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Prime Time

Beyond the hype of the year’s high horology rarities is an array of intriguing watches for dreamers and realists alike
Laurie Kahle
From the Print Edition:
Ernie Els, November/December 2012

(continued from page 1)

Seiko Astron
Honorable mention: Breitling, H. Moser, Rolex

While most complications were invented centuries ago, travel functions offer modern-day movers and shakers a useful function for on-the-go lifestyles. This year’s standouts included H. Moser’s sleek Meridian Dual Time, Rolex’s SkyDweller annual calendar with GMT and Breitling’s Transocean Chronograph Unitime with a universal time feature that enables the wearer to see current time in 24 time zones and adjust with the crown.

But Seiko transported travel watches into the twenty-first century with the Astron ($3,100 on bracelet, $2,300 on rubber strap), the first solar-powered GPS watch. On demand or automatically once a day, the Astron connects to at least four GPS satellites that pinpoint the watch’s position. Astron then instantly adjusts the time to its location with atomic clock precision. This technological marvel was made possible by Seiko’s development of a patented low-energy-consumption GPS receiver that allows Astron to receive GPS signals and identify time zone, time and date data for the earth’s 39 time zones. The perpetual calendar function similarly assures the date is current with, best of all, no batteries required.

Values

Frederique Constant Classics Manufacture
Honorable mention: Hamilton

Value is not necessarily about low price, making it a tricky issue when it comes to mechanical watchmaking. Some would argue that Jaeger-LeCoultre’s now discontinued steel Master Tourbillon was an incredible value at $56,500—the current models in gold, rose gold, white gold and platinum start at $73,000. Still, there are brands like Hamilton which have a reputation for value as exhibited by this year’s super stylish Pan Europ 2012 equipped with a modified Valjoux 7750 movement for $1,945.

Still, the ultimate badge of honor in mechanical watchmaking is the capability to design, develop and build your own movements. Once the claim of only a handful of old-guard houses, computerized production technology has expanded the ability to produce in-house movements over the past decade. Since 2001, Frederique Constant has developed and produced movements that have included various complications—even a tourbillon with an advanced silicon escapement wheel. This year’s traditional Classics Manufacture is based on a next-generation version of the brand’s Maxime movement decorated with Côtes de Genève and spiral colimaçon patterns. With its timeless design, Classics Manufacture puts an in-house movement within reach for many at a price of $2,250 in steel and $2,550 in rose gold–plated steel.

Laurie Kahle writes for Cigar Aficionado on watches and travel.


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