Putting an appropriately colorful bow on Watches & Wonders 2020, Parmigiani just released a novelty that is anything but subdued: the new Tonda 1950 Moonbow. Inspired by the lunar rainbow, this slim tourbillon has an aventurine dial and show-stopping rainbow bezel composed of blue, pink, orange, and yellow sapphire, rubies, tsavorites, and amethyst. And before you ask, this is absolutely a unisex piece that has a case measurement at a pretty ideal 40.2mm.
Brand: Parmigiani Fleurier Model: Tonda 1950 Moonbow Dimensions: 40.2mm-wide, 9.4mm-thick Water Resistance: 30M Case Material: 18k rose gold Crystal/Lens: AR-coated sapphire Movement: PF517 Power Reserve: 48 hours Strap/Bracelet: Hermès alligator strap or gold bracelet Price & Availability: $143,900 on strap, $160,600 on matching gold bracelet
The Tonda is a classic round Parmigiani case, but this Tonda 1950 Moonbow is a unique visual delight, even in the press shots. Aventurine has gained some popularity here and there among upper-tier brands (the Hermès Arceau L’Heure De La Lune and Arnold & Son HM Perpetual Moon Aventurine come to mind), and Parmigiani has done it masterfully in a handful of pieces. The ROYGBIV bezel adds a fantastically whimsical framing that lends itself to an actual fun attitude.
The thin PF517 movement houses the flying tourbillon at 7 o’clock, which, between the dial and gem-set bezel, is the third highly impressive aspect of the watch. The movement itself has a platinum rotor integrated into it, which helps for the slim 3.4mm thickness of the PF517. Operating at 21,600 vph, it has a 48-hour power reserve and is made up of 207 components.
The Parmigiani Tonda 1950 Moonbow is a watch that I can best describe as “joyful.” And I mean that not simply because I would also be a joyful person who could justify the expenditure on a watch like this, but the whole identity and aesthetic of the piece exudes pure joy — color, celestial themes, and horological work worthy of being ranked among some of Michel Parmigiani’s finest. Again, the Parmigiani Tonda 1950 Moonbow is priced at $143,900 on leather strap and $160,600 on matching gold bracelet.
Canada-based Ematelier brings the beauty and technique of artistic enamel dials at reasonable price points today. When I last spoke about Ematelier, I was reviewing one of its enamel-painted limited-edition women’s watches. Today, I’ll discuss a men’s product, but one that Ematelier can’t exactly sell as a limited edition, as it is a special dial that can be fitted aftermarket to a modern Rolex Datejust 41 watch. Here are a few of the dials Ematelier created, and each is inspired by an original cloisonne enamel dial produced for Rolex watches during the 1940s to the 1960s. Specifically, these particular re-created dials celebrate the Rolex “Map of the Americas” reference 6085, Neptune reference 8382, Dragon reference 8651, Caravelle reference 6100, and American Eagle of reference 6085.
Cloisonne enamel is a special enamel technique whereby the artisan uses thin strips of metal (usually gold, and in this watch the wire is just 0.07mm-thick) to create shapes in the enamel material, as well as to separate colors. Cloisonne enamel is one of the most important types from an artistic standpoint, as it can yield some of the most beautiful results — and the technique itself is arduous and time-consuming. On top of that, enameling requires constant baking and treating the dial throughout the creation process. That makes the rejection rate very high and cloisonne enamel dials even more difficult to create. There are very few operations in the world that can do this work, and Ematelier is one of them.
The original cloisonne Rolex dials were all produced by outside specialists in and around Geneva for Rolex. Only a few hundred cloisonne enamel-dial Rolex watches were ever made, and by comparison with today’s tastes, the watches are pretty small. Ematelier wanted to re-create, in slightly larger form, those original designs and so began by carefully re-creating the dials themselves. He chose them to fit the Datejust 41 for a few reasons, one being the depth of the dial. Given that enamel dials are thicker than standard dials, to make the dial fit, the date complication is removed from the Rolex movement in order to make space for the dial. I don’t think anyone will miss the date when presented with a dial such as this.
The base dial itself is 18k gold with applied hour markers. The dials here do not have any Rolex logos on them, as doing so gets into muddy waters when it comes to intellectual property laws. Though Ematelier can actually use authentic Rolex crown logos (sourced from elsewhere) on the dials, if so inclined. What’s interesting is that these aftermarket modified Rolex watches are fully reversible, meaning that a watchmaker can remove the enamel dial and then replace the original Rolex dial while reassembling parts of the movement. Very few other aftermarket processes on a watch can be swapped back to the original.
Legally speaking, these watches are kosher because no one is reproducing the Rolex trademarks. Otherwise, aftermarket work such as this is totally legitimate. Customers who order bespoke work like this from Ematelier could easily choose to have something else entirely pad-printed on the dial, such as their own logo or name. To explain the law better, Ematelier could not legally reproduce the Rolex logo and then market those products, and an average person might confuse those for being something that Rolex sold itself. Consumers should note that not all aftermarket Rolex watches out there abide by international laws, so, in a sense, this is an area where caveat emptor is still a ruling principle. Having seen multiple Ematelier products now, I can say that when it comes to their work and the enamel dials they make, the end product is really without equal (especially at these price points).
Fans of rare or rarefied vintage watches can really enjoy artistic re-creations such as these Rolex cloisonne enamel dial homages by Ematelier. For someone who wants to “spruce up” their Datejust 41 or who wants to get a new one and then immediately make it unique have some really interesting creative opportunities considering there is an enamel dial specialist that isn’t cheap, but who won’t charge what a Geneva-based watch brand would today.
On the wrist, I find these beautiful but would recommend that if you want to go with this gold dial base, then opt for a Datejust 41 with matching gold hands. You can see my full aBlogtoWatch Rolex Datejust 41 watch review here. Artistic dials are something I love because I’ve always found that watch faces are a great opportunity to display a painting. Some watches take that literally, and no matter what type of art you like, I promise there is a watch dial out there for you. You don’t need to have an affinity for Rolex or the particular vintage cloisonne enamel dials that inspired this modern re-creation to enjoy the artistic beauty of what cloisonne enamel can offer.
Ematelier has developed special techniques for creating these dials that no one else does. For example, these particular cloisonne dials have a mirror polish applied to them after they are done. This gives the dials a special smooth and “prefect” quality that the original dials do not. While replicating a particular dial design of the past can be thrilling, I think the real opportunity with a company like Ematelier is to approach them having no idea what you want, and through a discussion with their proprietor, Alex Landa, determining what your mind desires (and your budget can afford). Retail price for these Ematelier homages to original Rolex cloisonne enamel dials (including the cost of a new at retail all-steel Datejust 41 timepiece itself) would be between $22,000 – $28,000 USD depending on the specific dial.
Last year we saw Jacob & Co. secure an impressive partnership with hypercar royalty Bugatti. Now, the first ultra-high-end, completely bespoke Jacob & Co. watch created in collaboration with Bugatti makes its debut: the Jacob & Co. Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon. It’s what you would expect: an extremely complicated watch with yet another of Jacob & Co’s signature automaton mechanisms, this time with a functioning miniature W16 engine inside that mimicks the 16-cylinder motor that propels the Bugatti Chiron.
Cutting to the chase, the star of the Jacob & Co. Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon is its incredible JCAM37 movement. Composed of 578 parts and 51 jewels, it measures 41.7 by 36 millimeters — the movement, that is, not the cased watch. Its functions include a traditional hour and minute display, a one-minute tourbillon inclined at 30 degrees towards the wearer, a W16 engine block in sapphire with an on-demand animation with pistons and crankshafts flying around, and a power-reserve indicator at 8 o’clock. The open-worked barrel at 3 o’clock is not quite a power-reserve indicator but will let you eyeball the tension left in the barrel for the animation.
The JCAM37 movement is suspended on all four corners, having the Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon join the select ranks of watches with “floating” movements. (The TAG Heuer Monaco Twenty-Four from 2009, the Glashütte Original Sport Evolution Impact, and the Richard Mille RM 27 series come to mind.) The most complex among these will, of course, be the Jacob & Co. and Richard Mille solutions. As for the Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon, the entire movement resonating on its suspension while the three connected crown stems remain stationary forced Jacob & Co. to develop and patent an automotive-inspired transverse system, saving the crown posts from breaking as the movement wobbles around.
The back of the case has three stems: left for setting the times (if you really care), central to wind the movement (clockwise), and the animation (counter clockwise). The right stem acts as a pusher used to start the animation.
The animation lasts about 20 seconds and can be used three times before rewinding the mainspring dedicated to it is required. This is standard operation for animated functions with such immense energy needs. To give you an idea on the energy consumption, while the same sized barrel could energize a watch for 2-3 days, the strain of the W16 engine allows for about a minute’s worth of operation.
I wish Jacob & Co. had shared more technical images and views of this sapphire engine block and the pistons within. True car enthusiasts — which at least some of the Bugatti clientèle are — will appreciate the crankshaft in the bowels of the block, manufactured from a single solid block of stainless steel. When the pusher on the back of the case is pressed, the animation’s dedicated barrel begins to turn at an expedited speed, driving the crankshaft through a series of gears, which in turn drives the 16 pistons up and down in perfect rhythm and geometry.
The flying tourbillon on the front, Jacob & Co. says, is a clean-sheet design, different from all its previous tourbillons. Although not a multi-axis version like on many other grand complication pieces, it is installed and driven at a 30° angle to offer better viewing when the watch is on the wrist and, according to the pioneers of the inclined tourbillon, Greubel Forsey, to attain superior timekeeping performance when compared to same-plane tourbillons.
The far end of the case mimics the front grille design of the Bugatti Chiron with the signature horseshoe grill and white-on-red Bugatti logo. The case of the Jacob & Co. Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon measures 54 by 44 by 20 millimeters, is crafted from titanium with black DLC coating and is water resistant to 3 bars. The Bugatti Chiron car will take torrential rain better than the watch created in its honor — but that’s all good.
An impressive feat not to be overlooked is how fast Jacob & Co. has pulled this one off: It says “almost a full year of development” has gone into the Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon. Sometimes we get the idea major brands can spend that much time picking a new dial color, but it was certainly a feat assembling 578 components in the right order to create a W16 engine for the wrist.
Price for the Jacob & Co. Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon is $280,000, which means it might just blend into the options list for an easy tick when optioning your next Chiron.
It might seem obvious to most, but before we get too far into the weeds with this thing, it’s worth pointing out that Land Rover and Range Rover are two very different arms of the same off-road vehicle company. While the former is the flagship workhorse under which the iconic Defender is produced, the latter is its more modern, luxurious sibling, tailored for adventurous urbanites in the white-hot crossover SUV market. With that out of the way, I can comfortably say that the Zenith x Land Rover company collaboration (which is now in its fourth generation) has long remained one of my favorite capsules in the watch world, as it routinely provids an *ahem* vehicle for some extremely neat ‘sport-luxury’ interpretations of otherwise classic Zenith watches. However, 2020 marks the first time Zenith has produced a collaboration inspired by the Land Rover — and if you’re a fan of the new 2020 Defender, boy are you going to like this one.
Introduced at the LVMH Group’s new Dubai showcase concept back in January, this new Defy 21 adheres to the Land Rover’s classical design cues with a very interesting “super-matte” tool aesthetic that’s a stark contrast to the “rugged-chic” design sensibilities that defined the earlier Range Rover editions. However, the co-branding in those older watches always received mixed reviews from watch fans and car fans, alike. To wit: 2016’s inaugural black ceramised aluminum Chronomaster edition straight-up said “Range Rover” on the dial under the Zenith wordmark, but this was rectified in its 2017 follow-up — a stealthy black (again, ceramised aluminum) Chronomaster with copper accents, inspired by the luxurious Range Rover Velar, and bearing only a custom rotor and engraving on the caseback. 2018’s Defy Classic based on the Evoque was again oh-so-close, but its open-worked dial was designed to look like the cutaways on the Evoque’s futuristic rim and, again, might have turned away potential collectors. I personally love the Defy and would have been thrilled for a non-skeletonized silver dial in this collab, but it does little to diminish the fact that it’s still a visually striking watch.
2020 seems to be a return to form for the ongoing series with the new Defy 21 Land Rover — a watch that moves away from the sport-luxe Range Rover (which, remember, is more of a luxury SUV than a true workhorse vehicle) platform as its source material, and into the shoes of the original adventuremobile: the iconic Land Rover. Naturally, if you strip away all of the Range Rover’s many embellishments, you’re left with one of the most rugged workhorses of all time — and that’s more or less what Zenith has done with this particular release; they’ve taken the classically purpose-built, no-nonsense spirit of something like a Land Rover Defender 90 and bottled it into a sparsely branded, micro-blasted titanium case replete with matching dial. Now, there’s certainly no shortage of rugged titanium watches already out there, but the all-matte-everything treatment on this particular edition lends it a really interesting aesthetic that’s more visually in line with a matte gray ceramic or carbon case — except you get all the reassurance of durability that a proper modern metal case can afford. And the whole thing isn’t just ultra-light on the wrist, it’s dramatically muted and extremely visually stark — and I mean that in the best possible sense. With the exception of the caseback, where there’s again a minimal co-branded wordmark and a cool custom rotor shaped like the new Defender rim, there’s otherwise very little indication that this is a special edition of any sort, which is great for watch fans who might not (yet) also be Land Rover owners.
Just don’t let the 44mm dimensions get to you —as we’ve pointed out before, the modern Defy 21 case hides some relatively compact lug-to-lug measurements, enabling this particular variant to wear comfortably on my 6.5” wrist. Furthermore, those modern dimensions are also shielded behind the lightness of the case and the absence of any polished surface anywhere, which otherwise tend to amplify a watch’s presence on the wrist, no matter the size. Now, there aren’t currently many offerings in the Defy 21 collection with traditional dials, but this is certainly one of them, and it serves as a nice reminder of just how purposeful the El Primero 9004 high-beat chronograph movement can be when it’s given a canvas that puts a premium on utility and legibility. In this instance, all the markings on each totalizer are clear and crisp, enabling easy reading even while the chronograph hand is whipping around the dial — don’t forget this is a 5 Hz high-beat chronograph with the ability to measure splits as precise as 1/100th of a second. Even with all that power-sapping frequency, though, the 9004 maintains a 50-hour power reserve, which is subtly laid out at in a sleek, horizontal groove at 12 o’clock on the dial. This is actually the Defy 21’s first linear reserve indicator, a complication that, in this line, has traditionally been indicated by a separate external hand.
I personally really enjoy the Defy case (in both the Defy 21, and the smaller Defy Classic variants), though I’d argue it is really at its best when its many intersecting surfaces and angles are each contrasted with varying brushed and polished finishes. The Defy remains one of the most impressively finished luxury sports watch cases available at this price point (especially in ceramic), so I’ll admit that when all of the alternating finishes are stripped out, you’re left with a dramatically different product. Luckily, though, this visual style still works quite well for the bolder Defy 21 platform, which already has a matte black forged carbon case and several other exotic treatments, so it doesn’t feel terribly off-brand. Had this edition been rendered in the more classic Chronomaster case, I’m not sure it would have worked anywhere near as well. But here, with the Defy’s broad facets and sharp-edged intersections rendered in this cool “castle gray” color of the blasted titanium, the design’s raw architecture shines through, and you’re able to really appreciate just how well r
The watch ships with two straps: one, a dark gray waffle-textured rubber strap that carries the overall package’s monochromatic theme quite well, and the other, a brightly colored affair featuring stitched nylon fabric against a rubber core that gives the whole watch a little more personality and color contrast. Thankfully, it’s these light orange details matched to elements on the dial and the rubber-ringed crown that preserve the watch’s sporty character and keep it from being an overly sober experience. I’d imagine that this is a watch that would also look excellent on a hearty suede or tan Horween leather strap — anything to accent those orange touches while preserving the tough, sporty character.
endered the case is at its very core. With such character and intent laid bare, is all this simply an allegory for the adventurous virtues of the Land Rover itself? Perhaps. Maybe that’s a little too on-the-nose. Just try not to over-think it — at the end of the day, fans of exotic tool watches or high-end knives rendered in tumbled titanium are going to really like this one.
The Zenith Defy 21 Land Rover is limited to only 250 pieces and will have a price of $14,278 when it becomes available later this year.
When it comes to photography — shooting watches or otherwise — how many megapixels does a photographer really need? Sure, it’s the singular metric that’s more or less defined a veritable arms race in the photo-taking industry since the advent of the digital camera. But does it really matter? Can a 20 megapixel Nikon D500 from five years ago produce the same quality of image as Sony’s newest 64 megapixel monster? The answer is obviously as complicated as it is entirely subjective, because just about anything can be a deadly weapon in the hands of a trained assassin, right? Ultimately, the secret to creating beautiful images on either platform isn’t the size of the camera sensor, or even the lens attached to the camera, though both of those elements are certainly critical. Even still, the single most important element of photographing watches is actually quite a simple one: light.
Presented using lighting tools from our friends atProfoto , whose commitment to light shaping excellence today inspires the future of exceptional imagery tomorrow.
Why now? Well, with most of the world currently under mandatory shelter-in-place orders, we thought it was a great time to pick the conversation up around watch photography — particularly aftersurveying our Editorial team to see what new skills they were pursuing with all the extra down time. A common thread among creators during times like these is that we are left with ample time to — well, create, in hopes of broadening and sharpening our respective skill sets for when it’s time to get back out there.
Can you tell which photos throughout this story belong to each camera system below?
Unfortunately, light alone doesn’t sell new cameras, as it’s much more difficult to articulate on a spec sheet – whereas the value or power of a camera can be easily communicated in its number of megapixels. And more megapixels should mean sharper, more detailed photographs, right? Well yes – but also no. It’s hardly quite so simple, because as you can see below, no two shooters on the ABTW Editorial team are reliant on the same camera system:
ABLOGTOWATCH PHOTO CONTRIBUTORS AND THEIR CAMERA SYSTEMS:
However, one thing we can all agree on is how crucial it is to use high-quality tools for shaping light. Better light enables the shooter to use a much lower ISO setting with a much higher f-stop; a combination that yields sharper and more detailed images (no matter the camera’s megapixel count). The latter of these elements is particularly crucial when dealing with the razor-thin focal planes found in macro photography. But most important of all, better command over this light enables the photographer to shoot more creatively, ultimately producing more dramatic or compelling imagery.
Creating great light in a small corner of your home office or in a dynamic trades how environment is a bit like carrying around a box of puzzle pieces (i.e., various bits of camera gear) that have to be assembled on a complex new surface every time you take them out of the box. However, the more familiar you are with each piece, and the more often you put them together, the more comfortable you’ll be with adapting them to each new environment. And coming equipped with the right pieces in your little box enables you to bend the surrounding environment to your will, turning even your dining room table into a miniature photo studio for your favorite watches. To get you started, we’ve assembled three key steps in the process — each with its own tips and tricks that should enable you to make the most of what you’ve got and help you level-up your photo-sharing game on Instagram.
GET YOUR GEAR
To get started, all you’ll need is a cool watch, a camera (even the one on your smartphone will do), and a good light source, and you’re well on your way. This light source could be a brightly lit corner of your apartment by a window, your camera’s onboard flash (just remember to never point the flash directly at your subject), or an external flash kit like Profoto’s powerful A1 or ultra-portable A1X flashes. A remote trigger like the ultra-simple Profoto Connect for the aforementioned isn’t mandatory, but it can absolutely come in handy, enabling you to introduce light to your subject from an entirely different direction as your camera. And while nearly any good light source will help you achieve satisfactory results, such an external flash system will unlock an entire world of dramatic, studio-quality light no matter the venue — be it a desk in your home offices or a dimly lit corner of a brand’s booth at Baselworld.
Sponsored post presented on aBlogtoWatch by advertiser
In the world of luxury watchmaking complications, the tourbillon reigns supreme. As one of the most difficult and technically impressive mechanisms in mechanical timekeeping, the tourbillon has traditionally reserved for some of the world’s most exclusive and costly timepieces, priced well out of the reach of the average consumer. New luxury startup Aventi has attacked this cost barrier full force with its first watch, the A-10, offering ultra-luxe elements including tourbillons and full sapphire cases to the public at prices far below where these high-end components are usually offered. Inspired by the aggressive angular designs of modern supercars from the likes of Lamborghini and Pagani, the A-10 also offers a truly unique and modern look in a variety of vibrant colors.
The case design of the Aventi A-10 is bold, aggressive, and ultra-modern, with a vaguely trapezoidal shape measuring in at 48.5mm by 55.5mm. In any finish it’s a striking and dramatic shape, but without a doubt the crown jewel is the Pure Sapphire Crystal version. Aventi claims this is the most complex sapphire watch case ever assembled, with 68 individual facets and 144 edges, each hand finished from a single solid block of pure sapphire crystal in a process lasting over 100 hours. Each sapphire case is then treated to five layers of anti-reflective coating for a crystal-clear look from any angle, before a thick layer of clear ceramic is applied for additional impact resistance and toughness.
The case is no less dramatic for non-sapphire models, as the distinctive Aventi form and 12 o’clock crown is highlighted by eight different finish options, ranging from subtle to wild. The sandblasted matte finish of the Raw Titanium model highlights the functional beauty of this durable metal, while other versions are finished with a thick layer of Cerakote ceramic in seven unique colors: Rosso Red, Nardo Gray, Riviera Blue, Pearl White, Modena Yellow, Nero Black, and Viola Purple. Many of these vibrant colors have never been used in watch cases before, and each of the titanium case variants are made even more dramatic with two stripes of Super-LumiNova surrounding the bezel for an otherworldly look in low light.
The dial of the Aventi A-10 is fully skeletonized, offering an unimpeded look at the mechanically beautiful movement within. Of course, the tourbillon at 3 o’clock is the natural focal point, slowly rotating in a dance of precision engineering, but the massive dual-mainspring barrels at 7:30 and 10:30 are impressive to look at in their own right. The actual dial itself is a weblike latticework of bridges connecting the movement to a multi-layer suspended ring containing the minutes track. These elements are all presented in brilliant bare metal for the Pure Sapphire Crystal model, while in the titanium versions this is rendered in a mix of black and the case color. With such a complex dial design, Aventi wisely opts for a simple modernist set of skeletonized dauphine hands, allowing the beauty of the movement to take center stage.
The engine at the heart of the Aventi A-10 is a modified skeletonized Caliber 3450 hand-wound tourbillon movement. In addition to the signature tourbillon, this movement offers a smooth 28,800 bph sweep and a hefty 72-hour power reserve thanks to its dual mainspring barrels. Each movement is thoroughly inspected and tested for the utmost quality and accuracy, while maintaining incredible value.
An avant-garde design like the Aventi A-10 deserves an equally dramatic strap, and Aventi delivers with a swiftly tapering strap in rubber with a sporty carbon-fiber inlay and case-color accents. The Pure Sapphire Crystal model adds even more spectacle with a clear rubber strap, matching the stunning clarity of the case.
As a first effort for a new brand, the Aventi A-10 is more than a stunning and distinctive tourbillon timepiece. The pricing of this watch is nothing short of revolutionary, bringing the rarefied realm of skeletonized tourbillon watches to a far wider base of collectors than ever before. The A-10 is due to debut on Indiegogo on March 31, with initial early bird pricing of $2,800 for the Pure Sapphire Crystal model and $999 for titanium-cased versions.
Sapphire-cased timepieces have become a new material frontier in high-end watchmaking over the past several years, acting as a 360 degree showcase for highly decorated or complex movements. The latest brand to throw its hat in the ring in this ongoing material arms race is Girard-Perregaux, which has taken the use of sapphire a step beyond the norm with its new limited-edition Quasar Light. The Quasar Light features some truly impressive accoutrements, including a full sapphire case made from a single disk of sapphire material, a movement that seems to float inside the case thanks to distinctive sapphire bridges, and a tourbillon at 6 o’clock.
It’s the brilliance of the 46mm all-sapphire case that gives the Girard-Perregaux Quasar Light its unorthodox name, referencing the brightest celestial objects in the known universe. The name is not without merit, as the 200 hour manufacturing process needed to create and finish the main case body from a single piece of sapphire involves three times the standard amount of material and a painstaking amount of polishing to ensure clarity and brilliance according to the brand. Even the crown is cut from its own piece of sapphire, faceted to keep the traditional coin edge in a process that must have been immensely difficult. Any real criticism of the case design here comes off as nitpicking: at 46mm-wide and 15.25 mm-thick, it’s not exactly petite on the wrist, and provides only 30 meters of water resistance. That said, who will ever try to hide this under a shirt cuff or take this anywhere near water? The points are more or less moot.
Without a dial at all, the manufacture GP09400-1128 skeleton automatic tourbillon movement is allowed to dominate the view. While a set of white gold dauphine hands along with a small seconds indicator on the tourbillon at 6 o’clock are provided, everything else is given over to an exquisitely finished movement. While a metal ring on the outside grounds the entire structure, most of the major elements from the tourbillon to the central hands float in midair, suspended by a series of sapphire bridges in Girard-Perregaux’s signature arrow shape. The finishing and artistry on display is frankly astonishing, particularly on the unique textured ruthenium barrel at 12 o’clock. This brilliant material and the massive number of facets help the Quasar Light to throw even further reflections. The GP09400-1100 is more than a pretty face, boasting a respectable 60 hour power reserve.
Girard-Perregaux matches the Quasar Light with an appropriately light-catching strap, made of a silver lame fabric. An additional black alligator leather strap is also provided for a slightly more traditional look. Both straps are mounted with a butterfly style clasp in white gold.
As a piece of pure horological artwork, it’s difficult to find fault with the Girard-Perregaux Quasar Light. The overall package, while large and undoubtedly delicate, is stunningly engineered and finished and sets itself apart form previous sapphire-cased offerings. Only 18 examples of the Quasar Light will be made, at a retail price of $294,000.
Designa Individual (DiW) is one of a series of small companies around the world that, for at least part of their business, customize Rolex timepieces. As abundant as a aftermarket Rolex watches are, the industry can’t even agree on a term for them. These watches also happen to be quite controversial, as Rolex officially condemns them and because they often cost significantly more than the retail prices of the original Rolex timepieces they began as.
Nevertheless, the world of aftermarket/customized/modified/Frankenstein/bespoke., etc., Rolex watches is popular and only growing in size as the underlying Rolex watches themselves appear to be in continued high demand. Probably the most famous of aftermarket Rolex customizers is George Bamford, who recently stopped publicly selling Rolex watches to focus on other products, such as his own watches and those from LVMH group brands (such as Zenith or TAG Heuer). Bamford and others gained notoriety first for coating Rolex watch cases in colors such as black, and then later changing dial colors and other details on the watch. That said, what Bamford and his contemporaries did was not invent the aftermarket Rolex, but rather made it a commodity. For generations, Rolex dealers and customers have been doing aftermarket gem-setting and other dial modification or case work, though most of these aftermarket Rolex watches were produced on a one-by-one basis for individual clients. None of them competed for factory Rolex timepieces.
The Internet really made the aftermarket watch a problem for Rolex in Geneva. The brand’s reason for being aggressive toward aftermarket Rolex watches is sensible and two-fold in its logic. First, they are concerned people will mistake them for actual watches that Rolex sells and that this will lead to brand intellectual property dilution effects. I agree with this sentiment, though Rolex might be over blowing the actual number of these watches that are out there. In fact, what Rolex is mostly concerned with are not brand new Rolex watches that have been modified and re-sold, but rather older Rolex watches that have been “spruced up” to bring new life into them but ended up not resembling an actual watch Rolex produced in the past. Rolex has gone to court more than a few times over this matter and cases have often settled in their favor. Rolex is serious about protecting its brand and they don’t let too much go. My understanding is that most, if not all, aftermarket Rolex dealers get a not entirely friendly letter from a Rolex attorney at some point. Whether or not they abide by the demands is an entirely different story, of course.
Rolex’s second concern about aftermarket versions of their watches is also sound, but it is hard to know the actual gravity of the concern. Rolex worries that aftermarket Rolex watches will not only look different from their stock models, but will also have an inferior level of quality. That does sound a bit pretentious but, if you know Rolex well, you also know they they indeed have the best quality in a number of areas and important details. At the least, a boutique operation like an aftermarket watch modifier is not going to have the equipment necessary to even match other high-end watch brand quality levels. Sometimes the naked eye can see these issues, sometimes they can’t. That said, Rolex is technically correct that aftermarket Rolex watches are simply not as well made (or guaranteed for durability) as what comes out of the Rolex factory.
What Rolex must admire is some of the elegant creativity and artistic flair that many aftermarket Rolex watches have. No doubt, many of these aftermarket Rolex watches can be easily considered pop art — and valuable pop-art on top of that. I have personally put on a number of aftermarket Rolex watches that looked incredibly cool, if not incredibly well made. However, I am a seasoned expert in this field and know that these are not Rolex products, but rather Rolex products that have been later modified by a company that has nothing to do with Rolex.
Rolex prefers that all Rolex watches out there represent only the designs they make and the quality they can control. They cannot, however, legally tell someone who has purchased the watch that they cannot hire a third-party company to modify that legally purchased Rolex product. This is why aftermarket dealers operated, but even though they are working with products that bear Rolex’s name, they are not (ideally) reproducing Rolex’s name. They are simply modifying a watch as a car customized might take an existing car and modify it for the car’s owner. The aftermarket car analogy is fitting on a number of levels, and I find that it is helpful to explain why there are aftermarket Rolex watches.
Aftermarketers who purchase Rolex timepieces must be careful not to breach Rolex’s intellectual property rights, such as reproducing their trademark. That means a Rolex modifier could get into trouble if they create a brand new dial for a Rolex watch and put the Rolex logo on it. All the modifier could do is somehow adapt the original dial and make sure the Rolex logo is still visible. If a modifier watches to create a new dial to put into a Rolex watch, then it can’t have a Rolex logo on it if playing fair.
Consumers interested in purchasing an aftermarket Rolex should certainly ask a lot of questions about where the watch came from. I’ve actually seen some Rolex aftermarket companies supply original parts along with the swapped out aftermarket parts. That way you get the entire original Rolex along with the aftermarket pieces. This, however, doesn’t make sense if an aftermarket Rolex watch destroys the original nature of the watch case, dial, or bracelet parts. If investing is your worry, then it is probably wise to consider any aftermarket Rolex modifications as having the effect to entirely remove the original value of the watch. If that same watch has a similar or greater valued than an aftermarket Rolex, then that is only because it has value as an entirely different classification of non-original aftermarket Rolex watch. Rolex will not service these timepieces, and their potential resale value is in their artistic appeal, subjective sense of quality, or other form of notoriety.
The main reason aftermarket Rolex watches are so expensive is because they all have to start with an authentic Rolex. I am sure that at least some aftermarket Rolex watches make use of Rolex timepieces that are either incomplete or have damaged parts. Creating a modified Rolex out of these products turns them from being mostly worthless (save for parts) into a different type of commodity.
It is not uncommon for aftermarket Rolex watches to cost double or more the original retail price of the underlying watch. As the resulting customized Rolex is not as valuable as the original, more often than not, and because they can in many instances not easily be resold, customers of aftermarket Rolex watches (especially the brand new pieces) tend to be the comfortably rich. This is a relatively small demographic these days, as even very wealthy watch buyers in today’s economic environment are mindful of a watch’s resale value. My point is that, as of now, the majority of aftermarket modified Rolex watches are playthings for people who can easily afford to spend far more than the retail price for a Rolex watch, but also do not have any qualms about getting, on par, an item of lower monetary value. There is, however, no price you can pay for having an object you love and find beautiful, or an original and exclusive item that perhaps only you will ever own.
This all leads me to a hands-on look at one aftermarket modified Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona from a company called Designa Individual that it calls the “Carbon Emerald.” This is one of many aftermarket Rolex watches I’ve handled. It is, however, the first I’ve seen with an all-carbon case. The company is very proud of the precision cut of the carbon case, which has an elegant texture and is very light compared to a metal Daytona watch. Designa Individual seemed to be going for a bit of a Richard Mille theme but in the form of a customized Daytona. It works, and the combination of 18k yellow gold, black carbon, and the green strap make for a very inspired look. Note that Designa Individual offers a small assortment of limited-edition Rolex Daytona with carbon cases and color accents (and straps) other than green. The Carbon Emerald is, however, the only model so far with the gold hands, hour markers, pushers, and crown.
For the strap Designa Individual uses a leather strap with a Velcro strap. Since it doesn’t size very well, they actually include three straps of various lengths with the kit, though there isn’t a sizing tool to help the owner (who paid quite a bit of money) properly swap out the straps.
Aesthetically, the carbon dial, case, bezel are nice looking. The Daytona is such a universally appealing watch that it would probably look good in most any material or color. There is certainly going to be at least a few people that for them the ideal color tone for the Daytona is indeed black carbon, gold, and green. And again, the key technical talking point of the Designa Individual is the Carbon Emerald’s very lightweight.
Inside the watch is Rolex’s caliber 4130 automatic chronograph movement (certainly made by Rolex). What isn’t quite clear in the Carbon Emerald is what else is made by Rolex or what it started out as. What I feel should bother consumers is if they don’t know what an aftermarket Rolex watch started life out as — there should always be a before and after picture. This is, if anything, to ensure that for the price of the product, an entirely new or at least complete Rolex was sacrificed for a bacchanalian customization ritual.
So while I know that Designa Individual created an aftermarket Daytona 40mm-wide case, bezel, and dial, I don’t know where the hands and hour markers came from. My assumption is that the watch’s sapphire crystal, hour markers, hands, and Rolex logo are carefully pulled from original Rolex watches and carefully reapplied on an aftermarket dial. The problem is that I am not sure, and Designa Individuals’ website is silent on the matter. For a price like this, I really believe consumers expect more communication and information about where an aftermarket Rolex originally came from. Perhaps not all consumers will be as concerned, but in my opinion, enough will.
Purchasing an aftermarket Rolex timepiece is not without considerable risk. Anyone getting one should know that aftermarket modified Rolex watches do not hold value like “factory Rolex watches” and, in many instances, will not be serviced by Rolex. To counter this lack of Rolex warranty, aftermarket Rolex modifiers (including Designa Individual) offer their own warranties (theirs is seven years) — so, at least there is something in place. Price for the (limited edition of five pieces) Designa Individual (DiW) Carbon Emerald aftermarket modified Rolex Daytona watch is 47,290 Euros.
Rumor had it that 2020 was going to be the year of the Luminor for Panerai, and this new Luminor Marina Carbotech ref. PAM1661 could be an early indicator confirming that notion. Most of what we saw from Panerai in 2019 seemed to center around the re-shuffling of the brand’s portfolio, particularly with a focus on tidying up existing lines while introducing new Due dress and Submersible tool/sport models. It seems only natural that Panerai turn to its signature breadwinner for the same treatment — and leading things off is a super-technical twist on an otherwise classic.
You wouldn’t be mistaken for wondering if there weren’t already a Luminor Marina rendered in ultralight Carbotech — in fact, there is: It’s PAM661, which is also a black 44mm Luminor case fitted with the same P.9010 movement. But what makes this old reference interesting isn’t its “dirty dial” (a nickname given to Panerai dials that use beige Super-LumiNova), but its somewhat rare dial configuration, which mixes applied circular indices traditionally found on Panerai’s Submersible line with the Luminor’s familiar 6-9-12 “sausage” markers. This new PAM1661 looks to be replacing the “dirty dial,” as it follows the tradition of Panerai updating older models by simply adding a “1” to the first digit in the reference number. In doing so, Panerai also seems to be ditching any potentially confusing hybrid dials and unifying the design language of its key collections — in this case, adhering to a more traditional Luminor look.
Panerai also appears to be streamlining the visual identifiers of the Carbotech models, which are all now delineated by their bright blue luminescent hour markers (or in the case of the Submersible, applied indices) for a monochromatic look that plays well with the futuristic, high-tech aesthetic of the grained carbon fiber case. This cool color scheme and the sandwich dial construction reminds me a lot of the Luminor 1950 LAB-ID from 2017, which shared a very similar dial but housed a wild movement with tantalum-based ceramic mainplates and bridges to yield a sweet, murdered-out view through its caseback. At 49mm, though, that watch was massive by even Panerai’s standards, and eye-wateringly exclusive (it was priced around $50,000 and they only made fifty of them) to boot, which dramatically limited its audience.
Brand: Panerai Model: Luminor Marina Carbotech Dimensions: 44mm Water Resistance: 300 meters Case Material: Carbotech (carbon fiber composite) Crystal/Lens: Sapphire Movement: Panerai P.9010 Power Reserve: 3 days Strap/Bracelet: Panerai Sportech kevlar composite with black DLC titanium buckle Price & Availability: $12,800
This new Luminor Marina Carbotech is still big and expensive, but considerably more approachable on both fronts by comparison, as its 44mm case houses a much more traditional movement – Panerai’s P.9010 calibre, which offers three days of power reserve and an independently adjustable hour hand, which is particularly handy for those who frequently hop between time zones. This new reference PAM1661 has a retail price of $12,800.
Nearly five years ago, I originally went hands-on with the reference GOA40042 Piaget Emperador Cushion Tourbillon Skeleton watch here. Now, in 2020, I revisit the same model Piaget tourbillon to see how it has held up — especially with regard to style, technicality, and overall impressiveness. Piaget has been relatively quiet over the last few years – especially when it comes to men’s watches. Despite the brand having a plethora of emotionally compelling horological wonders,Nearly five years ago, I originally went hands-on with the reference GOA40042 Piaget Emperador Cushion Tourbillon Skeleton watch here. Now, in 2020, I revisit the same model Piaget tourbillon to see how it has held up — especially with regard to style, technicality, and overall impressiveness. Piaget has been relatively quiet over the last few years – especially when it comes to men’s watches. Despite the brand having a plethora of emotionally compelling horological wonders, the company seems intent on relatively superficial marketing that espouses the notion that you might want to wear a Piaget watch to a black tie event. In the future, I’d like to see the brand explain why you might want to choose Piaget to a black tie event (aside from the fact that a celebrity was selected to wear one at an awards show). If Piaget can follow this advice, they will again earn the greater attention from serious aficionados and collectors that they deserve.
As a brand, Piaget currently does far better in the East than in the West. Marketing to these different parts of the world (yes, “East” and “West” are overly broad generalizations) can often involve the need for wholly different tactics as well as symbolism. For example, the figure eight infinity symbol on the dial, which frames the housing for the automatic micro-rotor and the tourbillon cage, is an aesthetic feature I don’t recall noticing back in 2015 (and I wasn’t looking for it, either). Americans don’t really seek out this symbol, but we find it very frequently in watches meant to be sold in China. Piaget has a point. If some consumers in China feel better about a product provided it has a figure eight (“8” is often synonymous with good fortune, as I understand it), and everyone else doesn’t notice — then why not put one in there for good measure? At the same time, how do consumers in the West feel if they believe a watch was designed with an entirely different consumer in mind? These might sound like entirely trivial matters, but people who spend over $200,000 on a watch are rarely without options, and so choosing one timepiece over another can really come down to considerations that might otherwise appear of marginal importance.
Despite Piaget’s hints as to what market they want this (and many other Piaget models) to appeal to, one of the things I love about the Emperador Cushion Tourbillon Skeleton is that it really doesn’t seem to have a particular wearer in mind. A fun question to ask when seeing intricately ornate pieces of horological art such as this is, “Who would look best wearing it?” The focal point of the watch is the lovingly skeletonized and hand-decorated in-house Piaget caliber 1207S automatic tourbillon movement. There is no watch dial, save for what reference points your eyes might find to help you read the time on the off-centered dauphine-style hour and minute hands that sit at around 4 o’clock on the dial. The rest of the face offers a proud yet almost flamboyant “Geneva ballet” of watch parts and openworked bridges that move like streams in Escher-like directions. Is all this a better act for an audience, or is the purpose of this mechanical display for the private enjoyment of the wearer? Hard to say what Piaget was thinking.
Piaget still holds a number of “the thinnest…” records when it comes to watch movements, including that of having the world’s thinnest mechanical watch. When it comes to tourbillons, their ultra-thin efforts in some ways have been beaten by competitor Bulgari. That said, it probably isn’t a good idea to purchase a watch simply because it holds some numerical size record, as that usually doesn’t affect the greater wearing experience. Nevertheless, when spending this kind of money, you want some talking points. Piaget continues to claim that the Emperador Cushion Tourbillon is “the thinnest ultra-thin shaped automatic tourbillon skeleton in the world.” Is it just me, or does that statement include some strange-sounding qualifiers?
The 1207S movement is 5.05mm-thick and constructed of 225 parts. It is the skeletonized version of the 1207 movement that Piaget also produces. The 1207S operates at 3Hz with about 42 hours of power reserve and includes a flying tourbillon that uses a titanium cage. Note the Piaget “P” in the tourbillon itself. The movement displays just the time and is automatically wound with the solid platinum micro-rotor that is also visible on the dial. The watch is very much for both appreciating the structure and finishing of the movement and more trivial matters, such as knowing the time with precision, as a mere secondary concern.
Beauty-wise the movement has got it down. Looks make up for a lack of a certain level of practicality… and yet, at the same time, the movement is highly straightforward, even efficient, in its function and purpose. What I really like is that, without playing any games, Piaget in– the Emperador Cushion Tourbillon Skeleton — is able to satisfy the eyes of a the most seasoned timepiece movement enthusiast, as well as offer a visual beauty that lay luxury seekers can readily enjoy. Not many watches of this ilk can do that, are often either too superficial for enthusiasts or too intellectual for others. Also, do not discount the fact that the movement bridges perfectly match the 18k rose gold case, an additional feat of manufacturing complexity that is not to be taken lightly. For example, the automatic rotor is actually in platinum but colored in a rose gold tone.
In addition to this reference GOA40042 in 18k rose gold, Piaget also produces the Emperador Cushion Tourbillon Skeleton in 18k white gold as the GOA40041. That version includes a tasteful black-colored rotor and matching hands. It is certainly the most traditionally black-tie of the watches, though with the warm tone of rose gold, I think this particular model is the livelier of the two. Note that Piaget has played with other versions of the Emperador Cushion Tourbillon as partially skeletonized with the caliber 1207P movement. Diamonds are certainly available on some versions.
Not that it is new, but wearing this timepiece reminds me of how much I appreciate the Piaget Emperador case. Here it is in a rather large 46.5mm-wide form, but don’t forget that it is relatively thin at just 8.85mm-thick. The Emperador case comes in a few styles, and I really like them all. This is the Emperador Cushion, and it is known as such because while the case is actually around, the dial (accordingly the sapphire crystal as well) is cushion-shaped. The thick, polished bezel contrasts with the brushed middle case that helps emphasize the cushion shape. Relatively stubby lugs help secure a classy, fitted alligator strap.
The Emperador Cushion shape is so nice that Piaget decided to use it as the base of its more recent Piaget Polo S sport-style watch collection. I still think these “black-tie” Emperador Cushion cases do it a bit better, but the round case with cushion dial look is a signature Piaget aesthetic that I think more wrists would benefit from trying out.
As a “statement watch,” I think the Emperador Cushion Tourbillon Skeleton has help us well. Piaget can still claim to produce some of the most beautiful and elegant high-complication watches out there — and no one will ever call them boring. The overall appeal is however a bit “poetic,” which, to me, means it is open for interpretation. Piaget takes a decidedly passive approach to deciding who such a watch might be best for. This allows the confident man with enough occasions to wear a formal watch — and an appreciation (as well as budget) for products that combine technical and craft excellence — to discover and select an Emperador Cushion Skeleton Automatic all by themselves. I would imagine that if two people ever ended up at the same event both wearing this Piaget watch, they could very well have little else in common.
In such ways, the Piaget Emperador Cushion Tourbillon Skeleton is the most Swiss of watches. Forget that Piaget is, indeed, located in Geneva. What I mean is that the watch both intensely focuses on offering an impressive presentation and, at the same time, serves up chilly discretion in regard to describing details about its inner personality. Call that chrono-flirting, if you will. A watch that flirts? Now that is a Swiss timepiece at its finest. Price for the Piaget Emperador Cushion Tourbillon Skeleton reference GOA40042 is $282,000 USD.