Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Icarus Revisited

Point of full disclosure -

I made the decision over a year ago not to cover Bremont.  Those reasons are my own, the folks at Bremont know what they are - we keep a respectful distance from each other at BaselWorld and JCK.  I am writing about Bremont and the recent events below, but I want to be clear that in writing this post this evening, I will only be writing about the events of the past week or so.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Now most folks who read the various forums, blogs, etc. the news of Bremont's recent misadventure have been aired-out for all and sundry to see.  In all fairness, this is something that even befell the mighty Tag Heuer. And for those of you just tuning in, here are the "basics":

With a great deal of hoopla (and to quote the late, great Mr. Plimpton), ballyhoo, Bremont announced, and a few days ago formally released their latest limited edition - the Wright Flyer.  Bremont went so far as to say that this would be a doubly great release as the watch would house Bremont's… wait for it… first "in house" or "manufacture" movement - the BWC/01.  

But a funny thing happened on the way to the release.  Word started to swirl on a certain UK based watch forum asserting that Bremont's new "in house" movement was about as English as Napoleon.  This got people talking, talking led to doubt, doubt led to assumption - and unfortunately for Bremont - the assumptions in the end were proven to be true.

Essentially, what Bremont had placed in the new Wright Flyer was a movement that had been designed and manufactured by that well-known English brand….La Joux-Perret, and the caliber BWC/01 turned out to be, in fact, the La Joux-Perret caliber 6901.

And here is where, at least for me, the rubber met the road.  Bremont's first response was that a disgruntled employee (former or current) had absconded with the "blueprints".  And frankly, whether this was true or not, I find this to be a bit disingenuous.  It's a bit of "the dog ate my homework".  

And the second "much awaited" response from the "good-looking English brother" essentially was not unlike Hugh Grant batting his eyelashes after getting caught with a call-girl.  It was video, and with Hodinkee, and by golly Mr. English sure looked and sounded earnest...

Pals and gals, let me speak plainly - Mr. English's explanation of "We were naive" in terms of understanding the "terminology" of what exactly a "manufacture" movement meant was…
CODSWALLOP!  American translation - I'm calling bullshit.

Giles and Nick English did not just fall off of the turnip truck, and for them to say that the firestorm that they are currently navigating is a matter of "semantics" is beyond the credulous.  The facts are these:

1.  They announced a new release of a watch that contained an "in house movement" that they warranted to be:
In House

2.  Word leaked out that said movement was indeed an "in house", but that the "house" in question was one time zone and several countries away.

3.  A very "I'm sorry you misunderstood us, but that wasn't really our fault" video which, in all honesty bordered on the "Nixon-esque" and essentially said "You misunderstood us, and it's not our fault because, golly, all this watch language stuff is so confusing" (insert more eyelash batting).  

But ultimately watch fans, it is up to you.  

And how appropriate that "SHARKNADO 2" is airing tonight - thank God Ian Zieing was able to land that plane after the sharks swirling around at 30,000 feet nearly brought down the 747 he was flying in…  


STOP THE PRESS!!! UN will be Joining...

Kering!  It would seem that we are temporarily out of the doldroms!

This just came in, and I called for confirmation.  Kering, who presently hold Girard-Perregaux, JEANRICHARD, Gucci, Boucheron - and a personal family favorite - DODO, have acquired Ulysse Nardin!

Now in and of itself this is huge, but there are some extra little sub-plots of interest to those of you obsessed with inner-workings, ins and outs -

this means (most likely) that it is conceivable that ochs und junior (and with it Ludwig Oechslin), might be coming along for the ride.  Obviously a lot of the minutia remains to be sifted, but for now, here is the press release from Kering -



Kering acquires the haute horlogerie brand Ulysse Nardin 
∞ An innovative watchmaking business built on outstanding tradition and 
manufacturing expertise 
∞ One of the few Swiss watchmakers to have its own production capacity for critical 
watch components, particularly regulating systems 
∞ A highly profitable company with solid prospects for growth 
∞ Great synergies with the Kering ‘Luxury – Watches and Jewellery’ division 

Paris (France) – Le Locle (Switzerland). Kering and Ulysse Nardin have signed an agreement for 
Kering to acquire 100% of the capital of Ulysse Nardin. The brand will join Kering’s ‘Luxury – 
Watches and Jewellery’ division, headed by Albert Bensoussan, and the management team will 
remain in place. The deal is subject to the consent of the competition authorities and should be 
finalised during the second half of 2014. 

Founded by Mr Ulysse Nardin in 1846 with its roots in the nautical world, the eponymous 
watchmaking house was taken over and re-launched in 1983 by Rolf W. Schnyder who 
transformed it into a highly profitable business in a healthy financial position. The company 
benefits from a very strong brand identity based on its historical expertise in marine chronometers 
and ultra-complication watches. Ulysse Nardin has long been one of the most innovative 
independent watchmakers. The brand was a pioneer in the use of cutting edge technologies and 
state-of-the-art materials like silicium, which today ensures that it has the in-house expertise, 
particularly in regulating systems, to produce its own components. Its coherent range of watches 
positioned in price segments that are growing and its efficient distribution network are also major 
assets. 

This acquisition constitutes a structural development enabling Kering to strengthen its ‘Luxury – 
Watches and Jewellery’ division with a clearly positioned business that complements its other 
brands. Over and above the opportunity for Ulysse Nardin’s geographical expansion, especially in 
the Asia-Pacific region, it will enable the deployment of the numerous synergies linked to Ulysse 
Nardin’s technical and industrial expertise and its excellent distribution network – contributing to 
accelerate the growth of the whole division. 

François-Henri Pinault, Kering’s Chairman and CEO, stated: “Ulysse Nardin benefits from a rich 
heritage, high profitability and solid growth prospects. Independent high-end watchmaking 
manufactures are rare. This is an opportunity that we had to seize, particularly because this 
structural acquisition will enable us to take advantage of numerous synergies with our existing 
brands. We have great ambitions for this company and we will help it continue its international 
expansion whilst staying faithful to its roots and its identity. In this regard, I am pleased that Mrs
Schnyder accepted to remain a member of its board of directors. I have long admired Ulysse 
Nardin and I am delighted that this brand is joining our ‘Luxury – Watches and Jewellery’ division.” 
Mrs Chai Schnyder, Chairman of Ulysse Nardin’s Board of Directors, stated: “Joining Kering is an 
opportunity for Ulysse Nardin. It will allow the brand to carry on with its international expansion 
and continue to innovate, while assuring the long-term future of its knowledge and expertise and 
the retention of its identity. I am delighted that Ulysse Nardin has found the best partner in 
Kering.” 

Pharos Al Arab Imperial

This just in from Grieb & Benzinger -

Two-part dial, blue hand-guilloché base dial, manually wound movement, skeletonized, guilloché and engraved by hand. Solid 18K rose gold case, bezel set with 66 high grade Princess cut diamonds, 43 mm in diameter, blue alligator-skin strap with solid 18K rose gold buckle.
Courtesy of Grieb & Benzinger
Following the BLACK TULIP SABUDHA and the GREEN INSPIRATION, the masters of GRIEB & BENZINGER have created another custom-designed timepiece for one watch connoisseur in the Emirates: the PHAROS AL ARAB IMPERIAL, inspired by the Arabian Sea.

Anyone who has ever visited the Arabian Sea has certainly fallen in love with its clear water shimmering in various hues of blue and the sparkling spots of sun beams dancing on the water’s surface. Even the iconic Burj al Arab has painted its various hotel floors in shimmering blue tones, with the tinge of turquoise reflecting the beauty of the water’s sapphire hues.

Paying tribute to this, one customer located in the Emirates wished to acquire a glamorous watch that plays with various shades of azure as well as the sparkling effect the sun provides when it touches the surface of water. And these wishes were the GRIEB& BENZINGER workshop’s command!

The amazing result: the PHAROS AL ARAB IMPERIAL comes in a solid 18K rose gold case with 66 Princess-cut diamonds set in the bezel. This is a timepiece that catches the eye alone by virtue of its amazing appearance: Arabic numerals on the regulator-style upper dial combine with a handcrafted, guilloché, blue-coated base dial that changes color as sun beams touch it. Sparkling royal Princess-cut diamonds cast their reflective beams on the bezel.


The manually wound movement features a three-quarter plate and a blue platinum coated base plate. All parts are decorated in typical GRIEB &BENZINGER manner, which also shows off its beauty from the back: hand-guilloché, hand-skeletonization, and hand-engraving as far as the eye can see.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

BEXEI

I thought it might be a nice idea to revisit BEXEI -

Courtesy of BEXEI

DETAILS

case width:37.5 mm
case height42 mm
case depth14 mm
band width20 mm
duration40 hour
Courtesy of BEXEI

COMPLICATIONS/INDICATIONS

  • elliptic hour/minute indication
  • second indication at 6 o’clock
  • wind up indicator







Monday, July 28, 2014

The Doldrums

Yes gentle readers, we have entered that annual period in the watch calendar some of us refer to as the doldrums -

Colloquially, the "doldrums" are a state of inactivity, mild depression, listlessness or stagnation.[1]

Courtesy of Wikipedia

So what does that really mean in terms of what interests us, that is, watches?

Well, generally speaking the majority of things move on as they always have.  People go on vacation, come back and go back to work.

BUT - there is a lot of rapid shuffling going on behind the scenes.  Remember BaselWorld?  I mean it seems like a lifetime ago, but in the time that has passed since mid-March, a lot of milestones have come and gone on the horizon of the various brands:

New models announced and promised for delivery, still not delivered.

New doors thought to be opened, have in fact not been.

Very, very late paying accounts promised to be paid… well, I think you know where I am going with this.  Because this is what could also be thought of as the "come to Jesus" time of year.  This is where hard decisions are going to be made.  This is also that "magical time of year" when whether or not a new or "re-booted" brand is going to make it is decided.  Often times not by the market, but by the investors who are now starting to get a little edgy.  Suddenly "Gentlemen Watchmakers" based in that bastion of watch making know-how (Luxembourg) start to realize that while the idea of owning and running a watch brand seemed like "fun", that in fact the Swiss can let you down with goof-ups and delays...just like the former owners you bought the brand from (who hail from an area just south).

Resumes are being punched-up, Linkedin is now on-fire (at least in the watch business).  People you would not bother to say "bless you" to if they sneezed are now on your call list.  Yes, it is a "special" time of year.

Meanwhile, those higher up the food chain are tracking the possible replacements with the same attention as football managers fighting through the dog days of summer to get their signings on board before the season starts.

So as always, there will be winners and losers - and a few brands that will breath their last.  I suppose in all fairness this is the same in any business, but because we are passionate about this stuff it is sometimes hard for us to separate the glamour from the reality.

But the clock is ticking, so I'll sign off for now.