Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Second Collection of Metiers d’Art Fabuleux Ornements - Vacheron Constantin

This is a new release for Manufacture Vacheron Constantin for Pre-SIHH featuring the second collection of Metiers d’Art Fabuleux Ornements.


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The Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Fabuleux Ornements collection is an invitation to celebrate the ornamental beauties of the world drawn from the decorative arts of several cultures. Two year after its first launch, the collection unveils four new models born of the art of openworking and a combination of artistic crafts bearing the Hallmark of Geneva. Ten different master artisans have provided reinterpretations of Ottoman architecture, Chinese embroidery, Indian manuscripts and French lacework. These creations are equipped with an ethereal hand-engraved movement: calibre ultra-thin 1003 in 18K gold.

The French Lace.
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The Indian Manuscript.
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The Ottoman Architecture
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The Chinese Embroidery.
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So which is your favourite?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

No Hands - Montre à Tact by Andersen Genève

Danish watchmaker Svend Andersen has developed some signature pieces which includes the Montre à Tact. A founding member of the Horological Academy of Independent Creators (AHCI), Svend Andersen spent several years restoring timepieces in Patek Philippe and then founding the brand that bears his name in 1979.

Having learnt his horology skills from the Danish School of Watchmaking, Svend Andersen went on to perfect his skill in Switzerland. And one of the more iconic piece is the Montre à Tact - a timepiece that does not have any hands to tell time but instead relies on windows between the lugs. Not one but two windows...
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On first impression, one notices the "main" window between the 11 and 1 O'Clock - the windows of time. The dial in this case is a gold engraved dial featuring some Hieroglyphics. But in reality, the dial can come as a painted dial instead of an engraved one.
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But the complication in the timepiece is the ability to tell time with the "second" window - the one on the side of the case. Interesting as it allows the owner to view to time without having to turn the watch face. Additionally, it also allows the owner to have a fully customised dial covering the "top" window altogether!
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Notice that the timepiece does not have any crown? Well, the winding crown is at the case back - another ingenious development. And again, the clean case back allows one to customise the case back. Underneath the closed case is an automatic movement.
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The 43mm timepiece comes with a rather unique case and Pierre tells me that there are not many case makers out there that can make such a case.
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This timepiece comes in a white gold case as with many of the timepieces by Andersen. Most if not all come in precious metal.

Pictures taken by iPhone 6.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

28 is the new 31 - Legacy Machine Perpetual by MB&F

As we all know by now, the latest incarnation of the Legacy Machine is perhaps one of the most beautiful perpetual calendar around. And with all things MB&F, there is always a lovely story behind how this came about.

The LM Perpetual was four years in the making but the collaboration went back nine years when Max started MB&F and was working on the HM1. As Max would tell you, they were facing some very uncertain future as the movement maker had backed out. With the help of Peter Speake-Marin, they managed to round up some independent watchmakers amongst which was a "relatively" unknown but talented Stephen McDonnell. The team went on to complete the HM1, made deliveries and the rest they say is history.

Fast forward five years and Max is now is much better shape and it was time to payback a favour. In all of MB&F's timepieces, regardless whether it was the HM or LM series, they always started with Max having a particular vision of wanting to create something close to his dreams. But with the LM Perpetual, that was a different story altogether. Irish born and Oxford educated McDonnell was given the free reign to design and develop the timepiece - when asked what he wanted to create, he knew immediately the perpetual calendar was what he had wanted to do.
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Max explained that in "traditional" perpetual calendars, the number of days in the month is controlled primarily by using modules built on top of the base movement. However, Stephen McDonnell had devised a new mechanism (patent pending). He argued that no matter which month and regardless of whether it was a leap year or not, every single month has 28 days. From this point when the mechanical processor is activated, it will guide the date to 29, 30 or 31 depending on the month in question. Here is Max explaining the processor...
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Four years later, the "baby" was born and the result a stunning perpetual calendar named LM Perpetual. 25 each will be made in Platinum and Rose Gold every year and according to Max, 90% of the first year's production has been snapped up!
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The layout of the perpetual calendar is somewhat "usual" with the sub-dials but has every hallmark of the Legacy Machine with the overhead balance wheel. And in this case, the escapement had to be at the rear of the movement. One of the pain points was how to "connect" the balance wheel with the escapement. And the result was a 12mm long steel shaft just 0.16mm in diameter. But what I really like about the LM Perpetual is the legibility of the sub-dials.
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The balance wheel if you are curious is 14mm in diameter.
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Max also explained that the built in pushers, which are found on the side of the case are done in such a way that they will not be activated during the "sensitive" time between the hours of 10pm and 4am. Pushing those pushers will not jam the movement.
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The dome sapphire gives the LM Perpetual a different feel and gives it a three dimensional look too.
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On the movement side, another magnificent movement - one of the best finished movements around.
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The double barrel provides 72 hours of power reserve and the movement consists of 581 components. Movement beats at 18,000 BPH and the movement is signed Stephen McDonnell.
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What I like about the LM series is the dial - super glossy finished dial. And MB&F partner Serge Kriknoff told me that it is not enamel, not even lacquer but a for of "stressed varnish". A trade secret but it gives the LM the signature "Glossy Lacquer" finish on every LM dial.
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And every piece comes with a deployment buckle with the signature MB&F logo.
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Truly a beauty - well proportioned and definitely legible. The "lack" of a dial gives the timepiece that raw look... definitely a plus for me. Shows the mechanism in full view and not hidden below a dial. The blue brushed base lends a classy feel to this platinum piece.
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There are perpetual calendars and then there are Perpetual Calendars... LM Perpetual qualifies as a must have (if pocket is deep enough) and the other is the Moser Perpetual One. So if money is no object, make sure you book your LM Perpetual soon. Available exclusively in Singapore to The Hour Glass.

Pictures taken with iPhone 6S. Thanks to the folks at the Hour Glass for the invite.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

350 years of tradition going into a Watch Winder

Japanese Master Craftsman Shoichi Inoue has mastered the art of Butsudan making. He intends to preserve the 350 year old craft of handcrafting and lacquering and has expanded his craft into watch winders too.

Butsudan are household Buddhist alters and they can be very elaborate. Inoue-san has taken his craft to another item - watch winders and watch racks. Incorporating his craft in making butsudan, Inoue-san had found new inspiration in watch winders. Urushi (Japanese word for lacquer tree) is an age-old lacquering technique of using the sap of the lacquer tree which in its liquid form is toxic. But once applied and hardened, the toxicity is no longer there. And the results of the final product is a highly glossed product that is also very durable. Traditional lacquerware comes with three layers of lacquer - the undercoat, middle and final coat. The final coat is the clear lacquer that seals the decoration.

According to Inoue-san, the making of a butsudan involves seven stages. The following is narrative from Inoue-san.

The Kijishi

The Kijishi craftsman, who makes the main body of a butsudan altar, is responsible for the first important step in crafting the butsudan. Starting from carefully chosen wood pieces, he builds the butsudan body with the mortise and tenon joint technique, which requires very high artistry to join the wood pieces together precisely without the use of nails. Because of its nailless structure, the body of the butsudan can be disassembled later on.

Notice the high gloss finish of the winder which is made with Japanese cypress wood.
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The Kudenshi

The Kudenshi craftman, known as the palace maker, creates each of the small details by hand to make up the roof of the butsudan, called the kuden. Similarly to Kijishi craftsman he uses the mortise and tenon joint technique which allows for disassembly into smaller pieces. To make this possible, he never ignores even a 1mm inaccuracy of measurement.

Inside the box is a Kubik winder. Inoue-san chose Kubik for the quietness of the motor.
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The Sculptor

The sculptor choses the design and carves the sculptures out of wood (commonly hinoki cypress or pine) using small chisels and knives. Starting from a sketch on a wood base block, he carves out vivid three dimensional depictions of plants or animals.

The Lacquerer

The lacquerer manually applies urushi lacquer after treating the surface of the already carved wood pieces. The urushi application process takes much time and effort. Depending on the product, not only does he apply it using a brush, but he also polishes it with a premium technique called roiro finishing to give the work a deeper hue and lustrous mirror-like surface, the trademarks of quality urushi lacquer work.
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The Gilder

The gilder, who is responsible for gold leaf stamping, applies each individual sheet of pure gold leaf using special lacquer glue. This gold leaf sheet is extremely thin, about 0.0001mm, so it will blow away with even a slight breeze.

The Chaser

The chaser uses a tagane, an engraving tool, or a hammer to create different shapes of decorative fittings by carving, cutting and bending copper and other metals. He then finishes it with a coating of either urushi lacquer or gold plating.

Notice the round hole at the top of the box? Well that is to connect a rod to make it a double winder. And notice the intricate workmanship and the glossy finish on the box. Truly a work of art!
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The Makieshi

The makie artist designs and paints various types of objects, traditionally natural landscapes or flowers and birds. He first sketches the design using lacquer paint, then sprinkles gold or silver powders, or inlays mother-of-pearl pieces. Finally, he touches in the finishing details to complete the polished look of the butsudan altar.

Inoue-san also showcased his triple watch rack. The Kubik winder fits perfectly within the rack creating a triple winder. But the rack could also function as a static display - for manual winding timepieces too.
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On top of creating these winders, Inoue-san can also make watch boxes - mostly highly customised pieces. Depending on the amount of work done, precious metals used and complexity of the design, each winder can take up to six months to complete and costs upwards of US$20,000.

You may find out more about Inoue-san from this weblink. Or you may write to him at sho-1@inouebutudan.com. Many thanks to Peter@Deployant for setting this up and to Momoko-san who translated the session.

Photos taken with an iPhone 6.