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

 

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