Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Watch in a Watch

I was at a watch fair in Ginza, Tokyo last weekend. A guy showed me a photo of his watch (because, you know that's what we do at watch shows), and then this happened:

Friday, November 16, 2018

Watches and I: A Journey Into Watch Collecting

by Jeremy Xu

This is a first person account of one watch collector's journey in the world of watches. 

I’m still relatively new to watch collecting so I’m not going to try and impart technical knowledge about timepieces or offer tips about which watches are best. Rather, I’d like to share thoughts and feelings regarding my journey so far and how I got into the hobby in the first place.

The author's Omega
It would be impossible not to go back more than two decades to my early primary school days because that’s when my penchant for collecting things began. My paternal grandfather had a sizeable stamp collection and when I was seven, I followed him into the hobby. As an immunological researcher in communist China, he received and wrote letters to counterparts in many foreign countries. He used these correspondences to grow his stamp collection. I remember him speaking fondly of a Danish researcher he often traded letters with. He had no fewer than fifty stamps from the Scandinavian country. Although I stopped collecting stamps when I was ten, the experience taught me how to curate a collection. I would go to the library from time to time looking for reference books about stamps. My grandfather also had several old Chinese made manual-wind mechanical watches. I guess it was only a matter of time before I started collecting watches.

In my teens I began to play Magic the Gathering and naturally turned the game into a collection of cards. I still have most of them today. Proper care and preservation of the cards came naturally to me. It was here where value became important and proper research became vital. While I never bought any cards for speculation or investment, I also didn’t want to overpay for cards that might become worthless in the future.

Before 2018 I had never been a watch guy. When I was in grade school I hated wearing watches. I thought they were cumbersome. My father literally forced me to wear a Dickies watch everyday in sixth grade. He told me it was important to know the time. Beginning in junior high, I started using a cellphone and stopped strapping that annoying disk to my wrist. I didn’t wear another watch until I turned twenty five and started working. I spent about 150 dollars on a high quality Seiko quartz dress watch and wore it happily until I lost it. I then wore a Fossil quartz watch until I came to Japan. The first week at my new job, I promptly went to Bic Camera, a major retailer in Japan, and purchased a Seiko Solar quartz from their Dolce collection. It still performs admirably a year and a half later.

As for my transition to mechanical and automatic watches: I was hanging out with some friends in Shimo-Kitazawa this past in January.  We wandered into a Hard Off store. They sell mostly second instruments and electronics. This one happened to have a few cases of used watches. I spotted a used Oficina del Tempo in the back for a shade under 39,000 yen, about $340. I liked the styling of the case and the fact it had an exhibition caseback, a see-through glass back. It had a classical dial design, but I now know a 44mm watch is a little too big for me. I didn’t understand the intricacies of automatic movements at the time, but I thought it was just the coolest thing to see parts of the watch’s internal workings. It was my first automatic watch and the most expensive piece up to that point.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A Fashion Watch Emergency?

Let's say you forgot to wear a watch. By the time you're at the office, your heart rate's accelerated to supersonic speed, your stomach is making acid like it's a chemistry lab, and you can't focus: The world looks like it's at the end of a long, dark tunnel.

How did I do that? What's the matter with me? Will I be able to last until I get home? 

A coworker graciously offers you his extra watch to wear for the day, but it's a Fossil, Daniel Wellington, or Michael Kors.

Do you accept his offer, go watchless for the day, or run to the nearest authorized dealer and buy a Rolex, Omega -- anything to return you to your normal, calm and happy condition?

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Truth About Watch Winders

Is a watch winder a good idea? Is it healthy for your watches? Or will a watch winder prematurely age your watches?

There are generally three reasons why collectors use watch winders:

Juvo watch winder: Both practical and art.
Keeping your many watches wound without a winder removes a layer of skin from your fingertips. (Though we should all be so lucky.)

You have three to four automatic watches that you rotate on a daily basis, and which you want to keep wound and ready to go. (As in the President of the United States might want to meet with you for your advice and counsel on the spur of the moment, so you need to keep your watches running with the correct time all the time.)

You have a watch with a complication that’s a pain in the neck to set on a regular basis, such as a perpetual calendar, annual calendar, or weird moonphase. It’s just easier to keep those hard-to-set watches on the correct time with a winder.

One reason not to use a winder is to keep your watch synchronized to the correct time. Most mechanical watches will likely lose considerable time over weeks (unless it’s a Seiko Spring Drive url tk), regardless of whether they’re in a winder. It just doesn’t make much sense to keep your watches ticking in their winders for the sole purpose of keeping time. A watch winder won’t keep your automatic watches set correctly; you’ll do a better job by hand.

Keeping watches in winders also increases the risk of damaging your watches or grinding down your watches’ innermost parts [link to previous article], and may send you to your watchmaker sooner than you expected. A watch that’s always running is constantly wearing out gears and other parts.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Have You Ever Dreamed about Watches?

Photo by Masakazu Matsumoto
Have you ever had a dream in which a watch played a leading role?

I had one the other night. I was at a meeting of government officials. Everyone was wearing trench coats. The police arrived and arrested several people at the meeting for accepting bribes in the form of Rolexes.

One of the police officers asked, "Out of curiosity, does anyone else have a Rolex?" A hundred or so hands were raised, each of which displayed a Submariner.

Somebody who posted on a Watchuseek forum said he dreamed that his Omega Speedmaster was stolen, even though he doesn't have a Speedy. Another collector dreamed his $2,000 Stowa's crystal was scratched, a dream that was so realistic he checked his watch in the middle of the night. Still other watch enthusiasts have had anxiety dreams about delayed FedEx and DHL watch shipments.

If you dream about watches that makes your normal...for a watch enthusiast.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Service Your Watch...Or Else!

How often should I service my watch?
The basic principle is “the more you use it, the more it wear down.” If your watch is ticking, its parts will wear, and if you find your watch is losing more than fifteen seconds a day, it’s overdue for a good cleaning and oiling.
Portrait of a watchmaker by Richard.
Licenced through Creative Commons.
If your watch hasn’t been serviced since the Beatles were touring then it’s definitely time.
Your watch’s instruction manual will have a recommended service interval. This recommendation assumes you are wearing your watch daily, something few of us get to do because most of us have a collection we rotate around—unless you stick all your watches on a 24/7 rotating watch-winder, which is not a good idea. The recommended service interval serves as a guide rather than a rule.
That said, if your watch has been sitting idle for months, chances are the lubricants have hardened, and you also risk damaging your watch’s parts. Even synthetic oil can gum up. The candle burns from both ends when it comes to watch wear and tear. So give your watch a good winding every six to eight weeks. If your watch has been idle for more than two years, please get it cleaned before letting it tick-tock.
A modern Rolex is extremely robust and its parts do have higher wear tolerance than most other watch brands. The in-house synthetic lubricants modern Rolexes use also last much longer than most other brands. Modern Rolexes stand apart from any other watch brands we know of today. But a modern Rolex will still wear, depending on how one uses it. No watch is Superman.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Watch Collector's Halloween Story

Fiona Kruger Celebration Skull to
celebrate Halloween, but her
Entropy watch may be more
appropriate for this story. 

A watch collector’s most terrifying horror story in one sentence:

Steve kissed his fingers before resting them on his Patek’s crystal, as if saying a final goodbye, while he watched the television anchor speak solemnly, "Scientists are baffled by the inexplicable and unforeseen speeding up of the earth’s rotation from 24 to 22 hours a day, rendering all the world’s clocks suddenly useless."

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Grand Seiko's Art Show, The Flow of Time

I went to a Tokyo art show by Grand Seiko over the weekend, called The Flow of Time. The show presented watch parts from Grand Seiko's Spring Drive watch movement inside glass vases in front of a enthralling landscape of light and sound.

I've always believed that the Spring Drive living inside Grand Seiko watches is a technology that will be invented in the year 2030, and somehow arrived in our here and now. The show's theme is that time does not tick in discrete intervals. Time flows smoothly, like a Spring Drive's second hand.
The show was beautiful, a treat for the eyes and soul. There's more information about The Flow of Time exhibit (which has closed) here.

And some photos and videos below to enjoy:

Friday, October 26, 2018

Swiss Versus Chinese Movements, Which Wins?

by Francis Jacquerye

How do Chinese movements compare to Swiss movements? I can answer that question from having personally used in production and fine-tuned different mechanical movements: the Seagull ST-1901, Miyota 8217, Miyota 9015, ETA 2824-2 and ETA 7750.

Siduna calibre 13, based on the ETA 7750
The one thing that Japan and Swiss movements deliver, and that I have not yet seen in movements from China is consistent quality.

If you take a basic ETA 7750, the level of surface finishing is something that China will not have problems matching or exceeding. When it comes to alloys, they use slightly weaker ones, so they tend to compensate by making parts a little bit thicker.

Where they fail, however, is in delivering consistency. You can assemble 1,000 ETA 2824-2s and the percentage of defect during outgoing quality control or on the customer’s wrist will be in the one digit percent range.

With mass-produced Japanese movements the rate will be slightly higher but still one digit.

Switch to Chinese movements and suddenly your defect rate is in the double digit percentages -- and I mean significant two digits like 30% or 50%.

I am not bashing China movements. I have fine-tuned dozens of Seagull ST-1901s; their balance springs performed as well as that of an ETA 2892-A2. (Independent Swiss watch companies might even take in consideration sourcing balance springs in China since they can produce quality.)

There is nothing wrong with single Chinese components, but there are serious shortcomings when there are assembled because they can fail to work together.

Played out on an industrial scale this means that every single watch with a Chinese movement should be individually checked and regulated, which would defeat the whole cost saving expectation with mass production.

Many reviews of Chinese mechanical movements by professionals also point out the inadequate oiling: either too little oil, which fails to fulfil its purpose and causes the parts to wear out faster, or too much oil, which will attract dust and dry up faster.

Buying a watch with a Chinese movement is like flipping a coin: heads and you get a trouble-free watch, tails and you end up with a few sleepless nights. But you never know how the coin will land before you buy that watch.


Former Longines chief designer Francis Jacquerye now manages SIDUNA urmanufaktur, mechanical watches made with passion. You can read his article about chronographs on Medium.

This article originally appeared in a different form on WatchUSeek

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Painting a Franck Muller Dial

How is a fabulous Franck Muller dial painted? Other than carefully?

Here's the answer:

I took this video at a watch fair in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. Franck Muller transported a watch dial artist from Switzerland to Tokyo for the fair. I've never seen anyone which such steady hands.