Wempe Watch Blog

Wempe Watch Blog
2015-07-29
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While we all love summer fun, there is something to be said about the "Christmas in July" concept. Some people say the concept for Christmas in July stems from our yearning for a bit of cool weather in the hot days of summer. Others say it's a great time to get a jump on holiday shopping. Yet others say it is just a good reason for a party. While any and all of these may be true, we also recognize that there is a need to think about gift-giving year round — with birthdays and special occasions being celebrated all the time.

So, with all of this in mind, here is a suggestion or two to stave off the heat and whet your appetite for making time last.

One brand that offers great value for quality and craftsmanship is Baume & Mercier — a brand that understands gift-giving and celebrations. A great line to see up-close is the Clifton Collection. This series – based on a 1950s watch — offers true vintage appeal, with a variety of dial colors (including stunning blue) and simple complexities. The moonphase watch is a real beauty because of the symmetrical balance and harmony of the dial, as well as the useful information. Other versions of these automatic–powered watches include grand date, calendars, chronographs and more. Cool yet collected, classic yet cutting edge — they're well worth taking a look at. Oh, and by the way, our store is air conditioned — making it the perfect summer chill atmosphere.

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2015-07-23

Last week we offered an inside look at what it means when a watch is classified as a certified chronometer. That blog post naturally sparked some interest from watch aficionados about the origins of chronometers — a topic so vast that several books have been written on the subject.

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John Arnold Marine Chronometer no. 12, London, 1778-1779; photo: Arnold & Son

Here, we try to put that long historical saga of how chronometers came to be into a compact overview for those who love the water and love precision. The invention of today’s chronometer was no easy feat. In fact, it was one that took nearly a century. As early as the mid-1600s, when European countries were intent on sea-faring expeditions and exploration, they faced a single deadly obstacle: being unable to find longitude at sea, often causing them to run aground and sink.

England, France and other countries tirelessly pursued a way to create a ship’s timepiece that could keep accurate time on the high and frequently savage seas, and enable captains to chart longitude via a standard time and celestial navigation. In 1714, the United Kingdom’s Parliament established the Longitude Act, complete with a Board of Longitude, and offering the Longitude Prize (20,000 pounds, comparable to 2.87 million pounds or $4.5 million today) to anyone who could find a method for determining a ship’s longitude. This quest became the life work of many watchmakers and inventors, including British watchmakers John Arnold and also John Harrison, who worked until the age of almost 80 to introduce and perfect the invention of the chronometer.

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Traditional clocks with pendulums did not work on a moving vessel that was continually rolling and pitching with the waves. Harrison, instead, created a vertical escapement clock with larger balance and temperature compensation. The clock could be used as a portable standard because it offered accurate time at a fixed location — Greenwich Mean Time — despite the sea’s wrath. With that knowledge, and with some calculations at local noon, sailors could determine the ship’s longitude.

Of course, while it sounds relatively easy, it was not – especially in the days when every part of the clock was cut and made by hand. Each time a clock was finished, it went on a voyage of length to determine its reliability. It was John Harrison’s fifth clock that was finally deemed to be highly accurate at sea — in the year 1773. That invention resulted in fewer lives lost and a grand proliferation of seafaring dominance by the Brits.

2015-07-21
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If you are a vintage watch collector or buyer of older timepieces, this story is for you. The fact of the matter is that many top retailers sell vintage timepieces and pre-owned timepieces, and — when purchased through us — customers can rest assured they are getting an authentic watch. However, when you buy from unknown sources, you can sometimes come out on the short end of the stick.

Now, the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors (NAWCC) has implemented an educational course for watch lovers who really want to know how to spot a fake. The course, entitled "Luxury or Lie? How to Identify Genuine Watches," has been designed and developed by the NAWCC along with wristwatch curator Adam Harris. It includes an overview of watch types, offers a quick litmus test to determine if a watch may be a fake and helps watch lovers understand what to be on-guard about when it comes to vintage timepieces. In fact, there are multiple types of "fakes" on the market, ranging from super fake to altered or re-worked. The multi-day workshop in Columbia, Pa., teaches participants watch-examination techniques. The course will include the best ways to identify a genuine watch, including what to look for in case weight and finish, dials, hands, strap and movement.

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Adam Harris, photo courtesy NAWCC

“After working in a pawn shop for some years, I realized how difficult it was to quickly and correctly differentiate a genuine piece from a fake… Long gone are the days of cheap Chinese fakes and we are now being offered ‘Super Fakes’ that even defy the ability of the manufacturers to tell the difference,” says instructor Adam Harris. “The new course will reveal many of the major manufacturers’ counterfeit measures, some hidden and some still unknown.”

Class size is limited. The cost for the full 2 1/2-day program is $1,250; an advance “early bird” registration rate of $1,000 is available for attendees who register before September 1, 2015. The course will be held October 3-5, 2015, at the classroom facilities at NAWCC headquarters in Columbia, Pa. For more information and to register, contact education@nawcc.org.

2015-07-16
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We often field the question, “What is a certified chronometer?” With summer here and extreme activities, such as flying and diving, often taking center stage, it is a good time to address the topic. First developed back in the 18th century — after decades upon decades of research and development — the ship’s chronometer provided a way for sailors and explorers to keep accurate time at sea and calculate longitude. These tools enabled modern sailing and exploration to flourish and, today, certain rugged wristwatches now achieve certified chronometer status.

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Essentially, a chronometer wrist watch is a high-precision watch capable of displaying the seconds while housing a movement that has undergone stringent testing in different positions and at different temperatures. The watch is rated under laboratory conditions in a specified testing institute and is then certified as having passed those tests within certain ranges of accuracy and precision. Several chronometer testing institutes exist, but the most prestigious and well known for Swiss watchmaking is the Controle Officiale Suisse des Chronometres – or C.O.S.C.

Watches made in other countries sometimes have their own testing facilities (Germany has the Glashutte Observatory in Saxony; France has the Observatory at Besancon). Sometimes, advanced watch brands test in-house to even stricter standards than the COSC standards. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on the COSC certification. There are three different COSC laboratory testing facilities in Switzerland: Biel/Bienne, Geneva, LeLocle. All of these organizations test the watches based on the same criteria.

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The ISO 3159 standards, to which the COSC complies, require each piece to be tested for five to 15 days in five positions at several different temperatures. Measurements are made daily with the help of cameras and based on comparisons with two independent atomic clocks. Only those that have met the precision criteria are granted an official chronometer certificate. Among the list of requirements that must be met before the mechanical watch can be said to have passed: an average daily rate criteria of -4/+6 seconds; a mean variation in rate of 2 seconds; a thermal variation of + or – 0.6; and more.

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Certified COSC chronometers are identified by a serial number that is engraved on the movement. They are proven to withstand a host of different outside influences that range from heat and water to pressure and durability — making them rugged, precise tools. Because of the rigorous and intense testing, only about 3 percent of all Swiss watches produced are COSC-certified chronometers. After all, it is not an easy feat.

2015-07-14
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It was a grand slam weekend in tennis with stellar results at Wimbledon. Serbian Novak Djokovic beat Switzerland's Roger Federer in the men’s singles final. This marks Djokovic’s second consecutive year winning Wimbledon, and the 28-year-old player accomplished it with a fury – not allowing the pressure of Federer’s 130 mph serve to get the best of him.

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On Saturday, American superstar Serena Williams won her third Grand Slam tournament of 2015 — and 21st overall – taking the Wimbledon Singles title after defeating Spain's Garbine Muguruza.

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How did the weekend stack up when it comes to the timing of such a prestigious occasion? Here it is in watch talk: Rolex is the Official Timekeeper of the epic event. In fact, Rolex has been involved in the world of tennis since 1978. Not only is the brand the Official Timekeeper of The Championships at Wimbledon, but it also has a host of tennis brand ambassadors on board, including Roger Federer.

Williams wears the 37mm Royal Oak Offshore watch by Audemars Piguet. The white rubber, diamond-set rose-gold timepiece was on her wrist throughout the tournament and as she accepted her sixth Wimbledon trophy — making international headlines.

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Other watch brands also play a role in the world of tennis. TAG Heuer, for instance, has tennis great Maria Sharapova on board as a brand ambassador. The company also has Japan's Kei Nishikori, a prodigy at a very young age, as a brand ambassador. Both were participants in this year's Wimbledon.

Kei Nishikori at a previous tournament (photo courtesy TAG Heuer)

Kei Nishikori at a previous tournament (photo courtesy TAG Heuer)

2015-07-10
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Results of the recent Antiquorum auction of "Important Modern and Vintage Timepieces" substantiate the fact that watches don't have to be vintage to fetch the highest prices. The top lot of the Hong Kong auction was a magnificent platinum-and-diamond timepiece with a lineage that goes back only four years. Collectors bid aggressively on fairly modern watches, proving that the right timepiece — no matter how old — can be a great investment.

More than $10 million was garnered at the two-day auction, with just about $1.5 million of it coming from three timepieces in particular — though at least seven top brands held their own. Patek Philippe continues to be a standout at auctions and this week was no exception as the online, in person and phone bidders went to war on the  top lot — a 2011 Patek Philippe Ref. 5033P Minute Repeater Annual calendar wristwatch. The tonneau-shaped watch with black dial is crafted in platinum and features 98 baguette diamonds on the bezel. The watch sold for a remarkable $700,472.

Three other Patek Phlippe timepieces were in the top 10 lots. Among them was a 1969 yellow gold Chronograph, Ref. 2499, with perpetual calendar and moon phase indicator. This iconic collectible sold for $468,271.

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Rolex — always a collector's king — fared well, too. The special Rolex watch was the auction's third-highest-price lot. So what made this particular Ref. 6241 watch garner $367,651? Its lineage, of course. The 14-karat gold watch is the Daytona “Paul Newman” watch — made in 1969.

There was even a titanium watch that fetched more than a quarter of a million dollars. That timepiece is the Audemars Piguet Grande Complication automatique titanium split-seconds chronograph. It was built in 2002 and produced in limited numbers — making it a rare and coveted timepiece. It sold for $274,771.  Another beauty: a Vacheron Constantin Ref.30020, gold Patrimony minute repeater sold for $158,670.

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So the next time you are in the market for a watch, and can't decide which one to go with, consider if it is an exclusive piece, if it has a connection to a celebrity who may one day prove a valuable pedigree, and — as we tell all our customers — only buy it if you love it.

2015-07-08

This past Sunday, 30.9 million Americans witnessed a dominating performance by the U.S. women's national team in the FIFA World Cup final. It was the most-watched soccer match in U.S. history.

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The U.S. women’s 5-2 victory over Japan was highlighted by a hat trick in the first 16 minutes of the match by Carli Lloyd. The three goals by a single player were the fastest ever recorded in Women’s World Cup history, and the first hat trick ever in a final. This is the third World Cup championship for the American women, with the other two titles taking place in 1991 and 1999.

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Sunday's U.S. victory and impressive television ratings reflect well on the women’s sporting world specifically, and on soccer in general. That may well be why a good number of watch brands align themselves with this beloved sport.

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Hublot Big Bang Bi-Retrograde

In fact, Hublot was the Official Timekeeper of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in Canada. The brand brought out the technical boards and timing equipment that it first used in 2014 during the FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil when it was the official timekeeper there. The time measurement boards resemble a Hublot watch.

TAG Heuer Formula 1 Ronaldo Chronograph

TAG Heuer Formula 1 Ronaldo Chronograph

TAG Heuer offers its Formula 1 Ronaldo numbered special-edition chronograph. Cristiano Ronaldo, the highest paid and arguably the most popular soccer player in the world, competes for Spanish club Real Madrid and the Portugal national team.

The 42mm quartz watch offers 1/10th of a second and hour chronograph counters. The watch is created in green and black and has the CR7 logo printed on the dial. The case is fine-brushed black titanium carbide coated stainless steel with an “Easy Grip” screw-in crown. The watch is water resistant to 200 meters – making it the perfect sporty summer watch.

Soccer photo: Getty Images.

2015-07-07
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Wempe Jewelers is proud to announce that we have a new watch in town – and this one has some interesting elements. The new timepiece is the result of a partnership between the international Vienna art trading company, Lichterloh, and New York watch designer, Fredi Brodmann. The Normalzeit Vienna Cube Clock wristwatch is an interpretation of a Vienna landmark — the Cube Clock — a public chronometer that has been the inspiration for urban furniture and other designs thanks to its iconic octagonal shape.

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The wristwatch — like the clock — features a dial with dots and deltoids for the minutes and hour markers. The wristwatch recalls the Normalzeit Vienna Cube Clock of 1907 – the first of its kind. The clock became an institution in the city, with newer versions installed regularly. Unfortunately, in 2007, the city of Vienna replaced all of the Cube Clocks with new ones. Licterloh purchased the older clocks and all design rights, and in 2011 introduced a new line of furniture, clocks and now watches inspired by the 100-year-old clock. Vienna-born and living in New York, graphic designer Fredi Brodmann was instrumental in transitioning the clock to its current wristwatch format.

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The octagonal watches feature white dials, with easy to read black markers and hands. Versions include one on a silicone strap, a red leather strap or on a stainless steel Milanese mesh bracelet. The stainless  steel watches house automatic Seiko movements with 41 hours of power reserve and sapphire crystals. They are water resistant to 50 meters and feature full-glow dials. Just 1,907 watches are being produced and each is numbered. They retail from $500 to $695 depending on the version.

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2015-07-02
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This weekend we celebrate the 4th of July – Independence Day – to honor America’s hard-won independence from Great Britain and our adoption of the Declaration of Independence. While fireworks and picnics are the usual fare, this is also a great time to take a look at the Made-in-America sector of the watch market.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, a host of American watch brands were building watches on our soil. Great names in American watchmaking history include Waltham, Elgin, Hamilton and Bulova. In fact, Waltham Watch Company produced watches, clocks, speedometers, compasses and other instruments in its 100-plus-year run. Founded in 1850 in Waltham, Mass., the brand remained in business until 1957.

Similarly, Elgin National Watch Company (aka, Elgin Watch Co.) produced watches from 1864 until 1968 – and sold those timepieces under the names Elgin, Lord Elgin and Lady Elgin. The brand’s manufacturing complex was in Elgin, Ill., and at one time was the largest site dedicated to watchmaking.

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Joseph Bulova, 1875

Joseph Bulova, a Bohemia immigrant, founded Bulova as the J Bulova Company in 1875. This brand was famously patriotic and dedicated to the American Dream. By 1945, it had established the Joseph Bulova Watchmaking school to help rehabilitate disabled veterans from World War II and land them jobs in watch service and repairs.

Hamilton Watch Company, which was founded in Pennsylvania in 1892, produced its first watch in 1893 and became a very integral player in supplying watches to the American military during the World Wars.

Indeed, the list goes on and on. Sadly, most of these companies either closed their doors between the 1950s and 1970s, or shifted their production offshore (to Switzerland or the Far East). This loss of American-made watches was due to multiple factors. One was the rise in demand for well-made Swiss watches; another was the rise in the 1960s and 1970s of electronic watches that boasted LED (light-emitting diode) and LCD (liquid crystal displays) and were relatively inexpensive. Most of these brands – created by the technology companies – died out, as well, with the advent of the quartz watch era.

For decades, American watchmaking was virtually decimated. However, in the past few decades, some American-made brands have emerged on the market. Most are small companies with exclusive production of watches. Among them are brands such as Kobold, building watches from a location just outside of Pittsburgh; RGM, building watches from a location just outside of Philadelphia; and Devon, building its watches in Los Angeles. Just a few years ago, Shinola popped up – making its home in Detroit and building movements there whose components are imported from Switzerland.

Each of these brands – and about a half a dozen others scattered around the country – are slowly making their own niche in today’s marketplace.

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Every once in a while, we come across a customer who has a superb American-made watch dating back to the 1800s or early 1900s. These are exciting to look at and fun to investigate. In fact, the Elgin History Museum has a host of volunteers that specialize in Elgin watches made between 1867 and the mid-1960s. They will do their best to provide information to owners of Elgin watches to help them pinpoint the year the watch was made, the movement inside, the number of jewels, how many were made and other important details about the decorative and styling features of the watch. They can even pinpoint which craftsman may have created the case. If you have an heirloom Elgin watch, we suggest you take a photo of it, look for its serial number and visit this link. But enjoy your Fourth of July barbecue first. Have a great holiday.