Wempe Watch Blog

Wempe Watch Blog
2018-04-25

This past Sunday, April 22, was Earth Day, a day we dedicate to celebrating this world's splendor and natural resources. We were reminded of how we all need to do our share to  preserve nature's riches. The watch industry, in particular, has risen to the challenge.

Some brands have gone all out to support important causes that include saving our oceans, replanting our forests, providing clean water, fighting for animal rights and much more. While these efforts are usually highly visible, some brands have been embarking on endeavors that many will never even notice.

In fact, we have witnessed three key accomplishments many brands are able to lay claim to that demonstrate a commitment to our environment.

Responsible Sourcing. A number of brands are making a concerted effort to responsibly source precious metals and gemstones adornments for their timepieces. In some instances, brands are turning to ethically sourced (and traceable) gems, and to noble metals that are fairly mined and wherein the mining companies help to sustain the local environment.

Alternative leathers and vegan tanning. In some instances, watch brands are developing alternatives to leather straps that include using Alcantara leather (a leather lookalike that does not use animal hides, but rather a synthetic material), ethically sourcing alternate types of materials (such as trout skin or similar as taken from fish raised for food and using the skins). Additionally, some brands are providing leather straps that have been vegetable tanned, cutting back on harmful tanning elements that could seep into the environment.

Creating clean and sustainable work places. Many of the watch brands that are updating and refurbishing their Manufactures and workspaces, particularly those in Switzerland, are engaging in important environmental practices. Some are turning to air and water re-purification systems, geo-thermal heating systems, solar windows and power, and more — all in an effort to protect our Earth.

It should be noted that this year's key effort on behalf of Earthday.org is to educate people about the damaging effects of plastics on the environment and to end plastic pollution on land and at sea. They have ideas on how anyone can help, from individuals to organizations and more. Check it out at this link https://www.earthday.org.

2018-04-18

An exciting exhibit about telling time in Medieval days is on display until April 29 at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York, and if you are in town, you won't want to miss it. Entitled Now and Forever: The Art of Medieval Time, the exhibit portrays how difficult it was to tell time — and the myths about time — in the Middle Ages.

The exhibit is a comprehensive look at pieces and manuscripts owned by the Morgan that date back from the 11th century and through the 16th century. Most pieces hail from major countries in Europe. Highlights include paintings of farming fields (done according to the projected season), or of sacred feasts (of time and of religion) to celebrate certain anticipated dates. Other items include a long scroll work that explores the mysteries of Golden Numbers, a medieval calendar and a study of how Julius Caesar's Roman Calendar finally came into being. A particularly unusual aspect of the exhibit revolves around how people of the time were obsessed with whether or not time beyond the grave existed.

Wall hangings include ancient wooden astrolabes and an entire 60-foot-long scroll manuscript depicting history as they knew it. In all, it is a fascinating walk through five centuries when time was viewed as seasons and as moons rather than as days, hours or even minutes. If you are in New York any time in the next 10 days, we recommend stopping in to the exhibit.

All images courtesy of The Morgan Library & Museum. August: Reaping Wheat, “Da Costa Hours,” Belgium, Ghent, ca. 1515, illuminated by Simon Bening, The Morgan Library & Museum, MS M.399, fol. 9v, purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1910. Image courtesy of Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, Graz/Austria.

2018-04-11

Last week we discussed some of the biggest watch trends emerging from Baselworld. One of those trends revolves around diving watches, as more and more people get involved in active sports. Understanding what constitutes a great diver's watch is important, as most high-precision diver's watches offer a series of functions that could prove useful. With summer approaching, one may want to consider a new purchase to accompany that deep dive.

To be a true dive watch, a timepiece needs to adhere to certain ISO standards. These standards vary depending on whether one is snorkeling, scuba diving or deep sea diving. For diving, the absolute minimum should be 300 meters of water resistance. Some people may choose 200-meter water-resistant watches, but those will really only let you dive to within 100 meters of the surface. Currently, some of the ISO standards are being reevaluated, and new standards will be issued later this year. Depending on the anticipated depth, having a watch that is equipped with a helium escape valve can also be useful.

Additionally, a good diver's watch should be equipped with a ratcheted, one-way rotating bezel. That bezel helps measure elapsed dive times and can help to indicate when one must begin to resurface. Having a one-way rotating bezel instead of a bi-directional bezel ensures that the bezel will not be accidentally pushed in the wrong direction — leading divers to believe they have more time left underwater than they actually have.

Underwater reading of time is also an important factor, and so most dive watches should have anti-glare crystals and Super-LumiNova hands and markers. These will ensure that even when very little light is reaching the watch, the time indications are still visible.

While case materials for dive watches have come a long way, the preferred case is typically titanium. The metal is light weight, highly scratch resistant and extremely corrosion resistant. Following titanium, dive watches crafted in steel or carbon are the best alternatives. Most dive watches are equipped with metal bracelets or rubber straps, but it is best if you can find a strap with an expansion bracelet to fit over wetsuits. Double-locking bracelet clasps are also a great idea for underwater adventure.

Depending on the brand, some of today's dive watches also offer other important features. These can include double- or triple-locked winding crowns and/or additional gaskets for added water resistance. Just a handful of brands also offer dive watches with an alarm function, wherein the alarm can be sounded under water.

Most dive watches are also COSC-certified chronometers. Chronometers are watches that have undergone rigorous testing by the Controle Official Suisse des Chronometres (COSC) observatory — or by a similar observatory in France, Germany or Japan — over a period of time. The watches are monitored in various positions and under different conditions of pressure, temperature, depth and gravity.

If diving is on your bucket list and you are planning a spring or summer excursion, we invite you to swim on in to our store anytime to check out our seaworthy timepieces.

2018-02-21

Monday was President’s Day, so to honor our American leaders, we shine a spotlight today on some of their favorite watches.

Throughout history, pocket watches and, later, wrist watches have accompanied many of our leaders on their journeys, to the podiums for speeches and more. In some instances, our leaders purchased those watches and in other instances they were gifts. Either way, time has always had an important role in the White House.

Our very first president, George Washington, owned a Jean-Antoine Lepine pocket watch during his presidency. It is said he asked a friend to purchase the watch for him while that friend was abroad. Our third president, Thomas Jefferson, as well as our fifth president, James Monroe, each owned a pocket watch made by Daniel Vaucher, a famed French watchmaker. Monroe also wore a Gabriel pocket watch. Years later, our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, was regularly seen with an American-made Waltham watch.

As the 19th century gave way to the 20th century, wristwatches came into vogue. One particularly favored brand with presidents was the Vulcain Cricket alarm watch, a favorite of both Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Franklin Delano Roosevelt wore a calendar watch by Tiffany & Co., whose movement was made by Swiss brand, Movado. In fact, Tiffany has created a tribute timepiece in honor of FDR's watch.

Post-World War II presidents also owned top-notch Swiss watches. John F. Kennedy, in the early 1960s, wore a Cartier and an Omega. He was also gifted a watch by Marilyn Monroe, but swiftly gave that watch away without ever wearing it. Other presidents, including Richard Nixon and Lyndon Baines Johnson, carried on the Vulcan Cricket alarm watch tradition. Although LBJ also owned and proudly wore a Rolex.

LBJ_Vulcain_Cricket_560

Our more recent US Presidents were less likely to sport the more expensive gold Swiss watches. Former President Bill Clinton has been seen wearing a Shinola, and, while in office, often wore a Timex. Similarly, President Barack Obama was seen wearing more affordable brands, such as Jorg Gray, TAG Heuer and a Shinola during his time in office. However, in his recently unveiled official portrait (done when each president leaves office), he is wearing a Rolex. As for President Trump: He has been seen wearing a Rolex and a vintage Patek Philippe.

2017-12-12
quartz2

If you are searching for a watch as a self-purchase or as a gift, one of the key things to consider is whether you want a quartz or mechanical watch. Both have their advantages. Essentially, while a mechanical watch is a tiny engine of individual components that power the watch mechanically, a quartz watch is powered by a battery and a piece of quartz, and features a tiny circuit board.

In a quartz watch, a tiny, low-frequency piece of quartz crystal acts as an oscillator. The battery sends electricity to that crystal through an electronic circuit. The quartz oscillator, which is typically placed in an integrated circuit, 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 (one per second) that drive the small motor that moves the watch’s hands – offering accurate time measurement (until the battery runs out of energy).

quartzwatch

Quartz watches were developed in the late 1960s, and the new technology took the world by storm. The first quartz watch put into production was the Astron by Seiko (1969) and the Japanese came out as leaders in the quartz "revolution." The Swiss were slow to adapt over the ensuing decade, but eventually unveiled quartz powered watches in the 1980s to supplement their core mechanical watch business. Today, we have a wealth of mechanical and quartz watches being made around the world.

The advantages of quartz watches include the fact that they don't not need to be wound. The owner can put the watch down for a few days, a week or longer and come back and it will still be working (unless it is at the end of its battery life). Generally, batteries in quartz watches will last between two and five years. Another advantage to quartz watches is that they are usually more affordable than a mechanical piece that has hundreds of tiny parts inside. In the end, though, it is always a personal preference.

2017-12-07

When we show a mechanical watch to connoisseurs, they often ask, "How much power reserve does it have?"  What we in America call Power Reserve, the Swiss refer to as "Reserve de Marche," and we want to explain what it means and how a watch is endowed with power.

Essentially, when a mechanical watch is fully wound, it is chocked with enough power to keep it running for a pre-determined length of time. By winding the watch, gears, teeth, springs and barrels all play a connected role to keep the watch running. In automatic mechanical watches, a "rotor" or oscillating weight moves with the movement of the arm or wrist and "winds" the watch. In a manual-wind watch, the wearer must manually turn the crown to fully power the timepiece.

Both of these methods essentially wind a long main spring that is coiled and placed inside a cylinder or barrel in the movement. This is where the energy is stored. The spring releases the energy, or the tension, in a consistent manner from when the watch is fully wound until it gets closer to the end of the spring's tension. In other words, the spring is nearly unwound. This is when the watch would need to be re-wound to fully power it up.

The amount of power reserve inside of a watch is determined by the making of the movement. If it is single barrel watch, it has only one spring; if it is a double barrel watch, it has two strings and the power will last longer. Most mechanical watches typically have at least 48 to 72 hours of power reserve so that if you take your watch off at the end of the night on Friday and leave it off for the weekend, it should still be working on Sunday or Monday, when you don it for work again.

So if someone asks about the power reserve of a watch, it is essentially how long the watch will run without needing to be re-wound or shaken (in the case of an automatic). Many watch brands offer a neat little indicator dial that depicts when the power reserve is getting low. Sometimes this is done with an Up/Down indication, or with a plus or minus sign. Sometimes it is indicated via a hand that runs on an arc from blue or black at the top to red (empty) at the bottom. Some watch brands have even developed their own way of indicating when it is time to re-wind.

2017-11-30

With the glittering holiday season upon us, we thought it a fitting time to take a look at a rare, yet glistening, material used in luxury watchmaking: Platinum. They say that if we took all of the platinum ever mined and put it in an Olympic-sized swimming pool, the platinum would barely reach your ankles — attesting to its rarity. While approximately 2,700 tons of gold are mined a year, just 80 tons of platinum are mined annually.

Considered the most precious metal found on Earth, platinum is used as a watch case material only by the finest brands in the world. In its purest form, this heavy, dense metal is difficult to work. As such, it is sometimes mixed with a tiny amount of copper that helps make it a bit more malleable. So, if you are looking at the markings of a platinum watchcase, it will typically read “Platinum 95”— meaning that it is 95 percent pure platinum. To be called platinum, the entire piece must be at least 95 percent platinum.

A warmer white tone than stainless steel, platinum is not necessarily easily identifiable to the average person, so wearing a platinum watch on your wrist is like having your own quiet secret.

In addition to being rare, highly pure and a coveted secret on the wrist, a platinum watch has a few other advantages. Among them: it is hypoallergenic, and it has a nice density – meaning it will feel good on the wrist. Interestingly enough, platinum can build a patina over time, and that adds to the charm of the piece, especially in the case of a watch that may yield a retro feel.

In fact, when platinum is scratched, the scratch doesn’t really scratch the metal away, it just moves it – forming ridges or bumps that can add to the vintage appeal. Don’t like the patina? No problem, platinum can be polished as often as necessary without eroding. Of course, because of its rarity, platinum watch cases cost more than gold. It may well be worth it, though, because a platinum watch will hold its value for generations.

2017-11-08

When it comes to luxury Swiss-made watches, some brands pull out all the stops when it comes to certifications and seals. But only those located in Geneva can lay claim to the Hallmark of Geneva — also known as the Geneva Seal. Additionally, it is not just good enough to be located in Geneva (otherwise many brands would move there) to get the Seal. It is a designation that is earned and it is the ultimate certification of quality in fine watchmaking.

certificat-def

Essentially, the Geneva Seal — referred to in French as the "Poincon de Genève" — is a quality seal awarded only to watches that have passed an intense inspection by an independent bureau operating under state control in Geneva. The certification is issued by TimeLab – the Geneva Laboratory of Horology and Micro-engineering.

To even be considered as a candidate to submit watches for inspection by the Canton of Geneva, the watch and all of its parts must be manufactured in the canton. Even diamond-set watches must have the diamond setting executed in Geneva. Once that criteria is met, the watch movement must meet 12 additional criteria relating to the quality of its finishing and materials, as well as other factors.

The finished watch is inspected for craftsmanship, precision and other timekeeping values and a certificate is only awarded to watches that offer exceptional decorative finishes, qualifying them as works of art. Additionally, the certificate guarantees the watch is not only of top-quality craftsmanship, but also is chronometrically precise.  If the watch passes, the Seal — featuring the Geneva Coat of Arms — is stamped on the watch movement. It includes a unique code so that owner of the watch can verify the authenticity of the Seal.

Logo_Genf

It should be noted that not just the visible pieces of the watch movement must be finely finished. Also judged are the screws, pins and tiny parts that are not seen. Because earning the Poincon de Genève is no easy feat, there are just a handful of companies that pursue the Seal.

2017-10-19

Most of our clients own more than just one watch. In fact, many have started a nice collection. So, the question we hear all the time is "How do I keep my collection safe? How do I secure my watches when I'm at home or traveling?"

In addition to carrying insurance on your watches at all times, here are a few other suggestions.

1) Watch Winders and Boxes.  If you have just a small collection of watches and they are covered under your homeowners insurance, you may consider tucking them away in automatic watch winders and specific watch boxes in a closet in a less-trafficked room of your house. Granted this is not a lock-and-key, keep-out-the-thieves answer, but your watches will be all in one place and properly wound. You could even set up a special hidden closet that doesn't look like a closet — i.e., a door behind a mirror, etc. Again, we only suggest this idea for small collections of not very expensive watches that are covered under your homeowners insurance.

2) Safe Deposit Boxes. If you don't have the space in your house for a luxurious safe, or even an in-wall, larger-sized safe, then at the very least, rent a safe deposit box at a bank or local Wells Fargo. It is important to ask, however, how much the boxes are insured for. You don't want to be left without enough insurance if something were to go wrong.  It should be noted that the drawback to the safe deposit box is the fact that if you change watches often, you may be making multiple trips per week to the bank.

3)  At-Home Safes. The best safe storage of watches you are not currently wearing is an at-home safe. Today, there are a host of safe companies that offer stunning safes meant to look like pieces of furniture, with wood finishes, brass elements, and drawers, doors and winders within. Buying a small safe that can be carried away is not the answer. Invest in a safe that is anchored in place and that can protect your watches from both theft and fire.

Photos courtesy of Orbita Watch Winders.

2017-09-28

Ever since the dawn of man, the moon has fascinated us. It is said that the moon governs the tides, our moods and even our love influences. Today, it often also governs our watch-buying habits. The finest watch brands in the world have developed some of the most ethereal and technically precise moonphase indications available on the market — and most of the time, we can't stop looking at the disk on the dial.

Moonphase functions, which are often built into calendar watches, indicate the phases of the moon throughout its monthly cycle. Typically, moonphase readouts operate via a small disk within the case that has been painted to depict the different phases of the moon. The disk rotates on a cam in proper time to reveal the moonphases for months, years and even leap years.

Moonphase functions have their origins in the astronomical clocks of centuries ago. The first well known astronomical clock was di Dondi's, created in the mid 1300s, but it was not until the 15th and 16th centuries that clockmakers began creating clocks with moonphases on them. Over the centuries those moonphase indications have evolved and become ever more tiny and precise. In fact, some brands are able to offer moonphase indications that are accurate for 122.6 years before needing an adjustment by a watchmaker.

Additionally, some brands are portraying moonphase indications in larger format, often surrounded by a dial with shimmering stars, or in dark midnight blue enamel hues. Some turn to lapis lazuli and aventurine to present their moonphase beauties. The possibilities are endless — like the night sky. We invite you in any time to see our vast selection of romantic moon and celestial-inspired watches.