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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Archimede Pilot Watches

There doesn't seem to come an end to the popularity of pilot watches. The original pilot watches were made by famous watch manufacturers IWC, Lange & Söhne, Laco, Wempe and Stowa. IWC, Laco and Stowa still produce pilot watches, but all come with a spicy price tag.

German watch company Archimede has a wide collection of watches, that include an impressive line up of pilot watches at an affordable price. Starting at a relative small size of 36mm, Archimede Pilot watches are also suitable for men with small wrist or woman who want to wear a tough looking watch for a change.

Archimede Pilot watches range from the aforementioned 36mm to 45mm for their Pilot XL models. All models are available with an ETA2824 mechanical automatic movement. However, as you know, the original pilot watches were only available with a handwound movement of course. Archimede therefore introduced the Pilot XLH (Handaufzug/Handwound) model, only available in 45mm. This particular model uses the proven ETA (former Unitas) 6498 movement that we also know from the Panerai Luminor Base and Marina models.

The sizes from 36mm up to 42mm are available in different case materials, such as titanium and PVD coated cases, leather straps or metal bracelets. The 45mm XL (XLA for automatic and XLH for the handwound movement) is only available in stainless steel.

On top of that, Archimede can also provide the Pilot XLH with ETA 6498 movement with a so-called 'Top'-finish. This means that the movement has a higher grade of finish from the ETA factory: Decorated with Geneva stripes and blued screws!

As for the prices, Archimede succeeded in using a friendly price for a tough mechanical wrist watch in my opinion. Therefore, the price/quality ratio is superb. If you are looking for a friendly priced mechanical wrist watch or a pilot watch in particular, look no further.

Prices start at 325,- Euro and most pilot watches range between the entry price and 395,- Euro. The PVD models are a bit pricier, 445,- Euro that is. The most expensive model is the Pilot XLH with the ETA 6498 with Top-finish, 665,- Euro. The regular XLH model is priced at 395,- Euro.

The Pilot watches come with a transparent display back. To have a regular stainless steel case back, add 25,- Euro to the price of the watch. A folding clasp instead of a buckle is available for 40,- Euro.

My personal favourite would be the 42mm Pilot H version, this model comes close to the original pilot watches due to the absence of a brand name on the dial and the lack of a date window. The price of this model is 365,- Euro.

Have a look at Archimede Uhren yourself, website available in German and English language.

Mo Eden's 'The Digit Watch'

Who ever thought that we at WatchUseek would be mentioning a ring instead of a wristwatch? Only if the ring contains a watch. Mechnical, of course! Mo Eden started his career as a Bespoke Jeweller for clients all over the world, specialising in the procurement of rare unusual stones & the production of outstanding pieces.

Besides pure jewellery, Mo Eden also created 'The Digit Watch'. A diamond ring with a time piece inside, using mechanical movements from world's famous watch manufacturers such as Rolex SA, Blancpain and Breitling.

One of the essential requirements for Mo, when creating this ring, was to use a truly fantastic mechanical movement. Being a big Rolex fan, Mo started out using (vintage) caliber 1800 movement by Rolex. Caliber 1800 is a very small size movement, with a 48 hours power reserve and constructed using 17 jewels.

Besides this particular Rolex movement, Mo Eden is also able to use a Blancpain caliber R335 movement or a vintage Breitling movement. It is all about the wishes of the client, which movement to use and what optical characteristics would meet their desire(s).

The crystal used for the Digit Watch is a cabochon Aquamarine, instead of the 'usual' sapphire or mineral crystals. The ring is studded with 142 brilliant cut diamonds.

For more information, please contact Mo Eden via

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Virtual Ideas Watch Designer Concepts

Virtual Ideas is watch design firm based in Geneva Switzerland. Their job is to assist existing watch companies come up with new ideas for watches to be labeled under those particular brand names. Virtual Ideas is what is considered an outside design firm - but fully qualified to design timepieces from the ground up. Their favorite pastime? Making interesting watch concept creations to attract the eyes of watch lovers and companies alike.

Seen here are three of their latest watch concept creations. A rugged man's watch and who interesting women's watches. Often times Virtual Ideas will "adopt" the thematic look of one brand, and come up with a new creations that might fit into the product family. You might notice that these watches may fit the designs you associate with one or more brands - this is done on purpose.

The first watch is known as the Virtual Ideas Concept 3. The case is meant to be made mostly out of Gibeon meteorite. The interesting material is sometimes chosen as a fantastic looking watch dial, but this is the first time I've noticed it as the material for a watch case. This would make for a very interesting looking watch. Such meteorite material is mostly iron with smaller amounts of nickel, graphite, trolite, and traversite in the rock. Not only that, but the crystalline structure of the rock is amazing to behold, and would be truly dynamic looking in this black color (meteorites can be chemically dyed all sorts of colors). The watch would have a chronograph movement with a large date display. This fits the mold of several popular watch movements out there (both mechanical and quartz). Of course this is designed as a luxury watch, but could be "scaled down." Note how the rubber strap is integrated into the case while the textured large pushers make up for a large part of the watch's personality. Done in the now hip tonneau shape case, this watch would be a hit for urban warriors and alike.

Next is the Virtual Ideas Concept 4 haute joaillerie women's watch. Shaped like a large heart, the timepiece is carefully designed to allow for the set diamonds to help make up the shape of the watch, rather than just adorn it. he diamond dial looks clean and crisp, as though it may have a mirror surface to it. It reminds me of the dance floor in a fantasy ball room. The classic hands are elegant but not too minimalistic, having a ornate design to them. The watch would be made of white gold most likely, and uses large diamonds to frame the dial on the perfect heart-shaped case. Diamonds vertically oriented around the sides of the case give it a deeper and more substantial look. One lug for the strap at the bottom mixed with two lugs at the top connect a thin galuchat strap. The dainty crown emphasizes the horological character of the watch, while enhancing the inherent femininity of the design. While heart-shaped watches have been done before, this take on the theme feels fresh and refined.

Last is the Virtual Ideas Concept 2, another women's watch with a new type of complication that epitomizes the goal of novel haute horology. This impressive women's watch is broad and meant to be relatively thin. It also calls for a rather complex movement - akin to something a mind like Christophe Claret might imagine. The main dial of the watch is functional but straight forward. The time, date (on two discs) and AM/PM indicator are displayed. You can see that Virtual Ideas is keen on this particular hands design that is also exhibited on the Concept 4 watch in a similar style. The inner dial has guilloche machine engraving, while the outer part of the time dial has traditional looking thin Roman numerals. This entire watch dial is set off-centered on the face of the watch.

The rest of the face is dedicated to three rotating rings, that each rotating opposite one another. So the inner and outer rings rotate counter-clockwise, while the inner ring rotates clockwise. The idea is for the three segments to make up numbers at the top of the watch face and for the number to accurately read "12" when the time is 12 o'clock. Such a system would require a novel movement that is able to power all of these functions properly. The thin bezel of the watch would be diamond decorated, while the rest of the case is relatively sober in style and has a Cartier like blue jeweled cabochon crystal in the crown. Strap in this case looks comfortable as white rubber.

Together the concepts are but three of Virtual Idea's creations. The irony is that once these designs are released for public viewing they are considered "dead." Why? Because brands that end up releasing designs from firms like Virtual Ideas must keep the design's secret as to prevent competing brands from "borrowing" the design ideas. As such, while elements of these watches may show up in future timepieces, these designs are strictly concepts made to wet your appetite.

By Ariel Adams

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pedum Tourbillon

Pedum is a Dutch brand by Peter Voeten and Elly Knepper. Both did the same study for goldsmith in Schoonhoven, The Netherlands.

Although his primarily task was designing and creating jewellery for a famous house of jewellers in Brussels, Peter started working on time pieces in the 1980s as well. After this company went bankrupt during rough times, Peter Voeten and Elly Knepper started a company in The Netherlands by the name of Pedum. Pedum has two pillars, one for horology and one for jewellery. Peter is focussing on the watches and creates exceptional pieces, in very limited numbers.

The craftsmanship in Pedum watches is mainly in the design, construction and finish of the used materials for the watch case, dial, case back and clasp. The clasp bears the logo of Pedum, feet. Pedum uses mechanical movements only, mainly ETA/Valjoux movements. The design of the Pedum watches is inspired by Jule Verne's 20.000 Leagues Under the Sea, as you can see by the looks of the watch casing.

The nautical look of the watch case with the large screws is clearly visible in the photograph above.

Last year, Pedum created a one-off time piece for an important customer in The Netherlands. The client requested Pedum to create an exclusive gold time piece with a tourbillon movement. Pedum uses a Progress-movement with a tourbillon. This movement can also be found in the Chronoswiss Régulateur Tourbillon and Alain Silberstein's Tourbillon time piece.

In the pictures below, you will see some photographs of the process of creating the Pedum Tourbillon time piece:

The drilling of the holes for the lugs is all done by Peter Voeten. Below, you'll see an almost finished case part of the Pedum watch, ready to be attached to the lower part.

Above, the case is complete and ready to be polished. Below you'll see a picture of an almost finished crown. Entirely made in-house by Pedum.

Not only the case, crown and clasp are created by Pedum, also the dial is hand made. First, a disc is being extracted from a flat square piece of gold. The numerals, hour markers and subdials are cut-out as well and place on the dial. A lot of proto-typing and aligning with the client is key here.

Ofcourse, the movement has to fit the dial, especially the space to demonstrate the tourbillon cage.

Will it fit? Below you see the result of true craftsmanship of a goldsmith annex watch maker! The gold dial with all the hand made applied numerals and details in combination with the Progress Tourbillon movement is a feast for the eyes of a watch aficionado.

The watch and strap are being finished by the aforementioned clasp with the 'foot' logo.

Et voila, the Pedum Tourbillon time piece, one of a kind! We can only imagine how the (sun)light will play with all the gold elements of the case, dial and applied numerals.

During the interview with Peter Voeten that I had, he told me that the creation process of such a complicated watch can't be expressed in an amount of hours. It took a lot of time to search for the right movement, the right combination of parts, the proto-typing of the dial etc.

Although Peter Voeten is not a watch collector himself, he surely enjoys the haute horlogerie time pieces of brands like Jaeger-LeCoultre. Keeping track of novelties in the haute horlogerie inspires him to think about creating new timepieces as well, using his own particular design and constructions.

Xetum Tyndall And Stinson Watches

Xetum is a new watch brand based in San Francisco, California with watches that are assembled in Switzerland. Arriving with two initial models, Xetum timepieces are modern in style with a designer twist. Brand emphasis is on simplicity without lacking in emotional substance. Xetum describes the aesthetic as "accessible modern design." Xetum is also about traditional watch making. It was important to founder Jeff Kuo that his watches feature quality Swiss movements in a package that was recognizable to watch lovers but unique at the same time. Xetum is also mindful of the environment, and from the start has inserted a number of ecologically friend policies and practices into the company as well as the watches.

I sat with Xetum's founder before the brand was launched to discuss the brand vision and prototypes. The watches are generously sized and invigorating in character, while being inviting in style. Jeff Kuo ensured that no detail was overlooked while the designs enjoyed continuous refinement. With the watches now available I can fully appreciate the quality of the models.

The entry level model is the Xetum Stinson, which is in steel and 40mm wide and 11mm thick. The case is designed without lugs to have the strap secure directly to the case for a more seamless look. It has an AR coated sapphire crystal over the dial with a choice of three dial colors (white, black or gray). The case is finished with a brushed polish while vertical strips are done in a mirror polish. The screw-down hexagonal crown is shaped like the brand's green hexagon logo. On the rear of the watch you can find a mineral glass display back looking into the Swiss ETA 2824-2 automatic movement. The dial is easy to read with ample sized hands and Arabic numerals while the major hour markers and hands are coated in SuperLumiNova.

Both watches have naturally tanned leather straps that have an eco-friendly Italian cork lining. The clasp is a push-button butterfly deployment that is signed with the Xetum logo.
The higher-end Xetum model is the Tyndall - another reference to a Bay Area locale - and features a Swiss ETA 2895-2 movement with an elaboree level of decoration. The Tyndall is also in steel and 40mm wide and a sapphire crystal. A complete hour scale up to 24 hours is located on the dial, which also features a subsidiary seconds dial for a more classic look. I enjoy the symmetrical design of the dial as well. The Tyndall is available with a black or off-white dial, both with SuperLumiNova on the hands and major hour indicators. Price for the Tyndall watch is $1,395. Available direct from Xetum.

By Ariel Adams

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ochs & Junior Anno Cinquanta Watches

Being quite unusual is what makes these watches also quite fantastic. Ochs & Junior (Ochs und Junior) is no ordinary watch maker because founder Ludwig Oechslin has no desire to make "ordinary" watches. He takes Bauhaus design to its minimalistic threshold, with a collection a timepieces that expresses his personal ideal of what a watch should be, and what a watch should display.

If the sentiments he harbors sound a bit like the dedication of an artist, then you would be correct. This is art - functional, luxurious, and extremely time consuming, but still art. Ludwig runs with a very creative crowd that includes watch makers among many others. This affords him a diverse intellectual perspective, and his inspiration for the Anno Cinquanta collection of watches comes equally from the world of horology, as it does the greater industry of functional goods.

Each timepiece in the collection is hand-made using precision machinery and years of expertise. The movement is hand-made by watchmaker Paul Gerber, and is his own unique design. It uses a solid white gold rotor and has over 100 hours of power reserve. The beautiful movement is made completely in Zurich Switzerland, and is neatly displayed through the timepieces sapphire caseback window. If the rotor doesn't look like white gold, it is because it is unfinished and has developed a special gray patina.

The gray patina of the dial (like the automatic rotor) is unlike that which you will find on any other watch. The eccentric name of the timepiece comes from the 50 openings on the dial for the annual calendar. Sometimes the Anno Cinquanta watch is referred to as the Anno 50 watch. The 43mm wide case comes in either white or red gold, or in sterling silver. The case is quite simple, done in two parts. The lugs are connected to the caseback and the top part of the case is one piece.

Aside from the time (hours, minutes, and seconds), the watch displays the month, day, and date - though in a most eccentric of manners. There are no indicators, and no reference as to what you are looking at. Merely a dial that looks as though it were rendered from a sophisticated sort of code. Och & Junior is proud that their annual calendar watches use much less parts than those from most annual calendar watches. A fact that might make them less prone to requiring repair or service.

On the outermost dial you'll find 31 openings - this is for the date. A disc with an orange dot behind the dial moves to indicate the date. In the middle of the dial there are two smaller rings of small openings. The top ring has seven openings and is for the day of the week, and the lower ring has 12 openings, which is for the month. It is easy to disregard the Anno 50 as not being user friendly given the lack of visual instruction as to what you are looking at. This would be lumping the watch together with the rest of the world's timepieces. Ochs & Junior clearly does not fit this mold.

The design and construction of mechanical wrist watches is highly sophisticated, so it the person who is enjoys them. The type of person who wears an Anno 50 watch learns how to read the dial and relishes in the fact that most onlookers are unable to read the dial. It is part of the joy that accompanies teaching oneself a new skill that others do not have. The Anno 50 is an ideal watch for days when one wants to be at their most mysterious.

Ochs & Junior timepieces are sold in a handful of boutiques in Switzerland, but they are the type of brand that enjoys hearing from potential new owners directly - part of the service you get from just such a brand. The Anno Cinquanta timepieces start at about 35,000 CHF is silver, up to about 40,000 CHF in red gold, and up to 41,500 CHF for the white gold version. Prices exclude the VAT and shipping costs.

By Ariel Adams

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Beauty of Benzinger Hand Decorated Watches

Nothing compares to the beautiful classic elegance and sense of artistic wonder like the result of guilloche machine hand operated engraving. When mixed with hand engraving, you get results just like this, and no one does it quite like Jochen Benzinger in Germany. Let me clarify. Germany-based Benzinger is one of the finest specialty watch engravers in the world. Their work is a mix of personally branded watches, as well as engraving work for select watch maker clients.

Benzinger watches take Swiss mechanical movements and performs numerous forms of engraving (both hand and machine), as well as movement skeletonization. Pictured are a number of examples where you can see the results of this amazing craft. I find it easy to fall in love with these watches as they combine a mixture of classic design, and a masterful attention to detail as done by dedicated professionals. The best part is that Benzinger watches are an impressively good value in terms of price.

Above you'll see the Benzinger Volkskelett Floral watch. A fully floral pattern engraved and skeletonized watch that uses a Swiss Unitas 6498 hand-wound movement. The German made steel case is 42mm wide, while the strap is alligator. Notice that fantastic level of detail in the decoration. A combination of hand and machine engraving techniques greet you, while a stylized "JB" (Jochen Benzinger) sits close to the crown on the dial. Screws and hands are blued, while the hands are done in a Breguet style.

Here you have the caseback view of the Benzinger Zeitfenster watch again with a hand decorated Unitas 6498 movement. Instead of being totally "see through," the watch has a PVD black, decorated plate in the middle of the movement. The watch has a classic Breguet style dial and hands, with partial skeletonization - allowing for a good mix between an open movement, and classic elements. The case is also 42mm wide in steel, and serves as fantastic statement for what Benzinger is capable of.

Next is a beautiful watch, as seen from all angles. This is the Offene Subskription IV timepiece. Notice the high level of classic decoration on the dial, and continued on the back. This watch displays mostly the beauty that can be achieved from guilloche machine engraving. Once again we find a Units 6498 movement, and can see how dynamic the movement is, having a new look each time it is decorated differently. The coined bezel on the watch and wide level of decoration make this a serious classic and object of desire.

This is an engraved rotor from Bezinger's Chrono Drache, a Swiss Valjoux 7750 movement based watch. The front of the watch (not pictured) is subtle with a guilloche decorated dial, and an easy to use chronograph. Flip the watch over and you'll be impressed with the dragon form engraved on the automatic rotor in 18k yellow gold.

Last you will find the face of two more Benzinger watches. Highest is the 3/4 Skellet watch using a Unitas 6497 manually wound movement with a subsidiary seconds dial at 9 o'clock and a mostly sketelonized dial. A watch like this is a good choice for people who want the beauty of a skeletonized dial, but also want to preserve legibility. Below it you have the quite modern looking Benzinger Subskription Black VI watch with its use of circular shaped to create the distinctive dial design. It once again uses a manually wound Unitas 6498 movement, with a PVD coated middle plate and a large amount of guilloche engraving on the movement and dial surfaces.

All Benzinger watches are made with quality in mind using sapphire crystals, carefully made Pforzheim region parts where available, and a focus on wearing comfort and usability. Most watches are either limited editions or very limited in production.

By Ariel Adams

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Antti Ronkko Minute Repeater Watch

From Finland comes boutique watch maker Antti Ronkko who nicely epitomizes independent watch makers from the region. His Minute Repeater watch creation combines his personal tastes and ability to craft watch cases and dials, with an early 1900's Touchon & Company manually wound minute repeater pocket watch movement inside.

The case itself is all handmade by Ronkko costing him 100s of hours. It is 48.5mm wide in 316L steel, being comprised of three parts. This large size is due to the fact that movement itself (coming from a pocket watch) is 39.5mm wide alone. The lugs are integrated into the case as part of one uni-body construction.

Most minute repeater watches include a slide lever on the side of the case to active the minute repeater function. Ronkko wanted to do something different, so the this watch uses the a twist of the bezel to charge and then activate the minute repeater. It is a clever use of a winding bezel. I further enjoy his stencil mold style name plate to indicate the brand on the lower part of the dial.

The beauty and complication of the minute repeater movement alone, made for a suitable dial, especially since exposed movements are in. The movement has a subsidiary seconds dial located at 9 o'clock, while all hands are done in an attractive arrow style. The dial segments built by Ronkko also include brass, in addition to steel. Overall the look of the case is very appealing with a high degree of focal interest emphasized on the movement. I would have however liked for Ronkko to include dedicated hour markers that would have made the watch easier to read. These could have easily been included on the darkened dial plate ring.

Antti Ronkko is still in a very limited boutique phase, but has proven to have an ability to make interesting and highly capable watch cases that embody interesting movements made by others. I suspect the watch loving community will see Antti Ronkko models in the near future made in larger quantities. Plus, this is another sign that Finnish watch makers are becoming serious about the country also being know for creating interesting watches.

By Ariel Adams

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