Wempe Watch Blog

Wempe Watch Blog
2015-05-28
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When we say Las Vegas Shows, we aren't thinking Blue Man Group. Sorry. We are thinking watches. Well, being that we are a watch retailer, it may not surprise you that our thoughts are watches and jewelry — but in Vegas? Yes, in Vegas.

In fact, beginning today and spanning through June 1, several of the most important U.S. watch and jewelry shows are taking place throughout the city. While we already witnessed the high-horology trends of SIHH earlier this year, and the all-encompassing global trends of BaselWorld 2015, there may still be some interesting items coming our way.

What do we expect to see? Three important C's — no not diamond C's — but the C's of watches. 

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Color: Especially gray, violet and taupe for women, and blue and black with pops of color for men. Cut: Not all watches are round. This year we are expecting some great pieces in cushion shapes, rectangulars, a few tonneau (barrel) and even a few totally-out-there space-like cases. Clarity: We expect watch brands to be paring down their collections and offering us less breadth and more solid substance in terms of form and function. We will let you know how our predictions pan out.

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2015-05-27
Audemars PIguet Royal Oak Laptimer Michael Schumacher

Audemars PIguet Royal Oak Laptimer Michael Schumacher

Last week, in Switzerland, Audemars Piguet unveiled a world’s first in mechanical watch movements — the Royal Oak Concept Latimer Michael Schumacher watch, named for the seven-time Formula One world champion driver and brand ambassador who first challenged Audemars Piguet to build the watch five years ago.

Created specifically for motorsport use, the timepiece is meant to measure every single lap for an extended series of consecutive laps — instead of having to use multiple watches to do so. Schumacher asked Audemars Piguet in 2010 if such a watch could be built. Unfortunately, during the R&D process, the legendary racecar driver suffered a serious injury while skiing (in 2013). However, at the family's wish, the brand carried on, marking the first time it had ever developed a movement at the request of a brand ambassador.

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The Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher watch offers alternating consecutive lap timing with two hands that take turns standing still to mark the lap time and flying back to start the next lap time. While the next lap is being timed, the user must record the lap time before the hands start to move again at the close of the next lap.

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The hand-wound Manufacture caliber 2923 Laptimer Chronograph movement plays home to 413 individual pieces, including double barrels and double springs, to offer 80 hours of power reserve (or 50 hours when the chronograph lap-timer functions are engaged), and a column-wheel chronograph with a dual-angular indexing system so one chronograph drives two central hands independently.

The watch is cased in a 44mm forged carbon Concept case with a titanium bezel and caseback, and ceramic and 18-karat pink gold pushers. The watch features a blackened open-worked dial and the caseback features Michael Schumacher’s initials. On the Laptimer pusher side, seven stars are engraved to mark Schumacher’s seven F1 World Championship titles. Just 221 pieces will be made—each retailing for $229,500. This is just one example of the brand's technical prowess.

2015-05-26
Montoya pulls out in front of Power to win the Indy 500.

Juan Pablo Montoya pulls out in front of Will Power to win the Indy 500.

TAG Heuer is a brand long associated with automobile racing. Its history is rooted in vintage rallies and top-speed competitions. Having been involved in the Carrera Pan Americana border-to-border races of the mid-1950s and, decades later, playing a role on the wrist of legendary actor/race car drivers, such as Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, the brand continues to sponsor and be the official timer of a host of important auto races around the world.

Vintage TAG Heuer Monaco on the wrist

Vintage TAG Heuer Monaco on the wrist.

Just this past weekend, TAG Heuer not only sponsored and timed the Monaco Grand Prix, but also acted as Official Timekeeper of the world-famous Indianapolis 500. This race is as American as it gets. Held in the race capital of America, the Indy 500 is all-American racing at its finest.

Coming down the straight away toward the first corner of the 2.5 mile Indy track, where 200 laps equal 500 miles.

Coming down the straightaway toward the first corner of the 2.5 mile Indy track, where 200 laps equal 500 miles.

What may have been most superb about Sunday’s race — which got off to slow start thanks to an immediate caution — were the final few laps. Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power were neck in neck to the finish until Montoya sped out ahead and took the win in the final lap. The exhilarating and exciting finish marks Montoya's second Indy 500 victory. While Scot Dixon also traded the top three spots intermittently with Power and Montoya, in the end, after Montoya, Power finished second, Charlie Kimball third and Dixon came in fourth.

Patrick Dempsey in the TAG  Heuer "Don't Crack Under Pressure" ad

Patrick Dempsey in the TAG Heuer "Don't Crack Under Pressure" ad.

As the official timekeeper of the Indy 500, TAG Heuer also brought Patrick Dempsey, actor and racecar driver, to the races where he took time to discuss the challenges of racing at these high speeds — where Indycars are running at well over 200 miles per hour for 500 miles. Dempsey, a WEC (World Endurance Championship) racer is also a TAG Heuer brand ambassador. In fact, he will be competing in upcoming WEC races. Dempsey wears a vintage TAG Heuer Monaco on his wrist that he purchased before he even began his partnership with the brand.

We carry a host of TAG Heuer watches that convey the thrill of high-performance racing on the wrist. Stop by anytime.

2015-05-21
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Earlier this year in BaselWorld, Tudor introduced its in-house-made movement and unveiled the new North Flag Tool watch. Now, just in time for summer, we welcome the new Blue Pelagos Diver, housing the same movement. This represents the brand’s first ever Manufacture movement, the MTS621. The new Blue color scheme for the dive watch, along with blue bezel and blue rubber strap, reinforces the brand’s emblematic color for dive watches since the 1960s. The dive watch is COSC-certified chronometer and is crafted in a 42mm titanium case with a steel case back, and bezel with blue matte ceramic disk. It is water resistant to 500 meters.

2015-05-19
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With summer here, many people indulge in outdoor activities — from walking and hiking to biking, swimming and more. To accompany you on the journey, the chronograph could be the most utilitarian timepiece that also offers nice aesthetic appeal.

Chronographs are watches that track intervals of time. For instance, they can monitor laps around a track, the time it takes to hike a mountain or how many minutes it took you to grill that burger. The amount of time a chronograph can track varies with the watch. Most offer up to 12 hours, 60 minutes and fractions of a second.

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Louis Moinet's 1815 chronograph

Up until a couple of years ago, it was believed that Nicolas Rieussec invented the chronograph, which he patented in 1821. However, more recent findings indicate that watchmaker Louis Moinet actually made his version of the chronograph before Rieussec.

In fact, Moinet's device was called a “compteur de tierces" (three-thirds) and was started in 1815 and completed in 1816. It was one of the most accurate watches of its time, measuring events to the 60th of a second via a central seconds hand. The elapsed seconds and minutes are recorded on separate subdials, and the hours on a 24-hour dial. Because Moinet used two pushbuttons to start, stop and reset the central hands, the watch is considered a chronograph (though the term wasn't coined until later).

It was in October of 1821 when French watchmaker Rieussec formally presented his watch with seconds counter to the Academy of Sciences — wherein it was termed a chronograph (time writer). Rieussec's chronograph was developed to measure laps of horse racing and the early versions used ink dots to calculate the duration of events, and often were large clocks encased in table boxes. Here's how it worked: At the beginning of a timed event, the “ink chronograph” was set in motion so that two discs began to turn, one calibrated for 60 elapsed seconds and the other for 30 elapsed minutes. The official timer would press a button each time a competitor crossed the finish line. The action of pressing the button lowered two ink-filled tips onto the enamel discs, where each tip left a droplet of ink. These ink markings on the chronograph’s discs enabled the user to calculate the competitor's finishing time.

 Chronograph by Rieussec

Chronograph by Rieussec

We have  come a long way since then. Today’s chronograph watches usually have small sundials on the main dial, wherein the hours and minutes are recorded once the start button has been activated. The seconds are usually tracked via a central seconds hand on the main dial. Of course, different brands use different methods of indication, but the concept is all virtually similar.

Because of the sundials on a chronograph, it is one of the more visually attractive watches. However, mechanical chronographs are no easy feat to build. Essentially hundreds of tiny parts are crammed into that tiny diameter on the wrist. And all of those metal gears, wheels, teeth, bridges and more must work together in perfect harmony to track both the ongoing time and the time of the events. Chronographs have either one single mono-pusher, or two pushers located on either side of the crown. Those pushers activate the start, stop and return-to-zero functions.

There are also more complex  chronographs, such as Split-Seconds Chronographs (also referred to as Rattrapantes), wherein two hands split, or appears to divide, from one another so that they can act independently and time events with different durations. There are also column-wheel chronographs that have a different configuration of the movement and so engages the mechanisms differently. But we will cover those types of chronographs in another story.

2015-05-14

That watch on your wrist today may well be tomorrow’s grand windfall — especially if you own, or are buying, a watch that is a special edition, a specific genre or a certain brand name. We are in the height of the spring auction season that is affirming the ongoing love affair between collectors and certain pre-owned vintage timepieces. Here, we bring you a few of the highlights from each of the auctions.

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At the Antiquorum auction of “Important Modern & Vintage Timepieces” held on May 10, an outstanding 6.5 million Swiss Francs worth of merchandise sold. Among the most intensely coveted items was the Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 Fourth Series, which had been retailed by Tiffany & Co. The two brands have shared a long history of collaboration spanning more than a century. This 18-karat yellow gold watch with perpetual calendar was the top lot (Lot 504) — selling for an exceptional $509,840.

patek 2499 100 may 2015

Photo courtesy of Antiquorum

The other hotly contested item was General Douglas MacArthur’s Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso – a watch belonging to the Five-Star General and bearing his insignia on the reverse dial. Lot 359 claimed more than four times its original estimate, selling for $94,615.

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Photo courtesy of Antiquorum

The following day, on May 11, Christie's “Important Watches” auction totaled sales of nearly $16.5 million. The top lot in this auction was a platinum Patek Philippe double-dial Sky Moon Tourbillon wristwatch with 12 complications, Ref. 5002P. Originally manufactured in 2006, the watch sold for $1,151,836 (Lot 136).

Rolex enjoyed its day in the sun, too, on May 9 in Geneva at the first-ever Phillips, in Association with Bacs & Russo, auction. In fact, this newly established auction house held two days of auctions — one devoted to the Rolex Day Date and the other devoted to different brands. The Rolex Day Date auction offered 60 rare examples of the brand’s most prestigious watch. Every lot in this auction was sold — to the total tune of $6,634,800. The highest price was paid for "Big Kahuna," one of only two known 6612 references made in platinum. It broke world records by fetching $507,865.

The Rolex Big Kahuna, photo (C) Phillips

The Rolex Big Kahuna, photo © Phillips

The following day concluded the Phillips two-day auction, which totaled $31.8 million in revenue. Top lots on this day included an extremely rare stainless steel Patek Philippe single-button doctor’s Chronograph, which sold for nearly $5 million – setting a new record price for a stainless steel wristwatch sold at auction.

If you are sensing a recurring pattern in the auction results of certain brands, it is important to take note that each of these auctions put hundreds of watches up for bid, and many were much more accessible brands that also sold well and fetched strong numbers.

2015-05-12

In watchmaking, there are essentially three different types of movements, also called calibers. And, of late, there are also solar powered watches, but that is a different story. Here, we bring you a brief look at exactly what a watch movement is and how the three most common types differ.

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Essentially, the watch movement consists of all the parts that power the watch, track the time, and provide the power for added functions. Some of the most complex mechanical watches with additional functions also have specialized modules built onto the base caliber. But we will stay with the essentials herein. There are two types of calibers that are totally mechanical and do not incorporate batteries: Automatic and Hand Wound.

Hand Wound Mechanical Movements

Essentially a hand-wound — also called manual-wind — is one in which the wearer must manually wind the watch via the crown. By winding the crown, the mainspring inside the watch is coiled tightly via a gear train that leads from crown to spring. As the spring slowly unwinds, it releases its energy, powering the watch. Of course, the system is much more complex than that. Inside the mechanics, a balance wheel and spiral work to keep energy released by the spring consistent and accurate. The key with this type of movement is that one must remember to wind the watch or the energy will deplete and the time indications will need to be manually reset before winding the watch again.

Automatic Movements

A mechanical watch with an automatic movement (also called a self-winding movement) works in a similar method. However, in this type of movement, a few additional parts come into play. Each caliber in an automatic movement is fitted with a rotor that moves when the wearer moves his or her wrist. That movement automatically powers the rotor (sometimes referred to as an oscillating weight), which winds the mainspring. The watch is powered as long as it is being worn, and the power in that watch will last – when taken off and sitting still in a box or on a dresser – for a designated time period. That time period is called “power reserve” and different watches are equipped with varying amounts of power reserve.

automatic movement

Quartz Movements

A quartz movement is not powered by mechanics, but instead by a battery. Quartz watches were first developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and came into true serial production in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Quartz watches use a tiny piece of low-frequency quartz crystal (silicon-dioxide) that is chemically etched into shape in an integrated circuit, and that serves as the oscillator. A nearby battery sends electricity to the quartz crystal through an electronic circuit. The quartz oscillator then vibrates quickly and with precise frequency (32,768 times/second) in response to the electronic charge. The circuit counts the vibrations and generates regular electric pulses of one per second to drive the motor that turns the hands. There is no need to turn the crown or set the watch after the first time. However, in quartz watches, the batteries will die and need to be replaced.

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2015-05-07
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Yes, it is almost Mother's Day. In fact, Sunday is the big day, and if you haven't already thought about a way to delight the mom in your life, now is the time. Flowers and candy are nice, but the gift of time is even nicer. A watch is something that will remind her of you and this special Mother's Day every time she looks at her wrist.

You don't have to break the bank to give a great timepiece, but you do have to give it a little thought. What is the lifestyle of the mom you want to honor? Is she active? If so, look at a chronograph that can time her activities, runs, gym workouts and more. Is she getting up there in age? Then consider a watch with a beautifully legible dial — easily readable without glasses on. Perhaps mom has a favorite color? Some of the nicest watches today can be found with colorful dials or with a painter's palette of colored leather straps. White is always a great choice for Mother's Day, too, as we enter into the bright beauty of spring and summer.

Happy Sport 30mm Automatic 278573-3002+3003 white

Other considerations include if mom would prefer a watch with a quartz battery, or one that is mechanical — some moms really do like mechanics. Others may like the moon and the stars, and there are wonderful moon phase and astronomical watches on the market. Is she a busy executive doing business in multiple time zones? Consider a GMT watch or one with dual or triple-time-zone indications.

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And then, of course, there are the truly sophisticated, high-end watches that certain top brands offer. Those watches can be haute horlogerie (with complications, such as perpetual calendars, skeletonized movements or more) or haute joaillerie — bedecked in diamonds or colored gemstones. Indeed, the list goes on and on. If you can't think of the right gift for Mother's Day, you just haven't looked at our watches yet. Stop in — but soon. Mother's Day is Sunday.

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2015-05-05
Capeland Cobra 10232, Limited Edition, 44 mm, steel

Americans love a good race car story — one filled with muscle cars, dreamers and doers. The story of Carroll Shelby and his Cobra are the stuff legends are made of. Recently, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the most historic car races, Baume & Mercier teamed up with Shelby American and has since unveiled two race-inspired timepieces.

The Celebration:

Because Baume & Mercier is all about celebrating life's moments, the partnership makes perfect sense. This year witnesses the 50th anniversary of the legendary win of the Shelby Cobra (with a massive 427 cubic inch Ford V8 at its heart) over the famed Ferrari at the 1965 FIA Championship. Before that fateful day in 1965, the Ferrari had been virtually unbeatable.

Baume-et-Mercier-Capeland-Shelby-Cobra-roabook copy

The Story Behind It:

The story of Carroll Shelby — and what he and his team accomplished — is easily one of the most inspiring in American race car history. These passionate men were six guys working in a garage with visionary Carroll Shelby, who had been forced to give up racing due to a bad heart. He would not give up his dream, though, of building the ultimate race car — one that would beat the Ferrari.

He and his team pursued that dream and brought it to reality over the course of several years. After the group started winning a number of American race titles, Shelby got the power of Ford behind him and set his sights on the big FIA races overseas. His car was lighter and faster. The Cobra was so fast that the drivers knew they could slow down a little, conserve on fuel and still win the race. When the other racers had to make pit stop to refuel, the little car that could — did. It drove past them all and stole the win — making American muscle car history.

The Watches:

Capeland Cobra 10233, Limited Edition, 18K red gold, 44 mm

The new Baume & Mercier Capeland Shelby Cobra watches not only pay homage to the 50th anniversary of the victory at the FIA International Championship of GT Manufacturers, but also embraces the  bold beauty of that powerful car. The watch features the beloved Capeland case, which was also inspired by a vintage piece (a 1948 mono-pusher chronograph in the Baume & Mercier museum). From there, the watches are made with superb attention paid to detail and precision.

Two limited-edition models are being offered: a stainless steel chronograph, and an 18-karat rose gold flyback chronograph. The stainless steel chronograph, with a polished- and satin-finished 44mm case and tachymeter functions, features specially crafted hands inspired by the Cobra steering wheel and embodying the Cobra logo at the end of the seconds hand. The dial is created in the rich Shelby Guardsman Blue racing color with barely visible double racing stripes through it. It is powered by a Swiss-made self-winding 25 jewel LaJoux-Perret 8120 movement.

Just 1965 pieces will be made of this watch to honor the great win. There is also an 18-karat rose gold flyback chronograph model that is equally as alluring. These watches are even more limited in production, so, just like a Cobra, one may have to step on the gas a little to own one.