New Watch Alert – 10/3/2020

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Glasshutte Original Alfred Helwig Tourbillon 1920 LE – $137,224

Glasshutte Original Alfred Helwig Tourbillon 1920 - new watch alert

New watch alert! It was 1o0 years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play. No wait. Let’s try that again. “2020 is the 100th anniversary of one of the most sophisticated inventions of haute horlogerie: the design of the Flying Tourbillon by Glashütte master watchmaker Alfred Helwig.” Sophisticated? yes! Necessary? No. A modern watch needs a flying tourbillon like a fish needs a bicycle. And yet they sell well (tourbillon, not piscatorial bicycles). Al’s tourbillon asks an important question . . .

Glashutte Original Alfred Helwig Tourbillon 1920 Limited Edition caseback

If  Glasshutte Original hides a tourbillon behind a watch dial, does it really exist? If the German watchmaker would like to send an AHT to Austin for a philosophical investigation I’m happy to oblige. Adding to conundrum, the 40mm minimalist meisterwerk sports a solid gold dial – silver-plated so it doesn’t look gold. Given the whole stealth tourbillon thing, that makes perfect sense. A watch for people who live life on the DL.

Longines Spirit – $2,150

New watch alert Longines Spirit - new watch alert

The Longines Spirit is a five star watch. Says so right on the dial. In fact, the five-star pattern harkens back to a watch Longines produced . . . never. I guess their archivist got tired of hunting for the schematics of defunct designs for the Heritage collection. I reckon Longines hired a bunch of oxymorons for this gig. “These resolutely contemporary timepieces are a testimony to the pioneering spirit that has inspired the brand since its earliest days.” Resolutely contemporary nostalgia. Go figure.

Longine Spirit case back

The Spirit moves thanks to Longines caliber L888.4 (ETA 2892-A2 base). The COSC-certified chronometer boasts a 64 hour power reserve and a monocrystalline silicon balance-spring (resistant to magnetic fields and temperature changes). New watch alert! The gi-normous screw down crown and closed caseback keep the Spirit alive 100m beneath the waves. A future star in Longine’s lineup or a bland attempt to capture faded glamor? We report, you deride.

Bremont ionBird – $5,795

Bremont ionBird

As a pocket watch collector, I try to keep my eye on the Ball, rather than ionBird. Bremont’s latest is a 43mm wrist watch commemorating the watchmaker’s affiliation with Rolls Royce Holdings, as the aerospace company tries to create the world’s fastest electric airplane. Talk about cognitive dissonance – old school mechanical horology co-branding with cutting edge electronics. A battery-powered watch was the obvious choice. Meanwhile . . .

Bremont ionBird caseback 2

The ionBird’s BE-93-2AV automatic GMT movement (base ETA 2893-2) is wound by a rotor inspired by a radial aircraft engine – evoking memories of Rolls Royce’s Merlin powerplant, developed for the legendary Spitfire . Oh wait, the Merlin was liquid cooled. Anyway, Bremont’s Swiss suppliers make a handsome watch, and the ionBird is no exception (except for the errant date window). The ionBird may not be a smart watch, but it is a smart looking watch. So there is that.

 Shinola I Voted Detrola – $395

New watch alert - Shinola I Voted Detrola“Look the part while you do your part,” Shinola’s website urges. Funny stuff coming from a company that got into hot water for marketing itself as an all-American brand while stuffing Chinese and other imported parts into its products. But you gotta give Shinola credit for splitting the baby, colorwise. It’s Republican red! It’s Democrat blue! In fact, the Detrola is a style statement, not a horological manifesto. It’s yet another simple variation of the Detrola line attempting to cash in on the PC tenor of the times . . .

Shinola Detrola PackagingThe I Voted nestling inside the packaging’s generic nod to democracy runs off of Shinola’s Argonite 705 quartz movement, protected by a case made of Swiss TR90 resin (also used for the world’s lightest trouser clip). Although the brand is careful not to choose sides, let it be known that new watch alert Texas-based Shinola owner Tom Kartsotis donated $57k to the Obama Victory Fund in 2008. Not that it makes any difference, right?

MeisterSinger N°03 “30 Jahre Deutsche Einheit” LE – $2331

MeisterSinger N°03 “30 Jahre Deutsche Einheit” LE steel

It pays to stay new watch alert. We often catch wind of limited edition watches that aren’t on the manufacturer’s website, like this single-handed timepiece marking the 30 year anniversary of German reunification. It’s joint marketing venture between formerly East German Mühle-Glashütte and geographically west German Meistersinger. I’m highlighting the MS model because I know we have enigmatic readers tempted by the sound of a one-handed watch ticking.

Meistersinger 30 Jahre caseback

The 43mm commemorative watch’s black, gold and red dial evokes the colors of the German flag. The MS 30 Jarhe comes in two flavors; your choice of a steel (as above) or 18k gold bezel. Both feature a co-branded rotor circling a Sellita SW-200 automatic movement. Which makes this a weird buy: a watch referring to another watch that you don’t own. Unless you buy the MG watch as well. Who said unification was cheap?

Seiko Prospex SPB183 – $1400

Seiko Prospex SPB183

Seiko dropped a brace of 55th Anniversary dive watches today. Not shown: yet another redo of the Willard watch, as worn by Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now. This is the more interesting – and affordable – piece. It riffs on the 1965 diver, upping water resistance from the original’s 150m to 200m but staying faithful to the Ever-Brilliant steel case and Goldilocks size (39.5mm).

Seiko caseback

And then there’s the Seiko Caliber 8L35 movement (base Grand Seiko caliber 9S55 with a larger diameter balance wheel to drive the larger dive hands). The engine’s not enormously accurate (+15 to -10 seconds per day) but it’s tough as nails and completely protected by the screw down caseback, adorned with the same weird-mouthed dolphin as the original. A perfectly practical timepiece that makes me wonder why minimalism ever became not a thing.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Mariner Memovox – $17,600

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Mariner Memovox

In space no one can hear you scream. The big question here: can you hear the JLC Memovox’s alarm underwater? Somehow I don’t think that’s the point. By adding water resistance to its recently refreshed Memovox watch, Jaeger’s trying to slot the Polaris variant fit into the white hot luxury steel sports watch category. While it looks like a chronograph, the crowns control the alarm, inner unidirectional rotating bezel and time and date. So a dive watch that looks like a dive watch but isn’t, really.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Mariner Memovox caseback

We’ve said it many times: JLC makes as beautifully anally-retentive a watch as The Holy Trinity. In a word, they’re immaculate. Your $17k buys you the Calibre 956 movement developed for the original Memovox line, now 15 per cent thinner with 45 hours of power reserve. More importantly, the gong has been moved to the side of the transparent caseback, so you can watch it announce that you’re out of time. Of course, you can feel the dive watch vibrate its alarm underwater. Close enough?

Norqain Adventure Sport Chrono NHLPA LE – $3573

new watch alert - Norqain Adventure Sport Chrono NHLPA

Norquain’s Board of Directors includes Stanley Cup winner and Swiss (yes Swiss) Penguins’ hockey legend Mark Streit. The new watch alert amongst you will no doubt conclude that Mr. Streit brokered the deal with the NHL to create this hockey-themed watch. And so he did. I reckon the fetching color scheme, “cracked ice” dial surface and endzone face-off circle subdial (counting God knows what) make this a game winner. Not to mention the relatively demure NHL logo.

Norqain Adventure Sport Chrono NHLPA caseback

Normally, I’d chide a watchmaker for obscuring the movement on a otherwise transparent caseback to make an existing model appeal to a targeted demographic – instead of taking the time to create an artistically engraved closed caseback design. And so I will. Bad Norqain! Bad! But just so you know, they make a good watch. Good! As we declared with our four-star review of the Norqain Freedom 60 Chronograph. If hockey’s your jam, let the back sticker skate.

Big Bang e UEFA Champions League – $7000

Big Bang e-champions-leagueAs the video below illustrates, the latest Big Bang e smartwatch is the soccer fan’s ultimate horological accompaniment. Assuming he or she has a LOT of money, doesn’t mind owning a watch that will eventually become obsolete, and wouldn’t prefer to use their smartphone or smart TV to get the deets and, crucially, reasonably-sized video replays.

It should be known (and now is) that the football app is also available to owners of the other variants of the Hublot Big Bang e. So what exactly do you get for a $1200 premium of over, say, the $5800 e Black Ceramic – given that the app does’t cost $1200?  The color blue?  And what if you’re one of a billion Manchester United fans? Where’s the red, green and yellow version? Anyway, right answer, wrong price.

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13 COMMENTS

  1. MeisterSinger
    N°03 “30 Jahre Deutsche Einheit” LE

    I wouldn’t call myself enigmatic; (elusive perhaps – lol – when in reality I am just time-poor this month) but yes to the one-hand-watch once I figure out how to tell the ball-park time.

    I love the idea of knowing the current hour I am in only and not pinning myself to minutes. Certainly I have no interest in seconds cluttering up a dial in any form. For appointments I would use a phone for up-to-minute punctuality which is important not to mention something as old fashioned as good manners. Where have all the manners gone?

    For life, an approximation of what hour I am in would be a fine approach to fine living. Will you tell us the time on this fine timepiece? Never mind, it is 10:15 right? Great ‘alert’.

    There is a 1961 watch where the hour hand is merely painted on the dial. A time stopper? Not at all; the dial rotates. Big Fun.

    Side note: What a remarkable 30 years Germany has had. I am keen for a German watch over a Swiss one for many reasons. A. Lange and Söhne’s “The TOURBOGRAPH PERPETUAL HONEYGOLD Homage to F. A. Lange” does it for me, especially the incised numerals and despite the all-caps name. But then that has not 1 but 2 pesky seconds hands. None of that rattrapante carry-on for me thank you. So we are down to that, the >$US500,000 <$US600,000 Lange Homage price tag VS this Meistersinger beauty for a snip over $US2,000. Lemming!

    • How about that date window on the one hander? I thought that was a logo or something.
      How exactly are one-handers something different than a three hander with the top two hands removed and a longer hour hand and different dial installed?

      I was going to ask whether case back decals go on the outside or inside but, correction, the Norquain page says “The sapphire crystal caseback is engraved with the NHLPA logo.” I was wondering how hard etching sapphire glass is, since etching normal drinking glasses is a somewhat popular DIY trick.

  2. Date dealbreaker. Tucked away so discretely I did not notice it. I was so easily distracted by the one hand.

    How is it different from a classic dial? By the time I figured out the question I needed a chronomètre instead, And therein is the answer: accuracy or lack of it as suits a lackadaisical life or a precision based one. I think I mean carefree rather than careless though.

    Looking forward to seeing your case-handiwork in a future post as the only way to find out is to action your etching hand.

    Moving right along…

    Glasshutte Original
    Alfred Helwig Tourbillon 1920 LE

    Fancy hiding a tourbillon then leaving a clue on the dial. Not nearly as stealthy as covering the gold with silver.

    I am sure that the tourbillon is connected to the movement in this case, unlike some watches we have seen lately with 1-4 (your choice!) tourbillons whirling around completely disconnected from the main mechanism.

    “If Glasshutte Original hides a tourbillon behind a watch dial, does it really exist?”

    – love it and then they ruin all ruminations with the case back. That not Philosophy that’s hide and seek.

    • It’s only the different increments between hour indices, I guess. There’s a video where some poor enigmatic take a cheap Casio, removes the hands, seems to file out the hole of the minute hand to the size of the hour hand, prints a new dial, and pops it all back together to produce a one hander.
      https://youtu.be/d-iOwmIXZRI

        • Great video. Mistakenly thought you meant digital to a mechanical one-hand.

          Makes me want to buy tweezers, a screwdriver set and the aforementioned ‘Lange with the long name’ and get to work. So easy to transfer from a Swiss Bank account to a local Swiss account. But surely the funds need to go to Germany I hear you say, if you want a German watch for your collection. Not so; A. Lange and his German sons, specifically his great-grandson sold in 2000 to the Richemont, a Swiss conglomerate.

          As for your second question above – ha – I still did not understand it – but yes I see you have answered it yourself with the note on the notation of indices and increments. You certainly scoped out that dial accurately while I was mesmerized by a mere novelty.

  3. I’m no horologist, but I know shit from shinola. $400 for a ‘Murican “swatch?” An ugly one at that? I mean come on… I can get a G-Shock “Red Ryder” for half that much, and it comes with a barometer and compass in the stock!

    And, a $7,000 “smart watch” that feeds you information about the soccer match you are attending?? So… Theoretically, if I was bored enough to attend a soccer match…. While I’m AT the game, I can watch my watch screen instead of the field to be notified that a goal was scored? Or whether a yellow card has been issued?

    Now… if the watch ALSO told me when the soccer divas were faking injury… wait… Yeah, that’s 100% of the time, so… never mind.

    • @Racer88 – The Soccer Watch – Absolutely brilliant niche marketing. We may not be part of the target niche but if we were…
      I admire this level of innovation and marketing. A Hublot never looked so good. Are those straps an innovation? Not too familiar with this brand. One of the irrepressible Jean-Claude Biver marketing wagons I think. Here comes the 21 century at last. I thought I had a smart dress watch but this Hublot, while not a dress watch, is way smarter.

      • Is it brilliant, really? I dare suggest the niche cross-section of soccer fans and those who would spend $7k on a “smart watch” that has some nifty alerts (not to mention planned obsolescence) is fairly small. As for the quick-change straps…. kinda cool, if you’re into the fashion aspect, but the connection is proprietary and eliminates any straps besides theirs.

        As for “smart watches,” in general…. I don’t have any use (or even interest) for them at all. Literally none. Not for $7k…. and not even for $300.

    • I’m all for stuff being made in the USA, and willing to pay a reasonable premium for it, but is anyone truly impressed by their product, or is it all mercy buys from the jingoistic? Were they charging merely double what a comparable Swatch goes for, fine, but this beyond the pale.

      On the goofy futbol watch, I assume it’ll be huge with the type of nouveau that really wants to be both ostentatious and be thought of as a man of the people. The actual functionality is very secondary to the bragging rights and the message it sends.

  4. Which brings us to the Longines – oxymoronic marketing indeed but I will not deride, neither will I wear a self-awarded 5 star watch. Where are all the governing, certification and other bodies? It’s like owning a vineyard and putting 5 decorative gold stars on your own wine bottle to attract buyers. And that is the truth about marketing AND the truth about watches.

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