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Thursday, January 12, 2017

$1M Swiss Watch Made Of Swiss Cheese And That’s No Bull

Specialist Swiss watchmaker H. Moser & Cie. used Swiss cheese to create a watch made in protest of the recently updated “Swiss made” requirement. 

Called the “Swiss Mad Watch” it doesn’t refer to Mad Cow Disease but to being mad at the new updated requirement that 60 percent of the watch components must be of Swiss origin in order to be considered eligible for the Swiss Made label—a 10 percent increase over the previous requirement. Edouard Meylan, CEO of the independent watchmaker based in Neuhausen am Rheinfall, uses more than 95 percent of Swiss-origin components to make its watches. He strongly feels the Swiss Made standard is inadequate and his company should not be held to the same standard as those who barely meet the requirement. The company said it will remove the Swiss Made label from all of its new watches starting this year.

"Our Swiss Mad Watch sends a clear message to the Swiss watchmaking industry, the authorities and watch enthusiasts: the Swiss Made label is meaningless,” Meylan said in a statement. “Worse than this, it gives credibility to the worst abuses in our industry. Our response to this lax and insufficient label is derision. At H. Moser & Cie. we produce watches that are truly Swiss, watches that are steeped in watchmaking tradition and centuries of experience. The quality of these pieces speaks for itself and dispenses with the need for a label. We are no longer ‘Swiss Made,’ but we are Swiss—100 precent Swiss in the case of the Swiss Mad Watch and over 95 percent Swiss for all of our other models.”

While there is satire mixed in with this protest it is as serious the price of this one-of-a-kind watch, 1,081,291 Swiss francs. The cost refers to the signing of the Swiss Federal Charter on August 1, 1291. All proceeds from its sale will be used to create a fund to support independent Swiss watchmaking suppliers that the company says are “currently suffering under the difficult economic situation and outsourcing to Asia. These are the very artisans who keep traditional Swiss watchmaking alive and who help it to continually evolve.”

The 42mm case of the Swiss Mad Watch is created from real Swiss cheese as a base material, specifically a Vacherin Mont d’Or médaille d’or, mixed with itr2, a composite material. It is then machined and polished with H. Moser signature finishes. For the strap, Swiss cowhide (the obvious choice) is used. The watch is finished with a red fumé dial and doubled indices at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock, subtly reminiscent of the Swiss flag. It is powered by an in-house, hand-wound, mechanical HMC 327 caliber.

“Created in Switzerland, by Swiss watchmakers and using Swiss materials, the Swiss Mad Watch has symbolic value, tackling Swiss Made debate head on to reveal the truth behind this label,” Meylan said. “With this unique watch, H. Moser & Cie. demonstrates the importance and urgency of returning Swiss Made to its former heights. Echoing the absurdity and the ridiculous change to the Swiss Made legislation, H. Moser & Cie.'s satirical comment on the issue highlights an alternative resource, 100 percent natural and entirely Swiss, one of the most precious Swiss resources that exists: cows. 

To go with the watch and protest, the company created the hashtag, #MakeSwissMadeGreatAgain.

Below is a tongue-in-cheek video about the watch.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Casual Luxury Of Amsterdam

The city of Amsterdam has come a long way in recent years. Well known as a place for legal marijuana and legal prostitution, the city is undergoing a transformation as a luxury destination with new and renovated hotels, a restaurant renaissance and luxury shopping to go along with world-class museums, live theater and even more active endeavors like ice skating. 

Many in Amsterdam’s hospitality industry talk about “casual luxury,” which is attentive, comfortable and democratic. They proudly say that dignitaries and celebrities near and far are treated to the same level of hospitality as anyone would receive. It’s a compact city that can easily be managed by foot or its excellent public transportation system. It is tailored made for couples looking for a short respite from daily life while enjoying the stimulation of being in large, dynamic city.

The lobby of the Pulitzer Hotel

A great starting off point for a luxury adventure is the Pulitzer Amsterdam hotel (Prinsengracht 323, 1016 GZ), a complex of 25 canal houses in a quaint centrally located neighborhood. If you remember the hotel from the 2004 film, “Ocean’s Twelve,” you won’t recognize it as it underwent a full renovation completed in August, 2016, with central grounds, two new restaurants and a comfortable bar specializing in craft cocktails. If you’re willing to splurge a bit you can get one of the “Extraordinary Suites,” on the ground floor, most with their own private entrances. Each one has a design theme, music, art, books, antiques and the Pulitzer Suite for lovers.

The Arts Suite at the Pulitzer Hotel

Amsterdam’s flat landscape and scenic canals make it an ideal place for strolling year round. In the wintertime the shadows of quickly vanishing daylight and the reflection of lights off the water during the long nights adds a bit of romance and mystery to the canal-lined streets.

After a quick café latte and croissant at Pause, the Pulitzer’s bright and airy lobby café that extends into the hotel gardens, it’s time to head out to one of the best, though lesser-known, areas for shopping, the Nine Streets (De Negen Straatjes). Nine little streets divided by four canals make up a neighborhood of boutique shops, comfortable restaurants and simple bars and coffee houses, almost all of the businesses are locally owned, ranging from the highly refined and luxurious to the quaint and quirky.

The interactive displays at Otentic Perfumes

One of the first stores you’ll come upon is Otentic Perfumes (Keizersgracht 233, 1016EA), which specializes in women and men fragrances. The corner store contains a collection of 65 fragrances divided into eight “families” or “moods.” The idea is to determine your favorite fragrance based on individual scents. You can do this yourself through a grouping of eight interactive displays or guided by trained employees until you find the combination of scents that suits you. The concept was founded by Jean-Denis Saisse, an eighth-generation perfumer from Grasse, France (the center of the country’s perfume industry), whose family formulates perfumes for some of the world’s best-known brands.

A window display at the Amsterdam Watch Company

A block north is the Amsterdam Watch Company, which specializes in collectible timepieces. It is a seemingly small store but has an inventory of more than 40 watch brands, from Audemars Piguet to Zenith. 

One of the many locally owned stores at the Nine Streets

Keep walking north along the shops dodging the cyclists who quietly speed past in all directions and you’ll come to two very different looking buildings across the street from each other joined by a giant “W” on each. It is the W Amsterdam hotel (Spuistraat 175, 1012 VN). The one building was a former telephone exchange building and the other a former bank. On the ground floor of the bank building is the X Bank concept design store. The Dutch are known for minimalistic, experimental, innovative and even humorous designs. The retail space features the breadth of Dutch design, ranging from high-end furnishings and artworks to apparel and accessories. Prices at the store range from 8 to 80,000 euro. 

The X Bank design concept store

One jeweler whose work I recognized immediately is Bibi van der Velden, whom I met in the U.S. a few years ago. She produces hand-crafted fine jewels by combining traditional precious materials with ostrich eggs, scarab wings, 40,000 year-old mammoth tusk and other unusual materials. The jewels are precious, colorful and organic. 

Bibi van der Velden jewels in the X Bank store

Another jewelry collection of note is The Amsterdam Collection by Statement Jewels, which normally specializes in antique pieces. The collection is conceived and crafted by hand in Amsterdam. This effort is led by Mart van Drunen, the founder of Statement Jewels, and goldsmith Frederik Bakker. It mixes precious gems with wood, amethyst and other organic material to create one-of-a-kind pieces, which are signed and numbered and hand-engraved with a vertical triple-x; the symbol of Amsterdam.

The bar at The Duchess restaurant in the W Amsterdam hotel

Take a break at The Duchess restaurant inside the W Amsterdam. Open all day, the grand room with high ceilings, big, round chandeliers and dark marble was once where the vault of the bank was located. In addition to three full meal services per day it serves tea in the afternoon and features a large and wide dark marble bar with personable bartenders who are specialists at craft drinks. Try one of the three specialty punches with some light fare before continuing your journey. 

Bijenkorf luxury department store on Dam Square

The W Amsterdam is located on the edge of Dam Square, the historical center of Amsterdam and still the center of activity for residents and tourists. The Royal Palace is there as well as world-class hotels and stores. Outside of the palace, one the most impressive buildings on the square is the flagship Bijenkorf luxury department store. The name of the store means beehive, which is apt as it is constantly buzzing with activity. The multi-story retail building has all the international brands one would expect to find, plus brands well known within the Netherlands.

The Cartier boutique inside Bijenhorf

As the day turns to night, it’s time to relax by taking a canal boat cruise. It’s a touristy thing to do but it’s also a great way to see the city while sipping on a Jenever, the local liquor served in a distinct tulip-shaped shot glass. Opt for the flavorful oude (old) jenever as opposed to the Jonge (young) if possible. The designation has no relationship to the age of the product but relates to the brewing method. If you leave now you will still be able to experience the Amsterdam Light Festival (till January 22). Artists from around the world build large light-infused sculptures throughout the city, with many of the best and brightest along the canals. 

The "Lace" artwork, part of the Amsterdam Light Festival

Have the boat dock at the Grand Amsterdam hotel for dinner at Bridges restaurant. The transformation of Amsterdam to a culinary destination has been dramatic. In 1982, Amsterdam had only one restaurant with a Michelin star; today, there are four restaurants with two stars and eleven with one star. Bridges is an example of this boom retaining its Michelin star with an internationally inspired menu that includes roe-deer (a Eurasian species of deer), grilled oxtail and charred kohlrabi paired with Asian ingredients. 

The Grand Amsterdam hotel

The Grand Amsterdam is in historic building that once was a convent and served as Amsterdam's city hall. It recently underwent a renovation, without losing its old world charm and legendary service. If you’re nice they may allow you to view The Marriage Chamber, with its Egyptian themed depiction of the circle of life that surrounds the room on stained glass windows, wallpapers and doors. It was created by artist Chris Lebeau (completed in 1926) in an Art Deco style that would make Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, feel at home. The room is used for weddings, including royal weddings, and other private events. 

The Marriage Chamber at the Grand Amsterdam hotel

After dinner it’s time to return to the Pulitzer, on foot of course. Before returning to the room, stop at the comfortable and casual Pulitzer Bar for a nightcap. 


The next morning skip breakfast at the hotel and take the tram (or walk) to Beurspassage (Damrak 1012 LW). It’s basically an underpass between buildings that connects Damrak Avenue and Nieuwendijk street. It is a popular pedestrian passageway for locals and tourists. The space has been transformed into a block-long piece of site-specific art. Colorful mosaic glass covers the wall the ceiling and marble covers the floor, all of it designed with nautical themed images. Glass light scones depict fantastical animal designs. One of the focal points of the space is chandeliers made of used bicycle parts. Eat breakfast like the locals, grab a pastry at the Banketbakkerij van der Linde bakery (better known for its soft and creamy vanilla ice cream) and the coffee at liquid, which claims to have the largest coffee bar in Amsterdam, or the Netherlands, or Europe, or the world, or the galaxy.... It is long. 

The Marilyn Monroe exhibit at the Nieuwe Kerk

From there it’s a short walk to the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) (Gravenstraat 17, 1012 NL), a former church now used for exhibitions and church organ recitals. The church with its stained glass windows and vaulted ceilings is still used for Dutch royal installation ceremonies and royal weddings. There is currently an exhibition about the life of movie heartthrob Marilyn Monroe (90 years Ms Monroe) that runs till February 5. Pictures and artifacts are used to trace the rise and tragic death of one the world’s biggest stars.  

Inside the Royal Waiting Room at Centraal Station

The next stop is Centraal Station. Walk to the end of one of the platforms where there’s an unassuming brick building with a guilt wrought iron fence. This is the Royal Waiting Room (Koninklijke Wachtkamer) and it is now available for public tours when reserved in advance. The upstairs waiting room has parquet floors, oak paneling and painted representations of Aesop's Fables. The furniture, marble fireplace, lamps and rugs and bronze hinges and locks are all original. The room is still used a few times a year as the royal family occasionally travels by train to neighboring countries or to receive dignitaries who arrive to Amsterdam by train. 

The Butcher Social Club & Terrace in the Sir Adam Hotel

It should be lunch time and just past the Centraal Station is a free ferry to Amsterdam Noord (North). At the end of the quick water ride is the brand new Sir Adam Hotel (Overhoeksplein 7, 1031KS), which occupies first eight floors of the black A’DAM Tower. The large lower lobby with window walls and an outside terrace is where the Butcher Social Club & Terrace is located. This is a modern hotel created for Millennials with retro taste. Old fashion pinball and Pacman machines are located near the long bar area. Comfortable chairs are scattered about and at night a DJ works the room. Window walls provide views of the water and Central Amsterdam. The guest rooms are “rock ‘n’ roll” themed from different periods with Gibson and Fender guitars as wall decorations, portable record players and memorabilia from bygone musical eras. If you feel inclined you can order a guitar to play through room service. At the Butcher you can order a quick burger (I’d go with the Truffle Burger) with a beer and a view before heading back on the ferry. 

Inside the Van Loon Museum

Certainly Amsterdam is known for its world class museums but there is one little gem that is often overlooked: Museum Van Loon. It’s a 17th Century canal house with 18th Century furnishings and has been occupied by the Van Loon family since the latter part of the 19th Century. Family members still live in the upper floors of the house. The first two floors are open to the public and contain a history of the family. Their wealth was acquired when Willem van Loon co-founded the incredibly successful Dutch East-India Company in 1602.

The rooms contain paintings, fine furniture, silver and porcelain from different centuries. Behind the house is a garden, laid out in formal style, and is bordered on the far side by the classical façade of the coach house. The basement contains a replica of an 18th Century kitchen. The museum claims that it is the canal house that has survived with its garden and coach house in tact. 

In the gardens you can treat yourself to apple cake and coffee or tea. It’s where the locals go for a quick escape.

From there it’s a quick walk to the Rijksmuseum. The palatial building has undergone a full renovation and is well worth an hour or two to look at the collection of more than a half-million paintings and other works of art from Netherland-based artists. You can’t possibly see it all at one time so it pays to focus on a part of the collection that interests you, such as works by students of Rembrandt. You can explore the museum’s website to help set up your own personal tour.

The ICE* Amsterdam skating rink with the Rijksmuseum in the background.

Right outside the museum is the ICE* Amsterdam ice rink where you spend time skating or watching the skaters with a hot chocolate from the comfortable restaurant. Children just learning use chairs to keep their balance. At night the skating area glows in colorful lights with the Rijksmuseum as a palatial backdrop.

Restaurant Swych in the Amsterdam Doelen hotel

From there it’s a quick tram ride for a light meal at Restaurant Swych in the Amsterdam Doelen hotel (Doelenstraat 26, 1012 CP). The hotel is billed as the oldest in Amsterdam but you would never guess it when entering the hotel with its light-colored walls and carpeting and clean, crisp lines. The same is true for the restaurant with its bright color palette and large windows bringing natural light during the day and the lights from across the canal at night. The cuisine is modern serving what executive chef Rudolf Brand describes as “Flexitarian,” where proteins play second fiddle to vegetables that are the centerpiece of the meal. The Butter lettuce soup, Beetroots and spelt, Roasted cauliflower, and Jerusalem artichoke and truffle are all recommended—with a “side” of halibut. 

From there it’s another quick tram ride to the theater. There are two major theaters in the city and they are adjacent. The DeLaMar Theater (Marnixstraat 402, 1017 PL), is the larger and more modern of the two. Its stage is about twice as large as a normal stage and goes into the seating area. It’s designed to be open and flexible so it can accommodates a number of stage setting settings, particularly for modern plays. 

The Stadsschouwburg

With just one night to see a play, I would opt for the historic and more traditional setting of the Stadsschouwburg (Leidseplein 26, 1017 PT). It is an official national monument and is known to be one of the most beautifully preserved historic theaters in the Netherlands. I would try to purchase tickets in the box normally reserved for the royal family at the center- back of the center of the first balcony. It provides a perfect view of the performance. They obviously don’t use it every night and when it’s not in use the seats are sold to the public. There’s also a private waiting area for the royal family during intermissions. However, it’s not included with the seats. 

Both theaters accommodate a diverse offering of classic and modern plays, ballets and other types of live performances. 

Afterwards it’s time for a nice stroll back to the Pulitzer where you’ve earned a long well-deserved rest before heading home the next afternoon. 

Don’t forget the “do not disturb” sign. 

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Golden Globes 2017: Winners Of The Jewel And Watch Awards

Drew Barrymore in $2.5 million worth of Harry Winston diamonds

The Golden Globes red carpet has grown to become one of the top international fashion draws and as such the large luxury brands and independent designers fight hard to get their jewels and watches on the biggest stars and the winners. Many were quite success this year. 

Piaget, a fixture on the red carpet circuit, had its jewelry and watches on its brand ambassadors and friends of the brand, including:

Nominee Jessica Chastain, Piaget brand ambassador, wore the Piaget Rose necklace in 18k white gold and set with 265 brilliant-cut diamonds.

Nominee, presenter and Piaget brand ambassador, Ryan Reynolds, wore the Piaget Altiplano 38mm watch in 18k rose gold on a black alligator strap.

Presenter Matt Damon wore the ultra-thin Piaget Altiplano 40mm timepiece in 18k rose gold with a grey dial and white gold Piaget cufflinks.

Harry Winston dressed a number of stars last night in diamond and platinum jewels, including the following:

Nominee Lily Collins wore vintage Harry Winston Cluster Earrings, vintage 1967 Winston Cluster Diamond drop earrings, a Winston Cluster pear-shaped diamond ring, a sparkling cluster diamond ring and a Sunflower diamond Twin ring.

Presenter Drew Barrymore (top photo) wore more than $2.5 million of Harry Winston diamonds, including Mrs. Winston Diamond drop earrings, a Sparkling Cluster diamond ring, an emerald-cut diamond rock band, round brilliant and emerald-cut diamond band ring, a South Seas pearl and diamond ring, and a Lily Cluster diamond ring, all set in platinum.

Presenter Kristen Bell wore more than 115 carats of Harry Winston diamonds, including vintage 1963 three-row diamond hoop earrings, a Secret Combination diamond bracelet and stacked diamond band rings.

Nominee Viola Davis wore more than 90 carats of Harry Winston diamonds, including Secret Combination Diamond hoop earrings and a Carpet diamond bracelet.

Nominee Thandie Newton wore more than 75 carats of Harry Winston diamonds including vintage 1962 diamond earrings, bezel set fancy-shape diamond necklace, radiant-cut diamond band ring, and round brilliant diamond band rings.

Tiffany & Co. jewels and watches adorned a number of stars Sunday, including:

Nominee Naomie Harris wore Tiffany diamond earrings and a selection of platinum and diamond rings. 

Presenter Reese Witherspoon wore the Tiffany Archival necklace, yellow diamond earrings and a selection of rings.

Winner Emma Stone donned a Tiffany Archival statement necklace and diamond earrings and rings. 

Presenter Sienna Miller accessorized with classic pearls and diamond earrings.

Chopard is always popular on the international red carpet. A number of nominees and presenters were adorned with jewels and watches from the luxury brand. Among them: 

Nominee Julia Louis-Dreyfus Wears wore a pair of rectangular step-cut diamonds totaling 10.84 carats and 3.8 carats of diamonds set in 18k white gold along with a 50.34-carat diamond cuff in 18k white gold, both from Chopard’s “High Jewelry Collection.”

Nominee Gina Rodriguez wore earrings featuring a 5.02-carat modified shield step-cut diamond, a 5.01-carat modified shield step-cut diamond, and 1.82 carats of baguette-cut diamonds set in 18k white gold; along with a ring featuring a 7.29-carat brilliant marquise shaped diamond and set in 18k white gold, both from the “High Jewelry Collection.”

Nominee Lola Kirke wore earrings featuring a pair of amethysts totaling 14.24 carats, 4.74 carats of pink pastel sapphires and 3.85-carats of diamonds set in 18k white gold from the “Temptations Collection;” along with a ring featuring a 5.01-carat heart shaped diamond and in 18k white gold from the “High Jewelry Collection.”

Fred Leighton jewelry was worn by a number of presenters and nominees, among them: 

Nominee and presenter Nicole Kidman wore a 19th Century double strand diamond rivière necklace, with more than 48 carats of old mine diamonds, with a 9-carat antique rose cut diamond button cluster ring, circa 1760s, and an Art Deco diamond and onyx ring

Winner Claire Foy wore 19th Century diamond teardrop pendant earrings with 7 carats of old mine lozenge shaped diamonds, a 19th Century rose cut diamond cluster ring and a rose cut diamond floret cluster ring, signed Fred Leighton.

Nominee Sarah Jessica Parker wore an oval old mine diamond dart pendant earrings, an Art Nouveau opal and gold ring and a diamond knot ring Signed Fred Leighton

Nominee Ruth Negga wore a new piece of Fred Leighton jewelry. A 25.5-carat oval ruby and diamond cuff bracelet, in 18k yellow gold, featuring responsibly sourced Gemfields Mozambican rubies. 

Nominee Winona Ryder wore old European cut diamond collet drop earrings, a 19th Century blue enamel and diamond ring, and a rose rose cut diamond 5-stone diamond ring and a 3-stone diamond ring, both signed Fred Leighton.

Winner Tracee Ellis Ross wore Noudar diamond rings, L’Dezen by Payal Shah diamond ring, and a Hueb diamond ring.

Felicity Huffman wore jewelry from Los Angeles-based designer Martin Katz that included large tambourine spring bangle in 18k yellow gold and 306 diamonds, and pear shaped diamond and 18k yellow gold drop earrings.

Nominee Issa Rae wore L’Dezen by Payal Shah diamond earrings.

Presenter Carrie Underwood wore Yoko London pearl and diamond earrings and ring.

Montblanc had its watches and accessories on a number of male nominees and presenters, including: 

Winner Casey Affleck wore “Tribute to Shakespeare” silver and onyx cuff links.

Nominee, Joel Edgerton, selected the 1858 Manual Small Second time piece with blue dial and leather straps paired with onyx and silver tuxedo studs and matching cuff links.

Nominee, Jeff Bridges, wore mother-of-pearl and silver tuxedo studs and matching cufflinks.

Nominee, Rami Malek, wore the “Heritage Chronometrie Automatic” time piece with rose gold bezel and black leather straps.

Tom Hiddleston wore the "Heritage Spirit Automatic" watch

Nominee Simon Helberg wore “Urban Spirit” cufflinks made of polished stainless steel and black onyx inlay.

Nominee Mahershala Ali wore “Iconic” silver and onyx cuff links.

Presenter Eddie Redmayne, OMEGA Brand Ambassador, wore the Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional Chronograph. 

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