Berlin and greater Germany recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. In 1989, the reunification of East and West Germany — memorialized by the destruction of a wall that separated East and West Berlin — was also a precursor to the demise of the Soviet Union and the Cold War between Western powers and those in the Soviet Union’s Iron Curtain. One of the most interesting timepieces to celebrate this piece of history is this Berlin Wall Signature limited-edition set of watches from Pramzius. Named after an obscure mythological god known by people in Baltic region of Europe, Pramzius as a watch brand is brought to you by the same people who operate the longstanding online watch retailer R2Awatches.com.
aBlogtoWatch first debuted the Pramzius Berlin Wall Signature Edition watches in early 2018 when they were part of a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. The limited edition of 1,989 watches came with two dial styles (one with or without the more bold graffiti-style “Berlin” statement) and with two case sizes (42 and 48mm-wide). The Berlin Wall Signature Edition watches are also available on a strap or this matching “aged-style” steel metal bracelet. Now after the watches have been produced and released, I offer a hands-on look at this pretty cool, but certainly not for everyone, timepiece.
On my wrist is the 42mm-wide version of the Berlin Wall watch with the “colored dial.” The particular “Berlin” graphic was inspired by actual graffiti from the watch (and that was used with permission by Pramzius). The face itself is bluish actual marble stone, and the dial is a decently legible mixture of applied hour markers with graffiti style 8 and 9 o’clock hour indicators that have been juxtaposed in order to create the “89” number as indicative of the year 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down. Given the art on the dial, I actually think it is pretty legible, overall, and the luminant on the hands and hour markers makes for impressive darkness visibility.
If you’ve been to Berlin — especially in first two decades after the fall of the wall, you’ll immediately appreciate how the “aged, industrial” look of the watch case and bracelet fit in with the vibe of the city. While at times the case feels a bit like a hodgepodge of design elements, it results in a masculine and comfortable aesthetic that is satisfying given the current popularity of “aged-style” (otherwise brand new) timepieces. To achieve this aged effect, the 100 meters water resistant (with sapphire crystal over the dial) steel case and bracelet is given a coating for the visual effect.
On the rear of the case is an etching of the Brandenburg Gate — an important and historic landmark in Berlin and the place where United States President Ronald Reagan famously orated “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Another fun detail that is sure to help with social conversation is the crown of the watch. Inside is a small capsule that contains rocks that came from the actual Berlin Wall itself. Pramzius very much wanted to have an actual part of the Berlin Wall in the watch, and this was a clever way to do it.
Inside the watch is a Japanese Seiko Instrument NH35 automatic mechanical movement. Yes, it would have been nice for the watch to come with a Swiss movement, but at this price point and with all the details in the watch, I am not complaining. In fact, my major takeaway feeling is that Pramzius really went above and beyond in making not only a satisfying historical-themed watch, but also in making a fashion statement well beyond the history the watch is trying to tell. With all the timepiece details meant to satisfy wristwatch enthusiasts, the Pramzius Berlin Wall Signature Edition watches actually better than one might expect, compared to other watches of this ilk in their final execution.
One again, Pramzius produces four versions of the Berlin Wall Signature Edition watch depending on the case size and dial design. Each of the watches is available on either a strap or a matching metal bracelet priced at $649 USD and $699 USD, respectively.
Genus is a newer Swiss watch brand competing in the $100,000-plus price segment with a visually arresting new dial concept that is encapsulated in the GNS (not the most creative name) watch collection. aBlogtoWatch debuted Genus watches here with a discussion of the GNS 1.2 WG, which is the 18k white gold version variant of the GNS 1.1 RG, which is the same timepiece but with an 18k rose gold case and matching movement.
Genus’ GNS watches are not for everyone — nor are they trying to be. The design is a mixture of classic proportions and the ultra-modern sensibility of leaving nothing left to the imagination on the dial and displaying more of the mechanism than is necessary. Such open-worked dials of today are also imbued with the indicators needed to read (just the time in this instance) information on the dial. In the case of Genus, in addition to the open-worked movement, we are faced with a novel means of indicating the time. Without some guidance, it would be easy to misinterpret the dial information altogether. Genus wearers might take joy in that, or otherwise viewing onlookers not familiar with the Genus dial, struggling to read the time when seeing it. There is some guilty pleasure in that, I suppose.
How is time told on the Genus GNS? It has what I call a “serpentine” row of indicators, kind of like a snake is topped with a “head” that serves as the hand, followed by a train of other moving segments that are there for effect. I should say that, in some images of other Genus models, only the lead part of the serpentine hand is on the dial — so I think the full “train” of hand parts is optional for the Genus dial concept. The snake of hand segments moves around the dial in a figure-eight formation while also serving as the minute hand. Actually, the serpentine hand system is just one part of the minute indicator, offering the first digit of the minutes while a smaller dial at 3 o’clock offers the second digit of the two-digit minute indication readout. Most of the time users can rely on just the serpentine hand to gauge the current minutes, but at over $100,000, Genus wants to make sure you can read the minutes more precisely (if you so choose).
Hours are indicated in a “digital” manner with an indicator hand located at 9 o’clock on the dial with an hour marker ring that rotates around the periphery of the dial. Genus attempts to promote legibility by making the indicator hands all red, which does help. Reading the time isn’t too bad once you train your eyes where to look. The serpentine hand is mostly cosmetic for effect, but it does help promote more “dial animation,” certainly a desirable thing.
From a design perspective, it appears that Genus’ design team struggled a bit when it came to mixing traditional and modern design elements into one watch. I believe they were trying to include the “best of both worlds” into the overall design. The GNS has poise and composure, but I am not sure if it ever truly reaches a cohesive theme or design language. For example, the curved bridges and clockwork on the movement are more traditional in design, while the time indicators and case are a bit more contemporary in design. Depending on your taste, the overall GNS composition will make sense to you or feel a bit disjointed when it comes to aesthetic harmony.
The Genus GNS 1.1 RG case is 43mm-wide, 13.1mm-thick, and water resistant to 30 meters. As simple as it is, the case with its brushed finishing in gold is actually rather attractive and the fitted strap considerably helps to improve the look. The “box style” sapphire crystal over the dial is actually one of those more retro-style elements that helps to show off the modern dial quite nicely. Turn the watch over, and through the sapphire crystal caseback window, you’ll see the other side of the movement appearing — once again very traditional versus modern.
The movement inside of the watch is the Genus caliber 160, which is manually wound and comprised of 418 parts (many of those parts are likely in complex time-indication systems). The movement operates at 2.5Hz (18,000 bph) with a power reserve of 50 hours. The movement includes a base along with a module over the base for the particular time indication system. That means in the future, Genus can re-work part of the time indication system (or add to it) while keeping the same base movement architecture.
Two types of timepiece collectors tend to be interested in watches like the Genus GNS. The first group is well-funded and open-minded collectors who enjoy supporting new brands while getting to wear novel concepts on their wrist. This group likes products like the GNS because of their risk-taking and originality. The second group is similarly well-funded people who see the GNS as a bold statement piece and luxury status symbol. For them, the enjoyable dial animation (which looks its best when the user changes the time), the high price of the product, and visually bold design are why the Genus GNS has appeal. The market still has enough of these buyers to make Genus a viable concept, but the competition is still fierce, even at this price point. The Genus GNS 1.1 RG watch has a retail price of 150,000 Swiss Francs.
When it comes to Scandinavian design and aesthetics, one could easily go straight to thinking about IKEA or Fjällräven, but what about a watch brand? Simplicity, functionality, and minimalism are at the core of Scandinavian design, which tends to lend itself to watch design. Scandinavian watch companies have been slowly making their way into the microbrand segment by introducing exemplary offerings with a very high-value proposition. E.C. Andersson, or E.C.A. for short, has released its second watch, the Denise diver, and it deserves some attention, as it checks off a lot of boxes when it comes to being a solid dive watch and a tool watch with all the Scandinavian details you would expect from an independent microbrand.
E.C.A came on the microbrand scene back in 2016 with its first watch, the North Sea, followed by the North Sea II and Calypso, all in multiple case and dial color variants. For 2019, the brand has released a dive/tool watch called the Denise, named after the submarine that was carried on board Jacques Cousteau’s oceanographic vessel. They haven’t said which Denise, specifically, but I’m going to take a guess and say it’s the SP-350 Denise “Diving Saucer” since both the watch and submarine have a saucer-like profile.
When I took delivery of the Denise, the first thing that came to my mind was, ”That’s smaller than I expected,” but that’s usually a good thing coming from me. I’m partial to smaller-cased watches because I have a small wrist and because proportions tend to be more harmonious.
The Denise is just tall enough to feel solid and balanced, while at the same time short enough to fit under most shirt cuffs comfortably at 15mm. It’s not a thin watch, but it feels slimmer than its dimensions would suggest due to its rectangular 70’s-esque top and profile geometry. The lugs ends do curve slightly downward to help with fit, but the horns aren’t long enough to reach below the casebacks protrusion. The overall feel of the watch as it sits on your wrist is flat and planted, without feeling too top heavy.
Dimensions on the website are pretty true to size as a 40mm width without screw-down crown. With the screw-down crown, I found the watch to measure in at 42.6mm, and it wears just like its measurements. The crown’s shallow coin finish knurling leaves a bit to be desired, as it can be difficult to get a good grip when screwing it down. If I may make this comparison, the sizing and dimensions of this watch are very similar to a Rolex Oyster Perpetual case in that the dimensions don’t do justice to the real-life watch presence on the wrist.
The profile view of the watch is of a flattened saucer with the crystal height being just about double the caseback’s height. The flat stainless steel sandwich case looks very balanced and properly finished. The faceting and varied metal finishes cause the light to dance off each part of the watch, adding a bit of luxury and sparkle to an otherwise highly functional diver/tool watch. I also mentioned downturned lug horns, which make the broadside of the watch case look like the hull of a Viking ship when the watch is face down. I guess it could also look like an elongated viking hat with horns as well?
I was fortunate to be able to review two versions of the Denise, the black dial and the blue-to-black circular gradient dial. Both versions are appointed a unidirectional bezel with a dual-purpose countdown and compass function ceramic inserts and a sub-style bezel edge. The spring tension on the bezel is just the right amount and provides 120 positive tactile clicks without much backlash.
I frequently use the dive bezel as a countdown timer for things under 15 minutes or as a stopwatch to time the duration of various activities, Unfortunately, I have yet to test the compass function, as I’ve been fortunate enough not to get lost …yet.
The double-stick markers at 12 o’clock with single stick markers at 3-6-9 make the watch face highly legible in bright-to-low-light situations, even before the lume kicks in, and they’re very vertically pronounced on the dial. All the markers and the hands are bordered by a mirror finish and lumed, adding to the contrast and quick-glance functionality that every field and dive watch needs. Orange accents are tastefully done and the verbiage on the dial face is minimal. Another nod to Rolex is the laser-etched rehaut with the E.C.A logo mirrored and repeated.
The dial is smartly laid out, and there’s very little printed text except for the brand name, city of company origin, depth rating, and the Swedish word for “automatic” (automatisk) — all of which makes it obvious that this isn’t a Swiss brand, and if you haven’t already noticed , it doesn’t say “Swiss Made,” and that’s because the Denise is powered by the Seiko NE57, rebranded and in-house precision-certified as the ECANE01.
The movement is regulated to -1, +4 per 24 hours and is also regulated in five positions with the regulation bias set towards the crown up position. This is thought to be the usual resting position for rubber-strapped watches with deployment clasps, outside of being in a watch winder or pillowed watch case.
This Seiko movement offers a centrally located power reserve module that requires the watch to stack all four hands in the middle, giving the watch great depth. Having the power reserve centrally located adds symmetry to the dial and reduces visual clutter. I did notice, however, that the power reserve hand stopped at different points on the scale on the two separate watches when fully wound or when empty. This may have been due to the different manufacturing times of the watches where the decision of the resting position of the hands could have changed or because one of my review watches was a demo and the other a production model.
The lume quality is exceptionally bright and mostly even throughout its dial application. The color consistency is spot on from the dial to the ceramic bezel insert, which can be challenging for small-batch manufacturers. The “+” side of the power reserve is accented with orange as well but isn’t lumed. Interestingly, the “-” side of the power reserve is lumed; I suppose it’s more important to know if you’re running low on power, in the dark. The blue dialed watch is lumed slightly different with the power reserve being outlined without one side being lume filled. (The thin dashes of lume between the dial markers and bezel markers are reflections off the crystal, which is why they are inconsistent in the picture.)
Although the sapphire crystal is said to be AR-coated, there are some weird refractions and reflections happening between the dial face and the underside of the crystal. When looking at the watch from certain angles, you can actually see a ghosting effect where the reflections of the mirror-finished edges of the markers hover over the dial.
Rubber straps are pretty typical for dive watches, and the Denise is no exception. The Italian rubber is comfortable, but firm enough to keep the watch in its place and has a diamond texture on top and a flat surface on the underside. It does require you to cut it to fitment, but that’s usually par for the course. E.C.A. recently announced that they’ll be making stainless steel jubilee bracelets available starting immediately for all watches as an option. The timing wasn’t right for me to review the bracelet, but I expect it to have the same fit and finish as the watches and really add that extra bit of pop to the overall look of the watch.
The deployant clasp is designed well and its looks complement the watch head very nicely. The clasp is one of the best features of the watch, as a whole, and uses a very simple but effective mechanism that allows you to make five micro-adjustments amounting to 8.5mm of dive extension or retraction. I’ve never gone for a dive in a wetsuit, so I can’t say if the expansion is enough to fit comfortably over a wetsuit, but it definitely works when my wrists swell up in the morning. Its water resistance is rated to 200m, which, as a side, note is 200m shy of what the actual Denise submarine was capable of.
I’ll go out on a plank and say that, if Jacques Cousteau were still alive with us today, he might have worn an E.C.A. Denise. Possibly just for the novelty of having a watch that was named after one of his submarines, but also because he was thought to have worn Rolex, Blancpain, Doxa and Omega. The Denise borrows style, iconography, and function from these watch brands and produces an attractive timepiece that is functional and robust while also being of high quality.
I know you were all thinking it. “When is John going to make a viking reference?” A “viking” is someone who goes on an expedition. I think it’s fitting that a Scandinavian watch brand from Gothenberg, a city rooted in sailing, is endeavoring to create watches for tool and dive enthusiasts that are capable of these duties on a daily basis, while looking great, when all you’re doing is navigating through the daily grind.
E.C.A. produces its watches in limited batches of no more than 250 pieces. As of this writing, there are still 15 pieces left of the black-dialed version and about 30 pieces left of the blue-black gradient dial, and you can pre-order the Arctic Sport version with a white dial and white ceramic insert, each starting at €891.
Richard Mille’s latest release, the RM 52-05 Tourbillon Pharrell Williams, is one of the most dramatic examples of the brand’s artistry in recent years. Produced in partnership with award-winning singer, songwriter, and music producer Pharrell Williams, the new piece takes inspiration from Williams’ lifelong fascination with space travel through an exquisitely detailed design based around the planet Mars. The decorative bridge covering the majority of the dial is the obvious attention-grabber, another titanium piece hand-painted in white and shaped like the helmet of an astronaut. Even more impressive, the topography of the Martian landscape is accurate, depicting the Mariner Valley where the first-ever Mars probe touched down.
Richard Mille’s signature 42.35-millimeter tonneau-style case design is the basis for the RM 52-05 Tourbillon Pharrell Williams, with its blocky overall shape and hex screws surrounding the bezel, but the details of the case are what begin to set this piece apart. The bezel and caseback are made from metallic brown Cermet, an advanced hybrid of titanium and ceramic materials, while the inner sandwiched layer is comprised of carbon TPT, a layered carbon fiber material that has seen extensive use in aerospace. Furthering the spacefaring theme is the crown, with an intricate design that mimics the wheel of a Mars rover.
Like many Richard Mille releases, the RM 52-05 Tourbillon Pharrell Williams features a skeleton dial design, but it’s cleverly hidden by layers of decoration. The main movement plate and bridges are forged from Grade 5 titanium and decorated with slabs of finished aventurine, giving the appearance of a field of stars on the deep blue backdrop of space.
On the sides of the helmet, at 2 o’clock and 10 o’clock, there are two inlaid black sapphires and four inlaid diamonds to create the helmet cameras and floodlights. The visor of this decorative helmet displays a view of the surface of Mars with Earth in the background. The visor is made from a single piece of red gold, hand-engraved in a process of 15 hours then grand-feu enameled and hand-painted by artisan Pierre-Alain Lozeron over 24 hours of intensive work. The resulting finish, with its multiple gradients, required substantial changes to the traditional grand-feu enameling process, taking the art form to its technical extreme. Overlaid on this incredibly executed bridge is a set of intricately designed and space-inspired ladder hands.
While the incredible artistry of the decorative bridge dominates the view of the dial, the tourbillon escapement itself is rather tucked away, only half emerging out from underneath. The intricate complication still receives a prominent position at 6 o’clock but is not made the focus of attention as in many tourbillon-equipped designs.
While the artistry of the dial is immediately striking at first glance, the craft and technical expertise of the movement in the RM 52-05 Tourbillon Pharrell Williams is equally impressive. The manually wound Caliber RM 52-05 movement includes a free-sprung balance with variable inertia, a faster rotating barrel for increased accuracy, a barrel pawl with progressive recoil, pinion and winding barrel teeth with a central involute profile, and spline screws forged from grade 5 titanium. This high-tech approach allows for incredible accuracy, coupled with a 42-hour power reserve.
Richard Mille finishes off the RM 52-05 Tourbillon Pharrell Williams with the signature RM rubber strap in a suitably Martian medium orange.
With only 30 watches produced, the RM 52-05 Tourbillon Pharrell Williams will only make it in the hands of a few collectors. With its advancements in craftsmanship, technology, and design, the watch also commands an equally astronomical price with a recommended retail value of $969,000,
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.
My first encounter with the Wild Horologists & Team LCF888 watch was via an email blast notifying me of a new release. Initially, I took the news as nothing more than a bog-standard press notification and was about to file it away for coverage at a later date when something caught my eye. Leaping out from the page were two words that piqued my interest: “school watch.”
I went back and took another look at the lead image. It didn’t seem to correlate with the description of a school watch. It was too slick, too polished, too professional. As a former watchmaking apprentice, I’ve had firsthand experience in producing a school watch as part of my training. While the end products of such endeavors tend to be quite impressive when appreciated in context, they generally look nothing like the WH&T LCF888. Most students’ imaginations are limited by available materials, tooling, and, crucially for this project, contacts.
When you’re starting out in the world of watchmaking, especially if you’re trying to carve a career for yourself at the bench, you’re unlikely to know many people in the industry — certainly not the kind of people you need to know to mobilize 15 separate high-end manufacturers to help in the production of a school project. Given that it is exactly what’s happened here, I thought more investigation was necessary.
Wild Horologists & Team is a unique conglomeration of private educational facility tutors, students, and established industry suppliers. The project was conceived as a way to give the students of an advanced training school in La Chaux-de-Fonds the chance to take a watch from concept to creation, exposing them to a raft of techniques, necessary processes, and logistical hurdles any brand or individual would face when trying to bring a new watch to market.
In an age in which many new brands talk about transparency in an attempt to convince potential purchasers that they are not being fleeced by ridiculous margins, WH&T still manages to offer incredible value when stacked up against brands utilizing that strategy. Asking how this is possible won’t really illuminate the difference between this project and others (because, theoretically, any project could run with such tight margins). The best way to make sense of the pricing structure is to ask why WH&T is doing this.
This is an educational exercise more than it is a commercial project. While this watch could very likely gain sufficient traction at full retail price (should it be put to market following the currently active Kickstarter campaign), building a brand and all that comes with it isn’t part of the mission statement. What that means is that you get the chance to own one of these limited pieces for significantly less than you would expect to pay for a watch of similar quality.
While the WH&T LCF888 does not have an in-house movement, it is proprietary. Caliber C3057 is based on the Valjoux 7750 but manufactured especially for the school by Concepto Watch Factory. The major modifications (aside from the obligatorily customized rotor weight) can be seen on the dial side of the watch. The skeleton display provides excellent depth and a unique visage, thanks to this movement having been designed especially for this project. What is reassuring, however, is that the vast majority of components used in the C3057 are compatible with those of the 7750, so after-care should be something many service centers can handle.
The attention to detail on the dial is immediately apparent. The skeletonized date ring — read between 4 and 5 o’clock — is a joy to behold and not something one would expect to see executed to this level in a watch of this price. The anodized decoration ring that sits beneath the 41mm bezel and the 45mm case (53mm lug-to-lug) coordinates perfectly with the anodized rehaut ring and subdials. This kind of chromatic congruity gives the whole ensemble a look of something way beyond this price bracket. The original handset provides excellent legibility and a distinct character, and while this high-concept design will certainly not be to everyone’s taste, the level of effort and refinement that has gone into the design and sourcing of each component is surely something all lovers of watchmaking can appreciate.
And that appreciation need have nothing to do with the watch itself. The project could inspire a new generation of watchmakers. Just think, the class of students behind this could contain the next generation’s master. Who knows what this kind of experience so early in one’s career could lead to? But beyond the actual value and good vibes surrounding this project, it forced me to ask myself a few difficult questions.
When I studied the watch (before I learned its price) I fell in love with it and decided I wanted to own it based on its appearance and the story behind it. As a lover of the Audemars Piguet concept watches and most mechanically interesting timepieces from Hublot, the aesthetic was right up my street, but I expected the price to be way out of my reach. When I learned how eminently attainable the LCF888 is likely to be, I couldn’t believe it. In some ways, I was disappointed it wasn’t more (which is not a feeling I ever thought I would have and one I can still barely understand).
I’ve spent the last 17 years of my life in and around the watch industry. Throughout that period, I professed heartily that quality mattered more to me than branding, that I sought out the products that offered more for less tirelessly and was unimpressed by status acquisition. Did I want a Rolex GMT Master II “Pepsi” at retail? Sure. But would I ever countenance paying over the odds for it because it was “hip?” No way. I’d much sooner save my money and buy something unheard of that was providing a necessary service to niche horology on an accessible level.
As soon as I got the WH&T LCF888 Chronograph on my wrist, I was dumbfounded. I’d always wanted an AP or a Hublot, but knew I was never likely to be able to afford one. And while I still had neither, I had something that scratched that aesthetic itch without sacrificing quality. I’m not saying there is no difference between this watch and those produced by either Audemars Piguet or Hublot (that would be ridiculous), but, quite simply, there is nothing wrong with the LCF888. Try as I might, I couldn’t find fault with its execution.
There is a massive difference in the level of research and development and hand finishing that goes into creating an AP or a Hublot. Not to mention the impassable gulf of design provenance and industry significance. But from a material perspective, and from a visual perspective, the LCF888 was enough for me to no longer feel bad about not owning either of the other brands.
But it is not a brand. The story is simple, humble, and true. It does not confer a status boost upon a consumer (maybe kudos for those in the know, but that is a very slim slice of society). It is an experiment, a small club of people that buy watches for slightly different reasons. A brief and rare opportunity to be part of something fleeting. Were it not for the fact that a limited number of these timepieces are slated for production (around 1,000 units in total), this piece would have no chance of appreciation. It would be an anomalous object, floating in deep space.
The MECA-10 ranks among the cooler and more novel in-house movements of the last decade. It’s niche, it’s not exactly practical, but once you dig into it, you’ll see that it’s an obscure love letter to mechanics. Ariel has chatted with the “movement engineer” at Hublot who was part of the two-year process of taking it from concept to reality. Now, the Hublot Big Bang MECA-10 “Nicky Jam” wraps that impressive movement in an, ahem, impressive number of diamonds and weird-colored defunct alligators.
It’s a real head-scratcher of a watch for me. At first sight, it looks like a prop from hip-hop videos — and at all the subsequent sights, this impression unpleasantly continues to linger around. But if it’s a bedazzled, “Look at me, did I tell you I got rich fast?” watch that you are after, boy does the MECA-10 “Nicky Jam” pass muster. If you still have a bit of sense left between your pierced ears, you’ll be quick to note that this piece from the top of the Nicky Jam limited-edition food chain is priced at €364,000, making it rather expensive, even by diamond-clad watch standards.
The next question is who, outside of Nicky Jam, would want to drop €364,000 on a watch that pays tribute to Nicky Jam, or anyone outside the manufacturer for that matter? That’s one very expensive way to say: I really am fond of Nicky Jam. For the record, I couldn’t say I have a better understanding or appreciation of six-digit-priced watches attributed to race car drivers, athletes, etc. So, if you are a fan of Nicky Jam and have dropped (or are planning to) €364,000 on this piece — or just €23,800 or €52,900 on either of the two other limited editions — drop a comment below and share why, exactly, because I genuinely am curious.
Where the Hublot Big Bang MECA-10 “Nicky Jam” really shines (ha!) is in the quality of its setting. The setting is so good it is almost wasted on this weird watch. Well, maybe “wasted” is too strong a word. It’s more like Claude Lorrain painting — not the The Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba, but a Nicky Jam concert. In all seriousness, the quality of the setting is easily on par with anything I have seen — and I have seen so many bejeweled watches that I need glasses now.
Having looked at my images and macro images closely, it definitely ranks among the top three insanely bedazzled watches, as far as the quality of the work is concerned. The setting used here to fix the 307 baguette-cut diamonds to the case is called “invisible setting,” as the stones are holding each other in place. This requires extremely thorough separation of the base material, the cuts, and the setting itself — Hublot has its in-house gem-setting atelier in Nyon, so big kudos to the craftspeople there. Many workshops and designs leave lots of space (thick material) around invisibly set stones to leave extra room and overall make the work a bit more safe and easy.
Let me begin with a quick peek behind the scenes of aBlogtoWatch at BaselWorld. Every year, a large part of the aBlogtoWatch team gathers to check out the lamest-to-greatest watch novelties in the moderately charming town of Basel. Over countless meetings, a couple times it happens that a team member finds a novelty, leaps over the desk to check it out in haste, only to then look up with an exaggerated look of lust and new-found love in his eyes. Launched at BaselWorld 2019 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Casio G-Shock MTG line, the Casio G-Shock MTG-B1000RB Lunar Rainbow was, by all means, a watch that evoked such cartoonish gestures from more than one of us, as we first got our hands on it at our annual Casio meeting at BaselWorld.
It’s not just looks though; durability and technology also get a boost. A sapphire crystal, a new Core Guard Structure, a carbon-reinforced resin case and yet tougher lugs mean that you can now fall off an even higher waterfall and your watch will still be ticking, even though you will not. The tech includes Multi Band 6 (as it damn well should, for a whole grand), five motors to drive each hand separately, as well as Bluetooth smartphone connectivity with a G-Shock connected app. That sounds dorky as hell, but keeping track of the watch’s chronometrical self-adjustments, self-updates, and even the power generated by the solar charging panel is admittedly kind of cool interesting.
Cutting to the chase here, the whole point of the Casio G-Shock MTG-B1000RB Lunar Rainbow is its namesake feature: the “lunar rainbow” theme. Having never witnessed one, I can only report that the colors are inspired by a type of rainbow that is formed by the light of the moon. Anyhow, it’s a cool name to go with a special color scheme, so why not give it a pass? A unique rainbow ion-plated (IP) finish sets the case, crown, crown guards, bezel, screwheads and lug structure apart from any other watch you can think of — I do wish that there was a bracelet to go with it all, even though I remain uncertain whether my mind could actually process that sight.
Interestingly, although the pattern might at first appear to be random, all Casio G-Shock MTG-B1000RB Lunar Rainbow watches will have roughly the same pattern: purple around 6 and 12 o’clock, green and yellow elsewhere around the bezel, and blue on the lug structure. That said, Casio has confirmed that each and every watch will be slightly different, so the exact colors and the area that they cover will vary from one watch to another. The case measures 55.8mm-tall, 51.7mm-wide and 14.4mm-thick. A weight of 123 grams is tamed by a resin band matched to a tang buckle.
Despite those rather gargantuan proportions, the watch looked okay and felt shockingly good around my 6.75″ (~17cm) wrist. I can’t wait to get one of these in for review to gauge how it fairs out there in the real world, with the BaselWorld-romance all lifted from my eyes.
If you do know that you surely love this colorway but want to learn more about the MTG line of G-Shocks, you can learn all there is to it from Ariel’s review of the MTG-B1000 here. That is essentially the exact same watch but with a safer color scheme. Oh, and that one gets you a full metal bracelet and a 100-dollar savings over this fancy-colored Lunar Rainbow edition.
Price for the Casio G-Shock MTG-B1000RB Lunar Rainbow is $1,000 and, quite hilariously, they are limited to “one per household” on the G-Shock website. The good news is that the Lunar Rainbow doesn’t appear to be a numbered limited edition — but if you love it, you better head to your local store or order it online, because once these get out of production, a hefty second-hand premium will likely be attached to them.
It might sound creepy and all, but I sometimes wish I were a fly on the wall. Like when the idea for the Richard Mille Bonbon Collection was first raised and presented at the brand’s HQ, or when fellow exhibiting brands at SIHH saw Richard Mille’s swan song at its last SIHH this year. In other words, the Richard Mille RM 07-03 Cupcake, Richard Mille RM 07-03 Marshmallow, and Richard Mille RM 16-01 Fraise are basically destined, and perhaps programmed, to upset people — even though I am sure we would all agree to a watch industry in which such cheeky creativity is the be-all and end-all.
I don’t know. Maybe you think you do, but in reality, you cannot know for sure, either. What I mean is that I still don’t know if the Bonbon Collection is meant as a practical (and ridiculously expensive) joke, or if it is a genuine product created after careful consideration of market research and a deep understanding of a dedicated customer base. It would be tempting to go for the practical joke aspect, especially since Richard Mille is among that handful of brands that could actually pull off such a bonkers move. Just look at that wilfully wonky “SWISS MADE” text in a place where nobody asked for it or the actual cupcake-shaped crown, both on a $130,000 watch.
Or just look at this diabetes-inducing dial, with lollipops and other types of sweets I don’t even know the names of, all crafted by hand and laid over an elaborately machined, high-tech titanium movement that few in the luxury watch industry could even describe how to make — let alone actually make it. For the record, Richard Mille has been relying on Manufacture Vaucher’s expertise for its less complex automatic movements and on APR&P for its complicated calibers. The bipolarity between a child’s dream-diet and ultra-high-end watchmaking is enforced by those thick hands, which are so shockingly massive and elaborate they could give a seasoned hand-manufacturer sleepless nights over the prospect of a wasted life.
Forcing the prospect of an elaborate joke aside, could this be a product that has come to be after Richard Mille has taken a good look at the ultra-high-end luxury accessories market, its current trends and hot-sellers, as well as the heartfelt wishes of its established customer base? Maybe all it wanted to do is design a funky, colorful, and cheerful watch that would cater exactly to them? Ariel said it best when he referred to these as jewelry items in our hands-on video from when we saw the Richard Mille Bonbon collection at SIHH 2019.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe luxury jewelry, in general, not only gets a pass for being this playful and creative but is also by and large encouraged to be exactly that. By contrast, according to some, creativity in watchmaking should be limited to shaping the plates in a hand-wound chronograph movement a bit differently… Maybe a red chronograph seconds hand is acceptable.
This has set the foundations of an environment that is often hostile and extremely critical of watches of arguably weird and unusual bursts of creativity. As such, over the years we have seen hot-selling brands get severely criticized by those so insistent on a, ahem, more traditional taste. Some historic brands, as well as quick-to-the-top ones, had been motivated by their success to release increasingly bolder new watches that they thought their brands were strong enough to take. Franck Muller and Audemars Piguet immediately come to mind with different versions of their own mistakes — and having suffered for them big time. The difference between them and Richard Mille is that, apparently, the Richard Mille brand is robust enough to bear such a cheeky twist on its core designs — though it is notable that RM has left the famed RM-11 well clear of this adventure.
Just look at where the world’s leading high-end fashion houses are taking women’s clothing, shoes, and accessories and you will see how basically none of the established ultra-high-end watch brands are offering anything that would even loosely fit into the world of bold proportions and crazy colors dictated by fashion companies and followed with immediate effect the world over.
In line with the painful absence of actually trendy women’s watches, I have trouble imagining these pieces spending too long on the shelves. As far as women’s watches are concerned, none of the established brands come close to such borderline ridiculous levels of creativity. These days, Cartier and Bulgari are playing it too much within the confinements of their own DNA, while Patek Philippe and Jaeger-LeCoultre are limited to mixing neatly executed craft with vaguely emotional inspirations, mostly cheesy stuff such as the fish of the seas, or the aurora borealis. The world’s fashion-conscious rich simply can’t fit those into their daily rotation of expensive clothing — and so those watches, with very few exceptions, only really pass muster within the dimension of horology but don’t make enough of an impact outside. Sad, but true. Richard Mille goes all the way, into and through the wall, and gives its peers what they apparently want/need these days.
These being Richard Mille watches, they are of course chock full of high-tech and also highly refined details. Countless layers of variable thickness of Carbon TPT make up the bi-color cases of the Fruits collection, while TZP Ceramic is used to create the creamy-soft cases of the Sweets collection. To make the dials, a total of 3,000 hand-painted and hand-lacquered miniature sculptures were made and a new “sugar coating” effect was developed using powdered enamel and the fine sand from hourglasses — apparently. It’s old-school artisanship wrapped inside Carbon TPT.
So, why should we watch lovers care about this weird collection of outrageously expensive candy watches? Because they shock us into remembering that haute horlogerie and delicate crafts need not only be used to create derivative watches that somehow, I suspect, get a pass and these won’t. But something is telling me that the small workshop that made the 3,000 colorful dial components had a field day meeting this challenge, as opposed to painting the gazillionth cheesy enamel image onto a round dial. Just guessing.
To answer the original question, I think the solution is that the Richard Mille Bonbon Collection is a mix of both: It is a practical joke crafted after carefully gauging the number of established and tentative Richard Mille customers who have their black Centurions erect and ready for a swipe to be part of an elaborate joke like this. It’s horological entertainment performed at unrivaled levels of quality in execution, topped off with the showoff power of the Richard Mille name. Give me a reason why that wouldn’t work.
Fresh off the press is a new Omega Seamaster dedicated to James Bond, Agent 007. The latest Omega Seamaster Diver 300M 007 James Bond On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is presented for the 50th anniversary of the sixth movie in the James Bond Series. Whether you are a fan of that specific movie, James Bond, or “just” the Seamaster, this reference 220.127.116.11.01.004 is packed with interesting details that you’ll want to know about, so let us discover them now.
Omega has been the official watch of James Bond ever since 1995, beginning with GoldenEye — that’s a solid run of 25 years and 8 feature films. Still, Omega reaching back to pre-Omega days of the franchise is a fascinating choice, given that pre-1995 James Bond was mostly known as a Rolex man. Perhaps Omega wants the world to see them marking James Bond — all of it — their territory now, and given that 25-year track record, that isn’t quite so much of an over-reach as it might at first appear.
That quarter of a century marked not only 8 movies, but a fair number of special edition commercially available Seamaster watches dedicated to its role alongside James Bond. As such, by now Omega has this practice nailed down and knows exactly how many 007-derived details to pour into its limited editions, balancing between neither making the watches gimmicky, nor leaving them uninteresting for fans of 007 and 007-themed Omega watches.
Consequently, the Omega Seamaster Diver 300M 007 James Bond On Her Majesty’s Secret Service offers six notable details to have fans reaching for their wallets in excitement. First, and perhaps most apparently, there is the dial itself: crafted from spiral-brushed black ceramic (not lacquered brass, but solid ceramic), it features James Bond’s iconic gun barrel design, laser engraved into the ceramic. The very center of the spiral is in fact exactly 9mm wide, hinting at the size of the common cartridge used in pistols… Even though, apparently, Bond in the movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service used a Walther PPK with a .32 ACP cartridge that actually means a slightly smaller diameter of 7.65mm. To Omega’s credit, the Walther PPK has indeed also been manufactured with a 9mm caliber and Bond has used plenty of 9mm guns later on, so if you are a fan of the more modern Bond, this detail is for you. Plus, it has to be said that the dial does look more proportionate with the slightly wider, 9mm center that they opted for.
Then, at the 12 o’clock position we have a special index inspired by the Bond family coat-of-arms. All indices and hands are crafted from 18kt yellow gold, a fitting choice of material for a 50th anniversary, and are filled with Super-LumiNova with the color-coordinated green minute hand and bezel pip. The rest of the indications show up in bright blue in the dark.
Take a closer look at night and the third feature, “a secret signature” reveals itself: at the 10 o’clock (50-minute) marker, the lume reveals “50,” as another tribute to the 50th anniversary of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. There is a pattern here: the black-on-black gun barrel pattern, the minute detailing of the 12 o’clock marker, and “50” showing up in just one of the indices add up to a neat balancing act between Bond-specific details and everyday wearability.
Fourth, we are looking at a special detail on the date disc, something that will make 007 fans look forward to the 7th of the month that much more: number 7 is painted in the trademark 007 font. Speaking of which, as the fifth feature we are looking at a numbered plate set into the left side of the 42mm wide stainless steel case: an 18kt yellow gold plate, engraved with the unique limited edition number — no “one of 7’007” nonsense here, they are all individually numbered. Once again, Omega is yielding a double edged sword with these limited editions: some customers expect a certain level of exclusivity, but not too much exclusivity otherwise they themselves won’t be able to get their hands on it. So, yes, 7,007 watches is a lot for a limited edition — but not a lot for a global base of Seamaster and James Bond fans.
As the sixth detail comes the caseback. Omega has not supplied caseback images with the release but we were able to secure one from their brief product launch video. The transparent caseback reveals the Omega Master Co-Axial Calibre 8800, an in-house caliber with Master Chronometer certification, 55 hours of power reserve and an in-house tested daily rate between 0 and +5 seconds. Over the neatly decorated movement rests the Bond family crest noting “Orbis Non Sufficit” — i.e. the world is not enough. Rings a bell? It should.
One additional feature of this limited edition Omega Seamaster is its special presentation case that adds the stainless steel bracelet along with the rubber strap, along with a strap changing tool and a travel pouch with the Bond family crest on it. This may be one step too far for some, but truth be told, I’d find no hardship in rocking a Bond-style watch pouch.
To close on a personal note that hopefully you will be able to relate to, I will say that while I’m certainly not the biggest James Bond fan in the world (I just thoroughly enjoy the series), I’d still be very tempted to get this particular Seamaster over the regular one, simply for its exciting, fun, yet elegantly done details which I’d expect to find entertaining down the road. We don’t often see gun barrel patterned ceramic dials on watches, nor coats of arms in indices, and that’s not because they aren’t cool, but because you need a theme to be able to add these to an already successful watch collection. With the James Bond Seamaster, Omega has those bases well and truly covered.