Business News: Sam Hines Joins Online Auctioneer Loupe This

The former head of Sotheby's watch department joins the startup.

A watch auction veteran who has had stints at all the major auction houses – Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips – Sam Hines has just been named managing director of Loupe This, the online-only watch auction platform that was established last year. Mr Hines will be based in Hong Kong, where he will oversee the soon-to-open Loupe This operation in the city.

Unlike traditional auctioneers that hold seasonal sales with the online sales in-between, Loupe This has auctions opening and closing every weekday. In the 12 months it’s been in operation, Loupe This has sold over US$15 million of watches, including major lots like a 1967 Cartier Crash “London” that sold for over US$1.5 million.

Now also a shareholder in Loupe This, Mr Hines (pictured above left) joins cofounders Eric Ku (centre) and Justin Gruenberg (right), who are both prominent vintage watch dealers in the United States.

Having turned a teenage hobby into a profession, Mr Ku got his start as a specialist in vintage Rolex, though he has since diversified into other genres of collectible watches as well as watch restoration and repair. Mr Gruenberg, on the other hand, had watches in his blood, having been born into the business; his father, Donald, was a major vintage watch dealer since the 1980s.

The record-setting 1967 Crash that sold on Loupe This in June 2022

The pair decided to form Loupe This to cater to the increasing and unending demand for watches. “The appetite for watches is all year long,” explains Mr Gruenberg, “Therefore buyers expect to see different watches regularly as opposed to the seasonal traditional auction model.”

And Loupe This also sets itself apart with its low fees. Says Mr Ku, “Our buyer’s premium… is 10% compared to the usual 26%.”


 

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Grand Seiko Introduces the 44GS 55th Anniversary Specially-Adjusted 9F Quartz

With a "blue clouds" dial.

Long a leading player in the arena of high-end quartz watches, Grand Seiko’s flagship offering is the 9F quartz movement that is built with an attention to detail comparable to that of its mechanical calibres. Beyond the almost-artisanal production, 9F movements are all about accuracy – the standard movements are rated to within 10 seconds a year.

Now Grand Seiko a limited edition equipped with a specially-adjusted 9F calibre, the Heritage Collection 44GS 55th Anniversary SBGP017 “Blue Clouds”. Signified by the star emblem on the dial, the movement within is regulated to run within five seconds a year – an average of less than a half second deviation a month.

Initial thoughts

Watches with colourful, textured dials are almost the norm at Grand Seiko, which has rolled out enough limited editions that such watches seem almost more common than their plain dial counterparts. The SBGP017 dial has a familiar texture, so at first glance it seems like yet another Grand Seiko limited edition.

But a closer look reveals the fact that the SBGP017 is unusual. For one, it’s quartz. Grand Seiko quartz watches rarely have patterned dials and when they do, the dials typically have motifs made up of repeating symbols. In contrast, the abstract pattern found on the SBGP017 is similar to that found on Grand Seiko’s mechanical and Spring Drive models. Put another way, the SBGP017 is an atypical Grand Seiko limited edition because it’s quartz but has the aesthetic of a mechanical watch.

And then there’s the open case back, which is uncommon for a quartz Grand Seiko; only a handful of limited editions in the past had display backs. It might seem to be an odd thing to have on a quartz watch, but this is far from an ordinary quartz movement. Not only it is elaborately constructed, it is also attractively finished. The bridges are gilded and striped, while the screws are blued, making this one of the best decorative quartz movements at any price.

Specially adjusted

First seen on the Spring Drive 20th Anniversary SBGC231 and SBGA403 launched three years ago, the dial texture on the SBGP017 is intended to evoke lion’s mane. But the fine, irregular pattern also brings to mind cumulus clouds – the puffy, white sort – and that is exactly what the SBGP017 is meant to do. According to Grand Seiko, the dial texture and colour are inspired by the “blue-tinged clouds found in the Shinshu region” where the Shinshu Watch Studio is located.

The sky-blue dial is complemented by a blued-steel seconds hand as well as an applied “GS” logo in dark blue, which is unusual on a watch dial although the blue emblem is widely used in the brand’s stores and on its accessories

But fans of the brand will no doubt have seen many such textured dials before, so the highlight is the back where the cal. 9F85 is visible in all its glory.

Grand Seiko’s top-of-the-line quartz movement, the cal. 9F85 has an hour hand that can be set independently without stopping the seconds, making changing time zones when travelling a breeze. The independent hour hand is especially useful for a high-accuracy quartz watch, since it means the time setting isn’t lost when changing time zones.

In addition, this is not just a standard 9F movement, but a specially-regulated example that boasts a tighter annual accuracy range of within five seconds a year, as compared to the 10 seconds of the conventional calibre.

Fittingly, the cal. 9F85 is decorated better than almost all typical quartz movements. Its striped and bevelled bridges are finished in a similar manner to the earlier generation of mechanical and Spring Drive Grand Seiko movements – done industrially but neatly in other words – although the gilt finish is unusual, since Grand Seiko movements are usually rhodium plated. And the blued steel screws are a pleasing touch that add to the visual richness of the movement.


Key facts and price

Grand Seiko Heritage Collection 44GS 55th Anniversary Limited Edition
Ref. SBGP017

Diameter: 40 mm
Height: 10.7 mm
Material: Steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 100 m

Movement: 9F85
Features: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, and independently-adjustable hour hand
Winding: Quartz
Power reserve: 3 years
Accuracy: +/- 5 seconds per year

Strap: Steel bracelet

Limited edition: 2,000 pieces
Availability: Starting July at Grand Seiko boutiques and retailers
Price: 440,000 Japanese yen

For more, visit grand-seiko.com.


 

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Canadian Independent Bradley Taylor Debuts the Lutria

A high-quality, two-hand watch.

Having learnt the trade in Switzerland before stints at brands like Patek Philippe, Bradley Taylor eventually returned home to Canada and began a new career in independent watchmaking. His inaugural venture was a partnership, but last year he went solo under his own name and debuted the Paragon.

A small-run limited edition that’s already sold out, the Paragon was classically styled and Vaucher-powered, which also describe the Mr Taylor’s next watch, the Lutria. Although executed in a similar manner to its predecessor, the Lutria opts for fancier dials in striking colours – including  “salmon” and a blueish-green inspired by the ocean view from Vancouver – that are decorated with traditional guilloche.

Initial thoughts

A formula that works especially well in independent watchmaking is simplicity done with finesse, which is what Mr Taylor’s work is all about. Both the Paragon and Lutria rely on top-shelf suppliers for the dial and movement, while also incorporating design characteristics unique to his brand, namely the typography that was developed by a fellow Canadian.

So if you liked the Paragon, you’ll probably feel the same about the Lutria. The two share the same case and movement, but are quite different. The Lutria is paradoxically simpler yet more elaborate: it reduces the hour markers and does away with the seconds hand but adds colour and engine turning into the mix.

The reduction in dial furniture complements the dial decoration, which is entirely in guilloche, unlike the Paragon that had only a narrow guilloche ring. And the colours are eye catching tones that suit today’s tastes that mostly lean towards smart-casual formality.

That said, the revamp of the dial leaves the hands feeling too wide and short. This is due to the fact that the hour markers sit closer to the edge of the dial than on the Paragon, with the dot markers occupying less space, leaving the dial feeling larger.

Like the Paragon, the Lutria is composed of parts made by the best Swiss specialists, like dial-maker Comblemine. Quality, however, does come at a price. The Lutria costs US$25,500, which isn’t particularly affordable for time-only wristwatch from a new, one-man brand. But considering the hand-made nature of the key components, namely the hands and dials, it isn’t exorbitant.

The only downside of the Lutria is the fact it feels like the creation of a watchmaker who is still developing his brand and style. The whole is equal to the sum of its parts – the top-notch quality of each component translates into a high-quality timepiece, but the Lutria is missing the elements that define a standout example of independent watchmaking.

Mr Taylor, however, is working on something more mechanically compelling – it’s still a few years away though – which should take his brand in the right direction.

Inspired by the sea

Of the two iterations on offer, the iridescent sea green is certainly the highlight. While both “salmon” and green are today’s hot colours, the sea green used on the Lutria is unique with its changing tone that goes from light to dark green depending on the light. The shimmering finish is a result of a chemical vapour deposition (CVD) process that is also done in Switzerland.

And the sea green is a perfect fit for the guilloche, which is a traditional barleycorn motif that’s been tweaked to evoke waves on the ocean and done the traditional way on a hand-operated rose engine.

Like many other independent watchmakers, Mr Taylor turned to Comblémine, the dial maker owned by Voutilainen that has since evolved into a full-service provider for niche brands. The choice of Comblémine is self-explanatory up close: the guilloche is precisely engraved and exhibit great clarity in its lines and shapes.

The hands and markers were slightly tweaked compared to those found on the Paragon. Gone is the numerals for the odd-number hours, which have been replaced by domed pins, giving the dial a cleaner look. Both the applied numeral and pin markers are polished by hand, giving them a gently rounded top surface.

Similarly, the hands have been simplified – and the seconds removed entirely – perhaps to prevent them from distracting from the guilloche. But as with the Paragon, the hands are hand made, with each hand requiring 12 to 20 hours to mill, and then file and polish by hand. Notably, each hand is actually made up of two parts, the hand itself as well as a central, black-polished boss. The hand segment is heat treated to a purple finish before being secured to the boss.


Key Facts and Price

Bradley Taylor Lutria

Diameter: 39 mm
Height: 9.8 mm
Material: Steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 120 m

Movement: Vaucher VMF 5401/32
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 48 hours

Limited edition: 24 pieces
Availability:
Direct from Bradley Taylor
Price: US$25,500

For more, visit Bradleytaylor.ca.


 

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