Archive for October, 2008

Bell and Ross Military 126 (Vintage 126 Collection)

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Just right after I posted the last article I got an email, which went

“Cher Monsieur tourBULLion,
nous avons trouvé votre critique de notres belles montres de mauvais goût et pédant et grossière. Nous absolutement insistons que vous direz des choses avantageux. Si non, nous vous excluons de notres fêtes légendaire pour une durée indéterminée!
Veuillez agréer, Monsieur, l’expression de nos sentiments les meilleurs,
Messieurs Belle Andros”

I think it basically meant,

“Dear Mister tourBULLion,
we find your tasteless and pedantic criticism of our beautiful watches extremely offensive. We absolutely insist that you say something nice about our watches or we shall forever ban you from our wild parties that are the stuff of legend.
Signed,
Messieur Belle Andros.”

What! Meester Belle Andros, do you actually think tourBULLion can be persuaded into contravening our own views just for cheap invites to your parties, which are allegedly the stuff of legend?! I should think not, our journalistic integrity is irreproachable and you will find our resilience similar to a strong wall made of plaster and plywood. Which is why we have to reiterate that the timing of this review is a complete coincidence and something we have been planning for since… some time ago.

To the review then. In the mad excitement surrounding Bell and Ross’ recent stunning successes- all of which can be pinpointed to that veritable 10-ton weight on the wrist, the BR01 Instrument series and its offshoots- its easy to forget that their stable still consists of some real gems that don’t need funky coloring to sell.

 

 

The Bell and Ross Military 126, one of two limited edition watches in B&R’s Vintage 126 line, carries what’s left of B&R’s polarised reputation like a wounded squirrel protects its hairy nuts. Standing out in the mostly black and white Vintage 126 range with its bold brown dial and strap, the Military just avoids being too butch, especially if you remove the redundant leather backing. Now this is still a very manly watch, being able to project sheer masculinity with just a scanty diameter of 39mm. Only 39mm. The last time a 39mm watch was considered manly was in the 1950s.

Aesthetically, its a very pleasing watch to look at. A nice deep fudge-like brown dial and strap, making you wonder why B&R didn’t call it the Chocolate 126 or Buff Squirrel 126. Contrasting against the dark color of the dial are the nice white minute markings and the red Bell and Ross ‘&’ logo just above the six o’clock position. It’s certainly not new, having been around for a couple of years now, but the clean and very readable design makes the dial look contemporary and sophisticated without being too busy.

But the obvious comparison here of course, is against its own stablemates, the BR01 instrument-series chronos. The Military drops the 3 and 9 o’clock hour-markers and retains all the others, while the BR01 goes the other direction and drops everything except for the 12 o’clock marker and a partially concealed 3 and 9. So you’re getting more numbers on your dial with this smaller watch, see. Now that’s a great indicator of value. Hour-markers.

Bell and Ross Military 126, Stainless Steel Case, 39mm, 200m water-resistance; sapphire glass caseback, 42 hours power reserve. Movement: self-winding ETA 2894.

Updated: SINN U1 Black “Limited Edition” Model (Prototype)

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

UPDATE: I guess after all that ranting in the earlier post the polite thing to say here would be that I was underwhelmed. As advertised, Hourglass and SINN launched the latter’s latest re-invention of the popular SINN U1 watch at Paulaner’s Brahaus in Singapore last evening. Cutting to the chase and leaving out the bits on the scantily-clad SINN models and the several invitees who were tripping over one other in the buffet queue, here’s the prototype in all its understated glory.

I checked and I wasn’t the only person who found the scheme strikingly similar to at least two other designs already out there. But who cares! ‘Stealthy’ designs rule! Stealth is clearly the way forward in horological design, since watchmakers can now save money on paint! (technically they would still have to buy grey paint – ed.) Stealth is good as most people should now tell time from their mobile phones instead of their watches! I’m relieved. One truly can do no worse than sticking with the original SINN U1 with its unbeatable value for money (but I know 399 other persons will disagree).

 

 

SINN U1 Black/ U-Black/ U-Black Stealth Limited Edition, Tegimented steel case in black, 44mm. With rubber strap and deployant clasp. Recommend Retail price SG$4,500.00. Available exclusively at all Hourglass outlets (Singapore). Bell and Ross BR01-94 Phantom image courtesy of www.bellross.com. Hublot Big Bang King All Black courtesy of www.hublot.com.

Buy a watch from me Ja?

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

One of the advantages in working here at tourBULLion is never needing to worry about having a budget to travel around the world to cover events like SIHH (the ‘Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie Geneve ‘) or Baselworld. Which is just as well, but when the opportunity to do a bit of horological sight-seeing while you’re on official work presents itself, any decent writer worth his power-reserve would surely not pass the chance up.

Especially when its Germany; land of big sausages, superb architecture, strong beer, big bearded men, fast cars, super-highways, big bearded men, expensive coffee, engineering wonders and big bearded men. And of course ja, the fantastik watches. In truth my travels did not bring me around to the rustic countryside or mountainous terrain or underwater caverns where centuries-old watchmaking firms or families love to plonk their factories and stroke their long, white beards all day long (big bearded men ja?). In the German cities though, the big chains dominate both sale and retail scenes.

Bucherer and Wempe are two large family-owned, centuries-old jewelery and luxury-watch retail companies that are not only well-established in Germany but in Europe as well. It sounds funny for me to reiterate such a point (especially to a German) since this is as obvious as drinking beer in October to a Munich dude. But you got to remember man, I come from a small little country where luxury watches are usually sold in dark back alleys by shady-looking men in trenchcoats with East European accents. I got to keep it real you know? But I digress. Wempe is the other major luxury-watch chain in Germany and has stores in practically every street of the shopping-district in Berlin and Frankfurt. You walk a few steps and another one pops up with the regularity of Starbucks or barefeet street-chiropractors.

The nicest thing about the Wempe stores were the very impressive window displays; they had as many watches on show as a curry bratwurst stall had dubious sausages. Once inside though it was a bit of an anti-climax; I found mostly jewellery and a few Pateks and Langes that the store thought better to conceal. It does get a bit inconvenient to keep running in and out of the store to point at a particular piece and gesture to the sales rep, “nien, nien, not dat varn, dis varn!” Like Bucherer, Wempe too has its own manufacture, which is not available where I hail from but had wanted to investigate for quite a while now. That will be the subject of a future post, but for your information, I did buy something. The whole experience was typical teutonic efficiency: the service was excellent, the explanation clear and concise, even if the attitude was not exactly the most caring and concerned I’ve ever experienced. I think I’ll pass on that though. Especially from a big bearded German.

SINN U1 black to become as common as canned food

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

 

 

More random horological bitterness. As has been suspected for sometime now, SINN has been preparing a production version of their highly successful and limited U1 Black Tempus Edition to be unveiled on 3rd October 2008, this Friday. Still limited (but not as limited as before) to a rumoured production run of 399 pieces, this piece is sure to send collectors, speculators and aficionados scrambling as if their pants were on fire.

I love SINN watches for their value and design but have had my reservations about them for a while now, and I’m not sure if this latest offering does anything to abate them. Technology-wise, this does little to advance SINN’s claims of innovation. Changing colours, removing and adding markings here and there belong to the creative province of primary-school students (and Bell and Ross BR01 designers, if I may add). Next, SINN watches have seen quite a fair increase in price recently across their range and especially evident in the astronomical RRP of their u1000, which again has nothing new to offer innovations-wise but costs as much as an aircraft carrier. This ‘new’ SINN U1 Black looks like its bringing nothing to the table but will be adding a few thousand dollars on top of the price of a regular U1.

Watchmakers are forever milking their designs and this is nothing new. IWC’s 2007 ceramic doppelchronograph spawned a hideous Top Gun edition. Bell and Ross’s BR series designs in blue/ black/ pink/ brown/ orange/ red/ taupe/ aqua/ rainbow also come to mind. Breitling’s Avenger Skyland Blacksteel is actually pretty nice though, bucking the trend of horrible alternate incarnations, but must be regarded as somewhat of a different design altogether. This SINN U1 black is yet to be fully unveiled at time of writing, and I’m hoping it proves me wrong, because SINN is one of those watchmakers I have a thing for. Just don’t make it like another of those colourful/colourless (I believe the word they like to throw around nowadays is “stealthy”) BR01s. No seriously. Please don’t.

The writer is a owner of a SINN U1 Black Tempus edition and is particularly sore that the his watch will no longer be as exclusive.

All Rights Reserved 2011 © tourBULLion