelry and timepieces. Recently, in Glashutte, Germany, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of our own chronometer watch collection (certified by the Wempe-owned Glashutte Obesrvatory): Zeitmeister. In honor of this important year, we've added new timepieces to our line: a clock, a dive watch, a chronometer, annual calendar and an automatic Chronometrewerk. We are certain they will impress you.

The Limited Edition Zeitmeister Diver’s Chronograph DLC1, with just 100 pieces being made, is the brand's first dive watch. The DLC-coated 45mm stainless steel case with a black ceramic uni-directional bezel offers three registers for 12-hour, 30-minute and running seconds totalizers. With 48 hours of power reserve, the watch is water resistant to 300 meters and meets the German dive watch standards. It houses a Valjoux 7750 movement and passes the Glashutte Observatory's stringent standards.

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Perfect for travelers and business people is the new Limited Edition Zeitmeister Annual Calendar watch (also just 100 pieces). The watch houses the ETA 2892-A2, with an additional chronometer-certified annual calendar module. The watch offers day, date and month, as well as a moon phase aperture. This watch will be in our store next month.

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Also new are the Chronometerwerke Automatic in steel or in gold with 92 hours of power reserve and the Limited Edition Chronometerwerke Precision Pendulum powered by the Sattler caliber 2005. The beautiful piece pays homage to German clock-making. Just 10 clocks will be built.

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We invite you into our store any time to learn more about fine German matchmaking.

2016-09-22
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Earlier in the week we discussed how high-tech materials from the aviation, automotive and other fields have found their way to the world of watches for cases, bracelets, bezels and straps. Today, we take a look at how high-tech materials, such as engineered ceramic and silicium, play a role inside the watch – in the mechanism.

A mechanical watch is filled with hundreds of tiny gears, teeth, ball bearings and other parts that work together harmoniously to tick off the seconds, minutes, hours and other functions a watch may hold. Typically, these mechanical movements, like the engine of a fine car, are lubricated to keep everything running smoothly.

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The constant wear and tear of metal against metal, however, often causes friction, wears down the parts and eventually, causes the oil to dry out. This is much of the reason servicing of a fine luxury watch is typically recommended every several years (just as a car needs to be serviced).

With the advent of new materials, though, certain watch brands have eliminated much of the friction — and the wear and tear — meaning a watch can go significantly (years) longer without needing lubrication or servicing. Such materials include silicium and ceramic ball bearings.

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There are several pioneers in the industry that have led the way when it comes to developing and using new movement materials. Among them are Rolex and Patek Philippe. In fact, both of these brands have been using high-tech materials for movement parts for decades – ensuring longer life for its calibers. Both also continue to develop new realms and to collect new patents for their inventions. Additionally, each brand has developed its own testing methods and its own certifications.

We invite you in any time to get a hands-on experience with some of these and other high-performance brands.

2016-09-20

While watchmaking technology has been steadily improving for more than five centuries, there always seems to be room for improvement. Today’s finest watchmakers continually push the boundaries when it comes to innovation – offering new and exciting technology, functions and even materials.

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Gold, platinum and steel will forever be forged into watch cases, but today, many brands also take their inspiration from the space, aviation, automotive and medical worlds when it comes to super high-tech materials.

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Among the favorites are engineered ceramics, multiple grades of high-tech titanium, hypoallergenic alloys, aluminium (a derivative of aluminum that can be colored and is super light weight), carbon fiber (a dense yet light-weight material that is super strong thanks to the layering or weaving of thousands of strands of fibers), kevlar and more. Some brands are even working with transparent sapphire to create cases that are virtually see through.

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The point behind these materials is not just to offer an exciting marketing angle, but, more to the point, to offer more durability, more scratch- or shock-resistance and lighter weight. Indeed, the materials used have to meet a clear objective, whether that is achieving a certain color, a certain weight or a certain aesthetic appeal.

Some brands are even building their own alloys of gold that will keep the gold from scratching or wearing in any way. This, of course, makes them even more precious in the long run.

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Additionally, brands are even perfecting the coatings they apply to the materials. Years ago, when one wanted to add a different color to a metal, the piece was bathed in an electroplating process. Today, at the high end of the luxury watch spectrum, a host of coating methods can be employed, including PVD (physical vapor deposition), DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) applications and other methods that make the coating last longer and resist scratching.

We invite you in any time to see our vast array of timepieces that utilize high-tech materials in their cases, bracelets, bezels and straps.

2016-09-15

It seems that while Smart watches are popping up all over the marketplace, not everyone is interested in the high-end models. In fact, it looks as though Apple is no longer selling its 18-karat gold watch (which carried an average retail of between $10,000 and $17,000).

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This may be because Apple execs have learned that they can't tread in the classic watch category. After all, it is difficult to expect anyone to spend $15,000 or so on a watch whose technology needs to be constantly updated. That money can be better spent on a fine timepiece with a pedigree of watchmaking history.

While most consumers seem eager to have a smart watch that can track steps, sleep patterns and more, in addition to receiving messages and alerts, this category of watch just won't steal away customers' interest in owning a traditional timepiece.

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Additionally, some watch brands, including Movado, Frederique Constant, TAG Heuer, and even Breitling, are really embracing the Smart watch or connected concept, and are unveiling a couple of traditional watches that have the connected angle. This may well be to demonstrate to today's customers that the traditional watch can be cutting-edge, too, and may be the "smarter" choice.

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Even in the fashion arena, designers are jumping on the Smart bandwagon. Last week, during New York Fashion Week, Michael Kors showed off his newest Smart watch, the Michael Kors Access smartwatch featuring designs based on the brand's most iconic styles. We expect to see more designers, watch brands and tech brands strutting their stuff in the smart category — but predominantly in the under $2,000 price range.

Stop in any time to see our grand selection of fine watches and maybe even a few connected pieces.

2016-09-14
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Taking inspiration from its archival pocket watches, Vacheron Constantin unveils an all new Traditionnelle Chrono Perpetual Calendar watch, featuring an in-house-made 1142 QP caliber. The 43mm platinum watch holds the Hallmark of Geneva certification. In order to qualify for the prestigious seal, the movement and the watch must be made in the canton of Geneva and must be keenly finished according to strict Hallmark of Geneva standards, known as one of the most rigorous certifications.

Designed and developed entirely in house, the watch offers date, days, months, leap years and moon phases, as well as a direct-drive seconds hand and 30-minute counter for the column-wheel chronograph. The calendar will need no adjustment until March 1, 2100. The new 324-part, mechanical caliber offers 48 hours of power reserve and replaces the previous 1141 QP (which beat at 2.5Hz). The caliber is visible via a sapphire crystal caseback. Key styling elements of this watch include the stepped case, fluted pattern on the back, dauphine-style hands, and the white tachymeter scale and railway minute track.

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The gray dial boasts a 22-karat white gold moon display with a smiling moon face and a serious moon face like the old pocket watches. While this new watch is not in stores yet, we invite you in to see our great selection of Vacheron Constantin timepieces. This is, after all, the longest continually operated watch brand in the world.

2016-09-13
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Mostra, the 73rd annual Venice Film Festival, comes to a close after 10 days of galas, celebrities and Venice fanfare. A long-time supporter of the festival and of Venice restoration, Jaeger-LeCoultre not only hosted a gala event to celebrate the brand’s 85th anniversary of its iconic Reverso, but also to celebrate the festival and the city.

For several years now, Jaeger-LeCoultre has been a supporter of the restoration of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice because of its involvement with arts and culture in the city and its long-standing sponsorship of the Film Festival. The opulent Scuola Grande di San Rocco, built in 1478 in the San Polo district of Venice, is renowned for its collection of paintings by 16th-century artist Tintoretto. Part of the restoration efforts include improving the lighting via new LED systems that protect the paintings, and cleaning and restoring the marble imperial staircase.

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Additionally, during the Festival, Jaeger-LeCoultre showcased some of its very special Reverso watches. Among the special pieces on display was a full jeweled version, and a model with a heart drawn by Carmen Chaplin (of the famed Charlie Chaplin descent) that also played a role in raising funds for the restoration. The company also unveiled a hand-painted Reverso Grande Taille watch with an enamel miniature that pays tribute to the restoration work on the marble staircase of Scuola Grande di San Rocco.

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If you are not already familiar with the famous Reverso watch by Jaeger-LeCoultre, we invite you in to see the many sides of time and lifestyle this watch has to offer both men and women alike.

2016-09-07
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With Labor Day behind us, it seems to be a signal of oncoming fall – shorter days, earlier nights. This makes it a great time to invest in a watch that tells time in the dark. Luminous watches that don’t look luminous during the day but that glow brightly at night or in the dark took about a century to perfect.

In the early 1900s Marie and Pierre Curie discovered radium. It was only a decade or so later that watch companies and dial makers turned to the substance as a luminous aid. Little did they know the dangers involved in using the material, which emits particles that have the effect of ionizing and glowing fluorescent.

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Dial makers developed a radium-based paint and, in 1914, Radium Luminous Materials Corporation began producing the phosphorescent paint for watch hands and markers. Workers would paint the dials and often lick the tip of the brush to get a finer point on it for thinner, more exact lines. They began getting sick from the radiation within the paint and many died. A group of women banned together in the late 1920s and took the company to court, which led to its closing and the implementation of new rules about the material.

Scientists and researchers looked for other options and, in the 1960s, found tritium, which was more harmful than radium, but limits were established on how much could be used in a paint (vintage 1960s watches using this material may have a single or double T on the dial).

Eventually laws prohibited the use of radioactive paint and in the 1990s Super-LumiNova was unveiled. The non-radioactive substance is the material of choice today. It offers a strong glow (in several colors) without the danger. Additionally, the material has been improved over the past 20 years and is brighter today than it was in its original forms. The material glows after absorbing sufficient UV light, and the strength of the glow depends on how many layers of Super-LumiNova are applied.

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Some watch companies also use a new tritium-based system called “Gaseous Tritium Light Source” (GTLS), wherein the material is encased in tiny glass tubes that are placed together to form numerals or markers. This system is brighter than Super-LumiNova but also more expensive and more difficult to execute.

At any rate, now that you know how much research has gone into creating watches with lumen, we invite you to stop in any time and see our great selection of luminous watches.

2016-09-01
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Planning a trip to Paris in September? If so, you may want to visit the 2016 Biennale des Antiquaires that is taking place at the Grand Palais from September 10-18. This year, for the first time ever, the Biennale organizers are working with the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) of Geneva to showcase a thematic exhibition based on "The Mastery of Time" book about man's quest to track time.

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While the Biennale transforms the Grand Palais into one of the foremost showcases for art and culture, the new time-themed exhibition is guaranteed to bridge the gap between the past and the future when it comes to timepieces. On display will be artifacts and historical watches that span centuries, including sundials, table clocks, astronomical clocks, pocket watches, automatons and more. Additionally, master craftsmen and watchmakers will be on hand throughout the exhibit.

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Credits: All images courtesy of FHH.

2016-08-30
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Recently, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH) released its July export statistics, and while the overall numbers weren’t on a roll, the U.S. market came out on top. For nearly a decade, the Asian markets — led by Hong Kong — were the largest consumers of Swiss watches, with the U.S. not too far behind.

However, with tough economic times in Asia, the United States unseated Hong Kong as the top importer of Swiss watches — accounting for 10.9 percent of all Swiss watch exports during the month of July (10.7 percent of the exports that month went to Hong Kong). The last time the United States held this top spot was nine years ago.

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