Wempe Watch Blog

Wempe Watch Blog
2015-01-29
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We all know that generally you need to carry extra insurance to cover your luxury goods, including jewelry. However, we often forget about covering watches. Somehow, because they are utilitarian pieces, they often slip our minds. However, we believe that you should have your luxury watches appraised and insured.

Having a watch appraised is vital, especially if it is a vintage or heirloom piece. Often, the value of these watches fluctuates based on the market and, in just a few years’ time, watches can gain in value. While you may never be able to replace these keepsakes should something happen to them, you at least want to be sure you are properly insured.

For new watches, often your receipt will suffice for insurance purposes. However, a watch that is typically a couple of years old could have appreciated in value based on the market demand. Therefore having a recent appraisal may help in retrieving full value of the watch. This is also true if the timepiece is diamond- or gemstone-adorned.

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Reasons to have your watches appraised include not just theft, but also fire or other significant loss. Proper appraisals are helpful for estate planning or when facing life's eventualities, such as divorce or death. While many suggest that a new appraisal on jewelry be done every three years, watch appraisals have a slightly longer shelf life of about five years or so, depending on the timepiece. While appraisals do cost a little money, the truth of the matter is, if you don’t have your fine watches appraised, and you suffer a loss, you will be in a regretful state. Better to protect your investment. Watches should be appraised by watchmakers and retailers who are authorized to carry the brand. Stop by and discuss watch appraisals with us any time.

2015-01-27

IWC Schaffhausen is a brand well known for its bold timepieces that venture where no one else goes. This brand was a leader in technology since its inception, creating the incredibly oversized Portugieser watch well ahead of its time, inventing the first anti-magnetic watches in the 1930s, unveiling one of the most complicated watches in the world (Il Destriero Scafusia) in the last decades of the 20th century and today exploring the Galapagos and world's oceans as part of its efforts to support the environment.

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Now, as witnessed at last week's SIHH exhibition in Geneva, IWC is moving ahead with the development of its own in-house-made calibers to power its watches. The rollout is time consuming, as creating a movement takes years, but the first fruits of the brand's efforts were unveiled last week. Among the new watches to house Manufacture-made calibers is the IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar. This makes perfect sense since this year marks the 75th anniversary of the Portugieser collection — a line we love. The stunning blue-dialed watch will make its way to our store later this year, but for now, we wanted to make the introduction.

2015-01-22

Cartier pulled out all the stops at the Salon International d’la Haute Horlogerie show in Geneva this week with its unveilings of the Cartier Crash Skeleton and the Louis Cartier Rotonde XL watches. While these timepieces won’t make their way to the market until later this year, we wanted to bring you a close-up look at them.

Cartier Crash Skeleton

Cartier Crash Skeleton (Photo: Laziz Hamani © Cartier)

The new Crash Skeleton features the famed Crash case that made its debut in 1967 and was inspired by the Salvador Dali’s painting “The Persistence of Memory.” The new version, crafted in platinum, houses the existing caliber MC 9618 skeletonized movement that had to be completely modified to fit within the Crash shape. The result is a beautiful rendition of gears, wheels and finishing that captures attention and challenges the imagination.

The other impressive timepiece is an artistic one. This brand has brought us mosaic tile dials, dials made of rose petals, wood and straw marquetry dials and now — filigree dials — with the beloved panther motif. The Louis Cartier Rotonde XL watch with mother and baby panthers on the dial is created using the ancient art of filigree — where gold or silver wires are soldered together in order to create an openwork lace-like design with a desired motif.

Louis Cartier Rotonde XL Panther Filigree

Louis Cartier Rotonde XL Panther Filigree (Photo: Nils Hermann © Cartier)

To accomplish the design, Cartier's master craftsmen at the Maison des Métiers d’Arts work with beaten gold and platinum micro-wires that are twisted, rolled, curled and cut into little rings. They are then assembled using the openwork filigree technique that allows the elements to be attached on the sides but not to the base. Each watch takes more than a month to bring to fruition.

The pair of panthers feature black-lacquer-spotted coats woven from fine filigree of gold and platinum. They're set with diamonds, and feature made-to-measure emerald eyes. A manual-wind mechanical movement powers the yellow gold, 42mm watch. Just 20 numbered pieces will ever be made.

2015-01-19
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This year marks the 25th edition of the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie — otherwise known to watch lovers as the SIHH. It is the first watch exhibition of the year and the most luxurious. The by-invitation-only exhibit is held at the Geneva Pal Expo space where 16 top luxury watch brands showcase their newest timepieces. Those watches, which are destined to make headlines this year and to grace wrists around the world, have taken years to develop.

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Among the 16 prestigious brands that exhibit in Geneva are the Richemont Group brands (A. Lange & Sohne, Baume & Mercier, Cartier, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Montblanc, Panerai, Piaget, Ralph Lauren, Roger Dubuis, Van Cleef & Arpels, Vacheron Constantin), as well as independent brands Audemars Piguet, Greubel-Forsey, Richard Mille and Parmigiani Fleurier. The show is a very exciting time for us, as some brands will set world records, while others will offer new visions and affiliations. Each establishes a stunning exhibition space with a key theme that underscores its newest inventions.

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While we may not carry all of these brands in our store, the SIHH is the show that sets the pace for the entire year, and so it is a monumental event. We will be bringing you news from the brands we carry, as well as highlights from this exciting international watch show.

2015-01-16
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Earlier this week we posted an educational piece about what engineered ceramic is, its properties and features, and how it is being utilized in the watch world. Again, we want to reiterate that not all engineered ceramic for timepieces is created equal, and some brands that conduct a great deal of R&D into the field actually possess proprietary types of high-tech ceramic.

That said, we are proud to carry a good number of watches in our store that utilize high-tech ceramic for cases, bracelets or bezels. This is a very popular material these days. First borrowed from the aeronautic and aviation worlds, it has made its presence well known on the wrist thanks to its great durability, scratch resistance, ultra light weight and bold look.

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Depending on the watch brand, ceramic can be utilized as an accent material on bezels, as a bracelet (sometimes intermingled with steel or titanium links), or as a case. While black was always the most prevalent color in ceramic, today, white ceramic and even a few colors — such as blue, red and yellow — make their appearance on the market. We invite you in to take a close look at our ceramic watches.

2015-01-14
Zirconium oxide powder, photo courtesy of Rado.

Zirconium oxide powder, photo courtesy of Rado.

Easily one of the most misunderstood materials on the watch market, engineered ceramic is a high-tech material that is lightweight, durable, scratch proof and impervious to adverse weather and saltwater conditions. Neither a metal nor a polymer, engineered ceramics are a blend of oxides, carbides, nitrates and zirconium that come together to offer long-lasting elegance and hardness.

Used as bezel and bracelet accents in everything from fashion watch brands to luxury brands, engineered ceramics are not all created equal. There are a host of different qualities, and the watch prices range accordingly.

Top watch brands that put a great deal of effort into research and development often blend their ceramics with other materials — including carbon fiber and aluminum — to develop harder, stronger ceramic, and to create colors. Years ago, ceramic was just available in black, but today — although hard to find — there is red, yellow, blue and white.

The first engineered ceramic timepiece to appear in the watch world was from Rado, in 1986. But it took a long time to catch on. It has only been in the past decade — with a wild quest for high-tech materials — that ceramic has taken center stage. Before watches, ceramic was used in the space industry, aviation, auto racing and in medicine. Then, watch specialists figured out how to utilize the material that doesn't scratch and offers lightweight comfort for bracelets and bezels.

zirconium dioxide ball bearings (photo by Lucasbosch)

Zirconium dioxide ball bearings (photo by Lucasbosch)

Essentially, ceramic watch parts are composed of a specially crafted blend of zirconium oxide and other materials. They are created using extreme heating processes in specially built kilns. After the heating, the material undergoes a subsequent cooling process. Finished ceramic can only be worked with specially made tools with diamond bits, and it is incredibly difficult to work. Thus, the creation of top-quality ceramic watchcases, bezels and bracelets remains exclusive.

Top engineered ceramics are a non-metallic substance that can withstand temperatures of 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. The material is incredibly durable, resistant to abrasion and hypo allergenic — making it a great choice for sport watches and dive watches.

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While the fashion world also uses ceramic as accents, it is typically engineered to a different degree. Often, a fashion brand will utilize layers of ceramic on top of steel for bracelet links, instead of utilizing solid ceramic, in order to keep the costs down. Still, ceramic — no matter which quality — has an unbeatable luster that keeps a watch looking like new for decades. Check back this week, as we post a selection of some of our top ceramic watches, or stop in the store any time.

2015-01-13
Diane Kruger during the 72nd Golden Globes Ceremony wearing a Jaeger-LeCoultre Joaillerie 101 Art Deco - GettyImages

On Sunday, at the 72nd Golden Globes ceremony, all eyes were on the celebrities — dresses, fashions, jewels. But watches walked the red carpet, too. In fact, one of our top brands was seen on the wrists of some very fine stars.

Jaeger-LeCoultre, for instance, played a starring role on the wrists of actor (and brand ambassador) Clive Owen, who was nominated as best actor for his role in the TV drama, The Knick. Similarly, Jeremy Renner and Robert Downey Jr. wore Jaeger-LeCoultre watches, as did actress (and friend of the brand) Diane Kruger.

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Photos courtesy of Getty Images

2015-01-08
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We talk a lot in our store about watch design, technology and calibers. In today’s world, everyone who loves a watch seems to care where it’s made, how it’s made, what powers the piece and more. One thing, however, that we don’t discuss as often is the watchcase, even though it is one of the most important design and functional elements of a watch.

After all, it is the case that determines the overall shape of the watch. It is the case that determines the look in terms of profile and appeal. It is the case — and the metal it is made of — that demonstrates our savvy high-tech or noble take on timepieces. And, it is the case that determines water resistance. In short, the case — whose job it is to protect the movement and sit nicely on the wrist — plays a very important role.

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That said, not all cases are created equal. A watch case can be artful, thoughtful, simple and elegant. One case may be easier to machine and put together than another case. Cases can be milled from a single block of metal, or can have dozens of their own components.

A brief look at the history of the wristwatch case shows dramatic evolution. In the early years of the 20th century, when wristwatches first started making an appearance on the scene, most cases were round. By the first decade, round gave way to square and rectangular (witness the famed Cartier Tank). The Roaring Twenties yielded unusually shaped geometric cases and ergonomically curved cases. The 40s, 50s and 60s saw a blend of round, square, rectangular cases — all becoming more functional than elegant as we moved into the realm of dive watches, pilot watches and other sports-related timepieces. By the 1970s, the concept of creating a case had become a real work of art. Brands, such as Piaget, sculpted cases of gold and metal-smithing took a leading role. Corum turned to gold coins to create a case and many brands got incredibly flamboyant with shapes. Possibilities became limitless.

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In addition to case shapes, heights and widths, material is key. Today, thanks to so many innovations in machining metal, and thanks to new high-tech materials, the concept of what the case is made of takes on new meaning. While the noble materials of platinum and gold are important, so, too, are stainless steel, titanium, aluminum, ceramic and other alloys.

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Also playing a factor in the quality of a case is the attention paid to detail. For certain sports watches, starting a case from a single block of metal and keeping it as a single piece may render it more sturdy and rugged. However, top watch brands like to build complex cases with dozens of parts that demonstrate their abilities to produce a case worthy of the movement inside. Make no mistake, luxury multiple-part cases are no weaker than a solid block case. It all comes down to the gaskets, fittings and precision interplay of parts, screw-down case back and other small details.

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Luxury watch brands also take the time to finish top-quality cases with stunning angels, bevels and lugs. In fact, all of these elements contribute to the identifiability of a case. True watch lovers can see a case (not a dial or movement) from across the room and know what brand it is. So the next time you are watch shopping — take time to inspect the entire package. Case made.

2015-01-06

In the past decade there has been an incredible surge of interest in women’s watches. This trend has been spurred by the fact that today’s successful woman wants a watch equal in stature (technically and aesthetically) to a man’s watch, and by the fact that, finally, top-notch fine watch brands are getting the message and complying.

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While women’s watches have always played an important role in history, they somehow took a back seat to men’s watches over the years. That may be because approximately 98 percent of watch collectors in America are men. It may also be because many watch brands were offering simply nice watches for women without recognizing that they like functions and mechanics, too.

The fashion watch brands of the world — Michele, Michael Kors and others — changed the way women look at watches. These brands offered large, oversized, cool looking timepieces that women could wear as true fashion statements. These brands seized the opportunity to incorporate chronographs and other simple functions into women’s watches. Then, the high-end designer brands started putting high-tech mechanical movements into watches for women (ala the Chanel J12 with tourbillon escapement) – and they sold.

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While many watch brands were making women’s watches, they started to take note of the fact that women like mechanics and function, as well. Today top watch brands  are offering women’s watches with automatic movements, mechanical movements and complications. Among the more coveted complications for women: moonphase indicators (a somewhat romantic and aesthetically pleasing complexity), dual timers, calendars and chronographs.

We expect to be bringing more women’s watches to the forefront throughout the year as the newest releases come to light at the upcoming international watch shows, so please stop in and see our assortment.

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2015-01-02
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Employees of the U.S. Radium Corp. paint numbers on the faces of wristwatches using dangerous radioactive paint. Photo: Argonne National Laboratory

Earlier this week, the news came out that the last of the so-called “radium girls” had passed away. She was 107 years old. This is an amazing amount of time for anyone to enjoy life, but it is even more incredible given that she was one of famed girls who were employed to paint watch dials using radioactive radium. Most of those girls went on to suffer illnesses and death as a result of their work.

In the early 1920s, when radium numerals were hand-painted onto watch dials, the girls doing this tedious work were told to lick the brushes into a fine point (thereby ingesting the toxic material). The girls were paid about a nickel for each dial they painted, and they completed a little over 200 watches per day each.

The last radium girl, Mae Keane, had told National Public Radio that she couldn’t stand the gritty taste of the material, refused to lick the brushes, and was let go after only a few days on the job. Her decision saved her life.

Keane was not one of the group that went on to win a lawsuit against the U.S. Radium Corporation, an action that catapulted workplace safety regulations around radioactive materials to a new level. The entire industry, however, is grateful to the Radium Girls. Thereafter, the search for the ultimate Safe Luminosity ensued.

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Today, almost a century later, the ability to get watches to glow in the dark safely has undergone many evolutions and changes. The materials most often used today include SuperLumiNova (a non-radioactive material) and tritium-based substances encapsulated in tiny glass tubes.

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Super-LumiNova 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. First developed in the early 1990s, it 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. It is painted, or applied, to the surfaces. There, they absorb sufficient UV light so the phosphorescence glows in the dark for hours.

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Certain sports watch brands also turn to a tritium-based device called “gaseous tritium light source” (GTLS), wherein the radioactive luminescent material is hermetically sealed inside tiny glass tubes that are then placed together to offer a brightness that can be as much as 10 times brighter than applied Super-LumiNova.