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Blancpain has for awhile been involved with efforts to conserve the Oceans and several of its projects while low key, are important as part of the overall effort worldwide to bring attention to the public why the Oceans needs to be saved.

At the evening where Blancpain launched its new limited edition Bathyscape Chrono, they took pains to show case through a small exhibition, the various Ocean conservation projects they were supporting.













Several renowned conservationists were guests of honour who presented and shared their life's work.

Ernest Brooks an adventurer and diver for many decades working with Blancpain on the Fifty Fathoms Award.


Laurent Ballesta who works with National Geographic and Blanpain shared his work on filming and photographing the extremely rare Coelacanthe in difficult conditions. His wonderful photographs for the Coelacanthe Project were published as a coffee table book.


Ai Futaki and Gianluca Genoni are world record freedivers. They swim in open sea diving for long distances and holding their breathe for extraordinarily long time. A dangerous sport that had taken many lives.



For more information about Blanpain and their commitment to Ocean Conservation, visit: http://www.blancpain-ocean-commitment.com/

 


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MOVAS or Movements of Asia is a Singapore based watch brand founded by Sean Wai. Sean trained as an architect started out Movas a few years ago having moderate success with his earlier pieces. His latest watch, the Bronze Diver IV has all the elements of a potential winner. While not intended for the mainstream, it would interest those looking for large imposing divers wristwatch made with bronze. 

While I have long stopped wearing large watches, seeing the prototype steel version of this watch and later its first bronze case, I was ready to wear it as my weekend or casual watch. This watch has been through a year of refinement of its design which caused its delay in its launch. But now that it has been finally finished, the watch is worth the wait with a thinner bezel than its prototype and matching tone in the date plates to the dial. The green dial compliments the bronze tone of the case and the olive green leather combination makes for a genuinely interesting and handsome watch. 

Here is how it looks on the wrist with jeans. 




The watch comes with a nicely design and weighted buckle made of bronze with Movas's own logo. Note the thick olive green leather strap. 

The watch features a exhibition back with a Seagull movement with a bronze rotor. An unusual and unique feature not seen before in other watches. 

The overall quality, details, casework belies the retail price of S$1800. 


Sean himself wears the original prototype model of the bronze diver. 
Movas also will be delivering the new T2 tourbillon shown below. The brand does not lack in imagination nor ambition. For those who are looking for daring design with lots of design details there are all too few in the market at this price segment.  
Click on the images to view them in higher resolution.





 


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The relationship between Sinn and the Hour Glass has always been a strong. This is the fourth Sinn Hour Glass limited edition - but the third U1 variation. The original U1 was a runaway success and continues to be a sort after watch by those looking for a durable, scratch resistant diver's watch. I still am amazed by my basic U1 which I continue to wear with great satisfaction and joy. I was one of the earliest to acquire a piece when it was launched - and it did not disappoint. I still recommend it to anyone who wants or need a mechanical beater.

The new Sinn U1-D Mission Dune is meant to commemorate the 35th Anniversary of the Hour Glass.  There will only be 350 pieces made and retailing at $4800. It will be delivered with the stressed calf show below. Also provided is a Zulu strap in camouflage design. The U1's key unique feature is its submarine steel - which in its natural original form is a steel with a slight tone that is commonly seen in titanium. However, unlike the aircraft material, submarine steel is very dense and hard. Specifically created for the German navy submarines to deal with the harsh effects of sea water on steel.

The Hour Glass U1 limited editions have always featured all black Tegiment on the submarine steel case and bezel. Even the bezel had always been black with changes only in the colours of the markers and hands. This time round, the U1-D features a grey dial with beige numbers on the bezel and partially on the hands. The grey dial is quite unique in that the tone changes slightly in different light. 


The one key change that makes this new watch attractive is the use of the distressed brown calf that creates a nice contrast with the case and dial. Even the camouflage Zulu makes the U1-D look like a serious military issue timepiece. 


Sinn perfected the patented Tegimenting process to create a coating that makes the metal scratch proof in addition of providing a new tone to the metal. Only a ceramic case could possibly be even more scratch resistant but that would also mean the risk of the case shattering on high impact. 

I expect that orders will be pouring in quick on seeing how the watch looks in real life. At 44mm and rated at water pressure resistant to 1000m and featuring double sided antireflective coating on the sapphire crystal, there are many things going for this watch. The U1-D may be a variation on a theme but it's overall combination makes it a more interesting piece than the predecessor limited editions. Judging how quick the previous limited editions sold, those interested in this piece need to be quick. 


For reports of the launch of the earlier Hourglass Limited Editions:


 


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Stowa is an old German watch brand that has been around for quite some time. The watches in their collection consist of simple classic designs. Stowa has a series of pilot watches consisting of self winding and automatic movements. Primarily sold online direct to customers, Red Army Watches succeeded in partnering with Stowa to create the Lady Chin Swee Limited Edition. This limited edition has no apparent difference. Only on the reverse side of the watch does one find the engraving of the Singapore edition. 



As with all pilot watches it is an understated austere simple 3 handed watch. The movement is a clean polished Unitas cased in a tall 41mm. Unlike many of the pilot watches of today sporting large cases like 44mm and larger this model is well balanced and sits handsomely on the wrist. When matched with Stowa's dark brown aviator strap, it has a strong authentic vintage look and feel. While there are quite a few brands that retails pilot watches Stowa has managed to keep its pricing for this model at sensible levels (around 1000 Euros). Overall this watch deserves to be given a Highly Reommended status. 


  

 


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One of the most anticipated new watches of 2014 was the Blue version of the Tudor Black bay. The original crimson bezel found itself to be quite popular with reviewers and new collectors. In large part the unique pseudo vintage look and the relatively reasonable list price (in comparison to other watches today). Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an affordable Swiss mechanical timepiece anymore as inflationary prices over recent years made that a certainty. Even some brands not seen as luxury brands are pricing themselves out of the market. Tudor however, seems to have found a sweet spot in their market segment. A recognised brand with good pedigree willing to hold back on inflationary pricing. But is the Blue going to be as popular as the original crimson bezel version?

Certainly judging by the positive turn out of the number of invited guest keen on viewing this piece on its arrival here in Singapore, the interest in the model seems to be there. 


There are two versions of the watch. Both are identical using ETA 2824 automatic movements. The difference is the steel bracelet or stressed blue leather. Both versions comes with a woven blue fabric strap. 


The watch appears far more contemporary than the crimson bezel version which features off white markers. This sense of contemporary makes the watch look more akin to the Tudor Pelagos. 


On the stressed blue leather, it does work well as a combo but somehow in person, the watch looks more attractive in the steel bracelet. The oddity there is while it looks better overall in a steel bracelet, it does make the watch more anonymous when compared to the crimson bezel version. I suspect that some may see it as potentially anonymous like the many divers watches found in the market today especially with the white markers. While the blue bezel is nice, it is neither unique nor making it recognisable from the many other similar designed divers watch. 


This Tudor is a well made watch worthy of consideration. However, if one starts to consider it in light of alternatives in the market, one only had to look at the Tudor Heritage Chrono Blue 2013 to realise the design, chronograph function and distinctiveness at a small price difference would probably warrant more consideration.





 


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HAPPY FATHERS DAY!

On Father's Day, I would like to share an image of an heirloom from my father (now in possession of my elder brother). My late father's Omega Constellation from the early 60s. Image here was when I picked it up from being serviced at the boutique. Still keeping good time and looks like it coming back into fashion with the industry going retro reissuing old designs.

Fathers, consider handing down a much loved timepiece to your children. But as far as possible, choose a strong classic design AND a brand that will still be around decades ahead. Quality service support for watches are much harder to come by than what many believe.


 


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So finally, or so it seems, SWATCH Group has fixed a date at which it will halt supply of movement ebauches and parts to non-Swatch brands. Many Swiss watch brands had been crying foul (as with the recipient of this German letter from Swatch who published the letter in Facebook) and there had been threats of anti-competition legal action and there had been delays for years since Swatch announced this. This profoundly ground shaking step will have both positive and negative impact on the Swiss watch industry. No one can fully predict accurately the extent of the impact and whether it would be as negative as so many have feared or much more positively if the gears of capitalism kicks into play.

For many decades, the growth in number of brands everywhere depended on the supply of ETA ebauches from SWATCH. It may be a reflection of how well the ETA movements have evolved but it could also reflect how poorly the rest of the industry had not made efforts develop their own mechanical movements. The reality is that there are many Swiss movement manufacturers that could easily step into Swatch shoes and help fill the void. The key issues are probably the skills and training needed to retool assembly plants (and service technicians) and the potential issues of supply from smaller manufacturers.

The greatest risk at hand for the Swiss watch industry is the temptation to source movements from non Swiss manufacturers or use non Swiss movements. Regulators of the industry need to be even more vigilant to maintain the branding of "Swiss Made". For the consumers, when buying watches from brands not part of the Swatch stable of brands - they now need to be much more careful to determine where the calibers come from and whether it that caliber has a positive and strong record of performance.

Will this step by Swatch means the death knell of independent watchmakers and small watch brands? Probably there will be some that would not be able to survive the change especially in light of how consumer behaviour has changed over the past 24 months reflecting a slow down in the industry worldwide. Independent watchmakers how had been using different ebauches in light of the notice by Swatch some years ago will be better prepared for the sea change.

How will this Swatch step impact on consumers? Eventually, within the near future, prices of Swiss watches as a whole will invariably rise even further than the annual inflation rate usually implemented by the different brands. For the non Swatch brands, relying on the Swatch ebauches, their cost will invariably go up in finding and using alternatives. Swatch group itself will in time raise the prices of all their ETA movement watches as the group will no longer be able to rely on sales of the movements to raise their annual profit accounts.

But overall, despite the negative impact of higher costs to the consumer, the positive outcome is that the brands have to evolve, innovate, compete or die out. This will mean more choices for consumers. Third party movement manufacturers will enjoy quantum growth rates and hopefully more innovation and development will follow.

ADDENDUM - The immediate impact for watch buyers today is that they have be very careful with models with ETA movement from Non Swatch brands. Reason being the current industry standard of providing two year or more on warranty would mean the brand will have some difficulty or worse not be able to repair a watch post 31 Dec 2015. Buyers will probably see a higher rate of discounts being given by retailers. Even potentially clearance sales. It is advisable that buyers get some written assurance of continued support during the warranty period that goes beyond 31 Dec 2015. Unfortunately after the warranty period, it could be a challenge to find quality third party watchmakers to service the watches.  Not likely to be impossible but much more difficult. 

 


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The brand Manufacture Royale (MR) had been around for some years but only just made its appearance in Singapore this year. A small but elite watch company run by an experienced family of the Goutens and Guten. The company uses designers such as Eric Grioud and Charles Grosbety. Arnaud Favire, the Founder and CEO is involved in the development and engineering of the watches at MR.

At the showcase dinner organised by The Millenary on the 10th June 2014, held at Buona Terra Restaurant along Scotts Road, guest were treated to a wonderful dinner of exotic dishes. The quality of the food served was good and the service excellent. 


As with showcase events, there was a presentation table of the MR watches laid out by the staff from The Millenary, was tastefully presented and decorated.

The small select group of guests included Who's Who from the local watch collecting scene. 
Mr Marc Guten, the Managing Partner and Co-Founder of MR was on hand to introduce the brand and the watches on show. 

Currently the brand has three watch designs in its stable. The 1770, the Androgyne and the Opera. The 1770 is the "simplest" design of MR with a clean dial save for the tourbillon cage located at the 7 marker. Currently, every single watch that MR produces has the tourbillon making the entry level piece 1770 in steel to cost over S$70,000.

The highlight piece on show was the Opera Black Gold featuring over 1600 small diamonds in its accordion retractable style mechanism - which is reputedly designed to be the sound chamber for its repeater bells. The Opera is a tourbillon minute repeater. The price of the watch shown below was not disclosed but it is known that the bicolour gold retails for US$1.2 million. The Opera however is sized at an enormous 50mm which will probably put off many who are not willing or able to wear large timepieces. 

The Androgyne is also a skeleton dial tourbillon but in a more reasonable 43mm case. The case looks similar to the Opera but sans the accordion mechanism. On the wrist the Androgyne is slim although somewhat largish due to its round bezel of square case.

On close inspection, the Androgyne is a well made timepiece, finished well and clean. The movement in skeleton form is pleasant and uncluttered. The diamond embeded version looks a tad too fussy compared to the stainless steel version shown below.



Manufacture Royale is a daring brand that has created a few interesting models. Unfortunately the models that it makes are only for those who have the liquidity of Donald Trump. Nevertheless the brand's annual output numbers will be so small that the branding to a select eligible few potential customers should not prove to be too difficult. 


 


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GP hosted a lunch with a handful of collectors and bloggers to showcase the new GP watches and to announce its new role as GP authorised dealers. The CEO of SOWIND Group, Mr Michele Sofisti was at the lunch to introduce the new watches and spoke of the new partnership with the Hour Glass. 


The most important development at GP was the launch of last years's Constant Escapement. A very large watch with a 48mm case. 



The tri-axial tourbillon (below top left) may not be a new innovation but it is nevertheless a monumental engineering feat. Close study will show it is probably the best finished multi axis tourbillon in the market. 



GP is most renown for its three bridges tourbillons and an example seen below. The bridges and tourbillon cage will please the most demanding collector. 


Heartiest congratulations to GP and The Hourglass on their new partnership. 

 


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On the 30th May 2014, Omega Singapore hosted a small intimate dinner at OTTO Ristorante for a small handful of watch bloggers and journalists to show case the Baselworld 2014 Omega collection. The guests in attendance were Cheng Yaw (Jaw) and Zach Toh, Ralphael Too, Bernard Cheong (& Dolly Cheong), Peter Chong and Su Jia Xian.  
The kind and warm hosts were Mr David Ponzo, Ms Pauline Tang, Ms Maria Kong and Ms Fiona Lim.
The dinner was a sumptous affair of mostly great dishes and wine (although the fish was somewhat dry which remained unfinished). The White Asparagas starter was wonderful and the Pork was delicious. The Foie Gras was a little underdone but the dessert was divine. So in all a culinary mixed performance. 
Guests and hosts were seated along a long table where the food, drink and conversations were conducted until midnight. All the while the new 2014 Novelties sat on 5 plinths in the middle of the table. Mr David Ponzo welcomed us formally in his short opening that included the review of the past year of events, launches and developments at Omega. He proceeded to the main event - where he provided detailed information about the new 2014 pieces that included new pieces in all the ranges at Omega. 
The ladies watches for 2014 featured a new dial design of engraved butterflies using an age old method.
This year's mens watches included some quite special and handsome pieces in a bumper crop of new models. Most interesting of which are featured in the collage below. The blue seamaster aquaterra with blue crocodile strap is an understated daily wearer quite handsome on the wrist. Featuring a brand new Master Co-Axial movement - which means that the whole watch has the capability to resist up to 15000 gaus of magnetism  (in point of fact, it probably could be higher but the measuring device could only go that high) using silcium in place of metal parts that are at risk of being affected by magnetism. This watch will be sized at 42mm list price at S$7600.

The much wrote about Seamaster 300 which is a throwback and a reissue of the original issued in the 70s. It features all the new component movements and materials but in the guise of a 70s watch and even with the 70s type aged luminova. The size reflects the return to sanity eschewing the larger 44mm and 45mm for the 42mm case. On the wrist, the new Seamaster has a nice presence and at a price point not far away from sanity.  
The Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional Mark2 using the self winding calibre 1861 features a titanium case and sedna gold accents on the bezel. The brown dial and brown NATO strap gives this watch a new presence. It is a handsome watch with an altogether new look. Did I mention it looks great on the wrist? The one piece that could easily become either a dress or workday watch is the new Tresor Deville - a favorite of Mr David Ponzo. Unfortunately this model comes only in precious metals which means they will retail over S$20k. 

The final new piece is the 2014 Darkside of the Moon was not available at the dinner but was shown in the presentation (see the above pic). It still features the ceramic case but instead of the original all black version, the ceramic is superheated and treated with plasmatic process to create that grey look. Its going to be available later in the year but like the black original, it will be a low production model. If the demand for the black Darkside of the Moon is anything to go by, the 2014 is going to be a much sought after piece.


Overall, the 2014 range has several pieces that warrant serious consideration from collectors. Omega is clearly listening to its customers and bringing back historical pieces of interest using modern materials and movements while pushing the envelope in developing the mainstay series of the constellation, deville, seamaster and speedmaster.


Now, if only they heard me asking for a reissue of the Flightmaster.



 





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