Friday, September 21, 2018

What Interstellar, the Movie, Has to Say about the Future of Watches

by Rob Mawyer

Christopher’s Nolan’s 2014 film Interstellar is about quantum physics and space travel and love and mankind’s will to explore and discover, but it’s also a movie about watches. I love movies with huge high-stakes set pieces and stories about fathers and families, and Interstellar has both of those in spades, but more often than not when I rewatch the film these days I find myself thinking about watches and how they might function in the dystopian future we seem hell-bent on creating for future generations.
If you’ve seen the movie, you know that the entire plot hinges awesomely on a secret message encoded onto a Hamilton watch, specifically a sharp-looking black Khaki Automatic that Jessica Chastain’s character Murph puzzles over in the back half of the film. Murph finds the watch in a box in her childhood home, currently owned by her brother. It was a gift to her from her father, Cooper, played by Matthew McConaughey.
Hamilton's marvelous Khaki Automatic,
nicknamed the Murph Watch.
The second hand of the Murph Watch allowed
Jessica Chastain’s character to solve the problem
 of gravity. The watch also collected a lot of dust.
The thing about Hamilton's black Khaki Automatic and the message hidden in the movements of its second hand is that McConaughey’s character Cooper, an ace pilot, has been recruited to fly a team of scientists to an entirely different galaxy via an inter-dimensional wormhole in search of planets that might be hospitable to human life. Earth is dying, see. A blight is killing crops slowly, one by one, with each passing season. Barely anything works anymore, and food scarcity requires most able-bodied folks to take up farming, despite the dying crops, which is why we find McConaughey’s Cooper at the beginning of the movie is working a family farm rather than doing what he was born to do—fly. Mankind is on its ass, in other words, and Cooper needs to do his small part to save it, so he agrees to pilot the mission to the wormhole and whatever might exist through (and beyond) it.

Friday, September 14, 2018

My Astro Boy Watch and Some Thoughts about Fun Watches

Fun is part of watch collecting. 
Even somebody who enjoys steak wants a BLT every now and then.

The same is true for watches. Even if you're a Patek, Omega or Rolex dress watch kind of person, you probably want -- and should have -- a fun watch.

I have a watch that's built for fun. Enter my Astro Boy Watch, which I bought from Japan's JR Railway catalog for a little under $400. This limited edition watch is no longer available, though like most watches you'll eventually find one on eBay or at a second hand watch store.

I've got Breitling, Omega, Rolex, Grand Seiko, and some minor planets, too, but I'm going to be wearing only my Astro Boy watch for the foreseeable future. The Astro Boy watch is playful. It's colorful and curious. It's retro, nostalgic, and 37 mm of pure automatic watch joy.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Grand Seiko Snowflake v. Omega Planet Ocean v. Rolex Oyster Perpetual

If there's any truth at all to the expression, "the devil is in the details," it's true for Grand Seiko's Snowflake, a watch for which the details are the main event.

And if the movie line, "there can be only one," means anything, it means one watch towers above its rivals, and that watch is also the Grand Seiko Snowflake.

Rumors swirl among watch reviews and YouTube videos about how Grand Seiko holds beauty above all else. Except perhaps for precision, reliability, and perfection, because it's part of Seiko's mindset, part of Seiko's DNA that these elements are equal and inseparable. Like designing a spacecraft for a mission to the edge of the solar system, everything inside and outside of Grand Seiko must be flawless.

Perfection is a quest, perhaps never obtainable because everything made by humans is flawed just like we are, but essential to pursue nonetheless because one day the gap between imperfection and perfection will be imperceivable.

The Grand Seiko Snowflake's hands, which hover magically over the dial, were made by and for fairies to fight their battles -- and with the Snowflake's razor sharp dauphine hands, victory is as certain as the sunrise. Of that I am sure.

Which brings me to this article's main event: the Snowflake's hands. I'll let the pictures speak the words, but you'll see what I see: The precision and polish, and the unity of design are far greater with the Grand Seiko Snowflake than it is with the Omega Planet Ocean or Rolex Oyster Perpetual. When it comes to details the Grand Seiko Snowflake is number one.

Grand Seiko Snowflake, photo by Ákos Balog

Omega Planet Ocean, photo by Ákos Balog

Rolex Oyster Perpetual, photo by Ákos Balog

The Japanese quest for perfection, for harmony between what's man-made and created by nature isn't an obsession. It's an elemental part of Japanese culture and history, inseparable from Japan as breathing is from living. This quest is reflected in the ancient arts of sword making and the modern art of making watches.  And the pleasure is all ours.

Photos by Ákos Balog by way of the Grand Seiko Owners ClubÁkos Balog is the owner of  PhenomeNato Straps.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Grand Seiko's First Quartz GMT

A Better Wrist's Watch Briefs are a short articles to whet your appetite for great watches. 

The +/- 5 seconds a year Grand Seiko 9F GMT
This is the it watch, the watch that's got people lining up outside the doors of Grand Seiko boutiques even though it won't be available until January 2019. Introducing the Grand Seiko Sport Collection GMT.

Grand Seiko engineered their incomparable 9F quartz movement to offer unparalleled accuracy for both the primary time and an independently settable GMT hour hand. Grand Seiko took their 9F86 movement, which is accurate to within 10 seconds a year, and upped the game to make this watch accurate to +/- 5 seconds a year. 

These new GMT watches will come in three different styles with different color accents, each 39mm. Only the yellow, limited edition version has this heighted accuracy. The other two Grand Seiko Sport Collection GMTs will be accurate to +/- 10 seconds a year. 

The yellow toned Grand Seiko GMT will be available in a limited edition in the fall of 2018, with the other two models available in January 2019. 

Visit here for more information

Friday, August 31, 2018

Your Casio G-Shock May Stop Working in 2019

From Ft. Collins, Colorado, WWV broadcasts a time signal that’s synced with an atomic clock, which gives radio-controlled watches and clocks uncanny accuracy.

But that’s no big deal in the internet age where our phones are synced nearly perfectly with our cell phone networks, and where GPS time signals are accurate to 40 nanoseconds.

If the NIST proposed budget is approved,
radio-controlled watches like this Casio G-shock
Sky Cockpit will no longer automatically set
the time in 2019. 
It’s no big deal, too, because accuracy is only a quartz watch away: You can strap a Grand Seiko quartz watch to your wrist — a beautiful creature that’s accurate to within ten seconds a year. Or you can wear a Longines Conquest V.H.P., accurate to within five seconds a year, a Breitling Superquartz, boasting plus or minus ten seconds a year, a Citizen Chronomaster, which doesn’t deviate by more than five seconds a year, or a Bulova Curv, which will keep you on track to within ten seconds a year, and call it a day. There are awesomely accurate quartz watches for the taking.

You can also buy a GPS watch, like the Seiko Astron. The Astron not only keeps perfect time because it’s synchronized with GPS time, but it automatically changes the hour when you change time zones. How clever is that.

But there are drawbacks to these watches. They’re generally expensive. The Bulova Curv costs over $500, and both the Citizen Chronomaster and Grand Seikos can lighten your wallet by thousands of dollars. High accuracy quartz watches and GPS watches also tend to be large.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Seiko’s Famous SKX007

by Rob Mawyer

If you’re in the market for a new car, you have an important question to answer: Am I looking to turn heads? Or am I looking for something that gets the job done? Often, the purchase of a watch boils down to that same fundamental quandary. Seiko’s famous SKX007, the quintessential beater, probably won’t draw many looks your way, but, having worn one nearly each day for a year, I can attest that it will hold up to nearly anything you put it through.

SKX007 Vitals

  • Diameter: 42.5 mm (45.5 including the crown)
  • Lug-to-Lug: 45 mm
  • Case Material: Stainless Steel
  • Movement: Seiko Caliber 7S26
  • Price: Approximately $200 USD (rubber diver band)
  • Type: Diver’s

Seiko SKX007 bezel, chapter ring, and face.
In person, the SKX007 is stout but undeniably handsome. This impression derives from a large stainless steel case beneath a steel unidirectional bezel painted black with white numerals and indicators. On the bezel, dots mark minutes-elapsed up to 60, while hashes and Arabic numerals mark five- and ten-minute increments, respectively. A luminescent pearl is embedded in the triangle zero marker. The screw-down crown, located at 4 o’clock, is flanked by unobtrusive, rounded steel guards. The beveled chapter ring provides nice depth, complementing the matte black face, which is by far the watch’s most attractive feature. ISO 6425 compliant, the minute and hour hands and hour indices are well-lumed, and a luminous ball on the opposing side of the second hand indicates the watch is functioning. The SKX007 has a day-date complication at the three o’clock position. The caliber 7S26 movement cannot be hand wound and is not hackable. Finally, the watch is protected by Seiko’s proprietary Hardlex crystal, and the case back is stainless steel and branded with a tsunami wave.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Audemars Piguet Shop Robbed in Paris; NYC Gym Locker Watch Thefts

An Audemars Piguet store was robbed in Paris, with about 1 million euros of watches stolen.

There's more information about this robbery here.

Meanwhile, in New York City, watch thieves are targeting gym lockers. Rolexes, Audemars Piguets, Tags, and Patek Philippes have been among the targets. One exerciser returned to his locker only to find his $24,000 Audemars Piguet gone.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Luch Slow Watch

I want to recommend a watch that costs less that $50, has a movement of unknown pedigree, isn’t made in a country that’s known for watches (it’s from Belarus), looks a bit odd, and will never increase in value.

That watch is the Luch one-hand watch.

A one-hand watch, also called a slow watch, is a watch with one hand that’s neither an hour nor a minute hand, but a little of each. It tells time through a single hand that points to the spot on the dial that shows both the hour and the minute. Telling the time on a one-hand may be disconcerting at first, but you get the hang it quickly. The time that’s being displayed in the photo below is 9:35:

Slow watches are refreshing and fun.
The large lines between the hour indicators show 15 minute intervals, and the smaller lines show five minute intervals.That’s all there is to telling the time with the Luch slow watch.

The Belarus Luch—whatever the movement is—is refreshingly accurate for such an inexpensive watch. The Luch has a copper shield above the movement, giving it a reasonable amount of resistance to magnetism.

The Luch comes in a variety of styles and colors, and you can find it on Amazon and eBay. Some of the models have a partially clear caseback. The flat crystal is pleasantly non-reflective.

The watch arrives with a drab, vanilla strap, but don’t let that stop you from being creative with straps. After all, this is no ordinary watch.

One-hand watches are a link to the past. Early pocket watches in the sixteenth century, and the tower clocks that preceded them, had only one hand. They are creatures of beauty.

Most watches are about knowing the time as exactly as possible. (how many threads are there on watch forums about watch accuracy?) But a slow watch offers perspective on time. It’s not about precision; it’s about making time move at a place that’s in harmony with the calmness you want to feel, and should feel.

I don't want to get all philosophical, because you’re here to read about watches and not relive your eleventh grade philosophy class, but trust me on this: If you make a slow watch your only timepiece for a few days—and for $45 what do you have to lose?—you’ll feel more in control of time, rather than the other way around. When you wear this watch while you're waiting at the doctor's office or standing in line at the DMV wondering when your turn is going to come, time seems to flow at a more tranquil pace. You’re less bothered, less impatient.

It’s not easy to read the exact minute on a slow watch, which is part of the point. And although it’s easy to learn to read a one-hand watch, it takes a second or two longer to decipher what time the watch is displaying than with a traditional watch. A quick glance won’t work. You have to spend more time looking at a slow watch. Who doesn’t want to look at their watch longer?

The MeisterSinger Lunascope is a
stunning watch. It's about $3,400.
Other companies make one-hand watches, but most are more expensive and larger, or use a quartz movement. But who am I to stop you from buying an even better one-hand watch, such as the MeisterSinger Lunascope moonphase?

Some reviewers say that one-hand watches are more minimalist than two-hand watches, but I disagree. Because they sport 144 five minute markers, the dials, clever and aesthetically pleasing as they are, look busy. The absence of a hand does not automatically make a watch minimalist.

Circling back to where this review began. I don’t care if your usual wrist fare is a gold Patek or a vintage Daytona. Your owe yourself to try something decisively different and which touches your subconscious in unexpected ways. Give the Luch a whirl. You only have $45 to lose.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

How to Insult a Watch Collector

Watch collectors are a tough crowd. We're thick-skinned like a Casio G-Shock and as tough as a Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea. We can take any punishment the world delivers to us even better than a Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Extreme LAB 2.

Who am I kidding? Watch enthusiasts aren’t strong at all. We wander through a melancholy fog every day because nobody notices our watches. We're hurt because not a soul asks us, "What time is it?" We're heartbroken when the birthday present from our twelve-year-old is a handmade paper owl, fashioned out of paper and love, rather than a Patek bought with allowance money. We’re devastated when somebody else in our office wears the same watch, but it’s the solid gold version.

If you really want to do damage to a watch collector's fragile ego, deploy one of the insults in this article They’ll sting, bite and turn the most hardened watch collector into a bowl of disassembled watch parts. One insult might be all it takes to rip us apart from watch collecting and hurl us to a new hobby, like collecting baseball bats. But just remember, if you insult a watch collector, your watch geek friend might never tell you the time again.

Good thing you're wearing a long-sleeve shirt with that watch.

You don't need a safe for that watch because nobody would want to steal it.

Your watch is off by 5 seconds.

"Your watch is inside out."
My boss, my cousin, and my cubicle colleague all have the exact same Submariner as you.

My bike cost more than your watch.

Your watch makes your face look big, and not in a good way.

Did your watch go to Freddy Krueger School of Beauty?

I got the same Rolex for $100 during my trip to China. Here—take a look!

Collecting watches is a shallow hobby.

That watch is awfully small. Is it a girl’s watch?

You're wearing a watch? What's the matter, you can't figure out how to use your phone?

Have you thought about replacing the sapphire crystal with lucite? Some scratches will add character to your watch.

But you're not a diver.

But you're not a pilot.

Oh, I'm sorry. I thought that was a Invicitia. But I see now that's it's a real Rolex.

You bought a watch winder? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

The vintage watch makes your wrist look fat.

Your watch looks just like my Stuhrling Original.

Your watch has a nice personality.

Your watch is so big it needs its own zip code.

I like your smartwatch's face! Oh, it's not a smartwatch?

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Royal Oak Or Nautilus? There Is A Cheaper Option, the Omega Constellation

by Frankie Gaffney

The Rolex Datejust is probably the most recognizable luxury watch of all time. But as soon as someone gets interested in watches in a serious way, their eyes are usually turned by one of two lesser-known icons: the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, or the Patek Philippe Nautilus. This is a function of the insatiability of our desires, always wanting something more and more unobtainable. And with prices starting at upwards of 10 and 20 grand respectively – for the most basic steel models – the Royal Oak and Nautilus are most definitely unobtainable for all but the wealthy.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
But there’s more to the enduring status of these watches than the branding and hefty price tag. Both are fixed-bezel sports-watches with integrated bracelets, textured dials, generous lume, a contrast of brushed and polished surfaces, superb in-house movements – and both have unique and instantly recognizable case and bracelet shapes. It is no coincidence both were designed by Gerald Genta.

It’s the rare combination of extremely high quality and practicality afforded by these features that lends these watches much of their desirability. The designs and construction are sturdy. They are waterproof (crucially that includes the bracelet, as dress-watches usually come on leather straps), they can take a knock, they have enough lume to be seen in the dark, and they are certainly not delicate in structure or appearance, like say, a Calatrava. Yet they remain elegant, wearing as well with a suit as with a tracksuit. Indeed, they have been described as bracelets which happen to have watches attached. And of course, given their distinctiveness, anyone “in-the-know” will recognize them as expensive status symbols.

But it is this price-tag which puts them out of the reach of most. So are there any cheaper alternatives? The most obvious contender is the Maurice Lacroix Aikon. It ticks many of the same boxes, and can be had for under $1000 (if you know where to look). But it falls short. I’d argue the design is derivative – both the bracelet and dial are a little too close to the Royal Oak for comfort. Unsurprisingly at this price-point, the movement is a third party Sellita. There is an open caseback, but little worth seeing. This all means that while the Aikon is excellent value, it has none of the cachet of the watches from which it takes its design cues.