Panerai Radiomir Venti LE – $6500
Panerai’s relationship with the paneristi.com reminds me of the Joker’s comeback to Batman: “I made you, you made me.” No question: the brand’s online fanbase elevated the once-Italian-now-Swiss brand into the realm of expensive luxury watches. New watch alert! Panerai’s released a “tribute” to their cult with a retro cushion-case special edition. The horological blast from the past is tatted up the wazoo . . .
The watchmaker inscribed “PANERISTI.COM 2000-2020” on the dial, “VENTI” on the side of the case (between the lugs at the 6), adorned the crown with the original “OP” logo and fashioned a screwdown caseback inscribed “20th Anniversary PANERISTI.COM.” Ye olde Panerai – supplied to Nazi swimmers amongst others – ran off Rolex movements. Panerai’s manually wound in-house Caliber P.6000 does the honors here, complete with hacking seconds and 72-hour power reserve. A big price bump but a done deal for the brand faithful.
Doxa’s been doing land office business with their retro three-handed SUB-200, especially in orange. The new watch aims to capitalize on their multi-hued success with a similarly colorful range of SUB chronographs. Upsized from 40mm to 42mm, thicker by 1mm, the new watch offers a central chronograph second hand, a second hand subdial (at the 9), a 30-minute counter (at the 3) and a 12-hour counter (at the 6). The color-coordinated subdials’ lumed pointers make for excellent legibility.
The C-Graph’s powered by a Sellita SW-510 B (Valjoux 7750 clone minus the date). Although it’s a hacking seconds engine, the manufacturer makes no accuracy claims. But they assure buyers that the watch is water resistant to 200m – deep enough to justify the lumed rotating bezel and “Jenny” the fish logo on the screw down caseback. Although plain old “Orange” is the one, the C-Graph’s available in Silver Searambler, Black Sharkhunter, Navy Caribbean, Yellow Divingstar, and Turquoise Aquamarine. I was hoping for Opaline Orca, but there you go.
Once upon a time, you could only buy Seiko’s exclusive hybrid mechanical/quartz Spring Drive movement in a Grand Seiko watch. Availability expanded to the Presage line. And then Prospex. Raising the new Prospex LX’s price above 13 Grand Seiko models (but not 13 grand Grand Seiko’s): Caliber 5R66, a dial imitating the stratosphere (top black to blue bottom), zaratsu polishing and a titanium bracelet and case. To be fair, none of the “inexpensive” GS’s are sporty chronograph GMTs dive watches. Still, lest we forget, this timepiece hails from the same brand as a $295 watch.
The pricing reflects the fact that Seiko knows smartwatches are squeezing them to death at the bottom of the market. Do the new watch alert care that this behemoth (44.8㎜ diameter X 14.7㎜ tall) isn’t a Grand Seiko? Especially as the main time hour hand (not the GMT hand) adjusts by one-hour increments as God intended? This Prospex is based on the historic 1968 Diver’s, Seiko’s first diver’s watch with 300m water resistance. The “new” one only dives down to 200m. Go figure.
This retro trend is getting out of hand. But at least this North American-only Zenith model doesn’t take up much real estate on your hand: 37mm. Which is just as well given the 1969 1:1 repro steel case’s angularity. The U.S.-only Liberty deal is the watch’s red accents on the indices and striped chronograph second hand, white small seconds, 12-hour and 30-minute counters, and blue gradient dial color scheme.
Let’s not talk about the white date window jammed in at the 4:30. As always, the Zenith El Primero movement is the star. It appears here as the 400 Automatic, yielding a 50 hour power reserve. Just so you know, the the chronograph bridge and balance are made of Zenithium, an exclusive alloy made from aluminum, titanium, and niobium. The Liberty trumpets its brand’s 50th anniversary around a non-tradition clear caseback. How great is that? Not great enough to put on the product page.
Clock the ginormous tachymeter on the new TAG’s black ceramic fixed bezel. “The detail distinguishes the Senna-inspired timepieces from other models in the TAG Heuer Formula 1 collection,” the presser proclaims, “which usually go up to 240 km/h and though 400 km/h is a limit that no team in the sport has reached, they are getting closer and closer every season.” (In 2016, Valtteri Bottas’ Williams hit 378km/h during the practice for the Azerbaijain Grand Prix.)
Ayrton Senna’s niece says “400 km/h represent the ongoing pursuit of speeds that once seemed unattainable.” We don’t yet know the price of TAG’s latest Senna quartz chrono F1, but the price will be more attainable than the automatic Calibre 16 version. And more true to F1 technology. And better looking on the steel bracelet IMHO – although the yellow sticking on the leather band really pops. If neither watch floats your boat, there are 66 other choices. Seriously.
Chopard Mille Miglia Lab One LE – $142k
Chopard is the official sponsor of the Mille Miglia rally – a parade for perfectly preserved, pre-1957 cars created as a “tribute” to the world famous open-road race (that ended in tragedy). Once again, Chopard’s released an elegant chronograph to leverage their connection to the event. This is not that. This is an automotive themed farrago, a black ceramic cased watch with an open-worked grid “reminiscent of a racing car radiator grille” with a self-winding tourbillon bridge that “echoes the cylinder head” and two lateral “gauges” (day and “empty – full” power reserve indicators).
Spinny thing lovers, stay new watch alert! Expect to see Chopard install their 04.03-M automatic tourbillon in something a bit more beautiful (a low bar if ever there was one). But don’t expect to see the time at a glance wearing the Lab One while driving with this bad boy – even if you’re just puttering along in your fully restored Cisistalia. Apparently, Chopard’s aim was to “demonstrate mastery of a number of new materials and techniques at Chopard’s R&D lab.” As we now know, some things should never escape from the lab. Just sayin’.
Bell & Ross BR05 Chrono Blue Steel – $6,400
“I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to life than being really, really good looking.” When HoDinkee highlights the fact that a new watch is ugly, you’ve got wonder if you’d turn to stone looking at it. (Now that there’s Viagra, why bother?) We weren’t tremendous fans of B&R’s Royal Oak wanna be when it first landed. We share the Ho’s antipathy to its embiggened (42mm) descendant. The fact that the bi-compax chronograph only times 30-minute intervals is bizarre, even if B&R reckons it’s “a loyal ally for those who wear it in their quest to master the fleeting nature of time.” Fleeting. Heh.
The squashed pushers attempt to go with the angular flow [sic], but they make the BR-05 Chrono look lopsided, eliminating the symmetry which defined the model. Not to mention the formerly-squarish-now-circular date window’s move from the 3 to 4:30 position. The newbie runs off BR-CAL.301 (base ETA 2894-2). Better hope it stays dope – only the factory can “service” (i.e. replace) the chronograph module. One more thing: those case screws are fake. Insuportable!
RGM Watch Company Model 222-RR – $7950
RGM claims the above 222-RR’s dial was “inspired by the rare Type-II [Montgomery pocket watch] dial.” Which reminds me of the time tequila inspired me to recreate Humphrey Bogart’s “Here’s looking at you kid” speech to my date’s Mom. (That didn’t work out well, either.) The dial’s outer minutes are spot on, but the original’s numbers were clustered in the middle of the watch. And there’s a reason it’s rare – nobody liked it. Take it from a pocket watch nerd, that 6 belongs at the bottom of the subdial.
Thank God the 41mm 222-RR is also available with a recreation of Webb C. Ball’s 1925 Box Car dial – a paragon of minimalist legibility calling to us through the mists of time. Both watches are available with a choice of meticulously restored Hamilton movements: the 21 jewel 921 ($5950) or the more rare and prized 23 jewel 923 (as above). Either way that’s a lot of coin considering you’d be hard-pressed to spend $3k for a mint condition Ball pocket watch with a Montgomery or Boxcar dial. Not a wristwatch but still . . .
Armin Stron Lady Beat – $18,600
“The latest no-compromise watch from the Biel-based manufacture is a decidedly feminine one,” Armin Stron’s website says. The guys in the cigar bar agree. They say it’s “soft” and “curvy” and “feminine.” Maybe I’m in touch with my feminine side. I could see myself wearing this “cool” and “elegant” and “fresh” 38mm timepiece. Once my new business takes off, that is. ‘Cause 18 large is a lot of money for a watch that isn’t from Rolex, The Holy Trinity or its similarly distinguished horological colleagues.
Does the black version with the black strap have a more masculine vibe? Anyway, Armin Stron’s new Caliber ALA20 is quite a thing: a stark looking straightforward automatic movement (despite 185 components) with “plate and bridges decorated at the highest quality level.” The watch has a 70-hour power reserve. No word on accuracy, service intervals or which murse color goes best.
Garmin Descent Mk2i – $1,499.99
Your Rolex Submariner is an antique. divemagazine.co.uk reports that the Garmin Descent Mk2i offers “multiple dive modes for single- and multiple-gas dives (including nitrox, trimix and 100 per cent O2), plus gauge, apnea, apnea hunt and closed-circuit rebreather modes.” It’s “customizable in-dive data fields, a 3-axis digital compass providing detailed analysis for each dive, including maximum depth, bottom time and a GPS map of surface entry and exit points to more than 2,700 pre-programmed dive sites with the locations of underwater features such as wrecks and reefs.”
The Mk2i syncs with their new ‘SubWave’ sonar T1 transmitter ($349.99) to link up to five watches for group tank pressure monitoring. But wait, there’s more! On terra firma, it does everything a “normal” smartwatch can do: calls, text, calendar alerts, music, heart rate monitor, pulse OX monitor, contactless pay, turn-by-turn directions, fitness guidance, golf course recommendations, SOS signal, etc. It’s a tad large: 52mm x 52mm x 17.8mm but who’s complaining? A Boomer trying to figure out how to work the thing.
Yup, another old new watch alert: a vintage styled Chronograph styled after the 1940 Hanhart Caliber 41, “the first pilot’s chronograph made for the German armed forces.” The Nazi armed forces – a fact that you’d hardly expect Hanhart to highlight in plain terms. In terms of a plane chronograph, the 417 ES is einfach (simpe), schön (beautiful). Steve McQueen thought enough of the design to make the original his daily beater, on display in the movie The War Lover.
To keep the 417 ES as dünn (thin) as the original, Hanhart made the bold choice to deploy a manual wind bi-compax SW510 M (base ETA/Valjoux 7750, of course). Understandably, the German watchmaker ditched the plexiglass crystal for double anti-reflective coated sapphire, substituted Super-LuminNova for deadly radium lume and upgraded the steel. The best bit: the vintage Hanhart logo on the dial, crown and buckle, along with the original “shockproof” boast. If you’re going to raid the archives, this is the way to do it, at the right price too.
YEMA LED – $295
Speaking of coming to terms with a shameful past . . . “In the 1970’s YEMA launched its first LED display watch,” the French watchmaker admits. “This reissue pays tribute to the historic quartz crisis period during which the watchmaking industry was turned upside down with the release of bold designs equipped with non-mechanical movements that were affordable and reliable.” I’m sorry, what? It’s one thing to admit you made a crappy ass digital watch that pissed on your heritage. It’s another to remake it and sell it.
Just in case the silver version isn’t
ironic offensive enough, YEMA also offers this abomination in Gold. To maintain a modicum of brand credibility, the stainless steel screw-down case back “proudly displays YEMA’s historical crest” while “guaranteeing a decent 330 feet water-resistance.” There’s nothing decent about this watch – a stark contrast to their sensibly priced minimalist masterworks powered by their in-house calibers. C’mon guys, brand faithful design isn’t that hard. Ce n’est pas la mer à boire.