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Introducing the MIH Gaïa Watch

Affordable, clean, and for a good cause.

One of Switzerland’s most important timepiece museums, the Musée International d’Horlogerie (MIH), is raising funds with a limited edition, rising hours wristwatch that’s both cleanly styled and affordable.

Arriving some 14 years after the first, minimalist MIH watch created by independent watchmakers Ludwig Oechslin and Paul Gerber, the MIH Gaïa watch, named after the annual Gaïa Prize given out by the MIH, is the result of a collaboration between watch industry suppliers located in La Chaux-de-Fonds, the hometown of the MIH.

The MIH Gaïa watch will be crowdfunded, and a minimum number of orders will be needed for it to enter production. Importantly, the MIH Gaïa watch is priced at about US$2400, half what the original MIH watch with an annual calendar cost about a decade ago, making it a compelling value proposition.

MIH Gaia watch 2

A local collaboration

Each aspect of the watch, from design to the case, was the work of a local supplier. Some are little known outside the industry, like buckle maker Cornu & Cie, while others are famous – the dial was made by Jean Singer & Cie, best known for the dials it made for Rolex and Patek Philippe in the mid 20th century.

Slightly bowl-shaped, the case of the watch is inspired by the MIH building, while the domed dial is inspired by the spherical Gaïa Prize trophy.

MIH Gaia watch 1

Time is indicated on two discs: rising hours in a window at 12 o’clock, and the the minutes on a disc just below. It’s a classically sized timepiece, with a steel case that’s 39mm in diameter and just under 10mm high. Inside is a Sellita SW400-1, an automatic movement that’s a clone of the ETA 2824 modified to have a wider base plate to suit a larger case.

MIH Gaia watch 4

MIH Gaia watch 5

A small window on the back reveals part of the rotor

Keeping the past ticking

Profits from the sale of the Gaïa watch will mostly be allocated to restoration of two prized objects in the MIH collection.

The first is the Grand Magicien, a 19th century automaton with a clock and a wand-waving magician figure that answers a set of questions; and the second is a 19th century tellurium by François Ducommun that shows in real-time the movement of the Earth and Moon around the Sun. Both objects incorporate clocks, naturally.

Grand-magicien-automaton-MIH

The Grand Magicien automaton

Tellurium-Ducommun-MIH

Two watchmakers of the MIH with the tellurium by Ducommun

Limited to 200 watches, the Gaïa watch with a blue dial shown here is the “Series 1”, with subsequent series with different dials being a possibility.


Key facts

Diameter: 39mm
Height: 9.74mm
Material: Stainless steel
Water resistance: 30m

Movement: Sellita SW400-1
Functions: Hours and minutes
Winding: Automatic

Frequency: 28,800, or 4Hz
Power reserve: 38 hours

Strap: Calfskin with steel pin buckle

Price and availability

The MIH Gaïa watch is priced at 2,900 Swiss francs, or about US$2910. But early backers of the watch will only pay 2,400 francs, with a 1,000 franc deposit due upon ordering. Delivery is expected in summer 2020.

It’s available online from September 19, 2019, until January 19, 2020, at Montremih.ch.


Correction September 17, 2019: The time display incorporates a rising hours, and not wandering hours as previously indicated.

Correction September 18, 2019: The SW400 is a clone of the ETA 2824, and not the Valjoux 7750 as stated in an earlier version of the article.

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Hands-On: Nomos Tangente Neomatik “Red Dot” Limited Editions

Exotic numerals galore.

Singapore watch retailer The Hour Glass has just unveiled yet another limited edition to mark the its 40th year – the Nomos Tangente Neomatik 39 Red Dot. It’s the most affordable anniversary edition yet, and also also the third in the annual “Red Dot” series of watches made for Singapore.

Available in four iterations, each limited to just 50 pieces, the limited edition is based on the bestselling Tangente automatic, arguably the quintessential Nomos. It screams, or rather quietly declares, Nomos’ design philosophy of Deutscher Werkbund, the predecessor of Bauhaus, and is characterised by a clean dial with large, alternating hour numerals and a case with thin, angular lugs.

While most limited-edition watches from Nomos vary in colour, with subtle, yet profound tweaks to the palette, the new Red Dot quartet departs from the norm in one drastic way: the first pair features Eastern Arabic numerals, while the second has its hours in Chinese oracle bone script. According to The Hour Glass, the use of both scripts is a nod to Singapore’s history as an entrepot where traders from both the Near East and Far East often stopped.

All four watches also pay tribute to the country with a small in-joke, with a little red dot at six o’clock a reference to the city state’s frequent depiction on maps.

Nomos Tangente Neomatik 39 Red Dot “The Hour Glass” 1

The Eastern Arabic duo

Nomos Tangente Neomatik 39 Red Dot “The Hour Glass” 8

Bone oracle script and the “little red dot”

Essentialism

First conceived in 1992 by Nomos founder Roland Schwertner, the Tangente was designed according to the tenets of Deutscher Werkbund, the early 20th-century design movement that aimed to combine artisanal crafts and mass production, thereby establishing the principles that later inspired Bauhaus.

The Tangente takes its cues from 1930s wristwatches made in Glashütte by a variety of now defunct brands, combining a case and dial design common during that period.

Despite the “39” suffix, the Tangente “The Hour Glass” edition measures 38.5mm wide. It sits a lot larger on the wrist due to its long, angular lugs that extend a good centimetre from the case. And the narrow bezel and wide dial further enhance the perception of size, making this a much larger watch than the measurements indicate.

However, the case is just 7.2mm high, a mere 0.5mm thicker than the hand-wound Tangente 38, giving it an elegant, flat profile.

Nomos Tangente Neomatik 39 Red Dot “The Hour Glass” 3

While Nomos cases are well-designed instantly recognisable, the finishing is straightforward. The case is entirely polished and paired with either a Cordovan leather strap, or a stainless-steel bracelet with a proprietary folding clasp and a quick-release spring bars.

Notably, these are the only Tangente watches offered with a bracelet. Made of up fine lateral links, the bracelet is thin and well-constructed, with a strong vintage feel. It has a moderate level of polishing with light lateral brushing, which draws attention to the polished case.

Nomos Tangente Neomatik 39 Red Dot “The Hour Glass”-6

Exotic dials

Paired with either a salmon or silvered dial, the first two watches feature alternating numerals in an ancient Chinese script found on oracle bones, which were used for divination some 3000 years ago during the Shang dynasty.

Thin and elegant, the typeface is aesthetically minimal yet striking.

Nomos Tangente Neomatik 39 Red Dot “The Hour Glass”

Impressively, the same script is used for the minuscule five-minute markers as well as the quarters on the small-seconds sub-dial; these markings are extremely fine and only apparent upon close scrutiny.

Nomos Tangente Neomatik 39 Red Dot “The Hour Glass” Limited Editions-5

Rhodium-plated hands on the salmon dial, and blued steel hands on the silvered dial

Tangente Neomatik 39 Red Dot “The Hour Glass” Limited Editions-6

Nomos Tangente Neomatik 39 Red Dot “The Hour Glass” 4

The second pair of watches incorporate the more widely known and sought-after Eastern Arabic numerals, usually found in watches dedicated to the Middle East. Somewhat fashionable in recent years, such numerals have been found on watches ranging from Rolex to IWC.

Because of the script is elegantly curved, its visual informality lends zest to the otherwise the sterile nature of German design.

Nomos Tangente Neomatik 39 Red Dot “The Hour Glass”-2

The first watch features a ruthenium-coloured dial with beige indices and numerals, paired with rose-gold plated hands while the second iteration has a navy-blue dial with light blue numerals and rhodium-plated hands.

Tangente Neomatik 39 Red Dot “The Hour Glass”-3

In all four watches, the seconds hand in the sub-dial is in a bright red, echoing the red dot jus below, offering excellent contrast from the hour and minute hands.

Tangente Neomatik 39 Red Dot “The Hour Glass”-4

In-house, ultra-thin

The greatest aspect of these watches that make them excellent value propositions, in addition to the unique dials, is the ultra-thin, in-house Neomatik DUW 3001 movement. Rarely a feature at this price point, the movement boasts an in-house escapement, balance wheel and hairspring, known collectively as the “Swing System”.

And at a mere 3.2mm in height, the movement is also among the slimmest full-rotor automatic movements on the market, while managing a respectable power reserve of 43 hours.

nomos tangente neomatik red dot movement

That was achieved in a couple of ways: reworking the gear train, a thinner mainspring, a twin pawl winding wheel, and a lower-than-average balance frequency of 3Hz. It also has a brake system that stops the rotor when the mainspring is fully wound

Nomos Tangente Neomatik 39 Red Dot “The Hour Glass” 5

Apart from having a full-rotor, it features a traditional three-quarter plate that accommodates the arbors of the wheel train, keeping all of the gears in stable contact, as well as a balance bridge that secures the balance wheel on both ends, ensuring greater durability and stability, as well as easier assembly.

Overall, the movement is constructed in a robust and practical manner. But attention has also been paid to its aesthetics. The movement is also attractively finished, albeit by machine, with Glashütte ribbing, perlage and blued steel screws, giving it an appealing look that punches above its price class.

Nomos Tangente Neomatik 39 Red Dot “The Hour Glass” 9

Concluding thoughts

Of the four variants, the duo with the Eastern Arabic numerals works best – the model with a black dial and rose-gold numerals is the most striking – with the sleek and simple form of the numbers pairing well with the dial and case design. In comparison, the oracle bone script numbers feel angular and squared off.

The Tangente Neomatik Red Dot “The Hour Glass” costs slightly less than the standard Tangente Neomatik 39, making it exceedingly compelling in the context of value. It is extremely limited production is a big plus, as well as the surprising manner in which it deviates from the standard model, while maintaining the brand’s key traits of functionality and simplicity.


Key facts

Diameter: 39mm
Height: 7.2mm
Material: Stainless steel
Water resistance: 50m

Movement: DUW 3001
Functions: Hours, minutes and small seconds
Winding: Automatic

Frequency: 21,600bph, or 3Hz
Power reserve: 43 hours

Strap: Horween Shell Cordovan leather or stainless steel bracelet

Price and availability

The Tangente Neomatik Red Dot “The Hour Glass” is limited to 50 pieces each, priced at 4,850 Singapore dollars, equivalent to US$3520. It’s available only at The Hour Glass.


 

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Audemars Piguet Introduces the Millenary Frosted Gold Philosophique

Cleverly one-handed.

Audemars Piguet’s latest watch for ladies is an elegant complication, or more specifically, a simplification with a twist. Inspired by a wristwatch from the 1980s, the Millenary Frosted Gold Philosophique has only a single hand for the hours, and nothing else. But the hour hand doesn’t travel in a circle, instead it traces the oval shape of the case.

Single-handed pocket watches already existed in the 18th century, when the precise time was not a concern for most people. But Audemars Piguet revived the concept in 1982 with the original Philosophique, a one-handed wristwatch styled like a pocket watch, with its crown at 12 o’clock.

Though it was a men’s watch, the original Philosophique is tiny by modern standards, measuring just 32mm in diameter, making it significantly smaller than today’s Millenary Philosophique for ladies.

audemars piguet Millenary Frosted Gold Philosophique 6

audemars piguet Millenary Philosophique 2

Available in white or pink gold, the Millenary Frosted Gold Philosophique features a striking, contrast case finish of granular “frosted gold” and mirror-polished surfaces. Inspired by Florentine jewellery, the frosted surface is achieved by hand, with a sharp tool that creates tiny indentations on the gold.

audemars piguet Millenary Frosted Gold Philosophique 5

audemars piguet Millenary Frosted Gold Philosophique 3

The dial is finished with an irregular “hammer-like” surface, echoing the case decoration. But more intriguing than the decoration is the trajectory of the hour hand. Instead of travelling in a circle, the hour hand follows an elliptical path, tracing the outline of the oval Millenary case.

This is possible because the hour hand moves on two axes: an axis at the base of the hand, which in turn sits on the outer edge of a rotating disc on the dial.

audemars piguet Millenary Frosted Gold Philosophique 7

The watch is powered by the newly developed cal. 3140, a variant of the cal. 3120, the brand’s workhorse in-house movement, with the key difference been the additional gearing for the hour hand motion. Notably, the engraving on the rotor – depicting the Audemars and Piguet family crests – is filled with lacquer to match the colour of each dial variant.

audemars piguet Millenary Frosted Gold Philosophique 8

audemars piguet Millenary Frosted Gold Philosophique 4


Key facts

Diameter: 39.5mm
Height: 10.9mm
Material: 18k pink or white gold, hand-hammered
Water resistance: 20m

Movement: Cal. 3140
Functions: Hours
Jewels: 43
Winding: Automatic

Frequency: 21,600bph, or 3Hz
Power reserve: 50 hours

Strap: Alligator strap with 18k gold pin buckle

Price and availability

The Millenary Frosted Gold Philosophique is available in 18k white gold (ref. 77266BC.GG.A326CR.01) and 18k pink gold (ref. 77266OR.GG.A823CR.01). Both are priced at US$29,500, or 41,400 Singapore dollars, and available only at Audemars Piguet boutiques. For more, visit Audemarspiguet.com.


Update September 18, 2019: Price in Singapore dollars added.

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Hands-On: F.P. Journe Astronomic Blue “Only Watch”

The most ever.

With the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime in steel taking first place, the second-most expensive watch at Only Watch 2019, will inevitably be the F.P. Journe Astronomic Blue. The last time a one of a kind F.P. Journe went on the block at Only Watch, it sold for US$1.15m.

On most metrics the Astronomic Blue is a record-setting watch for F.P. Journe. It is the most complex wristwatch ever conceived by Francois-Paul Journe, boasting 18 functions. The Astronomic Blue is also the biggest F.P. Journe watch ever, and might become the most expensive ever after the Only Watch auction in November.

Remembering 1987

The Astronomic Blue actually traces its lineage back to a timepiece Mr Journe made in 1987, the “astronomic planetary watch”, a double-faced pocket watch. That, in turn, was inspired by the George Daniels Space Traveller, hence the similar, symmetrical dial layout.

fp-journe astronomic planetary 1987 pocket watch

The astronomic planetary watch of 1987. Photo – F.P. Journe

Going even further back, Daniels modelled the Space Traveller on a handful of Breguet pocket watches from the 19th century, namely pocket watches no. 2807, 3862 and 3863. These featured similar, symmetrical twin sub-dials that indicated both mean solar time and apparent solar time.

The Astronomic Blue, in short, is the 21st century take on Breguet’s masterpieces.

george daniels space traveller I watch 4

The George Daniels Space Traveller

Large and complicated

The Astronomic Blue is a complicated-looking watch, but easy to grasp thanks to the helpfully labelled diagrams provided by F.P. Journe.

It is also easy to operate, relatively speaking, since everything can be set via the crown, without the need for any tools. And despite everything that’s happening on the front, the layout is sensible and legible, helped in part by the size of the dial.

fp journe Astronomic Blue only watch 1

Like the Daniels Space Traveller, the Astronomic Blue indicates sidereal and mean solar time, but with a slight twist. Like Mr Journe’s 1987 pocket watch, the Astronomic Blue also incorporates a second time zone, one that’s entirely earthly and scaled in mean solar time, on the right-hand sub-dial.

The main mean solar time display, in other words, ordinary time based on the 24-hour day, is shown regulator-style, with the minutes in the centre and the hours on the right-hand sub-dial.

The design is also clever, easily managing to look like an F.P. Journe despite being unlike any other of the brand’s watches. It is instantly recognisable as one, thanks to all of the trademark elements scattered throughout the dial, from the hands to the typography to the polished ring holding the sub-dials.

The sidereal time sub-dial, and below that the constant seconds

Mean solar time, and the second time zone, with the moon phase just below

The prototype movement

By part count the cal. 1619 in the Astronomic Blue exceeds the discontinued flagship complication, the Sonnerie Souverain grande and petite sonnerie, by some margin. The Sonnerie Souverain movement was made up of 408 components; the Astronomic Blue, on the other hand, has a 758-part movement.

Most F.P. Journe watches have a neatly arranged, often streamlined movement. When turned over, the Astronomic Blue reveals a view that is extremely complex. Besides the movement, the back includes a ring-type annual calendar as well as an equation of time, which is reminiscent of what Daniels did on his Grand Complication pocket watch.

fp journe Astronomic Blue only watch 2

The back also reveals one of Mr Journe’s signature complications – a one-minute tourbillon with remontoir d’egalite, or constant force remontoire. And next to the tourbillon is the centrifugal governor for the minute repeater, which is mostly hidden.

The tourbillon with a remontoir d’egalite

The reason the repeater mechanism is unseen lies in the inventive construction invented by Mr Journe. Instead of conventional block-like hammers and tubular gongs, his patented system relies on wide and flat hammers and gongs, which increase the compactness of the movement on both dimensions.

But the downside of the creative construction is the sound, which is softer than most and less resonant. In the large and heavy tantalum case of the Astronomic Blue, that is exacerbated and the repeater chimes are not easily heard.

The centrifugal governor of the repeater

Notably, the movement inside the Astronomic Blue is a prototype. In fact, it is a bona-fide prototype, unlike other “prototype” watches sold at Only Watch that are identical to the production versions and merely numbered differently.

As a result, the view from the back is decidedly unconventional. While everything up to the calendar ring looks new and modern, the movement looks like an antique. The cal. 1619 works functions as the production version of the movement will, but lacks the visual and decoration touches.

So while the bridges and base plate are 18k red gold, as is convention at F.P. Journe, the bridges are finished with a coarse linear graining, instead of Cotes de Geneve. Many of the steel parts appear unfinished, though most of the wheels are circular grained.

But it’s important to point out at only the movement is a prototype, the rest of the watch, including elements on the back like the calendar ring, is perfectly executed, exactly as a brand new F.P. Journe wristwatch would be.

Chronometre Bleu’ed

The Astronomic Blue is the third in the series of one-off watches F.P. Journe has made for Only Watch, all of which are inspired by the Chronometre Bleu. The first was the Tourbillon Souverain Bleu from 2015, which was followed two years later by the Chronographe Monopoussoir Rattrapante Bleu.

They all share the same case material, the hard and dense blue-grey metal tantalum, as well as the same mirror-like, deep-blue dial finish.

On the Astronomic Blue the reflective dial finish is less obvious at first glance, because much of the dial is covered by other surface finishes. But when the watch catches the light just right it almost seems to physically grow deeper.

The visual effect is enhanced by the fact that the dial markings are printed on top of the clear lacquer of the dial, resulting in the optical illusion that they are floating far above the surface.

fp journe Astronomic Blue Only Watch 5

fp journe Astronomic Blue Only Watch 2

fp journe Astronomic Blue Only Watch 3

The Astronomic Blue is a big watch, most probably the largest F.P. Journe wristwatch ever. The tantalum case measures 44mm wide and and 13.75mm high.

It’s bigger than the recent Tourbillon Souverain Vertical, and also larger than the Sonnerie Souverain, which was only 42mm by 12.25mm.

Because of the case material – tantalum is twice as dense as stainless steel – the watch is also heavy.

The Astronomic Blue is an impressive watch, both intellectually and physically, but lacks the elegance of earlier F.P. Journe watches. It’s too big for my tastes, but it’s actually fairly modest for a watch with this number of functions.

fp journe Astronomic Blue Only Watch 14

Next to a 38mm F.P. Journe tourbillon

fp journe Astronomic Blue Only Watch 13

fp journe Astronomic Blue Only Watch 16

fp journe Astronomic Blue Only Watch 17

As for why the orange watch strap: Mr Journe indicated in an interview last year he knew which clients would want the Astronomic Blue. Several of them were bidders on the Monopoussoir Rattrapante Bleu that was dressed in the same colours, so presumably Mr Journe knows his clients like the livery.

Concluding thoughts

The Astronomic Blue is a milestone for F.P. Journe, both in terms of technical achievement and the price it will achieve. It also embodies the current era of F.P. Journe watchmaking, which is bigger, in complications and in size.

Traditionalists who enjoy the slim, early watches will find it too large, but the Astronomic Blue is what high-end watchmaking is all about today – high-end watches have to look the part – and it shows F.P. Journe can do it as well as anyone, or a little better in fact.

It’s estimated at 300,000-600,000 Swiss francs, but will surely exceed the high estimate easily. Mr Journe has already indicated the regular version of this watch will be priced at almost a million francs when it enters production in late 2020. It’ll have a steel case, which will certainly make it lighter and easier to wear.

The Astronomic Blue (ref. AST) be sold at Only Watch 2019 that takes place on November 19, 2019 at Christie’s Geneva. The rest of the catalogue can be seen on onlywatch.com.


Update October 31, 2019: Added new photos of the Astronomic Blue.

Update November 11, 2019: the Astronomic Blue sold for 1,800,000 Swiss francs, with no fees since it was a charity auction.

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