If there’s ever been a story of zero to hero, it’s that of the Rolex Daytona. Unloved and unwanted, selling barely 500 units annually in its formative years, the Rolex Daytona has grown to become one of the most coveted watches of all time, commanding year-long waiting lists and astonishing residuals. The question is, how did that happen? This is the journey that turned Rolex’s loser of a David into a hulking great Goliath.
The Sixties was the decade of the sports chronograph. Jack Heuer’s appointment as CEO of Heuer guided the launch of the Autavia in 1962 and the Carrera in 1963. Omega’s Speedmaster was among the first to the game, introduced at the tail end of the Fifties. But the chronograph was no new invention; seen as early as 1816 in Louis Moinet’s astronomical pocket watch, and in smaller wristwatch form at the beginning of the 20th century, the chronograph was old news. In fact, Rolex itself had been making chronograph watches since the 1930s. What had changed, though, was time itself – post war, the Sixties boomed with wealth and glamour, and with it came speed. Motor racing, the sport of gentlemen, was now enjoyable on a global scale, and it was that thrill of speed that attracted a new breed of timekeepers: the sports chronograph.
Chronograph watches up until then — even Rolex’s own — were styled with reserved, subtle taste, but that was no fit for the roaring engines and gleaming paint of the world’s fastest racing machines. Jack Heuer knew what he was doing; early on, he set his sights on the pinnacle of motorsport, Formula 1, tasking friend and racing driver Jo Siffert to distribute his watches among the paddock, earning Heuer the title of first non-motorsport sponsor in F1. Omega, however, had set its sights on even faster machinery; with Kennedy’s 1962 speech delivering the promise of putting man on the moon, there was another prize to be had: becoming the official watch of NASA.
When Rolex released it’s first sporty chronograph in 1963, the ref. 6239, it too had its eyes turned to the stars. Reviving a name previously used for the ref. 6062 moonphase (a complication that defines the literal meaning of cosmography, the general study of the universe), the new chronograph was called “Cosmograph.” Like Omega’s Speedmaster, it was large, tough, and clear, precisely what was required for use in space. It was the right move for Rolex; the Fifties had defined Rolex as a manufacturer of watches for professionals, the Submariner, GMT-Master, and Milgauss all fulfilling a dedicated role for a specific profession. Having NASA select the Rolex Cosmograph to be the watch taken to the moon would be the full house.
But it wasn’t to be. The Rolex Daytona did not perform as well as Omega’s Speedmaster during NASA’s testing, plus astronaut Walter Schirra had already proven the Omega’s suitability when he took his own aboard Sigma 7 for the pre-Apollo Mercury-Atlas 8 mission. Rolex had missed out on the big one, and it needed to regroup. Heuer was doing well with motorsport, and Rolex had connections there too. F1 was taken – and would remain so until 2013, when Rolex finally secured sponsorship rights – but there were others. The solution came in 1964 with the emergence of one of America’s greatest racing series: NASCAR.
The history of NASCAR is well publicised: during the American alcohol prohibition of the Twenties and Thirties, bootleggers tuned their cars to outrun police, leaving a swathe of drivers and cars with not much to do once the prohibition was lifted. The former bootleggers met at a beach in Florida to race instead, at a site used for the record-breaking speed runs of the Forties. That place was Daytona. As the sport grew, so did its popularity, with drivers such as Rolex-sponsored Junior Johnson drawing crowds from across Florida. Eventually, demand was great enough to build the Daytona International Speedway, and that came just in time for Rolex to rebrand the Cosmograph and take it in a new direction.
Looking back, it’s almost possible to see the panic at Rolex HQ at the loss of the NASA contract; the Rolex Cosmograph was a sales flop, and the biggest opportunity to make something of it had gone. In a rush to give the Rolex Cosmograph purpose, a mix of advertising material was printed that, right up until the last minute, left the future of this failing sports chronograph hanging in the balance. The 24 Heures du Mans race (also now sponsored by Rolex), a world-famous challenge of motorsport endurance, very nearly took it with the stillborn Rolex Le Mans, but it was the track in Florida (that now hosts the 24 Hours of Daytona which is – surprise, surprise – also sponsored by Rolex) that finally won over. The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona was born.
But the story doesn’t end there. The Rolex Daytona still struggled to sell, the quartz revolution of the 1970s doing nothing to help. It was the rebirth of the watch industry that swept Rolex into the upper echelons of watchmaking, riding on the wave of a surging interest in vintage rarities, and with it came the 1988 ref. 16520. Housing a heavily modified Zenith El Primero movement, it was the first automatic Rolex chronograph (late to the game, at some nineteen years after Heuer’s Calibre 11), and it took the world by storm. As collectors began to amass vintage Rolexes and the Rolex name became ever more desirable, so too did the products it made. When the Rolex Daytona entered the 2000s, and with it the introduction of the in-house calibre 4130 for the ref. 116520, waiting lists had grown to such proportions that Rolex could no longer produce enough watches to fulfill demand.
There have been three different manufacturers supplying movements for the Rolex Daytona to date: Valjoux, Zenith, and of course, Rolex themselves. All the four-digit reference Rolex Daytonas (6239 through to 6265 in steel and 6270 in gold with diamonds) used a variation of the Valjoux cal. 72, the go-to chronograph movement of the time for many brands, including Heuer and Breitling (Omega opted for the Lemania chronograph for the Speedmaster).
The Valjoux 72, a hand-wound, reliable movement that had been in existence in earlier forms since 1914, was an affordable and accessible choice for Rolex to power its chronographs (including the earlier Chronograph ref. 6238). It was almost unheard of for a watchmaker to make its own chronographs, with even the mighty Patek Philippe sourcing its chronograph tickers elsewhere. To give some kind of idea of the funding required to develop a chronograph movement, the 1969 Calibre 11 – the world’s first automatic chronograph movement – took a joint effort from four big-name watchmakers to get off the ground.
But Rolex was not content with fitting its watches with off-the-shelf movements, and so it had the Valjoux 72 modified with a custom-spec Microstella variable inertia balance wheel, which allows greater ability to fine-tune accuracy; and a Breguet overcoil, which maintains amplitude as the mainspring winds down. Rolex called this modified movement the cal. 722 (and in some cases, the cal. 72B).
In 1967, the Valjoux 72 was further modified by Rolex to become the cal. 722-1. This time, Rolex adapted the shape of the hour recorder conveyor to provide smoother engagement of the hour wheel. The final version of Rolex’s modified Valjoux 72 came in 1969 in the form of the cal. 727, which upped the beat from 18,000 vph to a more accurate (but conversely more power-hungry) 21,600 vph.
Once the supply of Valjoux 72 movements dried up with its discontinuation in 1974 (to be replaced by the automatic Valjoux 7750), Rolex decided to look elsewhere for a movement for the new-look ref. 16520. It just so happened that, in the mid-Eighties, former watchmaking legend Zenith was starting to get back on its feet. A deal was struck, and it was the El Primero that found its way into the new era of Rolex Daytona chronographs — but not without a few modifications first, of course.
The changes made to turn the high-beat El Primero into the Rolex cal. 4030 were extensive. First was the reduction of the beat from 36,000 vph to a more sedate 28,800 vph to allow the use of liquid lubrication, which would normally be flung off at the higher speed. Also added was the Microstellar balance and Breguet overcoil, plus a completely new auto-winding mechanism complete with vertical clutch assembly for smoother engagement of the chronograph.
It was in the year 2000 that Rolex finally produced a chronograph movement of its own, the first since the 1930s. Three quarters of a century had given Rolex’s designers the knowledge to build a better chronograph than had ever been used before in a Rolex watch, and that chronograph was the cal. 4130. Built from the ground up, the cal. 4130 introduced efficiencies in both operation and maintenance, reducing part-count over the outgoing cal. 4030 by 20%, freeing up space for a larger mainspring, thus increasing the power reserve by eighteen hours. The simplified design also allows for easier servicing, with many major components replaceable in-situ. But the biggest change was the relocation of the running seconds hand to the six o’clock sub-dial from the nine – it’s easy to imagine the old position bugging the designers at Rolex for decades.
Rolex has never been the kind of company that makes rash design decisions (okay, maybe it did with the Explorer II ref. 1655), and the Rolex Daytona is no different. With two predominant designs in its half-century lifespan, it has been more a matter of evolution rather than revolution for the famous sports chronograph.
Starting with the ref. 6239, the Rolex Daytona (sans “Daytona” branding at this stage) introduced a handful of key features that differentiated it from the more sedate ref. 6268 Chronograph that predated it. The first was the transition of the tachymeter from the dial to the bezel, giving the watch a cleaner, bigger feel, and the second was the addition of inverted chronograph sub-dials, providing a high-contrast look for easy reading. An alternate “exotic” dial was also available, commonly known as the “Paul Newman” because of the actor’s affiliation with the piece. This distinctive design, characterised by its distinct outer track and sub-dial markers, has become a firm favourite among collectors, and was available as an option up until the ref. 6265.
The word “Daytona” finally appeared in 1965 (the year NASA awarded the Omega Speedmaster with official flight-qualified status), as did the ref. 6241, a variation of the ref. 6239 with a black Bakelite bezel. In that same year appeared the ref. 6240, with the word “Oyster” on the dial to compliment new screw-down pushers. The ref. 6240 was short-lived, soon replaced by the ref. 6262 and ref. 6264 in 1969, which carried the updated cal. 727 but still had the non screw-down pushers. Then came the ref. 6263 and ref. 6265 in 1971, which reintroduced the screw-down pushers and “Oyster” branding. Of course, it was the 1980s that enjoyed the refs. 6269 and 6270, both resplendent in 18kt yellow gold and studded with diamonds.
There appears to be very little visual difference between the 1988 ref. 16520 and the 2000 ref. 116520, save for dial marker size, sub-dial spacing, and repositioning of the running seconds hand. Small differences across the ref. 16520 and 116520 dials can be found on closer inspection, with five variants known for the ref. 16520 and five known so far for the ref. 116520. These variations consist of font changes, hand thickness changes, and luminous paint colour changes.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Back in the Sixties, Rolex struggled to move just a few hundred Rolex Daytonas through its stores every year, with only around 5% being “exotic”-dialled examples. Today, those exotics are worth the most, commanding prices way into the hundreds of thousands. That’s for a watch that originally sold for $210, the equivalent of $1,600 today. Standard dial versions are cheaper, but not cheap: anything from the pre-“Daytona” ref. 6239 to the last examples of the ref. 6265 will cost around $40,000, while the gold-and-diamonds refs. 6269 and 6270 fetch auction prices into the millions. The lucky few that had an early Rolex Daytona tucked away for the better part of half a century have certainly won the jackpot; it’s hard to believe that many of these priceless timepieces sat in retailers’ windows for as long as a decade.
Smaller budgets are still catered for, however, with the up-and-coming Zenith-powered ref. 16520 starting to generate a following of its own. With the ref. 116520 replacing it in 2000, the 1988 revamp is starting down the road to collector’s paradise, and makes a safe bet for investors looking to get a healthy return in a few decades time (although not perhaps at the scale early vintage examples enjoyed). It’s a solid investment in steel, particularly with the rare dial defect known as the “Patrizzi” dial, which turned the sub-dial rings brown, and adds around 25% to the standard ref. 16520 price. There are no exotic dials for the refs. 16520 and 116520, unfortunately.
Generally speaking, any pre-owned Rolex Daytona purchase will increase in value for the foreseeable future; in the last five years, the stainless steel ref. 116520 has had a whopping 30% added to its RRP. Unsurprisingly, models in precious metals don’t benefit quite as much in the residuals department, and garish variants such as the ref. 116519 Beach and the ref. 116598 SACO “Leopard” fare especially poorly, but these are the exceptions. Collector interest centres predominately around the stainless steel iterations, and that’s where the best investments lie.
It’s easy to suggest that the Rolex Daytona has somewhat fallen on its feet given its underwhelming early performance that should have seen it consigned to the pages of history, but a broader view demonstrates that Rolex has been particularly clever in generating a lot of its own luck over the years. Sure, the NASA gig didn’t pan out, but a savvy reaction and consistent output certainly won the brand the long game. Omega’s Speedmaster might have gone to the moon, but when it comes down to the bottom line, the art of selling watches, it’s Rolex with the queues out the door.
Article courtesy of Andrew Morgan for aBlogtoWatch.com
Rolex watches are available at Deutsch & Deutsch in El Paso, Laredo, McAllen and Houston, Texas.
Watchfinder & Co. presents: Inside the Rolex Submariner, a demonstration of the intricacies of the Rolex calibre 3135. Watchfinder Head Watchmaker Tony Williams shows you how this famous movement is taken apart and reassembled.
Rolex watches are available at Deutsch & Deutsch Jewelers in Laredo, El Paso, McAllen, and Houston, Texas.
New shape, case, crown and movement – with so many new features, how does the Clé de Carter manage to look so classic?
Cartier has an impressive track record with its geometric watch designs. Is the Clé de Cartier strong enough to hold its own against the likes of the Tank and the Ballon Bleu?
Earlier this year Cartier introduced an new addition to their watchmaking collection – the Clé de Cartier. Currently only offered in precious metals, the Clé marks a completely new shape for the brand (more on that here). Offered in 31mm, 35mm and 40mm, it’s a watch that definitely suits both men and women, so we thought it would be a good idea to get a female perspective on the piece – from Fiona Chambers, Time+Tide’s Creative Director.
The big story about the Clé, as with so many of Cartier’s watches, is the case. A soft geometric curve surrounding a circular dial, it evokes Cartier’s spirit of classic elegance while giving a nod to the bold designs that characterised ’60s and ’70s watch design.
Referencing multiple historical influences – and avoiding being shackled to any single one – is a neat trick. To manage this feat while creating a watch that looks modern is a trick that few besides Cartier could pull off.
Fiona’s take: “For me, the size of the Clé – particularly the height – is good as it doesn’t get lost under your cuff, or try to overpower it.”
While the overall design of the case is confident and assured, it’s the crown that provides the real ‘wow’ moment. In fact, so proud are Cartier of their innovative square crown, that they named the watch for it. Clé is French for ‘key’, and the crown is inspired by the winding keys used on antique clocks and pocket watches. Count this as another clever addition to the historical mélange that makes up the Clé’s design palette. The crown/key is more than just the type of romantic story adored by marketing departments. It’s a smart little piece of design and a joy to use. If you’re prone to fiddling with your jewellery, be warned: compulsively flicking the ingot-shaped crown (inset with Cartier’s trademark blue sapphire) is a genuine risk. The crown operates a little differently from a traditional one too, in the normal position it doesn’t freely rotate; instead it automatically aligns to either a horizontal or vertical axis. The watch can be hand wound like this, and if you want to set the time or date just pull it out and it operates like any other crown.
Cartier could have easily leaned too heavily on the novelty of the new crown, pushing the entire watch into gimmick territory, but thankfully they stopped short of that. Sure, the narrative of the ‘key’ is central to its appeal, but it’s only part of the story – and all the other elements are strong enough to stand on their own merits.
If the case and the crown are new, the dial is classic Cartier. Blued sword-shaped hands, blue roman numerals (complete with the ‘secret’ signature), and central silvered flinqué sunray finish. All these details are real Cartier hallmarks, and they work well. Meanwhile, the date has been integrated into the design, rather than added as an afterthought.
Fiona’s take: “I love the detail in the middle of the dial. It plays in the light and whenever you look down at the time, you see different layers of detail. I also liked that even though the diamonds were there, they weren’t the only star of the show.”
Not content with an entirely new case, Cartier developed a new movement to power their Clé. The calibre 1847 MC is a round movement – and it’s Cartier’s most accessible manufacture movement to date – and it will be doing a lot of the brand’s horological heavy lifting in years to come, reducing the brand’s reliance on ETA movements. The 1847 MC is more plainly finished than Cartier’s other manufacture movements, but it’s technically geared toward stability, with the balance wheel mounted on a bridge at two points and the rotor incorporating a specially designed durable lever system.
On the surface, the Clé de Cartier seems simple enough: a well designed, comfortable, functional, gold dress watch. In the hands of other brands, this might have translated as something overly formal and boring. But Cartier has managed to create a watch that avoids these traps and even rewards the wearer who pays attention: the ingenious crown, the complex curvature of the case, the intricate dial. Taken individually, they’re all small details, but in combination they create a watch that’s wonderfully enjoyable to wear.
Fiona’s take: “I’m most impressed by the way it curves to fit the wrist, and I like the leather strap as it mutes the bling factor. I also really appreciate the size. Too often watches with diamonds are just another piece of jewellery, but I can actually read the time on this.”
Do you see this crown? It’s based on the winding keys of antique clocks.
Will the Clé ever achieve the same legendary status as the Tank, or enjoy the commercial success of the Ballon Bleu?
The Clé, like most of Cartier’s mainstream production pieces is aimed at a mainstream consumer audience – in this case someone who values what Cartier stands for and wants a gold watch that’s a little more unusual than a Tank.
Fiona’s take: “This is not a watch you need to reserve for ‘special’ occasions. It’s not a massive statement watch, but it’s a great piece for a woman to buy herself as a nice everyday piece, and versatile enough to look good on anyone from 25 up.”
We know it will happen eventually, but we’d love to see a steel model already!
Fiona’s take: “I’m normally quite critical and I was shocked that after I wore it I wouldn’t change anything. I didn’t particularly warm to the watch in pictures or even when it was sitting in front of me – but when I put it on I loved it.”
Original images by Jules Tahan
Article courtesy of timeandtidewatches.com.
Cartier watches are available at Deutsch & Deutsch in El Paso, Houston, McAllen, and Laredo, Texas.
For 2015, Rolex added a new member to the Pearlmaster watch family with the Rolex Datejust Pearlmaster 39 – debuted here in a range of interesting stone-decorated varieties. This is exactly the type of watch that allows Rolex to both earn its merit among certain audiences and, at the same time, annoy fans of the brand mostly interested in their more classic sport watches.
While the Rolex Pearlmaster is generally considered a lady’s watch (often referred to as the “Lady-Datejust Pearlmaster” in smaller case sizes), this new 39mm-wide model does have a distinct feminine touch, but is also something that I know for a fact will appeal to male customers in various parts of the world. For that reason, I feel more than comfortable putting on what is essentially a woman’s watch that is, for at least some clients, good enough for a man. Of course, this is an interesting phenomenon, as most lady’s watches are actually smaller versions of men’s watches, and the reverse is quite uncommon.
As far as I know, every Rolex Datejust Pearlmaster watch has some type of precious stone decoration (at least, that I have seen). The collection seems to have begun as a more “formal” or decorative version of the Rolex Lady-Datejust. The Rolex Datejust Pearlmaster watch collection begins with a petite 29mm-wide version, which goes up to 34mm wide, and now, 39mm wide. Each of them shares a special type of bracelet which is decidedly more “jewelry-like” than most other Rolex bracelets. Rolex simply calls this five-link bracelet the “Pearlmaster,” and it has a very smooth and pleasant feel when moving the links as well as wearing it.
The 2015 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust Pearlmaster 39 watch collection has a lot of similarities to another new-for-2015 Rolex release. Both the Rolex Datejust Pearlmaster 39 as well as the new Rolex Day-Date 40 watches (hands-on here) share the fact that they are the first watches to include ceramic inserts in the gold bracelets (more on that in a moment), as well as the 3235 family of movements. The Rolex Day-Date 40 watches contain the Rolex 3255 automatic movement rather than the 3235, but the only major difference, as far as I know, is the addition of the day of the week indicator disc in the 3255, whereas the 3235 has the time and date.
So, let’s discuss the movement for a moment. I actually recommend anyone keenly interested in the movement to read our above discussion on the 2015 Rolex Day-Date 40 watches. I referred to those watches as perhaps the finest timepieces that Rolex has produced to date. What makes the 3235 movement special is how dedicated it is to accuracy. In addition to the standard COSC Chronometer rating given to each individual movement, Rolex now employs their own barrage of tests to ensure accuracy and reliability over time – that they simply call the “Rolex Chronometer Tests.”
Inside the 3255 and 3235 automatic movements are the new Rolex Chronergy escapements along with variable inertia balance wheels. There is also a fancy Paraflex shock absorbing system to ensure more accuracy over time. While the 3235 movement isn’t about adding functionality, it is about further refining the longevity and performance of a Rolex movement. The 3235 further has a 4Hz (28,800 bph) operating frequency and a nice power reserve of about 70 hours. Rolex has mentioned that this new family of in-house made movements offers the most consistent high level of accuracy performance out of all the movements they have produced thus far. I fully expect that over time (though it will be slow), some of these new movement technology developments will find their way migrating to the movements used in more Rolex watch collections.
Above, I mentioned the ceramic inserts in the Rolex Pearlmaster bracelets. Let me explain that these inserts aren’t something you can see, but are rather hidden within the construction of the bracelet. The purpose of the ceramic inserts is to prevent any gold “stretching” that can sometimes occur over long periods of time where due to the softness of the metal, the links slowly deform. The ceramic inserts also protect the links from wearing over time as they fold over one another.
Having visited Rolex and seeing their production as well as product testing, this new feature feels like a very logical outcome of their routine durability tests. Rolex is perhaps the only watch brand I am familiar with who I’ve seen stress test their watches by artificially mimicking years of wear. Robots wear watches and move around to simulate long periods of wear. Rolex then carefully studies the results of these tests to see where weakness exists and to determine how best to improve their products. I suspect that the inclusion of the ceramic inserts into the links is a direct result of such testing and policies at the company.
At 39mm wide, the new larger Rolex Datejust Pearlmaster 39 case loses the “Lady” designation and now feels like something that men would feel comfortable wearing. There are going to be plenty of people on this post complaining that no man should be seen wearing this timepiece, and I won’t argue with them, as that is a matter of taste. These would not be my first choice of stone-decorated Rolex watch, but the bold colors and beautiful detailing simply got me curious about wearing them.
Those models which have stone-decorated bezels with color gradients are uniquely fascinating to behold and require considerable gemological effort in-house at Rolex’s gem-setting department. Finding and arranging the right colors and sizes of stones requires a huge amount of effort. People recall the “rainbow Daytona” with its colorful bezel, but few know that each rainbow-colored, precious-stone bezel requires about two weeks to produce.
Each of these watches, save for the Rolex Datejust Pearlmaster 39 with the full pave dial, have bezels with 48 baguette cut sapphire stones of various colors. Each stone is, of course, hand-set. That same rule applies to each of the stones on the dial, including the diamond hour markers as well as the diamond-set Arabic numeral hour markers. I find it interesting that despite the Pearlmaster nature of the collection, the dials merely read “Oyster Perpetual Datejust” on them. The dials feature colors such as “olive green,” “cognac,” and “red grape” which match the stone colors on the bezel. Again, the colors themselves might not appeal to everyone (not that they are trying to), but what everyone should appreciate is the technique and the excellent use of stones and colors by Rolex.
Interestingly enough, for 2015, there are a few 18k yellow gold versions of the Rolex Datejust Pearlmaster 39 as well as an 18k white gold model, but nothing in 18k Everose gold. I suppose Rolex is waiting to offer an Everose gold version – if it decides to do so at all. It is important to note that gem-set watches such as this represent the more high-end world of Rolex watches, as these timepieces are several times more expensive than most Rolex timepieces that are sold. A lot of the value comes from the complexity of setting the watches with a range of stone colors that nevertheless must live together in harmony.
Rolex intentionally played with color, doing things such as having a blue to yellow/green gradient or purple to blue. These are exercises in color and gem-setting that just happen to mark the debut of the new 39mm-wide version of the Rolex Datejust Pearlmaster. While in the West, these would no doubt represent timepieces for women, there will be male buyers in the East, for sure.
Rolex has been on an interesting kick lately, debuting new movement technology in very high-end watches – often with precious stones. For example, last year in 2014, Rolex debuted their silicon Syloxi balance wheels in the new women’s Datejust collection (decorated with a lot of precious stones). Here, again, you see the debut of the 3235 automatic movement that will likely inhabit more mainstream Rolex Datejust watches in the future, but presented in the glamorously niche Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust Pearlmaster 39 watch collection.
Prices are as follows: reference 86348 SAJOR 42748 (18k yellow gold with olive green dial) and 86348 SABLV 42748 (18k yellow gold with cognac dial) at 71,200 CHF, reference 86349 SAFUBL 42794 (18k white gold with red grade dial) at 83,200 CHF, and the 18k yellow gold with full pave diamomd-set dial reference 86348 SAJOR 44748 at 128,000 CHF. rolex.com
Article courtesy of ablogtowatch.com.
Visit Deutsch & Deutsch in Laredo, McAllen, Houston, and El Paso, Texas to see our selection of luxury swiss watches from Rolex.
Today, Patrick Dempsey, TAG Heuer Friend of the Brand, was in Switzerland to visit for the first time the TAG Heuer Watch Manufacture.
Patrick Dempsey met with Jack Heuer at the Manufacture today. Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of Tag Heuer and President of LVMH’s Watch Division was there to greet Patrick and show him the inner workings of watchmaking.
Patrick spent quite a lot of time with the watchmakers in the ‘ateliers’, peppering them unusual questions. ‘He knows watches,’ said one. Patrick Dempsey, who came to Europe to race at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium and at the Nürburgring in Germany, couldn’t resist making a pit stop in the cradle of Swiss watchmaking at La-Chaux-de-Fonds.
Dempsey Motor Racing Team, supported by TAG Heuer, finished second in their category GTAM at this year’s edition of the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans in June with 331 laps at an average speed of 205 km/h.
Before Patrick left for Belgium, Jean-Claude Biver presented him with a sizeable chunk of his home-made cheese (which actually has won several awards, incidentally) and, together with the whole team at TAG Heuer, wished him on the race course.
The ultimate power watch has had a major upgrade.
How long will it take for the next-generation movement technology showcased in the Calibre 3255 to trickle into Rolex’s more accessible collections?
There’s a weight to a gold Rolex that’s measured in more than grams. A gold Rolex is a powerful signifier – of success, of prestige, and of quality – far more so than any other comparable gold watch. And the most iconic iteration of the gold Rolex is, without doubt, the Day-Date, commonly referred to as ‘the President’.
There is some confusion about exactly what a Rolex President is. The term is used to variously describe the Day-Date model, the jubilee bracelet, or the combination of the two. What’s less confusing is the inspiration behind the name; Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson wore different versions of a gold Rolex on a jubilee bracelet.
Always very marketing-savvy, Rolex capitalised on the prestigious association – running a campaign from 1956 until the late ’60s with the tagline: “Men who guide the history of the world wear Rolex watches”. In a battery of print ads, the Day-Date was referred to as “the presidents’ watch” and later as “The Rolex President Day-Date”, and even today, the brand has kept the connection going, describing it as a model worn “by more presidents, leaders and visionaries than any other watch.”
The close association of this watch – only ever available in precious metals – with the world’s political elite creates a strong aura of authority around the Day-Date that makes it the go-to choice for anyone wanting to make a power statement with their wrist. It’s also a watch that’s becoming increasingly significant for the ever bullish vintage Rolex market – with the Phillips ‘Glamorous Day-Date’ auction yielding impressive hammer prices. The Day-Date is being noticed by a younger generation of collectors, and is very much on-trend at the moment.
Which brings us back to the Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 40. There’s a lot that’s new about this watch. New case, new movement, new size, new dial finishes. The Day-Date 40 will replace the 41mm Day-Date II, but still sit alongside the 36mm Day-Date. Individually, the changes in the Day-Date 40 are all small, but taken as a whole they represent a significant upgrade to Rolex’s flagship model. We reviewed an Everose version, but it’s also available in platinum or yellow gold.
The clearest indication that we’re looking at a brand-new Rolex is the dazzling array of new textured dials on offer. The texture is achieved through a new technique for Rolex, achieved by laser etching over a sunray finish. This example is a Sundust dial with a stripe motif, but there’s also a quadrant finish and an ice blue diagonal motif that’s unique to the platinum model. These new dials aren’t for everyone, but they add interest and texture to the watch as well as referencing the brand’s rich history of exotic dials, which often have wonderful names such as ‘tapestry’, ‘linen’ or ‘honeycomb’. And by the way, these dial finishes are exclusive to the Day-Date 40.
Aside from the dial itself, the Day-Date 40 comes with either stick markers or ‘deconstructed’ roman numerals. And of course the instantaneous change day and date indications. These pictures don’t fully capture just how gold this dial is. You could be mistaken for thinking it’s champagne, but trust us: in reality it’s very gold. I can imagine in certain lights, the gold dial/hands/case combination might make telling the time more than a moment’s glance, but let’s be honest, legibility isn’t the main purpose of the Day-Date 40.
While the new case and dials are important, the exciting – and really significant – news is the calibre 3255 that powers the Day-Date 40. Calibre 3255 is Rolex’s next-generation movement, and we expect to see it (or versions of it) rolling out through their collections in the years to come. Aside from the instantaneous date change (meaning that the day and date flip within a fraction of a second at the stroke of midnight – already a feature on the Day-Date and the Day-Date II) the Calibre 3255 boasts performance twice as exacting as COSC standards, a new Chronergy escapement (a more energy efficient version of a Swiss lever escapement), Parachrom hairspring, thinner barrels, upgraded gear train and new lubricants.
These innovations have resulted in a power reserve that is now 70 hours, a 50 per cent gain on the previous movement. It also means that Rolex – already renowned for their hardworking, reliable movements, are continuing to research and develop in this area to keep step with impressive competitor advancements like Omega’s Master Co-Axial series. While it might not have been the sexiest new Rolex release at Baselworld, the Calibre 3255 is the most important. And not just for what it is, but what it represents.
The Day-Date 40 was a dream to wear. The bracelet is nothing short of amazing. Buttery soft and yet still supple. Rolex have also gone to some effort to future-proof it by adding ceramic inserts in the links so that the soft metal won’t wear away and loosen over time. Beyond the excellent bracelet, the case is, for me, slightly more reasonably proportioned than the Day-Date II. What a difference one millimetre makes. But beyond all the tangible factors, there’s just something about slipping on a solid gold Rolex. You can’t escape that cultural weight we mentioned earlier. It was also less bling than expected. Don’t get me wrong, thanks to the fluted bezel, gold dial and multifaceted bracelet, the Day-Date 40 sparkles in any light, but the Everose is warmer and less harsh than yellow gold. As always Rolex have offered the complete package with the Day-Date 40 – and further proof (if any were needed) that they’re still at the top of the game.
Guess how many US Presidents have worn this watch?
What’s the next watch that’s going to benefit from the next-generation movement technology?
The promise of the Day-Date is unchanged. It’s a watch made for captains of industry and leaders of men.
I’d like to see a little more contrast on the dial – but to be fair that’s less of an issue with some of the other dial variants.
This version of the Rolex Day-Date 40 has an RRP of $47,550.
|Model:||Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 40|
|Case Material:||18 ct Everose gold|
|Dial:||Sundust, stripe motif|
|Strap:||President bracelet, semi-circular three-piece links, Concealed folding Crownclasp|
|Movement:||Calibre 3255, Manufacture Rolex|
|Crystal:||Scratch-resistant sapphire, Cyclops lens over the date|
|Functions:||Centre hour, minute and seconds hands Instantaneous day and date in apertures, unrestricted rapid-setting. Stop-seconds for precise time setting|
Original images by Jason Reekie
Article courtesy of timeandtidewatches.com.
Rolex watches are available at Deutsch & Deutsch in Laredo, McAllen, Houston, and El Paso, Texas.
Of all the watches that debuted at last year’s SIHH watch fair in Geneva, perhaps the one I least expected was a dive watch from Cartier. And it turned out to be one of the coolest new watches in recent years. In this article from my blog, Watch-Insider.com, I give you the scoop on Cartier’s foray into the world of “real” sports watches.
The Cartier Calibre de Cartier Diver is an unmistakably masculine watch for both everyday wear and extreme conditions; it meets the challenge of combining the classical Cartier style with the technical requirements necessary to be considered a true divers’ watch under the international standard ISO 6425. To meet this standard, the watch must meet eight criteria for reliability and pass a series of extremely rigorous tests.
For those who are unfamiliar with the ISO standard, these are the main criteria:
Unidirectional turning bezel
To prevent any accidental rotation or alteration of the dive-time indication, the bezel turns in only one direction. It has been designed with 120 notches (40 teeth and 3 points) to enable adjustment to a half-minute, with a clear sound signal during its rotation. For greater visibility, the markers signaling each five-minute period are clearly indicated.
Display in the dark
The Calibre de Cartier Diver can be clearly read deep below the surface due to the Super-LumiNova applied to its dive-time indicators, hour and minute hands, pre-selection device and small seconds counter.
Water-resistant to 300 meters
When underwater, diving watches can be subjected to very high pressures and extreme conditions (saltwater, thermal shocks, etc.). For protection, the Calibre de Cartier Diver is fitted with a thick crystal, a screwed caseback, oversized seals and a screw-down crown that ensure water-resistance to 300 meters. The watch has demonstrated its resistance to saltwater after immersion in a solution of sodium chloride (30 g/l) at 18° C – 25° C for 24 hours. Furthermore, after spending 50 hours at a depth of 30 centimeters at 18° C – 25° C, it continues to function perfectly underwater.
Despite its sportiness, the watch is still a Cartier. Cartier would never release a watch that was overly massive or heavy, so reducing the thickness of the case was a technical and aesthetic challenge. The manufacture’s watchmakers, as always, took care to maintain a balance of dimensions. They have produced an authentic divers’ watch, without sacrificing everyday comfort on the wrist, in a balanced case measuring just 11 mm in thickness. It features a contrast of satin and polished finishes, a turning bezel coated with ADLC and bordered with fluting that recalls the interior of the bezel of the original Calibre de Cartier watch, launched in 2010. This is a clear sign of its pedigree, just like the oversized, luminescent Roman numeral “XII” at the 12 o’clock position.
The Calibre de Cartier Diver is available in an all-steel or rose-gold case, both on a sporty, black rubber strap. Like its predecessor, the original Calibre de Cartier, the watch contains the Cartier in-house movement 1904 MC. Specs for the steel-case version of the watch are below the photos.
Case: Stainless steel; diameter = 42 mm; thickness = 11 mm
Crown: Faceted steel set with a faceted synthetic spinel
Bezel: Unidirectional, steel coated with ADLC
Water-resistance: 300 meters
Dial: Black, partially snailed, with numeral “XII” in Super-LumiNova
Hands: Sword-shaped, with Super-LumiNova
Strap: Rubber, with steel ardillon buckle
Price: Starting at 5,500 euro (steel)
Article courtesy of watchtime.com.
Cartier watches are available at Deutsch & Deutsch in Laredo, McAllen, Houston, and El Paso, Texas.
Author’s Note: It was a cold day in March, earlier this year, when we paid a visit to the home of Cartier to understand how its new watches are developed and to see key aspects of the manufacturing process. We came away with a clear appreciation for the balance of technology and craftsmanship employed at Cartier – the very latest manufacturing technology often sits right alongside traditional manual watchmaking skills. It was quite a day. We’re excited to share this with you, any thoughts or comments please contact us.
Cartier is synonymous with Paris. A quick glance through the brand’s history shows you that it is as much a story about the emergence of a boom city during the Belle Époque era of the late 19th Century as it is of the eponymous company founded by Louis-François Cartier in 1847. But despite this link, some of the most innovative Cartier products are created far from the romantic French capital. Welcome to Switzerland – home to Cartier’s flourishing watch business. And we do mean flourishing – in terms of turnover Cartier are one of the watch industry’s biggest players.
Towns like La Chaux-de-Fonds are why we think of Switzerland as something straight off a chocolate box lid. It’s a picturesque part of the world, but make no mistake, inside the quaint buildings and cutting edge architecture, you will find people industriously making watches and army knives. Take a drive down Rue Louis-Chevrolet (yes, that Chevrolet) and you’ll drive past TAG Heuer, then Breitling before hitting the main road that leads to Cartier’s impressively modern factory. Across the road from Cartier is Sellita, the movement manufacturer. Girard-Perregaux, Corum, Ulysse Nardin and Bell & Ross are also in town. It’s Disneyland for watch lovers. But despite having one of the largest presences in the town, Cartier is a relatively recent arrival to the region.
It didn’t take Monsieur Cartier long to produce his first wristwatch, with the first model launched in 1853, six years after the company was founded. Back then Cartier was what is known as an établisseur, which means a manufacturer who designs and makes its own cases, but buys in movements from other specialists. This was standard practice in the days before vertically integrated manufacturing. Cartier made sure it bought from the very best – Jaeger-LeCoultre, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe and Rolex all supplied movements to Cartier.
Cartier wasn’t content to merely make the cosmetic components of the watch; the spirit of innovation was there right from the start. In addition to releasing the Santos – the first commercially produced wristwatch in 1911, they also innovated on other aspects of the watch. The deployant “folding clasp” that you see on many watches today? Cartier invented that in 1910. Cartier’s modern focus on watches began in 1977 when it was decided to seek out an industrial partner in the heart of Switzerland, eventually choosing Ebel. As Cartier’s business grew, they bought Ebel’s watchmaking business as well as a range of the smaller suppliers throughout La Chaux-de-Fonds to consolidate watchmaking at the new factory that opened in 2000. And it was here that the next major step was taken- to become a full manufacture and design and produce watch movements, the first being the Ballon Bleu series in 2008.
Cartier’s watch business today is spread across six production sites in Switzerland:
As you can see, each site has its own speciality and together they cover the full range of parts and components that go into making the brand’s range of quartz and automatic watches, as well as the hand-made haute horlogerie masterpieces.
The development team is responsible for designing all new watches. As we walked in with our camera, computer screens were quickly changed from working on the next big thing to showing 3D drawings of existing models – secrecy is paramount. The process is a lot more involved than simply designing a pretty watch. This team also designs all of the components inside the new design, as well as any new tools that need to be created to make those components. Computers simulate which parts will wear and after how long, meaning that all the hard design work is done before a single part is stamped in the metal. The most impressive part? This team also work out how tightly every screw should be tightened, which is then specified to the watchmakers assembling the parts.
Once a virtual design has been signed off, the next step is to create wax models using the 3D printers, such as the one below.
These printers are impressive pieces of hardware and can print an entire watch- including a bracelet with movable links – in a single print. Even complex dial designs can be produced. It’s an important stage, because no matter how good the design looks on the screen, this is the first chance that a designer has to assess how the new model sits on the wrist.
One of the highlights of the visit was the chance to see alternative design proposals for Cartier’s best-selling series- The Ballon Bleu. Cartier claims that if Ballon Bleu was a watch brand rather than series, it would be the fourth largest Swiss watch brand ranked by sales.
The Ballon Bleu (“Blue Balloon” or “Blue Ball”) refers to the blue sapphire-tipped crown that has become a Cartier tradition. The heritage stretches back to the famous Panther broach made for the Duchess of Windsor, where a jewel-encrusted Panther sat on a blue ball.
You can see that the watch on the right below has no lugs and a crown guard far more integrated than the final design. The watch on the left is not the final design, but much closer to the watch we see today.
Having seen the technology used to develop Cartier’s watches, the next stop was at the other end of the spectrum, involving the art of creating a curved watch crystal, one that has largely been abandoned by most manufacturers. Cartier fits these hand-made crystals to models such as the Crash range. Yes, sapphire crystal is preferred for flat surfaces, but if you want curves, then you have to use mineral glass.
These crystals are made by taking flat piece of glass and placing it on top of a mould. That mould is then rotated under a bright flame, which heats the crystal to 600 degrees, melting the glass into the mould. This is an incredibly delicate operation and it’s very easy to end up with a pile of useless broken pieces of glass.
From this stage, the crystal is then hand polished before it’s ready to be fitted to the case.
The theme of technology and craftsmanship extends to the humble bracelet link. The first steps are pure machine- solid gold rods are inserted into a CNC machine which machines the raw links. These links are then given a preliminary polish in a tray of yellow ceramic beads.
But from here, man takes over. The links are painted pink before being polished by hand. Every. Single. Link. The reason for the coating is so that the polisher knows which surface has been polished and which hasn’t.
The same process is used for polishing watch cases, as you see below. The final polish is often done entirely by hand with polishing paste and no machines at all.
Hands are one of the most delicate parts of a watch and of course one of the parts most on show. They are initially made by stamping metal, but again, the hard parts are all done manually, including shaping and polishing. Oh, and the luminova on the hands? All painted by hand.
We’ve only told the story of small elements of the manufacturing process, but each of which highlight Cartier’s watchmaking philosophy, and again it comes back to this fusion of technology and traditional watchmaking. Yes, the brand uses advanced technology, but only for the design and what we’ll call the initial manufacturing stage. But what sets these watches apart is the finishing, and that is done by hand. You come to appreciate the sheer time that goes into making a watch and of course the skills of those who make them.
Article courtesy of timeandtidewatches.com.
Cartier watches are available at Deutsch & Deutsch in Laredo, McAllen, Houston, and El Paso, Texas.
As far as ambassadorships go, the pairing of David Guetta and TAG Heuer seems a little off beat. But TAG Heuer are looking for spokespeople in pressurised environments, not just sport. It actually makes a lot of sense when you consider their “Don’t Crack Under Pressure” slogan is just as relevant to a superstar DJ (Guetta), a Hollywood icon (DiCaprio), or a catwalk model (Delevigne), as it is to a steely athlete like Kimi Raikonnen, or Lewis Hamilton. Their collaboration has resulted in the release of the TAG Heuer Formula 1 David Guetta Special Edition. To market the release and to give us regular folk a peek inside his daily routine, David Guetta has made a short film for us to enjoy. In case you’re prone to violent bouts of jealousy, I should warn you: There are a lot of helicopters and adoring fans.
So it’s just about plausible that Guetta’s lifestyle is sufficiently pressurised to justify his role as an ambassador for the brand. And it’s hardly possible to accuse TAG Heuer of anything other than smart product placement. Guetta is known the world over, and has fans that flock to his gigs and idolise his style and swagger. Strapping a watch on one of those record-spinning wrists surely guarantees excellent exposure – especially so to that younger generation of consumers who most Swiss brands have so far failed to win over and are now trying to connect with. But is it just a name or has this watch actually been inspired by Guetta himself?
I suppose if I were an international music star, known for my globe-trotting, the first thing I’d ask for on a watch bearing my name would be a GMT function. It makes perfect sense for the TAG Heuer Formula 1 David Guetta Special Edition to feature this complication. The black and blue bezel (strongly reminiscent of the Rolex GMT Master II BLNR and effectively identical to TAG Heuer’s previous release, which you can read about here), The black hours (6pm-6am) represent the night, and the blue (6am-6pm) represent daylight.
Let’s not ignore that interesting “wristband” strap. It’s inspired by club-goers’ attire, but does it have a practical purpose too? Disc Jockeying is hard, hot work, and the last thing any self-respecting chart-topper wants is a bracelet sliding around on his or her wrist. This leather band makes constant contact with the skin, improving the stability of the watch on the wrist, and taking advantage of calfskin’s flexibility and absorbent properties. The strap is fastened by an ardillon buckle, treated with titanium carbide, and engraved with the TAG Heuer logo.
More important still is comfort. Straps of this nature, with a wide leather back, spread the weight around the wrist well. If this watch was made of titanium it would feel practically weightless on the wrist. It is, however, made of titanium carbide-treated 316L stainless steel. The black and blue GMT bezel is made of aluminium. The dial is opaline black with a date window at 3 o’clock – another essential feature for those with hectic schedules. I am kind of surprised that David Guetta didn’t request a day function as well. What with all those late night gigs and hedonistic parties, you’d think he’d have more need of a day/date than most people.
Just in case David Guetta wants to have a pool party, he can feel confident taking his watch along too. Thanks to the screw down back, engraved with the chequerboard so oft associated with TAG Heuer, and the screw down crown, the TAG Heuer Formula 1 David Guetta Special Edition is water resistant to 200m. A sapphire crystal provides a clear and scratch resistant aperture through which the hand polished indices can be fully appreciated. The royal blue Superluminova is really something else. It distinguishes the normal time hands from the GMT hand, which is blue with white Superluminova.
To add a bit of credibility to proceedings, the TAG Heuer Formula 1 David Guetta Special Edition is powered by the automatic calibre 7. It has a balance frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour, and a power reserve of 42+ hours. It’s a rhodium plated movement, decorated with Geneva Stripes, and engraved with “TAG Heuer Calibre 7 Swiss Made” in gold. All in all, it’s actually a really nice watch. At first, I found David Guetta a strange pairing for TAG Heuer, but now I think I get it. It will be interesting to see if the brand continue to find their ambassadors in less well-trodden fields (it could make for some interesting pieces with potential collector value). The Tag Heuer Formula 1 David Guetta Special Edition has a price of $2,450 excluding VAT, or £1,850 if you’re shopping in the UK.
Article courtesy of ablogtowatch.com.
TAG Heuer watches are available at Deutsch & Deutsch in Houston, El Paso, Laredo, and McAllen, Texas.
Geometry has been a driving force for Cartier from the beginning. Shape was the defining characteristic of Cartier’s first wristwatch (which was the first wristwatch), the Santos. Soon after the Santos came the Tank, inspired by the aggressive rectangle of the first armoured vehicles. More recent is the Ballon Bleu that epitomises the perfect sphere.
Shapes are not just important in Cartier’s past; they play an integral role in their continuing story. And the latest chapter is the shape within a shape that is the Clé de Cartier.
We sat down with Arnaud Carrez, Cartier’s International Marketing and Communications Director to discuss just how you go about designing a new icon for one of the biggest names in watchmaking. And the pressure that comes with carrying that legacy.
T+T: How does the Clé de Cartier extend the Cartier story?
AC: Creativity is always the essence of the brand. If you look at all of our emblematic models, the Santos, the Tank, the Tortue, the Ballon Bleu and so on. The number of shapes that Cartier has created is difficult to estimate.
T+T: And they’re quite strong shapes.
AC: Yes, because we see ourselves as a master of shapes. We’ve continually created new shapes that have become references in terms of style and part of the patrimony of all watchmakers.
T+T: It’s easy to forget just how influential Cartier has been in – literally shaping modern wristwatch design. How do you follow on from this century long legacy? How do you come up with what will hopefully be your new icon, the Clé?
AC: The Clé is an interesting exercise. The original brief was to start from the line. A geometric curve. Cartier always starts with distinctive lines. If you look at the Ballon Bleu, which we introduced in 2007, it was a reinterpretation of the circle. It was a different exercise.
T+T: The Clé is different isn’t it? If you look at the iconic models they seem to be faithful to their shape, whereas the Clé seems to be a shape within a shape. There are different lines encasing the central dial.
AC: Yes, this is different for us; it’s a new shape. We see it as a new icon, after the Santos, the Tank and the Ballon Bleu.
T+T: What are the considerations when you bring a new line into the family. This is a big move. What are the considerations in creating a new icon?
AC: I would be lying if I told you it was an easy exercise. It’s the result of a lot of work and creativity from a lot of people.
Taking the origin of the curve seemed an easy exercise at first but finding the right proportions and balance were quite challenging.
If you look at it, you see the purity and the simplicity of the lines; the curves are ergonomic and elegant. Rounded, with a very nice profile.
T+T: And that crown.
AC: Now, the crown is a miracle.
The shape is revolutionary. The watch is called the Clé, which means ‘Key’. And the crown takes its inspiration from the keys that we used to use to wind up pocket watches and clocks. That’s what this crown is. You use the same gesture to wind the crown, as you would have used to wind your pocket watch 200 years ago. That’s the beauty of this watch.
It’s a gesture that is simple, and unique to Cartier. But we’ve also made sure that the watch is designed for the wrist, and is comfortable to wear.
T+T: Stepping back from the Clé, what are the values and philosophy that underpin Cartier’s design philosophy?
AC: Timeless, universal elegance. We create extraordinary products with a strong design and shape that makes them successful across the years.
At Cartier we like to be audacious, we have a pioneering spirit when we create. We surprise people with new objects. Innovation and creativity are our key mottos. Innovation is the essence of the maison.
Images by Jules Tahan
Article courtesy of timeandtidewatches.com.
Cartier watches are available at Deutsch & Deutsch in El Paso, McAllen, Houston, and Laredo, Texas.