All posts in “time”

The new TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Tourbillon Nanograph is a lot of buzzwords in a beautiful package

Almost every word in the name of TAG Heuer’s new watch – the Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph – is important. Carrera connects it to TAG’s long history of chronographs while Calibre suggests a handmade watch made with some technical prowess. Tourbillon means you can expect this thing to cost more than a car (about $25,000 when it goes on sale) and Nanograph suggests that this thing is doing something quite unique. And it is.

TAG Heuer loves experimenting with new materials and the Nanograph features a new hairspring design that is unique to TAG. The hairspring, which is made of carbon-composite, is lightweight and unaffected by gravity or shock. It also offers “perfect concentric oscillations” and is completely antimagnetic. Couple that with the rotating tourbillon and the suggestion is that this watch will remain accurate under all sorts of pressure.

Further, rest of the movement includes carbon fiber and aluminum which reduces the effects of temperature and looks pretty darn cool. It doesn’t do much – it basically shows elapsed time – but it does it in a decidedly sexy way.

“This new interpretation of the TAG Heuer Carrera with its advanced in-house technology underscores our legacy in achieving watchmaking excellence and proves that we remain true to our values of performance, disruption and avant-garde,” said TAG CEO Stéphane Bianchi.

It is quite fascinating to note the range materials that went into this little mechanical marvel are surprisingly new. Not many manufacturers are using carbon fiber in this way and the fact that it’s going into a chronograph mechanical watch for less than $100,000 is surprising. Now you just have to convince yourself to spend $25,000 on a watch.

MQT builds classy Swiss watches for the truly debonair

Ah, wonderful to see you again, sir. The usual? Kool-Aid Grain Alcohol Martini with a twisty straw. Of course. And I see you’re wearing a new watch. The MQT Essential Mirror. Quite striking.

I see the watch has a quartz ETA movement – an acceptable movement by any standard – and a very elegant face and hands combination. What’s that? It has a quickset date? Of course, no watch over $200 would skimp on that simple complication. $251 you say? On a silver mesh band, also known as a Milanese? A relative bargain, given its pedigree.

Of course, sir. I’ve spoken with the chef and she’s preparing your Ritz crackers with Easy Cheese as we speak. Do tell me more about this watch. It seems to be one of your only redeeming features.
What was that? No, I said nothing under my breath. Do go on.

Made in Berne, Switzerland, you say, by a pair of watchmakers, Hanna and Tom Heer, who left their high-paying jobs to make watches? And their goal is not to create a beautiful quartz piece that is eminently wearable yet quite delicate? Laudable, sir, laudable. I especially like the thin 41mm case. It’s so light and airy! Not unlike your Supreme baseball cap.

No, of course sir, we still give away all the mints you can eat after the meal. If you’d like I can tie that lobster bib around your neck. There we are. Nice and snug.

And they make a marble version? Wonderful! That hearkens back to the Tissot Rock Watches of yore. A delight, truly.

You’ve got a bit of cheese in your beard. Let me get… oh. I’m sorry to say that my hand got into the way of your pendulous tongue. I’m very sorry, sir.

Well, it’s been wonderful chatting with you. I’ll leave you to your Rick and Morty comics. What’s that? Caviar in an ice cream cone? With sprinkles? Of course. I’ll see what I can do. I do commend you, sir, all things being equal, on your taste in watches.

The Horological Machine 9 puts a rocket on your wrist

If you’ve been keeping up with watchmaker MB&F you’ll be familiar with their Horological Machine series, watches that are similar in construction but wildly differ when it comes to design. This watch, the HM9, is called the Flow and hearkens back to roadsters, jets, and 1950s space ships.

The watch, limited to a run of 33 pieces, shows the time on a small forward-facing face in one of the cones. The other two cones contain dual balance wheels. The balance wheel is what causes the watch to tick and controls the energy released by the main spring. Interestingly, MB&F added two to this watch in an effort to ensure accuracy. “The twin balance wheels of the HM9 engine feed two sets of chronometric data to a central differential for an averaged reading,” they wrote. “The balances are individually impulsed and spatially separated to ensure that they beat at their own independent cadences of 2.5Hz (18,000bph) each. This is important to ensure a meaningful average, just as how a statistically robust mathematical average should be derived from discrete points of information.”

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There are two versions called the Road and Air and they cost a mere $182,000 (tax not included.) Considering nearly every piece of this is made by hand – from the case to the curved crystal to the intricate movement – you’re essentially paying a team of craftsman a yearly wage just to build your watch.

While it’s no Apple Watch, the MB&F HM9 is a unique and weird little timepiece. While it’s obviously not for everyone, with enough cash and a little luck you can easily join a fairly exclusive club of HM9 owners.

Grand Seiko is an homage to watchmaking’s past

The 1960s were a beautiful time for watches. Horlogy was in its prime and the great names we know and love today – Rolex, Omega, Cartier – were just one of many watchmakers churning out commodity products to a world that needed to tell the time. Their watches – simple, elegant, and mechanically complex – were the ultimate in mechanical efficiency and design and no one did it quite as well as Seiko. This mechanical golden age ended in the late 1970s with the rise of the quartz watch but Seiko is resurrecting it with their Grand Seiko line of luxury pieces.

Grand Seiko is special for a few reasons. First, it’s Seiko’s haute horlogerie skunkworks, allowing the company to experiment with all the fancy materials and techniques that Swiss watchmakers have worked with for years. The watches are made of precious metals and feature Seiko Hi-Beat movements. These watches “vibrate” 36,000 times an hour or ten times a second. This means that the balance wheel inside the watch is moving back and forth far faster than, say, an Omega Co-Axial 8500/1 series which is clocked at 25,200 vibrations per hour. What this means in practice is that the seconds hand moves with an almost uncanny smoothness.

The rest of the watch I tested, the euphoniously-named SBGH263G, is based on a piece from 1968 that came from Seiko’s mechanical hey-day. The $6,200 watch has a 39mm case and, according to Seiko, is style for maximum elegance. They write:

The dial has elegant and easy-to-see Arabic numeral for the hour mark. The concept color “Shironeri” is a reflection of Japanese tradition. The color and texture of the dial come from the glossy white silk of the outfit worn by the bride in a Japanese wedding. It symbolizes purity and innocence.

This watch is a formal piece for wearing, presumably, to your own wedding. That said, it’s also very reminiscent of 1960s style watches. The size, case shape, and polished hands and numerals all hearken back to a simpler time in watchmaking when everything didn’t have to look like a robot’s goiter or a pie plate.

It is quite small and if you’re used to Panerais or Nixons you’ll definitely notice a grandpa vibe about this piece. Because it is not very complex – that is it does not have any real complications like a stopwatch – it is very pricey. However, knowing Grand Seiko’s dedication to a very lost art of non-Swiss horology, it’s well worth a look.

I’ve been following Grand Seiko for years now and the quality and care the company has been putting into these watches is palpable. This watch is no commodity product. The case is polished to a high sheen and everything – from the screws to the beautiful domed sapphire crystal – is put together with great care. Seiko also makes lower end pieces – my favorite is the Orange Monster – but this is far above that in terms of build quality and price.

Pieces like this Grand Seiko remind us that, before Apple Watches and Fitbits, there was an entire universe of truly striking timepieces made for the absolutely sole purpose of telling the time. I love pieces like this one because they are no frills and yet they are full of frills. The watch is as simple as can be – three hands and a date window without any lume or extraneous buttons – and yet it shows amazing technical skill. It is expensive but this is a handmade watch by a storied manufacturer and it’s well worth the price of admission of you’re a lover of the elegantly antiquated.

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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