Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Introduction & Welcome

Hello;


Over the years I have written for publications in pretty much every continent except Antarctica; but given the transitory nature of printed matter, most of it no longer even sits at the bottom of birdcages.


So, I have created this online home for some of my stuff, pour yourself a glass of wine, sit back & have a read.


Thanks for dropping by.
James
Luxury brands and the watch industry.

Whilst at Basel I did a 'thought piece' for CNN on the way that luxury brands are currently pouring vast amounts of money into their watch divisions and how these brands are becoming the innovators.

If you have five minutes, have a look.

http://money.cnn.com/video/pf/2014/04/26/l-fashion-brands-watchmaking.cnnmoney/index.html

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Back from the grave; the new Rolex Cellini range


Rolex are known as a firm where change is at best gradual, and at worst, glacial; pretty much all of the introductions at Baselworld this year were essentially 'variations on a theme' but quietly (almost surreptitiously) Rolex made two radical introductions this year. The first was the SYLOXI silicon hairspring in the new ladies 2236 calibre, which I expect to see fitted to more calibres over the years. But, perhaps, the most radical introduction this year was that of the first automatic Cellini range. 

 photo Cellini_Time_50509B_BS_zps57e24b8e.jpg 

Essentially, the Cellini range has been the answer to the question that nobody ever asked; I mean, did anyone ever sit awake in bed at night thinking "I REALLY want a Rolex, but I want one that isn't waterproof and isn't automatic"; so the range sat there, unloved and unsold, a victim of Rolex's own powerful publicity machine. Just think about it, for almost ninety years, Rolex have been telling us that a Rolex is waterproof and for eighty years they have been telling us that it is also self winding and that the best of Rolex was a watch which combined both. So, what chance did the Cellini range really have? 

So, in the most radical move imaginable, Rolex have introduced a new Cellini range which has not only a self winding movement, but also a screw back and screw down crown. It is available in a classically styled 39mm case with a most unusual bezel which has both polished and milled finishes in concentric circles (interestingly, this bezel is made in one piece, so I have no idea how they make it). 

As well as the classic three hand watch shown above, there are two variants, a date version, where the date is indicated via a subsidiary dial at 3, rather than the conventional window. 

 photo Cellini_Date_50515A_BS_zps26d9600e.jpg 

The most unexpected version (that is after the entire range itself) is a GMT version, although it is called the Dual Time, rather than GMT, which indicates a second time zone via a subsidiary dial at 6. 

 photo Cellini_Dual_Time_50525C_BS_zpsc084bf4a.jpg 

The movements for all of them are based on the Rolex 3135 but with the added modules for the subsidiary functions of the second two models; the movements are all fitted with Parachrome Blue hairsprings and are COSC rated, although there is no confirming text on their dials. The dials themselves are perfect for a dress watch, with elongated Roman numerals for the quarter hours on the Cellini Time model, an inner second/minutes track and beautifully polished 'leaf' hands. The Cellini Date model has simple elongated batons and a sunburst guilloche finish whilst the Cellini Dual Time model has a similar dial to the Date but with the addition of a 12 hour second time zone at 6, inset into this sub dial is a day night indicator at 9.

All the dials sit under a domed sapphire glass, and I have not yet been able to discover if it is anti reflection treated. 

Each model is available exclusively in 18ct gold, either Everose or Rolex's own formulation of White Gold and with either a silver or black dial; meaning that there are twelve variations in the range. 

As I said in my opening, Rolex are not renowned for radical change, but in this case I applaud them for this very radical change; as the resulting watches are pretty much guaranteed to outsell the previous Cellini models by a sizeable margin.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Money is still being poured into the watch business

The three biggest 'players' in the watch business are all making big bets on the continued future of their industry; Swatch Group, LVMH & Richemont have all recently announced substantial investments. First out of the gate was LVMH, who officially opened their new TAG Heuer movement factory on the 5th of November. The factory will produce the current calibre 1887, as well as a new lower priced movement, called the calibre 1969, completely designed and produced in house, it will soon be joined by another (yet un-named) calibre designed for mass production. Meaning that the brand will double its current 50,000 watches per annum production rate within the next three years; by which time the firm will have invested around 60 million CHF (around $65 million US) in the factory.

Two days later, it was the turn of Richemont who stated their intention to invest €800 million (over $1 Billion US) in their operations this year, with a similar amount being invested in 2014/15. The firm who own such industry stalwarts as Cartier, IWC, JLC, Panerai and Vacheron Constantin are investing in factory refurbishment and expansion as well as many opening more single brand boutiques.

Earlier this week, Omega invited a select group of journalists to their new factory in Granges, dedicated to the production of its co-axial movements. But this isn't the only new factory for Omega; they are currently building another one next to their current Bienne HQ; as usual, Swatch Group declined to give figures for the costs involved, but building brand new factories has never been a pastime for the cheapskate. The one thing that they did reveal is that their current production is around half a million units per annum and that they plan to produce an additional 300,000 units per annum in the next few years.

Taken together, these developments show that the industry giants have just given the business, and Switzerland, a huge vote of confidence. Only time will tell if this confidence is justified. 

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

COMCO gives Swatch the go ahead to end movement deliveries but fails to decide about hairsprings

The Swiss competition comission (COMCO) has decided that Swatch can cease all deliveries of ebauches by 2020, but COMCO chose not to make a decision on a MUCH more important point. Whilst several firms now make movements which can compete with ETA ebauches and some of the larger watch firms have switched to in house movements, there is still a vital area where the Swatch group hold almost a monopoly; hairsprings. Swatch owned Nivarox supply hairsprings to 95% of all Swiss watchmakers and Swatch have indicated that they intend to curtail these shipments also. 

So, watchbrands may shift from ETA to Selitta or one of the other ebauche suppliers, but if these movements don't have hairsprings, then they are essentially very tiny boat anchors. 

Watch this space.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Rolex is still Number 1, well at least in the eyes of the COSC

INDUSTRY NEWS; Rolex still number 1 in COSC movementsWed, 19 June 2013 11:07 Go to previous message

Hi All;

Once again Rolex has topped the list of movements certified by COSC; in 2012 the organisation qualified 798,935 movements from Rolex, a rise of almost 6.5% over 2011. As all Rolex Oyster watches are COSC rated, this is a pretty accurate total of watches produced by the firm.

And once more, Omega was in second place with 526,046 movements, up by 3.3% and Breitling followed with 156,773 pieces, 1.5% more than 2011.

I mention movements, not watches, as the COSC tests uncased movements, not watches.

The assumption is that Tudor produce around 200,000 watches a year, which means that when you also add in the unknown number of Cellini watches, Rolex factories are now producing well over one million watches a year.

Friday, 7 June 2013

A day in the life of a watch journalist.

Hello All;

In case you ever wondered what life is like for a journalist at Baselworld; have a look here at my report on the first public day of the show.
My report on Timezone