All posts in “luxury brands”

Swiss watchmaker Omega joins the ecommerce bandwagon

Swiss watchmakers have long resisted the siren call of ecommerce. While many of their products sold online – you can find everything from Swatch to Breguet on the “grey market” – there were no official online channels for many brands. Until now.

Omega, a Swiss watchmaker whose wares now grace the wrist of James Bond, just started selling online, joining Panerai and others in a move that signals a major change in the way expensive watches are bought.

Historically, watch companies sold through authorized dealers. These were medium to large jewelry shops that had to show a certain level of traffic and earning potential. These ADs had to take whatever was given – boxes of unwanted straps, older watches, etc. – in order to get the latest models. Smaller shops could even lose privileges if they didn’t sell enough, reducing their draw among the watch cognoscenti. Further, these dealers also took advantage of keystone pricing – essentially doubling the wholesale price – a deal that gave jewelry salespeople and the shop quite a chunk of profit.

The AD network is clearly fading. Whereas once watchmakers advertised the number of “doors” they sold out of the move to ecommerce shows that keystone is no longer in fashion and selling out of a jewelry shop, even one with a dedicated watchmaker on staff, is unappealing to the new consumer. While watch lovers have been buying and selling online for a decade, watch newbies almost always used to go into the shop to get a more hands-on introduction to the hobby. This is no longer the case.

Further, ecommerce means that Omega gets to keep most of its profit. You’re not going to get a special deal if you buy online and Swiss watchmakers rarely discount so, while it may be in your interest to pick up an Omega at a duty free, if you’re in a hurry you’re best served just checking out online. After all, when you’re planning on spending $12,000 on a arguably beautiful Speedmaster you don’t want to have to haggle with a jeweler in a an ill-fitting suit.

Things are changing rapidly in the Swiss watch game and this move by Omega is just one more step towards a new – and potentially disruptive – future for an industry that survived two World Wars and the onslaught of quartz technology. Whether or not it weathers this storm is anyones guess, but now it may have a fighting chance.

Defakto’s ‘Stille Nacht’ watch is a limited edition of galactic proportions

Independent watchmaker Defakto creates some stunning timepieces via its regular collection, but it has a new limited series that is particularly eye-catching. The new Defakto Stille Nacht is a collaboration with artist Friederike Bellman, and it uses a hand-painted star field to brighten and distinguish each watface for the 50-piece limited edition run.

The Stille Nacht (‘Silent Night,’ in English) arrives just in time for the holidays, appropriately, and it offers no traditional time indices, but instead shows a dense surface of points that also feature lime so that they glow in the dark. The hands (or hand, if you prefer the single-hand configuration also available) aren’t coated with lume, so the star field will stand out on its own when in dim lightning conditions.

As mentioned, that star scape is hand painted, airbrushed to make each of the 50-piece series totally unique. The watch features a 40mm face, a matte finish night-blue backdrop for the dial, a sapphire crystal and a Swiss-made Ronda 712 Quartz movement. It retails for around $320 US after conversion from EUR, without import duties.

The watch can also be custom-built for either right- or left-handed individuals, and features a thin, 6.6mm case. It’s a visually stunning piece and a good deal for a one-of-a-kind watch, so definitely take a look if you’re a watch fan, or know one and are looking for a unique holiday gift to leave in their stocking.

The BOLDR Expedition Watch lets you get away

BOLDR is a small watch company with a distinct style. Selling primarily on Kickstarter, the company has gone through a number of design iterations to land on the <a target=”_blank” href=”“>Expedition, a watch designed to take you to the farthest reaches of the Earth and/or the copier down the hall.

The Expedition is reminiscent of some of the Hamilton Field Watches but it is improved immensely by color schemes that are designed to remind us of famous mountain ranges. The model I tested, the Fuji, featured a grey-on-grey design and orange hands and pips. The piece looks artfully faded, a style that comes from so-called “tropical” Rolex watches that spent decades in the heat and sun.

The watches range from the all-black Kilimanjaro to the surprisingly bright Eiger. Each have a Sellita SW200-1 automatic movement and Superluminova lume on the hands and pips. Early birds will pay $395 for one of these and each includes an internal crown for countdown timing and direction-setting.

I found the watches to be quite well-made and, as I noted before, on par with anything Hamilton has been making in their Khaki Field line. While I’m not a huge fan of three-handed pieces, the design, the lume, and the entire color scheme make this a hit. It’s a bit small for my wrist – 41mm is just a bit too wee for my meaty appendages – but it’s a nice beater watch that can stand everyday use including the occasional hike.

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On the whole it’s rare for me to find a Kickstarter watch I truly like. This one hits on all the right notes – history, design, provenance, and materials – and the price for early birds is just about right. It’s also great that the team is shipping quickly and they’ve already surpassed their goal.

While this watch might not tell you your current GPS coordinates, calorie count, or speed, it’s nice to know that it will remain ticking long after your Apple Watch has rusted into a little hunk of steel and silicon.

Breitling’s Avenger Hurricane 45 watch uses dense composites to stay light

According to horological legend the first luxury watch made of steel – the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak caused great consternation when it launched in 1972. Up until then there were timekeepers – small, cheap watches like Timex and Seiko – and expensive pieces that you handed out at retirements from brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe. To build a luxury watch in steel was an outrage but eventually steel surpassed watches made of precious metals.

Just wait until those steel naysayers hear about a luxury watch made of plastic.

The ultralight Avenger Hurricane 45 chronograph is the latest watch to use Breitling’s Breitlight polymer, essentially a scratch-proof amalgam that is lighter than titanium and stronger than steel. The watch itself contains a manufacture (read “custom”) chronograph movement and comes on a rubberized canvas strap. All of this means that this is one of the strongest and lightest watches you’ll ever wear.

The 45mm piece feels almost evanescent, especially when compared to similarly sized steel chronographs. While I didn’t run this thing over with a truck the polymer was scratch resistant and very comfortable and, because its made of plastic, it’s nice for folks with allergies to metal on the skin. It was a comfortable wear – not heavy at all – and the 45mm face was comfortable to wear and looked smaller than it was.

Why would you want a plastic watch? Breitling has taken pains to explain that this isn’t just a hunk of plastic squeezed into a mold and filled with a movement. This is a specialty material, one made to order by Breitling and produced in very small quantities. There are two other models that use the material, a 24-hour chronograph and the Colt Skyracer, a three hand model. Considering the last big material change in watches came when Chanel and others started using ceramic, plastic isn’t that much of a stretch.

How much is the pleasure of owning a one-of-a-kind plastic watch? Try $8,390, a price that reflects the manufacture movement, the chronograph certification (each Breitling is officially certified for accuracy, a fairly meaningless thing in a world of smartwatches but is still important when it comes to mechanicals), and the ultra light case. It just goes to show you that the definition of luxury changes every few years – or decades – and that todays timekeeper is tomorrows luxury item.

The Avenger Hurricane 45 is shipping now.

The MWW Iconik 3 is an inexpensive automatic watch for military fans

Manchester Watch Works aka MWW makes small batch watches that are sometimes homages to historic timepieces and are sometimes entirely new design. This model, the Iconik 3 – the third in the Iconik line – is based on the Blancpain TR-900, a military spec diver’s watch used by navies worldwide in the 1960s. These waterproof workhorses are sought after collectables and the Iconik 3 gives you the opportunity to feel like a French combat diver without having to attach explosives to an enemy submarine in the Aegean

The piece has a Seiko NE15 automatic movement with 24 jewels and a 50 hour power reserve – the same movement used in Seiko’s other divers. It also has a bead-blasted steel case and a “tropical” tan dial with Superluminova markers and hands. Finally, they strap it to a green nylon band with leather backing.

The Iconik 3 is part of a limited 100 run.

Why is this cool? Because at $460 you get a 200-meter diver for not much money and with plenty of history. There are more watches like this out there – I found similar divers out there from between $41 from Invicta to $500 or so for an older Marathon SAR or Orsa – but this one is unique in its styling, its design, and its history. In short it lets you feel like James Bond’s assassin friend Jaques without breaking the bank.