Market Watch: Charles Frodsham Double Impulse Chronometer

A rare bird in white gold.

Introduced in 2018 and now endowed with a waitlist several years long, the Charles Frodsham Double Impulse Chronometer is perhaps the most notable English wristwatch of recent times.

Equipped with twin escape wheels, each powered by its own going train, the Frodsham movement was the first to successfully miniaturise the invention of Abraham-Louis Breguet that was then perfected by George Daniels and Derek Pratt, but only in pocket watches.

Now the first Double Impulse Chronometer to be offered on the secondary market has emerged at Phillips Perpetual, the auction house’s boutique in London (which now sells online, as brick-and-mortar retail is wont to do today).

The example on offer features the trademark white-ceramic dial with Arabic numerals, but matched with an uncommon white-gold case. Most examples of the Double Impulse Chronometer are to be found in steel or yellow gold, with only two white gold specimens having been made so far according to Richard Stenning of Charles Frodsham.

The bright-white ceramic dial has an unusual pair of hands that are both equal length, a quirk inspired by a Frodsham tourbillon pocket watch from the early 1900s

Like the other versions of the Double Impulse Chronometer, this example has prominent English assay marks on the reverse of the lugs, which include a crown that indicates gold, and a leopard’s head for the Goldsmiths’ Company in London, which has been using the hallmark since 1300.

The back reveals the movement, as well as the hallmarks: on the left lug are the leopard’s head, as well as “750” for 18k gold, while the right lug bears the “C.F. & Co. Ld.” emblem of Charles Frodsham

The twin escape wheels are visible below the three-armed balance bridge, with the serial number just below

The Double Impulse Chronometer retails for a little under £90,000, but with the company making just a handful each year, the current wait for a watch is over three years, which means an order placed now would be fulfilled sometime in 2024. Unsurprisingly, the example on offer costs more than retail.

Available at Phillips Perpetual in London, the Double Impulse Chronometer is priced at £150,000.


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Bulgari Debuts the All Steel, Tone-on-Tone Octo Finissimo S

Contrasting textures.

Essentially a slimmed down and pared back version of its flagship watch, the Octo Finissimo has gained more fans than the first-generation model, thanks to a sleek profile along with newly-developed ultra-thin movements.

Though the Octo Finissimo lineup is as wide as the watch is thin, the base model remains the most compelling, being an original take on the integrated-bracelet sports watch – a crowded and fashionable segment. Now Bulgari adds a brushed, silvered dial to the Octo Finissimo S, creating a tone-on-tone aesthetic defined by subtle contrasts in textures but looks surprisingly casual.

Initial thoughts

The just-released watch isn’t entirely new, so it has all the appeal of the earlier variants, most notably a slim, elegant profile on the wrist. But it does incorporate many incremental changes that set it apart from the original Octo Finissimo that was entirely matte titanium, before also being offered in sand-blasted steel, and finally in polished- and satin- finished steel.

The original Octo Finissimo models in (from left) rose gold, steel, and titanium

The brushed-silver dial on the newest variant, however, has given the watch a less formal style that is appealingly industrial with its expanse of brushed and polished steel. And the monochromatic palette is also unusual, distinguishing it from peers that tend to have darker dials that are almost always blue.

Price-wise, the new dial costs US$100 over the earlier version, a modest hike that leaves the watch competitively priced still.

More broadly, the success of the Octo Finissimo makes a good case study of building brand equity. While the steel sport watch with an integrated bracelet is something seemingly every watch brand offers, not all entrants enjoy the same acclaim, both commercial and critical.

One characteristic that sets Bulgari’s creation apart is its technical achievement – the brand has made the Octo Finissimo synonymous with ultra-thin movements, breaking one after another in movement height. As a result, the Octo Finissimo is more than just a luxury-sports watch – where it would be one of many – but it is the thinnest luxury-sports watch.

Casual but capable

The only novelty of the Octo Finissimo S is the dial. Though not overly exciting, it is good looking and fairly unusual. Vertically -brushed dials are uncommon, with the industrial norm being a radial, “sun ray” finish.

It’s otherwise identical to last year’s steel model, and similarly rated to 100 m (in contrast, the ceramic and titanium versions of the watch are rated to 30 m due to slightly different internal construction of the cases).

That also means the case remains as thin, at just 6.4 mm high – because the BVL 138 within is under 3 mm high. A movement so exceptionally thin does, however, comes at a cost because of the trade-off between chronometric performance and thinness. That said, the BVL 138 maximises its potential, being one of the best-performing automatic movements measuring under 3 mm high, as detailed by our contributors Tim Lake and Brandon Moore.

The BVL 138 as seen in another version of the Octo Finissimo

Key facts and price

Bulgari Octo Finissimo S Silvered Dial
Ref. 103371

Diameter: 40 mm
Height: 6.4 mm
Material: Stainless steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 100 m

Movement: BVL 138
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 60 hours

Strap: Stainless steel bracelet with folding clasp

Availability: From Bulgari online shop, boutiques, and retailers

For more, visit

Addition January 29, 2021: The case is rated to 100 m, as last year’s steel model was.

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Business News: Swatch Group Posts Full-Year Loss

Battered by the pandemic, but still optimistic for 2021.

From a robust profit of CHF748m the year prior, Swatch Group ended 2020 with a net loss of CHF53m – the first in decades for the Swiss watch conglomerate that owns brands like Omega, Longines, and Tissot. This reversal of fortune was attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many of its retail stores to close while putting a halt to international travel.

On an operating level, Swatch Group eked out a tiny CHF52m profit – compared to CHF1.02 billion the year before.

The year’s results were mitigated by an improvement in the second half of 2020, with sales in the second half of the year rose 54.7% compared to the previous six months, as economic activity resumed in Asia with pandemic restrictions lifted, particularly in China, which experience double-digit growth for the full year.

And the Swatch Group also had to face a virus of the digital kind in the second half of the year. Reported in information-technology news but not in the mainstream press, the group suffered a cyber attack in September, leading to a mention of “a 10-day production interruption” at Omega in the results announcement.

Hit harder than most

With jewellery selling better than luxury watches, fellow Swiss rival Richemont was buoyed by its pair of jewellery brands that helped plug the hole caused by its faltering watch division. Although Swatch Group owns American jeweller Harry Winston, the bulk of its revenue is generated by watches and watch components.

Net sales fell to CHF5.59 billion, a 32.1% decrease year on year that was significantly more pronounced than the 21.8% decrease in Swiss watch exports for the whole of 2020, a barometer for the health of the broader industry.

The production division of Swatch Group, made up of companies supplying movements and components, saw a 4% decline in sales. More notable was the fact that the group implied fewer and fewer third-party brands are turning to its companies for components and movements, stating “some areas which mainly produced for third parties continued to report below-average capacity utilisation”, a consequence of its long-ago decision to gradually phase out movement supply to external brands.

Fewer stores and fewer people

Already well known within the watch industry, the Swatch Group’s stark cost cutting measures were tallied in its announcement. The group closed 384 stores worldwide, with Hong Kong bearing the brunt of the closures, with the city’s store count slashed from 92 to just 38.

Historically the biggest market in the world for luxury watches thanks to shoppers from mainland China, Hong Kong has steadily declining in the league tables as a consequence of civil unrest, political uncertainty, and now the pandemic, driving Chinese drivers to spend their money domestically.

The contraction of its retail network, as well as the loss of the Calvin Klein watch franchise, led to a workforce reduction of 10.2%, or about 3,500 workers – uncharacteristic for Swatch Group, which has historically kept its payroll stable.

Signs of recovery

The Swatch Group is, however optimistic that sales will recover to pre-pandemic levels in 2021, with the recovery that began in the second half of 2020 expected to continue.

For one, demand in mainland China remains strong, while the United States is continuing its recovery, with sales reaching pre-pandemic levels in December – likely due to the year-end festive season.

And in another sign of progress, the group’s high level of inventory – namely finished and partially-finished watches – continued to decline, falling 7.8% to CHF6.32 billion.


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