Monthly Archives: February 2017

Breitling Duograph owned by Formula One Champion Jack Brabham

Celebrity owned watches always seem to obtain a premium in regards to price, especially when the watch itself is desirable as well, and comes with quite a large dose of pedigree. That was the case of the Breitling Duograph that Phillips auctioned last year, and was previous the property of three-times Formula One Champion Jack Brabham.

Brabham made especially a name for himself for being the only Formula One driver to ever win a championship in a car that bears his own name. An accomplishment that I don’t see repeated anytime soon. In 1960 he was gifted this Breitling Duograph after winning the Championship in that year.
Jack Brabham in action in 1970 at Brands Hatch

Housed in a steel case of 38.5mm of diameter, the design of this Breitling is very clean and to the point. It does feature, however, a split-second complication, making it to one of the coveted Breitlings of its era. The same can be said of the movement that powers this watch. Venus caliber 185 was a manual wind split-second chronograph, fitted with a column wheel and a Breguet spiral mainspring. It was considered one of the prime chronograph movements of its time. It is also a complication that Breitling recently revived in its collection with the Navitimer Rattrapante.

Interesting is that it seems as if the chronograph only has two pushers, while the Venus caliber 185 is calibrated to have three. The third one stops one of the second’s hands and is located in the crown. When you look carefully, you can see that Breitling placed the entire crown slightly away from the case, acting as a whole for the pusher of the split-second function of the watch.

Brabham passed away in May of 2014 at the age of 88, leaving behind a legacy, as well as this watch. The amazing condition of it, either points out that he was a very careful owner, or safely stored the watch away. Either way, it is a great example of how an amazing watch can elevate to even higher grounds due to an impressive provenance.

Ulysse Nardin and the Art of a “simple” Tourbillon

There was a time when tourbillon’s where a rare and precious complication. While they are still precious, rare has gotten a different meaning. While you still don’t see them that often of the wrist of people, many brands have at least one model with a tourbillon, most of them even several. It has become significantly more difficult for brands to stand out with a tourbillon watch. Some respond to this by adding more tourbillon’s or give it multiple axes to rotate around. Ulysse Nardin did it differently and dedicated to showing us the art of the “simple” tourbillon, with the Marine Tourbillon Grand Feu Enamel.

Mind you, the term simple only applies here on the look fo the watch, which is rather understated and non-pretentious, especially for a tourbillon. It starts off by forgoing precious metals and selecting stainless steel to craft the 43mm case of the Marine Tourbillon Grand Feu Enamel from. While the added value in this can be found in the fact that it makes the watch more robust, it also doesn’t draw away too much attention from the dial.

That dial is made of grand feu enamel and looks as pure as freshly fallen snow. Ulysse Nardin knows to highlight this even more with the stretched out Roman numerals on the dial. The power reserve indicator at twelve o’clock brings some color to the dial with its red accents, and prevent it from becoming too “simple” in design. The six o’clock position is reserved for the tourbillon.

Ulysse Nardin visually shielded the tourbillon so that you cannot see the rest of the movement. They don’t have anything to hide, but a well finished manufacture movement, but more so wanted to highlight the tourbillon itself. It is a flying tourbillon, meaning that there is no bridge on top of it, blocking the view and of course is it fitted with Ulysse Nardin’s Silicium escapement and spring. The movement itself is automatic, with a beautiful rotor featuring the Ulysse Nardin logo between two anchors, and provides a generous power reserve of 60 hours.

In all its beauty, the Marine Tourbillon Grand Feu Enamel is, in fact, a very practical watch, something we cannot say of every tourbillon. Daily wear, even when you have an active lifestyle, should not be a problem. Not only for the stainless steel case but also because it is water resistant to 100 meters. While the blued hands look quite classical, they are filled with SuperLumiNova, making the time easy to read, even in low-light conditions.

Of course, such splendor comes with a price-tag. With 28.000 CHF it is one of the most competitive priced Swiss tourbillon’s, especially when you take into consideration the Chronometer certified manufacture movement, grand feu enamel dial, and overall high-quality finish. In fact, Ulysse Nardin is not only showing us the art of creating a “simple” tourbillon but is rather giving us a lesson on how to do this well. Class adjourned!

Breitling Avenger Hurricane Military

Breitling is no stranger to delivering watches to military units, and we are not only talking Air Force here. Their watches are equally appreciated by other branches of the armed forces. With the new Avenger Hurricane Military, the brand pays tribute to this heritage, and to those who serve.

Part of a 1.000 piece limited edition the Avenger Hurricane Military looks all business. Its case is crafted from Breitlight. This is an high-tech material exclusively developed for Breitling. It is 3.3 times lighter than titanium, yet harder than steel. This makes it also highly resistance against scratches, while at the same time the material is alto anti-allergenic and anti-magnetic.

Its light weight allowed Breitling to make this chronograph 50mm in diameter, allowing for superb visibility. The numerals on the dial feature a stenciled, military look, and although Breitling themselves look at the yellow-beige color of them as being vintage inspired, I see in them the perfect camouflage color for a desert operation, especially combined with the khaki-colored strap. This strap is made from a special high-resistance Military textile fiber.

The 24-hour dial is another reference to Breitling’s military heritage, but also civilians will grow to love it. That grow needs to be taken quite literally, as it will take most people some time to read a 24-hour dial with ease, especially at a glance. Then it turns out that it offers quite a few advantages over a regular 12-hour dial.

The chronograph is powered by Breitling’s manufacture Caliber B12. This Chronometer certified movement runs at 4Hz and has a generous power reserve of 70 hours. The case is water resistant to 100 meters/330 feet, and Breitling paid in particular attention that the crown, chronograph pushers, as well as the rotating bezel,  are easy to operate with gloves on. The sapphire crystal is chambered and glare proofed on both sides, for optimal visibility under all circumstances. The finishing touch on a watch that you definitely want on your wrist when the going gets tough.

Baselworld battle of the dials

Pre-releases from Seiko and now Bell & Ross and Frederique Constant suggest that Baselworld fair might well be sub-titled “new faces”.

Seiko has announced fresh enamel dials for a range of Presage models with Bell & Ross looking to cosmetic surgery for its iconic square watch with graphic lines first released in 2005, and Frederique Constant offering a world-timer.

Bell & Ross has two models in the offing,  a BR03-92 Horograph and BR03-92 Horolum, both 42mm watches they describe – somewhat puzzlingly – as “an invitation to travel”. This is because “their functionalist dials fulfill the mission of displaying time with the utmost efficiency”.

A minimalist Bauhaus-inspired design certainly doesn’t detract from optimum readability, with clean lines and minimal ornamentation adding to the cockpit-instrument feel of things.

As Bell & Ross describes it, “the BR03-92 Horograph reminds us of the clocks in airport terminals with its simple and uncluttered display with clear digits”, while the BR03-92 Horolum “reproduces the codes of runway lighting used to guide pilots night and day”.

Their name is made up by the common root “Horo”, from the Latin “hora” (hour), followed by “graph” (graphics) or “jum”, from the Latin “lumen” (light).

Constant classic

Frederique Constant’s new Classic Worldtimer is more literally a traveller’s watch given it covers 24 zones; the classic in its name is equally fitting.

A picture in rose gold-plated stainless steel, framing a brown-hued dial world map etched with a world map, it could be described as elegant and sophisticated compared with the no-nonsense Bell & Ross entries, but the latter wins on readability at least as far as the local time of day is concerned.

On the other hand the Frederique Constant with its 24 cities on its outer rim offers a clever complication that impressively is entirely controlled and adjusted via the crown.

What both have in common with the Seikos is that what’s new is primarily the fresh but not too radical faces they present, an indication that the trend this year is likely to be be “keep it simple folks”.