All posts in “luxury brands”

This three-axis tourbillon movement is a 3D printed marvel

The three-axis tourbillon is one of the most complex watch complications in the world. Originally based on a design by watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet, this type of tourbillon – literally “whirlwind” – rotates the balance wheel of a watch in order to ensure that gravity doesn’t adversely affect any part of the watch. It’s a clever, complex, and essentially useless complication in an era of atomic clocks and nano materials but darn if it isn’t cool-looking.

Based on this original, simpler model, this new three-axis tourbillon is available for download here. It consists of 70 potentially fiddly parts and runs using a basic motor.

As you can see, the main component is the balance wheel which flips back and forth to drive the watch. The balance wheel is contained inside a sort of spike-shaped cage that rotates on multiple axes. The balance wheel controls the speed of the spin and often these devices are used as second hands on more complex – and more expensive – tourbillon watches. Tourbillons were originally intended to increase watch accuracy when they were riding in a vest pocket, the thinking being that gravity would pull down a watch’s balance wheel differently when it was vertical as compared to being horizontal. In this case, the wheel takes into account all possible positions leading to a delightful bit of horological overkill.

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Bell & Ross creates a transparent tourbillon

It’s spring and that means it’s time for Basel, the definitive international watch show. Around this time every year all of your favorite brands – and brands you’ve never heard of – launch unique timepieces that cost more than a few dozen Honda Accords and look like something made by Doctor Manhattan during one of his less melancholy moments.

Today’s wild timepiece comes to use from Bell & Ross, makers of big square watches that look like aircraft dials. This new piece, called the BR-X1-Skeleton-Tourbillon-Sapphire, maintains the traditional B&R shape but is almost completely clear with a case made of sapphire and held together by pins and screws. The movement, which comes in three colors, is a complete hand-wound tourbillon system and is beautifully visible from all angles.

A tourbillon, for the uninitiated, is a system for rotating the watch’s balance wheel 360 degrees. This system, originally created by Breguet, ensured that a watch didn’t slow down when subjected to odd gravitational forces. Now, however, it’s a wildly expensive conversation starter.

This is a beautiful update to B&R’s original see-through watch and, while the vast majority of us will never own something like this, it’s nice to know that someone still cares about horological complexity paired with wild design. How much does it cost to own the watch equivalent of Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet? About $500,000. The piece, for those interested in picking one up, will be available online.

The MB&F MoonMachine 2 reconnects you with the celestial

If and when your crypto investments go back up feel free to spend about $100,000 on one of these new creations from the watchmakers at MB&F and noted horologist Stepan Sarpaneva. The watch, called the MoonMachine 2, has a “heads-up” time display on the back end of the case where you see the hours and minutes in bold numerals along with a Sarpaneva-style moonphase display that peeks up and around the bottom of the case.

The case is covered in sapphire prisms and the display itself features a unique magnification system to increase the size of the dials by 20%.

“There are three instances of the immediately recognisable Sarpaneva moon in MoonMachine 2, its piercing eyes and pointed features based on Stepan Sarpaneva’s own face. Two of the Sarpaneva moons are mounted on the moon disc, taking it in turns to cycle under a Korona ring — another Sarpaneva design hallmark — to indicate the phase of the moon,” write MB&F.

Why should you care about a high-end piece like this? It is, in short, the last of the dying art of haute horologie and MB&F is keeping a number of near-dead technologies alive in this piece including the automatic movement, the moon phase itself, and the unique time-telling method using disks. While it’s obvious that a piece like this is pretty frivolous, especially at over $80,000 for the Titanium model, it’s nice to know someone cares about the night sky enough to bring us a little leering moon for our keyboard-weary wrists.

The watch is available now if your ETH holdings are up.
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Chronext raises $34 million to bring nice watches to your bare wrist

There are a number of services that let you sell your used watches or simply purchase new watches but few have the funding war chest of Chronext. This online services lets you buy and sell fancy watches for a fraction of the price and, as evidenced by their performance and the performance of competitor Crown and Caliber, it looks like that market is heating up.

Created by Philipp Man and Ludwig Wurlitzer that startup has seen $60 million in transaction volume in 2017 and expects to see $130 million in 2018. They’ve raised a second $34 million round from Endeit Capital and Tengelmann Ventures and have already taken $16 million to start the business.

Whether you’re ready to spend $30,000 or $3,000, these guys have your back.

Man, the CEO, has a background at the Boston Consulting Group spent time at GlencoreXstrata before getting into watches full time. He wrote his dissertations on the luxury watch market. Wurlitzer, the CPO, has a background in the fine art and IT sectors. He developed the platform.

“CHRONEXT allows over 1,800 retailers, brands and consumers to do business globally. The company takes care of pre- and after-sale service, payment, authentication and also logistics,” said Man. “Despite being a marketplace, the customer always buys directly from CHRONEXT and thus has all the security of buying with a dedicated retailer while at the same time being able to tap into a global supply network. Every watch is authenticated by our own watchmakers.”

The founders created the company after experiencing the used book market. The used watch market is interesting in that imperfect information has been driven out of the system. Any seller with an Internet connection can easily confirm whether their Rolex or Omega is worth a few hundred or a few thousand but bad actors still abound. Fakes still pop up and some watches are too far gone to use. Services like Chronext ensure that the piece you’re buying works and is legitimate.

“Being heavily into watches and fascinated by free market dynamics in the trade of consumer products, we saw huge potential for creating a marketplace that allowed the secure and simple global trading of high quality timepieces,” said Man. “We created the first truly transactional luxury watch marketplace for both new and pre-owned watches as well as bringing together retailers, brands and consumers on one platform.”

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.