Wempe Watch Blog

Wempe Watch Blog
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.

2017-09-19

Many watches today feature mother-of-pearl dials that are shimmering with light and different hues. Generally used on women's watches, mother-of-pearl has become a favorite for men's watches, as well, especially in darker hues. Not all mother-of-pearl dials are natural in color. Dials can be enhanced with color by painting a lacquer or varnish on the back.

The making of a mother-of-pearl dial is not easy. It begins with ultra-thin sheets of mother-of-pearl that are often brittle and can break easily. Those sheets are then cut into orbs, squares or rectangles, depending on the shape of the watch case.

The precise and painstaking task requires expert craftsmen and specialty tools. Often, the job is delegated to a special dial-making company that can handle the pressure. Even then, a dial maker with a strong team can produce only a few thousand top-quality mother-of-pearl dials annually. Watch brands typically buy the base dial already cut and then add their hands, indices or other accents in their workshops.

The best natural mother-of-pearl dial is extra bright white and is sourced in Australia, the South Seas or regions in the Pacific Ocean. Black pearl dials are typically Tahitian in origin. Natural mother-of-pearl is also found in very pale shades of pink, cream and beige. Sometimes the mother-of-pearl is engraved or decorated with sunray or other motifs.

2017-09-12

Today, so many watch brands offer timepieces with hands or numerals that glow in the dark, but did you ever wonder how they bring luminescence to the dial? Over the years, the materials used to make dials easy to read at night or underwater have evolved, from dangerous and life-threatening substances, such as radium in the early 1900s, to today's safer and  brighter methods.

Easily the most common product used today to make the hands and markers luminous is a material that was developed in the early 1990s: Super-LumiNova. The patented product comes in a variety of glowing colors, ranging from blue to green and even orange. It is made from a mix of materials, predominantly strontium aluminate, and is not radioactive.

Since its creation, the strength of Super-LumiNova has evolved to the point where now, depending on the amount and type used by the individual watch brands, it can be as much as 10 times brighter than earlier materials. The substance is applied in various strengths or coatings to the hands, the numerals, indices or other accents on the dial. It absorbs UV light and subsequently can glow in the dark for hours.

Other materials sometimes used by professional sport watchbands include “gaseous tritium light source” (GTLS) — tiny tubes of tritium placed together to offer an intense brightness stronger than Super-LumiNova. The material is radioactive and so it is hermetically sealed in the tiny tubes. The company best known for supplying these tiny tubes is MB-Microtec. While Super-LumiNova can dim after 20-30 minutes if it doesn't get further UV exposure, the tritium capsules don't dim for 20 years. However, this substance is banned in some countries.

2017-08-15

Just like you would take care of your jewelry or your car, a fine watch also needs to be properly cared for in order to ensure optimal precision and performance. Additionally, cleaning the exterior of your watch will keep it looking great. Here we bring you six tips for proper care.

1. Before you put your watch on, take a soft, dry, non-abrasive cloth (such as those used to clean sunglass or eyeglass lenses) and wipe the crystal and bracelet to get fingerprints or dust off of it. It is best not to use water to clean your watch, but if you need water to remove dirt on a bracelet or caseback, for instance, you can use a barely damp soft cloth.

2. When putting your watch on your wrist, be careful to avoid holding it over an unforgiving surface, such as a wood or granite floor. Dropping it on a hard surface can cause damage, and we have seen the results of this unfortunate mistake many times before.

3.  If you have a broken watch crystal or even hairline fractures in it, get it replaced quickly before dust or moisture seeps inside.

4. Don't just jump into the ocean or wear your watch into the shower thinking it is water resistant. Not all watches can be immersed in water. If your watch is water resistant, it will say so on the caseback (or even the dial). Look before you leap.

5. If your quartz watch battery dies out, get it replaced at a reputable retailer. It is best not to leave a dead battery inside a watch where it could eventually corrode and damage the timepiece.

6. Have your fine mechanical watch serviced in a timely manner and always take your watch to an authorized retailer for the brand, or to a retailer with a properly equipped service department to have the battery replaced or the old gaskets swapped out to ensure continued water resistance.

2017-08-03

Earlier this week, we reviewed some basic watch terminology that refers to the outside of a timepiece — from the case to the bezel, dial, crown and lugs. Today, we take this to the next level, where we identify some of the other features/functions you may find on a watch.

Subsidiary Dial/Subdial. Often, instead of having three hands to tell the hours, minutes and seconds, a watch may have only the hours and seconds shown using hands, and may have a smaller subsidiary dial (subdial) — usually at 6 o'clock — to show the only the seconds. This is generally an added aesthetic feature.

Minute track. Some watches have an outer track on the dial that is used to measure minutes. It looks like a tiny railroad track running along the outer portion of the dial. It is designed to make reading of the minutes even easier.

(The image, above, shows both a subdial and a minute track on the outer edge.)

Push pieces. Especially on a chronograph (a watch that times events), a watch case will feature push pieces. These are added pushers (usually above and below the crown on the side of the case) that activate the added function. In the case of a chronograph, the added push pieces start and start the timing of the event. There are some other functions that can have push pieces, as well. Generally, whenever a watch has a protrusion on the case side other than the crown, it has some added function.

Tachymeter. Often sport watches will have a scale on the bezel that enables the wearer to calculate speed based on travel time, or to measure distance based on speed. The scale is inscribed with numbers and spaces that are proportional so the wearer can convert elapsed time to speed, etc. There are also a host of other types of meters a watch can have, but that is a subject for another post. Stay tuned.

2017-08-01

We often have customers ask us questions, such as "Is it a dial or a face?" or "What do you call the stem on the watch at 3 o'clock?" The truth is, watch terminology can be daunting, and while many connoisseurs and watch lovers have the terms down pat, newbies to the art of loving watches may not. For this reason, today we bring you a simple glossary of terms that define the "look" of a watch.

Photo courtesy of Wostep (Watchmaking School) shows case, dial, hands and crown.

A complete watch consists of a case, hands (sometimes), dial (sometimes), crown, glass or sapphire cover, case back and a movement inside. Sure, there are more parts, but these are the basics.

Case. The outer metal casing (usually in steel, titanium, ceramic or a noble metal) that holds the watch movement inside, along with the dial, etc. This may seem obvious, but some of our customers call it the "head of the watch," while others call it "the actual watch."

Crystal. This is the clear protective covering that enables one to view the time. Most crystals are made of hardened mineral glass or sapphire, but in inexpensive watches, there is also a plexiglass or plastic material for the crystal.

Bezel. On some watches, the outer ring that surrounds the dial is referred to as the bezel. Sometimes the bezel is made of the same material as the case, but often, especially in sports watches, it is created of different materials, such as aluminium or ceramic. Some bezels may indicate dive time or some other measurement — and they are usually able to rotate either unidirectionally or one way, depending on the function of the bezel. In dress watches, the bezel is often adorned with diamonds or gemstones.

Caseback. Every case has a back. That back is usually made of the metal that the case is made of, or it is made of the material the crystal is made of. In luxury watches, transparent sapphire casebooks allow for viewing of the complex mechanical movement inside.

Crown. Often referred to as the stem, the crown (typically, but not always, at 3:00 on the case) is used for winding a mechanical watch and for setting the time and date (if there is one).

Lugs. Lugs are the part of the case watch that protrude from the case and attach it to the bracelet or strap. Often referred to as case-to-bracelet attachments, lugs are sometimes integrated into the case.

Strap/Bracelet. The word strap is generally used to refer to fabric, leather, rubber, canvas, silk or other material. The word bracelet is usually used to refer to a "strap" made of metal. So, the steel, gold, titanium, etc., that wraps around the wrist is a bracelet. Most bracelets are made of multiple rows of links, or are woven mesh designs referred to as Milanese.

Dial. Often called a face (and not incorrectly), the dial of the watch is where the numerals, markers hands and sometimes other information is placed. Not all watches have a dial. Skeletonized watches, for instance usually skip the dial and display the hands in an unobtrusive way so that one can see right through the watch and into the movement.

Hands. The hands point to the hours, minutes or seconds. Not all watches use hands to indicate the time. In the luxury watch world, some watches display time linearly, through apertures or via satellites.

These are the basics of every watch. There are a host of other terms we can explain, but we will hold that post for later in the week. In the meantime, stop in any time to talk watches with us.

2017-07-26

With summer here and everyone focused on sports watches and timepieces that can keep up with their rugged, active lifestyles, it's a good time to take a closeup look at what it means when a watch is a certified chronometer.

Chronometer roots date back to the 18th century when ships at sea were running aground because they had no way to determine longitude. A race was on amongst the seafaring countries to develop an onboard instrument that could keep accurate time and calculate longitude. When the first such pieces were made for ships they were referred to as chronometers and were considered the most rugged, durable timepieces to date.

Today, many watch brands insist that their high-precision watches house a movement that can keep up with the active pace of today's individuals. This means putting them through stringent testing in different positions and in all sorts of conditions (water, weather, humidity, pressure, etc.).

Generally, a chronometer 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. There are several chronometer testing institutes around the world (Germany has the Glashutte Observatory in Saxony; France has the Observatory at Besancon), and some brands test their watches in-house and certify them accordingly.

The well known testing institute for Swiss watchmaking is the Controle Officiale Suisse des Chronometres – or C.O.S.C. There are three different COSC laboratory testing facilities in Switzerland: Biel/Bienne, Geneva, LeLocle, but they all use the same guidelines and criteria.

Each watch tested must comply with ISO 3159 standards after being tested for five to 15 days in five positions at several different temperatures. Measurements are made daily via cameras and advanced equipment based on comparisons with two independent atomic clocks. After testing, watches must meet 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 have a serial number engraved on the movement and are sold with a certificate. Because of the rigorous testing and high standards, just about 3 percent of all Swiss watches produced are COSC-certified chronometers.

Stop in any time to see the chronometer watches we carry.

2017-07-21

Heading to New England any time soon? Love clocks, or just looking for something a little off the beaten path to do that is quite different? We suggest you visit the self-described "Old Cranks" at the American Clock and Watch Museum in Bristol, Conn. The museum offers an Old Cranks tour with one of four volunteers who visit the museum on a regular basis to wind approximately 60 to 70 of the historic clocks on display.

As the "Old Cranks" work their way through the museum’s eight galleries, visitors can watch the volunteers wind different kinds of timepieces, and hear the fascinating stories about the history of the clocks and of the watch industry in America. The Old Cranks even discuss what makes a clock tick. The Old Cranks are the people responsible for turning the clocks forward or backward during Daylight Saving Time — beginning and end. It is a wonderful tour of sound, sight and education.

The American Clock & Watch Museum offers Old Cranks tours on the first and third Fridays of each month from 10 – 11 a.m. The tours are included with the price of museum admission.

Images courtesy of American Clock & Watch Museum, Bristol, CT 06010; www.clockandwatchmuseum.org.

2017-06-28

If you are a watch lover, you may want to consider switching professions. A career in watchmaking can have a hefty payoff. While watchmaking as a profession may sound a bit boring, at first, it actually is quite the contrary. Watchmakers have to be patient and disciplined, yes. But they also have to be creative and curious. To be a master watchmaker, one needs to think outside the box and envision the future of this 500-year-old profession.

The number of professional watchmakers has dwindled over the past decades, especially in America. The upside is that skilled watchmakers are now in high demand.

Most watchmaking schools offer comprehensive courses developed with one of two guiding programs (SAWTA or WOSTEP). Both have strong curriculums that require 3,000 hours of training (two years), and apprenticeships. SAWTA stands for Swiss American Watchmakers Training Alliance, which currently collaborates with the three largest watchmaking schools in the United States, having a combined capacity of 42 students per year. WOSTEP stands for the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Program.

Other schools with a traditional curriculum have degrees that can be accomplished anywhere from a year’s time to 24 months. Many of the schools offer scholarships and full-tuition opportunities. In terms of annual salary, depending on where in America one locates, a watchmaker can earn between $45,000 and $100,000 a year, or more.