Monthly Archives: November 2016

Audemars Piguet’s Iconic Royal Oak Line Welcomes an All-Ceramic Addition

An all-ceramic case and high-level finishing make Audemars Piguet’s latest Royal Oak the belle of the ball.

Rarely does the announcement of a new case material for an existing watch model generate significant buzz, but that is exactly what happened at the January unveiling of the all-ceramicAudemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar (audemarspiguet.com). The new timepiece, which made its debut at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva, features both a case and a bracelet in black ceramic—an inspired choice by Audemars Piguet. The material is demanding, but it is also hardy and nearly scratchproof, unlike popular surface treatments such as black diamond-like coating and physical vapor deposition.

The brand’s R & D team spent more than 600 hours working on the design before it was ready for the production phase. Though the manipulation of ceramic is by no means new to the watch industry, it still requires painstaking attention to cut and finish. The subtle vertical brushed-pattern finishing on the bracelet, for example, takes six times as long to execute in ceramic as it does in metal—30 hours instead of 5, all of which are spent working completely by hand.

Like its predecessors, the new Royal Oak is powered by Audemars Piguet’s Calibre 5134 automatic perpetual-calendar movement, whose day, date, month, astronomical-moon, and leap-year indicators are displayed on the grande tapisserie dial. The rehaut in the inner bezel indicates the week of the year. Priced at $93,900, the watch is available at the brand’s boutiques worldwide.

A Chronology of Ceramic Watches
1973:
Omega launches the prototype of the Seamaster Cermet (popularly known as the Black Tulip), which employs a ceramic and titanium carbide alloy coating over steel.
1986:   IWC unveils the world’s first wristwatch with a pure ceramic case, the Da Vinci Ceramic Ref. 3755.
1990:   Rado’s Ceramica—the brand’s first watch to pair a fully ceramic case and bracelet—hits the market.
1994:   IWC introduces the first chronograph with an all-ceramic case, the 3705 Ceramic Flieger Chronograph. Ceramic IWC Top Gun models follow shortly thereafter.
2000:  Chanel’s J12 pushes the use of ceramic cases and bracelets into the mainstream market.
2013:  Omega returns to ceramics with the debut of the Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon, which has a ceramic case, pushers, crown, and clasp.

This New Ulysse Nardin Diver Le Locle Packs Cutting-Edge Tech into Vintage-Inspired Design

 The Ulysse Nardin Diver Le Locle—based on one of the brand’s 1960s-era dive watches—is a true-to-original vintage design powered by a cutting-edge movement is the name of the game with the new design.

Resting within its ’60s-style case and dial beats the brand’s in-house UN-320 automatic movement, which boasts a silicon escapement and hairspring as well as a special quick-setting date function that can be set both forward and backward (most other calibers can only be set in one direction).

While some may scoff at its rather modest 328-foot water resistance (half the original piece’s rating), it is more than adequate for the recreational wear these watches will see from the majority of buyers.

The announcement of this new release came as a bit of a surprise, as Ulysse Nardin does not typically jump on a trend bandwagon. That said, given the depth and breadth of its historical archives, the Diver Le Locle is a smartly executed reissue that only minimally strays from the original piece’s design. Its dial, hands, bezel, and case design are all true to the original (aside from the switch to a small seconds subdial at the six o’clock position).

To appeal to contemporary tastes, the case size has grown to 42.2 mm from the original’s 38 mm, though the increase is small enough that the piece does not come across as oversized. The Diver Le Locle is anticipated to arrive in retailers in May, with a list price of $9,600.

The HYT H0 Silver

 Our choice for Watch of the Week this week was the first piece that we saw and laid hands on in Basel, and between its bold yet minimalist design and more approachable price, the HYT H0 ($39,000) remains one of our favorites of the show. The brand remains the only player in the game when it comes to using fluid to indicate time in such a fashion, and with this latest redesign, HYT is poised to draw in even more fans. Aside from its new design language, the aggressive pricing  that undercuts its siblings by $16,000 came as a bit of a shock. The H0’s case is by no means cheaper or easier to manufacture, and its inner workings are on par with other models from the brand that command a price of $55,000, positioning the H0 as quite the bargain, relatively speaking. Having just finished a brief stint of hands-on time with the new piece, we found ourselves equally smitten with HYT’s new “entry level” offering.

How It Looks

The biggest change from past HYT models is definitely in the dial and case design of the new H0. It uses the same movement architecture as that found in the H1 and H4 models, and the positions of its minutes, seconds, and power reserve subdials are the same as well. From there, the landscape changes drastically. Instead of the usual partly skeletonized industrial design approach, the H0 uses a three-dimensional multi-layered dial with indices reminiscent of the graduations seen on medical equipment or scientific instruments. Of the pieces to arrive in the HYT collections, the H0 speaks directly to the medical research connection that led to the company’s inception.

The design of the H0’s case and crystal are yet another significant departure from past designs. Though it sticks with the same massive 48.8 mm case diameter of its siblings, the new piece has a lugless case design that makes it infinitely more wearable for those with smaller wrists. Last fall I had the pleasure of spending some time with the HYT H1 Colorblock Red, and though I wouldn’t qualify it as too big, it certainly pushed my boundaries. The lack of lugs allows the H0’s strap to curve down and hug a smaller wrist, and in an era where other brands are dropping to smaller and smaller proportions, this was a smart move by HYT to help reach a broader audience. Last and certainly not least, practically half of the case is made up of a massive domed sapphire crystal that not only gives the illusion of more restrained case dimensions, but also provides its wearer with an unobstructed viewing angle of its dial and fluid track.

How It Works

As we previously noted, nothing has been altered at a technical level with the launch of the HYT H0 compared to other models in the range. A mechanical hand-winding movement running at 28,800 vibrations per hour provides a power reserve of 65 hours. This mechanism is linked to a set of bellows (visible through two cut-outs in the lower portion of its dial) which precisely pumps fluid around the outer track in retrograde from the six o’clock indication. Once the blue fluid reaches six o’clock, it is then drawn back to its starting point in order to continue its travel past the seven o’clock mark and beyond. Though its indications for hours and minutes are separated in such a way, the H0 proved to be quite straightforward and easy-to-read during our stint with it on the wrist.

How to Pair It

Much like a few of our other Watch of the Week candidates, the H0 is another piece where going bold is never a bad thing. As we truck along towards Memorial Day, the option of all white attire becomes a consideration, however shades of denim with white accents would be the most logical play in our books. Those of you looking to push boundaries a little further may even want to consider going down the path of a blazer and sneaker pairing, though the sneaker of choice would need to be equally attention-grabbing to be up to the task. In addition, the H0 will also be available in orange and black in case a different color pallet is preferred.

Greubel Forseys Million Dollar Grande

 The chime of the new Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie makes a resounding impression.

“You can work 11 years on a chiming watch,” says Greubel Forsey cofounder Stephen Forsey, “and if those 20 seconds of listening to the strike aren’t good, then you’ve missed the target.” Fortunately, the authoritative chime of the Swiss brand’s newly released Grande Sonnerie (roughly $1.15 million, 212.221.8041, greubelforsey.com) is proof that its 11-year development—by far the longest period the notoriously meticulous company has devoted to a watch—was not in vain. Forsey and his cocreator, Robert Greubel, have fit 935 components, tourbillon escapement included, into one of the brand’s Asymmetrique cases, crafted this time in titanium for effective sound propagation. The rich, regular, and highly audible sound is all the more impressive because it is the product not of splashy sound engineering, as is the case with many new acoustic watches, but of careful design, adjustment, and traditional tuning.

Like many watches of this type, the Grande Sonnerie, which will be limited to four or five examples each year, can switch from grande sonnerie mode, with hours and quarters chimed as they pass, to petite sonnerie, in which just the hours are sounded; a silent mode and a separate, on-demand minute-repeater function also are included. A barrel-spring system wound by an automatic rotor powers the chiming function. Eleven different safety systems protect the movement’s delicate parts from accidental damage.

The brand devoted considerable attention to the strike mechanism. The cathedral gongs are milled from a single piece of hardened steel together with their base. The hammers, visible through the dial, hit these gongs with considerable force, thereby generating a volume that overcomes the dampening effect of waterproofing rubber gaskets. “We could have made a traditional piece that would have been $700,000, but it would have been the same as others,” says Forsey. “What we have tried to do is to make an irresistible grande sonnerie.”