Wempe Watch Blog

Wempe Watch Blog

Many watches today are created using an unusual material: engineered ceramic. It should be noted, right out of the starting gate, that not all ceramics are created equal. Ceramic used in fashion watches is different from ceramic used in high-tech watches, and the amount of ceramic and durability of ceramic varies based on whether one is purchasing a lower-priced ceramic watch or a high-quality ceramic watch.


That said, ceramic is an interesting choice for watch bezels, bracelets and even cases because in its engineered format, it is a very lightweight, durable material. It is generally scratch resistant and can hold its own in extreme temperatures and weather conditions, including saltwater.


Engineered ceramic is generally a mix of oxides, carbides, nitrates and zirconium that — when blended and heated — join together to offer long-lasting ruggedness. On the flip side of the durability, ceramic also offers a high luster finish that makes it attractive and even elegant.


Engineered ceramic for watches first appeared in the mid 1980s — and that appearance is credited to watch brand, Rado. Since then, many brands have turned to the material and it has become so well researched that today ceramic is not just black or white. A host of warm colors, ranging from blue to gray, in all hues exists in the watch industry.

jlc historical

In the world of watches, there is a singular category that is arguably the most beautiful and mesmerizing of all watchmaking feats: the chiming watch. Generally referred to as minute repeaters, repeaters or sonneries, a chiming watch is one that melodiously sounds the time on demand.

Chiming watches are quite rare due to the unique nature of their craftsmanship. The timepieces utilize a series of hammers and gongs that chime the time with the push of a slide or button, by hammering against a metal gong.


There are several different types of the acoustical beauties. Repeater watches generally sound the time by striking the hours, the quarter hours and the minutes on demand. Sonneries also chime the time in a similar manner, but often do so automatically on the hour (although one can "silence" the automatic sounding). There are also special derivatives of these, including watches that chime in 10-minute increments and watches that incorporate automatons (moving figures on the dial) that move with each striking note. Some brands even offer multiple melodies with Westminster chimes – a special melody that mimes the tones of London's Big Ben.

Chiming watches and repeaters have roots dating back to the 1700s, when people used them to tell time after dark without having to light candles or oil lamps. Still, to date, they remain one of the most coveted top-tier timepieces that can be built. Today, much research goes into making the sound of the watch ever louder and more beautiful via materials of the gong or case, shape of the hammers — and more — to perfect the pitch.


While certain luxury brands specialize in the creation of minute repeaters, some brands only develop a single minute repeater (usually in limited numbers) just to prove they have the ability to make the complex beauty.


As today marks the 46th annual Earth Day, we find it a fitting time to take a look at the ways many watch brands support conservation. As our oceans are being over-fished, polluted and disregarded, many watch brands have undertaken projects to raise awareness of this dilemma and to help the planet. Brands, such as Jaeger-Lecoultre, IWC, Omega, Blancpain, Rolex and others, are taking a firm stance in protecting the seas and their wildlife.

Rolex, for instance, supports the Our World Underwater Scholarship Society that provides information on underwater disciplines for people considering careers in the field. Each year a Rolex scholar is selected to work with leaders in marine-related fields, partaking in endeavors ranging from scientific expeditions, underwater research, laboratory assignments and/or other specialized assignments. The company also runs the Young Laureates Awards that help fund inventive projects, and for which many of the world's natural causes have been embraced.

IWC supports a host of ocean involvements that range from research by the Charles Darwin Foundation in the Galapagos to partnering with the Cousteau Society. Blancpain supports scientific and conservation projects around the globe, such as the Pristine Seas Expedition conducted by National Geographic explorers in its Ocean Commitment projects.

Similarly, Jaeger-LeCoultre works with UNESCO to protect 46 marine sites that enjoy conservation status thanks to their place n the UNESCO World Heritage list. Jaeger-LeCoultre has been involved in this project for more than half a dozen years and provides immediate financial backing for UNESCO to support the daily activities conducted among these 46 crown jewels of the oceans.

Omega designed its Seamaster Planet Ocean GoodPlanet as a tribute to its partnership with the GoodPlanet Foundation for environmental conservation with portions of the proceeds from the sale of this watch funding various ocean projects.


While we may not carry all of these brands in our store, we are proud of their efforts. We also invite you in to see the watches that support these causes from the brands we carry.

Photo Credits: Humpback whale, Glacier Bay National Park USA ©Mark-Kelley, provided by Jaeger-LeCoultre; Blancpain Art of Ocean exhibit; Saving seabirds, a species at a time, Stephen W. Kress, 1987 Rolex Laureate Award winner.


Watch lovers take note: the mountain air in Switzerland is particularly fragrant in springtime. This is especially true for those who may want to tour the famed watchmaking region in the Jura Mountains — the Vallee Joux, Le Sentier, La Chaux de Fonds. Geneva and its outlying cantons, such as  Neuchatel, Le Locle, Villeret offer breathtaking views of the country’s forests, lakes and mountains, as well as of some of the most famed watch brands in the world (Oh, and let's not forget the chocolate or the cheese).

A visit to La Chaux–de-Fonds and Le Locle  also gives you the opportunity to say you've been to a  UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just about seven years ago, in 2009, these “manufacture towns” joined the select UNESCO list. The towns became popular in the end of the 17th century, when farmers turned to watchmaking to idle away the long winter hours and to earn an income to supplement their non-existent winter crops. The art caught on and the region produced clocks and travel watches for clients around the world — making it a unique place of interest.

Since the cities came under the UNESCO list, Neuchatel tourism has increased significantly, and the tourist department has even developed an exclusive program that allows watch-loving tourists to discover the region’s rich history. They are working with certain watch brands and museums to encourage them to open their doors for tours. Today, some brands offer tours on specific days via reservation.


Additionally, fascinating world-class watch museums reside in this region: The International Museum of Horology in La Chaux-de-Fonds (Musee International d’Horlogerie) and the Le Locle Watch Museum (Musee d’Horlogerie, Chateau des Monts). Both are universally acclaimed for the quality, breadth and scope of their collections and for their tireless efforts to offer a high-caliber cultural experience with each visit. Both museums have exhibits that include early automatons, watchmaking benches, tools and more.


It's no secret that the vintage watch market is on fire. Collectors covet what they can't get and that means they scour the world's auctions and regularly visit stores with vintage timepiece stocks to find things they may be missing in their collections. We believe in investing in vintage timepieces, as typically these are watches that hold their value. Vintage watches also often make a great sentimental gift. However, there are a few important things to note when thinking of buying vintage.

Do Your Homework. While buying on impulse is often hard to resist, we suggest you resist. Do your investigative research before you buy, especially if the watch carries a hefty price tag. It's important to know the provenance of the watch, its authenticity in design and caliber and whether or not it is a brand or a genre that continues to hold value. Best places to investigate: reputable watch blogs like ATimelyPerspective or Hodinkee; auction houses; vintage specialists with retailers; watch forums; books and catalogs from the brands.


Pay Attention to Detail. If you've done your homework, you've found images of other watches similar to the one you want to buy. Now, check out the watch in your hand. Are the hands similar? Is the dial printing or markings the same? What about the bezel? These are all tiny indicators that a watch is original and has not been altered. Also, if you've done your homework, you've learned that certain brands made fewer of one color dial than another. This can mean a great difference in the price you spend and the value the watch holds. The rarer, the better.

Ask Questions. Don't be afraid to take some pictures of the watch with your phone and to go online to some of the top watch forums to ask others who are experts in the field if the watch looks right and if the price seems accurate. Sometimes there are even reference numbers on the watch. Of course, if you are buying from a reputable retailer, this step may not be necessary, but we encourage our buyers to be informed. If you are plunking down a lot of money, think about calling the brand. Many of today's finest manufacturers have experts in house who know the vintage market.


Don't Break the Budget. It is tempting to buy outside the pre-determined budget, especially if it is a watch you really want. However, it is our experience that if you buy outside your price range, you may not be as happy with the watch. Generally, you should be prepared to pay fair market value (usually determined by other similar watches up for sale) and then to pay a little more on top of that for a watch with a certain patina, a special dial color or bezel.

Finally, we also suggest that you make sure there is the opportunity to return the watch within a certain time frame if you are not happy with the purchase.


Rolex lovers are in for a treat. Unveiled at Baselworld last month, the new Rolex Air-King will be making its way to stores soon. The watch is a re-introduction of a classic aviation-inspired piece created by the brand and paying homage to the golden age of exploration and aviation firsts. The new Air-King 40mm watch is crafted in 904L stainless steel and sports a black dial that is quite alluring.

The dial has three large numerals at the 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00 positions. The rest of the numbers are indicated via a bold minute scale that displays 5, 10, 20, etc. Additionally, the dial features a Rolex green Air-King logo on it — written in the original 1950s typeface.

The watch is a COSC-certified chronometer that has also undergone stringent Rolex testing and carries the brand's Superlative Chronometer status. Housing the self-winding mechanical Caliber 3131, the watch is equipped with a patented Parachrom hairspring for added stability when exposed to temperature variations, shocks and more. The case is a monobloc with screw-down case back and crown, and the watch is fitted with an Oyster bracelet. It offers a high degree of anti-magnetism (thanks to an escape wheel made of a nickel-phosphorous alloy) and 100 meters of water resistance.


It's no secret that Breitling has had a long-standing relationship with  Bentley — creating the Breitling for Bentley Collection of specialized timepieces for years, now. This year at BaselWorld 2016, the brand unveiled an all-new impressive piece tied to the luxury car brand.

Breitling for Bentley B05 Unitime Midnight Carbon_1

The Bentley B05 Unitime Midnight Carbon watch is sold in a limited edition black satin-brushed steel case. It is a world timer watch with a raised globe motif on the black dial and an unusual wheel-shaped oscillating weight (visible via a transparent case back). The outer bezel motif, crafted in carbon, reflects the car’s rim. This 500-piece limited series houses the COSC-certified Chronometer movement — the Manufacture Breitling Caliber B05 — protected by two patents. The self-winding movement also offers a 24-hour disk with a day/night indicator, 24-city disk with indicators that take into account Daylight Savings Time, and calendar modes.