The Birth of the Chronograph

It is a well known fact that nothing sells a luxury timepiece more than the romantic story that gives rise to its existence.  So here goes…

Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec, 1781–1866

 

Once upon a time, in 1817 to be precise, a young French watchmaker by the name of Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec was appointed the 6th Watchmaker to King Louis XVII (Horloger du Roi).  He was one of the newest appointees and a contemporary of the brilliant Louis Breguet.

The Rieussec story was borne out of the King’s passion for horseracing.  The legend goes that the King asked his royal watchmakers to invent a device that could measure the time that elapses between the point that the horses leave the paddock and the point at which they cross the finishing line.

It was in a horserace in Paris in September 1821 that Nicolas Rieussec presented his amazing box, which not only boasted a timekeeping accuracy to within a quarter of a second, but could also record the individual timings of each horse in the race.

A replica of the Nicolas Rieussec “Time-Writer” box, invented in the early 19th Century

 

The beauty of the Rieussec concept lay in the simplicity of its use.  The wooden box had two rotating discs and a spring-loaded bridge with two nibs dipped in ink.  Each time a horse crossed the finishing line, the bridge could be made to descend on both discs, thereby marking or writing on the discs the time that had elapsed.  This process could be repeated for each horse as it passed the finishing line.

Rieussec named his device the “time-writer” and it has always been considered the very first chronograph.  In fact, the name chronograph is etymologically derived from the Greek words chronos and graphos, which when put together actually mean time-writer.

Thus the ubiquitous chronograph was born, with its familiar multi-subdial face and multiple buttons.  Practically every respectable watch brand since then, from Swatch to Tissot to Longines to Breitling to Rolex has a collection of easily-recognizable chronos in their line-up.  Chronographs are often associated with sports and sport-timing, where split-second accuracy is key to a successful outcome.

Montblanc Headquarters in LeLocle, Switzerland

 

Now cue Montblanc, who since 1997 has been producing fine watchmaking movements at its own manufacture at Montblanc Montre S.A. in Le Locle, Switzerland.  Their atelier is located in a striking Swiss villa built coincidentally in the early 1900’s, at around the same time that the brand came into existence.

The maison introduced, in 2008, a stunning line of monopusher chronographs dedicated to Monsieur Rieussec and if you look carefully, the design of the dial features two small, calibrated discs from which the elapsed seconds and minutes can be read off with the help of fixed hands, which are a dead-ringer for the ink-laden bridge of Rieussec’s invention.  It is no wonder that the design took 10 years to come to fruition.

Montblanc Homage á Nicolas Rieussec

 

Why is this watch different to all the others?  Because unlike the classic chronograph found in traditional watch-brands, where the dial is static and the hands rotate around the dial, the Montblanc version is true to the original Rieussec model, in which the hands (in this case the double bridge) are static and the discs do the rotating and timekeeping.

Montblanc Nicolas Riussec in stunning 18K gold

And all in a beautifully engineered mechanical complication which is set in motion by a singular monopusher.

This unique design makes the Montblanc Star Nicolas Rieussec Monopusher Chronograph a fitting tribute to the ingenious watchmaker and his ground-breaking chronograph invention almost two hundred years ago.

The complete line of Montblanc Rieussec timepieces and indeed the entire Montblanc Haute Horlogerie line is available tax-free at www.antonioboutique.com.

Happy shopping!

Suresh Mahtani, Antonio Diamond Boutique Gibraltar

 

Smart Wars Episode 1 – A New Hope

The Swiss watch industry will never forget the gross underestimation of the Japanese quartz watch of that 1970’s.  That was an error that, were it not for the genius of Nicholas Hayek, would have likely brought the industry to its knees.

Since then, Swiss luxury watchmaking has gone from strength to strength, weathering global economic recession whilst at the same time giving birth to international watchmaking powerhouses like Swatchgroup, Richemont and LVMH.

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Swiss Watch Exports since 1986

In the last few decades, the world of the wealthy has gone crazy for the latest exo-tourbillon, the minute-repeater complication, the perpetual calendar and the ultra-slim.

However, there is a new Quartz-like threat looming on the horizon and it is far less linear and far more devastating than the Japanese invasion of the 1970’s could ever be.  It is a threat that each and every Swiss manufacturer, from Le Brassus to Le Locle, from the Jura valley to Schaffhausen, simply cannot afford to ignore.

All hail the arrival of the Smartwatch…

Smartwatch fever is now here to stay
Smartwatch fever is now here to stay

 

The Smartwatch is no ordinary threat.  It is not a menace that directly impacts the economics of the industry, nor one that involves any kind of technological hurdle for watchmakers in general.  What the industry is facing is a challenge that goes to the very heart of historic watchmaking and one that risks altering the very DNA of the traditional timepiece.

After all, the Smartwatch has, in essence, very little to do with actually telling the time, nor with measuring it, nor with the aesthetics of it.  The device is ostensibly a sophisticated micro-computer worn on the wrist, has everything to do with connectivity, productivity, communication and information.

And therein lies the problem.  An entirely different consumer looking for a wholly different wrist-based experience totally divorced from the romantic, emotional, collectible, nostalgic appeal of a traditional hand-made timepiece.  The Swiss watch industry, presently dominated by high-value, aspirational, status-based, precision-oriented feats of mechanical engineering, now risks being relegated to the lowly, heavily-discounted shelves of mass-market consumer electronics stores.

A. Lange & Söhne's 'Grand Complication' close-up
A. Lange & Söhne’s ‘Grand Complication’ close-up

 

We’ve always known that the Smartwatch was coming, but it is now here and the battle is being waged on all fronts.  And we really mean all fronts…

APPLE COMPUTER

The world has waited with baited breath for many months while Apple Computer has repeatedly announced the launch of the much-hyped Apple Watch, with the latest launch date slated for late April 2015.  Joining its Android-based counterparts, many of which have been physically available for a while now, the Apple Watch promises to revolutionise the way we interact with our digital environment.  Unlike its Android equivalents, the Apple Watch will showcase models that will be fashioned out of solid gold, with a luxury watch pricetag rumoured to start at US$10,000 and up!

Apple Watch product range to be launched April 2015
Apple Watch product range to be launched April 2015

 

The values being brought to the table by the Apple Watch and its Android cousins are those of close-knit interoperability with your existing mobile phone architecture, together with capacitive touch-screens, the ability in some cases to make and receive calls, fitness tracking, video and audio recording, full-featured messaging platforms, GPS guidance, integration with your online calendar, and a whole host of mind-blowing space-age functionality.

This raises a number of questions for the Swiss watch industry.  Firstly, is the above feature-list enough to woo customers away from the traditional mechanical complicated watch?  Secondly, are the maisons prepared to adopt and accommodate a “me too” approach when it comes to the Smartwatch offering?  And thirdly, to what extent will the likes of Breitling, Tissot, Zenith, Hamilton, Patek, etc. go to compete with the Smartwatch?

There is no concrete answer to the above questions, but there sure are a lot of clues out there:

BREITLING

This Grenchen-based maison is a proud, independent company whose fiercely-loyal customer-base swear by the brand’s precision-engineering, its dedication to all things aviation and its bold, glaring good looks.

Earlier today, Breitling announced the B55 Connected Calibre, its first foray into the Smartwatch arena.  Surprised?  Don’t be.  This is a stunning timepiece, with a simply hard-to-believe feature-set.  Breitling for Bentley?  No, this is Breitling with Bluetooth!

 

Breitling's Brand new B55 Connected
Breitling’s Brand new B55 Connected

 

Check out the amazing product video for the Breitling B55 Connected here.

MONTBLANC

This Haute Horlogerie maison, based in Le Locle in the Neuchatel canton, is a pioneer of high watchmaking.  Their Villeret collection is the stuff of dreams, and in two short decades, they have launched a slew of stunning tourbillons, the world most competitively-priced perpetual calendar complication, a striking metamorphosis (face-changing) series, and a host of other feats of contemporary watchmaking.

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The striking new Montblanc Urban Speed e-Strap timepiece

At the SIHH 2015 Geneva by-invitation-only show, Montblanc unveiled its Timewalker Urban Speed E-Strap.  According to the Montblanc website, this baby is an integrated technology device that offers an activity tracker, smart notifications, remote controls and Find-Me functions. It connects, via Bluetooth Low Energy, to selected Android and iOS smartphones. For the first time, an owner will be able to wear a mechanical timepiece with highly useful digital functionality.  Okayyyy…

 

The rear of the Urban Speed e-Strap
The rear of the Urban Speed e-Strap

 

Have fun watching Montblanc’s Urban Speed e-Strap video here.

SWATCH

Only two days ago, the BBC announced that Swatch has just revealed plans to compete with its smartwatch rivals.  Swatch is careful though to make the distinction between a “tech-enhanced” Swiss watch and a “fully featured” micro-computer worn on the wrist à la Apple Watch.

According to the BBC article, the new waterproof Swatch Touch Zero One is targeted at beach volleyball players and can track their number of footsteps and measure how hard they smack the ball with their hands.

The Touch Zero One uses one of the company’s standard batteries, which Swatch says lasts months between needing to be swapped, and it features a curved monochrome touchscreen and built-in backlight. The touchscreen supports taps and side-swipes to manage six timing functions.

The new Swatch Touch Zero One smartwatch
The new Swatch Touch Zero One smartwatch

 

According to Swatch, the watch will not provide any information on notifications for calls, alarms or emails and it appears that the Swatch Touch Zero One is essentially a fitness tracker. Whether it connects via near-field communication (NFC) or Bluetooth remains to be seen, but the promotional video shown here suggests that connectivity will be provided by a Bluetooth radio in the first instance.

FREDERIQUE CONSTANT

Frédérique Constant SA is a manufacture of luxury wrist watches based in Plan-les-Ouates, Geneva.  Together with their sister company, Alpina, Frederique Constant produces an extremely safe and contemporary line of beautiful mechanical watches which appeal to the mass consumer as well as the discerning watch-lover.

Well, you guessed it.  FC were one of the first to release their version of the smartwatch called, wait for it, the Swiss Horological Smartwatch!!

The Swiss Horological Smartwatch by Frederique Constant
The Swiss Horological Smartwatch by Frederique Constant

 

Powered by a MotionX patented sensor-fusion engine, the SHS tracks activity and sleep patterns with high accuracy, at least according to the Frédérique Constant website, which goes on to say that activity and sleep information is presented in real-time on the Swiss Horological Smartwatch using beautiful traditional analog dials.

The Swiss Horological Smartwatch synchronizes automatically with applications on Apple and Android smartphones.

TAG HEUER

Without a doubt one of the most successful watchbrands in the LVMH stable, TAG Heuer are also planning to join the smartwatch race later this year, at least according to www.digitaltrends.com, who go on to say that until now, little is known about its first attempt to battle the growing ranks of smartphone connected timepieces.

According to watch mogul Jean-Claude Biver, LVMH Group’s watch division chief, we should expect the watch to feature GPS and health monitoring features, plus a selection of unique apps which are specifically related to TAG Heuer’s brand, and the sports it sponsors. Over the past year, the company has backed events including Formula-E racing, the Race of Champions, and various marathons run around the world, plus it has a wide range of personal sponsorship programs too.

TAG Heuer Aquaracer 72 Digital Smartwatch from 2013
TAG Heuer Aquaracer 72 Digital Smartwatch from 2013

Let us not forget TAG’s proven answer to everything: “Don’t crack under pressure!”, even if that pressure happens to be a new watch named after the oldest fruit….  According to Biver, the new TAG smartwatch will end up being the first TAG Heuer watch not developed in Switzerland. “We are not in the communications industry,” he said, adding “The hardware and the software will come from Silicon Valley. But the watch case, the dial, the design, the idea, the crown, that part of the watch will, of course, be Swiss.”

MONDAINE

The Mondaine Watch company, the half-century old Swiss watch manufacturer whose production values centre around the romance and charm of the Swiss Railways, is not to be left out of a party, especially the smartwatch party.  They too have launched the Helvetica No. 1 Smart, which combines traditional quality watchmaking with smart technologies and doesn’t look much like its competitors, instead, drawing inspiration from the style of the regular Mondaine Helvetica Bold.

The Mondaine Helvetic No. 1 Smart watch released in February 2015
The Mondaine Helvetic No. 1 Smart watch released in February 2015

The sub dial at six o’clock on the watchface doesn’t provide small-seconds or an annual calendar, instead it is an analog representation of the smart technology at the heart of the unique timepiece.  Contained within the watch is the latest in smart tech focused on monitoring the wearer’s activity and sleep. It features MotionX activity tracking, Sleeptracker sleep monitoring, Sleep cycle alarms, Get-Active alerts, and Smart coaching. The data from these can be backed up and stored in the MotionX cloud.

TISSOT

Whilst there is no announcement yet of a Smartwatch from one of the world’s best-selling and best-loved Swiss watch brands, this blog would not be complete without a mention of Tissot.  According to www.smartwatchgroup.com, “…besides Swatch, Tissot is the obvious company within the Swatch Group to include smartwatch technologies. First, Tissot has a lot of relevant technical experience. Second, the company is positioned at a sportive, tech-savvy clientele. Third, other than high-end brands of the Swatch Group, Tissot will be strongly affected by what is currently happening in the smartwatch industry.

The fact that Tissot is expanding its T-Touch line with solar-powered models and Bluetooth functionality opens up interesting opportunities. However, the speed of smartwatch-relevant innovation at Tissot is low. As long as Swatch Group’s CEO Nick Hayek remains sceptical of smartwatches, this is bound to stay.”

Now contrast that with the January edition of Europa Star online, which states (1) that Tissot will enter the smartwatch market with a “Swiss made” product before Baselword 2015, (2) that they promise to make a watch unique from the current smartwatches on the market and (3) that Tissot does not consider brands like Apple or Samsung as direct competitors.

We live in interesting times…

CONCLUSION

What is clear from the above is that the Swiss watch industry is not ignoring the threat of the Smartwatch.  If anything, they are embracing it and adopting an inclusionary stance by launching smartwatches of their own.  The difference though between these new offerings and the fully-featured smartwatch models released by Motorola, LG, Sony and Apple is that the former focus on connectivity and little else, while the latter do so much more.

We live in interesting times….

Happy shopping and don’t forget to visit our tax-free shopping site, www.antonioboutique.com for all your luxury watches under one roof.

Suresh Mahtani, Antonio Diamond Boutique (c) 2015

Flourescence, the hidden deal-breaker in the diamond world

Most quality diamond retailers concentrate on the 4 ‘C’s of a given stone to approximate its value over the counter.  Consumers therefore are typically only aware of the Colour, Clarity, Cut and the all-important Carat when it comes to choosing a diamond, with more and more emphasis being placed these days on the 5th ‘C,’ this being the Certificate which accompanies the stone in question.

The international market price guide for loose polished diamonds, known universally as the Rappaport list, cross-references diamond pricing across the 4 ‘C’s, perhaps in a vain attempt to make life easier for the end-consumer (and indeed the retailer) to make an informed decision regarding the price of a given stone.

There is however, a further characteristic which is often ignored by both diamond-vendors and diamond-buyers, and that is fluorescence.

The 5 GIA Diamond Fluorescence grades
The 5 GIA Diamond Fluorescence grades

 

Various diamonds under a very telling UV lamp
Various diamonds under a very telling UV lamp

This amazing feature in a polished diamond is in fact nothing less than visible light that is generated by the stone when it is excited by ultraviolet light, i.e. sunlight.  Different diamonds react to UV excitation in different ways.  Some shine in different colours, whilst others turn whiter.  Mostly the stone exhibits a bluish hue, sometimes green, red or rarely even yellow.

 

 

 

Diamond Scintillation under water
Diamond Scintillation under water

 

Diamond lovers are sharply divided over the impact of fluorescence on the stone’s value.  There are those that believe fluorescence to detract from a diamond’s beauty by making the stone seem muddier and less brilliant, whilst others believe that fluorescence has a positive effect on yellowish diamonds, particularly as blue fluorescence acts as a counterweight to the yellow hue thus making the diamond seem whiter.

It is important to remember that all diamonds possess a degree of fluorescence, but not all of them show it off to the naked eye.  In approximately 40% of all polished diamonds, and at the atomic level, the stone’s electrons are stimulated by long-wave ultraviolet rays to the point where they re-emit the ray’s absorbed energy, and the degree of fluorescent emission is classified by the Gemological Institute of America as either Nil, Weak, Medium, Strong or Very Strong.

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Whilst popular in the ‘50’s when they were termed “blue white diamonds”, visibly fluorescent diamonds are these days not nearly as expensive as their non-fluorescent counterparts as they are generally no longer in high demand.  According to secretdiamonds.com their popularity waned in the 1970’s thank to black lights that were used in discos and nightclubs.

Remember that when you are purchasing your stone, the store’s spotlights generally do not emit a sufficient quantity of UV radiation to produce the fluorescent effect.

The perfect diamond ring available from our webstore at tax-free prices
The perfect diamond ring available from our webstore at tax-free and VAT-free prices

 

Please visit our webstore where we shall soon be providing a comprehensive range of diamond jewellery set in beautiful 18K designer mounts.

 

Happy shopping.

 

Suresh Mahtani, The Antonio Diamond Boutique, Gibraltar.

Bondage and other Licences to Kill

At the Antonio Diamond Boutique, we are huge fans of all things James Bond.  No matter whether you are aged 12 years or 82 years, the universal appeal of Ian Fleming’s 007 has undoubtedly stood the test of time.

The idea for the Bond novels developed during Fleming’s time as a Naval Intelligence officer during the Second World War, where he was tasked with planning Operation Goldeneye and with the structure and implementation of two covert intelligence units.  It was here that much of the background, detail and depth of the James Bond novels was conceived, culminating in the hugely successful release of Fleming’s first Bond novel, Casino Royale, in 1952.

The last film with Daniel Craig as James Bond
The last film with Daniel Craig as James Bond

The rest, as they say, is history, and the Bond franchise has since grown from strength to strength, epitomizing the classic spy story, complete with gadgets, fast cars, beautiful women, exotic locations, despicable villains and let us not forget… highly collectible timepieces!

The Omega watch company has been involved with the Bond franchise since 2002, and several special editions of their prestigious Seamaster collection have featured in each and every one of the last seven films, from Goldeneye (1995) with Pierce Brosnan right the way to Skyfall (2012) with Daniel Craig.

Daniel Craig side by side with the new Aston Martin DB10
Daniel Craig side by side with the new Aston Martin DB10

 

The latest film is no exception, and in his final portrayal of the James Bond character, Daniel Craig is set to appear in the 24th instalment of the Bond franchise, 007:Spectre, to be released later this year.

True to form, the launch of Spectre will see Omega produce a spectacular version of the Seamaster Aqua Terra in a limited edition of 15,007 pieces (15,007 = antimagnetic resistance up to 15,000 gauss + special licence-to-kill agent 007).

The new James Bond 150m Aqua Terra 15,007 Gauss
The new James Bond 150m Aqua Terra 15,007 Gauss limited edition Seamaster by Omega.

 

Orbis non sufficit - The World is Not Enough!
Orbis non sufficit – The World is Not Enough!

This is a very subtle variant of the classic 15000 gauss Master Coaxial Aqua Terra shown below, and the Bond watch is similarly presented in a 41.5mm case.  The main difference is the reworking of the deep blue dial colour and the yellow second hand, both of which include a reference to the Bond family’s Coat-of-Arms, orbis non sufficit or “the world is not enough.”

Bond aficionados will recognize the family crest as comprising a white shield, dark chevron and three yellow circles.  Add to this the now familiar 007 logo above the six-o’clock marker and the Bond package is complete – or in Bond-parlance shaken, but not stirred!

Both Omega and Rolex have recently gone to great lengths to highlight the importance of using anti-magnetic components for their respective complications, particularly given that the large proportion of mechanical watches that require costly servicing do so because their internal components have become magnetized over time.

Classic Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 15,000 Gauss
Classic Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 15,000 Gauss

By using silicium components in its Master Coaxial movement, Omega can now boast a watch that is resistant to 15,000 gauss, making it virtually anti-magnetic in every respect, and markedly superior to Rolex’s milgauss, which is only resistant to 1,000 gauss.

Unique to the calibre 8507 movement found inside 007 watch is the rotor design, which has been specifically machined to resemble the barrel of a gun.  In every other respect, the 8507 movement is identical to the standard 8508 movement found in the generic Master Co-Axial collection. The 007 watch sports an exhibition back which, together the front of the watch, is protected by a scratch-resistant sapphire glass.  Last but not least, a classic half-polished, half-brushed stainless steel bracelet secures the watch on wrist in true Omega fashion.

Available around April 2015 from our webshop
Soon to be one of the most coveted of Bond editions by Omega.

 

Don’t miss out on this highly collectible edition, available tax-free from our webshop hopefully sometime in April of this year.

Happy shopping!

Suresh Mahtani, The Antonio Diamond Boutique, Gibraltar

The First Blog

Welcome to our shiny new website and to the first ever Antonio Diamond Boutique blog. Over the last few months, a lot of thought, energy and flair has gone into designing a functional, inspirational web experience for the discerning watch buyer and well, we think we got it right. And yet the launch of our new site comes at a time of game-changing challenges for the Swiss watch industry.

Firstly the recent news that the Swiss National Bank has ditched the longstanding cap on its exchange rate with the ailing Euro. Let us not kid ourselves – this will only have one effect and that is to raise prices across the board. Watch lovers can expect price hikes of between 7% to 11% in the coming weeks and these will affect all Swiss production, from Swatch to Tissot to TAG Heuer to Rolex to Patek Philippe. Add to this an increasingly less valuable Euro and the price increases in the Eurozone will be felt even more. It is no wonder that nobody was smiling when Swatchgroup CEO Nick Hayek called it a “tsunami” for the Swiss watch industry.

The next challenge for Swiss Haute Horlogerie is the popularization and globalization of the Smart Watch. A lot of hype has been created around the soon-to-be-launched iWatch from Apple Computer and Samsung is already marketing the prodigious Gear 2.0 to critical acclaim. Love them or hate them, the Smart Watch is here to stay and the battle lines are now being drawn in the sand. On the one hand we have super-smart software in a tiny package that effortlessly provides wrist connectivity to your existing household devices, audio and video recording and notifications, not to mention access to your music library, e-mails and an ever-increasing arsenal of downloadable apps. On the other hand, the romance and appeal of a mechanical perpetual calendar, the covetous nature of a hand-wound spherical tourbillion or the horological timelessness of a minute repeater movement. It was Al McGuire who said “When a guy takes off his coat, he’s not going to fight. When a guy takes off his wristwatch, watch out!” Yes, we live in very interesting times.

image003VERSUS

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The third challenge facing the industry is the growing threat from the Chinese watch industry. As the Economist magazine recently stated, “Swiss-made” has become one of the world’s most valuable brands. Is it any wonder then that large Chinese corporations like Haidian Ltd, which distributes the Citizen and Casio brands in China, have arrived on the scene armed with a seemingly endless amount of cash available for Swiss brand acquisition and have made no bones about their intention to create a portfolio of Swiss maisons. Stalwarts like Corum, Eterna and recently Rotary, are already Chinese-owned and the onslaught shows no sign of abating.

Top 10 Watch Brands

There can be no doubt that 2015 promises to be an eventful year for an industry whose humble origins stretch back to the 1700’s but whose future, by all accounts, is brighter than it has ever been before.

Happy shopping!

Suresh Mahtani, The Antonio Diamond Boutique, Gibraltar