Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Baume And Mercier Capeland Chronograph Flyback

Contemporary Baume&Mercier is today a different, brand new brand. Improved, more expressive and with gems like Capeland Flyback Chronograph.
In a review of Baume&Mercier Classima Jumping Hour (sorry, in Polish only) a while ago I mentioned how crucial last 2 (well, now 3) years were for the manufacture form Geneva. Under new leadership, with new strategy, refreshed portfolio, new image campaign and 3 new collections, B&M moved a step (if not two) in the watch brands prestige hierarchy. Sure, when you look at Richemont brands, little company from Geneva is no match for the likes of Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC Schaffhausen, Roger Dubuis, A.Lange&Sohne or Cartier – and most likely will never become one. It is all true, but then again it is not a way for Baume&Mercier. It is vital to have an entry level brand in you offerings next to the Big Names, one that an average customer looking for good quality watch can afford. And this is exactly what “The New” Baume&Mercier is – resurgent like a mythical Phoenix year by year creates interesting and well thought-through novelties. It is the thing with this year’s Clifton range inspired by classic, simple timepieces from 1950s. It was the thing last year with new Hampton and two years ago, with redesigned Capeland. Inside this last collection B&M created a flagship model of the company offer – Capeland Flyback Chronograph. Also inspired by history and vintage, CF chronograph was enthusiastically received, because of number of reasons.
To be perfectly honest from the start – Capeland Flyback Chronograph is one of the most beautiful watches out there – no doubt. It just looks brilliant, largely thanks to Mr Alexander Peraldi and his design team, infused, yet again, by history. It is easy to discover (especially when you look at the picture below) that the inspiration was a 1948 mono-pusher chronograph, of course by Baume&Mercier.

With such row-model in hand, it was almost impossible to deteriorate the new, modern Capeland. The piece was originally launched in 2011 with classic, white dial and blued steel hands – just like the 40’s version. Especially red gold case variation is a stunner to look at. 12 months later B&M added new model to the series – with black/gold dial – and it honestly was a jaw-drop. Usually new colour version doesn’t make a new model, but this one did, creating a whole new, transformed timepiece.

So let’s start from the design. One word to describe it is retro. If there is any truth in saying that “classic is timeless”, this could just be the very perfect illustration. Every single detail of the watch looks turns back to history, from subtle looking, nicely profiled case with polished and satin-brushed finishing, “chave” sapphire glass, vintage pushers and large crown, brown alligator strap with white stitching and perfectly finished buckle, all the way to the dial.

Watch face – the dial – is in this particular piece what you might call a “cherry on the cake”, the star of the whole show. Just as the whole piece, the dial looks like it was copy and paste from the middle of the last century. Black dial disk is slightly domed at the egg. The outermost part bares Telemetre scale, then (looking to the centre) there is minute ring, 10 Arabic numerals, 2 small sub-dials (small second and 30-minutes chrono counter) then the Tachometre scale and angled date window at 4:30. Tachometer markings were painted gold to correspond with golden Breguet hands (hour and minute) and two small sub-dials hands. Let’s be fair – it just looks WOW!. Warm, polished red gold plays brilliantly with black, slightly opaline background and white details. It is both stylish and elegant, tasty combo… however. There is always a “but” somewhere, and this time it is a small thing against the “form follows function” theory. This mirror polished, gold hands are readable only at certain light angle, and at certain others the just blend in, making time reading difficult. But as they say – you can’t have it all.

Other minor inconvenience – and I’m shocked to even write it myself – are the dimensions. I do like big chunky watches born out of this “let’s go big” trend of some last few years – the problem is it does not always work. Capeland Flyback measures full 44×16.5mm, and it is a lot. A bit too much for such retro-styled piece and surprisingly much for my not so small wrist. 42mm in diameter and maybe 1.5mm less in thickness would create perfect balance between proportional look and comfort (not that it’s a very uncomfortable watch to wear). I could also live without highly profiled sapphire glass back, which dissipates a clear view of the movement. And, since we mentioned the movement, let’s focus on it now.

To be perfectly strict you can’t name Baume&Mercier a “manufacture” since it doesn’t produce its own, in-house movements. Instead what you get from B&M are good and reliable calibres from ETA and La Joux-Perret. It is a mix of both that powers the reviewed Capeland. All has been written about the good old VJ 7750 – movement you find in vast number of timepieces around the market. La Joux-Perret is a well known and tested brand as well, specializing in mechanical complication modules. Their marriage is called La Joux-Perret 8147-2.

La Joux-Perret 8147-2
Mechanism works and feels just like a good Valjoux with its lively rotor and quite hard pushers. The bi-compax sub-dials layout busts the overall vintage character. Flyback is the chronograph’s second hand complication that returns the running second to zero and on again with single push of the button. Contrary to standard chronograph, you don’t need to stop the measurement in order to start new one – it just jumps back and starts immediately on demand (meaning – push of the pusher at 4 o’clock). Originally designed for pilots it can by used in number of different occasions, like quick race-timing of next laps etc. La Joux-Perret made Flyback works very properly and smooth, without any second hand jumps and with a jumping minute counter, which I personally prefer to the smoothly running one (cause of it much more readable nature). Not screw-in crown allows you to set everything in 2 positions. Pull it to position 1 for the quick date setting and to position 2 to set time (with stop-second). The movement can be re-wound to.
Quite impressive level of finishing applied to the 8147-2 presents perlage on the main plate, Geneva Stripes on the top bridge, polished levers and heat-blued screws. Massive winding rotor was skeletonised with a Φ symbol (brand’s logo) and some Geneva Stripes too.

Monday, 4 March 2013


Here is a look at a pair of watches from SEVENFRIDAY, a new brand out of Zurich.  I must confess that I reviewed these watches last September, but somehow my files took a short detour to the twilight zone.   I tell all, below.  Enjoy the video and pics.

As you see in my video review, I was not super excited about the watch when I reviewed it, mostly because I found it a bit hard to read.  Then again it is “only” a sub-$1,000 watch ($891.46, to be precise) with a Miyota  movement (automatic mechanical) in it — so perhaps my standards (and my relentless focus on high-end pieces) were a bit too high.  Anyway, who cares what I think! — here’s the thing — I have been seeing SEVENFRIDAY popping up on many many different important watch forums and websites that I read.   Turns out that people really like this watch for its industrial-yet-fashionable design, and its sub-$1,000 price tag.   And I think it comes down to this:  SEVENFRIDAY has done a great job getting their pieces into the hands of a lot of different influencers and enthusiasts who are in turn creating some nice buzz for the brand.  I hope it is translating into sales for SEVENFRIDAY.  This is what you have to do as a startup brand — gotta be creative and gotta hustle your watch out there and into people’s hands.  It is a monumental task, and I always pull for small watch startups who have a vision to make something big.
47 x 47.6mm steel case

 47 x 47.6mm grey PVD case

One other thing:  since last September when I did my review, the company launched its third model, the P3.  I’ve included some images of the P3 below — it is the same design, but with some material upgrades and a great color set.  By far the most eye-catching model yet from the brand.
47 x 47.6mm black PVD case, silicone case wrap

 Like what you see?  Check out more at SEVENFRIDAY.com.


Having worked in the watch industry for over a decade, I was fully expectant of receiving an answer somewhere around the $1,600 - $2,500 mark. Had it not been for the stated Japanese Miyota automatic movement (and instead an equivalent Swiss iteration) those estimates would have doubled. Instead what came back to me was a well worded email telling me very calmly that the watches have a retail price of approximately $890 - $950, and ship worldwide from Zurich. Knock me down with a feather! I then waited a good two months before a SevenFriday stamped package arrived at my door from Zurich. Opening that box made the wait worth it.
The watches came in two very large 'crates', similar in size to a fine wine box. Inside were your usual assortment of warranty cards (printed on thin sheets of metal), instructions and polishing cloths. Of course, the main attention was on the watches. Measuring 47mm across, it's not small, yet wears much closer to a 44mm Panerai due to its thinner case and regular sized crown. For me it was fine, though I wouldn't really wear anything bigger nowadays.

The retro "TV" shaped case reminds me of the TAG Silverstone which is no bad thing, and the finishing on the case is as well executed as you'll find on a watch sub $5k. The watch case is available in two different finishes for the time being. Both are constructed from 316L grade stainless steel, with one of them being grey PVD coated to give a dark titanium appearance. This version of the watch (the P2) also has a contrasting copper "Animation ring" which is used as the minute track inside the dial. A nice contrast I think, and it enhances the look of the watch very well. The main draw for me is the dial, and in person it is fantastically well constructed! The hands are large and legible to show the time, whilst there are two rotating discs showing the running seconds and 24 hour time. There is also a small skeletonized section on the dial which shows the balance wheel of the movement. This is something that I usually don't like on a watch, mainly because it's normally executed in a gaudy "oh look it's pretending to be a tourbillon" kind of way. Here however it doesn't look out of place and matches the aesthetics of the dial and watch quite well.

A pearlage finish has been put to the inner steel ring which adds a nice luxurious touch to the overall look, and there is a single layer of anti-reflective coating on the underside of the crystal which helps legibility. The straps are made from calf leather and are 26mm at the lugs tapering down to 24mm by the buckle. They are nice enough, though quite stiff when new and need a bit of wear to soften and break in.
Reading the watch is pretty straight forward, though the unconventional hands mean that it's probably a good idea for me to add a diagram depicting exactly what does what:
On the wrist the watch has a good presence without being overbearing. As it's a non-chronograph, there are no large protruding buttons to add size to the case, and the thickness means it's very wearable and comfortable despite my 6.5" slim wrists.

The watches are available now via the SevenFriday website and various stockists/retailers. I believe they have yet to have a physical retailer in the US, so for the time being they offer to ship via an insured three day courier service stateside.
In WatchZone style, I'd like to end with a typically overdressed wrist shot for you guys

Valbray Oculus V01 The Devil Inside

I am going to cover yet another one of those brands that few people are familiar with, but will most certainly appeal to the engineer in all of us. A contemporary brand launched just a couple of years ago but with true passion coursing through their veins. Besides the engineering part, one can also find a fair bit of humor in their latest iteration.
The story behind the brand is almost like a “what if…” story. What if an engineer and a designer join force? What if they decide to combine extensive experience in the luxury industry with a profound interest in watchmaking?

Well, allow me the opportunity to introduce to you; Valbray, the watchmaking brand started by Côme de Valbray and Olga Corsini. Côme de Valbray being French and Olga Corsini originating from Italy, two strong design and engineering backgrounds are intertwined. Extensive experience with Cartier Horlogerie (Côme), Bulgari, Gucci and Chaumet (Olga) seems like a combination meant to be and almost ensures appealing mechanics and designs.
Côme is clearly the engineer of the two, having graduated in the field of Microtechnology. His love for photography and optics are definitely visible in Valbray’s first series of timepieces, known as the Oculus V.01 Chrono. The unique feature of the Oculus V.01 Chrono is the diaphragm-like system known as the Obturator-system. This patented system was developed over a two year period, and the final result was presented back in 2010.

16 super thin blades can be operated by turning the bezel 90 degrees back and forth. The blades fully enclose the dial when desired, and give it a very serene look. Want all business? Simply close the blades and hide the dial underneath them. Want all play? A simple twist of the bezel reveals the very stylized chronograph-dial. When fully opened, the blades open with a maximum aperture of 30mm. All the blades fit snugly underneath the bezel and are entirely hidden from view when opened. Upon closing, they slide in place in an almost graceful circular pattern.

This business versus play attitude is even more applicable to the latest of the V.01 iterations, dubbed “The Devil Inside”. Released past November, it captures the essence of Lucifer himself. A limited series of 6 numbered pieces will be produced. The watch is very intricately built around the provoking thematic. It is almost like the Prince of Darkness himself forged this watch, using resources found in the depths of his realms.

The blackened, DLC-coated grade 5 titanium case gives this watch a nice sinister look, accompanied with fiery rose-gold crown and pushers and lava-red detailing on the dial and strap. Valbray has also managed to trap a number of she-devils into this demonic timepiece. On the dial three of these females are strategically placed to point out some of the details. The tail of the first helps read the wheel-like disc used for the seconds of the chronograph, the second “henchmen” aims here trident towards the name of the watch and the third seems to grab the brand name while gracefully resting on the date window. The shadow of a damsel, holding another trident, can be found on the see-through caseback.

The dial itself holds more keys to the theme then you might see first hand. The devils favorite number is incorporated with the emblematic “V” of Valbray, which is found on every V.01 thus far. Two of the dials used for the chronograph-function use a meticulously crafted flame as a hand. The seconds hand for the time indication is yet again a trident, in lava-red. This is accompanied by open-worked, blacked-out minute and hour hands. When the Obturator-system (the 16 blades) is closed, this trident-shaped hand is the only indication of what may lie beneath since only the minute, hour and second hand are visible.

The mat-black alligator strap is finished with lava-red stitching and the devils tail on the inside lining. A patented deployment buckle, adorned with a red gold cover, completes the watch. Inside beats an in-house movement, containing 25 jewels an packing 44 hours of power. It operates at a frequency of 28,800 vibrations, and features a specially redesigned rotor. It is water resistant to 5 ATM but this is once again a watch that few people (no more then 6 obviously) will ever bring close to water in the first place. It might put out the blaze inside this creation!
Valbray has gone to great lengths to fully incorporate the theme of “The Devil Inside” and succeeded in doing so. The metaphor that there is a devil inside each and every one of us, but almost none of us let him out, really befits the watch. Reveling nothing at all, or everything at once is a decision made by simply turning the bezel 90 degrees.

The watch is available at a price of 24,666 CHF. Now isn’t that a coincidence?
For more information, visit Valbray’s website, or the ValbrayFacebook-page.

IWC Ingenieur AMG

Tomorrow, at the start of the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, short SIHH, IWC will launch their newest models of the Ingenieur collection. Today we’ll have a look at the previous love-baby of IWC and AMG. Indeed AMG, the the guys that make every Mercedez-Benz roar like no other sports car!
In 2004 they joined forces, which led to the Ingenieur AMG that IWC introduced in 2005 together with an entirely new ‘Ingenieur family’. This Weekly Watch Photo is dedicated to a remarkable collaboration that gets a follow-up at the SIHH2013 this week.

Originally introduced in 1954, the Ingenieur was a no-nonsense, highly technical and sturdy timepiece. It was intended for the use in the most demanding conditions, capable to withstand all natural enemies of an accurate timepiece like magnetism, temperature variations, water and rough shocks. According to early ads the Ingenieur was targeted at the “man who expects the impossible from his watch”. While at more or less the same time a new genre of dive watches, like the Rolex Submariner and the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, was introduced, the Ingenieur was the first sports watch capable to withstand all threats. Although I need to add that it wasn’t designed for any serious deep sea diving.
In 1976 the Ingenieur was entirely revamped by Gerald Genta, the man who also brought us the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus. The Ingenieur AMG that was introduced in 2005, shares many design elements with the Genta-designed predecessor, like a large enough case that could contains a soft-iron inner case. The soft-iron case works like a Faraday cage that protects the movement from magnetism. Another, more recognizable, hallmark is the bezel with five holes.
One of the extremely appealing features of this particular Ingenieur is the dial with the raised hour markers. On the second hand market you can find some pretty affordable examples and they all feature the IWC in-house designed and manufactured movement, caliber 80110. This movement features the Pelleton winding system, that protects against jolts and jarring. Another feature is the special shock protection by means of a flexible rotor bridge. The rotor bearing rests on a “S-shape” bridge which allows bending in case of lateral and horizontal shocks. This movement was build for the “man who expect the impossible from his watch”. However, not too many technicalities for our Weekly Watch Photo… I’m sure I’ll come back on this topic soon enough!
Tomorrow IWC will release a bunch of new Ingenieur models, which are designed together with AMG Petronas. As IWC CEO Georges Kern explained it in 2005: “As an engineering brand, IWC Schaffhausen has a natural affinity with the puristic performance culture that AMG pursues so successfully. We also share a sense of understatement and discrete exclusivity. IWC is not interested in outward show, but focuses on the essential nature of what is on the wrist”.

Seiko Sportura Alarm Chronograph (Landon Donovan)

I’ve seen a particular Seiko ad featuring U.S. Soccer star Landon Donovan a few times now (see below), and I must admit that the watch always grabs my attention — so I decided what-the-heck, let’s check it out.   Turns out that the watch is the Seiko Sportura Alarm Chronograph, a sporty looking piece that retails for a mere $475.  OK, so it is no Grand Seiko (yes, the Japanese do make some nice higher-end watches!), but still a decent looking watch for the money.  The largest factor in the relatively low price is the quartz movement.  I’m really not a fan of quartz watches, though I do own a couple (one, a TAG Heuer Professional, circa 1998) and I find their almost non-existent need for maintenance and precision timekeeping nice features.  Still, it would be cool to see this design with an automatic mechanical movement in it.  Even so, despite being a high-end/luxury watch kinda guy — I’d wear this watch.  And for those of you out there who are in the market for something at a sub-$500 price point, you may want to give this Seiko Sportura Alarm Chronograph watch a look, too.
Seiko Sportura Alarm Chronograph
42mm stainless steel case (“hard coated”), Caliber 7T62 quartz movement, alarm and chronograph functions, screwdown crown/caseback, sapphire crystal, 100m water resistance

The watch is available in a few other configurations (steel bracelet, red dial color), but this one is by far my favorite.
Here’s the ad I mentioned in my opening line (running in ESPN magazine and elswehere):
This past March, Seiko announced Landon Donovan as its newest Brand Ambassador both to represent the brand’s Sportura Collection, and also to help Seiko celebrate the brand’s 130th anniversary through various PR activities.

Seiko Star Wars Watch Collection

Seiko has partnered with Lucasfilm on a Star Wars watch collection.  The collection is set to hit stores in Japan this October.  In celebration of both the 35th anniversary of Star Wars as well as the upcoming release of the films in 3D, Seiko will release six limited edition models in a limited run ranging from 500 to 1500 pieces per model for a total of 5,000 pieces.   The series includes signature timepieces for each of Darth Vader, Darth Maul, C-3P0, R2-D2 and Yoda as well as a Stormtrooper edition. Check ‘em all out, below.
All watches have a steel case with screw-down back, with the “bad guys” getting an added a black ion plating finish.  All watches are water resistant to 100 meters and have a sapphire crystal.  This said there is a lot of weird randomness (though probably not random, just not understood by me) when it comes to case size, production volume, movement type (quartz or mechanical) and feature-set.  I’ve note the model-specific features below.
Collect them all!?!  Well, according to the dedicated Seiko/Star Wars website there will be a Special Set created (details pending, however).  In any case, I would say good luck on getting your hands on any of these pieces, let alone a Special Set or even piecing together a set!  As far as I know these pieces are only to launch in Japan, which gives watch fans in this geography a big advantage.  One of each would come to a total price of 813,750Yen, or about $10,500. Not a bad price at all for such a cool collector’s set with such limited quantity!
Seiko Star Wars Darth Vader (SAGA125)
Limited edition of 1,500 watches
Price: 141,750 yen (U.S. about $1,820)
Black IP (“ion plated”) coated steel case size: 42.5mm, 11.3mm thick
Movement: 8B54 Caliber quartz movement with radio correction and solar charging function

Seiko Star Wars Darth Maul (SAGA127)
Limited edition of 800 watches
Price 136,500 yen (U.S. about $1,750)
Black IP coated steel case size: 43.4mm, 11.0mm thick
Movement: 8B82 Caliber quartz movement with radio correction and Solar charging function
Stopwatch function (measured 1/5 second, 60-minute, measuring up to 6 hours)

Seiko Star Wars Yoda (SDGC013)
Limited edition of 600 watches
Price 136,500 yen (U.S. about $1,750)
Steel case size: 41.7mm, 12.4mm thick
Movement: Caliber 6R21 automatic mechanical

Seiko Star Wars Stormtrooper (SDGC011)
Limited edition of 500 watches
Price 136,500 yen (U.S. about $1,750)
Steel case size: 41.7mm, 12.4mm thick
Movement: Caliber 6R21 automatic mechanical

Seiko Star Wars C-3P0 (SDGC015)
Limited edition of 600 watches
Price 136,500 yen (U.S. about $1,750)
Steel case size: 41.7mm, 12.4mm thick
Movement: Caliber 6R21 automatic mechanical

Seiko Star Wars R2-D2 (SDGA005)
Limited edition of 1,000 watches
Price 126,000 Yen (U.S. about $1,620)
Steel case size: 45.5mm × 46.0mm, 9.5mm thick
Movement: Solar Digital quartz movement Caliber S770 with an active matrix EPD with radio correction and solar charging function
World time function (32 cities and regions)