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From Montblancs Star Classique collection, this automatic watch blends refined style with timeless appeal. Characterised by a sleek minimalistic profile with a polished stainless steel case, it is a luxury timepiece that exudes the labels signature sophistication and first-class style.
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I don't even know where to begin. Look closely at the photos and then come back. I need a minute... What you're looking at is the latest Legacy Machine from the mad creatives at MB&F, the aptly named LM Thunderdome. Following in the heavily domed display case footsteps of last year's FlyingT, the Thunderdome is the product of a collaboration between Eric Coudray and Kari Voutilainen. Offering hours and minutes on a slanted white lacquer dial, the Thunderdome's pièce de résistance is its visually striking three-axis tourbillon, which towers above its dial, barely contained by a fine layer of highly domed anti-reflective sapphire.
Dubbed the MB&F TriAx, this tourbillon design is a first in watchmaking as each axis operates at its own pace and the entire assembly has only two cages. The design offers enhanced visual access to the structure of the TriAx and the system also integrates a Potter escapement, which is characterized by the use of a fixed escape wheel. The end result is a much higher speed in the rotation of these mechanisms, with the element at the heart of the TriAx turning once every eight seconds, the middle cage every 12 seconds, and the outer cage every 20 seconds.
Supporting the TriAx, we find a movement of typical Voutilainen excellence. Beautifully structured and painstakingly finished, Kari actually hand-drew the movement to ensure he had a close connection with its balance and tolerances. Despite coming from two very different minds, the Thunderdome is a fantastic and dramatic example of high-end modern watchmaking that feels cohesive, beautifully designed, and wondrously executed.
If the Thunderdome doesn't make you smile then I hate to break it to you but you're a mean one, Mr. Grinch. I have had the great pleasure of seeing almost all of the Legacy Machines in person and they feel like you're holding magic in your hands. They are fanciful tributes to both engineering and the excellence of top craft and thoughtful design. The Thunderdome breaks new ground in terms of both mechanical engineering and tourbillon design. As the concept of a tourbillon has become increasing casual (almost token) over the past decade, it's amazing to see some great minds come together to create something new and exciting. You don't need a TriAx (nor do I), but I do rather like that they went to the trouble of making it.
Production is limited to 33 pieces in platinum with a light blue guilloché dial (with pricing set at $280,000) and there are an additional 10 tantalum-cased pieces being made for retailer The Hour Glass, five with a dark blue guilloché dial, and five with aventurine dials. Most of us, myself included, are unlikely to ever see a Thunderdome in the metal, but it's nice to know they are out there, rapidly spinning in three axes, just because they can.
The watch does not feel unduly deep. Indeed, unlike some timepieces, which can prove tiresome with extended wear, there is a welcome absence of mass, according to a comfortable fit. A blue-and-black aluminum ring graces the fixed steel bezel, repeating the color scheme employed elsewhere. The blue and black hues denote the daylight and nocturnal hours, respectively. A 24-hour scale, marked in white, collaborates with the GMT hand to indicate the prevailing hour at home.
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Ultra-thin is not the only name of the game at Bulgari, as they also master that of ultra-complex watches. The Octo Grande Sonnerie Perpetual Calendar is a perfect example of this. Housed in their signature Octo case, they equipped an automatic movement with a tourbillon, which is also fitted with grande and petite sonnerie, as well as a minute repeater.
Bulgari Octo Grande Sonnerie
Watches with a striking complication always have of particular interest to Bulgari, as we have already seen, for example, with the Magsonic and Octo Finissimo Repeater Carbon. They are committed to increasing their performance and make the sounds as loud as possible. The Octo Grande Sonnerie Perpetual Calendar achieves this by utilizing the inner case as a resonant chamber, while the outer case has slots cut into them through which the sound can emerge. Bulgari also paid particular attention to the construction of the movement itself in relation to the sound. An important part of a chiming watch is the governor, which determines the speed of the chimes. When you listen carefully, you can hear it do its job in most striking watches, but Bulgari developed one that does it work in silence.
Bulgari Octo Grande Sonnerie Perpetual Calendar
With a movement as complex as that of this Octo Grande Sonnerie Perpetual Calendar, you want to see as much of it as possible. Because of this, Bulgari opted for a transparent dial, which only highlights in a very subtle way the power reserve indicators for both the strike and the going train. From a design perspective, does the brand hit the perfect balance. It can be read with ease, yet at the same time, do we get a good look at the front of the complex, mechanical heart that makes this watch function.
Bulgari Octo Grande Sonnerie
When designing the movement, Bulgari equipped it with an extensive amount of safety features. Whenever the repeater strikes, it is not possible to set the time. This ensures that no damage can be done to the movement. It also works the other way around, so when you set the time, all the striking mechanisms are disengaged. The automatic movement provides both powers to the going train, as well as that to the strike train, as shown on the corresponding power reserve indicator on the front of the watch.
Bulgari Octo Grande Sonnerie
Bulgari opted to craft the 44mm large case out of 18 karat rose gold with a sandblasted finish, combined with a titanium middle segment. This gives the watch a unique appearance, which is further amplified by the distinct angular shape of the buttons on the side of the case to operate its features. A strap made from black alligator leather offers a classic touch to a watch that is very avant-garde in design, and which underscores once more that Bulgari’s passion for mechanical watchmaking is not only focussed on the ultra-thin, but also on the ultra-complex.
A total of 37 brands were presenting their high-end timepieces at WatchTime New York 2019, an annual showing hosted by watch magazine WatchTime. These included centuries-old watchmakers like Omega and Breguet, as well as younger independent brands like Romain Gauthier, Armin Strom, and Tulloch, the latter of which made its worldwide debut as a company at the event.
While some of the most inexpensive watches went for $16,500, many were priced well into the six-figure range. To keep prices in context, a vintage Patek Philippe sold at auction on Saturday went for a record-smashing $31 million.
Here's a look at four of the priciest timepieces that were on display at WatchTime's annual event.
1. Armin Strom Minute Repeater Resonance
Released in a limited collection of just 10 pieces, this watch celebrates the 10th anniversary of Armin Strom.
The company also touts it as the world's first and only resonance chiming wristwatch, offering two complications — resonance and minute repeater — in one timepiece.
According to press materials, the watch was inspired by the Zytglogge, a watch tower that's been standing in Bern's center for more than eight centuries.
The Armin Strom Minute Repeater Resonance is valued at $350,000, a spokesperson for WatchTime told Business Insider.
2. Jaquet Droz Tropical Bird Repeater
Touted by the company as "the only one of its kind in the world," this 2018 model is inspired by a tropical landscape.
It features delicately hand-crafted birds and scenery.
The Jaquet Droz Tropical Bird Repeater is valued at $661,500, a spokesperson for WatchTime told Business Insider.
3. Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30° Technique
This watch model is being sold in a limited collection.
Only 11 pieces were made.
The Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30° Technique in Blue Ceramic is valued at $695,000, a spokesperson for WatchTime told Business Insider.
4. Breguet Double Tourbillon
The "Grande Complication" platinum watch has twin rotating tourbillons and a bezel paved with 107 baguette-cut diamonds.
Cristiano Ronaldo was seen wearing this particular timepiece in a September Instagram post, a spokesperson for WatchTime told Business Insider.
A spokesperson for WatchTime told Business Insider that the Breguet Double Tourbillon is valued at $800,000, making it among the event's priciest watches.
Since the earliest age of motorsports, there has been a close connection between watches and racing. Few manufactures have been as involved with driving than Heuer – think of the many icons of racing horology it has created: the Monaco, the Carrera, the Silverstone and more. But perhaps the purest expression of the brand's identification with the sport is the Formula 1 series.
For over 150 years, TAG Heuer – a brand that was previously named just “Heuer” – has been creating first-class pocket watches and wristwatches. Edouard Heuer, the founder of the company, patented his first chronograph in 1882. In 1887, he patented an “oscillating pinion” – a mechanism that is still used today by watchmakers of mechanical chronographs. Since its inception, TAG Heuer has been highly engaged in the sports world. The company supports famous world athletes including members of the acclaimed McLaren Formula 1 team. Steve McQueen sported the TAG Heuer Monaco in the famous racing movie “Le Mans”.
Tag Heuer Formula 1 history begins in 1986. It was a big moment for the company because it was the first new watch family since Heuer was acquired by Techniques d’Avant Garde. A major shift in focus was sought after the trials of the quartz crisis, when the company's premium mechanical timekeepers became very difficult to sell. The new Formula 1 used a bold analogue design with a cutting-edge quartz movement – and it remained quartz-only until very recently. Partly inspired by the Swatch, it found remarkable commercial success with its stylish design, advanced materials and bold colours – not to mention the lower price point.
Some of the watch's appeal was historic: though it was new, both TAG and Heuer had longstanding relationships with Formula 1 racing, working with teams as prestigious as Ferrari and McLaren. But this was a popular watch in its own right. The TAG Heuer Formula 1 Series 1 was unlike any previous Heuer, and boasted fibreglass in the case and top ETA movements within. Later models added chronographs and some were more classically styled, earning even more followers. While the Formula 1 was discontinued in 2000 after LVMH acquisition, it was revived with a new design not long after, and continues to represent a key part of the company's core stable.
This iconic time-piece is available to win for just £2.99 per ticket. Enter here: Get Tickets
What is the best entry-level (if you can even call it that) Patek Philippe for someone looking to start collecting watches?
As much as there is a collection, there is always an “entry-level” into it. And well, the mighty Patek has one indeed.
The entry point into the Patek Philippe world is called Calatrava.
The Patek Philippe Calatrava Reference 96 is considered by many to be the model for the ultimate dress watch, and it is there, almost unchanged in shape, since its launch. Back then, it was of a very modern design, taking the hints from the Bauhaus, where the form follows the function.
And there is little as essential as this beautiful dress watch. No superfluous details, no unnecessary ornaments, nothing except the function of a watch made in a lovely design.
The Calatrava takes its name from the ornate Calatrava cross. This cross was used on the marching banners of the Calatrava knights who defended the Calatrava fortress against the Moors in 1158. Patek Philippe registered the symbol as a trademark in 1887, although they started using it consistently in the 1950s onwards, when it assumed the importance that it holds today in the company.
So, this is the basic Patek Philippe.
What you see above is the original ref. 96 which was in production for over 40 years (1932 – 1973). In the line you may find also other references, like the versions with indirect central seconds and some others without any sort of small seconds indicator. Also, the style of dials and the hour indices have changed in time, and to accommodate different needs of the wearers.
You can find well-kept references for this kind of watch around $8,000 on the second-wrist market, and double that for new timepieces. This is a model that won’t ever get out of fashion. It is sort of frozen in time. There have been countless iterations of it, and countless versions, but the basis has always stood the same, with its amazing, understated elegance.
What you see here is the original movement of the Calatrava. In time, the company has also manufactured several automatic references which are a bit thicker, but for sure are less of a hassle for making them tick.
Talking about other models from the Maison, the Patek Philippe Nautilus, while being gorgeous and extremely popular, is not at all an introductory model to the Patek world, nor it really represents the true style of the Maison: it is like the exception that confirms the rule.
And apart from these style considerations, you are not going to find a Patek Nautilus for less than $25,000, if you are lucky, so it is for sure not an entry-level watch at all.
If you are looking to invest in watches, well, that would be completely a different thing, but it is out of scope of this answer - I often warn people against entering into this field, especially as a rookie would have to suffer some heavy financial losses before beginning to orient himself.
They are extremely good. And they are extremely under-rated nowadays, getting much less attention than competing brands.
Zenith did not always bear this name. The Zenith brand was officially adopted in 1911, but the inspiration came to Georges Favre-Jacot, the founder of the company, much earlier, when after finishing a calibre he thought that the highest point of the universe was the fitting name for such mechanical excellence.
Favre-Jacot founded the company in 1865 and was a fervent admirer of the industrialization principle followed also by Florentine Ariosto Jones of IWC: making movements out of exchangeable parts, in the so-called modern way of watchmaking.
The company manufactured precision pocket watches, its first chronograph dating back to 1899, and later expanded its activities to high-grade chronometers table clocks and pendulum clocks. Its dedication to precise watchmaking was confirmed to its regular participation in the Neuchatel observatory contests.
Its fame grew and the company expanded, selling watches all over the world and opening branches in Moscow in 1908, in Paris in 1909 and in London in 1914.
In 1911 the company became a stock company, and the company passed into the hands of James Favre, who expanded the international network of the company by opening a branch in New York in 1926. In this era, the company employs over 1,000 people - and the historical seat of the company is still occupied by it today.
The years after the war saw the diffusion of wristwatches, and the company dedicated its efforts to the field, manufacturing precious movements incorporating complications such as chronograph and alarm functions. In 1929, the Kew observatory in England affirmed that a Zenith calibre set a world record for precision, with a daily deviation of only 0.6 seconds.
In the following years, Zenith incorporates other movement-manufacturing company, and merges with Mondia and Movado to create its iconic chronograph movement, the “El Primero”, a calibre so precise it could measure the tenth of a second mechanically, which debuts in 1969 with huge success.
The El Primero, possibly, together with the Omega Speedmaster, the most iconic chronographer of the world. The movement was - and is - so excellent that it was used for a period inside the Rolex Daytona models.
From its origins in 1969, the El Primero movement has been interpreted to countless versions.
It has been developed in its own line, the Chronomaster, and also mounted in other lines of the maison, from the most classical to the most modern and ground-breaking.
Unfortunately, even with this exceptional movement, the company fell into hardship as the quartz crisis ell upon the mechanical watch world.
Zenith was bought by an American electronics manufacturing group and in 1978 the USA management orders to dismiss every activity relating to mechanical watch production and destroy movements and machinery. But Charles Vermot, the then head of the chronograph developing team, with the complicity of his fellow employees, dismounts the machinery and hides documents, completed movements and parts in the huge Zenith complex, saving the El Primero from oblivion.
At the end of 1978, the company changes hands again, and with the help of another watchmaker, Ebel, the production of mechanical watches resumes. The company enters into the LVMH luxury group in 1999 and continues to manufacture notable watches that follow the original aim of the maison: striving for ultimate precision.
As a curiosity, one of the most notable owners of a Zenith watch was Mahatma Gandhi, who received a pocket watch with an alarm function from Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India. In March 2009 the watch was sold at an auction in New York, fetching over $2 million.
so in the end…
With a history like this, it is evident that the company makes some excellent movements: but for several reasons it's not really appreciated as it should by the general public. But this fact creates some huge opportunities for aficionados, who buy beautiful timepieces from the company at low prices, especially old movements, which have been mostly made in-house.
My personal opinion regarding the quality of their timepieces is that they belong to the high end of horology. Apart from the El Primero, the Elite line makes beautiful and very classy dress watches that continue the tradition of the Fifties from the maison, with its “Stellina” (little star) line. The Defy is perfect for luxury sports watches, sturdy timepieces with a very assertive character, some are skeletonized and present some of the most advanced innovations in horology. The Pilot line is instead very retro-styled and presents beautiful “fliegers” designed to capture the charm of the watches made between the two World Wars.
In short, they are keepers.