Wempe Watch Blog

Wempe Watch Blog
2015-04-29
Punching a time clock (photo courtesy of North American Watch Museum)

Punching a time clock (photo courtesy of North American Watch Museum)

Have an affinity for clocks and history? Traveling to the Philadelphia area anytime soon? If so, this may be of interest to you. Just last week, the National Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia, Pa., (near Philly) unveiled an all-new exhibit — "On the Clock: Changing the Industrialized World."

The exhibit, open now until the end of December 2015, gives insight into how time clocks and time recorders have affected our lives. Today’s generation has no recollection of the old time cards that were used in conjunction with punch clocks to track work hours to the minute and even the second. Today, derivatives of that clock continue to unfold.

Heywood Time Recorder (photo courtesy of North American Watch Museum)

Heywood Time Recorder (photo courtesy of North American Watch Museum)

Beginning in the late 19th century, the National Labor Relations Act protected the rights of employees and employers, and the Fair Labor Standards Act outlined minimum wage, overtime pay, record keeping and youth employment standards. The "On the Clock: Changing the Industrialized World" exhibit highlights the first time-recording companies, outlines the typical workday in the 19th century and touches on what possibilities the future workday may hold.

“Having a job is an integral part of survival in the modern era,” says museum curator Kim Jovinelli, pointing out that the exhibit is not only a look back at history, but also an examination of the present and, potentially, the future.

The E. G. Watkins Family Foundation sponsors "On the Clock." Edward Watkins was the man who invented the time clock. The National Watch and Clock Museum is operated by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, Inc. (NAWCC), a nonprofit association with more than 14,000 members in 52 countries.

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2015-04-28
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It was at BaselWorld 2015 last month that TAG Heuer announced the new Carrera Heuer 01 timepiece — a watch with a new case design, new construction and an all-new, in-house-made movement. The chronograph is referred to lovingly as the 01, in honor of founder Edouard Heuer (who started the company back in 1860).

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The timepiece, destined to be in stores this summer/fall, features an intriguing column-wheel chronograph with open-worked date disk on the dial, while the case back shows the column wheel in red. It is a stunning visual anchor against the titanium carbide-coated steel that not only gives the watch its dark black appeal, but also offers greater shock resistance. The case is actually made as a modular piece with 12 different parts (instead of the previously used single block of steel). By offering a multi-part case, the anticipation is that TAG Heuer will eventually introduce different combinations of materials, colors and finishes.

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The coolest thing about this new mechanism is that it has been in continuous development and improvement over the past half a decade and, as such, the production costs are carefully managed. It will be the only 100 percent Manufacture-made Chronograph to retail for less than 5000 Swiss francs. This will translate to a nice U.S. price when it makes its way to stores later this year.

2015-04-23
Breitling Jet Team

This week marks an important occasion in the world of time and aviation. Breitling — long known as an instrument timepiece for pilots — sponsors the Breitling Jet Team, which is an exciting and exhilarating group that practices aerobatic aviation. This year, for the first time, the team is appearing at a host of venues across America. The first event is this week in Lakeland, Fla., and the excitement continues during the ensuing months at 18 various aviation shows taking place throughout the country.

Chronomat 44 Breitling Jet Team

To commemorate this important sponsorship and occasion, Breitling has unveiled the new Jet Team Chronomat 44 — a limited edition of 500 chronographs specially created in blackened steel. The watch features the Breitling Jet Team logo in yellow on the bold black dial to accentuate the affiliation. In fact, that logo can be seen on the sides of the L-39C Albatross jets that the team flies.

The dial also features a yellow bezel, numerals and chronograph hands (emulating the color usage of the Jet Team planes). The inner flange of the watch features a tachometer (for measuring speed), and the crown and chronograph pushers are screw-in for added safety. The COSC-certified chronometer features a solid polished steel caseback that is engraved with the Breitling Jet Team logo.

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The watch is powered by the in-house-made B01 column-wheel chronograph movement that the brand unveiled several years ago and uses in many of its current timepieces. The movement features a vertical clutch system, instant jumping date and 70 hours of power reserve. Stop in any time to see the impressive collection of Breitling instruments in our store.

2015-04-21

It is auction season again and the most recent results are proof positive that investing in timepieces has its just rewards. In fact, at last week’s Antiquorum Important Modern and Vintage Timepieces auction in New York, more than $2.5 million was spent on watches.

“Watches continue to be a smart investment, as so many of the top timepieces sold today hold their value, and some even go up in value over time,” says Roberta Naas, 30-year veteran journalist on the subject of watches.

 Lot 272, a rare astronomical watch from Patek Philippe (Ref. 5102)

Lot 272, a rare astronomical watch from Patek Philippe (Ref. 5102)

There is no steadfast rule on which watches will be most coveted by watch collectors years down the road when you may be ready to sell your watch, but the best rule of thumb is to buy what you are going to wear first and foremost. Then, keep your eye on auctions around the world to see the brands and styles that continue to sell. Pilot, dive and military watches are all desirable, as are complications, calendars and astronomical watches.

For instance, the top seller at last week’s auction was Lot 272, a rare astronomical watch from Patek Philippe (Ref. 5102) with night sky chart of the Northern Hemisphere. That watch, which was made nine years ago in 2006, is a self-winding watch in 18-karat white gold with a stunning enamel dial. It sold for $231,750.

In the complicated watch realm, Lot 163 – an A. Lange & Sohne Richard Lange Tourbillon Pour Le Merite (Ref. 7604) was auctioned for $159,750. The watch is a tourbillon that had been made just two years ago in 2013.

Further underscoring the demand for tourbillons on the auction market, a Girard-Perregaux Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges (Lot 80) sold for $63,500. This watch was made about eight yeas ago in 2007 and is an 18-karat pink gold rendition.

Rolex Paul Newman watch

Rolex Paul Newman watch

Demonstrating a continued interest in watches with a “car related” history, Rolex also made a strong showing. Among the 272 pieces up for auction was a vintage Rolex Ref. 6239 Paul Newman Daytona (Lot 262). That watch raked in an incredible $111,750, and a Honeycomb Tropical Milgauss sold for $99,750.

While these watches garnered a lot of competitive bidding, a host of other pieces from a variety of top-name brands also sold — and continue to sell — for very strong auction prices. Will your next purchase be the quarter-million-dollar watch in years to come?  If you have questions, don’t hesitate to come in and talk to us.

2015-04-16

Auction season has begun, and over the coming months we will bring you exciting news about the vintage timepieces that will headline these high-profile events. The one we really like right now is the upcoming Bonhams Seventh Annual Space History Auction — taking place in New York next Tuesday, April 21. You can even bid online if you are anxious for some great items that orbited the Earth and landed on the Moon.

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Lot 141 of the Bonhams Space History Auction consists of astronaut Alan Bean's Omega watch. Photo courtesy of Bonhams.

The Bonhams auction includes a number of items from the personal collection of astronaut Alan Bean (currently 83 years old) and his Apollo 12 Space Mission (the second mission wherein men walked on the moon).  Bean was the fourth man to walk on the moon and, in fact, spent more than seven hours exploring the Ocean of Storms on the surface.

lot 141 Alan Bean Watch reverse

Alan Bean's Omega watch reverse. Photo courtesy of Bonhams.

While Bean's portable life-support system waist strap (worn on that exploration), and his lunar module water dispenser from the mission are both up for sale (and expected to capture more than $50,000 each), Bean's 18-karat rose gold Omega Speedmaster Professional chronograph is heading to the auction block (Lot 141). The watch (Ref. BA 145.022) houses the caliber 861 with 17 jewels. It features an 18-karat gold bracelet and is number 26 of 30 pieces that Omega gave to the astronauts and to President Richard Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew. The watch was created in 1969 to commemorate Apollo XI's moon landing, and only 104 pieces were ever made.

The caseback of the watch is engraved with the words "Astronaut Alan Bean — to mark man's conquest of space with time, through time, on time. Skylab Mission II  Apollo 12." The watch is being sold with a handwritten letter of provenance from Bean himself, wherein he certifies that the watch was given to him by Omega in a ceremony in Houston shortly after the completion of the Apollo program. "I have worn the watch over the years, particularly on special occasions," he wrote.

The watch is expected to sell in the range of $40,000 to $60,000.

2015-04-13

The last thing a retail jeweler wants to see when someone brings in a watch for a repair is a counterfeit. But unfortunately it happens. Counterfeit watches often look so convincing to the untrained eye that a buyer can be duped. Sometimes, people purchase counterfeit watches knowingly — and give them to unaware gift recipients.

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U.S. government seizures of counterfeit watches and jewelry jumped by 64 percent in 2014 — amounting to more than $375 million worth of fakes (almost one-third of the overall $1.2 billion worth of fake goods confiscated in 2014 by the Customs and Border Patrol). Jewelry and watches top the list of the most-seized counterfeit items by value, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Department.

Unfortunately, these numbers only represent the counterfeits that were seized; many fakes elude policing efforts — ending up on the streets and sold to unsuspecting customers. Indeed, it can be difficult for a layperson to determine if a watch is a fake. But the first and most tell-tale sign is the price. If the offering seems too good to be true, the watch is probably not what it seems to be.

Other important signs to look for — especially when buying a several-hundred-dollar knock-off of a thousands-of-dollars brand —  include markings on the bezel or dial that do not exactly match the way the legitimate watch should look. Similarly, a lack of proper caseback engravings, poor bracelet construction, cheap leather straps and loose lugs or bezels are sure signs the watch is not genuine. Of course, these factors require that the buyer knows exactly what the legitimate watch should look like. Best rule of thumb: buy from a jeweler authorized to carry the brand.

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Top image via http://onlinefuturelab.net/replica-horloges/

2015-04-09

Earlier this week, we discussed the upcoming, much-anticipated rollout of the Apple smartwatch. We also discussed whether or not this would severely impact the world of traditional watchmaking. Most watch experts say that, if anything, it can only help to boost interest in watches and to ignite a flame under certain watch brands to become more connected. Some watch brands are already doing just that.

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Montblanc, for instance, introduced on New Year’s Day its intuitive e-Strap – wherein an integrated technology chip is embedded into the brand’s Extreme Leather Strap that is then fitted to the Urban Speed watch. The device, compatible with select phones, enables the wearer to obtain notifications, texts and track activity.

At BaselWorld, Breitling unveiled its concept watch, the Breitling B55 Connected. This watch has a two-way communication between the watch and the phone, and not only syncs to offer activity records and texts, but also to display the watch information (including chronograph timer and flight times) on the phone for easier readability. The concept watch is crafted in titanium and carbon coating, and has a wireless symbol on it. While it is still in the prototype stage, the brand’s SuperQuartz™ movement that will allow for recharging via a computer USB port will power the watch.

B55 Connected

TAG Heuer fans will love the fact that on the first day of BaselWorld, Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of the brand and a visionary in watches, announced the company’s major partnership with chip giant Intel and online giant Google. Together their goal is to build the ultimate smart watch that will work on any platform (not just iPhones) and will be incredibly affordable at less than $1,000.

Another brand that made its "smart" announcement during BaselWorld 2015 is Tissot. The company, which has had the T-Touch sensory watches in its collection for years, is working on its Tissot Smart Watch, which will most likely incorporate most of the functions currently in the T-Touch watches (such as weather, altimeter, etc.), along with connectivity.

Certainly there are smartwatch developments with other brands, as well. The results remain to be seen, but we are confident they will be of interest to true traditional watch lovers.

2015-04-07

As Apple Watch gears up for a mammoth media push and begins taking preorders this week, we feel it is a good time to talk about smartwatches and the way they may or may not impact traditional watchmaking.

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In fact, this very subject was a hot topic at the recent BaselWorld 2015, where some traditional watch brands announced their takes on staying connected. It is interesting to note that there is a vast difference between technology-oriented smartwatches from brands such as Apple, Samsung and Sony, and smartwatches (that are generally connected and offer activity modes) from traditional watch brands. And while some may think the two factions are at war, that is not the case.

Some pessimists say the smartwatch may even spell the doom of the traditional watch. Positive thinkers believe the two factions can co-exist and that the new realm of smartwatches may just be what the traditional watchmakers need to light a proverbial fire under them.

Watch pundits liken the coming of the technological smartwatch to the influx of quartz technology that forever changed the watch industry in the late 1970s and early portion of the 1980s. During that time, Swiss watch brands refused to embrace quartz technology, believing that no one would want a battery-powered watch. Their denial almost led to the downfall of the industry—with many brands going out of business and others needing to re-invent themselves. It was years before the Swiss could introduce their own quartz watches and regain their strength in the market.

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“Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” That old saying has perhaps never been as true as with the coming of smartwatches and savvy technologically oriented watch brands are not going to sit idly by. Some have already begun working with technology giants to integrate interactive technology into their watches, their watchstraps and more.

In fact, Sylvie Ritter, managing director of BaselWorld, said during the opening press conference of the fair, “Swiss timepieces and smartwatches are two fundamentally different worlds. One is about expertise, emotion and enduring appeal. The other focuses on the technological aspects … two very different worlds, then, but also two approaches that can cohabit.”

So, for those iPhone lovers with apps galore, get on the waiting list for the Apple Watch – it will help you stay connected. It may also even lure other connected-lovers to buy their first watch. In the end, though, we believe that those who love a good timepiece on their wrist will always be looking for the traditional timepiece.

Stay tuned for more on this fast-moving story.

2015-04-02
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Earlier this week, we brought you a little insight into what goes on at BaselWorld — complete with three top trends that will be making their way into the watch world this year. In fact, most of the watches seen in BaselWorld start to appear in retail stores beginning in the summer — so some will be right on trend for summer and fall. Today, we bring you three more top watch trends in Part 2 of our report.

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Strap Diversity:

It is definitely the year of the strap. Brands have gone above and beyond when it comes to materials and colors this year. For men, the NATO strap continues to be important in sport watches, while rugged, thick leather straps also make a strong appearance on bold watches. Bracelets — especially two-tones — make a strong showing, and rubber-backed alligator and crocodile do the same. For women, metallic finishes and patent leather straps come to the forefront. For those with a little love of the exotic, snake skin straps, lizard, feathers and fur make an interesting play for wrist time.

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Artistic Dials:

Art continues to be a strong point on watches at the high end of the scale, with enamel and gem setting taking center stage. This year we witness a host of other artistic techniques applied to the watch dial, as well, as watch brands toss limits to the wind. Enamel and hand painting continue to take be in the limelight, but mosaic work and sculptural three-dimensional designs also transform watch dials into a masterful canvas for art. A few notable materials being used this year to create artistic dials: quail eggshells and beetle wings.

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Slim Is In:

After so many years of big, bold watches, many brands are seeking a slimmer path. At the haute horology level, the quest for an ultra-slim watch has many brands vying for positions as the thinnest mechanical, the thinnest chronograph, the thinnest self-winding watch, and so on. These conquests filter down the ranks into the affordable watch world, where many brands are offering thinner watch cases, more ergonomically curved lugs for a smoother fit, and classic bracelets in Milanese mesh or thin links.

In addition to these main trends, haute horology watches offered grand diversity this year, as many brands create space-age-looking timepieces that are visionary works of technology and creativity. Conversely, some of the legendary brands unveiled super-complex movements — including multi-tourbillon pieces, minute repeaters, astronomical watches and dead-beat seconds watches — that pay homage to traditional watchmaking.

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