Sci-fi Citizen watches at Baselworld 2011

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Citizen Eco-Drive Satellite Wave



Citizen presented some cool, sci-fi (complete with sci-fi anime trailer) at Baselworld 2011, including the Citizen Eco-Drive Satellite Wave which comes with its own Appleseed XIII anime trailer. Unforunately Citizen is even worse at marketing and PR than Seiko, so all the material is in Japanese so information is limited.

The first is the Citizen Eco Drive Satellite. I gather this is a concept watch but it is designed to receive time signals from a series of 24 satellites orbiting the earth.

Unlike traditional radio-controlled watches while rely on radio waves for time signal thereby limiting their geographical range, the satellite controlled watch should be able to work at any point on earth.

Update: More about the Eco-Drive Satellite Wave can be found on this blog entry here.

Citizen also created a video trailer for this watch in collaboration with the makers of anime movie Appleseed XIII.

Another new model is the Eco-Drive Ring, a solar-powered chronograph with an impressive looking case. The open sides of the case and lugs are for the solar panels which is a clever way to removing them from the dial as was the case in earlier Eco-Drive models. The case work on the upper end Citizen watches I’ve seen is always extremely high quality and elaborate and this is no exception. Update: A bit more info on the Eco-Drive Ring.

Citizen Eco-Drive Ring

The last notable model is a solar-powered Campanola with moon phase and calendar (pictured right). With the Campanola range not only are the cases of high quality but so are the dials and hands. In fact some of the dials and hands are of amazing quality with razor sharp edges and incredible guilloche.

Citizen Campanola Baselworld 2011

Japanese readers can peruse the Citizen site here.

-SJX

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Seiko at Baselworld 2011 – including the Seiko Credor minute repeater

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Seiko Credor Minute Repeater

Seiko unveiled several interesting watches at Baselworld 2011, including the 130th anniversary Grand Seiko limited edition SBGW033 in steel which hopefully will be on my wrist later this year. I had heard rumours about several of them prior to Baselworld and am glad they have come to fruition. The flagship watch for the year is undoubtedly the Seiko Credor Spring Drive Minute Repeater (Ref. GBLS998). This is the first Seiko minute repeater, and the second high complication Seiko watch, after the Credor Sonnerie. It is a decimal repeater, meaing it strikes the hours in hours, ten minute segments and one minute segments.

Myochin wind bell



Two features ensure the sound of the repeater is as pure as possible.

First is the Spring Drive movement which runs silently, unlike a lever escapement. And Seiko uses a silent governor for the repeater, eliminating the whirring noise that accompanies many repeating watches. Also, the gong in the repeater is forged from Myochin steel; the Myochin family has been making steel for about 1000 years.



Movement of the Seiko Credor repeater



The repeater is made at the Micro Artist Studio at Seiko Epson in Shiojiri. I have visited the studio and it’s essentially 13 men crammed into a small room underneath the stairs (literally) who spend an entire year making 10 or so watches with incredible, no expense spared finish. I am sure the new minute repeater is no exception. Three Credor repeaters will be made a year with a retail price of JPY34,650,000.

Grand Seiko SBGW033 in steel note the blue steel seconds hand

My other favourite from the year’s collection are the Grand Seiko watches for the 130th anniversary of Seiko.

They are conservative watches inspired by the original Grand Seiko of 1960, available in steel, platinum and yellow gold (refs. SBGW033, SBGW039 and SBGW040 respectively). And at 35.8 mm wide they keep the dimensions of the 1960 GS as well. The steel model retails for a reasonably EUR5000 while the gold is EUR15,400 and the platinum EUR23,500.

 

Grand Seiko SBGW039 and SBGW040 in gold and platinum respectively, note the white gold seconds hand on the Pt model

 

Cal. 9S64



They contain the new 9S64 movement with three day power reserve. Aside from the longer power reserve, this calibre differs from its predecessor in several other features.


The mainspring and balance spring of the movement are made from alloys developed by Seiko, while the skeletonised lever and escape wheel are made using an etching technique similar to that used to make silicon wafers.

Seiko Brightz Ananta SAEK015

The last model that caught my attention is the limited edition Brightz Ananta Automatic Chronograph Diver’s watch (Ref. SAEK015). It has a handpainted black urushi dial.

Sadly the design of the watch is derivative and uninspiring. I would have preferred a Grand Seiko with a laccquer dial.

The rest of the 2011 collection can be seen here on Seiko’s website.

– SJX Update: Live photos of the Baselworld 2011 collection.

Seiko’s clip of the new minute repeater, note the lingering, clear chimes

 

 

And the promotional clip for the anniversary Grand Seiko watches


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How fast can you go in a straight line?

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TAG Heuer has a long history of sports timing but the Mikrotimer is something else. Capable of measuring up to 1/1000th of a second – during which a plane at Mach 1 will fly only 33 cm – the Mikrometer has two escapements, one for regular timekeeping and the other for the 1/1000th second chronograph.

The newly released TAG Heuer Mikrotimer reminds me of the Bugatti Veyron. It’s an ambitious and impressive project that does something better, faster, quicker than anything before.

The chronograph balance wheel oscillates at 500 Hz or 3.6 million bph. At that rate the chronograph only has 2.5 minutes of power reserve. Similarly, a Bugatti Veyron at full speed would empty its 100 L tank in 12 minutes. The press release details a bunch of technical features that allows the chronograph escapement to operate at such high speed but it essentially boils down to a special balance spring (with no balance wheel) along with a special lever and escape wheel that allows the pallet to bounce off the escape wheel.

 Like the Veyron the Mikrotimer doesn’t do anything new or even necessary, but both shows lots of technical skill in solving the problems of wear and tear at high speeds, amongst other things.

And like the Bugatti the Mikrotimer is pretty much useless in the practical sense, but useless on a grand scale, though I daresay the Bugatti is grander. Kudos to TAG Heuer for doing something interesting.

– SJX

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Sci-fi Citizen watches at Baselworld 2011

Baselworld 2011: Introducing the Hermes Arceau Le Temps Suspendu

A watch that stops time, showing it only on demand.
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Something unexpected from Hermès at Baselworld this year. Created in collaboration with Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, the Arceau Le Temps suspendu is an interesting concept similar to the Maurice Lacroix Memoire 1 of several years back which promised much but never materialised.

Wiederrecht runs Agenhor, the complications specialist, especially with retrogrades, responsible for some of the most creative retrogrades of recent years, most famous Van Cleef & Arpels Poetic Complications and the MB&F HM2.

Jean-Marc Wiederrecht (left) with La Montres Hermes CEO Luc Perramond

As its name suggests the Arceau Le Temps suspendu suspends time: the nine o’clock button brings both the hour and minute hands to noon and hides the retrograde date hand.

The movement, however, continues running, measuring the elapsed time. Press the button again and the hands fly back to their rightful position, taking into account the period that has passed. This essentially is a triple retrograde watch, albeit cleverly and creatively executed.

This reminds me of the Franck Muller Secret Hours, but in reverse. The hands of the FM are always at 12 but they jump to the correct time display when a pusher is depressed; release the button and they fly back to noon.

This Hermès is novel concept, though no doubt expensive as everything from Hermès is, and reflective of the effort Hermès is putting into watchmaking. Kudos to Hermès for working with Agenhor too.

The design however lacks finesse in my opinion, it’s a equestrian inspired yet lacking character; it looks deflated and soft. Most of what Hermès makes is tasteful but somehow I find their watches generally bland.


 

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