Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What are the case dimensions of a Rolex Submariner 116610LN ?

*** How large is the "new" Submariner?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions (along with: would it fit my wrist nicely?)

Answer: this depends on what and where you measure.

To avoid any confusion, here is the case size chart you'll be looking for.

I've measured it myself, assuming 1/10th of mm would be close enough.

Breitling Naivtimer Mecanique in 18K yellow gold. Ref 11022.1

Today, we got a very unique watch - and before you get excited about its stunning look, let’s just pause for a moment and turn our attention to its mechanism: the famous Lemania Cal. 1873.

Of course, the keen students of horology and "Moon watch" aficionados would no doubt recognize similarities between the Lemania 1873 and the Omega 861 / 1861.

Essentially, the Omega moon watch chronograph is Lemania movement.

The story of Lemania goes back to the year 1884 when Alfred Lugrin setup his workshop in Le Sentier, Switzerland, in the Vallée de Joux and not far from Lake Léman. The story goes that he was taught his watchmaking knowledge by the son of a farmer. Lugrin earned medals for the quality of his work in 1906 at the Milan fair and in 1914 in Bern. He specialized in complicated movements like chronographs and repeaters.

In 1930 his firm became “Lemania Watch Co.”

In 1932 Lemania became part of SSIH (Société Suisse pour l’industrie horlogère), merging with Omega and Tissot. Lemania's chronograph specialty enabled Omega to become the official timer of the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, 1932. And the SSIH quickly grew to over 50 companies.

Later, in 1981, Lemania separated from the SSIH group and was renamed “Nouvelle Lemania”.

In 1983, SSIH merged with USUAG (Allgemeine Schweizerische Uhrenindustrie AG, which included Longines, Rado and other parts manufacturers). The newly formed group was named SMH (Société de Microélectronique et d'Horlogerie) in 1986. Two years later, SHM was renamed to “Swatch Group”, in recognition of the efforts of the small Swatch to save the Swiss watch industry.

In 1992 Nouvelle Lemania went to Investcorp and the Breguet group (“Groupe Horloger Breguet”, a.k.a. GHB). Finally, in 1999 Breguet became part of the Swatch Group, as did Lemania. And once again, like in the 1930s, inside the new group, Lemania's chronographs and complication movements became the foundation of the “Manufacture de Haute Horlogerie Breguet”. Today, Lemania's official name is “Montres Breguet” but the name on the door of the workshop stubbornly says “Lemania”.

So here you go - this is the story of a proud Swiss manufacturer who saved the Swiss high end manufacturing industry not once, but TWICE.

To say that Lemania chronographs have a special place in horological history would be an understatement.

A number of makers - Heuer, Breitling, Omega, Hamilton, Bucherer, Tissot - to name just a few - used this very chronograph to in their sports watches. It would be impossible to even guess how many of those movements were produced, but if I have to pick a number I would say probably 2-3 million!

And despite the large number of movements in circulation, Lemania never cut corners - all were well manufactured, most of them are still in use and almost every single movement is repairable! But the most important point is this: the calibre itself has been virtually unchanged since the 1960s. What a testimony to great designing and fantastic micro-engineering.

So now that we all agree that the Lemania cal 1873 is the best movement in its class ever produced, (and I am dead serious here) let me unveil this beauty:

Breitling Naivtimer Mecanique in 18K yellow gold. Ref 11022.1

Released in a limited edition production of only 100 pieces in 18K yellow gold (and 400 in steel) this watch was built not just to impress but to showcase the brand in its best light.

For someone looking for a fine timepiece, this Navitamer has got it all: the looks, the works, beauty, presence, piece of mind, appearance AND quality. An head turner and conversation piece, or just a quiet status symbol, the choice is yours.

The attention to detail is evident: from a solid and robust gold case to the display case back, 18K sold gold buckle, down to solid gold spring loaded bars. In this case, there were no cost-saving tricks - Breitling needed just 100 buyers in the world, so this was not a watch marketed to the masses.

Case size: 41.5mm. Manual wind movement.

The Cartier Lady

Yes, some things will never change: she still wears her Cartier! TanyaH

Monday, April 29, 2013

Dent No. 1508 Marine Chronometer: 172 years young - and it is still keeping a perfect time!

Dent No. 1508 Ships Chronometer, signed "Dent, 82 strand LONDON". Purchased by Admiralty in March 1841. Used as navigation instrument on HMS 'Virago' - 1847, HMS 'Plover' - 1869, HMS ' Sattelite' - 1886, HMS 'Carysfort'. Serviced in 1879 Cape Observatory, 1895 Cape of Good Hope, 1895 by Mercer (famous Marine chronometer himself) , 1902 in Sydney, 1919 in Liverpool. Sold by auction in 1920. In private collection since 1983.

Edward John DENT (1790-1853) manufacturer of Marine Chronometer and astronomical clocks was one of the most famous Watchmakers in England. in 1828. his ship chronometer No. 114 won first prize in the Premium Trials with a variation of 1/2 second in 12 months, and the Admiralty awarded him a prize of 300 pound. His chronometers were used on many explorations in Polar regions and tropics. No. 1800 was owned by David Livingstone (1836) during his African exploration. In 1842 Dent was granted the Royal Errant as "Chronometer Maker to the Queen and HRH Prince Albert".

He was the maker of great clock of House of Parliament, known as Big Ben.

Archive record from The Old Royal observatory, National Maritime museum, Greenwich.

No. 1508 is one of only the handful survived ships chronometer actually made by Dent. The 2A and 259 have been lost. and other 3 older were "exchanged" which most likely means returned to Dent's workshop.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Are you just a dreamer or a rough (but flawless) diamond with an impeccable eye for detail?

*** Do you have what it takes?

You've been a smart kid and you've studied hard. Your law (or medical) degree is testimony to your commitment to science and humanity and the long client list is indisputable proof that you are good in your field of expertise.

But deep down in your heart you know you could have done much better devoting your life to politics, watchmaking, or even the noble and fine art of second hand dealing. The question is: do you have what it takes to call yourself a watchmaker? Are you just a dreamer or a rough but flawless diamond with an impeccable eye for detail?

Before you get too excited about changing career, it is my responsibility to assess whether you have what it takes. In other words, are you really "watchmaker material"?

Here we go.

This is a real life example. No tricks, just straight forward thinking.

The photo below shows a ladies' Tudor watch. The watch was sold 2 years ago and back then it was in brand new, unworn condition. Returned to us this week with a note stating "it stopped". The case back was removed as well as the auto winding system, for clarity.

1. Can you see what is *obviously* wrong with this watch?
2. What caused the mechanism to stop?
3. What needs to be done to return the watch to good working order?
4. How long would it take to rectify the problem?
5. How much should we charge the customer?

I'll give you just one tip: the watch does not need an overhaul/service, just one very specific repair.

Please don't give up too easily. The answer is below, but if you jump to the answer without giving it a try, you'll kick your bottom and you will say, wow this was too obvious.

You won't find the answer as the fifth most important question online because this is something you should work out on your own and tell me .


The problem described above is one of the most common reasons for malfunction found in a wrist watch. Yet it has severe consequences to performance: complete 'denial of service'.

1. Shown on the right (circled in green) is the movement case clamp. It is held in place with a screw. The purpose of the clamp is to hold the mechanism firmly inside the watch case.

The clamp on the left side (red) got itself detached because the watch head snapped off. 2. The screw head then lodged itself underneath the balance wheel and caused the watch to stop. The good thing: it was clearly exposed for easy removal. If it went further (deeper) into the gear train, the mechanism would need complete disassembly.

However, before the new screw could be installed, the below part of the body need to be extracted.

In this particular case, extraction was straight forward because the thread was not damaged.

The reason why the screw head snapped: under higher magnification, the screw body appeared to be flawed, and some impurity in the metal structure is clearly visible.

The screw hole after extraction:

3. clamp re-installed, new screw.

The watch was checked for time keeping (and a minor adjustment was required). The balance wheel was not affected and the auto-winding system with the rotor was reinstalled.

4. Thanks to an easy extraction, the entire repair took approx. 15 minutes.

The broken casing clam screw is often the result of excessive external force (for example, the watch being dropped) Over tightening or an in-built flaw could also be a contributing factor.

5. How much to charge? To determine the cost of the repair, one should take into account many factors: difficulty and complexity of the repair, availability of spare parts and total 'bench' time, including overall turn-around time for the watch to be returned to the customer. Another determining factor is what a watch manufacturer (Rolex) would charge for a similar repair.

What do you think would be a fair and correct amount to charge?

As we always say, happy collecting!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

1957 Omega Constellation: the pie-pan dial "restoration"

If there is one single watch component that determines the value of a vintage piece then it has to be the dial.

Watches with original and unaltered dials are worth significantly more than those with repainted or refurbished dials. Actually, in most cases it is always better to leave the old dial in "as is" condition than to undertake any restoration at all.

Today, I acquired a lovely 1957 Omega Constellation, for my personal collection. It is an all original example in a handsome 18K gold case.

However the dial itself was a shocker! It was covered with some kind of fluff which over time had 'glued' itself to the dials lacquer. The watch spent 25 years in a deposit box and has now reached a stage where any attempt to remove the fluff would cause further damage.

Obviously finding a new dial would be impossible and sending it to Switzerland for restoration would be a lengthy and expensive undertaking with a dubious result.

After some closer examination, I decided to take the risk and clean the dial. I felt that with a bit of luck, some mild cleaning liquid would dilute the gunk to the point where the fluff could be removed without removing the lacquer and lettering. A risky and nerve-racking operation indeed!

The end result was way beyond my expectation. With the help of a fine-hair paint brush, the dial cleaned nicely. The fluff was softened, then removed and finally the Constellation dial revealed itself in its full glory. Not a single letter or bit of lacquer was removed / lost in the process!

So, what was the mysterious cleaning liquid you wonder? Send me an email and I would be more than happy to share the secret with you.

Of course, the full credit for this 'restoration’ goes to maker of this magnificent 1957 Omega pie-pan dial. What a beauty!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

If it was good for Alexey Arkhipovich Leonov, it's good for you too.

*** 1970s Flightmaster: looking for a really god one?

If it was good for Alexey Arkhipovich Leonov, it's good for you too!

Russian cosmonaut Alexey Arkhipovich Leonov, Soviet Air Force Major General with his Flightmaster. Worn on Soyuz 19 mission in 1975.

Designed for pilots. Worn in space: Omega Flightmaster Cal 911 ST145.036. Case 43 x 52mm. Complete set with box and papers. Original 1970s model.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Betty and Don Draper form Mad Men, Patek Philippe

The best of 1966. The Mad Men are back!

And who would think that so many of us would watch a plotless American TV show with such passion! Like it or not, there is something nostalgic about the 1950s/60s where men were mad and ladies so painfully fashionable.

The series is an absolute feast for the eyes. The colours, decor, costumes, fashion and over and above all: the charming elegance.

You may not believe this, but today, on my way to work, I saw a man wearing a grey Don Draper suit, spotless white shirt, shiny Oxford shoes and - wait for it - a hat!

Now, you may say: well, this look is never going to work in Sydney. And you are quite right, because Don Draper does not text or sms or play silly games on his ipad on public transport like you do. DD is not a sterile, politically correct misogynist-metrosexual. Don was simply a product of a context, a part of it's fabric - not an imitation.

And this is the reason why the look cannot work: we cannot bring the context of the 60s into 2013.

But there is, however, one detail which does not need a context to turn you into a cool and elegant man. An item so contextless which like a black hole bends the time around itself: a vintage watch!

Watercolour by TanyaH.

Niello pocket watches: the 3 buying tips

*** Your daily dose of horology: Niello

At their peak production (early 1900s) pocket watches were available in all imaginable styles and decorations, with all sorts of complications. The price range started from a famous $1 Ingersoll to more common nickel-cased daily wearers, precision railroad timekeepers to fancy gold cased gem studded "Royalty" examples. And on the very top were complicated perpetual calendars, chronographs and repeaters.

And then, there were the really cool and sophisticated, artistic niello pocket watches.

Niello is a black alloy (lead, copper, silver, sulphur and sal ammoniac) which was filled into a chiseled or engraved silver case. The niello paste was then fired. The excess alloy - which was very hard - was then removed with a file, and the remaining surface was then polished.

Being a silver based alloy, it 'fused' perfectly with the silver case, leaving a striking black and white appearance.

Needless to say, engraving a silver case for a niello required both craftsmanship and artistry. Some of the most distinctive, intricate and beautiful Art Nouveau niello cases were produced in early 1900s and I have no doubt that Draper Senior would have a such a piece in his waist coat.

So next time you see a niello pocket watch, don't rush- take your time to study the smooth patterns and immerse yourself in the fascinating world of fine horology.

If you wish to start your pocket watch collection then here are the 3 most important thing to look for:

- go for an example with perfectly preserved niello, but also one with an intriguing pattern
- go for a brand name (Omega for example, or Longines)
- the watch mechanism must be in good working order, the winding system flawless and the balance wheel unaltered, preferably with original balance staff. And the porcelain dial intact, free of any hairlines.

Based purely on the pattern, my pick would be wither one on the left or on the right (on above photo) where the middle example would be less desirable because of the crest.

Happy collecting!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Don Draper-worthy: 1959 Patek Philippe [Mad Men]

1959. Patek Philippe, fresh form the work bench.

While I was doing the overhaul, Tanya had fun with watercolours.

Ref 2515 is a very typical example of a mid to late 1950s Patek watches. It is fitted with iconic movement Cal. 12-400 which was in use from 1950 to 1962. Patek produced a total of 10,000 Cal 12-400 movements which means that less than 1000 pieces were manufactured each year. Some reference numbers like 2515 with short lugs are now rarely seen on the market.

Each bridge is stamped with the last 3 digits of the movement number which takes us back to the days of hand finished movements. This touch of individuality is not something you will find in a new Patek!

In addition, the bezel is also stamped with the 3 last digits of the case number.

The complete overhaul was really a straight forward job. In its 54 years, this is only the third time it has been overhauled. Nevertheless, the pivots and jewels are still finely polished due to the fact the watch was used only on special occasions.

The original ivory colour dial is nicely aged and gives the watch a warmth and unmistakably vintage look.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Under the bonnet of Patek Philippe Ref 3919 Calatrava

Patek Philippe Ref 3919 Calatrava, 18K gold on a leather strap.

Yesterday, a postman left a 10 kg parcel in front of our office

*** Blessed

Just when I thought I'd seen it all: Bruce arrived the other day to buy a Rolex Explorer I.

He was very adamant that the Explorer I was the only watch to suit his requirements. "I am traveling overseas. I need a simple, reliable watch which would last me for many years." He also said that he is 'de-cluttering' and getting rid of his earthly possessions. I did not take that statement for more than a passing comment. " I like your service" -he said- " and I have something for you, a small present.

Again, I am not a big 'presents' person. A good second hand dealer is one who has no friends and does no favors. And I am more than happy for things to stay that way.

Yesterday, a postman left a 10 kg parcel in front of our office. I wasn't expecting any delivery of that size or volume, and thought we had received some office supplies. The box remained unopened until late afternoon.

"Please accept these watch books as a gift from me. They are second hand and have been packed in a cardboard box, stored in shed for the last 3 years and as you can see have somewhat deteriorated. The Rolex Explorer is performing well and for now, it seems to like gaining +3 seconds per day. So I am very happy with it. Soon I will be traveling, returning into a Buddhist Monastery..."

The box contained eight watch books in very decent condition. Some general, others subject and brand specific. But this was too much of a gift to accept so I instructed my assistant to get in touch with Bruce as soon as possible. Unfortunately, there was no return address. The phone number we have on file answered with a recorded message which sounded to me like a Buddhist song.

Bruce - if you are reading this email - please get back to me. I truly appreciate your present and as small token of appreciation, I have something here which may be useful to you, wherever you may reside. You are a very kind soul and we wish you all the best in your journey.

I am not to comment or dwell for too long on things spiritual. But quite frankly, at least in my books, Bruce could be closer to his destination that most of us would ever be.