A Look at the Cosmos and Time Via an HH Exhibition ‘Horology, a Child of Astronomy’

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Pendant alarm watch circa 1590 in the form of a sundial with compass for setting time. 

In the world of horology, astronomy, the sky, and the stars have long played an important role. Indeed, since the dawn of man, time and all we do, has been influenced by the sun, the moon and the stars. The entire concept of how  the tides, harvesting seasons and more have influenced our lives and our view of time has been the basis of long discussions and laid the groundwork for building advanced clocks and watches over the centuries.

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Planetary clock by Francois Ducommun, 1830.

Earlier this year at SIHH 2014 watch show, the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (HH) implemented an intriguing exhibition entitled Horology, a Child of Astronomy. The exhibit, which will travel to various events around the world this year, traces the relationship of time and space over the centuries, and features astronomical instruments, sun dial clocks, pocket watches and wrist watches that have played a role in man’s tracking of the moon, stars and sun.

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18th century silver sundial signed Pierre LeMaire, Paris.

This exhibit highlights many of man’s timepiece inventions that have been and are, today, based on the sky.

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A closeup of a planetary clock.

Among the items included in the display is a replica of the bronze Nebra disk – an artifact dating back to 1600 BC that is considered the oldest representations of the heavens found today. It features 32 celestial bodies on it, with the sun, the crescent moon and Pleiades. It is believed local Nebra, Germany, farmers used it to plan harvesting cycles.

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Replica of the Nebra disk, the oldest artifact depicting time and the celestial bodies.

Also on display: a pendant alarm watch circa 1590 in the form of a sundial with compass for setting time; an 18th century silver sundial, a Francois Ducommun 1830 Planetary clock. These ancient timepieces were joined by a host of current-day astronomical watches ranging from the trilogy by Ulysse Nardin to a other exciting new astronomical watches that are inspired by our skies.

GENERAL

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7.24 MAN Introducing the New Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph

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Three of the six Royal Oak Offshore 42mm Chronographs unveiled at SIHH2014.

Earlier this week we brought you a little history of the chronograph and how it works. Today, we bring you a look at a brand that is exceptional in its chronograph offerings: Audemars Piguet. The all new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Chrongraphs are finally making their way to the U.S. market and we couldn’t be happier.

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The Royal Oak Offshore 42mm Chronographs are sleeker yet dynamic with ceramic accents instead of rubber.

Here’s an up close and personal look at the six new versions being released this year in a great revamping of a 21-year-old icon. Essentially, each of the six bold new 42mm Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph models are offering a crisp, refined look to them giving a fresh, sporty appeal.

One of the main highlights of the new collection is the fact that each watch now boasts sapphire casebacks – a long awaited for feature by Audemars Piguet aficionados who enjoy getting a close look at the highly detailed movement.

In typical Audemars Piguet style, the brand pays close attention to detail and high-tech performance — moving away from rubber accents on the crown and pushpieces and heading instead into ceramic for the pushpieces and the crown — a great touch.

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Four of the new pieces are crafted in brushed steel. Two models are offered in 18-karat rose gold with rose gold Tapisserie dials. One watch is presented on a black gator strap and the other features a boldly beautiful solid rose gold bracelet. While we love the rose gold models, because, let’s face it, rose gold is so rich and warm, the steel versions are ultra powerful. Of particular appeal is the Navy blue piece with a rich royal blue dial with silvered subdials and orange accents, complemented with a blue rubber strap.

Additionally, a sober black dialed version with red accents and a horn back alligator black strap with red stitching is also intriguing. Other versions include a model with slate-gray dial with white and black accents, and an eye-catching adventurous vintage Safari dial in cream with brown outer chapter ring, brown subdials and markers, and a brown alligator strap.

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The new pieces now flaunt a sapphire caseback.

Beating at the heart of these new watches is  the Calibre 3126 modular chronograph movement with date aperture at 3:00, tachymeter scale and a superbly decorated 22-karat gold rotor visible from the caseback.

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For the adventurous at heart, the new ivory-dialed, brown accented Safari version is a stunner.

We love the  new  lineup and think you will, too.

Going to Philly? Visit the National Watch & Clock Museum for a Bit of Bond, James Bond

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The National Watch and Clock Museum in Lancaster County, Pa. (90 miles west of Philadelphia), is nearly 40 years old and has a prime collection of nearly 12,000 watch, clock and related items on display. It is recognized as the largest and most comprehensive horological collection in North America, and regularly organizes unusual traveling and special exhibits – including pieces from around the world.

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Currently, the Museum is setting up micro exhibits that examine specific topics in a concise manner.  The most recent Micro Exhibit features watches worn by James Bond, including the “original” — Ian Fleming’s Rolex. The guest curator of the exhibit is James Bond expert Dell Deaton. Among the 007 pieces on display are fantastic timepieces worn by the character of James Bond in print and on film, and some additional gadgets.

Running until December 2014 is a bigger exhibit titled “Abracadabra: Magic Mystery Clocks.” The exhibit will consist of some of the most incredible mystery clocks (a clock that has no visible means of connecting a movement to the hands that track the hours and minutes). Some of the most famous mystery clocks are thought to have been inspired and built by famous French clockmaker Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin. It is thought that the famed Houdini illusionist took his stage name from the clockmaker. This exhibit is not to be missed. So if you are planning a trip to PA, be sure plan a side trip to the town of Colombia scenic Lancaster County.

www.nawcc.org

 

 

 

 

Mark Man 6.30 Introducing the Hublot Watch for Evening Wear

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Hublot Classic Fusion Tourbillon Night Out

Hublot is a brand synonymous with bold new watches. From its Big Bang to Big Bang complications and even the complex La Ferrari, the brand goes for oversized luxury. Until now.

The all new Classic Fusion Tourbillon Night Out is a crisp clean pitch-black watch, complete with flying tourbillon escapement. It’s simple, yet complicated; classic, but cutting edge.

Designed as an “evening watch,” the 45mm polished black ceramic case features a black lacquered dial set with baguette diamonds and a large aperture at 6:00 to view the flying tourbillon. The in-house developed movement, HUB6010, is visible via a transparent sapphire case back.

The black calfskin strap is attached to rubber for ultimate comfort and elegance. Just 30 pieces of this watch will ever be made. This could be all the man in a tux needs.

MARKHAM, MANFREDI

HOR 6.23 Ulysse Nardin Brings the Year of the Horse to the Wrist

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The Ulysse Nardin Classico Horse features an individually hand-enameled dial.

For those who know this brand, you know that Ulysse Nardin offers some of the most beautifully executed enamel champlevé dials in the world. But with its recently released Classico Horse watch, the brand takes the field of elegant enamel work to a new level.

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Celebrating the Year of the Horse, Ulysse Nardin will create just 88 pieces of this stunning beauty.

The Classico Horse watch was first conceived of to celebrate the Chinese Year of the Horse — which it does beautifully. But this watch has such wide appeal thnks to the rendering of the horses — the image of two stallions galloping along in untamed beauty on the dial truly captures the independent spirit of these beasts. A white horse and a black horse –each outlined and accented in gold across a rich midnight blue and green background – offer incredibly lifelike appeal.

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The champleve enamel work, wherein the dial is chiseled away and enamel is painted into place, offers incredible depth and dimension.

The hand enameled dials are individually created  at the brand’s Donze Cadrans manufacture. Each unique dial requires dozens of paintings and firings before reaching completion – with the chance for damage at every step. The 40mm COSC-certified chronometer watch houses the self-winding UN-815 movement — visible through a sapphire caseback. Just 88 pieces will ever be made. If you miss out on this one, just stop by to see a  sampling of stunning Ulysse Nardin watches with other enamel dials.

HOROLOGIO

MAN 6.19 Peter Speake-Marin Introduces the Spirit Wing Commander

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Peter Speake-Marin Spirit Wing Commander

Peter Speake-Marin is one of today’s more creative independent master watchmakers. With dozens of ideas and a humble nature, he is at once charming and intuitive and ignites a passion for traditional watchmaking in today’s world. His designs always encompass traditional watchmaking appeal, but with a thoroughly proprietary approach that is his signature. Now, he brings a new dimension to the forefront with the bold and sporty Spirit Wing Commander big date watch with power reserve indicator and “topping tool” seconds wheel.

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Profile of the Spirit Wing Commander by Speake-Marin.

The watch, with titanium case, is both retro and visionary. Inspired by the British military, the Spirit Wing Commander is one highly legible instrument. To begin with, it features a multi-layered dial that is specially constructed using a three-dimensional mould that was created to generate a negative mould, wherein the lacquer and luminous materials could be applied by hand. When the materials set, the one-piece dial is removed from the mould and bonded to the dial plate.

The central hours and minutes hands are packed with Super-Luminova to glow green in the dark. It is also equipped with a white lacquered seconds wheel at 9:00 (created in the shape of the Speake-Marin topping tool icon), and a power reserve indicator at 6:00 that offers a fuel-gauge-like display. The display offers a bright white Super-Luminova when complete wound, turning black when half-full, and then red when it is running on empty and needs to be wound. Ingenious and intriguing.

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Engraved caseback of the titanium Spirit Wing Commander.

The watch is equipped with the automatic Caliber 1024SPM with 48 hours of power reserve.  Engraved on the caseback – in typical Speake-Marin style – are the words “Fight, Love & Persevere.”

Understanding the Process of Making Mother-of-Pearl Dials

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Sowind Mother of pearl dial disks being readied for work. Photo by patriceschreyer.com.

Many watches today feature mother-of-pearl shell as dials. These shimmering orbs offer a clean, classic and elegant appeal. However,  mother of pearl is not an easy substance to work with. It is quite brittle and ultra thin when used as a dial, and breakage can easily occur.

Depending on the complexity of the dial, the entire production process easily takes anywhere from a month to six weeks and involves 15 different artisan steps. As such, they are predominantly made by companies that specialize in working with the shell. Typically, a dial maker with a strong team of approximately two dozen skilled makers can still only produce about 5,000 top-quality mother-of-pearl dials annually.

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Inspecting a disk

The process really begins with the actual selection of the shells,  especially at the high end of the watchmaking spectrum. Top-quality shells come in extra-bright white hues and hail from Australia and other parts of the Pacific Ocean and exotic seas.

Once the shells have been selected, they are crushed and then precisely machined into thin sheets that are typically 0.2mm in thickness. From these mother-of-pearl sheets, perfect round orbs or specifically shaped pieces are precisely cut by CNC machines. These disks will then be used as the  watch dial.

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Inlaying of mother of pearl and gold for marquetry dials. Photo by patriceschreyer.com.

Because of the complexity involved in creating the sheets and the disks, many dial makers buy the disks already cut and start the work from there.  At this point, moving forward, the majority of the dial work is done by hand.  Each dial orb is carefully inspected and then the further beautification of the dial begins.

Mother-of-pearl dials can be engraved or finished with all sorts of patterns from traditional sunray to decorative motifs. This is all delicately done by hand on either the dial front or back depending on the design.

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Applying color to the dial back of a Girard-Perregaux dial. Photo by patriceschreyer.com.

Dials can be enhanced in color by painting, varnishing or lacquering the back of the mother of pearl. Generally, mother of pearl has a milky white luster, however it can be found with a natural pearlescent hue in pale blue, pink, gray and brown. Polishing is an important step, as it brings out the natural luster of the shell.

Generally, numerals and markers are then inked onto the dial, or cut-outs are made on the dial for the setting of gemstones or applied indices. Further embellishments, including the hands or any diamond accents, are added last. The finished work of art then moves to its rightful place on the watch.