Wempe Watch Blog

Wempe Watch Blog
2014-10-30
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Daylight Saving Time ends in the United States at 2 a.m. on Sunday Nov. 2. That means that if you don’t stay up until 2 a.m., you’re going to want to set your clocks back one hour on Saturday night before you go to bed. Otherwise, you will miss that extra hour of sleep in the morning. Please note that the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and most of Arizona don’t participate in DST, but for the rest of us, this is the “fall back” weekend.

The reason for Daylight Saving Time is somewhat obscure. Some say it is practiced in an effort to save energy, but that argument has been called into question. Nonetheless, here’s a little insight into the history of DST for true time junkies.

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Some credit the concept to American politician and inventor Benjamin Franklin, who, in a 1784 essay entitled "An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light," suggested people get out of bed earlier in the morning to use the light instead of candles.

More than a century later, in 1895, a New Zealand entomologist, George Vernon Hudson, who liked to collect insects in his free time, wanted more daylight time for his studies, so he presented a report to the Wellington Philosophical Society proposing a two-hour daylight savings time program. Though the concept wasn’t embraced internationally, it laid the groundwork. A decade later, in 1905, British builder William Willett proposed the idea of DST, suggesting setting clocks ahead in April and switching them back in September. His idea caught the attention of Robert Pearce, who introduced a bill to the House of Commons in 1908. The concept was opposed by farmers in England and did not pass, but it laid the groundwork. In 1916, Germany was the first country to implement DST and several countries followed suit, including America.

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In the United States after World War II, states could select if they wanted to impose DST and on which dates. However, mass confusion caused Congress to establish the Uniform Time Act in 1966, which set a protocol for DST times/dates. Still, some U.S. states/territories don’t participate, and argue the usefulness of it.  As part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the length of DST in America was extended by four weeks, starting in 2007. Additionally, while it is recognized around the world, not all countries practice DST, and those that do, do so on different dates. At any rate, here we are in the “Fall Back” portion of the “Spring Forward, Fall Back” DST concept. So don’t forget to change your clocks and your watches.

Daylight Savings Time image: karenroach/Bigstockphoto.com

2014-10-28
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With Halloween this week, it seems like a perfectly fitting time to talk about skeletons. Skeleton watches, that is. These are incredible timepieces, wherein a watch’s movement is cut away and sculpted to offer open-worked magnificence. From gears to wheels, bridges and other parts, watchmakers spend hours upon hours slimming pieces to their tiniest possible size so that only the minimum metal is visible. The minimized metal movement is then placed between two sapphire crystals for amazing see-through beauty. Additionally, the intricacy of the movement parts — with engravings and finishings — is incomparable.

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But revealing the movement in all its glory is no easy feat. Stripping away the metal can take days, even weeks. And there is an art to achieving the proper balance of tiny and thin, as well as strong and workable. Additionally, most brands that produce skeletonized movements also engrave the parts for ultimate beauty. That engraving can take hundreds of hours. For these reasons, these mechanical wonders often are created in limited numbers and sometimes have a waiting list. But the artistry of a skeleton watch is worth the wait — even though they do not have bare-bones pricing. Skeleton watches are also worth their price. They are art on the wrist. Stop in and see our selection of chiseled and artistically finished skeleton watches.

2014-10-23
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Earlier this week, we brought you an historical perspective of the century-long journey to bring luminescence to the watch dial for easy night and underwater reading. As we mentioned at the close of that article: the favored materials used today for watches is Super-LumiNova (developed just about two decades ago in the early 1990s).

Super-LumiNova is non-radioactive and is a strontium aluminate substance created in a host of colors that enable the watch numerals, markers, hands and other dial accents to glow blue, green or even red-orange depending on the mixes used. Over the decades, the material has advanced thanks to a great deal of research and development, and the Super-LumiNova of the early 1990s has evolved into a new intensity that is at least double the strength of the early versions. Super-LumiNova can be as much as 10 times brighter than the previous zinc sulfide-based materials, and is applied in varying strengths.

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After absorbing sufficient UV light, the phosphorescence glows in the dark for hours. The pigments, though, must be protected against contact with water or moisture, and so they are generally used only on dials (since they are protected by the crystal) and not on bezels. Super-LumiNova is the current market leader for luminous watch dials.

However, there are other materials on the market that some of the professional sports watch brands are using for dive and pilot watches. Top among them is a tritium-based device called "gaseous tritium light source" (GTLS), wherein the material is encapsulated inside tiny glass tubes. These tiny tubes are then placed together to offer a brightness that can be as much as 10 times brighter than applied Super-LumiNova.

MB-Microtec is a big developer and supplier of the tiny tubes system – offering GTLS radioactive luminescence locked inside hermetically sealed capsules. It should be noted that GTLS is forbidden in certain countries even though it is encapsulated in glass tubes because the material is, after all, radioactive.

Which is better? It may not be that one is better than another, but that, in fact, one may be longer lasting than another. For instance, it has been found that while Super-LumiNova begins to dim after about 20 minutes, a tritium capsule will not dim for about 15 to 20 years. Additionally, while Super-LumiNova needs to be exposed to a light source to regenerate its power, the capsules are permanently luminescent during their lifetime.

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2014-10-22
Patek Philippe, 175e anniversaire

Last week in Geneva, the legendary Patek Philippe watch brand celebrated its 175th anniversary. This is a milestone anniversary that few watch brands have yet to achieve. For the event, Patek Philippe transformed its state-of-the-art workshops into a three-dimensional theater, complete with historical and futuristic videos of the brand’s past and its evolution — complete with a phoenix rising and metamorphosing into a great new creature. The vivid and entrancing movie – played out on the walls of the buildings and on temporary curtains and canvasses — was a masterpiece in itself. Following the movie presentation and live ballet, the workshops opened for guests to witness master watchmakers and apprentices side-by-side demonstrating their crafts and revealing the 175th anniversary watches.

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Among the new timepieces marking the occasion is the brand’s most complicated wristwatch to date: the Grand Masterchime. The crown jewel of the commemorative collection, the Grand Masterchime is being built in a limited edition of just seven pieces (one for the museum and six for sale) – each retailing for 2.5 million Swiss francs ($2.63 million).

Seven years in the making and holding six patents, the masterpiece houses the all-new Caliber 300 movement with an astonishing 1,366 hand-finished components. The watch offers a Grande sonneries (which chimes the hours and quarters), a petite sonneries (chiming only the quarters), and a minute repeater (chiming the hours, quarters and minutes on demand) and also two unprecedented functions: a patented alarm striking the time and programmable at quarter-hour intervals, and an acoustic date indication – a true first. This is the world’s only watch with three distinct striking mechanisms.

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The watch is further endowed with a perpetual calendar and features two dials – fitted into a revolutionary reversing mechanism case that also holds a patent. One side of the dial displays the time and musical functions, while the reverse side shows the calendar and moonphase indications. The entire piece is so richly engraved and decorated that it is truly a work of art as well as a horological masterpiece.

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Patek Philippe also unveiled several other more attainable anniversary watches, including the Refs. 5575 and 7175 World Time Moon watch and the Refs. 5975 and 4675 Multi-scale chronographs. The World Time Moon watch is a beauty inside and out and is the first time the brand has paired this famous world time function (a patented mechanism that displays the time in 24 time zones) with a stunning moonphase inner dial consisting of several star and moon disks.

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The Multi-scale chronograph is a deft blend of history and classic elegance that only Patek could achieve. The watch offers tachymeter, telemeter, pulsimeter and chronograph functions. Several versions for men and women are being created.  Once these beauties make their way to our store, we will be happy to show them to you up close and personal.

2014-10-21
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Many watches, particularly sport watches, offer luminescent numerals or markers, hands and other accents. Generally this glow — not visible in the light — is designed to make nighttime or underwater reading easier.

Making a glow-in-the-dark watch sounds simple, right? It’s not. In fact, creating a luminous effect on watches has been an arduous and, at one time, deadly task. While 18th and 19th century efforts to add sheen to watches boiled down to using crushed shimmering shells and volcanic materials and painting them on to the dials, the first real break came in the early 1900s — just a few years after Marie and Pierre Curie discovered radium.

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The radioactive material — radium-226 — isolated by Curie (and said to have a “fairy-like glow” in the hue of blue) became the material of choice for use on dials for a few decades. While the radium itself does not glow, it emits numerous particles that have he effect of ionizing certain materials so that they glow fluorescent or phosphorescent.

In the first decade of the 20th century, radium-based paint was developed to achieve glow in the dark effects. Depending on the formulas, different colors of lights could be achieved, but green was the most commonly used. These radium-based paints made their way into many fields, including watchmaking. Dial makers, in particular, found that painting the hands and markers with radium would render them luminescent.

In 1914, an American company called Radium Luminous Materials Corporation (later called U.S. Radium Corporation), mined radium and began producing radio-luminescent paint. U.S. Radium Corporation and similar companies had hired thousands of workers (mainly women) to paint watch dials.

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Unfortunately, radium emits alpha and gamma radiation, which is deadly if ingested. While scientists and chemists were aware of the dangers, workers painted several hundred dials per day. Sometimes, the women would use the luminescent materials to paint their fingernails or run flecks through their hair for a glowing night appeal.

The real danger, though, came in the fact that the workers would lick the tips of their paintbrushes as they were painting to keep them pointed for legible painting. Many began suffering grave sickness and died. It is said that a cover-up was enacted by the companies, which issued statements that the women were dying due to sicknesses caused by x-ray machines, or from other diseases. Finally, in the late 1920s, a group of workers — who became known as the Radium Girls — retained a lawyer willing to take their case and took U.S. Radium to court.

Eventually the factory sites we shut down and new rules were enacted. Radium for watch dials was replaced with another radioactive material called tritium — deemed 400 times less harmful that radium. Since the 1960s, tritium became the material of choice — though it was regulated that it had to have a limit of no more than 25mCi. Some 20th century watches even carry a marking “T<25” or a single or double “T” on the dial.

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The use of radioactive paint was subsequently outlawed, which stirred a return investigation into original photo luminescent paints (that absorbed energy from external light sources in the UV spectrum and re-emitted it over a period of time) in the effort to find a legal and safer lumen. The search to develop strong, photo luminescent materials for use on watch dials and in other fields would not come to fruition until the 1990s when a non-radioactive substance made of a variety of elements was unveiled to the world.

That substance is called Super-LumiNova. Super-LumiNova — made in a variety of colors — has a strong glow that will last for an entire night. Daytime light will recharge it, so it can begin to emit the lumen over a period of time. Today, Super-LumiNova is the material of choice on watches, but there are options available. Check back later this week, when we will take a look at current sources and applications of luminosity.

2014-10-16
Credit Andreas Langreiter - Red Bull Content Pool - 2 Credit: Andreas Langreiter - Red Bull Content Pool

This past weekend in Las Vegas at the Red Bull Air Race, Breitling’s pilot Nigel Lamb took a spin around the skies in the yellow Breitling MXS-R during a recon flight, capturing great images of the sites below. Breitling has long been involved in aerobatic aviation, as well as being recognized as the go-to watch instrument for pilots around the world.

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Now, Breitling has unveiled the all-new Chronomat 44 Raven, a bold black-and-orange beauty that is the embodiment of performance. It was in 1984 — 30 years ago — that Breitling launched the Chronomat series of COSC-certified chronometer chronographs. Since then, the collection has evolved. This new watch houses the Manufacture Breitling Caliber 01 and reinvents the pilot’s chronograph in a truly unique rendition. It features a satin-brushed steel case that is entirely clad in black via a carbon-based coating.

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The 44mm watch is accented with a Breitling embossed rubbers trap and features a unidirectional rotating bezel with orange rubber inlaid numerals for ultra contrast. That same bold orange commands attention on the inner bezel as a tachymeter, and is also used for the chronograph subdials. The self-winding Manufacture caliber with a black oscillating weight enhanced with orange markings is visible via a transparent sapphire caseback. This grand watch will be in stores soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the Breitling video below.

2014-10-16
1913 Original 1913 watch

We are in an era where the finest watch brands in the world are turning to their heritage and their archives to reinvent the past with a visionary eye to the future. Longines, a brand with roots dating back to 1832 when it was founded in the Swiss town of Saint Imier, boasts a rich past that intertwines technical expertise, classic elegance and sporty adventure.

Today, the brand with the iconic hourglass logo, celebrates some of its legendary timepieces in updated formats as part of the aptly named Heritage Collection. Among the more notable pieces is a re-edition of the brand’s first ever production of the column-wheel movement for a chronograph wrist watch in 1913.

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The new versions of this watch, the Longines Column-Wheel Single Push-Piece Chronograph, are created in steel and rose gold – all fitted with an exclusive Longines movement. The L7888 caliber is a monopusher movement developed by ETA exclusively for Longines. Essentially, a mono-pusher chronograph is a watch wherein all of the counting functions of the chronograph operate off of one single pusher at the crown instead of off of additional pushers that augment the crown. Thus, in this watch, all chronograph functions are controlled simply by pressing the single push piece.

The 40 mm watches feature white dials with black numerals except for a red “12” – a distinct reference to the watches of the early-1900s era. There is one model with Roman numerals, as well. The blue column wheel of the watch can be viewed through the transparent sapphire caseback – adding great allure to the already intriguing watch.

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Another historic piece that now comes to life in the Heritage Collection is an updated rendition of the first production of the Lindbergh Hour Angle watch – designed in 1931 in collaboration with Charles Lindbergh. The Lindbergh Hour Angle Watch limited edition is crafted in 18-karat yellow gold in honor of the 80th anniversary of Lindbergh’s famed solo flight across the Atlantic — going from New York to Paris in 33 hours and 30 minutes. That trip was timed by Longines in 1927 and afterward, Lindbergh conceived of a design that could actually act as flight instrumentation. He asked Longines to create the watch.

Today’s version boasts a 47.5 mm diameter and is offered in steel or the new 18-karat gold version (created in a limited edition of 80 pieces). The white lacquered dial features blued steel hands reminiscent of the era. The seconds hand is synchronized to a radio time signal via the slivered rotating center dial (with black painted double minute track and red numerals). The Lindbergh Original-Size watch by Longines is sold in an exclusive presentation case, which also contains a book describing the history of the relationship between the famous aviator and the brand. A host of other soul-searching re-editions join the Heritage Collection – and can be seen in our store whenever you may stop by.

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2014-10-13
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In elementary school many of us were taught (usually as a mind-reminder for a test): “In 1492 Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue.” Well, in fact, Christopher Columbus sailed many oceans blue for longer than just a year – but it was on October 12 in 1492 that he actually arrived in the Americas.

Interestingly, in those days there were no navigational tools save the sextant and the stars (it would be hundreds of years later until scientists, explorers and watchmakers would come together to solve the problem of longitude with the chronometer). It is most likely he tracked time at sea via a sundial, and by the 15th century sundials were portable and often included a built-in compass. Essentially a sundial tells time by the movement of the shadow that a pointer casts on a dial that marks the hours of the day. The shadow moves as the Earth rotates and the sun changes position in the sky.

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While Columbus had some longitudes wrong, he was able to harness the Trade Winds for his safe sails and returns across the Atlantic — settling colonies in North and South America. Still, it was his first landing that begets this more-than-500-year-old significant date in history wherein we celebrate Columbus Day as an official holiday — commemorating our "discovery." However, it was not the official Americas discovery. The Nordic explorers (Leif Erickson) had already visited the already-inhabited lands. Still, Columbus got credit and the day became – eventually – a national holiday not just in America but also in other countries around the world.

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In the Bahamas, Columbus Day is recognized as Discovery Day, and in Spain and Italy it is also celebrated as Fiesta Nacional or Festa Nazionale di Cristopher Columbus. Argentina, Belize and Uruguay also celebrate – and many have done so unofficially since the colonial days. In the United States, it did not become a federal holiday until 1937. Interestingly enough, Hawaii (and a few other states for various reasons) does not recognize Columbus Day. Hawaii for instance celebrates the day as Discoverers’ Day – and commemorates the Polynesian discovery of the Hawaiian Islands – but it is not a legal holiday.

While Columbus was born in Genoa, now part of Italy, he sailed under the auspices of Spain and completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean. It was his belief that he could reach the East Indies (hoping to open a new route for spice trade with Asia) by sailing westward. During his first voyage he landed not in Japan as expected, but in the Bahamas archipelago – on the island he named San Salvador. An astute navigator, Columbus focused his efforts on building permanent settlements for Spain. Throughout his ensuing voyages, he visited Central America, the Caribbean and the coast of Venezuela, claiming them all for the Spanish Empire. While Columbus was not the first explorer to land in the Americas, he was the first to bring lasting communication between the Americas and Europe.

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2014-10-09
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Thanks to a jeweler on the tiny island of Gozo, off the coast of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea, a British tabloid got all the clues it needed to break the story last week of Angelina Jolie’s very special $4 million wedding gift to Brad Pitt.

In fact, The Mirror reported that the jeweler was asked by a friend of the super couple to inscribe the back of a rare 1952 Patek Philippe platinum chronometer with the phrase, “To Roly from Nessa.” These just happen to be the names of the characters Pitt and Jolie play in their new movie, By the Sea, which they are currently filming on the picturesque island of Gozo.

“I did inscribe the watch. It was for Brad, and it was a rare one,” George Farrugia of Dolindo Jewellers told The Mirror. “It was very valuable.”

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Farrugia’s assessment of “very valuable” may be just a bit of an understatement. An investigation proved that back in November 2012, a platinum 1952 Patek Philippe J.B. Champion Platinum Observatory Chronometer with a diamond-set minute-track on the dial was the top lot in a Christie’s Geneva auction, fetching a staggering $3.99 million. Some believe that Jolie’s wedding gift to Pitt is that watch.

The 1952 Reference 2458 watch with an Observatory grade movement is one of only two Patek Philippe wristwatches with Observatory grade movements — of which only 20 were ever assembled. Only one version, however, was made with a platinum case. For this watch, Champion — a celebrated lawyer in his time — had his name etched directly onto the dial. The watch was one of many he collected.

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Engraving the case back of this $4 million watch did not faze the jeweler, Farrugia. “I wasn’t nervous about the inscription because I knew I could do the work perfectly,” he told The Mirror.

Pitt and Jolie were married in France last month after nine years of dating. The Hollywood couple, sometimes known by the combined name “Brangelina,” is said to have a combined wealth of $400 million. With that wealth, the marriage of history and Hollywood commands just a small portion.

2014-10-07
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Last week in Hong Kong, a very important watch exhibition took place: Watches & Wonders 2014. Here, top watch brands unveiled their newest creations – watches that will make their way to the individual markets some time later this year or early next year.

IWC Schaffhausen, one of the top Swiss brands, took the opportunity to release to the world its newest Portofino Mid-Size Collection. With a case size of 37mm, the line is perfect for women or for men who prefer a dressier, yet somewhat smaller sized, timepiece.

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The Portofino has, heretofore, been recognized globally as a classic, elegant watch with crisp clean lines inspired by the lifestyle of the northern Italian city whose name it bears. The unveiling of the new Portofino collection marks the 30th anniversary of the Portofino line, which was first introduced in 1984.

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The new collection consists of three models (steel, rose gold and white gold) in dozens of variations, and we are certain women will love the line, which includes the Portofino Midsize Automatic Moon Phase, the Midsize Automatic Day & Night model with second time zone indication, and the Portofino Midsize Automatic.

Varying degrees of diamonds adorn the dials and cases of many models, and IWC has turned once again to Italian shoemaker Santoni to provide top-quality, hand-stitched alligator straps in a stunning array of colors. There are also three new automatic models that feature 40mm cases set with precious stones.

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According to Georges Kern, CEO of IWC Schaffhausen, “IWC has established itself as a global brand, and therefore keeps a close eye on what people are wearing when it comes to watches and jewelry, on what trends are developing. What we are currently observing is an increasing worldwide demand for watches set with diamonds. With the Midsize collection, we are making this successful, classic watch line more interesting for customers with slimmer wrists.”

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To celebrate the launch of the line, IWC once again turned to famed photographer Peter Lindbergh, who shot the watches in black and white on the wrists of IWC friends of the brands, such as Cate Blanchett, Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor and others. Additionally, supermodels Karolina Kurkova and Adriana Lima participated in the shoot, which took place in the picturesque seaside village of Portofino. The photographs will be part of a global traveling exhibition that will find its way to Art Basel in Miami in December.  We are very excited to be able to bring this new collection to the forefront for our female watch lovers and for connoisseurs with slightly smaller wrists.

2014-10-02
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What looks to be a magnificent gold pocket watch from the early 1800s has been discovered as part of the loot recovered by Odyssey Marine Exploration – the salvage company given the rights to recover treasure from the 150-year old ship the SS Central America.

In 1857, the SS Central America was shipwrecked just about 160 miles off the coast of South Carolina in the midst of a fierce hurricane. The more than 500 people aboard — and the estimated 14,000 kilos of gold that experts value at $93,000 in 1857, as well as perhaps more than $1 million in passenger gold and jeweler — were lost.

That's until 1987 when the ship (nicknamed the Ship of Gold) was discovered more than 7,000 feet below the ocean surface. A legal battle about the ship tied up the rights to salvage it. (A previous salvage expedition emerged with loot that sold for more than $40 million, but the scientist leading the expedition, for which he was funded $22 million, allegedly absconded without paying investors.)

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In 2013, the courts appointed a receiver to oversee the recovery. That receiver transferred the rights to Odyssey Marine, which began salvaging earlier this year using high-tech robotics. Odyssey Marine, a Tampa-based company, has salvaged treasure from other shipwrecks in the past. Odyssey receives 80 percent of the recovery proceeds until expenses are paid. Then, Odyssey will get 45 percent of the recovery proceeds.

In September, Odyssey Marine delivered its first of what will be many recovery loots. This one consisted of more than 15,000 gold and silver coins, 45 bars of gold, numerous jewelry items made of gold nuggets and coins, as well as gems, and a superb gold pocket watch.

It is unclear yet what brand name the pocket watch carries, or if others will be discovered as the recovery continues. The one thing that is clear, though, is that the pocket watch no longer works. But vintage, is vintage, and it is likely to sell for a nice amount of money simply because of its doomed legacy.

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Photo top: "Wreck of the Central America" by J. Childs (engraver & publisher) - National Maritime Museum, London. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. Other photos: courtesy of Odyssey Marine.