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Everything you need to know about luxury watches

The Difference Between a Chronometer and a Chronograph

Chronograph and Chronometer are two very similar words that are very commonly used in horology. However, they are often used in the wrong context.

Although they sound really similar, their definition couldn’t be more different. Let’s see where they differ.

 

 

Difference between chronometer and chronograph

Chronograph

A chronograph is one of the most well known and most popular complications. Chronograph is another word for ‘stopwatch feature’. This complication can be seen on watches like the Omega Speedmaster, Rolex Daytona and Tag Heuer Carrera. The chronograph is what makes these models iconic.

The stopwatch can be started, stopped and reset without affecting the current time. Most chronographs feature subdials where you can read the exact time that has passed since you started the chronograph. Although chronographs are a relatively simple complication, they have the potential to get incredibly complicated. Think of the A. Lange & Shone Triple Split or the Audemars Piguet Concept Laptimer. These horological marvels are a lesson for another time.

 

Chronometer

Chronometer has nothing to do with complications or functions, but with accuracy. When a watch is a chronometer, it means that the movement has been tested by a certified independent laboratory. The Swiss standard for accurate timekeeping is tested by the COSC. (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres). The keyword here is ‘independent’. Brands can invent new certificates or use marketing lingo to praise their watches, but COSC is independent, prestigious and can’t be bribed.

Watches of all kinds of brands are subjected through the same tests, whether the watch costs ten euros or ten million euros. For a watch to receive a COSC certificate, it has to withstand rough, long and hard tests.

The movement can’t deviate more than -4 to +6 seconds a day. High quality movements are even stricter: the maximum rate is +1 to -2 seconds a day. Watches are tested for a period of 15 days in 5 different positions in 3 different temperatures.

 

Recap

So in short: chronograph is a complication, chronometer is a measurement of accuracy. A chronograph can be a chronometer, and a chronometer can be a chronograph. A Rolex Daytona for example, is both chronometer certified and has a Chronograph complication.

 

A Guide To Water Resistance

Water resistance on a watch is usually expressed in meters. However, there are plenty of dangerous misconceptions on water resistance on wrist watches. 30m water resistance does not mean that you can dive 30 meters deep with your watch. Well you could, but only once…

 

 

Guide to Water Resistance on Watches

‘Water Resistance’

Sometimes, a watch doesn’t carry a certain number of meters, and just says ‘water resistant’. Although the term ‘water resistant’ implies that your watch can resist water, it certainly doesn’t.

‘Water resistance’ means that your watch is capable of withstanding accidental splashes of water. Think for example of light rain or washing your hands. The label ‘Water Resistance’ is certainly not capable of surviving being submerged in water. If you try to shower or swim with such a watch, you better rush to a watchmaker.

 

30m / 100ft/ 3 ATM / 3 BAR

This is one step up. 30m means that your watch can survive accidental splashes, and could survive a shower if the watch is new or the seals are still intact. The rubber seals that keep the water out can wear out quickly, so don’t shower with a 30m watch unless it just came out of the box or had a service recently.

Hot showers are also discouraged, since steam is much more aggressive than water.

 

50m / 165ft / 5 ATM / 5 BAR

50m means that your watch can be worn in a pool. We are not talking about competitive swimming or sea diving, but sipping mimosas by the water while taking a nap or reading a book.

 

100m / 330ft / 10 ATM / 10 BAR

A watch with a rating of 100m is suitable for swimming and amateur snorkeling. You can swim and play around in water, but you still have to be careful with aqua diving or high board diving. The impact on the water can still break the seals and allow water inside the watch.

 

200m / 660ft / 20 ATM / 20 BAR

200m watches can do everything a 100m watch can do, except that these watches are also able to withstand high-impact water sports and higher water pressure.

Your watch is suitable for swimming, high-impact water sports and scuba diving. The case is usually comparable to a 100m watch, but the seals are a lot more robust.

 

300m / 990ft / 30 ATM 30 BAR or more

These are the watches you must be looking for if you really want to go diving. 300m or more are the only watches who can withstand the immense pressures of saturation diving. That is also why most of these watches have a Helium Escape Valve. Great examples are the Omega Seamaster 300, Breitling Superocean, Bell&Ross 03-92 and Rolex Submariner.

 

Why You Should Look Into MeisterSinger

The complexity of a watch can often be measured by the amount of hands the watch has. A simple time only watch usually has two or three hands: hours, minutes and sometimes seconds.

A chronograph spices things up and usually adds two to three extra hands: an extra second counter, a minute counter and sometimes an hour counter.

If we want to keep adding hands, things get complicated quickly. Think of split second chronographs, perpetual calendar chronographs, leap year indicators… complicated and expensive stuff.

MeisterSinger went the other way. They scrapped all the nonsense and only use one hand. That’s right, ONE.

 

 

Why you should look into MeisterSinger

German Engineering

MeisterSinger is a German manufacturer of mechanical wristwatches. The company was founded in 2001, and quickly became a phenomenon. While most brands try to make their designs as complex and sophisticated as possible, MeisterSinger’s mission was to trim the design, without making it look cheap or too Bauhaus-esque.

Meistersinger started with modified ETA movements, but quickly switched to the development of in-house movements.

Since there is only one hand and no subdials, all eyes go to the dial. That’s why most MeisterSingers have colorful sunburst dials. To keep a certain sense of symmetry and balance, hours 1 until 9 start with a ‘0’, so every number on the dial has double digits. Talk about eye for detail.

 

Prizes And Awards

Even though the company is only 20 years old and only 20 employees strong, they managed to make a strong name for themselves in a short time. Over this limited period, the brand has been able to take home 34 renowned design award. These are awards such as the Red Dot award, IF Design Award, the German Design award and many more. Most awards were won by models like the Adhaesio and the Circularis.

 

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A Closer Look at the Tag Heuer Carrera

1963 was a big year for both car enthusiasts and watch enthusiasts. 1963 was the year the Porsche released the first 911, and Heuer launched the Carrera.

The Carrera might be one of the biggest and most influential models of the Tag Heuer line-up. The Monaco is of course the most recognizable, but the square shape of the case might put off non-watch enthusiast, while the Carrera has a much more approachable design.

 

 

A CLoser Look at the Tag Heuer Carrera

History Of The Carrera

The Carrera was introduced in 1963 and was designed by Jack Heuer. Jack was the great-grandson of Edouard Heuer, the legendary watchmaker who founded the Heuer watch company in 1860.

Jack wanted to make the Carrera as clean and straightforward as possible. The 1963 Carrera had a very simple design with only two subdials, applied markers and registers on the dial. There was no room for decoration, colors or even a bezel. A new model with three subdials was introduced around 1968. Most of the first generation Carrera’s were powered by a Valjoux movement.

 

The Modern Carrera

Even though the initial thought behind the Carrera was simplicity, modern Carrera’s have a bit more color, literally and figuratively. The Carrera has had countless variations with different colors, sizes and complications over the years. Some modern variations even let go of the chronograph and instead feature a day-date function.

Tag Heuer really turned some heads when they began experimenting with tourbillons. The tourbillon is one of the most challenging complications in horology, and Tag Heuer managed to develop and implement one in their Carrera line at a relatively affordable price point.

While tourbillons from other Swiss watchmakers like Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet usually carried price tags starting around €100.000 and going well into the millions, Tag Heuer had a different approach. They priced the Carrera Tourbillon at a reasonable €15.000. Don’t get me wrong, 15k isn’t pocket money, but it’s certainly more approachable than the €2 million you have to cough up if you wish to acquire Richard Mille RM27-04 tourbillon. You can pick up a Carrera tourbillon for just €12.850 on Timepiecebank.com. Regular, modern Carrera’s are of course much more reasonably priced.

 

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Mechanical Alarms, A Quirky Complication

Mechanical alarm watches are a quirky complication. Mechanical alarm were once incredibly important, but since the invention of the clock radio and the mobile phone, their functionality has become completely obsolete.

This doesn’t take away the fact that mechanical alarms are a complex and interesting complication. To have a countdown system and a complete hammer-system, mechanically integrated into a watch is some next level engineering. Oddly, a mechanical alarm is often much more affordable than a minute repeater.

 

 

Mechanical Alarm Watches

Today, we are going to look at 3 modern mechanical alarms worth looking into.

 

Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox

The Memovox has been one of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s key models for the last few decades. The watch was introduced in 1951, and has been one of their best selling and most recognizable watches ever since. Modern Memovoxes come in a few different styles: the Polaris Memovox and the Master Memovox.

The Polaris Memovox is a more sporty take. It comes on either a rubber strap or a steel bracelet, and has a waterproof case. The Master Memovox is a more formal take on the 1950’s classic. The watch comes on a leather strap and had a more formal feel to it.

 

Vulcain Cricket

Vulcain may be a brand that doesn’t sound familiar to most, but they were one of the ‘big players’ in the watch industry in the 1950’s 1960’s. Sadly, Vulcain took a big hit during the quartz crisis.

Vulcain in fact produced the first mechanical alarm movement, which gave them the ticket to worldwide fame. Before Rolex claimed the term ‘President watch’, Vulcain was the choice of many US presidents. Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Trumann, Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson all wore Vulcain watches.

The brand was reborn in 2002, and has an impressive lineup of modern alarm watches.

 

Tudor Heritage Advisor

If we think of Tudor, we think of the Black Bay line. People often forget that Tudor has a whole catalogue next to the Black Bay line, but these watches often get little to no attention. The Tudor Heritage Advisor is one of those watches. The watch features a mechanical alarm, and looks nothing like a Black Bay. Certainly a watch worth looking into.

 

The Outdated Utility Of The Minute Repeater

The minute repeater is without a question one of the most complicated and prestigious complications ever made. For those who don’t exactly know what a minute repeater does, allow me to make a quick recap:

A repeater is a kind of complication that can be housed in a wristwatch, pocket watch or mechanical clock. The repeater chimes the hours (and sometimes quarters and/or minutes) by pressing a button.

 

 

Minute Repeater Hammers

 

Repeaters come in all shapes and sizes. Some repeaters only strike the number of hours, other repeaters can chime using different tones and notes to display the hours, quarters and minutes. This is of course all powered by old-fashioned springs and gears.

Repeaters should not be confused with striking clocks. A striking clock gives the time through a chime every hour, and sometimes half hour. Think of the bell of a church or cathedral, or a cuckoo clock. It just makes a sound every hour, regardless if anyone wants to actually know the time.

A repeater is much more complicated. A repeater only gives the time when you push a button or pull a lever. When it’s untouched, it works in silence like a regular watch or clock.

 

Why Was This Invented?

Repeaters were developed in the late 16-hundreds. This was a time long before the invention of the lightbulb, luminous watch-hands or mobile phones with light-up screens. If you wanted to know the time at night in the 16-hundreds, you had to wait until the local church started chiming (which was then done by hand by monks). If you lived far away from a church, you were all out of luck.

Edward Barlow decided to take action, and developed the first repeating movement in 1676. The technology for striking clocks already existed, but wasn’t perfected until much later.

When lightbulbs were invented 120 years later, repeating movements became less and less useful. When luminous material was developed and implemented in watches a few decades later, repeating movements became totally obsolete and irrelevant.

Yet, modern repeating movements are still seen as some of the most complicated, impressive and prestigious movements available. Even though repeaters have completely lost their function, they still represent the incredible craftsmanship and knowledge that is needed to develop and produce such a complication.

Repeaters might have lost their functionality over the years, but they gained incredible status, and have become the ultimate luxury item for some collectors.

 

Why Rubber Straps Are Indispensable For Divers.

Some rubber dive straps (like the rubber straps of a Panerai Submersible for example) have some sort of bumps in the strap. Some people find these bumps comfortable while others hate it, but very few know that it actually serves a very important function for divers.

 

 

Rubber Straps on Watches

When diving deep into the ocean, millions and millions of liters of water will push their weight on you. The deeper you go, the greater the pressure. Water pressure pushes its force onto your body, including the arms and wrists. Because of this pressure, your whole body, including your arms and wrists, get slightly compressed.

This calls for a crash course in water pressure and air volume. For every 10 meters you go under water, one bar/PSI gets added. Standard air pressure at sea level is 1 bar, so if you dive 50 meters deep, you have a pressure of 6 bar pushing on your body. Air volume also changes drastically when diving deep underwater. If you bring a balloon filled with air under water, the balloon will have shrunken to 50% of its original size after going just 10 meter deep. Go down 20 meters, and the balloon will shrink to 33% of its original size.

If just 20 meters of depth can have such a drastic effect on a balloon, imagine what 500 meters would do on a human body.

The compression on a person’s wrist can’t of course be compared to that of a balloon, but the compression can be enough for a steel bracelet to become lose and start wiggling and flipping around your wrist. When you are diving hundreds of meters deep in the pitch black depths of the unknown, the last thing you need is your most important tool to get loose and start dancing around your wrist.

Divers trust their watches with their lives. Imagine exploring a cave or shipwreck, and your most trusted tool where your life depends on suddenly gets upside-down and impossible to read.

The bumps in the rubber strap make sure your strap has extra stretch, so you can apply more pressure when strapping it on your wrist. If you stretch the strap to the maximum when strapping it on, it should stay snug around your wrist, even when exploring great depths. This is a feature steel bracelets don’t have.

Fluted Bezel: Decoration Or Function?

Many iconic and recognizable features on watches serve an important purpose. A rotating bezel? Used for timing your dives. The weird button on the side of a Seamaster 300? That’s a helium escape valve, which ensures that your crystal doesn’t pop off after saturation diving. Watches are small but hyper-effective machines, so every part should be extremely well thought out.

What does a fluted bezel do? I can be very short and clear with the answer: Nothing, zip, nada. Today, a fluted bezel is 100% decoration. Although, it hasn’t always been useless. There was a time, long ago, when the fluted bezel was an extremely important and revolutionary feature.

 

 

Fluted Bezel on a Rolex

First introduction

Rolex introduced the first Datejust in 1945. This first generation Datejust had a very peculiar feature for that time: a fluted bezel. Something that was unseen before. Before 1945, round plexiglass discs were pushed in the case of the watch to make sure the hands of the watch were well protected against dust and water splatter. This was a delicate procedure: if the plexi was a micrometer too big, it would shatter during installation; If the plexi was a micrometer too small, it would let water through. That’s why watches of that time had negligible water-resistance.

Rolex saw this issue and invested heavily in the quest for the first fully waterproof watch.

Rolex developed a new technique to ensure better resistance to water: instead of pushing in the plexi under great force, they wanted to screw it onto the case, just like the case back. In order to do that, they first needed to get some grip. This is where the fluted bezel enters the show.

A screwdown crown, screwdown caseback and screwdown plexi were the key to success.

Today, the material and technology improved, and other techniques are used to waterproof a watch. However, the shiny bezel stayed and became a status symbol.

 

Modern Fluted Bezels

The need for teeth was gone, but the aesthetics of the fluted bezel was something people loved. The original fluted bezels were made from stainless steel. Today’s bezels are made from white gold, yellow gold and rose gold for extra bling.

If we think about a fluted bezel, we instantly think of the Rolex Datejust, Day-Date and Skydweller, but the Omega Globemaster has the same shiny feature.

Horological History: The Dark History Of The Radium Girls

This article starts with a big disclaimer: back in the 1920’s, the risks of radium and radioactivity were hardly known. Nuclear energy and radioactivity were relatively new, and no one, including Panerai, had any idea of the risk. Therefore Panerai can’t be blamed for what happened.

 

 

radium girls painting with radioactive paint

Now let’s dive into today’s story.

Even though Panerai is seen as a trustworthy and stable brand, the Italian brand has a dark secret. We are not talking about Kampfschwimmers (more on that later), but the story of radium girls.

Today, Superluminova is the standard luminous material used in watches. It holds its brightness for a long time, and is (as long as you don’t digest it) a harmless material. Superluminova is a stable and safe material that can be stored for a long time without any side effects.

However, Superluminova was only developed in 1993. Before, radioactive materials were sometimes used as luminous material. Rolex for example has used tritium in the 1980’s and 90’s. The tritium had very low concentrations of radioactivity, exposing the wearer to extremely low risk.

Let’s rewind back even more, and go to the 1920’s.

Panerai and other watch brands decided to use radium as a luminous material for their watches. Luminous materials in horology was new, and was seen as a true innovation. There was only one issue that no one knew about: radium is highly radioactive.

In the 1920’s, dials were still painted by hand. That meant that workers in the Panerai factory had to grab a pencil and a bucket of radium paint to make the dials. This was mainly done by women at that time. The letters on the dial were very small, so the women had to make sure the hairs on their pencils were always slightly moist to make sure the tip remained sharp. Sadly, this was done brushing the (radium filled) pencil against their lips every few minutes. Many also used the glowing paint as nail polish or make-up, applying the radioactive substance on their faces.

This also happened with many other brands of watchmakers and clockmakers in Europe and the US.

Thousands of painters worldwide ingested lethal amounts of radioactive substance without even knowing it. Over the years, almost all of them developed severe tumors, resulting in a slow and painful death. Once the dangers of radioactive paint were known, the substance was quickly banned and the search for a new, safer luminous substance began.

 

3 Fun Facts About Breguet’s History

Breguet is a brand with legendary status that is sadly often overlooked. If you look at quality, finishing, history and added value to the world of horology, Breguet lies in the same category as brands like Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin.

Sadly, there is very little known about the incredibly rich history this brand carries. Today, we are going to look into 3 fun facts about Breguet in its first years

 

 

Breguet Watches

Breguet invented the tourbillon

Abraham-Louis Breguet was the founder of the now legendary brand Breguet. Mister Breguet was an incredibly talented watchmaker with multiple achievements, inventions and patents under his name. The biggest one might be the tourbillon, which he invented and patented in 1801.

In his lifetime, Abraham-Louis Breguet made 35 tourbillon watches. Today, only 10 are known to have survived. The tourbillon is still one of the key complications in Breguet’s modern line-up of watches today.

 

Napoleon Went To Battle With A Breguet Carriage Clock

Today, soldiers wear rugged dive watches. In the late seventeen hundreds and early eighteen hundreds, soldiers carried portable clocks.

When Napoleon Bonaparte rose to power and became a general in the French army, Abraham-Louis Breguet was already a very established and well known watchmaker. Napoleon ordered three repeater clocks to travel and conquer trough Europe with. Rumors are that Breguet and Napoleon actually were close friends, since Napoleon often bought custom pieces for his personal collection and for his wife.

 

The Story Of The Beheaded Queen And Most Complicated Watch

The Breguet ‘Marie-Antoinette’ pocket watch is a fabulous and incredibly complex pocket watch, and is even today still considered as one of the most complex timepieces that has ever existed. The story behind it however is less cheerful.

Marie-Antoinette, queen of France, asked Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1783 to make her a pocket watch which included every possible complication (of that time of course). Mister Breguet fell in love with the challenge and worked on the pocket watch for over forty years.

Mr Breguet’s son eventually succeeded and finished the watch in 1827. There was however a slight obstacle: Marie-Antoinette was beheaded 34 years earlier. Quite a pickle when your client is decapitated.

The watch got nicknamed ‘The Marie-Antoinette’ and remained the most complicated timepiece for almost 100 years. Even today, it is still seen as the pinnacle of watchmaking.