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 . . .
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
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.
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
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 . . .
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
“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 . . .
The 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?
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.
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 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).
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
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.
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?
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.
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
As 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.