Wempe Watch Blog

Wempe Watch Blog
2014-06-27
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The National Watch and Clock Museum in Lancaster County, Pa. (90 miles west of Philly), is nearly 40 years old and has a prime collection of nearly 12,000 watch, clock and related items on display. It is recognized as the largest and most comprehensive horological collection in North America, and regularly organizes unusual traveling and special exhibits – including pieces from around the world.

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Currently, the museum is setting up micro-exhibits that examine specific topics in a concise manner. The most recent micro-exhibit features watches worn by James Bond, including the "original" — Ian Fleming’s Rolex. The guest curator of the exhibit is James Bond expert Dell Deaton. Among the 007 pieces on display are fantastic timepieces worn by the character of James Bond in print and on film, and some additional gadgets.

Running until December 2014 is a bigger exhibit titled "Abracadabra: Magic Mystery Clocks." The exhibit will consist of some of the most incredible mystery clocks (a clock that has no visible means of connecting a movement to the hands that track the hours and minutes). Some of the most famous mystery clocks are thought to have been inspired and built by famous French clockmaker Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin. It is thought that the famed illusionist, Houdini, took his stage name from the clockmaker. This exhibit is not to be missed. So if you're going to be near Philly, be sure to plan a side trip to the town of Colombia in scenic Lancaster County.

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2014-06-25

Serious collectors own between five and 19 timepieces, with an average collection of 8.5 watches, according to a survey of watch collectors' habits and preferences conducted by LGI Network, part of NDP Group.

This report provides quantitative and qualitative feedback from more than 500 individuals who collectively own in excess of 2,750 watches with retail values exceeding $65 million. Just a few statistics regarding the respondents: Of the 500 people surveyed, 61 percent were U.S. residents, 36 percent were from Europe and 23 percent were from Asia.

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It comes as no surprise that 52 percent of the collectors who purchase in the over $15,000 range earn more than $300,000 annually. Most tend to be from the finance, law and healthcare fields. (We wonder... Do the doctors buy pulsimeter watches?)

In the collector’s arena, most own between five and 19 watches at a combined value of $175,000 to $200,000. Usually a mix of brands was represented. Additionally, most do not buy on whim. In fact, in 72 percent of buying instances, the collector had a clear intention to purchase a specific model.

Researchers divided respondents into four groups: Active collectors who focus on watches over $15,000; active collectors focusing on watches retailing for between $5,000 and $15,000; emerging collectors who have limited collections; and connoisseurs who are active influencers. For the active collectors purchasing timepieces over $15,000 retail, there were two price categories: $15,000 to $40,000 and over $40,000.

2014-06-20

It's graduation season, and while many grads know what they want to do for a living, others are still considering their options. One career path rarely thought of — and intensely in demand — is watchmaking. Indeed, a career in watchmaking can have a hefty payoff.

While watchmaking as a profession sounds boring at first, it actually is quite the contrary. Watchmakers have to be patient and disciplined, yes. But they also have to be creative and curious. To be a master watchmaker, they have to think outside the box and envision the future of this centuries-old profession.

Unfortunately, the number of young people entering the watchmaking profession has fallen off in past decades, especially in America where watchmaking has pretty much moved to Switzerland or the Far East. The result, however, is positive in that watchmaking has now become a highly in-demand career. To that end, several brands have established watchmaking schools throughout the country that augment the existing schools.

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Most of the watchmaking schools offer comprehensive courses that have been developed with one of two guiding programs (SAWTA or WOSTEP), but since the watchmaking field is in such need of trained personnel, any of the accredited watchmaking schools below will open doors for you.

SAWTA stands for Swiss American Watchmakers Training Alliance, which currently collaborates with the three largest watchmaking schools in the United States, having a combined capacity of 42 students per year. The American Watch and Clock Institute (AWCI) is instrumental in supporting SAWTA with exam assessment expertise throughout the comprehensive two-year program.

WOSTEP stands for the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Program. WOSTEP was founded in 1966 in Switzerland, and is the most internationally recognized institution for watchmaking. The support of multiple brands across all segments of the watchmaking industry allows WOSTEP to provide an education of the highest technical standards.

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Other schools with a traditional curriculum have degrees that can be accomplished anywhere from a year’s time to 16 months. After successfully completing the programs of any of the schools, trained watchmakers are free to work wherever they find jobs, including service centers, brand centers, or retail stores.

Many of the schools offer scholarships and full-tuition opportunities due to the vast need for professionals in this career field. In terms of annual salary, depending on where in America one locates, a watchmaker can earn between $45,000 and $100,000 a year.

Among the watchmaking schools in the USA are the following:

- The Nicolas G. Hayek Watchmaking School, Miami, FL (WOSTEP)
- North American Institute of Swiss Watchmaking, Fort Worth, TX (WOSTEP)
- Lititz Watch Technicum, Lititz, PA (SAWTA)
- North Seattle Community College, Seattle, WA (SAWTA)
- OSU Institute of Technology, Okmulgee, OK (SAWTA)
- Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology, Horology; Paris, TX
- Bishop State Community College, Mobile, AL
- Gem City College School of Horology, Quincy, IL

2014-06-16

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Sowind mother-of-pearl dial disks being readied for work. Photo by patriceschreyer.com.

Many watches today feature mother-of-pearl shell as dials. These shimmering orbs offer a clean, classic and elegant appeal. However,  mother of pearl is not an easy substance to work with. It is quite brittle and ultra thin when used as a dial, and breakage can easily occur.

Depending on the complexity of the dial, the entire production process easily takes anywhere from a month to six weeks and involves 15 different artisan steps. As such, they are predominantly made by companies that specialize in working with the shell. Typically, a dial maker with a strong team of approximately two dozen skilled makers can still only produce about 5,000 top-quality mother-of-pearl dials annually.

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Inspecting a disk

The process really begins with the actual selection of the shells, especially at the high end of the watchmaking spectrum. Top-quality shells come in extra-bright white hues and hail from Australia and other parts of the Pacific Ocean and exotic seas.

Once the shells have been selected, they are crushed and then precisely machined into thin sheets that are typically 0.2mm in thickness. From these mother-of-pearl sheets, perfect round orbs or specifically shaped pieces are precisely cut by CNC machines. These disks will then be used as the  watch dial.

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Inlaying of mother of pearl and gold for marquetry dials. Photo by patriceschreyer.com.

Because of the complexity involved in creating the sheets and the disks, many dial makers buy the disks already cut and start the work from there.  At this point, moving forward, the majority of the dial work is done by hand.  Each dial orb is carefully inspected and then the further beautification of the dial begins.

Mother-of-pearl dials can be engraved or finished with all sorts of patterns from traditional sunray to decorative motifs. This is all delicately done by hand on either the dial front or back depending on the design.

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Applying color to the dial back of a Girard-Perregaux dial. Photo by patriceschreyer.com.

Dials can be enhanced in color by painting, varnishing or lacquering the back of the mother of pearl. Generally, mother of pearl has a milky white luster, however it can be found with a natural pearlescent hue in pale blue, pink, gray and brown. Polishing is an important step, as it brings out the natural luster of the shell.

Generally, numerals and markers are then inked onto the dial, or cut-outs are made on the dial for the setting of gemstones or applied indices. Further embellishments, including the hands or any diamond accents, are added last. The finished work of art then moves to its rightful place on the watch.

2014-06-10

As a top retailer of a variety of timepieces, we often field questions about watches. One of the common questions is “What’s the difference between a hand-wound (manual-wind) watch and an automatic (self-wind) watch?”

Essentially, a mechanical watch is a watch powered by the movement’s mechanical parts and not by a battery as in a quartz-powered timepiece.

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In a handwound movement, such as this A. Lange & Sohne caliber the wearer needs to wind the crown to power the watch.

In a hand-wind watch, the wearer must act as the initial power supplier by physically winding the watch crown on a regular basis to power the timekeeping function. Inside, via the gear train, energy is transmitted from the crown to the main spring, where it is stored.

As is natural, the wound spring tries to uncoil and release the power necessary to activate the movement and make time tick. To regulate that release of energy, the balance wheel and spiral kick into play keeping the energy release even and making the movement accurate.

Unfortunately, if one forgets to wind the watch, the energy runs out and the watch stops working. One will need to reset the time and wind the watch again before wearing.

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In an automatic movement the motion of the wearer’s wrist automatically winds the rotor and stores the power.

In an automatic mechanical watch, the inner movement is fitted with an automatic rotor – meaning that it automatically winds itself as the wearer moves the wrist naturally. Today’s automatic-wind mechanical watches house oscillating weights (also called rotors) that wind the mainspring.

As long as the watch is being worn, and generally for a specified amount of time after the watch comes off (power reserve), it retains energy.  When the power reserve left in the watch dwindles (if it hasn’t been worn again), the watch also stops running and needs to be re-set before wearing again.

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Another beautiful example of an automatic-wind movement, this one from Vacheron Constantin.

Different watches have varying amounts of power reserve, ranging from a designated number of hours to a set number of days, depending on the watch. The downside to an automatic watch is that, generally, the rotor is large and disrupts the view of the finely finished movement.

New inventions – such as the micro-rotor—are coming into play that reduce the size of the rotor so much that more parts can be visible behind it. The choice between hand-wound and automatic is a highly personal one. You may prefer the centuries-old act of winding a watch, while others may prefer the feel of the oscillating weight inside the watch as it moves around doing its work to store energy and keep time.

2014-06-05

Swiss watch exports to the U.S. on the rise, according to first-quarter statistics reported by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. From January through March of this year there has been a 1.7 percent increase in the value of Swiss watch exports to America (compared to the same period in 2013), demonstrating the recovering U.S. economy and growing interest on the part of consumers in investing in timepieces.

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The recent U.S. statistics are in line with the 2 percent increase in overall Swiss watch exports reported in 2013. The rise in exports, which totaled 28.1 billion Swiss francs, reflected an increased interest in Swiss watches from several countries, including the United States. Particularly strong sellers were watches crafted of stainless steel, including PVD, DLC and other coated steels, and alternative materials (carbon fiber, ceramic).

While there had a been a slump in U.S. consumption of watches three to six years ago during the economic downturn, the market has slowly been recovering. Interestingly enough, the healthy state is across all price categories: watches selling in the $563 to $3,376 price range category grew by 9.8 percent by volume and timepieces over $3,376 rose 4 percent.

2014-06-04
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With auto racing in full swing now that summer is here, IWC releases new top-performing Ingenieur watches. As the Official Engineering Partner of the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ Team, IWC has been inspired to create new and exciting pieces that utilize top-quality sports-related materials and offer important functions.

Among the highlights is the new Ingenieur Automatic Carbon Performance Ceramic (Ref. IW322404) that features materials typically found in motor racing. Created in a limited edition of 1,000 pieces, the watch case is crafted of carbon fiber that is twice as strong as steel, but only 1/5th of the weight.

The watch is also equipped with a mirror-finished ceramic bezel and a carbon fiber dial. Even the screw heads and crown protectors are ceramic, while the screws and caseback ring are crafted of rugged titanium. The calfskin strap is lined with rubber for durability and comfort.

Powered by the IWC-manufactured 80110 caliber with integrated shock absorption system, the watch features a visible rotor in the shape of the pistons found in the Formula One racing car. Sleek yet strong, this watch is a superb rendition of IWC’s technical prowess.

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Another strong model in the lineup is the Ingenieur Dual Time (Ref. IW324402) that is a powerful statement maker in a 43mm stainless steel case with a more classic, technically sophisticated look. The current local time is displayed by the hour and minute hands on either a black or silver-plated dial. The second time is indicated by another hand with an arrowhead tip on the outer 24 hour ring. The watch can be advanced or turned backward in one-hour increments. Car racing fans can now cross the international date lines with ease while following their teams globally – or, just use the dual time function for business or pleasure travel.

2014-06-04
Racing at the 2014 Kentucky Derby

With the final race of the Triple Crown coming up this weekend, it’s an exciting time for potential Triple Crown Winner, California Chrome, a horse that has won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. The Belmont Stakes, though, is the most demanding leg of the three races thanks to the length of the track and the speed at which the horses must run. Twenty-six horses have been eligible to win the Triple Crown coming into the Belmont Stakes and 11 have succeeded.

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The Belmont Stakes also represents an exciting culmination for Longines Watch Company – the Official Watch and Timekeeper of every thoroughbred race in the Triple Crown. The brand’s role in equestrian sports dates back to the late 1800s when it created its first chronograph movement, which later appeared on racetracks to time performances and races to the seconds. From there it moved on to sponsoring jumping events and races.

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In evidence of its support of the Triple Crown races, Longines’ overwhelming presence can be seen everywhere at the three venues with free-standing clocks, a digital Longines Countdown Clock on the track and more. Winners of the race – owners, trainers and jockeys – are presented with Longines Conquest watches. The Longines Conquest collection celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. While the line pays tribute to the early chronographs, the new watches are fitted with self-winding movements offering a mix of tradition and modernity.

We invite you to enjoy the Longines video, which was taken at the Preakness. Click link.

2014-06-02
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Pendant alarm watch circa 1590 in the form of a sundial with compass for setting time. 

In the world of horology, astronomy, the sky, and the stars have long played an important role. Indeed, since the dawn of man, time and all we do, has been influenced by the sun, the moon and the stars. The entire concept of how  the tides, harvesting seasons and more have influenced our lives and our view of time has been the basis of long discussions and laid the groundwork for building advanced clocks and watches over the centuries.

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Planetary clock by Francois Ducommun, 1830.

Earlier this year at SIHH 2014 watch show, the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (HH) implemented an intriguing exhibition entitled Horology, a Child of Astronomy. The exhibit, which will travel to various events around the world this year, traces the relationship of time and space over the centuries, and features astronomical instruments, sun dial clocks, pocket watches and wrist watches that have played a role in man’s tracking of the moon, stars and sun.

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18th century silver sundial signed Pierre LeMaire, Paris.

This exhibit highlights many of man’s timepiece inventions that have been and are, today, based on the sky.

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A closeup of a planetary clock.

Among the items included in the display is a replica of the bronze Nebra disk – an artifact dating back to 1600 BC that is considered the oldest representations of the heavens found today. It features 32 celestial bodies on it, with the sun, the crescent moon and Pleiades. It is believed local Nebra, Germany, farmers used it to plan harvesting cycles.

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Replica of the Nebra disk, the oldest artifact depicting time and the celestial bodies.

Also on display: a pendant alarm watch circa 1590 in the form of a sundial with compass for setting time; an 18th century silver sundial, a Francois Ducommun 1830 Planetary clock. These ancient timepieces were joined by a host of current-day astronomical watches ranging from the trilogy by Ulysse Nardin to a other exciting new astronomical watches that are inspired by our skies.