Horologio Blog

Horologio Blog

It's the time of year when the auction houses are getting all their timepieces prepared for the start of an exciting season.

We've said it here many times before, vintage watches — and gently used newer, collectible watches — hold their value and even gain in value. The auctions are evidence of that. In fact, this fall, we will see top lots coming from Christie's, Sotheby's, Antiquorum and Phillips Auction houses, as well as from a few smaller auctioneers.


Antiquorum Auctioneers has just announced its October sale of “Important Modern & Vintage Timepieces” to be held on October 8th at The Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. There will be 324 outstanding timepieces up for bid, including an impressive selection of A. Lange & Sohne, Breguet, Patek Philippe, Omega and Rolex watches, among others.


Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo, has also announced its November sale: FOUR. This auction is expected to break all records — as several truly unusual finds will be sold, including a rare stainless steel Patek Philippe Reference 1518 that has never been on the block before. Additionally, there is a fine prototype Omega Alaska II watch being auctioned.


Expected to sell for between 100,000 and 200,000 CHF, the Speedmaster Professional “Alaska II” Project watch demonstrates the brand’s long-standing work in space travel. Built in 1970, this is one of just three Alaska II watches ever made for the secret project Omega worked on to create the perfect space watch. The watch, considered a “holy grail” Speedmaster, is sold with the original red anodized aluminum protective overcase that was to act as a heat shield. The watch features a snow-white matte dial with black racing hands and “Apollo” style register hands for the chronograph hours and minutes. One of the two siblings of this prototype watch resides in the Omega Museum, and the other is privately owned.

We will keep you posted of auction results, but want to remind our watch lovers that a watch can be a true investment item. Stop in any time to talk to us about vintage timepieces.


Last week we covered how new materials are influencing watch performance both inside and out. In one of those posts we discussed how materials for cases, bezels, bracelets and straps are becoming more advanced in terms of durability, lighter weight and scratch resistance.


However, what we haven’t talked about is the very essence of the watch: the case itself. In fact, one of the most important design elements of a timepiece is its shape. From round to rectangular, from square to oblong, the look of a watch determines its appeal – and that starts with the case shape and its profile.

All cases are not created equal. A watch case can be artful, thoughtful, simple and elegant, or it can be bold, three dimensional, rugged and high tech in nature. One case may be easier to machine and put together than another case. In fact, cases can be milled from a solid block of material or can have dozens — even hundreds — of parts that must be put together.

n the early years of the 20th century, during the Art Deco period, many cases were square and rectangular (such as the famed Cartier Tank or the iconic Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso). The Roaring Twenties yielded unusually shaped geometric cases and ergonomically curved cases, as well. However, by the late 1930s and into the 1940s and 1950s, we began seeing more round watches. This is because people were beginning to demand water resistant watches, and it was much easier to make a round watch water resistant than a square one with so many edges and angles.

Once the utilitarian need of water resistance was conquered, brands began working on cases that became art – and new shapes appeared, including sculpted cases, coin cases, Dali-inspired shapes and more.


Today’s luxury watch brands offer a case for everyone. While certain sports watch companies may mill a case from a single block of metal to render it more sturdy and rugged, other brands build complex cases with dozens of parts to demonstrate their abilities to produce a case worthy of the movement inside. These multiple-part cases are no weaker or less water resistant than a solid-block case, as long as the brand has focused on gaskets, fittings, screw-lock casebacks and crowns, and an overall precision interplay of parts.

The making of a watchcase starts from a mold—a plaster-like or 3-D printed rendition of what the case will look like. When all the parts and angles are approved, the case material is selected and high-precision cutting machines mill the case parts (lugs, sides, back, bezel, etc.).


Each of these parts is then fitted together and properly fastened and finished with stunning angles, bevels and more — all of which lead to a highly recognizable finished timepiece. It is no easy feat making a case that is distinguishable from across a crowded room, but top watch brands do it.


Stop into our store anytime and we can do a side-by-side comparison of some of the finest cases and shapes on the market.


Earlier in the week we discussed how high-tech materials from the aviation, automotive and other fields have found their way to the world of watches for cases, bracelets, bezels and straps. Today, we take a look at how high-tech materials, such as engineered ceramic and silicium, play a role inside the watch – in the mechanism.

A mechanical watch is filled with hundreds of tiny gears, teeth, ball bearings and other parts that work together harmoniously to tick off the seconds, minutes, hours and other functions a watch may hold. Typically, these mechanical movements, like the engine of a fine car, are lubricated to keep everything running smoothly.


The constant wear and tear of metal against metal, however, often causes friction, wears down the parts and eventually, causes the oil to dry out. This is much of the reason servicing of a fine luxury watch is typically recommended every several years (just as a car needs to be serviced).

With the advent of new materials, though, certain watch brands have eliminated much of the friction — and the wear and tear — meaning a watch can go significantly (years) longer without needing lubrication or servicing. Such materials include silicium and ceramic ball bearings.


There are several pioneers in the industry that have led the way when it comes to developing and using new movement materials. Ulysse Nardin is one such brand. The company has been using high tech materials for movement parts for decades – ensuring longer life for its calibers. It also continues to develop new realms and to collect new patents for its inventions.

We invite you in any time to get a hands-on experience with some of these and other high-performance brands.


While watchmaking technology has been steadily improving for more than five centuries, there always seems to be room for improvement. Today’s finest watchmakers continually push the boundaries when it comes to innovation – offering new and exciting technology, functions and even materials.


Gold, platinum and steel will forever be forged into watch cases, but today, many brands also take their inspiration from the space, aviation, automotive and medical worlds when it comes to super high-tech materials.


Among the favorites are engineered ceramics, multiple grades of high-tech titanium, hypoallergenic alloys, aluminium (a derivative of aluminum that can be colored and is super light weight), carbon fiber (a dense yet light-weight material that is super strong thanks to the layering or weaving of thousands of strands of fibers), kevlar and more. Some brands are even working with transparent sapphire to create cases that are virtually see through.


The point behind these materials is not just to offer an exciting marketing angle, but, more to the point, to offer more durability, more scratch- or shock-resistance and lighter weight. Indeed, the materials used have to meet a clear objective, whether that is achieving a certain color, a certain weight or a certain aesthetic appeal.

Some brands are even building their own alloys of gold that will keep the gold from scratching or wearing in any way. This, of course, makes them even more precious in the long run.


Additionally, brands are even perfecting the coatings they apply to the materials. Years ago, when one wanted to add a different color to a metal, the piece was bathed in an electroplating process. Today, at the high end of the luxury watch spectrum, a host of coating methods can be employed, including PVD (physical vapor deposition), DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) applications and other methods that make the coating last longer and resist scratching.

We invite you in any time to see our vast array of timepieces that utilize high-tech materials in their cases, bracelets, bezels and straps.


It seems that while Smart watches are popping up all over the marketplace, not everyone is interested in the higher-end models. In fact, it looks as though Apple is no longer selling its 18-karat gold watch (which carried an average retail of between $10,000 and $17,000).

This may be because Apple execs have learned that they can't tread in the classic watch category. After all, it is difficult to expect anyone to spend $15,000 or so on a watch whose technology needs to be constantly updated. That money can be better spent on a fine timepiece with a pedigree of watchmaking history.


While most consumers seem eager to have a smart watch that can track steps, sleep patterns and more — in addition to receiving messages and alerts — this category of watch just won't steal away customers' interest in owning a traditional timepiece.


Additionally, some watch brands, including Movado, Frederique Constant, TAG Heuer, and even Breitling, are really embracing the Smart watch or connected concept, and are unveiling a couple of traditional watches that have the connected angle. This may well be to demonstrate to today's customers that the traditional watch can be cutting-edge, too, and may be the "smarter" choice.

B55 Connected

Even in the fashion arena, designers are jumping on the Smart bandwagon. Last week, during New York Fashion Week, Michael Kors showed off his newest Smart watch, the Michael Kors Access smartwatch featuring designs based on the brand's most iconic styles. We expect to see more designers, watch brands and tech brands strutting their stuff in the smart category — but predominantly in the under $2,000 price range.


Stop in any time to see our grand selection of fine watches and maybe even a few connected pieces.


First shown to the world during the March BaselWorld exhibition, the Swiss-made Frederique Constant Perpetual Calendar watches are in stores now and deserve a close-up look. The new watch is powered by an in-house-made movement (Frederique Constant has 19 Manufacture movements in its repertoire) hand-built in the brand’s Plan-les-Ouates workshops outside of Geneva. Additionally, every one of the 191 parts in the caliber is individually finished.


The FC-775 automatic movement was in the research and development stages for two years. The end product is one of the easiest to use perpetual calendars on the market. Inset buttons easily adjust the functions (the button near 5:00 advances the moon, the one near 8:00 manipulates the day and date, etc.). Once adjusted, this highly sophisticated mechanism will take into account the months with 30 and 31 days, the 28 days of February and also the leap year cycle with the return of 29 February every four years. It will only need to be adjusted on March 1, 2100, when we skip a scheduled leap year to keep our calendar in sync with time.


Part of the brand’s Slimline collection, the Perpetual Calendar is at once a robust and reliable timepiece with a strong design aesthetic. Offered in rose gold-plated finish or in stainless steel, the 42mm case sports a sapphire caseback for viewing of the movement. Several dial choices are being offered and the watch is sold in a luxurious wooden box.


We invite you to stop in any time to see this new Perpetual Calendar watch and to see all of our Frederique Constant timepieces.


With Labor Day behind us, it seems to be a signal of oncoming fall – shorter days, earlier nights. This makes it a great time to invest in a watch that tells time in the dark. Luminous watches that don’t look luminous during the day but that glow brightly at night or in the dark took about a century to perfect.

In the early 1900s Marie and Pierre Curie discovered radium. It was only a decade or so later that watch companies and dial makers turned to the substance as a luminous aid. Little did they know the dangers involved in using the material, which emits particles that have the effect of ionizing and glowing fluorescent.


Dial makers developed a radium-based paint and, in 1914, Radium Luminous Materials Corporation began producing the phosphorescent paint for watch hands and markers. Workers would paint the dials and often lick the tip of the brush to get a finer point on it for thinner, more exact lines. They began getting sick from the radiation within the paint and many died. A group of women banned together in the late 1920s and took the company to court, which led to its closing and the implementation of new rules about the material.

Scientists and researchers looked for other options and, in the 1960s, found tritium, which was more harmful than radium, but limits were established on how much could be used in a paint (vintage 1960s watches using this material may have a single or double T on the dial).

Eventually laws prohibited the use of radioactive paint and in the 1990s Super-LumiNova was unveiled. The non-radioactive substance is the material of choice today. It offers a strong glow (in several colors) without the danger. Additionally, the material has been improved over the past 20 years and is brighter today than it was in its original forms. The material glows after absorbing sufficient UV light, and the strength of the glow depends on how many layers of Super-LumiNova are applied.


Some watch companies also use a new tritium-based system called “Gaseous Tritium Light Source” (GTLS), wherein the material is encased in tiny glass tubes that are placed together to form numerals or markers. This system is brighter than Super-LumiNova but also more expensive and more difficult to execute.

At any rate, now that you know how much research has gone into creating watches with lumen, we invite you to stop in any time and see our great selection of luminous watches.


Planning a trip to Paris in September? If so, you may want to visit the 2016 Biennale des Antiquaires that is taking place at the Grand Palais from September 10-18. This year, for the first time ever, the Biennale organizers are working with the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) of Geneva to showcase a thematic exhibition based on "The Mastery of Time" book about man's quest to track time.

Convertible Bracelet

While the Biennale transforms the Grand Palais into one of the foremost showcases for art and culture, the new time-themed exhibition is guaranteed to bridge the gap between the past and the future when it comes to timepieces. On display will be artifacts and historical watches that span centuries, including sundials, table clocks, astronomical clocks, pocket watches, automatons and more. Additionally, master craftsmen and watchmakers will be on hand throughout the exhibit.

Atomic Clock

Credits: All images courtesy of FHH.

watches 1

Recently, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH) released its July export statistics, and while the overall numbers weren’t on a roll, the U.S. market came out on top. For nearly a decade, the Asian markets — led by Hong Kong — were the largest consumers of Swiss watches, with the U.S. not too far behind.

However, with tough economic times in Asia, the United States unseated Hong Kong as the top importer of Swiss watches — accounting for 10.9 percent of all Swiss watch exports during the month of July (10.7 percent of the exports that month went to Hong Kong). The last time the United States held this top spot was nine years ago.


We often get questions about which type of watch strap is the best. The truth of the matter is that first and foremost, this is a personal choice. However, the longevity of your strap has a lot to do with outside influences that include activity, use, climate and temperature. Here, we give you a simple guide to determining whether you want rubber, leather, fabric or metal on your wrist.


If you are a water person who indulges frequently in swimming a rubber strap may be the best choice. Rubber weathers the elements beautifully. It dries quickly after getting out of the water and does not stick to the wrist. Additionally, rubber does not fade or lose its luster or hue. Many of today’s vulcanized rubber straps are blends of polycarbonate and other materials to keep them at top performance levels without getting dry or brittle.


If you are thinking about a watch for the office, where the air is conditioned, a leather strap is a good choice. Leather straps are comfortable to wear and give a great choice in hides, textures and color. Leather choices range from calfskin and ostrich to stingray, crocodile, alligator, snake and more. Leather is relatively easy to take care of in the right temperatures, but – in heat and humidity – these straps tend to get a bit sticky on the wrist.


Fabric straps come in all types. For women, a fabric strap is typically reserved for dress watches and is made of shimmering materials such as silk, satin, even lace. These materials can stain, although most brands protect their fabric with a special treatment. For men, the fabric watch strap predominantly comes in the form of a NATO strap. Easily one of the hottest trends on the market today, NATO straps convert any watch from serious to sporty with ease. Sometimes referred to as military straps, NATO straps have roots dating back to the early 1970s when British soldiers used nylon straps that were highly durable, could be easily cleaned and were not expensive to buy. NATO straps are easy to change and usually slip through the top lugs, pass over the case back and though the bottom lugs. The system acts as double security, too, because one need not worry about spring bars breaking or popping as with typical straps. They are very durable and highly functional, as they dry quickly, don’t stick to the wrist and are designed for extreme wear.

Various Styles of Metal Watch Bracelets

Another material good for water sports and sticky temperatures, metal bracelets are typically extremely sturdy. Of course, we are not talking about gold bracelets (those can scratch easily and are designed mostly for office and dress wear). Bracelets made of stainless steel, titanium and other alloys are strong and hold up well in outdoor terrains and activities. Titanium is very lightweight, and many people in warm climates prefer this feel on the wrist. With today’s technology, steel and titanium can also be found in a host of colors thanks to PVD and other coating treatments. One of the nice things about bracelet watches is that they are easy to care for — they can be rinsed and cleaned with a soft cloth. The downside: depending on the material, they can scratch.

In the end, the choice of material for your watch strap comes down to your lifestyle and your own personal taste.

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