Wempe Watch Blog

Wempe Watch Blog
2017-01-26

In the luxury watch world, a lot of intriguing substances are used for dial making. Earlier this month we brought you news about meteorite dials. Today, we take a look at the use of aventurine in watches.

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Aventurine is a part of the quartz family. It is translucent in appearance but is most known for its many mineral inclusions that give the material a shimmering effect. The stone gets its name from the Italian word "a ventura" which means "by chance." The most common color of aventurine is green, but it can be found in brown, gray, red or orange in its natural form. There is also aventurine feldspar — sometimes referred to as sunstone or goldstone — that can be confused with red aventurine.

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Additionally, there is aventurine glass that was invented in the early 18th century by a glassmaker in Murano, Venice, who accidentally mixed metal (copper) powder into his glass paste. The glass format was actually invented before the stone format was discovered. Predominantly, watch brands use the glass version of aventurine in watchmaking. The glass is specially cut to form dials and disks for moon phase and other indications. The stone is less often used than the glass because of the difference in color and vibrancy.

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2017-01-24

Chinese communities around the world are preparing to launch their New Year celebrations, as they welcome in the Year of the Rooster (which takes over for the Year of the Monkey). The rooster is a proud bird, known for his consistency, reliability, confidence and vocal assets. With the new zodiac sign in place, several watch brands have honored the Year of the Rooster with artistic renditions for the wrist.

Vacheron Constantin, for instance, has released two renditions of its Métiers d’Art “Legend of the Chinese Zodiac” watches. The watches have no hands, so the time is depicted via a technically advance mechanical movement that shows the hours, minutes, day and date via apertures on the dial. This design gives ample space to the rooster, which is carved, enameled and engraved in all its glory. The watch is offered in 18-karat white gold against a blue Grand Feu enamel dial and also in 18-karat rose gold against a copper-colored Grand Feu enamel dial. Only 12 pieces of each version will ever be made.

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Additionally, Chopard continues its tradition of releasing the Chinese zodiac series of Urushi painted watches. This year, the brand uses an ultra-thin movement in its L.U.C XP Urushi Year of the Rooster watch, created in a limited edition of 88 pieces. The Urushi technique is an ancient Japanese art and combines hand painting with lacquer made from sap of the Urushi tree, with mother-of-pearl dials.

2017-01-19
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It's no secret that many a U.S. president has loved wearing watches. Over the years, we have brought you a variety of stories about their preferences. However, with the inauguration taking place tomorrow we found an interesting story to share. It seems that nearly all of the U.S. presidents since the late 1950s have received a Vulcain Cricket Alarm watch at the inauguration.

Vulcain is an old Swiss brand that once had strong U.S. distribution. The company is best known for its invention of the Cricket alarm wristwatch — one of the earliest and loudest alarm watches. The first was unveiled to the world in 1847 as a mechanical marvel that sounded so much like a cricket when sounding that it was once mistaken by the Secret Service as a bomb.

Former President Harry Truman often wore his own Vulcan Cricket watch during his presidency. Since then, it became a sort of tradition for the brand to gift a Cricket to each president for his inauguration. The brand's Cricket watches retail for about $7,000 to $20,000 and it is expected that one will be gifted to Donald Trump. It is still unclear which model he will be gifted.

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2017-01-17
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Yesterday, in Geneva, the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) opened its doors to retailers and press from around the world. This by-invitation-only watch exhibition is one of the two most important shows of the first quarter of each year (Baselworld in March is the other). At this exclusive event, more than two dozen top watch brands and independent brands are showcasing their newest watches — watches destined to set the trends on wrists around the world for 2017.

The majority of the luxury brands exhibiting here are from the Richemont Group and they have spent years preparing their newest movements, calibers, complexities and works of art. Additionally, many other brands take advantage of the fact that so many watch lovers flock to the city for SIHH and piggy-back on the event — showing their newest timepieces in hotels that dot the city and surround the famous Geneva lake and fountain. The event promises to be full of new products, news and excitement, all of which we will bring to you in the coming weeks.

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2017-01-12

For those who believe that every second counts, this story is for you, because the year 2016 got an extra second added to it. That second, referred to as a "Leap Second" was added right as 2016 turned to 2017 — or at 23:59:59. Instead of the atomic clocks jumping to 00:00:00, they officially stood at 23:59:60.

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This was done to keep time as precise as possible, much like the reason we add a Leap Day once every four years.

Leap seconds are added to compensate for the fact that Earth's rotation is gradually slowing down, and to make sure that our precise clocks remain in sync with how long a day lasts on Earth.

"This extra second, or leap second, makes it possible to align astronomical time, which is irregular and determined by Earth's rotation, with Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) which is extremely stable and has been determined by atomic clocks since 1967," noted the Paris Observatory in France in a statement. The Observatory houses the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS), which is responsible for synchronizing time.

While Leap Days are predictable, Leap Seconds are sporadic. In fact, over the past 45 years, we have added a Leap Second 27 times. The less predictable nature of the Leap Second makes it virtually impossible to build into a watch or clock.

For those who want more information about the Leap Second, universal time, the evolution of GPS and satellite timing, we suggest you take a look at the extensive report by Jack Forster of Hodinkee. You can read his story at this link.

Credit: Image by NASA.gov.

2017-01-10

While wristwatches did not officially go into serial production until the early 1900s, these watches do have a long and fascinating history. In fact, centuries ago, pocket watches, brooch watches and other pieces were adapted to be worn on the wrist. Some brands still debate who developed the first wristwatch predominantly made for this purpose.

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Historians can confirm that the wristwatch was used on the battlefield in the late 1880s as a safer means for soldiers to read the time and synchronize time without having to pull out their pocket watches. Girard-Perregaux was the first brand to produce large quantities of wristwatches for the German military in the 1880s.

Even earlier, in 1868, Patek Philippe is credited with making an elaborate gold bracelet watch for Countess Koscowicz of Hungary. It was designed specifically for use on the wrist and is documented in the Guinness World Records.

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Breguet also lays claim to having created a watch specifically for a woman’s wrist — half a century earlier than Patek Philippe. An entry was made in the Breguet archives that states that in response to a commission from the Queen of Naples, dated 8 June 1810, Abraham-Louis Breguet began creating a unique watch for the wrist. The wristwatch, Breguet No. 2639, was completed two and a half years later on December 21, 1812. It featured a gold guilloché oblong-shaped case and was a repeating watch held by a wristlet of twisted hair and gold thread.

Today, the Queen of Naples watch is nowhere to be found, according to Breguet's official website. No public or private collection lists it on its inventory. Does it still exist? All watch lovers hope that it will one day reappear.

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2017-01-05
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"The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" The famed line from the classic fairy tale Chicken Little has all new meaning when it comes to meteorites and watches. In fact, when the sky has fallen, certain savvy watch brands have scooped up the material to make entrancing watch dials of it.

While there may be a dozen brands that turn to meteorite for luxury dials, these are definitively rare. When a meteor shower occurs, the chances of particles hitting Earth without disintegrating are incredibly miniscule. But it has happened, and in those instances rock hounds and others have discovered them, documented them and — in some cases — bought them.

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Because meteorites are made of metals and have inclusions of iron or nickel in them, the mysterious material from outer space makes for a striking and luxurious watch dial.

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2017-01-03

Globally recognized as the authority on color, Pantone, an X-Rite company, has announced the color of the year for 2017: Greenery. The color has a Pantone number of 15-0343 and is a refreshing, revitalizing symbol of spring and new beginnings.

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The color is a yellow-green shade that recalls spring  foliage and the great outdoors. It is not as dark as a grassy green and, according to Leatrice Wiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, “Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the hope we collectively yearn for amid a complex social and political landscape. Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate, revitalize and unite, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another and a larger purpose.”

Greenery is now being pulled to the forefront in fashions, accessories and — as we will see as the year moves on — watches.