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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Six More Stunning Watches From SIHH 2014

The reverse side of the A.Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar ‘Terraluna’

My first story from SIHH focused on seven watch brands that I thought were the most innovative at the recently concluded Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH). These next six timepieces could have easily been included with the first group. These watches from Jaeger-LeCoultre, A.Lange & Söhne, IWC, Cartier, Audemars Piguet and Roger Dubuis include several exceptional tourbillions, perpetual calendars and a couple timepieces where the watch back gets much needed attention.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Hybris Mechanica Eleven
The luxury watch brand says that at 7.9mm thick, it is the slimmest minute repeater in its category. There are seven Jaeger-LeCoultre patents associated with this watch, six of which created for this piece. The Master Ultra Thin Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon includes an ultra-thin tourbillon, a new high-performance balance-spring, a peripheral automatic winding system, a retractable single-push button, and a minute repeater equipped with a silent, time-lapse reduction system. It is powered by the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 362 and has a 45-hour power reserve.

The thin flying tourbillon at 6 o’clock is fitted with a flying balance-wheel, allowing full-view of the balance-wheel and spring. The watch has an automatic winding system that uses an oscillating peripheral weight with a platinum segment visible through narrow openings on the dial between the clock’s numerals. This mechanism serves as a space saving tool and it’s nice to view. The minute repeater strikes the hours, quarters and minutes on demand. When there are no quarters to be struck, it is mechanically programmed to be silent between the sounding of the hours and minutes. Two patented trebuchet hammers ensure stronger, cleaner striking on the two crystal gongs fixed to the sapphire crystal. As an effort to make the watch even slimmer while preserving an extremely pure aesthetic, the minute repeater is activated by a retractable single pushbutton. It is available in a 75-piece limited edition.

A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar ‘Terraluna’
The German watch brand set a difficult benchmark to surpass when it unveiled its Grand Complication at SIHH 2013 but many of the products they introduced this year have the same precision, inventiveness and design competence that the brand is known for. The most recent SIHH offerings were led by the Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar “Terraluna.” The 45.5mm watch available in pink or white gold has an orbital moon-phase display on the reverse side that depicts the earth, moon and sun and a day/night indicator. The watch front has three sub dials. The largest one at the top indicates the minutes while the two smaller ones represents the hours and seconds. Beneath the date, two smaller apertures show the day of the week on the left and the month on the right. The calendar is mechanically programmed to correctly display the different durations of the months in a year as well as those in leap years until 2100. The leap-year indication is located in a small round window on the right of the 15 in the minute circle subdial. The Lange manufacture caliber L096.1 has a twin mainspring barrel that delivers a power reserve of 14 days.

IWC Schaffhausen Aquatimer Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month
The Swiss watch brand dedicated SIHH 2014 to its Aquatimer diver watches. It considers the Aquatimer Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month (Ref. IW379401) as its flagship item. The dial has extra-large digitally displayed numerals for the perpetual calendar, which is mechanically programmed until 2100. The date and month discs have perforated covers. The design reflects the filter systems on submarine vehicles and also provides a view of the switching mechanism at work. The chronograph has a subdial at 12 o’clock that displays stop times between one minute and 12 hours, using minute and hour hands, while the central hand counts seconds. The integrated flyback function enables the user to reset the running stopwatch hands to zero and to start another timing sequence immediately. The display also helps divers monitor the speed of their ascents. The 49mm watch is water-resistant to 10 bar (334 feet) and has an external rotating bezel made of 18k red gold. The IWC SafeDive system ensures that the bezel can only be turned counterclockwise. The casing ring, push-buttons and crown are made of rubber-coated titanium. The IWC-manufactured 89801 automatic movement comprises 474 individual parts. Production is limited to 50 watches and available only in IWC boutiques.

Rotonde de Cartier Earth and Moon
The tourbillon of this watch has been incorporated into a moon phase complication available on demand in a way that at first has the appearance of a contraption but upon a closer look is quite innovative. By pressing the push-button situated at four o'clock, a panel descends and partially obscures the tourbillon carriage, which serves as the moon. The covering of the moon exactly reproduces the current moon phase. In addition, there’s a second time zone indicated by a 24-hour disc that was redeveloped by for the caliber 9440 MC due to the sophistication of its disc display. Polished lapis lazuli is used for the dial and the moon panel. The hours and the second time zone are surrounded by a polished grid in 18k white gold. A three-dimensional dial is one of the signature features of the Cartier Fine Watchmaking collection introduced at SIHH this year, alongside Roman numerals that are openworked and chamfered by the hand of a master decorator in a manner akin to a skeleton movement. The semi-skeletonized bridges on the back of the movement are structured in a star shape. The 47mm watch with platinum bezel is limited to 50 pieces.

Audemars Piguet Millenary Minute Repeater
The luxury watch brand was primarily promoting its Royal Oak timepieces in white ceramic but what really caught my eye was the oval-shaped, pink-gold Millenary Minute Repeater, which was first introduced in Hong Kong a few months earlier. The watch features Audemars Piguet’s own escapement, double balance spring designed to compensate for potential poising flaws and eliminates the need for the “overcoil” terminal curves. The repeater mechanism’s winding system has a sliding trigger at 9 o’clock and striking barrel clearly visible at 2 o’clock. The white-enamel dial contains an off-set hours and minute subdial and smaller seconds subdial. The watch is powered by the Audemars Piguet hand-wound Caliber 2928.

Roger Dubuis Hommage Double Flying Tourbillon
This is a serious mechanical watch with artistic flair inside and out. The dial of the 18k pink gold watch is finished with hand-crafted guilloché work that creates a delicate and precise sunburst effect. Powering the timepiece is a hand-wound RD 102 movement, also in pink gold. It has a power reserve of 50 hours. Production is limited to 88 pieces.

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Happy Chinese New Year

It’s the Year of the Horse and I’m ready to celebrate tomorrow by doing nothing, which is the proper way to honor the Lunar New Year according to my wife. No work, no fire for cooking, no knives, etc. I can get used to this.

You can enjoy this gold horse head by Diasqua International Ltd. that’s pictured and a full gallery of Year of the Horse jewelry at the JewelleryNetAsia website, where I write a weekly column.

According to, “the spirit of the horse is recognized to be the Chinese people's ethos – making unremitting efforts to improve themselves. It is energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able.” 

Those of you born in this festival year share the honor with a diverse group of people including Louisa May Alcott, Chopin, Davy Crockett, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Sandra Day O'Connor, Rembrandt, Teddy Roosevelt, Sir Isaac Newton, Barbara Streisand, Jackie Chan, Jerry Seinfeld, John Travolta, Leonard Bernstein, Oprah Winfrey, Paul McCartney, Rembrandt, Kobe Bryant, Genghis Khan, Emperor Kangxi and Yongzheng of China’s Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911).

Sadly my rest will only last a day. Saturday it's back to work. I hope you can take break as well.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Last Chance To Bid On Jacqueline Kennedy’s Christian Dior Necklace

A gold-plated necklace personally owned by former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy is currently up for auction at the Nate D. Sanders Auctions in Los Angeles. The company is taking bids online and by phone, with the bidding scheduled to conclude Thursday.

The necklace features six graduated strands of gold-plated square-linked chains, punctuated with 23 fluted spherical beads in faux coral. A charm near the clasp identifies it as Dior, made in Germany in 1973, while she was married to Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis. There’s documentation stating that the necklace is from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis estate sale, sold by Sotheby's in April of 1996, lot 501.

The auction is scheduled to end tomorrow (January 30) at 5 p.m. PST. However, there is a possibility of the bidding being extended until a bid hasn’t been placed for 30 minutes. Bids can be placed online at the auction house's website or by phone at 310-440-2982.

Additional information on Jackie Kennedy’s Dior Necklace can be found at this link.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Watches at SIHH Show Advancements in Design, Function and Application

Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph 100

When watch brands talk about case and bezel design, new uses for materials and minor additions to tradition timepieces you know that the Swiss watch industry has entered a cooling off period. Maybe that’s a good thing as the high-flying sales of recent years, primarily due to China’s phenomenal economic expansion, couldn’t possibly last forever.

The recently concluded Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva was a case in point as the industry may be preparing itself to a world economy with more stable growth through all regions. Don’t get me wrong, there were still plenty of innovative watches to be seen at this year’s event. I listed seven or my favorites among the 16 watch brands (12 of which are associated with luxury conglomerate Richemont) who display at what’s been called the world’s most luxurious and exclusive watch event. These timepieces stood out for their advancements in design, function and application.

Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph 100
At SIHH, the company introduced the TimeWalker Chronograph 100 (top photo), with a hand-made movement made by the Montblanc-owned Villeret manufacturer. This pushes the price of this popular watch to 50,000 euro ($68,000). Formerly known as Minerva, the Villeret watch company in the Swiss town of the same name is known for its hand-made watch movements, built in an old-world Swiss style. Montblanc bought the company in 2006, changed its named and used its watchmaking techniques and philosophy to produce high-end luxury timepieces under the Villeret name.

SIHH 2014 marked a turning point for Montblanc as it introduced several new branded products with high-performance Villeret movements, led by TimeWalker Chronograph 100. This change seemed to have happened overnight. The person most often credited for this is Jérôme Lambert, the former Jaeger-LeCoultre CEO who took the same position with Montblanc just six months ago.

The TimeWalker Chronograph with the MB M66.25 caliber can measure intervals to the nearest 100th-of-a-second, a feat that Villeret (as Minerva) pioneered in 1916. The watch has a large, red chronograph hand that completes a full 360-degree circuit on the main dial in one second. The manually wound movement uses one balance for the time indication and a separate balance for the chronograph. The watch display depicts hours and minutes from the center with a subdial for the seconds at 9 o’clock. Counters for 60 elapsed seconds and 15 elapsed minutes are at 6 o’clock. The watch is housed in a case made of a mix of titanium, stainless steel and carbon fiber. The watch, limited to 100 units, will be available in the fall.

Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Planétarium Poetic Complication
Leave it to the French luxury house to create a watch that is beautiful, efficient and teases the imagination. This new timepiece aspires for no less than the heavens above and returns to earth with the solar system that fits on a wrist.

The timepiece provides a miniature representation of the movement of six planets around the sun and their position at any given time—Earth, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn—which can all be seen from Earth with the naked eye. The movement of each planet is true to its length of orbit: it will take Saturn over 29 years to make a complete circuit of the dial, while Jupiter will take almost 12 years, Mars 687 days, Earth 365 days, Venus 224 days and Mercury 88 days.

The unnamed self-winding mechanical movement contains 396 separate parts and is equipped with an exclusive module developed in partnership with the Christiaan van der Klaauw, a Dutch brand known for its hand-made astronomical clocks and watches.

The watch displays the time using 24 hour indicators located at the outer edge of the dial. The hour markers are divided further into 15 minute intervals. A shooting star made of pink gold rotates around the clock marking the correct time. The story continues on the back of the watch, where the oscillating weight is engraved with a starry composition. The day, month and year are set using two push buttons and viewed through two apertures on the dial. In addition, a “lucky day” can be set by the owner using a rotating bezel. On a date set with a red triangle against a graduated calendar, the Earth will move to a position directly below the star engraved on the sapphire crystal. The brand says it’s a sign of good luck.

A selection of hard stones are used to depict the planets: turquoise for the Earth, serpentine for Mercury, chloromelanite for Venus, red jasper for Mars, blue agate for Jupiter and sugilite for Saturn. They are positioned around a sun in pink gold. Each of these elements, along with the shooting star, is fixed on its own aventurine disc. The deep blue dial is sprinkled with gold to depict stars.

Piaget Antiplano 38mm 900P
The luxury watch and jewelry brand is known for its thin watches. This year the company received a lot of attention through its introduction of the Antiplano 38mm 900P, the world’s thinnest mechanical watch at 3.65mm. The company manages this by merging the ultra-thin case with the ultra-thin movement. Specifically, the hand-wound movement, instead of being stacked as is typical, is spread across the bottom half of the dial.

The movement has a total of 145 parts, including some wheels that are a mere 0.12mm thin. The back of the case also serves as the mainplate. To save millimetres, the entire mechanism and the hand-fitting system are contained within the thickness of the balance-wheel itself, thus entailing an off-centered display of the hours and minutes as a subdial. Working within this confined space, Piaget devised a suspended barrel hanging from a single bridge on the dial side, contrary to classic barrels that are also fixed to the mainplate side. This unusual device doesn’t deter the performance of the mechanism, which has a power reserve of about 48 hours.

In addition, instead of fitting the hands above the bridges, Piaget has placed them underneath, thereby freeing up space between the cannon-pinion and the crystal. This eliminates any deformities to the hands of the watch due to the effects of unintended extra pressure.

Richard Mille RM 037
It’s difficult for me to imagine the man and the brand, Richard Mille, being behind on anything. However, his declaration of 2014 of being the year of woman is behind the same declaration I made a year earlier. Despite this, the company is arguably the most forward-thinking in the Swiss watch industry. It is known for using techniques and materials from the aeronautics and car racing industries to build timepieces that are groundbreaking in application, use and design. Mille is certainly forward-thinking enough to know that there are at least some women who want to wear exceptional mechanical timepieces.

The RM 037 collection pretty much mirrors what he has done for men’s watches in a smaller package. The skeleton movement baseplate with bridges is made of black PVD treated grade 5 titanium. There’s a large date at 12 o’clock created from two skeletonized, rotating discs, and a function selector that allows the wearer to choose between winding, neutral or hand-setting, without pulling the crown in different positions. Two pushers resembling drops of water are placed between 10 and 11 o’clock (date adjustment), and 4 and 5 o’clock (function selector). The action chosen appears in a small window (H-N-W) between 3 and 4 o’clock. The CRMA1 caliber movement combines satin finishes with chamfered, blasted, brushed and polished areas, including rare black polishing. The crown is impossible to dislodge, according to the company. The case is available in 18k red with scratch resistant ceramic bezels in white or black, or full cases in 18K red or white gold, accompanied by a stone setting and dial variants in precious and semi-precious materials such as diamond, onyx, pearl and jasper.

Greubel Forsey QP à Équation
The “watch inventors” have come up with another highly complicated timepiece piece called the QP à Équation. The company says it has reinvented the perpetual calendar by integrating the “Equation of Time” as well as other practical functions and indications that improve clarity. The priority was to simplify the displays and make it easier to set the perpetual calendar by using a bi-directional winding crown. If the timepiece has stopped for several days, simply pull out the crown checking the selection indicator near 2 o'clock. Turn the crown back and forth to change the calendar and all the different indications change by themselves.

The Equation of Time is the difference between solar time and mean time, which can vary from a few seconds to as much as 16 minutes during the year. The Equation of Time is the conversion factor between solar and mean time. The solar time is located at the back subdial.

The most frequently sought information, namely the day, date and month, is displayed on the front dial. Information that is less often required is on the back of the timepiece. In addition to the Equation of Time, the seasons and the current year in four figures is on the back of the timepiece on two superimposed transparent discs. The first disc is driven by the date wheel and has a scale in minutes indicating the difference between solar and mean time. The second disc, which goes around once a year, has a figure shaped like a manta ray, and divided into four sections in red and blue to show whether the Equation of Time is positive or negative.

The watch is contained in a white gold case that measures 43.5mm in diameter and is 16mm high. It includes a 24-second tourbillon inclined at 25 degrees. It's not often a tourbillon function gets second billing.

Calibre de Cartier
The French luxury house introduced several brands at SIHH, but the one that attracted the most interest is its mechanical diver’s watch, which represents a return to the sports category of watches for the brand after a long absence.

The Calibre de Cartier is water resistant up to 300 meters. To prevent any accidental rotation or alteration of the dive-time indication, the bezel only turns in one direction. It can be adjusted to 30 seconds with a clear sound while turned. The markers signaling each 5 minute period are clearly indicated. The thickness of the watch was reduced to 11mm, without jeopardizing the integrity of its diver’s functions. The in-house 1904 MC movement is further enhanced with a fine regulating system and a stop-second mechanism.

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Ajourées
The iconic brand has released several new models for SIHH 2014 that features its multi-layered skeleton process that the company refers to as “openwork.” In the case of the Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Ajourées collection I’m focusing on, the openwork technique is combined with Grand Feu enameling.

Vacheron has been using its openworked process on its watches 1924. However, this collection represents the brand’s first openworked version of an iconic in-house movement, the caliber 4400. An artistic three-dimensional appearance is achieved by carving the caliber in curved lines, removing half the material and leaving interlocking pieces that looks like lace. The carving and finishing process takes about three days for each caliber. The Grand Feu enameling appears as a ring around the dial in either black, blue or grey.

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Jaquet Droz, Chopard And Vacheron Constantin Celebrate Year of the Horse

Jaquet Droz

January 31 marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year, the longest and most important celebration on the Chinese calendar. This upcoming year is the Year of the Horse. Those born in horse years are said to be cheerful, skillful with money, perceptive, witty, talented and good with their hands. If Jaquet Droz, Chopard and Vacheron Constantin, have their way, those born in horse years and all who celebrate the Chinese lunar calendar will also be attracted to their highly decorative and functional luxury watches made to commemorate this moment in time.

Jaquet Droz
The watch brand has a long association with China and it produces models annually commemorating the Chinese New Year. This year it created three watches in its Ateliers d'Art series that uses three complex techniques: engraving, painting and Grand Feu enamel.

The colorful dial of the Petite Heure Minute 39mm depicts a landscape with two hand-painted Arab thoroughbreds at full gallop on an ivory enamel dial.

A sculptured wild mustang appears on the dial of the Petite Heure Minute 43mm appearing in red gold and engraved in bas-relief on a black dial. The champlevé technique, used for the first time by Jaquet Droz, highlights the movement of the mane and the tail, both filled in with black Grand Feu enamel. On each of these models, a horse's head is also represented on the back of the white gold oscillating weight.

The dial of the Petite Heure Minute 41mm depicts an 18k red gold horse rearing up on its hind legs against a backdrop of the Great Wall of China, engraved and patinated by hand on a mother-of-pearl dial.

All of the watches come in red gold cases and each are available in a limited edition of 88 pieces.

Vacheron Constantin Legend of the Chinese Zodiac

Vacheron Constantin
The venerable luxury watch brand also has a long association with China and produces a series of watches called “The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac” as part of its Métiers d’Art collection.

For the Year of the Horse, Vacheron unveiled two watches crafted in a choice of pink gold or platinum and enhanced by enameling and engraving. For this year’s model, the company took its inspiration in the Chinese art of paper cutting known as Jianzhi. The leaf motif, stemming from classic Chinese iconography is directly engraved in the gold dial. The pattern remains semi-embedded and stands out from its gold base by a subtle stage-setting of variously accentuated reliefs. Raised bamboo stalks appear to be floating over the dial.

The engraved horse appears in pose on the center of the dial. Its mane and coat measures a fraction of a millimeter. Grand Feu enameling is then applied in layers.

Powered by the mechanical self-winding caliber 2460 G4, the dial of the watch provides a hands-free display of time through four windows respectively revealing the hour, the minutes, the day and the date—each appearing through one of the four apertures arranged around the central dial motif.

Each model is limited to 12 pieces and sold exclusively through Vacheron Constantin boutiques.

Chopard L.U.C XP Urushi Horse

The Japanese art of Urushi is the inspiration of the L.U.C XP 2014 “Year of the Horse” special edition watch. Its hand-painted employs Japanese-inspired traditional artistic techniques. It depicts a noble prancing horse, adorned with lotus flowers—a plant symbolizing personal fulfillment.

Urushi is a long-established lacquering art. The varnish is derived from the sap of the Urushi tree, also called the “lacquer tree” or “Japanese varnish tree”, mainly found in Japan and China. Maki-e, a technique derived from the art of Urushi, consists of sprinkling the lacquered coating with metal powder – in this case gold – in order to accentuate its outlines. The gold dust is applied using bamboo tubes and small natural-hair brushes in order to trace extremely fine lines.

The ultra-thin timepiece measuring 39.5mm in diameter and 6.8mm thick has a mechanical self-winding movement equipped with two barrels ensuring a 65-hour power reserve.

The watch comes in a box decorated in Urushi techniques. Black on the outside and Maki-e gold on the inside, it is shaped like an octagon—the oriental symbol of gaiety, according to the company—and finished with a silk fastening cord.

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Friday, January 17, 2014

China Slows; Europe, US, Middle East Show Strength as Richemont Brands Prepare for SIHH 2014

Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre Unique Travel Time

The Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, considered by many to be the most luxurious and the most exclusive watch fair in the world, begins Monday. A total of 16 luxury brands, nearly all owned by luxury conglomerate Richemont SA, will be providing the first glimpse of what’s in store for 2014 in the world of high-end watches and, to a lesser extent, jewelry.

For the past few years, China has been the largest and fastest growing market for luxury watches and jewelry. However, there may be a shift in the global economy. The Hurun Report, which covers all things wealthy in China, said overall spending on luxury goods dropped 15 percent in Mainland China during the past year and gift-giving spending dropped 25 percent, possibly due to stronger anti-corruption initiatives. For the first time in five years, watch collecting as a pastime lost out to collecting traditional Chinese ink paintings.

Richemont in its preliminary third quarter earnings report said its total sales increased 3 percent to nearly $4 billion. At constant-exchange rates, growth was at 9 percent. 

Jewelry sales rose 4 percent for the period (10 percent at constant exchange rates) and watch sales rose 3 percent (9 percent at constant exchange rates). Montblanc, which sells luxury writing instruments and leather goods in addition to watches and jewelry, saw its sales slide by 4 percent (1 percent increase at constant exchange rates).

By region, the two strongest markets in terms of growth were the combined Europe and Middle East area, which saw its sales grow by 7 percent (9 percent at constant exchange rates) to 1.08 billion euro ($1.37 billion) followed by the Americas region where growth was pegged at 6 percent (12 percent at constant exchange rates) to 480 million euro ($649 million). 

Meanwhile, the Asia-Pacific, led by China, grew by 1 percent (6 percent at constant exchange rates) to 1.13 billion euro ($1.52 billion). 

For SIHH, innovations in this small selection of watches that are listed below seem to be more conservative, perhaps due to the shifting global luxury economy. The use of light-weight and ultra-strong materials are not new but seem to be more prevalent this year and are being used more creatively. The five timepieces below represent a glimpse into what the brands will be presenting this coming week. I expect there will be some surprises once the show begins.

Audemars Piguet
The newest version of the Royal Oak Concept GMT Tourbillon features a white ceramic bezel, crown and push-pieces instead of black, all contained in a titanium case. In addition, the watchmaker incorporated ceramic into the movement itself, replacing the blackened upper bridge of Caliber 2913 with white ceramic. The GMT display provides an instant reading of the time in a second time-zone. It is adjusted using the push-piece at 4 o’clock (one press adjusts the time by one hour). The indication of the second time-zone, based on 12 hours, comprises two superimposed discs. The first, on which the figures are inscribed, completes one turn in 12 hours. The second, just below, completes a turn in 24 hours and has 2 colored areas: a white half for daytime and a black half for night-time. The double-barrel system ensures that the watch will runs for as long as 10 days before it needs to be manually wound.

The Le Sentier-based luxury watch brand’s SIHH introductions include the Duomètre Unique Travel Time (top photo), which the company says is the first world-time watch with a “to-the-minute adjustment” of a second time zone. This enables travelers to accurately set the second time zone on all continents and countries regardless of the time difference. The watch employs a “dual-wing” system that divides the Caliber 383 movement into two distinct mechanisms: the first for displaying the local time and the second showing the correct time in a second time zone. The two mechanisms share the same regulating organ but each has its own independent source of energy, thereby avoiding the losses due to interaction between the mechanisms. Each mechanism has a 50-hour power reserve and the same crown serves to wind both barrels. The timekeeping barrel is wound by a counter-clockwise rotation and the travel-time barrel by a clockwise rotation. 

Two subdials, the first at 2 o’clock displays the hour and minute hand; while the second at 10 o’clock hosts the jumping hour and minutes of the travel time. The globe at 6 o’clock displays a world map surrounded by the time-zone indications and the day/night ring. The single crown is used to adjust the local time in position 2 and the travel time in position 1, and to wind the mainsprings. Once both time zones are synchronized, the traveler can use the push-pieces at 8 and 10 o’clock to adjust the jumping hours in the left subdial according to the destination. For non-standard time zones, the minutes can be adjusted separately using the crown in position 1.

The venerable luxury brand is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its TimeWalker collection with the TimeWalker Extreme Chronograph DLC. The watch is covered in a “diamond-like carbon (DLC)” coating described as “Black 4”, which stands for “very black.” The company says it is nearly impossible to fabricate a darker black. The watch is powered by the automatic mechanical Caliber MB 4810/507 equipped with an integrated chronograph function. The black of the new TimeWalker chronograph´s case continues in different shades on the large planar dial. The three subdials—one that reads seconds and two chronograph’s elapsed-time counters—are positioned at 6, 9 and 12 o’clock. Anthracite-grey ruthenium-colored hands and luminescent Superluminova numerals provide contrast to the dark watch. The finishing touch is a black vulcanized rubber strap. 

Ralph Lauren
The brand will be introducing several timepieces for men and women. Among them is the safari adventure “aged-steel” watch available for the first time in a 39mm size. Powered by the RL300-1 caliber, the ultra-masculine case of the RL67 Chronometer 39mm is created through a treatment that transforms the blackened steel into a patina finish. The rugged aesthetic is enhanced with a matte-varnished anthracite dial with dial two luminescent sword-shaped hands and a shiny orange baton stem. The self-winding wristwatch is worn on an olive-green “weathered” canvas strap that pays tribute to the visual accents of an explorer’s shoulder bag.

Vacheron Constantin 
The oldest and one of the most prestigious Swiss watchmaker, Vacheron Constantin, will introduce the latest version of its Malte Tourbillon Collection Excellence Platine. The pure, uncluttered platinum dial with a sandblasted finish is discreetly adorned with the inscription “Pt 950” appearing between 4 and 5 o’clock. along with white gold Roman numerals and hour-markers. The tourbillon bearing the seconds hand is at the 6 o’clock position. The platinum tonneau-shaped case measures 38 x 48.24mm. Platinum is also used for the folding clasp on the dark blue alligator strap. The timepiece is powered by the 169-part mechanical hand-wound caliber 2795 with a power reserve of almost two days. The tourbillon carriage displays the brand’s signature Maltese cross emblem.

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DEF Presents GOOD Awards to Jewelry Industry Leaders

GOOD Award recipients with sponsors and DEF officials

The Diamond Empowerment Fund, a global non-profit organization that raises money to fund education initiatives in African diamond-producing nations, recently honored diamond industry leaders who are committed to corporate social responsibility and promoting education, empowerment, and prosperity in diamond-producing countries. The event was held at the Empire Penthouse Lounge in New York.

The DEF GOOD Awards were given to industry leaders Forevermark, JCK, and Fred Meyer Jewelers. Stephen Lussier, CEO of Forevermark, Peter Engel, president of Fred Meyer Jewelers, and Yancy Weinrich, JCK group vice president of events, and Mark Smelzer, publisher of JCK magazine and, accepted on behalf of their organizations. 

The event kicked off with an African ceremonial dance by native Batswana dancers. D.E.F Scholar Nadine Zoro from Cote d’Ivoire, who is attending university at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., affirmed the importance of higher education to help transform the economies of diamond producing countries, and thanked the diamond industry’s support of the Diamond Empowerment Fund. Ambassadors from Namibia and Botswana were in attendance, as well as representation by the Democratic Republic of Congo.  

“We are thrilled and encouraged by the fabulous success of the 2014 GOOD Awards,” said Phyllis Bergman, DEF board president.

DEF beneficiaries include: CIDA City Campus, South Africa’s first non-profit university offering a four-year business degree; African Leadership Academy, a university preparatory school in Johannesburg, South Africa, founded on the belief that ethical leadership is the key to sustainable development, and the Botswana Top Achievers program that provides the top high school students the opportunity to study at a university of their choice worldwide and then return to Botswana to contribute to its economic diversification and growth.

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Friday, January 10, 2014

2013 Holiday Sales Mostly Positive at Tiffany, Signet, Zale Corp.

The three largest jewelry retailers performed well enough during what was described as a challenging holiday sales period. 

Signet Jewelers, Tiffany & Co. and Zale Corp. experienced a November-December sales period that saw more competition for fewer shoppers. However, each company employed strategies that allowed them to make the most of the holiday season. 

Signet Jewelers
The largest specialty retailer in the US and UK, said that its US sales increased 7.9 percent year-over-year for the eight-week period ended December 28 to $1.07 billion. Same store sales for the period rose by 4.9 percent. However, the company did note that “additional discounting was necessary” in a competitive environment.

Sales at Kay Jewelers and Jared The Galleria Of Jewelry, its largest retail chains, rose 8.9 percent to $674.8 and 11.6 percent to $312.5 million, respectively, while sales at its regional brands fell 9.2 percent to $85.4 million.

Same store sales at Kay and Jared both increased 5.6 percent, while its regional brand holdings fell 2.3 percent for the period. 

“The US holiday season was highlighted by a strong November and a strong finish to December,” said Mike Barnes, Signet CEO. “However, additional discounting was necessary in a highly promotional retail environment that included challenging customer traffic trends and lower than anticipated commodity cost savings. We believe these factors will result in lower than expected gross margins and profitability versus our original expectations.”

In Signet’s UK division, which accounts for 19 percent of the company’s total revenues, sales for the eight-week holiday period increased 6.6 percent to $203.6 million year-over-year. Same store sales in the UK were up 5.2 percent.

Overall sales for Signet Jewelers In the eight-week period ended December 28, increased 7.7 percent to $1.27 billion. Same store sales increased 5 percent “driven by balanced strength across a variety of brands and categories.” 

Signet operates more than 1,400 stores in the US and 500 stores in the UK.

In addition, consolidated eCommerce sales increased 27.2 percent for the period, with a 24.8 percent increase in the US and a 37.5 percent increase in the UK.

Tiffany & Co.
The international luxury retail jeweler said Friday that total sales in the Americas region (which largely reflects US sales) rose 6 percent to $550 million for the holiday period ended December 31. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, total sales increased 7 percent while same store sales rose 7 percent due to what the company describes as “broad-based sales growth across most of the region.” The company operates 121 stores in the Americas.

The company reported that worldwide net sales for the period rose 4 percent to $1.03 billion. On a constant-exchange-rate basis worldwide net sales increased 8 percent due to growth in all regions. Same store sales increased 6 percent. 

“Tiffany enjoyed a good holiday season with overall sales results in line with our expectation, and we were pleased to see growth across our fine and statement, engagement and fashion jewelry categories,” said Michael J. Kowalski, Tiffany chairman and CEO.

Zale Corp.
Meanwhile, Zale Corp. reported same store sales for the holiday period increased 2 percent at constant exchange rates, or 0.7 percent on a US dollar reported basis led by a 3.5 percent rise in US same-store sales. 

Overall, the specialty retailer reported a 2 percent drop in holiday sales to $556 million, saying it is due to a closing of 91 stores during the year and a decline in the Canadian exchange rate. 

The Dallas-based company currently operates 1,064 fine jewelry stores and 630 kiosks in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, with the US being, by far, its largest market. 

The company’s US fine jewelry brands, consisting of Zales Jewelers, Zales Outlet and Gordon’s Jewelers, posted a same store sales increase of 3.5 percent. This increase follows a 2.2 percent rise in the same period last year.

Canadian fine jewelry brands, consisting of Peoples Jewellers and Mappins Jewellers, posted a same store sales increase of 0.5 percent at constant exchange rates, following a decline of 0.7 percent in the same period last year. On a US dollar reported basis, same store sales decreased 5.9 percent, following a 2.7 percent increase in the same period last year.

Piercing Pagoda, Zale Corp.’s kiosk jewelry business, posted a same store sales decline of 5.1 percent. In the same period last year, same store sales rose 1.7 percent.

“During the holiday period, we maintained our focus on increasing exclusive product penetration, driving gross margin improvement and building our core national brands,” said Theo Killion, Zale Corp. CEO. “We executed a solid holiday season despite a challenging retail environment.”

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Swatch Group Reports Record Sales For 2013 But Warns of Overvaluation of Swiss Franc

Swatch Group Ltd., the largest Swiss watch business, on Monday said year-over-year gross sales for 2013 increased 8.3 percent to 8.82 billion Swiss francs ($9.7 billion), far outpacing the 1.8 percent growth for the rest of the Swiss watch industry at the end of November. 

“This clearly indicates the gain in market share,” the company, which consists of 20 watch brands encompassing all market segments as well as luxury jeweler Harry Winston, said in a statement. “In production, specific capacities have been expanded and put into operation. Additional increases in capacity are either in the planning phase or already under construction.”

The company—which designs, manufactures, distributes and sells finished watches, watch movements, watch components, electronic systems and jewelry—said that excluding production, revenue increased more than 10 percent.

It also forecasts a “positive outlook” for 2014, which has already begun with a “strong start by all brands.” 

However, the company warns that that despite its robust growth and forecast, the ongoing over-valuation of the Swiss Franc, particularly against the US dollar and Japanese yen, is having a negative impact on its sales. For example, in the second half of the year, the company said the negative effect of currency exchange rates cost it more than 100 million Swiss francs ($110 million). Its electronics operation reported a decrease of 3.9 percent due to price pressures placed by the overvaluation of the Swiss currency.

Despite this negative currency situation, it expects good results for 2013 at operating profit and net income level. The Swatch Group’s key figures will be published at the latest on 20 February 2014. Publication of the annual report at a media and analysts’ conference on 20 March 2014 is planned.

The company, in its statement, didn’t address a December 30 fire that destroyed its ETA movement operation. These watch movements are among the most common in the industry. They are used to power watches from Swatch Group brands such as Blancpain and Longines and for many other watches used by their competitors. It previously had said it will slow the production of watches by many brands.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Marc Newson Exhibition in Philly Features Timepieces For Jaeger-LeCoultre And Ikepod

Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos 561, 2008. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

While at the Philadelphia Museum of Art I was surprised to find an exhibition dedicated to industrial designer Marc Newson and that the display included several timepieces.

I shouldn’t have been too surprised by the timepieces. After all, Newson, 50, whose works range from an aircraft interiors and a concept car to home appliances and furnishings, is a partner in the Swiss timepiece firm, Ikepod. Three pieces from that firm were on view at the exhibition titled “Marc Newson: At Home.” There was also a timepiece he designed for the venerable luxury Swiss watch brand, Jaeger-LeCoultre.

In 2008, Newson created 80th-anniversary editions of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos Clock (top picture), a timepiece that runs on temperature and atmospheric pressure changes in the environment. It never needs winding. The model on display at the exhibition is the Atmos 561, a pared-down and contemporary model of the eternal clock.

The clock’s mechanism runs on a mixture of gaseous and liquid ethyl chloride that expands and contracts with the temperature. The clock must be hermetically sealed for it to operate. In this interpretation, Newson built a bubble-like case made of Baccarat crystal that creates the appearance of a timepiece that floats. Hour and minute hands, month indicators, moon phases and the Atmos 561 name are accented in blue.

Ikepod Hourglass, 2010. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

For Ikepod, he created a timepiece that is as much a sculpture as it is a mechanism to tell time. It’s an hourglass. This version, built in 2010 (like the others) is made of a single piece of blown borosilicate glass. Instead of sand, millions of nanoballs are used, which produce an extremely accurate 60-minute interval when the hourglass is turned.

From top: Ikepod Megapode, 2005, Ikepod Hemipode, 2003. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

In addition, there are two watches from Ikepod, a 2003 version of the Hemipode chronograph, which also provides a second time zone display, and a 2005 version of the Megapode watch, also a chronograph with dual time capabilities and a circular slide rule display.

All of the timepieces are from the collection of Adam Lindemann, a New York entrepreneur, avid art collector and partner in Ikepod.

The exhibit itself features many of the Australian-born, London-based designer’s domestic products inside an abstracted 2,000-squarefoot house and garage. It will run till April 28 in the Collab Gallery on first floor of the museum’s Perelman Building.

Below is the hourglass at work during a promotional film by Ikepod.

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