Last Week (in Watches) Today: 7 things you must know & more

It has been four weeks since people in my part of the world started lockdown. Most things have come to a stand-still though technology does help in keeping up with loved ones and friends. On the flip side, that leaves ample time to keep up with watch news and this past week or two has seen a watch release galore kicking off with all the brands at Watches & Wonders. Things are also looking up production wise which is good news for all watch lovers on waitlists around the world. Let’s get into it.

Watches & Wonders 2020

It was an unexpected but smart move by Watches & Wonders (WW) to host this year’s show digitally instead of cancelling it altogether as it had originally announced. It gave all the watch brands that had releases planned a consolidated platform to announce them and created a sense of anticipation despite the gloomy times that we live in. Admittedly, all the brands that participated could have made their own releases on their own schedules but there is always strength in numbers. I for one may have gone mainly to check out brands like Cartier and A Lange & Sohne but stayed for Jaeger-LeCoultre (JLC) and IWC Schaffhausen (IWC) (which I will touch on later). It is also interesting to see how this platform develops over the coming year. WW has staked its claim to become “the digital flagship for excellence in watchmaking” and is not content to just be a place where brands releases their watches just once a year. Perhaps an inevitable move necessary for survival but this is arguably the first example of this once traditional business model moving into modern media. While there are still kinks that have to be worked out such as the handling of large volumes of accessing the site at one go as was the case when the event initially commenced, I applaud the move as it gives watch enthusiasts around the world a sense of being a part of this event that was once reserved for those who could physically afford to be there. For more details check out all the releases and presentations on https://www.watchesandwonders.com/. Also check out our thoughts on the various releases and the event here, here, here & here.

WW 2020 – IWC Leads in Presentation

James Porter and Son

IWC brought it’s A Game at WW 2020. I found IWC’s presentation video to be the best among all the brands at WW 2020. It highlighted all the key achievements particularly with the introduction of the new in-house movements in the Portugieser line in a way that captivated because it showed us instead of just telling us. Yet it was more than just a video with a voiceover because we had IWC’s CEO Christoph Grainger-Herr personally introducing the new Portugieser collection, thus retaining the personal touch. This stood above the rest that were either the aforementioned advertisement style introduction with voiceovers or a verbal presentation by either the CEO or some other officer in the company. I will not name names but some of the latter felt as if they may have been shot on an iPhone. IWC had the best of both and it drew me in, making me feel as if I were there in Geneva listening live. For WW to work on a digital platform in the long run, such content directly from brands would be what gives it an edge over the powerhouse that is Hodinkee and some of the rest that have been in this space far longer.

WW 2020 – JLC’s Master Chronograph Calendar

I was pleasantly surprised this year at the releases from Watches & Wonders. Unlike previous years which features more hit or miss pieces, this year, it seems most brands brought their A game. IWC’s releases (and their slimmed down sizes) were mostly all on point. A Lange’s white gold Odysseus on rubber is a cracker of a watch. Cartier too released interesting innovative watches. For me though, JLC’s Master Control Chronograph Calendar takes the cake. Its simple elegance carries so much appeal, more so when you consider what it packs under the hood. To have a chronograph and an annual or triple date calendar one on slim compact package of 40mm by 12.05mm watch is remarkable. Many brands struggle to keep slimness on basic time and date watches under 13mm. And yet the watch with 3 sub-dials retains such a clean look. The watch also adds a little flair, with heat-blued seconds and chronograph hands and red numerals at the top of each sub-dial. It also comes with all the bells and whistles that you’d expect from the watchmaker’s watchmaker with a new movement that features a silicon escapement (a first in regular production for the brand), a solid gold rotor and 65 hours power reserve. JLC is truly one of the most underrated watch brands in my opinion. The price too at CHF 14,500 (SGD 21,600) while not cheap, provides exceptional value for money that you would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere, especially with these dimensions. All in all, an extremely versatile watch that I would love to get and swap out onto a rubber strap for a sportier look.

Zenith’s A384 Revival Shadow

While not at WW 2020, Zenith also made its own release this week with the Zenith A384 Revival Shadow. Featuring almost all the same specifications as the reissue from last year, it is a beauty of a watch, particularly because it does not feature a date at 4.30. Where the reissue was once a panda dial, this watch is all blacked out to match the case. And it is the case where things get really interesting. Instead being ceramic or steel with some sort of PVD coating, this case is forged from micro-blasted titanium that gives it is extremely dark, but not yet black look. Given that there is no indication of any coating, it mitigates against the risk of scratches showing a different colour, which also retaining the more crack resistant properties that ceramic does not have. Aesthetically, it also creates some visual distinction between the black dial that adds just a touch more character to a watch that is mostly stealthy in appearance.

Ming 27.01

Ming also launched its latest watch on Friday, named the 27.01 that is supposed to bear its second-generation design language. This watch release has been teased on Instagram for some time now and that marketing coupled with its remarkable success at last year’s GPHG resulted in the watch selling out within 20 mins of release. That has to be some sort of record only beat perhaps by Omega’s Speedy Tuesday or some of Hodinkee’s best releases. While it is not a limited edition, production this year is limited to only 125 pieces. Regarding the watch itself, the dial and hands look rather similar to the 17 series with minor tweaks, the case sides now feature hollow lugs and a display case back. The movement is based on ETA 7001 manual wind movement that has been completely reworked. All in all, a solid new release by Ming that takes advantage of is increased presence and standing in the watch world. There is some controversy over the design inspiration however. Rick and Rikki talk about it in the podcast here.

Patek Philippe, Rolex (soon) & others reopen

In other news, things seem to be picking up in the watch world, production wise at least. After several weeks of closure, Patek Philippe, Zenith, Breitling, Girard Perregaux (GP) and Ulysse Nardin are all in various stages of reopening their production facilities with restrictions and enhanced safety measures. Rolex too is currently in the process of implementing safety measures in order to recommence operations in the near future. It has been a trying couple of months both in the watch world and everywhere else because of the Covid-19 virus but perhaps these moves indicate something of a light at the end of the tunnel.

Scottish Watches and Tenn & Two in New York Times

This last one perhaps may be a bit of a plug, given that I write on Scottish Watches. But, I am a listener of the two podcasts first, writer second. After all, they have made commutes to and from work in the past year far more entertaining than they have any right to be. In this period where we are all on lockdown, these podcasts have become all the important as they bring a bit of cheer in the otherwise difficult times. So, congratulations to the Rikki and Rick at Scottish Watches and Kat and Katlen at Tenn & Two for the mention in the New York Times that you can find here. That they are mentioned alongside the likes of Hodinkee and The Grey Nato who feature people working full time in the industry and have been doing this for a lot longer is a testament to their hard work. Of course, we all know who’s better don’t we?

Before I round-up, do check out all the watch releases done at WW 2020 last weekend. Also check out Doxa’s latest Aqua Lung release which looks fantastic. Finally, do continue to stay safe and healthy and wash your hands. Take care everyone.