Outside of watchmaking, one of Switzerland’s best-known cultural exports is of course gourmet chocolate. Swiss chocolatiers are nearly as famous as the great houses of Swiss horology, and, for its latest 2020 novelty, Chronoswiss has aimed to combine these two great national cornerstones into one delicious combination. While mechanically the same as previous brand releases, the new limited edition Chronoswiss Open Gear ReSec Chocolate adds an arresting, casual colorway to one of its core product lines, while also providing buyers with a one-year exclusive chocolate subscription service from famed Lucerne confectioner Max Chocolatier.
The Chronoswiss Open Gear ReSec Chocolate starts off with the brand’s signature 44mm case in stainless steel, with its distinctive ridged case sides, thin downturned lugs, narrow bezel, and oversized onion crown. While the shape may be familiar, the PVD coating immediately sets this one apart with an all-over matte finish in dark cocoa (of course) brown. The chocolate influence on this model is perhaps its most literal here, with a color and texture that would fit in well among an assortment of finely molded candies. It’s an exceedingly unusual look, as well, as even with the explosion of PVD, DLC, and ceramic case designs over the past several years almost no other design has created a case in dark brown. The end result is striking, if more than a little polarizing, and leads to an immediately recognizable design.
The dial of the Chronoswiss Open Gear ReSec Chocolate is no less dramatic but far more classically handsome. The chile-red of the main dial surface (actually forming the mainplate of the movement) is attractive on its own but, combined with a coarse, grainy dial surface, the color becomes an inescapable visual centerpiece. The overall layout follows the trademark Chronoswiss regulator style, with the hefty triangular central minutes hand flanked by an hours subdial at 12 o’clock and a sweeping retrograde seconds complication across the lower half of the dial. The stark black and white color scheme adorning the outer applied minutes track, skeletonized subdials, and exposed gear train deepen the visual contrast with the red of the main dial and the PVD brown case, leading to a truly dynamic overall look. The one major drawback to the Open Gear ReSec Chocolate’s dial, however, has little to do with the limited-edition design itself. The purpose of a regulator dial, initially, was to maximize the legibility of every element at a glance in order to allow watchmakers to set each timepiece to the regulator’s standard. The retrograde seconds display is a visual treat, but its 30-second sweep before resetting makes taking an accurate reading down to the second nearly impossible. That said, it is unlikely that any of these models will be used for the regulator’s original function, and the spectacle the complication brings is its own benefit.
Chronoswiss powers the Open Gear ReSec Chocolate with the in-house C.301 automatic regulator movement. Visible through the sapphire display caseback, the powerplant is partially skeletonized and decorated with a mix of Côtes de Genève and perlage across the movement plates and bridges. Performance figures are solidly impressive, thanks to a three-legged Gluycdur balance and a Nivarox 1 balance spring leading up to a 42-hour power reserve at a 28,800 bph beat rate. The brand pairs the Open Gear ReSec Chocolate with a simple calf leather strap in matching chocolate brown.
While far from the brand’s most innovative recent release, the Chronoswiss Open Gear ReSec Chocolate is an undoubtedly dramatic tribute to two of Switzerland’s most famous industries. Production numbers will be highly limited, with only 50 examples planned. The limited-edition Chronoswiss Open Gear ReSec Chocolate is available now through authorized dealers at an MSRP of $9,900. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.
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CODE41 built its brand by combining the best of traditional watchmaking with avant-garde materials and design, bringing these worlds together at surprisingly affordable prices. For just $5,740, the CODE41 X41: Edition 4 offers the best of high-end watchmaking — custom Swiss movement, including a peripheral rotor and Grande date complication, exceptional materials, artisanship, and finishing, and the kind of attention to detail that defines the best of Swiss watchmaking — all at a fraction of the usual cost.
CODE41 launched its brand in 2016 and has been community-driven since its inception. It is a brand created and driven by enthusiasts. Customers are involved in each step of the process, from manufacturing to strategy to logistics. Customers can even vote and provide feedback throughout the design and manufacturing process.
Just released for preorder, the CODE41 X41: Edition 4 builds upon the success of the X41: Edition 3 through the addition of an AeroCarbon case. Why AeroCarbon? Because CODE41 is all about pushing the boundaries of what is possible in horology. AeroCarbon is used exclusively in the aeronautics and aerospace industry for good reason: It’s half the weight of titanium and exhibits 2.5x the resistance to bending than steel. In other words, this is no simple composite case. Specially produced and manufactured in France, the production of AeroCarbon requires 300 ultra-thin layers, each laid perpendicular to the last, and compacted with 10bars of pressure in an autoclave. The result is a case material that is extremely dense, lightweight, watertight, and strong — everything you want in a watch case.
The 42mm AeroCarbon case of the X41 sets the stage, but the dial is the star of the show. The X41 features a skeletonized dial that puts the custom movement on full display. Complementing the black AeroCarbon case, the movement is supported by aggressive, angular elements and surrounded by a deeply engraved chapter ring that features luminous hour markers. The skeletonized theme continues to a luminous handset, adding nighttime legibility. At 12 o’clock, a grand date complication takes center stage, the two date wheels moving harmoniously to provide instant legibility that merges seamlessly with the watch’s design language.
When young brands launch, rarely, if ever, do they do so with a completely custom movement. But CODE41 isn’t just another brand. To produce the movement for the X41, CODE41 partnered with Timeless, one of the top Swiss movement manufacturers that produces all its movement components in-house, with the exception of the balance wheel. In the case of the X41, the Geneva-based design group produced a movement with a peripheral rotor — a feature found only in a handful of brands, on a select few models costing many times that of the X41. Peripheral rotors are incredibly difficult to perfect due to challenges with the precision-machining required to produce the components. After several years of development, the X41 nailed process, and the result is a high-precision automatic movement that beats at 28.8kbph, features 33 jewels, Incabloc shock absorption, and a 45-hour power reserve. To ensure accurate timekeeping, each movement is regulated in five positions prior to delivery.
One of the concerns with custom movements is the availability of parts and service in the future. Code 41 addressed this issue from the inception of the movement, producing an extensive inventory of spare parts and working with Timeless to ensure continuity of service and parts well into the future, even if the worst were to happen to your CODE41.
The “Swiss Made” label, once a source of pride in watchmaking, has become muddied by the vague requirement to attain the label: 60% of the value of the watch must come from Switzerland. As a result, many brands obfuscate the origins of materials, components, and manufacturing, devaluing the Swiss Made label. CODE41 watches easily exceed that 60% requirement, with 90% of the value coming from Switzerland. Despite earning the designation, Code 41 eschews the “Swiss Made” label and instead opts for full transparency, listing the cost and origin of each component used in the manufacture of its watches.
The X41 exemplifies the best of high-end Swiss watchmaking, but this only matters if the watch is a joy to wear. With a 42mm case, 48mm lug-to-lug distance, and a featherweight 45-gram weight (72 grams with leather strap), the X41 will be exceptionally comfortable, day in and day out. The X41 is available on a selection of quick-change leather straps and ships in a custom box. Simply put, with the X41 AeroCarbon, Code41 is offering true haute horology at a fraction of the cost. The X41 starts at $5,740. Visit CODE41’s website to pre-order the X41: Edition 4.
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Luxury Startup Aventi is bringing the supercar to your wrist with its flagship tourbillion in a striking royal blue sapphire case. The A11-02 is immediately recognizable for its supercar-inspired design and impressive specifications. The case boasts sharp angles and straight lines mimicking the complex bodies and designs of the most desirable supercars. “There is no getting around it,” says Aventi founder Hannu Siren. “Our Royal Blue Sapphire Tourbillon is a statement piece. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart.”
The distinctive case of the A11-02 Royal Blue Sapphire requires more than 100 hours of hand-shaping and polishing. Each component is cut from a solid block of sapphire crystal using high-precision lasers. The result is an angular masterpiece of a case, with a total of 68 facets and 144 edges. Every surface receives five layers of anti-reflective coating. Any watch with a case that comes close to this kind of complexity carries a price tag in the hundreds of thousands. This one is priced under $10,000.
When Aventi premiered the Titanium and Pure Sapphire tourbillon on Indiegogo, they were fully funded in less than 10 minutes. Part of the reason for the brand’s success is the excellent quality/price ratio. Aventi, a fully digital watchmaker, breaks down the cost barrier that keeps most people from owning a tourbillon by challenging the inefficient and costly traditions of luxury watchmaking. “Our watch is as perfectly engineered, meticulously constructed, and beautifully finished as much as possible for comparable watches at our price point, and we endeavor to improve this as we grow as a brand,” says Siren. Now, the watch is available in the inky rich color of Royal Blue Sapphire. “With supercars, rare gems, and high-end watches, color is everything,” says Siren. “Ferrari red is an exact shade, and likewise, you can’t mistake the flawless blue of a top-grade sapphire from anything else. The Aventi Royal Blue Sapphire Tourbillon A11-02 is just as unique, but with a more refined, more compelling color than any other sapphire watch. The result is absolutely stunning.” The team spent months mastering the manufacturing and finishing techniques needed to bring the royal blue supercar-on-your-wrist to life.
The bold case measures an impressive 55.5mm x 48.5mm by 13mm-thick. It is made of pressurized aluminum oxide heated to 3600° F and then cooled for two weeks. Very few specialists in the world have this particular expertise. The dial plate is cut out to reveal the skeletonized movement, the caliber 3450 with 25 jewels, a frequency of 28,800 vph, and dual mainspring barrels for a power reserve of 72 hours. The inner workings of this beautiful movement are in full view, including the dancing tourbillon escapement at the 3 o’clock position and the dual mainspring barrels on the left side of the case. It was made in partnership with the Hong Kong-based PTS Resources, an ISO 9000 company. All movements are thoroughly tested to ensure reliability.
The dial’s top-quality lume, Swiss Super-LumiNova BGW9 Grade X1, is layered with extra thickness so that it will never fade or discolor. More importantly, it guarantees increased legibility in low light.
“All our models are striking,” says Siren. “They’re big, bold, cutting-edge. But the Royal Blue Sapphire Aventi takes it to another level. It has a powerful effect. This is a watch for a specific kind of high-achiever,” he says, “a disrupter, someone who isn’t afraid to go their own way — who wants to be seen going their own way.”
The Aventi Royal Blue Sapphire range starts at a price point of $5,000, and this particular model, the A11-02 Royal Blue Sapphire, is priced at $9,800. For more information, book a one-on-one appointment through the concierge platform on the Aventi website. Your questions will be answered via live chat, phone, or video call. “We want to challenge the sometimes daunting experience of walking into a luxury boutique by making it more personal,” says Siren. “We want it to be real, so we like to talk to our customers, find out who they are and what they love, and answer any questions in person. We want to provide the best boutique experience you can get without actually walking into a boutique.”
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Artur Akmaev is a Russian-born watchmaker and engraver who currently lived and works in Los Angeles. Akmaev has worked in the background performing certain tasks for other brands, as well as making a series of on-off timepieces that feature elaborately-designed and decorated dials rich with hand-engraving and painting. Artur Akmaev is now starting to develop a more serious eponymous brand around his work, and today I’d like to show you this one-of-a-kind “Rise Of The Blue Dragon” timepiece that will be the start of a new series of dragon-themed timepieces produced by the Los Angeles artist.
The Rise Of The Blue Dragon watch is part of Akmaev’s artistic exploration of Far East-style dragons mixed with modern fantasy themes. The watch is for sale via an art gallery in Los Angeles known as The Crown Collection. Akmaev specifically wanted to emphasize a range of artistic techniques on the watch dial, as well as emphasize bright colors. In that pursuit, I believe he succeeded. The elaborate dial presentation is rendered in blue, with green, yellow, and pink tones. This is done using a mixture of flame-bluing over metal as well as miniature dial painting. The dial also employs a range of hand-engraved artistic techniques that extend on to the movement as well as to parts of the case (such as the lugs).
Artur Akmaev claims that the Rise Of The Blue Dragon watch is the result of about 180 hours of human effort to assemble and produce. He further claims that his sister, an illustrator, spent an additional 50 hours on the dial proof drawing, which is a larger composition that the dial engraving is based on. In fact, For particular special watches like The Rise Of The Blue Dragon watch, Artur Akmaev offers a print or even the original dial design drawing — a nice added-value to the timepiece kit.
The watch case itself is in steel and 45mm-wide and 12mm-thick. As stated above, hand-engraved decoration has been applied to the watch case lugs. Inside the watch is a base Swiss ETA Unitas 6497 manually wound mechanical movement. These long-standing base movements operate at 18,000 bph (2.5Hz) with a power reserve of about 56 hours. The movement includes central hour and minute hands, as well as a subsidiary seconds dial. For the purposes of The Rise Of The Blue Dragon watch, the seconds hand has been replaced by a small hand-painted and engraved disc with a lotus flower motif on it.
A similar floral design is used on the mainspring barrel, which can be viewed through the sapphire crystal window on the caseback of the watch. Much of the movement bridge is engraved with a series of patterns meant to evoke the sense of dragon scales. The entire composition was designed to be reworked for future timepiece designs. Artur Akmaev is personally interested in further exploring the dragon theme, so the basic dial layout and design of the Rise Of The Blue Dragon will be reused in future watches, but they’ll have their own particular colors and background graphics that will allow them to celebrate different themes. The goal of creating such a dial “template” is to allow Artur Akmaev to produce these artistic watches more efficiently so that they can be sold more affordably.
For the hands, Akmaev handmade them in shapes that evoke the look of dragon wings. Even though the hands are a good length and demonstrate good technique, they struggle to contrast effectively with the ornate dial. This inhibits legibility, but not fatally so. It is also good that Artur Akmaev designed small hour marker points on the dial.
Comparing Akmaev’s work to highly renown engraving and enameling work that goes into the watches sold by the Swiss greats is expected. Are these comparable? That’s a good question. Akmaev is certainly newer and more amateur as compared to the highly refined skills which are often used to make the true high-luxury art watches from the “old names” in traditional watchmaking. Artur is younger and learning with each new watch. I’ve personally seen his work improve markedly over just a few years. A trained savant will be able to look at Artur’s engraving and see areas where improvements can be made. But here is the thing, you can’t get bespoke work like this, for this price anywhere in a Swiss brand. Akmaev is offering a type of service that is for the most part entirely unavailable to the majority of watch lovers – at any price. With his work, timepiece lovers can have real hand-made art on their watches done in a traditional technique, on their terms and for a price that is at least 1/4 or less of what it would cost from a major Swiss luxury house. So the value is there, you just have to understand how to best view it.
To complement the colorful The Rise Of The Blue Dragon dial, Akmaev has a bespoke strap produced here in the U.S., which is a blue leather base with pink-dyed python-skin “wings” sewn on to the top. Certainly, the strap is a bit on the flashy side (on an otherwise flashy watch), but I think it helps round out the spirited personality of the watch. Dragon-themed watches are by no means rare in the watch space, but what is interesting is how the dragon theme is expressed in so many different ways. I think Artur Akmaev will find more than enough watch enthusiasts interested in the particular way he hand-renders the mythical beasts on these very authentic timepieces.
This particular Artur Akmaev The Rise Of the Blue Dragon watch is available for sale through The Crown Collection in Los Angeles and has a retail price of $17,950 USD.
British brand William Wood Watches is the brainchild of Jonny Garrett, the grandson of William Wood, an esteemed British firefighter with 25 years of service and a host of accolades to his name. It’s his grandfather’s story of courage and perseverance that led Garrett to honor him with a watch brand designed around his core values. In addition to offering quality timepieces with original design elements, William Wood Watches utilizes upcycled rescue-service materials in the production of its luxury watches. The new limited-editionValiant Collection is the most recent line from the brand, which has also raised $10,000 this year for charities helping victims of the Australian Bushfires in January and supporting International Firefighters’ Day in May.
Since its launch in 2016, William Wood has grown to sales of a quarter-million GBP with 600 customers across more than 30 countries around the globe. Garrett’s vision is to convert a defunct British fire station into the company’s future headquarters.
The Valiant Collection, which debuted five months ago, is a diver’s series that is gaining momentum for its creative features, including straps made from upcycled British fire hoses used by the UK Fire & Rescue Service for more than a decade, and crowns made from a 1920s London Fire Brigade brass helmet, crafted in the heart of London’s iconic jewelry district. And remarkably, the price tag is under £1,000.
A watch’s movement is, arguably, the most important aspect of a timepiece purchase. One of the unique features of the William Wood Valiant Collection is that, because the 41mm case fits both a Swiss ETA 2824 automatic movement and a Japanese Seiko NH35 automatic movement, you’re able to choose the movement that’s right for you and your budget. The Red Watch (model above) with the Seiko movement is priced at £695 and comes with red fire hose straps and a red travel roll that holds up to three watches. The ETA option for the same watch and accessories sells for £995. If you forgo the fire hose straps, each model goes for £595 and £895, respectively.
The design of the watch has been thoroughly planned, evidenced by the subtle design features in tribute to the fire service, which are not too overt. The two stripe indices located at 12 o’clock represent the markings a crew manager in the UK Fire & Rescue Service would have on their uniform lapel. Printed around the perimeter of the dial is what looks to be an Omega-style checkered racing flag. In fact, this is the exact checkered marking design found on the side of a British fire engine. The sweeping seconds hand has been designed to look like the chime from an old fire engine bell. All understated yet complementary to the watch and Garrett’s grandfather’s story.
But the upcycling is, by far, the coolest element of this collection. Visibly striking when looking at the side of the watch is not only the double-domed sapphire crystal glass (tinted blue in tribute to Mr. Wood’s 25-year tenure on The Blue Watch in the British Fire Service) but also the contrast between the vintage upcycled watch crown (made from a melted down 1920’s firefighter brass helmet, as stated above) and the modern brushed stainless steel case. The crown is stamped with the William Wood Watches iconic logo boasting the side profile of a vintage British firefighter’s helmet. And the fire hoses used to make the straps would normally be marked for landfill — William Wood has given them a new life that also results in a unique look at feel on the wrist.
Let us not forget that this is also a functional diving watch, with a screw-down crown and 100 meters of water resistance. The indices, hands, and 12 bezel dots are all coated with Super-LumiNova, allowing you to tell the time in darker conditions. Each watch is engraved with a limited-edition number up to 250 in all five colors — black, white, blue, rose, and the iconic fire-engine red.
Again, the price for all colors (each limited to 250) begins at £595 with the Seiko NH35 automatic movement on metal bracelet and £895 with the Swiss ETA 2824 automatic movement on metal bracelet. (Add £100 on either model for the fire hose strap.) For more information about William Wood Watches Valiant Collection you can find further information at their website https://www.mywatchhut.co.uk/
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The Zelos Mirage Tourbillon is one of the latest watches from the still new Singapore-based watch brand. The Mirage Tourbillon is a high-end Swiss Made mechanism with a design that speaks to a particular generation of watch lover. It also comes with a really affordable price and shows what can happen when traditional names in Swiss watchmaking combine forces with the powerful entrepreneurial minds that are helping to carry the traditional watch industry into its next evolutionary phase.
Zelos was founded in 2014 and started as one of those brands whom you’d have no idea (at the time) would not only keep going, but also produce numerous successful watches eventually becoming a “real brand.” This is an important point to make because watch consumers are no doubt at times confused what to make of start up watch brands. Should you take them seriously if you like their creative energy, or should you sit by idly and wait a few years for them to prove themselves? It is true that while many start up brands fail, at least a few of them persist on, annually gaining legitimacy and the respect of even conservative watch lovers with loyalty only to the oldest names in horological luxury. Today, I feel that many start up watch makers not only offer viable alternatives to the traditional “big names,” but in more than once instance are themselves being groomed to be one of the big names in the future.
Zelos got itself started, as many modern watch brands do, on Kickstarter. In 2016, when aBlogtoWatch featured the Zelos Hammerhead Kickstarter campaign,, it would have been impossible to know the company would not only diversify but also mature with age as it released new models. Zelos has made a name for itself in combining modern design with organic-feeling materials in the traditional categories of watches that do well in the market (such as diving sports watches and GMT travel watches). For this reason, I always encourage watch fans to keep an open mind about new brands because at least a few of them (with a bit of growing and refining) will be able to compete with the “landed aristocracy” of timepiece names, mostly in Switzerland, in due time. It is for this reason that watch lovers circa 2020 are having a love affair with the entrepreneurial spirit and creativity.
In the beginning (or perhaps forever), the Zelos Mirage Tourbillon watches will be part of a limited-edition set. This natural titanium version of the watch (with PVD main plates) will be produced as a limited edition of just two pieces. Among the four different Mirage Tourbillon models, Zelos is producing only 10 pieces. The brand positions them as halo products to help round out its growing range of mostly sport-style watches.
The last few years in tourbillon news have been typified by headlines that focus on new levels of affordability, as well as quality. In 2016, TAG Heuer released its Carrera Heuer 02-T Tourbillon Chronograph for around $20,000, and Horage currently has its own lovely Swiss Made tourbillon for under $8,000. Depending on the version, the Zelos Mirage Tourbillon costs between $11,000 and $12,000 and very certainly feels like a good value. That is especially true when comparing other watches that have the same or similar movement as is in the Mirage Tourbillon.
To outfit the Mirage Tourbillon with movements, Zelos worked with Swiss La Joux-Perret, the company that produces Arnold & Son and Angelus watches. La Joux-Perret is actually owned by parent company Citizen Group out of Japan. I believe this was a crucial reason the company supplied tourbillon movements to a non-Swiss company in the first place. I can’t know for sure, but I do know that some incumbent protectionists in the Swiss watch industry want to keep their most esteemed artisanship and technique to be used for home-grown brands. As the global economy for wristwatches continues to be a challenge, I think we will see more and more lessening of this traditional protectionist approach to who Switzerland-based suppliers will sell to.
The last time I reviewed a watch with this same movement architecture was in the Angelus U51 diver Tourbillon (on aBlogtoWatch here). That watch was a bit fancier and the movement was done differently, but it also cost around $20,000 USD more. That is a big difference. Now, watch fans can enjoy the beauty and grace of a La Joux-Perret flying tourbillon but in a more humble and elegant package that is priced to move for today’s zealous fans of high-end horology. The movement itself is the La Joux-Perret caliber LJP 7814 and is manually wound with 60 hours of power reserve operating at 4Hz (28,800 bph). Unlike entirely machined movements, the LJP tourbillon does come with sufficient volumes of hand-polishing.
Aesthetically, you can view the movement through the dial, and on this version, the main plate has been coated in a dark gray color using PVD. It makes for a really attractive look under the transparent dial, which is where the hour markers are placed. The watch itself has a slick modern design but is sized to wear like a demure dress watch. In a sense, it is a casual dress watch when compared to Zelos’ big collection of sports watches.
The cases themselves are part of the Mirage Tourbillon selling point. This natural titanium version is the least visually “exciting” but is good for conservative wearers. Compare it to three other versions of the Mirage Tourbillon that use “Timascus,” which is titanium Damascus-style metal. That it uses folds of metal for a wood grain look is very uncommon for titanium. On top of that, the titanium folded together is slightly different from when exposed to heat. That gives some versions of the Mirage Tourbillon case beautiful colors like violet and blue. Zelos also has a Mokume Gane version of the Mirage Tourbillon with a Damascus-style case produced from copper and nickel metal that will patina over time. The creativity and artistry applied to the case work here is very special, indeed.
Dimension-wise, the Mirage Tourbillon case is 41mm-wide with a 45mm lug-t0-lug distance. It also wears small due to the narrowness of the dial compared with the broadness of the case. The case is also just 9.5mm-thick (without the top “box-style” sapphire crystal) and has a water resistance rating of 50 meters. Zelos includes a very elaborate presentation set that includes an oversized wood box and a leather carrying case that allows you to carry a set of watches and also include a few additional strap options to mix up the look.
Zelos knows what watch lovers today want because Zelos founder Elshan Tang is a watch lover himself. That explains how the Mirage Tourbillon feels both trendy and approachable but also novel and fresh at the same time. Zelos is not becoming a “tourbillon brand,” but it was wise to show what it could do in a halo product using a desirable Swiss Made tourbillon and its particular flavor or flair and horological decor. I’m personally very proud of the fact that aBlogtoWatch has been instrumental in helping brands like Zelos get the exposure they need in order to reach passionate consumers to help the brand grow up and produce beautiful stuff like this. Price for the Zelos Mirage Tourbillon as pictures is $10,900 USD (with prices at $11,900 USD for the more elaborate case styles).
No-holds-barred, creatively designed watches are the true limited editions of today’s biggest watch brands. Seeing 2018’s Rolex Daytona Rainbow almost triple in value, from its $90,000 retail well into the $200,000 range is just one of many fitting examples. On this occasion, we are going hands-on with the latest iteration of outlandish, factory diamond-set Rolex Daytona watches with the Rolex Daytona 116588TBR, nicknamed “Eye Of The Tiger Daytona” or, as I like to call it, the “Rorschach Test Daytona” after the unique gem-set pattern of its dial.
A Long Track-Record Of Outlandish Rolex Watches
Rolex has one of the longest track records of consistently, if not frequently, making outlandish and creatively designed watches. I strongly believe this track record comes not simply from a “because we can” but rather a “because we have to” approach. That is something important to think about, not merely for us watch enthusiasts (and the Rolex fans among us), but also for Rolex’s rivals.
All too often, I see how convenient it is to look at high-end watchmaking as the proving grounds for technical refinement, engineering capability, and manufacturing complexity in isolation. Creative watch design, by contrast, often has a take-it-or-leave-it element, whose presence is considered almost insignificant if there is enough technical grandness (infused with loud or condescending marketing) to direct attention away from the staleness that results from the lack of a creative presentation.
That said, I truly believe that the extent to which a brand is creatively/aesthetically exciting matters to every one of us watch-lovers — we just don’t talk about it as much as we do about pricing, watch movement performance, or the controversies around design elements. A brand’s ability to occasionally take itself less seriously is a rare and important treat. If a brand isn’t relevant in its design, it will soon grow irrelevant in other ways, as well.
Brief Side-note On Halo Watches
We must stick to the point of discussing this new Daytona and not go off-topic too much, but what is a thought-provoker if not such a watch from Rolex? It makes me think of other brands I really appreciate and have owned previously: IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre. Two mighty-awesome brands with fancy factories, rich histories, and more established watch collections than one could shake a stick at… and just look at how much less time we have recently spent speaking about these two.
They, and other established brands like Blancpain and Breguet, enjoy less time in the limelight than they used to just a few years ago. And while they can survive on luxury conglomerate money and by selling bucketloads of basic Reversos, vintage-inspired “novelties,” and the rest, wouldn’t you agree that there used to be so much more buzz when we had fascinating Master Compressors, crazy Extreme LABs, high-tech Ingenieurs and the like? Sure, we might have ended up buying base Reversos and classic IWC Pilots just the same, but we had contemporary watch stuff attracting us to these brands and not just ambassadors, partnerships, and the products that exclusively lived in the past. Halo products have right to exist — all I’m saying is that they should not be limited to technical excellence, but concern modern aesthetics, too.
Sure, it could be said that Rolex gets by selling bucketloads of, well, almost everything, and this gives them plenty of leeway to experiment. But how many major brands can you name that systematically go out on a limb with loud new interpretations on their bestselling designs and collections? There may be the occasional outrageous watch from others, but it’s exceedingly rare that it’s done with any bestselling collections. Whether or not the Rolex Daytona 116588TBR “Eye Of The Tiger” is liked and appreciated is down to a matter of personal taste — but a braver approach of major brands to debut borderline shocking designs is something I reckon would do all of us good.
Details And Specifications Of The Rolex Daytona 116588TBR “Eye Of The Tiger”
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of these offbeat Rolex watches lies in Rolex’s agility in dancing around addressing or specifying literally anything about their actual theme, inspiration, design, or execution. In the watch’s 14-page official presentation, Rolex dedicates two entire pages to saying: “The Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona was born to race, and is the benchmark for those with a passion for driving and speed.” Like anyone cares!
To its credit, Rolex does refer to this version as “mysterious and sparkling” — a description hard to argue against. These two words are right where the presentation ends though, as they are followed by a very dry description of the bezel with its 36 trapeze-cut diamonds, and the paved black lacquer dial where “champagne-colour chronograph counters are intertwined with black lacquer and diamonds.” The rest of the entire document is Rolex describing its impressive features, such as the Manufacture Rolex Caliber 4130, the Oyster case, the Oysterflex bracelet in the exact same way as it does with all other watches.
So, why does the dial look like the eye of a tiger, then? Or a lacquer-diamond tribute to inkblots of Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach? Not a single word on these from Rolex; we are left to our own imagination. As for the core specs, the case is the olden but golden 40mm-wide Oyster Cosmograph Daytona case, fitted with a non-removable lug-structure that allows no three-link solid gold Oyster bracelet to ever be fitted.
In its place, we find the Oysterflex elastomer strap that has a flexible metal blade integrated into its structure. Inside the solid 18-karat gold case is the Rolex Manufacture Caliber 4130, exactly the same movement you would find in each and every other currently produced Cosmograph Daytona. The Cerachrom ceramic bezel has been replaced with 34 trapeze-cut diamonds, all invisibly set, stacked closely next to each other — experts refer to invisible setting as the most challenging setting technique in watchmaking, as the preparation of the slot, as well as the cut, has to be exactly right throughout.
I understand that, in today’s PC world, it’s probably best not to say anything — and if the Swiss watchmaking culture is absolutely world-class in something, it is “choosing not to comment” on anything. It’s often referred to as discretion — I’d rather call it secrecy verging on condescension. 2018’s rainbow model, and all other Daytona and Day-Date rainbows we have seen, are rather self-explanatory. Everyone knows what a rainbow is, and their recreation in colorful, semi-precious stones paints a likeable and neat picture. But this? The 116588TBR? You either get it/love it at first sight, or you probably never will, and Rolex appears not to make an effort to tip you over — save for its beautiful photography.
Okay, so what have learned from Rolex about one of Rolex’s most bizarre creations? Nothing. Better still, the watch is not to be found anywhere on Rolex.com — it is, however, present on the official press site, and it was on show at BaselWorld 2019. The wackiest, boldest, craziest, blingest Rolex watches that are made today will never ever make it to any of those websites, nor the public or media-reserved product viewings of the brand at BaselWorld. We do occasionally get our hands on one or two though.
Irrespective of whether you, I, or anyone else likes the Rolex Daytona 116588TBR, it is, objectively, one heck of a watch both in its execution — there’s a reason why you don’t see invisibly set baguette- or trapeze-cut diamond bezels that often — and in its daring looks. To get back to the original point, I’ll end on the following note. Rolex is considered to stand above others by so many for a vast variety of reasons, from reliability and engineering through history, design, and marketing. But there are other elements as well, a certain air of carefully engineered mysteriousness — which admittedly might irk those of us who want to know and understand it all, but it sure as hell attracts countless others. Having halo products like this that open up a new dimension of the brand, add a depth to Rolex that many of its competitors are yet to dare to create. It is easy to dismiss Rolex as a privileged brand that has the world at its feet — but, again, if what Rolex does was easy, those aforementioned brands would certainly be doing it as well.
Does the Rolex Daytona 116588TBR “Eye Of The Tiger” rank among the best bonkers Rolex executions? I think not, for its lack of coherence in its design and message — but I am thrilled to see Rolex designing and producing such watches on a more frequent basis. The price for the Rolex Daytona 116588TBR “Eye Of The Tiger” is CHF 98,300 and you can scout Rolex.com for other outlandish Rolex watches.
Putting an appropriately colorful bow on Watches & Wonders 2020, Parmigiani just released a novelty that is anything but subdued: the new Tonda 1950 Moonbow. Inspired by the lunar rainbow, this slim tourbillon has an aventurine dial and show-stopping rainbow bezel composed of blue, pink, orange, and yellow sapphire, rubies, tsavorites, and amethyst. And before you ask, this is absolutely a unisex piece that has a case measurement at a pretty ideal 40.2mm.
Brand: Parmigiani Fleurier Model: Tonda 1950 Moonbow Dimensions: 40.2mm-wide, 9.4mm-thick Water Resistance: 30M Case Material: 18k rose gold Crystal/Lens: AR-coated sapphire Movement: PF517 Power Reserve: 48 hours Strap/Bracelet: Hermès alligator strap or gold bracelet Price & Availability: $143,900 on strap, $160,600 on matching gold bracelet
The Tonda is a classic round Parmigiani case, but this Tonda 1950 Moonbow is a unique visual delight, even in the press shots. Aventurine has gained some popularity here and there among upper-tier brands (the Hermès Arceau L’Heure De La Lune and Arnold & Son HM Perpetual Moon Aventurine come to mind), and Parmigiani has done it masterfully in a handful of pieces. The ROYGBIV bezel adds a fantastically whimsical framing that lends itself to an actual fun attitude.
The thin PF517 movement houses the flying tourbillon at 7 o’clock, which, between the dial and gem-set bezel, is the third highly impressive aspect of the watch. The movement itself has a platinum rotor integrated into it, which helps for the slim 3.4mm thickness of the PF517. Operating at 21,600 vph, it has a 48-hour power reserve and is made up of 207 components.
The Parmigiani Tonda 1950 Moonbow is a watch that I can best describe as “joyful.” And I mean that not simply because I would also be a joyful person who could justify the expenditure on a watch like this, but the whole identity and aesthetic of the piece exudes pure joy — color, celestial themes, and horological work worthy of being ranked among some of Michel Parmigiani’s finest. Again, the Parmigiani Tonda 1950 Moonbow is priced at $143,900 on leather strap and $160,600 on matching gold bracelet.
Canada-based Ematelier brings the beauty and technique of artistic enamel dials at reasonable price points today. When I last spoke about Ematelier, I was reviewing one of its enamel-painted limited-edition women’s watches. Today, I’ll discuss a men’s product, but one that Ematelier can’t exactly sell as a limited edition, as it is a special dial that can be fitted aftermarket to a modern Rolex Datejust 41 watch. Here are a few of the dials Ematelier created, and each is inspired by an original cloisonne enamel dial produced for Rolex watches during the 1940s to the 1960s. Specifically, these particular re-created dials celebrate the Rolex “Map of the Americas” reference 6085, Neptune reference 8382, Dragon reference 8651, Caravelle reference 6100, and American Eagle of reference 6085.
Cloisonne enamel is a special enamel technique whereby the artisan uses thin strips of metal (usually gold, and in this watch the wire is just 0.07mm-thick) to create shapes in the enamel material, as well as to separate colors. Cloisonne enamel is one of the most important types from an artistic standpoint, as it can yield some of the most beautiful results — and the technique itself is arduous and time-consuming. On top of that, enameling requires constant baking and treating the dial throughout the creation process. That makes the rejection rate very high and cloisonne enamel dials even more difficult to create. There are very few operations in the world that can do this work, and Ematelier is one of them.
The original cloisonne Rolex dials were all produced by outside specialists in and around Geneva for Rolex. Only a few hundred cloisonne enamel-dial Rolex watches were ever made, and by comparison with today’s tastes, the watches are pretty small. Ematelier wanted to re-create, in slightly larger form, those original designs and so began by carefully re-creating the dials themselves. He chose them to fit the Datejust 41 for a few reasons, one being the depth of the dial. Given that enamel dials are thicker than standard dials, to make the dial fit, the date complication is removed from the Rolex movement in order to make space for the dial. I don’t think anyone will miss the date when presented with a dial such as this.
The base dial itself is 18k gold with applied hour markers. The dials here do not have any Rolex logos on them, as doing so gets into muddy waters when it comes to intellectual property laws. Though Ematelier can actually use authentic Rolex crown logos (sourced from elsewhere) on the dials, if so inclined. What’s interesting is that these aftermarket modified Rolex watches are fully reversible, meaning that a watchmaker can remove the enamel dial and then replace the original Rolex dial while reassembling parts of the movement. Very few other aftermarket processes on a watch can be swapped back to the original.
Legally speaking, these watches are kosher because no one is reproducing the Rolex trademarks. Otherwise, aftermarket work such as this is totally legitimate. Customers who order bespoke work like this from Ematelier could easily choose to have something else entirely pad-printed on the dial, such as their own logo or name. To explain the law better, Ematelier could not legally reproduce the Rolex logo and then market those products, and an average person might confuse those for being something that Rolex sold itself. Consumers should note that not all aftermarket Rolex watches out there abide by international laws, so, in a sense, this is an area where caveat emptor is still a ruling principle. Having seen multiple Ematelier products now, I can say that when it comes to their work and the enamel dials they make, the end product is really without equal (especially at these price points).
Fans of rare or rarefied vintage watches can really enjoy artistic re-creations such as these Rolex cloisonne enamel dial homages by Ematelier. For someone who wants to “spruce up” their Datejust 41 or who wants to get a new one and then immediately make it unique have some really interesting creative opportunities considering there is an enamel dial specialist that isn’t cheap, but who won’t charge what a Geneva-based watch brand would today.
On the wrist, I find these beautiful but would recommend that if you want to go with this gold dial base, then opt for a Datejust 41 with matching gold hands. You can see my full aBlogtoWatch Rolex Datejust 41 watch review here. Artistic dials are something I love because I’ve always found that watch faces are a great opportunity to display a painting. Some watches take that literally, and no matter what type of art you like, I promise there is a watch dial out there for you. You don’t need to have an affinity for Rolex or the particular vintage cloisonne enamel dials that inspired this modern re-creation to enjoy the artistic beauty of what cloisonne enamel can offer.
Ematelier has developed special techniques for creating these dials that no one else does. For example, these particular cloisonne dials have a mirror polish applied to them after they are done. This gives the dials a special smooth and “prefect” quality that the original dials do not. While replicating a particular dial design of the past can be thrilling, I think the real opportunity with a company like Ematelier is to approach them having no idea what you want, and through a discussion with their proprietor, Alex Landa, determining what your mind desires (and your budget can afford). Retail price for these Ematelier homages to original Rolex cloisonne enamel dials (including the cost of a new at retail all-steel Datejust 41 timepiece itself) would be between $22,000 – $28,000 USD depending on the specific dial.
Last year we saw Jacob & Co. secure an impressive partnership with hypercar royalty Bugatti. Now, the first ultra-high-end, completely bespoke Jacob & Co. watch created in collaboration with Bugatti makes its debut: the Jacob & Co. Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon. It’s what you would expect: an extremely complicated watch with yet another of Jacob & Co’s signature automaton mechanisms, this time with a functioning miniature W16 engine inside that mimicks the 16-cylinder motor that propels the Bugatti Chiron.
Cutting to the chase, the star of the Jacob & Co. Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon is its incredible JCAM37 movement. Composed of 578 parts and 51 jewels, it measures 41.7 by 36 millimeters — the movement, that is, not the cased watch. Its functions include a traditional hour and minute display, a one-minute tourbillon inclined at 30 degrees towards the wearer, a W16 engine block in sapphire with an on-demand animation with pistons and crankshafts flying around, and a power-reserve indicator at 8 o’clock. The open-worked barrel at 3 o’clock is not quite a power-reserve indicator but will let you eyeball the tension left in the barrel for the animation.
The JCAM37 movement is suspended on all four corners, having the Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon join the select ranks of watches with “floating” movements. (The TAG Heuer Monaco Twenty-Four from 2009, the Glashütte Original Sport Evolution Impact, and the Richard Mille RM 27 series come to mind.) The most complex among these will, of course, be the Jacob & Co. and Richard Mille solutions. As for the Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon, the entire movement resonating on its suspension while the three connected crown stems remain stationary forced Jacob & Co. to develop and patent an automotive-inspired transverse system, saving the crown posts from breaking as the movement wobbles around.
The back of the case has three stems: left for setting the times (if you really care), central to wind the movement (clockwise), and the animation (counter clockwise). The right stem acts as a pusher used to start the animation.
The animation lasts about 20 seconds and can be used three times before rewinding the mainspring dedicated to it is required. This is standard operation for animated functions with such immense energy needs. To give you an idea on the energy consumption, while the same sized barrel could energize a watch for 2-3 days, the strain of the W16 engine allows for about a minute’s worth of operation.
I wish Jacob & Co. had shared more technical images and views of this sapphire engine block and the pistons within. True car enthusiasts — which at least some of the Bugatti clientèle are — will appreciate the crankshaft in the bowels of the block, manufactured from a single solid block of stainless steel. When the pusher on the back of the case is pressed, the animation’s dedicated barrel begins to turn at an expedited speed, driving the crankshaft through a series of gears, which in turn drives the 16 pistons up and down in perfect rhythm and geometry.
The flying tourbillon on the front, Jacob & Co. says, is a clean-sheet design, different from all its previous tourbillons. Although not a multi-axis version like on many other grand complication pieces, it is installed and driven at a 30° angle to offer better viewing when the watch is on the wrist and, according to the pioneers of the inclined tourbillon, Greubel Forsey, to attain superior timekeeping performance when compared to same-plane tourbillons.
The far end of the case mimics the front grille design of the Bugatti Chiron with the signature horseshoe grill and white-on-red Bugatti logo. The case of the Jacob & Co. Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon measures 54 by 44 by 20 millimeters, is crafted from titanium with black DLC coating and is water resistant to 3 bars. The Bugatti Chiron car will take torrential rain better than the watch created in its honor — but that’s all good.
An impressive feat not to be overlooked is how fast Jacob & Co. has pulled this one off: It says “almost a full year of development” has gone into the Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon. Sometimes we get the idea major brands can spend that much time picking a new dial color, but it was certainly a feat assembling 578 components in the right order to create a W16 engine for the wrist.
Price for the Jacob & Co. Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon is $280,000, which means it might just blend into the options list for an easy tick when optioning your next Chiron.