Archive for the 'Watch Rant' Category

Your Omegas belong in the museum: OMEGA CEO says they’re all ‘sculptures’

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

"All your Omegas belong in a Musuem!"

Well that explains everything really. OMEGA CEO Stephen Uruqhart said in a recent Bloomberg interview that he no longer wears a watch to tell the time. I think most of us have suspected that for a while, but the good man goes on to compare a fine Omega as a “sculpture on your wrist”, or a “painting, or a poem or a book”. Perhaps he was alluding to an Omega being as fragile as a sculpture? Hmm…!

But I guess its just as well that you shouldn’t be wearing an Omega to tell the time, because you’d probably be late. There have been quite a few cases surfacing on the watch forums of the vaunted co-axial movement running either way too fast or ice-cap meltingly slow. Still, that hasn’t stopped Omega from developing a co-axial chronometer and unveiling it at this year’s Baselworld, of course (more on those new Speedmasters and Planet Oceans in a later post).

Customer- service though remains top-notch, showing that Omega’s gotten their priorities right. So in case your Rodin-like Speedmaster got a chip that you didn’t notice earlier, you can always trade it in for another. Ah… art or art’s sake!

read the full interview here:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-23/switzerland-s-luxury-watches-aren-t-for-telling-time-omega-president-says.html

Visit to Dievas and Interview with Anders

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

 

 

It’s been two years since I last wrote about Dievas, and in that time it seems that many of you have been busy snapping up its timepieces: Vortexes, Aqualunas, the lot, which tells me that the Singapore- based watch company must be doing something right. TourBULLion is usually more interested when stuff goes wrong, but an opportunity to visit Gnomon Watches, retailers of Dievas here in Singapore and speak to Dievas’ managing director Anders was too good to pass up.

Anders is a very tall and powerfully built man, towering over my own (puny) 1.73m frame. “Hello,” he greeted me as I stepped into the boutique. I’m pretty sure I detected a hint of Bavarian in his accent… well it was either Bavaria or Bishan*. I returned his handshake with as much strength as I could muster.

Pleasantries aside, I began by asking Anders about the latest developments for Dievas. “2010 was a big year for us,” he began enthusiastically, “we had the Voyageur GMT, and also launched the 50 -piece limited edition Reaper back in November last year; the latter completely sold out within a month. Good as that was though, this year looks like its going to be even better. We have an array of watches lined- up over the next 12 months; chronographs, GMTs, the whole shebang.” He also let me in on a little secret – a 6 steel version of the Vortex was in the works and slated for production.

Exciting times for sure. However, ‘exciting’ is not always the first adjective that comes to mind when you consider Dievas’ watch designs. Functional, subdued, practical, utilitarian or even stealthy; sure – but the wow factor has not been everpresent.

On the brand’s design philosophy, Anders explained, “We adhere to the old adage that form follows function; a lot of companies profess to do so but here we are absolutely serious about it”. Caressing the limited edition Dievas Reaper on his wrist ala Ernst Stavro Blofeld would stroke his cat in the great James Bond movies he continued, “take the Reaper for instance. Everybody knows that the watchcase is the most easily damaged part of a watch, but why do companies do so little to protect them? Everything we apply to the case here in Dievas serves a particular function, brushing the steel and ridging the bezel improves grip; the plasma treatment to blacken the steel accentuates the stealth aspect of the watch and also improves the visibility of the hour- markers. Hence, it is through functionality that we also achieve the desired form and the aura that it projects”.

Which brought my mind to the Dievas’ engineering qualities. They were impressive for such a young company; almost every new release boasted one type of innovation or other. You could argue that some were pure gimmicky, but milling submarine steel for use in your watch is no joking matter. Indeed, Anders became very animated when I quizzed him on this topic. “We want to offer a watch that is right up there when it comes to engineering”. That usually means German, I think.

Continuing, Anders said, “We are continuing to produce more parts of our own. While our movements are still developed from an ETA base, we are now offering a level of customisation that frankly exceeds those presented by watch companies many times our size. We aspire to give our customers the best product from the design we have conceptualised, and that is why we have gone German and a positively Teutonic level of engineering.”

That seems ironic in the face of several established watch- companies having reportedly outsourced the production of key parts to China in order to lower costs. Commenting on this trend, Anders shrugged. “I think large watch- companies can get away with offering products that aren’t necessarily subpar but not exactly the best they can offer the customer either. But as a small start-up, Dievas doesn’t take chances and final product we put on the market is absolutely the best we can offer. Any lesser and you will find that consumers can be very unforgiving at this level.”

That strategy has served Dievas very well, and all of its products are perceived as excellent value -at present, there isn’t a Dievas that’s priced beyond US$ 1500, which means you’re getting quite a lot of watch for the money. But as with everything in this market segment, pricing has a perverse effect on the perception of luxury (or even worth). From experience, brands that have positioned their wares as ‘affordable luxury’ have not done spectacularly.

 

@ Gnomon Watches, a multibrand watch retailer: Anders and Dievas stand tall. Not many can do it in pink.

 

I asked Anders if placing Dievas on the lower end of the price scale might end up alienating buyers who tend to equate desirability with price. “I’ve often asked myself that question,” he quipped, “and you’re not the first person to suggest that Dievas is underpriced. At the end of the day though, we want to find the category that our watches are worth, and price them there. I know customers don’t always appreciate that (duh!). But I find the alternative, which is to have dealers offer deep discounts in order to move their inventories, much worse. We want to price our watches competitively so we don’t need a significant discount at the end of the day.” His strategy would seem to have been vindicated; even used Vortexes are retailing at just about a hundred dollars less than new on the forums, which would seem to attest to the competitiveness of the brand’s pricing – which was virtually unheard of in this market segment.

So it all seems good for Dievas, with exciting new designs, forward thinking, uncompromising build quality, and keenly priced. Anders offers a last comment before we part ways. “As a young company, we want to produce watches that people can use everyday and not pieces that they’d have to keep in the drawer. We want to be adventurous and break with convention. And that’s something I see Dievas continuing to do for the foreseeable future.” These visionary statements are always a nice way to end an article.

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Dievas timepieces are available at Gnomon Watches,100 Beach Road, Shaw Towers, #01-06 Singapore; also available at Carpal Watch, 35 Selegie Road, #01-09a, Parklane Shopping Center, Singapore. For more information visit www.dievaswatches.com.

* A residential district in Northeastern Singapore

SIHH 2011

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

 

 

Oh yes! We at TourBULLion always knew that we would get an invite to one of those upmarket watch events once we made enough noise! Who said being cynical and passing snide remarks to mask one’s actual lack of technical knowledge was a bad thing? Watch this space for the fastest growing source of objective horological commentary on the Internet – this time ‘live’ from Geneva at the Saloon Salon International de La Hot Haute Ho SIHH 2011!!!

Tag Heuer prices Silver(stone) like Gold

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

 

 

What the hell?! You can imagine the infamy when the pricing for the (Tag) Heuer Silverstone came public. Just how they manage to justify its USD 6400 pricetag is beyond comprehension. Of course, the AD will tell you that the ‘entire casing was milled from a single solid block of steel’, along with that fact that a single ‘Heuer’ logo is apparently worth a lot more than one that has ‘Tag’ appended on top of it! Movement? The so- called exclusive Tag Caliber 11, which is nothing more than a modified ETA 2892 with a Dubois- Depraz chronograph module cobbled on top. But you know the absolutely worst thing about it: the bloody watch is dropdead beautiful and impeccably finished. Wait… do you hear that noise? That’s the sound of your rationality being run over by a train. Heel boy!

Tag Heuer Silverstone, Stainless Steel Case, 41mm, 40 hours power reserve. Movement: Tag Heuer Caliber 11 (Base ETA 2824 with DD Chrono). Available in Blue or Brown with matching crocodile leather strap.

Vintage Bull: The Blood Sweat and Tears of an OLDmega

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

 

 

Vintage watches are cool because they were probably much harder to manufacture than stuff we buy nowadays. They weren’t kidding when they said blood, sweat and tears went into the manufacturing process! Just to clarify, a watch made in the 80s is not vintage, its just retro. Same applies for the stuff that got churned out in the 70s and the 60s; that’s just old. To be truly vintage you have to go back to a previous epoch when all watches were assembled by bleeding hands and child- slavery was the norm. Assembling a watch- movement then tended to be incredibly accurate when some guy was cracking a whip on your back! Milling and lathe- machines were different when they were powered by a hundred little runts shoveling coal into the furnace! Where’s the romance today where people just flick switches? Pah!

But yes, vintage watches are cool for all sorts of reasons. Let us now examine the blood sweat and tears behind this particular specimen I now hold in my grimey palm. An Omega manufactured in the 1940s, it is commonly known as a W.W.W. (Wristlet Watch Waterproof, Waterproof Wrist-Watch, whichever) that was ordered by Her Majesty’s Ministry of Defence to be supplied to its military forces fighting around the world. Judging by the serial number on the caseback, this one was probably manufactured too late to see any action in the last great war of the 20th century. It did end up in the possession of a British soldier fighting in the Malayan insurgency of the 1950s though, and I’ld like to think it saw some action against the commies in the dense jungles of Perak. The nameless owner’s fate is unknown, but the watch eventually wound up in a rusty cabinet in the Queen’s Malayan Garrison.

My dad was an immigrant from China – like most who made their way to Southeast Asia in the fifties, he arrived with not much more than the shirt on his back and a scrap of paper with a poorly scribbled address. As a young man in his late teens, he was determined to make his way in the world; he worked extremely hard, slogging and walking for miles, peddling what little items he had salvaged for sale. A popular trade to get into then for a migrant Chinese – I would imagine it was the equivalent of the IT profession then – was the sexy and revolutionary scrap-metal business. My dad would puff and grunt on his trusty single-speed bicycle, wheeling for miles with a ridiculously large amount of junk strapped perilously to its back. And one day in the late fifties, as he did his rounds, hocking and trying to convince housewives that a hollowed-out mortar shell made a good cooking pot, he came across a British army camp.

That camp was being evacuated as part of a gradual reduction of British troop strength that would eventually cumulate in complete withdrawal of forces from Singapore by 1971. Like any good scrap- dealer, my dad sensed an opportunity for a smash-and-grab. The camp guards had no issues with selling him some unwanted bed frames and cabinets, but it got expensive when other scrap dealers got wind of it. A bidding war erupted, and eventually all my dad got for his $10 (Straits Settlement dollars, mind) was two bed- frames, one metal rack, and one cabinet belonging to a certain A. Nameless Tommy. You can imagine his surprise and delight when he discovered that little trinket when he was cleaning out the cabinet later!

And this little 35mm wristwatch has been in my family ever since. It still works well, and amazingly, the luminous hour markers still emit a faint glow. If you don’t find that impressive or at least intriguing, I would tell you that my dad is 68 years old this year. The other interesting thing about it is that at least two authorities on vintage wristwatches have remarked that the hour and minutes hands do not appear to be original and have been replaced before, whilst my dad swears on his old bed frame that he’s never sent it for servicing, repair or replacement at any time ever. Perhaps there was some inconsistency in the assembly and manufacture of WWW watches? Let it remain an accident of history.

The basic design of the WWW watches was shared between all the various manufacturers that the MoD contracted to supply, and as such, it has been propagated through the decades and never went out of fashion. Recently, with vintage being in vogue again, Longines has reissued their version of the WWW (named ‘Greenlander’), showing how timeless the design is. When it comes down to it all though, all vintage watches will have their own fascinating stories to tell; of fathers, grandfathers, or some unknown soldier fighting far away from his home. One does truly feel a sense of wonder when holding on to this timepiece; of all the trials and challenges have the men whom worn it been through in a tumultuous period of the 20th century. Let this tough and unpretentious watch forever stand as a testament to their industry and ingenuity. Salute.

For information on these wristwatches, the webpage W.W.W. http://www.sfu.ca/~mmh/BritishX.htm is compulsory reading. Soldier’s image courtesy of www.militaryphotos.net

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