SIHH 2015: Introducing The Vacheron Constantin Harmony Monopusher Chronograph, Equipped With The New Cal. 3300 (With Specs And Price)

To mark its 260th anniversary Vacheron Constantin has created a series of limited edition, cushion-shaped timepieces, including the Harmony Chronograph equipped with the calibre 3300, single-button, manually wound chronograph movement.

Modelled on a 1928 pulsometer chronograph and made to mark Vacheron Constantin‘s 260th anniversary, the Harmony collection of SIHH 2015 comprises six different models, each a limited edition. The median priced timepiece in the anniversary range is the Harmony Chronograph, a one-button, hand-wound chronograph with a traditionally styled movement as well as an unusual 45 minute counter.

Cushion-shaped with a 42 mm diameter, the Harmony Chronograph is powered the calibre 3300, a newly developed chronograph movement with traditional architecture and aesthetics. It is hand-wound, with a lateral coupling system and column wheel, the twin features found on old school, high-end chronographs.

And the balance cock is decorated with a relief fleurisanne engraving, echoing a motif from a pocket watch signed Jean-Marc Vacheron dating to 1755, the oldest pocket watch owned by Vacheron Constantin.

The dial is silvered with a pulsometric scale, just like the 1928 wristwatch that provided the template for the Harmony line. Notably, the movement features a 45 minute counter, while most chronographs count up to 30 minutes.

The Harmony Chronograph is limited to 260 pieces in pink gold, with a retail price of 105,600 Singapore dollars, including 7% tax. At current rates that’s equivalent to US$84,500.

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SIHH 2015: Panerai Unveils Its First Carbon Fibre Watch, The Luminor Submersible 1950 Carbotech

For the new Luminor Submersible 1950 Carbotech PAM616, Panerai has turned to a carbon fibre reinforced polymer known as Carbotech for the case, bezel and crown lever bridge, the first time Panerai has used a carbon fibre composite.

Long popular with brands like Hublot and Richard Mille, it is now Panerai‘s turn to use carbon fibre composite for a watch case. The new Luminor Submersible 1950 Carbotech 3 Days Automatic (PAM00616) is named after the carbon fibre reinforced polymer used for make the case, bezel and crown lock bridge. Carbon fibre composites like Carbotech have a characteristic wave-like pattern due to the layering process used to make the material. Sheets of carbon fibre are laid on top of each other, with a polymer resin in between to hold it together. It is then put in an autoclave, a sort of high pressure oven, resulting in a light and strong composite. The distinctive striped appearance is due to the layers of carbon fibre inside.

Rated to 300 m, like most of the other Panerai Submersible watches, the case is 47 mm in diameter, with blue accents on the dial as well as parchment coloured Super-Luminova.

While the case is carbon composite, the screw-down back is titanium due to the fact that carbon fibre composite not reacting well to torsional (or twisting) forces. The PAM616 is equipped with the P.9000 automatic movement and a rubber strap. The Submersible Carbotech is part of the regular collection, with pricing yet to be announced.

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EDITORIAL: What Does The Rising Swiss Franc Mean For Watch Buyers?

Three days ago the Swiss National Bank lifted its cap on the Swiss franc's value against the Euro. Within hours the franc rose by as much as 40% against the Euro, with Swiss stocks moving in the opposite direction; on the same day shares in Richemont and the Swatch Group fell by as much as 16%. What does the franc's appreciation mean for watch buyers?

Reaction to last Thursday’s surprise move by the Swiss National Bank (SNB) has been panic in some quarters. The sudden strength of the Swiss franc will have an impact on watch buyers, but the consequences are unlikely to be as significant as some fear. A strong franc makes the production cost (and other Swiss franc-denominated costs) of watches made in Switzerland more expensive. Depending on the currency, the equivalent production cost of a Swiss watch in foreign markets is between 15% to 40% steeper with the newfound strength of the Swiss franc. But not all of that will translate into an increase for the end consumer since the production cost is far, far away from the retail price of a watch.

Another relevant factor is geographical price parity. Swiss franc retail prices just got significantly higher than anywhere else. Parity will need to be achieved, but the solution is not going to hiking up prices internationally to match Swiss prices. Switzerland overall is not an enormous watch market, and most watches sold inside Switzerland are to tourists, rather than to its eight million citizens. The watch market is heated segmented into two: new watches at the retail level, and the secondary market (which includes grey market and parallel imports).

At the retail level, the consumer is unlikely to suffer a major impact – retail prices will not go up anywhere near 20%, 30% or 40% that some doomsayers are predicting.  For one, demand for luxury watches is weak, as evidenced by Swiss watch exports figures and results published by groups like Richemont. Watchmakers no longer have the near mythical pricing power they once enjoyed. Raising prices more will just dampen consumer demand even further.

What will happen is watch brands will have to give up some of their handsome margins, as will watch retailers. The divvying up of the downside will depend on the relative strength of each. Major brands with large turnover that retailers rely on for the bulk of their sales, the watchmaking superpowers like Rolex, Patek Philippe, Omega and so on, have more leverage to compel retailers to make a smaller profit. These big brands are also those with the greatest consumer demand, giving them a stronger bargaining position.

The watch brands that will be left out in the cold are the independents, with little bargaining power. Save for the few independent watch brands with a strong client base and consistent sales, most have almost no leverage over their retailers. Such independents either have to grin and bear it, or see their retail network shrink – something that was already happening before the Swiss franc jumped.

Since the secondary market is dependent on the retail market, whatever happens in the latter will translate into the former. The bigger brands with relatively good demand might see higher prices on the secondary market, but the overall impact is likely to be marginal.

As for the industry itself, the impact is also going to vary amongst brands and groups. The Swatch Group has more production in Switzerland than Richemont for instance, since the former is nearly entirely reliant on watches. Richemont, on the other hand, has about half its sales in jewellery.

Nonetheless, the the big groups and major brands all have healthy enough balance sheets to stay afloat despite the painful currency move. It is the borderline independent brands that will suffer most, which anyway were probably on their way out before the SNB gave them another push. For watch buyers the message remains the same – the watch business is suffered a significant and sizeable slowdown, and there will be compelling buys to be had.

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