Wempe Watch Blog

Wempe Watch Blog
2017-12-12
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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.