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Haute Horlogerie Discussion

Discussion area for watches, clocks and all other timekeepers.
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Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel

#106

Post by sistem_32 » Sat Jul 27, 2019 7:58 pm

As I mentioned in my last post, the original Royal Oak was designed by Genta in 1970. The anecdote is that he designed it overnight so that AP could present his design at Baselworld the next day. At the time there was no such thing as a luxury sports watch, so the Royal Oak, with its sporty design and stainless case, was a revolution. Since then the Royal Oak line has expanded to encompass pretty much every kind of watch you could imagine, from grand complications to wild contemporary sport watches. Perhaps the most innovative model, horologically speaking anyway, is the Double Balance Wheel.

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Unlike many other watches fitted with two balance wheels (such as this one and this one), which mount them on the same plane, the AP mounts them on the same axis, which gives it an advantage. Once the balance wheels have fallen into a self-regulating state of resonance and are oscillating together, they effectively act as a single oscillator with double the mass. This yields greater stability and therefore greater precision. Now, you would think that the obvious drawback would be a vastly increased thickness, but in fact the Double Balance Wheel is half a centimeter thinner than a standard Royal Oak. Go figure.

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The biggest problem might be that the design is rather conflicted. It's an openworked haute horlogerie piece in the case of a sports watch, a bit like a skeletonized submariner. Frankly I think it's kind of ugly. On top of that, it's double the price of a regular Royal Oak with the only differences being the escapement and the skeletonization. In fact, it beats at 4 Hz instead of 5. A gyp if you ask me, albeit a precise one.
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Re: Haute Horlogerie Discussion

#107

Post by yinzburgher » Sat Jul 27, 2019 10:50 pm

Thanks for the post. I feel like I shouldn't like this quite so much for the reasons you mention......but I do. Here's a video from AP. It only increases the wanting.

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Ludovic Ballouard

#108

Post by sistem_32 » Sun Jul 28, 2019 6:42 pm

I was reminded of Ludovic Ballouard while scrolling through a Phillips auction. He founded his brand in 2009 and so far has produced two very innovative watches, both from a horological and a design standpoint. His first watch is called the "Upside Down."

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In that photo the watch is set to 10:10. As you can see, the disk showing the current hour is the only one facing right side up. When the central minute hand reaches the twelve again, the ten disk will flip back upside down and the eleven disk will flip right side up. The disks are controlled by a Geneva drive mechanism (here's an animation of how it works).

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Here's a video with some footage of its operation. I think it's a very attractive watch, and the disk design lends itself to some fun inlays.

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Ballouard's second watch, which he released in 2012, is called "Half Time." It uses a very clever (and attractive) digital hours mechanism that splits each numeral into top and bottom.

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The inner ring rotates clockwise and the outer ring rotates counter-clockwise. Its homepage (here) features a sort of animation that shows you how it operates.

I really like these watches. They're completely original, not overcomplicated, and very well executed. I look forward to seeing where Mr. Ballouard goes from here.
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Re: Haute Horlogerie Discussion

#109

Post by PetWatch » Sun Jul 28, 2019 9:51 pm

^^ The dot by the digit on the top one and the top marker conjunction on the lower one make it work, but specially that "Upside Down" would drive me nuts until it flips my brain upside down.
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Re: Haute Horlogerie Discussion

#110

Post by sistem_32 » Tue Jul 30, 2019 12:06 pm

I stumbled across this outstanding Patek pocket watch in another auction. Produced in 1980, it's one of the best skeletonizations I've come across. You can really see exactly how the movement works. The red hands make them suspect that the watch is unique, as the other known examples have black hands.
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Patek_Front.png (1.09 MiB) Viewed 386 times
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Patek.png (1.14 MiB) Viewed 386 times
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Patek_Back.PNG (1.56 MiB) Viewed 386 times
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Re: Haute Horlogerie Discussion

#111

Post by sistem_32 » Wed Jul 31, 2019 5:42 pm

Here's a novelty: a quartz watch from an haute horlogerie brand. Some would say that such a thing is sacrilegious, but I think that, done right, it can be fun. I've written about one other quartz watch here, the Ressence Type 2. At $50,000, I think that watch is an overpriced gimmick. The F.P. Journe Elégante, however, I can get behind. It's still pricey (about $10,000), but it also isn't your ordinary quartz watch.

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The little rotor at the four monitors whether or not the watch is in motion. If the watch is stationary for more than 30 minutes it goes into "standby mode" in order to conserve power. Once it's picked up again it resets itself to the correct time. Journe claims this allows it to last up to 18 years on one battery.

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Watch auctioneer Aurel Bacs, who has sold such lots as Paul Newman's Paul Newman, bought an Elégante earlier this year. I think that says a lot about the range of its appeal. Its good looks are also undeniable, especially if you're a lumaholic.

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Re: Haute Horlogerie Discussion

#112

Post by ManOnTime » Wed Jul 31, 2019 6:06 pm

Wild!
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Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor

#113

Post by sistem_32 » Sun Aug 04, 2019 2:31 pm

Roger Dubuis is a very interesting and very contemporary brand founded in 1995. They don't make a single "normal" looking watch and they have a partnership with Lamborghini. Their most crazy, wild, extreme watch (with a name to match) is the "Excalibur Quatuor CarTech Micro-Melt BioDur CCM®."

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As you can see, it has four escapements. The rates of each of these are averaged by two differentials to produce a very accurate overall rate. Of course, this means that the watch requires four times more power than a regular one to operate for the same amount of time. To this end it's equipped with three more differentials, one to connect the two barrels, one to distribute energy to the top two barrels, and one for the bottom two. All of this only yields 40 hours of power reserve.

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This beast of a movement is composed of 590 components, a whopping 113 of which are jewels. It also carries a big footprint, measuring in at 37.7mm in diameter and 10.6mm thick. That's just the movement, mind you--the watch as a whole measures 48mm in diameter.

I'm always disappointed when a brand releases a watch like this one, the exclusive purpose of which is accuracy, and doesn't actually publish how accurate it is. All RD have said about this watch is that it's certified to within one minute per seven days, or about +/-8.6 seconds per day, and that it has no problem satisfying this rate. I must say that if I was to buy a $1.1 million watch designed over the course of seven years to be as accurate as possible, I would be somewhat disappointed with this level of accuracy. I guess I could take solace in driving around my Lamborghini.
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DeWitt Academia Endless Drive

#114

Post by sistem_32 » Sun Aug 04, 2019 6:20 pm

DeWitt is another very contemporary brand, founded in 2003 by Jérôme de Witt, a white-bearded venerable old gentleman, very proud of his Napoleonic heritage. They produce many outlandish pieces, most notably their "Academia Slide," but I think their "Academia Endless Drive" might be more interesting. It uses an Archimedes screw to drive two disks displaying hours and minutes.

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Although it's radically different from a traditional movement, the system strikes me as very elegant. For example, the power reserve indicator at the twelve is more or less built in, as it's simply part of the Archimedes screw, which gradually moves down as the watch unwinds. Although it isn't mentioned on the DeWitt website, the system appears to have been inspired by the prop shaft of a car, judging by the road running through the dial.

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Speaking of the DeWitt website, whoever writes their copy certainly has a flair for the melodramatic. Here's an excerpt from their description of the movement: "The curves of the screw in unidirectional movement denote an irreversible rotation that fascinates the observer and serves as an allegory for time itself." Poetic.
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Re: Haute Horlogerie Discussion

#115

Post by PetWatch » Sun Aug 04, 2019 9:55 pm

I must say that the "Excalibur Quatuor CarTech Micro-Melt BioDur CCM®." is no match for a Lamborghini, but the two together would be a match made in heaven.

I agree about absence of accuracy claims in many of these haute horology watches, totally unexpected. I think watches at this level are more about their unique and astonishing technical wizardry, accuracy exempted, than even aesthetics.

"Academia Endless Drive". Your concise analogy to a road running across the dial sold me, not so their melodramatic attempt at poetry.
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Zenith Defy El Primero Double Tourbillon

#116

Post by sistem_32 » Wed Aug 07, 2019 2:52 pm

It may not be as outlandish as the last two pieces, but the Zenith Defy El Primero Double Tourbillon cuts out a pretty spectacular chronograph.

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It's effectively an expansion on the regular Defy El Primero, which uses a very interesting trick to offer a 1/100 of a second chronograph. It's fitted with two escapements, one for the regular time display which beats at 5 Hz (36,000 VpH) and one for the chronograph, which beats at an incredible 50 Hz. This second escapement is inactive until the chronograph is activated, when it springs into life, oscillating too quickly to be seen. The Defy El Primero Double Tourbillon, as its name suggests, adds to this system by mounting each escapement in its own tourbillon cage.

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The running chronograph is a sight to behold. A higher quality (albeit shorter) clip of it running can be found here. This gif is in real time, to be clear.

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Strangely enough, a lot of commenters under the Hodinkee and Monochrome articles on the Double Tourbillon strongly disapprove of the watch. Some excerpts: "This is not Zenith, and will go down in history as another decade of failure..." "Bleh. Another JCB [Jean-Claude Biver] monstrosity." "Ridiculous piece and price. Just because you can design it on your laptop doesn’t mean it should fabricated." I don't see what the fuss is about. On the one hand the chronograph's tourbillon probably isn't all that useful, but on the other hand I think it's a very attractive watch, if a bit oversized, that displays great technical know-how and innovation. What do you think?
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Re: Haute Horlogerie Discussion

#117

Post by PetWatch » Thu Aug 08, 2019 12:28 am

Awesome.

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Reuge Singing Bird Boxes

#118

Post by sistem_32 » Thu Aug 15, 2019 8:38 pm

I've previously written about the Jaquet Droz Charming Bird, which features a miniature singing bird automaton capable of spinning round on its perch, moving its wings and beak, and chirping. This style of automaton goes back to about 1785 and was in fact invented by Pierre Jaquet-Droz himself. They're traditionally housed in small boxes but have also been adapted to fit in pistols. Here's some very pleasing footage of a project undertaken by Parmigiani Fleurier to restore a brace of such pistols. Anyway, the art of the singing bird box has more or less disappeared over the years, due, I suspect, to a global shortage of royalty. Founded in 1865, Reuge is one of the only companies I know of to still produce them, along with various other musical mechanisms. Here is an example of one of their modern boxes:

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It's quite a fun mechanism with many oddly shaped bits. Here's an article about it from the Naked Watchmaker and here's a video of its performance. As fascinating as it is now, imagine what it must have seemed like 200 years ago. An absolute essential for the "hostess with the mostest" of antiquity.

But has there been no progression since the eighteenth century? As a matter of fact there has, thanks to a collaboration between Reuge, MB&F, and one Nicholas Court. In 2017 they released an automaton called "Kelys & Chirp," a singing bird on the back of a tortoise.

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The singing bird mechanism is quite similar to the more traditional one pictured above, except that the bird retracts automatically when pressure is applied to it to prevent damage.

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Mr. Court's contribution was the development of a system to animate the tortoise. Altogether the pair makes quite a joyous spectacle: "Kelys...moves in a realistic tortoise-like gait with his head moving slowly side-to-side, his movements all in synchronicity with Chirp." Here's a video highlighting bits of the manufacturing process and showing the pair performing.

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Re: Reuge Singing Bird Boxes

#119

Post by yinzburgher » Thu Aug 15, 2019 11:17 pm

sistem_32 wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 8:38 pm
Anyway, the art of the singing bird box has more or less disappeared over the years, due, I suspect, to a global shortage of royalty.
This really made me laugh. I may see if I can volunteer for such a role. Also, the subjects of this thread regularly amaze me but but the video of the "bird gun" completely blew my mind. I would have never guessed such a thing existed.
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L'Epée Time Fast D8

#120

Post by sistem_32 » Fri Aug 16, 2019 3:06 pm

On the subject of objets d'art I thought I'd mention my favorite desk clock, the L'Epée Time Fast D8. It's modeled on a vintage racing car, with its various functions loosely mapped to the car's corresponding features. It is set, for instance, by turning the steering wheel, and wound by pulling the car backwards across the table, not unlike one of those pull-back toy cars which is then propelled across the floor with much hilarity. Fully wound it has a power reserve of eight days, hence the name.

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The escapement is housed in the **** under a blown glass dome which has, according to L'Epée's website, been machined. I'm not sure how one might machine glass, but it seems appropriate to the theme.

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The body is cast of iron, giving it a solid heft at about 5 kg, and painted with automotive paint, a nice touch. I must say, though, that judging by the picture above their masking could use a bit of work.

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It's another of those playful items that just make you smile. I especially like that the winding mechanism forces you to play with it. I can imagine some executive in his office high over New York happily pushing around his desk clock. A nice image. Here's some real footage of the clock, sadly executive-free.
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