This article was originally published inÂ The Business Times.
The “first watch icon of the 21st century” got a facelift and a new automatic movement for its 20th birthday this year. While the case – now in all-ceramic with the steel case-back discarded – remains at 38mm wide, the opening of the new J12’s lacquered dial has been enlarged slightly to give it a bigger face. But the numerals on it are slimmed down – and now also in ceramic – while the inner railway track stands out more than before. The bezel notches are increased from 30 to 40, while the crown’s height is one third lower. To accommodate the new movement made by Geneva-based Kenissi, which Chanel has a 20 per cent stake in, the case has been slightly raised. The new J12 comes in a black and a white model (S$8150 and S$10,000 with diamond indices).
The Speedmaster chronograph that celebrated the success of Apollo 11’s moon landing in 1969 is now a highly sought-after timepiece. Fifty years on, Omega has released a similar limited edition – also in 1014 pieces. Many of the original touches are retained, but the anniversary version also boasts some pioneer features. Instead of the 18K yellow gold of the earlier model, the new watch is made of 18K Moonshine Gold – a unique new alloy with a paler hue than the traditional yellow gold. The aluminium bezel ring of the first timepiece is replaced with ceramic. The covered case-back with the engraving celebrating the moon landing is gone; in its place is now a crystal caseback carrying the inscription. The old Calibre 861 is also retired. A more advanced movement, the ultra anti-magnetic Master Chronometer, now powers the new watch.
A tribute to Galileo Galilei, the tourbillon-GMT complication made its debut in 2010 in a massive 48mm Radiomir case, in ceramic. The new Luminor Tourbillon GMT is highlighted by a case made of Grade 5 titanium – a material highly resistant to corrosion and much lighter than steel. The bezel, crown and lever of the safety lock device protecting the crown are made of carbotech, a carbon fibre composite. While the 47mm case framing the skeletonised face is still humongous, it weighs a diminutive 18gm. The imposing dark monochrome case is paired with a military green flange and subsidiary indications in matching colour. A hand-wound movement, introduced by Panerai in 2016, keeps the tourbillon-GMT watch ticking, providing a power reserve of six days.
Breguet, the inventor of the tourbillon (a gravity defying mechanism), offers a skeletonised take on two of its ultra-slim tourbillon timepieces – the Automatic 5377 launched in 2014 and an enamel version, the 5367, in 2017. The latest 5395, including its highly decorated skeleton automatic movement, is pared down to the bare minimum, with nearly half of its material removed. The new open worked tourbillon weighs much lighter than its predecessors, even when it has grown from 7.0 to 7.7mm thick. The case, in rose gold or platinum, is shrunken from 42mm wide previously to 41mm.
“Constant force” is key to precision timekeeping and in the Defy Fusee Tourbillon, Zenith has reinterpreted the traditional fusee & chain constant force mechanism to give it a modern architecture. It pairs the mechanism, consisting of 575 individually hand-assembled components (a 3-hand watch requires less than 200 parts to make), with a gravity-defying tourbillon regulating organ. Both the fusee chain and tourbillon cage – in matching vibrant blue – are visible through the open dial, held in a 44mm black carbon or platinum case. The timepiece in carbon case is limited to 50 pieces, while the platinum version is limited to 10 pieces.
Jaeger-LeCoultre, the only watch brand which has over 200 chiming watch movements in its inventory, has fitted its latest minute repeater-perpetual calendar timepiece with a new movement engineered to optimise the acoustic qualities of the minute repeater. Instead of the flat, overlapping coils that mostly characterise such watches, a gong construction is favoured for the Master Grande Tradition Repetition Minutes Perpetuelle to maximise the 3-D space afforded by the movement and the case.
Its round shapes with classic accents recall Moser watches from the early 20th century, but there are also hidden irreverent aesthetics revealed through this one minute tourbillon watch’s electric blue dial – the most popular Moser dial – which adds a dynamic touch to the entire design. The in-house automatic movement, resting in a 42mm steel case, is equipped with a double flat hairspring designed and produced in Moser’s factory. To simplify the after sales service, the tourbillon is an interchangeable module, assembled and regulated separately to the movement via a simple “plug and play” system.
This article was first published in The Business Times.