Omega Introduces the Speedmaster “Silver Snoopy Award” 50th Anniversary

With a double-faced display.

In one fo the most widely predicted announcements of the year, Omega has just unveiled the Speedmaster “Silver Snoopy Award” 50th Anniversary. Essentially the latest-generation Speedmaster Moonwatch dressed up in Snoopy livery, the watch commemorates the Silver Snoopy award bestowed on Omega by NASA in 1970. And crucially, this is not a limited edition, unlike the two earlier Speedmaster Snoopy editions.

Initial thoughts

While hardly a surprise, the new Speedmaster Snoopy is an attractive variant of the Speedmaster. While the design elements are the most obvious, the coolest bit of the new watch is on the back: the running indicators linked to the dial are a nifty detail that sets this apart mechanically from all other Speedmasters.

But there really are so many Speedmaster limited editions. The new Speedmaster Snoopy is not a limited edition, which is probably disappointing news to owners of the earlier editions, which were limited.

That said, with a price of about US$9,000, the new Speedmaster Snoopy is modestly priced – it is intrinsically a well-priced watch offering solid value – and will no doubt sell extremely well, at least initially, until supply catches up with demand.

Saving the day 50 years ago

Because the crew of the disastrous Apollo 13 mission used their Speedmasters to time a 14-second engine burn to position the craft for reentry into Earth’s atmosphere – an explosion forced them to shut down the craft’s electronic systems – the Omega chronograph helped saved the day.

As a result, Omega received a Silver Snoopy award, which is handed out in recognition of “outstanding performance, contributing to flight safety and mission success” according to NASA. The award is an annual affair – less than 1% of employees receive it each year – but it has helped elevate the Speedmaster to mythical status.

Taking Silver Snoopy quite literally, the new Speedmaster has a dial made of solid silver along with a stamped, sterling-silver Snoopy medallion in the nine o’clock seconds sub-dial.

The movement within has been cleverly modified to link two displays on the case back to the time indications on the front. The Earth depicted on the back is linked to the running seconds, and makes one revolution a minute. And the arm carrying a spaceship, or more accurately a Command and Service Module (CSM), with Snoopy as a passenger makes one revolution every minute when the chronograph is starting, being a mirror image of the central, chronograph seconds hand.

Because the case back is secured with a Naiad Lock, Omega’s name for its bayonet-style case back attachment, the motif on the back always remains upright.

The case is a standard, 42 mm Moonwatch case in steel that’s fitted with a tachymeter bezel featuring a blue-ceramic insert that has white enamel markings.

Inside is the cal. 3861, the modernised version of the longstanding cal. 1861 found in many generations of Speedmasters. The cal. 3861 features a Co-Axial escapement and magnetism-resistant escapement, and is also a Master Chronometer that’s undergone the testing process supervised by the Swiss meteorological agency METAS.


Key facts and price

Omega Speedmaster “Silver Snoopy Award” 50th Anniversary
Ref. 310.32.42.50.02.001

Diameter: 42 mm
Height: Unavailable
Material: Steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 50 m
Dial: Sterling silver

Movement: Cal. 3861
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, and chronograph
Winding: Hand-wound
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 58 hours

Strap: Blue nylon

Limited edition: No
Availability:
 To be announced
Price: US$9,600; or 14,100 Singapore dollars

For more information, visit Omegawatches.com.


Correction October 6, 2020: The price in Singapore dollars is 14,100, and not 13,350 as stated in an earlier version of the article.

Correction October 8, 2020: The power reserve of the cal. 3861 is 50 hours, and not 48 hours as stated in an earlier version of the article.

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Audemars Piguet Introduces the Code 11.59 Grande Sonnerie Carillon Supersonnerie

The pinnacle of striking watches.

Audemars Piguet has been progressively unveiling increasingly compelling versions of the Code 11.59, starting the year with the smoked-dial models and then following with the tourbillon-chronograph. And now it’s revealed what is no doubt the flagship of the line, the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Grande Sonnerie Carillon Supersonnerie.

Originally slated to have been launched earlier in the year alongside the official opening of the Audemars Piguet Museum but delayed by the pandemic, the Code 11.59 Grande Sonnerie is powered by a movement enhanced with the brand’s Supersonnerie that results in one of the loudest chiming watches on the market.

The pusher at 11 o’clock activates the minute repeater, while the crown at two o’clock sets the strike mode – silent, grande or petite sonnerie

Beyond its technical innovation, the new Grande Sonnerie is bestowed with a dial made by Anita Porchet. It’s a limited edition of five watches, with three unique paillonné dials already having been made, while the remaining two dials can be customised by the buyer.

Initial thoughts

The new Code 11.59 Grande Sonnerie is a well-designed watch that is surprisingly simple in style. Like the recent Royal Oak Concept Frosted Gold Flying Tourbillon, the grande sonnerie is strikingly modern, but the paillonné technique used to create the dial is eminently artisanal and classical. The gold paillons are arranged at random, giving the enamel dial a beautiful, almost organic appearance.

Mechanically it also scores high marks. Although I have not yet heard this in person, the Supersonnerie minute repeater launched several years ago strikes a splendidly loud chime, so this will surely sound similar. The Supersonnerie upgrades to the movement address the weaknesses of the earlier-generation of Audemars Piguet grande sonnerie watches, namely the soft chimes and buzz of the governor.

The fact that the movement inside shares the same architecture as earlier grande sonnerie calibre is worth noting, though not quite a shortcoming since everything that presumably could be improved has been dealt with.

And the grande sonnerie starts at 650,000 Swiss francs, or a bit over US$700,000, which is reasonable as such things go.

The Supersonnerie sonnerie

The new watch is a grande sonnerie carillon with minute repeater – the ultimate striking watch in other words. Grande sonnerie means it can chime the hours and quarters en passant, or as they pass, and it can also chime the hours, quarters, and minutes on demand as a minute repeater.

And it is a carillon, featuring three sets of hammers and gongs, instead of the usual two. So it chimes a high note for each hour, a triple chime for the quarters, and a low note for each remaining minute past the last quarter.

The cal. 2956 is a new movement, but derived from the cal. 2890 (and 2891) that was developed in the mid 1990s. Though the architecture is similar, the cal. 2956 has several obvious upgrades, including a free-sprung balance wheel as well as a more refined barrel bridge.

The new cal. 2956

The cal. 2891 in a Jules Audemars Grande and Petite Sonnerie Carillon from the mid 2000s. Photo – Christie’s

Most importantly, the cal. 2956 is equipped with the Supersonnerie, a set of innovations developed by Audemars Piguet to optimise the sound of a striking watch. Supersonnerie is made up of three key elements, the first an improved technique for manufacturing the gongs.

The second, and most obvious on the watch, is the double-walled back that has an outer back with apertures for sound transmission as well as an inner soundboard that’s made of a special, resonating alloy. Instead of being attached to the movement as is convention, the gongs are mounted on the soundboard for a louder chime.

And the last element is the silent governor. A flywheel that regulates the pace of the chiming process, the governor relies on centrifugal force, instead of friction, allowing it to run silently.

The immensely complex under-the-dial mechanism for the sonnerie and repeater, with the governor visible at 11 o’clock

The free-sprung balance in the 2896, next to the three hammers of the carillon

Paillons

The dial of the Code 11.59 Grande Sonnerie is made by the workshop of Anita Porchet, arguably the leading enameller in watchmaking, and certainly the most famous. Interestingly, this is the first time Ms Porchet is producing dials for Audemars Piguet, but the result of the partnership is both interesting and impressive.

Three dials have been produced, and each is unique. They are all decorated with the paillonné technique, which involves applying tiny, antique gold spangles, or paillons – each cut by hand from a piece of gold foil and over 100 years old – to the enamel dial before applying translucent enamel over the paillons.

Grinding the enamel into powder and mixing it into a solution to be painted on the dial

Firing the dial to set the enamel

Though this is a centuries-old technique, paillonné was first used in modern-day watchmaking by Jaquet Droz, who recruited Ms Porchet to produce the dials for its first-generation paillonné watches in the early 2000s.

While Jaquet Droz and other watchmakers generally adhered to traditional practice by arranging the paillons in orderly, geometric patterns, Audemars Piguet injected a strikingly modern style into its paillonné dials. The paillons are arranged seemingly randomly, creating a motif that is unusual in high-end enamelling.

Three dials are complete, while the two remaining dials of the five-piece limited edition can be customised by the eventual buyer, with either simpler or even more elaborate enamel decoration.


Key Facts and Price

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Grande Sonnerie Carillon Supersonnerie
Ref. 26397BC.OO.D002CR.01

Case diameter: 41 mm
Height: Unavailable
Material: 18k white gold
Water resistance: 20 m
Dial: Enamel, hande made by Anita Porchet

Movement: Cal. 2956
Functions: Hours, minutes, grande and petite sonnerie carillon, and minute repeater
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Winding: Hand wind
Power reserve: 48 hours

Strap: Alligator with folding clasp

Availability: Only at Audemars Piguet boutiques
Limited Edition: Five pieces, each with a unique dial
Price: 650,000 Swiss francs with a plain, fired enamel dial; 725,000 Swiss francs with a paillonné enamel dial (prices exclude taxes)

For more, visit audemarspiguet.com


 

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Up Close: Urwerk UR-220 ‘Falcon Project’

Gently refining an ingenious complication.

Fifteen years after its debut in the Harry Winston Opus V, Urwerk’s ingenious satellite-cube time display is now in its fifth generation with the just-launched UR-220 ‘Falcon Project’. While the UR-220 resembles its predecessor, the UR-210, a great deal, the new watch has been refined in several substantive ways. Most notably, it is powered by a hand-wind movement, something that’s not been used for the satellite-cube display since the UR-201 from 13 years ago.

Initial thoughts

A three-dimensional wandering hours, the satellite-cube hour display is one of the most significant innovations in modern-day independent watchmaking. Hours are indicated on three rotating cubes, while a retrograde hand points to the minutes, travelling in sync with the cube for the current hour. The complication has, however, reached a level of maturity.

Incredible when it was launched in the Opus V in 2005, the satellite-cube display still remains special, though its impact has been moderated by subsequent inventions by other watchmakers, making it seem less avant-garde. So when I first heard Urwerk was soon to unveil the successor to the UR-210, which was introduced in 2012, I was keen to see the evaluation of the complication.

The new UR-220

The UR-220 is unquestionably a better watch – it is slimmer and lighter, as well as face-lifted in terms of design details, and the manual-wind movement is a plus – but it is an incremental evolution over the UR-210, rather than a radical revamp. In fairness, it is difficult to top the satellite-cube display.

As an aside, the fact that the UR-220 is the lightest version of the satellite-cube watch to date might seem incidental, but it is significant. The quintessential version of the first-generation satellite-cube wristwatch, namely the UR-201 and UR-202, was the one in black-coated platinum, which was not very comfortable on the wrist but dense, heavy, and still appealing.

The Harry Winston Opus V in platinum, which was hand wound, like the UR-201; all subsequent models were automatic until the UR-220

A one-off variant of the UR-202 in black-coated platinum

210 and 220

At a distance, it’s impossible to distinguish the new UR-220 from its predecessor. From the front they are near identical: the UR-220 has a footprint of 43.8 mm by 53.6 mm, exactly the same as the UR-210. But the new model is slimmer at 14.8 mm high, against 17.8 mm. The reduction in height is significant, but even so the UR-220 remains a chunky watch.

Although the case is slimmer, the reduced height is mainly due to the case back, which is now flat instead of slightly domed, made possible by the removal of the automatic winding mechanism. The case middle and profile are essentially identical between the two models. As a result, both look indistinguishable on the wrist, since the domed back on the UR-210 camouflages some of its height.

Up close, it is clear many of the details have been refined, but the changes are only obvious when compared side by side. The UR-220 has finer fluting on its crown, while the linear recesses on its sides are more angular.

The new UR-220

And the UR-210

The near-identical case profile

The difference in the case back thickness is discernible

In the hand, the UR-220 is lighter than the UR-210 by a noticeable but insubstantial margin; light but not featherweight like a Richard Mille for instance. Admittedly the comparison between the two generations isn’t fair, since the UR-220 has a carbon composite case while the UR-210 was all metal, but the difference is smaller than expected, perhaps because of the hefty, black-coated titanium case back.

The flat back of the UR-220 (left), and the UR-210 with its winding efficiency selector

The flatness of the back is not obvious because of the lack of contrast, but it is tactile in the metal

The new strap – rubber topped with a woven-carbon fabric – also helps the watch sit better. Because it is large and light, and the strap can be worn snugly, the watch sits better on the wrist than the UR-210.

That said, the end of the strap lacks a stopper – it’s essentially an open-ended loop – meaning it can slip out of the metal ring, which makes putting it on a bit of a challenge initially.

Mechanical differences

Although the UR-220 is hand-wind – making it the first manual-wind satellite-cube display watch since 2007 – it shares the same movement as its automatic predecessor. Both are powered by the Zenith Elite, an automatic in its original form and the base calibre for majority of Urwerk’s current movements.

In the UR-220 the Elite has been modified to remove the automatic-winding mechanism, turning it into a slimmer, hand-wound movement. On the other hand, the UR-210 and earlier models elaborated upon the automatic mechanism to give it “turbine” winding with adjustable winding speed.

While the Elite is clearly reliable and robust, it is an older movement, having been launched at Baselworld 1994. It has a 55-hour power reserve in its basic form, and 48 hours in the UR-220, which is relatively short by current standards where three days is almost the norm.

The UR-220 (left) and UR-210

Key features

Urwerk’s trademark satellite-cube display for the hours is an ultra-elaborate take on the traditional wandering hours complication. Even though it is exceptionally complicated mechanically – the display travels on both the horizontal and vertical planes – it is easy to read, which is the genius of it.

An exploded view of the satellite-cube hours and retrograde minute displays – the cubes rely on vertically-position Maltese crosses to turn while the retrograde hand uses a large, cylindrical spring

The display has been retained essentially unchanged, with the primary tweaks being the twin power reserve indicators. Located at one and 11 o’clock, the indicators each cover half the 48 hour power reserve; note that it’s a separated mechanical display for on a single barrel, and not a twin-barrel movement.

The power reserve indicator for the first 24 hours of running time

And for the second 24 hours

In contrast the UR-210 had a single power-reserve display plus a winding efficiency indicator, which basically showed how much winding was being done in the last two hours of wear (which is also an approximation of much the wearer was moving). That was more interesting than a power reserve indicator, but only relevant when matched with an automatic movement, which the UR-210 had. The UR-220 is manual wind, making an efficiency indicator meaningless.

Urwerk says the split power-reserve indicator is complicated, requiring some 83 parts, which is no doubt true, but it does seem less compelling than the winding efficiency indicator. Something marginally useful but exotic, like a thermometer, would have been more interesting.

The twin power reserve displays, with a tiny spring for each indicator. Image – Urwerk

While the UR-220 loses an interesting display – necessarily but sadly – it does gain new typography for the numerals on the dial. Although seemingly trivial, the new font is a useful addition, perhaps because there are so many numerals on the dial. The stencil-style font has a sci-fi military look that works well with the watch. One could imagine an olive-camouflage version of the UR-220 being a perfect space-marine instrument.

The “instrument panel” back reveals the key new feature of the watch –  an “oil change” display that is actually a running-time indicator.

When delivered fresh from the factory, the running-time indicator is immobilised by a pin. Once the owner pulls out the pin – which cannot be replaced except by a watchmaker – the running-time indicator starts rolling. Two cylinders count how long the movement has been running, and they stop at 39 months, which is three years and three months. At that point, a service is recommended.

A new UR-220 with the pin in place

I initially thought 39 months too short for a service interval. And then I realised that most owners of the UR-220 probably own several watches, so it will probably take a decade at least to reach 39 months of running time, which makes the indicator relatively sensible.

An exploded view of the running-time indicator. Image – Urwerk

Carbon composite case

The carbon-composite case of the UR-220 is a first for Urwerk. While the brand has historically been adventurous in its case coatings, having used steel or platinum cases with various wear-resistant coatings ranging in colour from black to brown to gold, it has always stuck to metal alloys.

The composite is made up of 81 sheets of thinner-than-usual carbon, resulting in a finer grain than most carbon composites used for watch cases. And the carbon sheets are also arranged neatly within the resin, explaining the concentric grain.

The case back and crown guards are black-coated titanium

Interestingly, the carbon-composite case echos the look of the UR-210 Royal Hawk of 2018. Its case was engraved with a relief, radial pattern, but exceptionally heavy, being platinum coated with black diamond-like carbon (DLC), perhaps an inside joke of sorts for Urwerk.

Details

It’s worth mentioning that Urwerk watches are impressive in terms of fit and finish. Not artisanal decorative finishing, but precise and rigorous machining. And that quality has steadily risen over the years, reaching an outstanding level in the UR-220.

The trademark oversized crown with its bevelled edges and countersunk top

The inside of the watch is equally excellent in detail and finish. The flange of the dial and minute scale, for instance, have finely-engraved concentric rings that echo the grain of the carbon-composite case.

The main plate is finished with tightly-spaced perlage that is deeply polished

All of the parts of the carousel for the satellite-cube display are sharply finished

The surface finishing includes frosting, circular graining, and DLC treatment

The cubes for the hours are surprisingly detailed, with brushed facts and bevelled edges featuring lateral notches

The precision milling is also evident on the case back, which has a good degree of detail, despite being monochromatic

Concluding thoughts

Put simply, the UR-220 is a new and improved version of Urwerk’s most important complication. For anyone who doesn’t have an Urwerk satellite-cube wristwatch, the UR-220 is the ultimate iteration of the satellite-cube concept from a technical and practical perspective. For anyone who doesn’t own an example of the complication, this is it. But for an owner of the UR-210, however, it isn’t quite different enough.


Key facts and price

Urwerk UR-220 “Falcon Project” Carbon Edition

Case diameter: 43.8 mm by 53.6 mm
Case height: 14.8 mm
Material: Carbon composite CTP with titanium case back
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: UR-7.20
Features: Satellite cube hours and retrograde minutes; double power-reserve displays; and “oil change” indicator
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Hand-wind
Power reserve: 48 hours

Strap: Rubber with Velcro fastener

Availability: Already at Urwerk retailers
Price: 145,000 Swiss francs; or 223,200 Singapore dollars

For more, visit Urwerk.com.


 

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Louis Erard Introduces the Excellence Triptych

Mono-pusher chronograph, regulator, and time-only.

Having pivoted to take a more interesting direction – exemplified by its recent collaboration with watch designer Alain Silberstein – Louis Erard is now working on facelifting its more classical watches to give them a more contemporary appearance.

The result is the Excellence Triptych, a trio of watches that are simple yet smartly detailed. Made up of a time-only, regulator, and mono-pusher chronograph, the line up is named after a three-panelled painting, perhaps reflecting the artistic interests of Manuel Emch, the former chief executive of Jaquet Droz who is now a consultant to Louis Erard and responsible for the brand’s renewal.

The Excellence Triptych (from left): Petite Second, Régulateur, Chronographe Monopoussoir

Initial thoughts

The Triptych is fundamentally appealing because of its reasonable and affordable pricing, starting from about US$1,600 for the time-only and rising to a still-modest US$3,800 for the mono-pusher chronograph. The intrinsic value is especially strong for the regulator, as the complication is rarely seen in this price segment (though Louis Erard has made it something of a speciality).

The Régulateur

And the facelift is subtle but significantly, boosting their visual appeal over the earlier generation of watches. Amongst the more obvious tweaks was replacing the Roman numerals with applied Arabics and batons, while also sharpening the lance-shaped hands, giving the watch a more modern look.

While the dials are in a muted silver, they possess a two-tone look created with different surface finishes, including circular graining and fine frosting. All of this gives the watches enough detail to be interesting, while avoiding flashy elements that can look inexpensive.

The Chronographe Monopoussoir

And the case profile has been made more elegant, with a domed bezel and a slightly slimmed-down profile for the lugs – which admittedly brings to mind the Jaquet Droz case designed when Mr Emch was in charge of the brand.

The chronograph pusher mounted co-axially onto the crown, which has a fluting inspired by fir trees

Noteworthy

The cleanest of the trio is the Excellence Régulateur, which is also the most interesting as a watch. Even though the single-button chronograph is more complicated, the Régulateur is uncommon as a complication. With each time indicator on its own axis, the layout is both symmetrical and linear, and easy to read (once you get used to the arrangement).

Hours at top, followed by the minutes and seconds

While regulator watch is a signature model for Louis Erard, the redesigned model differs from its predecessor with its Bauhaus-inspired look. The dial is sparse but not mundane, with the concentric-guilloche sub-dials and minute track giving it a slightly more quirky look. Additionally, compared to the recently-launched smoked dial model, the new Régulateur has more deeply recessed sub-dials, making them more pronounced.

And the new Régulateur also has a new movement. Earlier versions were powered by the hand-wind ETA 7001 movement combined with Louis Erard’s regulator module.

However, the new watch is powered by the automatic Sellita cal. SW266-1, which means doing away with the power reserve indicator, an unnecessary feature on a self-winding movement.

While an automatic movement is perhaps more convenient, it results in increased thickness of the case. The new Régulateur clocks in at 12.25 mm high, compared to 9 mm for its hand-wind counterpart.


Key Facts and Price

Louis Erard Excellence Petite Second
Ref. 34237AA01

Diameter: 42 mm
Height: 12.25 mm
Material: Stainless steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 50 m

Movement: SW261-1
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 38 hours

Strap: Calf leather

Availability: Available in November
Price
: 1,590 Swiss francs


Louis Erard Excellence Régulateur
Ref. 85237AA21

Diameter: 42 mm
Height: 12.25 mm
Material: Stainless steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 50 m

Movement: SW266-1
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 38 hours

Strap: Calf leather

Availability: Available in November
Price
: 2,500 Swiss francs


Louis Erard Excellence Chronographe Monopoussoir
Ref. 74239AA01

Diameter: 43 mm
Height: 15.70 mm
Material: Stainless steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 50 m

Movement: SW500 MPCa
Functions: Hours, minutes, and chronograph
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 48 hours

Strap: Calf leather

Availability: Available in November
Price
: 3,500 Swiss francs

For more, visit louiserard.com


 

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