PRIMETIME – November 2016 – Watchmaking in the News

PRIMETIME – November 2016 – Watchmaking in the News

In this edition of PRIMETIME- Watchmaking in the News, we will talk about a few product launches, some watchmaking events around the world and some other interesting watchmaking news.

We are also introducing a new segment as each time we will highlight a different watch that has been kindly lent to us by some of the brands we like. For this first occasion, I have the chance of wearing a Bovet 19thirty, a watch introduced in 2015 in a steel case and this year, they have come out with a gold cased version. It’s clearly recognizable with the “bellière”, a distinctive feature of Bovet watch, it’s a hand wound watch with a very comfortable 7-day of power reserve. 

The record breaking steel Patek Philippe Ref. 1518

So let’s now start and be a little bit flamboyant for this November edition, as we’ve witnessed a new price record set for a wristwatch here in Geneva. We had published an insight report prior to the auction on the very rare steel Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 auctioneered by Phillips Bacs & Russo and we knew it would fetch a hefty price, but when the final bidder offered 9.6 Millions Swiss Francs plus commission, therefore an astounding 11 Million Dollars for this watch, well that kind of set a new benchmark probably not to be beaten for quite a while. 

I know it sounds insane, I know it’s out of this world, but it seriously demonstrates that for some people with serious money, the price for something as exclusive and rare as this Patek is worth it. There are many rich people “collecting” money in their bank accounts, but there is only one that now possesses this watch and that’s the drive for these serious collectors and to paraphrase what they say in the realty business; location, location, location, well in the world of watch collecting it’s ; rarity, rarity, rarity.

Anyhow, let’s get back on earth and to the dull reality of economics and I guess some of you remember the “Whos’ Who of Watchmaking” dedicated to the Richemont Group published quite recently. Well since then, there has been some changes as this group is quite hit by the decline of global watchmaking business. Again, every one is hit, every single one, but as I had mentioned this Group is called a Group, but all the brands in it are more or less totally independent from one another, there are very few synergies, thus creating many duplicates and they have some pretty serious overhead costs.

Geneva headquarters of Vacheron Constantin

Geneva headquarters of Vacheron Constantin

So Richemont have just announced that they are letting off quite a number of employees in some of their brands, in particular Piaget and Vacheron Constantin, this is really sad, but it’s also restructuring the very top of the pyramid as the Group’s CEO and CFO will be retiring sooner than expected if you see what I mean. They have now put in place a duo that will supervise all the Group’s watchmaking activity and this duo is composed of today’s CEO of IWC and Montblanc. They are younger, very dynamic, renowned for their more bulldozer like management technique and simply have been rather successful with the brands they were overlooking. So a bit of a cultural change and we will soon see where this leads to and I wouldn’t be too surprised if we saw some other CEO’s retiring sooner than expected too.

Unfortunately, this is the kind of news that we will continue to hear in the near future, because the good old days are clearly behind us, well at least for a little while and all the brands have to adapt to this changing environment. So some people took some bad habits during these last 10-15 years, so welcome back to reality but this should be seen as an opportunity for the industry, hopefully for the better, meaning for the brands, their people and ultimately for you and me, the customers and I will get back to this in moment regarding a fantastic event I just participated in. 

Chronomètre FB1 by Ferdinand Berthoud

So after this gloomy chapter, let’s go back on more cheerful matters as the GPHG, the prize ceremony rewarding the best watches of the year, or at least the watches that participated, and we were very happy for the people of Ferdinand Berthoud who won Best of the Best with the Aiguille d’Or, the Golden Hand in English, with its Chronomètre FB1, a watch we presented to you just a few weeks ahead of the ceremony, nice coincidence. 

Well this consecration came in as a little surprise, as this brand is really young, just one year old, but never the less very legitimate and if you want to know why, well I clearly invite you to watch our couple of video reports if not yet done, because it’s an interesting story and on top of it we have some really beautiful shots on this tourbillon watch with its fusée-chaine mechanism typical of marine chronometers. Additionally to the Aiguille d’Or, there were 12 disputed categories at the GPHG and again if you want to see an interview with all the main winners, well you know what to do and check our coverage.

Before coming to the main product launches of the month, I just want to come back on an event that I was invited to and this is the Dubaï Watch Week, an event that gathered quite an important number of brands, many independents I must say, and many specialized journalist from all over the world, there were collectors and in general many passionate people too. 

The reason I want to come back on this is that this event really focuses on elements that for me are really important and this furthermore in today’s troubled business context for watchmaking. We have been drowned with fantastic marketing speeches over the years and we clearly see that we have reached the limits of this, this is simply not enough or on the contrary it has simply been too much. Too much exaggerations on the fancy glitzy world of watchmaking and let’s be honest the fault is incumbent to the brands themselves; always wanting more, more volumes, higher prices, more boutiques, more full page advertising, more crazy events around the world, more ego tripping here and there and ultimately they forgot that they are not selling any ordinary products; it’s not cosmetics or perfume, it’s not iPhones, it’s not handbags or other fashion accessories, it’s a craft made by people and people are the center of it. 

Personally this has always been my drive with, I have a huge love and respect for this industry, and by the way I hate this word industry when we talk about watchmaking, but there is an undeniable industrial dimension which is necessary even for a very artisan like brand. As I’ve always said, watchmaking is the result of a network of competencies and it’s that whole that makes sense and to be very philosophical; the whole is greater then the sum of its parts. So anyhow, at we want to understand and share what watchmaking is all about and we want to take you along on this discovery and I think for instance that our Watchmaking Roadtrip is really a fine example of this. 

So let’s come back to this Dubaï Watch Week, because what was absolutely great is that is was a moment of profound sharing and focusing on what makes watchmaking so special. Often during such events and trade shows, brands are there to fight for their territory and their business, which is quite normal, but here you could feel that there is a real concern shared by everybody and in a certain way, the organizers, the Seddiqi family, the main watch distributor of Dubaï, they’ve managed to federate all these people around the notion of what is important, focusing on the essence and my great sincere congratulations to them to have pulled something as interesting as this. This was the second edition, I had had the chance of being there for the first one last year and it’s simply getting bigger and better. 

There were many roundtables organized, I had the great honor of moderating one of them on the notion of complication with a rather fancy group of panelists, and it was really interesting to see that people, the audience were all very interested in all the different dimensions of watchmaking that were explored in these talks. But for me, on a personal level, one of the best aspects of this Dubaï Watch Week was a corner they had put in place outside, where people came and go, had coffee, a glass of water and this was just a fantastic meeting point where some really fascinating informal discussions occurred. Well, to summarize this, we all shared the feeling that we need to go back to more substantial dimension of watchmaking and this is really promising indeed.

Let’s now talk about the main product launches of the month and we will start with Audemars Piguet who have just introduced a really nice feminine version of the Royal Oak with a special frosted finishing. The technique used comes from the world of jewelry and AP worked with an Italian artisan from Florence who kind of gently hammered the case and the bracelet to obtain this crispy snow crystal feel to it. And I’m totally convinced that many ladies will like this watch, but production will be limited by the amount of time it takes to do a single one. 

So next watch and this year also marks the 20th anniversary of the L.U.C collection of Chopard, the high-end manufacture watches of the brand, and to mark this special occasion, Chopard has just introduced their very first Minute Repeater called the L.U.C Fullstrike. But the good news doesn’t stop there as this watch presents something never seen before as the gongs are made out of crystal and apparently the sound produced is quite impressive and different.  So I haven’t seen it or heard it in real and I definitely hope Chopard will let us approach this interesting timepiece and we can bring a full report to you in the near future. 

And let’s talk about Panerai who introduced a new watch called the Radiomir 3 days Acciaio and it’s inspired by an historical timepiece of the 1930’s, when the brand was supplying the Italian navy. This watch presents a 12-sided bezel onto which is engraved with the word Brevettato and refers the main feature of the time when Radium was applied to the dial in order to offer more luminescence under water. The side effect of this radioactive material was that it kind of “ate” the brown color of the dial and this is what is transcribed in this new watch with the variation of this color on the dial. But no fear, this watch is no longer radioactive and is equipped with the P.3000 movement in this 47mm steel case. So again, another vintage inspired watch, nothing too revolutionary and we’ve seen quite a lot them recently and I would rather see a bit more creativeness I must say.

So to finish this section, we will talk about a new quite original Tudor diving watch that caters to the forgotten left handed people on this planet! This is the Pelagos LHD and Tudor had already come out with such watches many decades ago after they realized that some left handed divers were actually wearing diving watches upside down on their right arm in order to manipulate the winding crown and still use the elapsed dive-time function of the bezel. So quite a funny story and am sure it will make some people happy as left handed people are indeed quite forgotten in today’s watchmaking offering.

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Patek Philippe & The 20th Anniversary of the Annual Calendar

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