Travelling history of investment-quality timepieces.
Minutes & Seconds
Remember geography lessons mentioning latitude and longitude as minutes and seconds and wondering how calculating longitude requires knowing the difference between local time and Greenwich Mean Time and west of Greenwich by the difference in hours between locations. Because the local position may not be in the centre of a time zone or longitude, fractions of longitude are measured in the same fractions as time, in minutes and seconds.
John Harrison & Timekeeping
Ships carried timekeeping devices to assist in navigation, but at first, they were not good enough to make accurate calculations of longitude. To promote the development of more accurate timekeeping devices and impish Parliament offered a large prize for a timepiece that could provide longitude accurate to within 30 miles West Indies. John Harrison won the prize in 1762 with a timepiece accurate to within 18 miles.
Some of the world’s great timekeepers started out making marine chronometers and successive gentlemen developed the timekeeping devices that accompanied and enabled faster methods of transportation. This marriage of Transport horology created the legacy of beauty and accuracy that lives on in the collections of today’s manufacturers.
Watches Certified for Spaceflight
Some commented on ocean transport with their marine timepieces and diving watches delivered precision timekeeping. The nautical themes present today go back to the very start of precision timekeeping devices. Next came railroads, which rate safely without good timekeeping and the ability to coordinate time between distant places telegraph and engineer what travel possible and left their mark on the world of watches as well. Aeroplanes created their own need for highly re companies in the age of flight. Today NASA has a list of watches certified for spaceflight.
Milestones in travel and navigation:
- Abraham Louis Breguet made improvements to the first chronometer shortly after its invention. The Breguet Marine collection carries this tradition. Ulysse Nardin began making manometers in 1846 and continues the tradition with the Maxi Marine and Marine Diver collections.
- Ball Watch Company of Cleveland, Ohio became a household word during when universal time period. The Elgin Watch Company of Elgin, Ohio, was also among the strong brands to begin making timepieces to the exacting standards developed then for railroad use.
- Breitling – Long associated with flight, the Navitimer included a circular slide rule on the bezel of chronograph models to assess dial was incorporated for the Cosmonaute Navitimt at the request of NASA Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter and worn in his 1962 space. The Emergency mode transmitter that was used by a helicopter after a 2003 crash in Antarctica.
- Omega – This first watch on the moon. These Speedmaster Professional watches were not made especially for NASA, but were purchased retail in Houston, Texas, and worn by astronaut missions, and spacewalks.
The Best Entry-Level Rolex Watch
The Rolex Explorer reference 1016 is considered one of the best entry-level Rolex watches for collectors. This vintage watch is more readily available than other Explorers, such as the rare reference 6610 which immediately preceded it. Experts conclude that for every 20 refs 1016s, there is 1 ref 6610. The two timepieces look very similar, however, they can be quickly identified by the signature. Ref 1016 features the “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified” signature as opposed to the “Officially Certified Chronometer” signature of the 6610.
Images courtesy of Bob’s Watches
The Longest-Running Explorer Reference
While this reference is not particularly rare, it is a piece of Rolex history. The longest-running Explorer reference, it was originally produced from 1963 to 1989 and eventually came to be known as the unmistakable Explorer standard. Its simplistic design offers a black matte dial with off-white markers. Like other Oyster watches, it features a screw Oyster case and an increased water resistance level from 50 metres to 100 metres.
The “Hack” Feature
The first round of watches, from the beginning of production to around 1975, featured the calibre 1560 movement. An updated version of the movement, renamed calibre 1570, introduced the “hack” feature which stops the second hand when the winding crown is pulled out to the hand setting position. When the hand is stopped at the “12 o’clock position, the wearer can synchronise the time with that of a known source, such as a phone. At about this time, Rolex also introduced the new Oyster bracelet. It offered specially designed links that were made from solid steel instead of the folded sheet steel of earlier Explorer bracelets.
The Space Dweller
Some rarer versions of this Explorer are signed “Space Dweller.” This unique model was first introduced in the Japanese market in 1963. It was introduced in response to a visit to Japan by the Mercury astronauts. This trial run of the Space Dweller was made to honour these brave men, who were seen as the ultimate explorers in the world at the time. Despite this, the watch was not a big seller in Japan or elsewhere in the world. As a result, there are few signed Explorer Space Dwellers with this reference.
Purchase From A Reputable Dealer
Though this watch is considered your “average” Explorer, it is still a fantastic watch that should hold a place in a reputable Rolex watch collection. However, there are many poor examples of this reference on the market, so be sure to purchase from a reputable dealer who can offer a quality version.
A gentleman’s stainless steel automatic Rolex Oyster Perpetual Comex Sea-Dweller wristwatch circa 1979 (issued to Comex in 1981, reference 2236). The black dial with luminous hourly markers and hands, date aperture to the three o’clock position, a black bi-directional bezel, round case fitted with Oyster bracelet with flip lock clasp, reference 93150, case model 1665, serial number 6193253, movement caliber 1570 – numbered D121247. Case diameter 39mm.
What makes the COMEX unique and collectible is its story. And this is a story about conviction and devotion. In a time when the Russians and Americans were competing to reach the moon, a Frenchman by the name of Henri Deleuze realized there was another frontier just as hostile and difficult to master, despite being only a step away from earth’s shores: the Oceans and the bottom of the World.
Henri embarked on the mission “To boldly go where no man has gone before” and in 1961, in the legendary port of Marseilles, he founded the “Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises” or COMEX as we have come to know it. Like a modern Phileas Fogg in true Jules Verne spirit, COMEX set out with the ambition to explore the depths of the world. With this came the complications of the increasing atmospheric pressure exerted at increasing depths. COMEX developed and made some ground-breaking advances in the field of deep-sea nautical exploration and it become evident that accuracy and timing were crucial factors in staying alive.
Due to helium causing explosive decompression by entering a watch, the timing was under threat. To find a solution, COMEX initiated a collaborative partnership with Rolex who embraced the challenge and came up with the HEV – Helium Escape Valve. Fitted on a Rolex 5513, it solved the immediate problems; but because it had not been made in stainless steel, oxidation gave the early prototypes a short life span. Room for improvement was needed and in 1972 Rolex launched the 5514, fitted with an escape valve made of stainless steel. The blueprint for the forthcoming Sea-Dweller was made and Rolex had conquered the depths.
This is a story of the successful collaboration of a mission and a brand to solve a key problem – to go further, deeper, and where no man has gone before. Added to the uniqueness and rarity of this true historic timekeeper comes to the fact that a COMEX-marked watch was never sold at any authorized dealership. It was awarded to the brave men of COMEX or officials who made the COMEX dream possible.
This is the beauty of vintage, and if you are looking for value and a sound investment look no further.
Jean-Claude Biver, The Innovator in Horology
“Alchemy is the art of liberating parts of the Cosmos from temporal existence and achieving perfection which, for metals is gold, and for man, longevity, then immortality and, finally, redemption…”
On Thursday 15th December, in the Metallurgy department of the Hublot Manufacture in Nyon, Jean-Claude Biver, Hublot’s CEO, and Andreas Mortensen, a Professor at (the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne) unveiled a range of brand new alloys set to revolutionise the characteristics of precious materials and may also pave the way for new alloys to be used in the high-tech industry.
Jean-Claude Biver, Hublot’s CEO
This presentation focused on a genuine “fusion” of 24-carat gold (the finest of noble materials and a natural product) and the very latest in high-tech materials expertise. Almost three years of collaboration and research have gone into achieving this impressive result: a completely new type of noble gold, with patents pending and graded 18 carats by the Central Office for Precious Metals Control. Hublot’s 18-carat gold is the world’s first scratch-resistant gold, and as such eliminates the age-old vulnerability of gold and its alloys.
Hardness is a measure of a material’s resistance to indentation; doubling a material’s hardness means doubling the force required to produce a given indentation. Whereas “standard” high-quality 18-carat gold can reach 400 on the Vickers hardness scale, Hublot gold has a hardness rating of almost 1000 Vickers (most hardened steels are up to 600 Vickers). This makes Hublot gold the hardest in the world, and by some margin: it can only really be “scratched” by diamond.
Components made from this material are produced using a complex process: boron carbide powder is formed by cold isostatic pressing in molds very close in shape to that of the finished part, e.g. watch cases, bracelets, bezels, etc. This ceramic – one of the hardest in existence – is also highly refractory: the preforms are then hardened at very high temperatures to create a rigid, porous structure without altering the shape. After this, molten liquid gold is injected under very high pressure. This operation is performed under inert gas pressure, at a sufficiently high temperature and pressure to ensure that the molten metal fills the pores in the ceramic, causing the two to “fuse” into a single new material.
The resulting 18-carat Magic Gold must, like other 18-carat alloys, be composed of 750 parts pure gold out of 1000, but the inclusion of ceramic makes this gold scratch-resistant, unlike traditional 18-carat gold.
Hublot has now passed the experimental stage for its new gold and acquired the means to produce the new material entirely in its own Manufacture, thanks to a high-tech foundry enabling processes such as refractory ceramic sintering and high-pressure metal casting. The first watches made from Magic Gold were presented at BaselWorld 2012.
Omega Introduces Seamaster Aqua Terra 15000 Gauss
The movement was introduced at a press conference at the Cité du Temps in Geneva on January 17th by Raynald Aeschlimann, OMEGA Vice President and member of Swatch Group’s Extended Group Management Board. Mr. Aeschlimann opened the press conference, welcoming the media and introducing Jean-Claude Monachon, OMEGA Vice President and Head of Product Development, Michel Willemin, CEO of ASULAB, Thierry Conus, the Director of Research & Development at ETA and Mathieu Oulevey, a Tribology and Materials engineer at ETA.
In his opening remarks at the press conference, Mr. Aeschlimann gave credit to Swatch Group’s unique ability to benefit from the contributions of the best engineers and researchers from all of its brands and companies. He added, “All of the heroes are here – not only my colleagues from OMEGA but from ASULAB and ETA. It was only through their shared creativity and enthusiasm that we could introduce this important innovation to you.”
The technology developed by the team led to the first prototype of the movement, which has been fitted in an OMEGA Seamaster Aqua Terra. Unlike other efforts to combat the effects of magnetism, the OMEGA movement does not rely on a protective container inside the watchcase but on the use of selected non-ferrous materials in the movement itself. Several patents are pending for the new movement.
Thierry Conus explained how magnetism had been dealt with previously, including inner cases designed to limit the effect of magnetism. He pointed out the limitations of the approach including the fact they couldn’t handle the challenge of the increased strength of permanent magnets and that, from an aesthetic standpoint, they block the view of the movement. He then showed a short film showing how a conventional mechanical watch exposed to high levels of magnetism stopped immediately and dramatically lost its accuracy. The OMEGA prototype was subjected to even higher levels of magnetism (15,000 gausses) and continued to perform. Testing showed that the watch was as accurate after its magnetic exposure as it had been before.
A live demonstration was then made that offered compelling and conclusive evidence that OMEGA’s new >15,000 gauss movement is a landmark development in watchmaking.
OMEGA expects to present the technology at the Baselworld trade fair in April. The new movement, the OMEGA Co-Axial caliber 8508, should be introduced to the market in 2013.
Courtesy of OMEGA