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The Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Sapphire Tourbillon

Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Sapphire Tourbillon.

Bell & Ross bucks the prevailing trend toward design simplicity and limited functions this year with a complex, all-sapphire chronograph tourbillon, the BR-X1. There is nothing vintage or classic about this ultra-modern watch, which has a truly breathtaking case design, crafted from six blocks of fully transparent sapphire crystal. This affords a multi-angled view of the skeletonized movement, Caliber BR-CAL.285 made by Swiss complications specialist MCH using columns that slightly elevate the bridges from the main plate. Also, because it is a flying tourbillon, there is no upper bridge to block the view. Even the strap is space-age modern. It is made with a combination of translucent rubber with metallic Kevlar weaving.

Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Sapphire Tourbillon

This is a 45mm watch and thus, as Bell & Ross describes it, “masculine through and through.” Although it is a departure from the brand’s customary vintage aircraft instrumentation aesthetic, it does retain the signature squared case with screwed down construction. It is a limited edition of five pieces, priced at approximately $500,000. It is Bell & Ross’s most expensive watch to date.

Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Sapphire Tourbillon.

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How To Wear “Greenery,” The Color Of The Year, using $1.5-Million In Emerald Jewelry

Emerald and diamond bracelet by Roberto Coin.

A lot of Pantone-posing happens around the time of year when the Pantone Color Institute announces its annual Colors of the Year. Greenery, the top tone of 2017, is showing up in everything from nail polish to sofas and coffee makers, but really, is there any better way to express the natural warmth of green than with emeralds, which after all come from the earth? Especially if they are designed in floral or leaf compositions, like this $1-million suite of jewelry by Roberto Coin or this $500,000 trio of treasures from the Chopard Green Carpet collection.

Emerald earrings from the Chopard Green Carpet collection.

Chopard’s Palm D’Or-inspired jewelry watch, with matching ring and earrings, celebrates Chopard’s 20th anniversary of its sponsorship of the Cannes Film Festival and its top award. The company designed and produces the gold Palm D’Or statue, and repeats the motif in this jewelry collection. Drenched with over 90 carats of emeralds, the jewelry watch is part of the brand’s Green Carpet collection, named for the brand’s commitment to combining sustainable luxury and red-carpet glamour. It is set with 11.7 carats of emeralds sourced from Gemfields’ Kagem mine in Zambia, which adheres to environmentally and socially responsible mining principles.

Emerald ring from the Chopard Green Carpet collection.

The gems are prong-set rather than surrounded by metal in order to let in as much light as possible through the pavilions, which is in turn reflected out through the table. The watch is priced at $297,000. The matching ring is 18k white gold, set with 3.1 carats of marquise-cut emeralds, priced at $51,310. The earrings are set with 11.8 carats of marquise-cut emeralds, priced at $151,890.

Emerald and diamond necklace by Roberto Coin.

The emeralds in Roberto Coin’s dazzling necklace, bracelet and earrings ensemble were also sourced in Zambia. Zambian emeralds are the stars of the gem world right now because of their high clarity and stunning bluish-green color – and their greater affordability compared to Colombian emeralds. The matching necklace, bracelet and earrings are collectively priced at just under $1-million. Together they contain 91.6 carats of emeralds and 68.15 carats of diamonds.

Emerald and diamond necklace by Roberto Coin.

The bib-style necklace contains 63 carats of emeralds cut into oval, emerald, marquise and round shapes, and 48 carats of round and marquise cut diamonds. It is priced at $650,000. The chandelier-style earrings contain 12.50 carats of emeralds and 7.7 carats of diamonds, and is priced at $150,000. The bracelet contains 16.10 carats of emeralds cut in oval, emerald, marquise and round shapes, and 12.45 carats of marquise and round shaped diamonds, priced $159,000.

Emerald and diamond earrings by Roberto Coin.

The power of these emeralds to improve not only your appearance but your mood is best described by Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute: “Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the hope we collectively yearn for amid a complex social and political landscape. It satisfies our growing desire to rejuvenate, revitalize and unite.”

Emerald and diamond bracelet by Roberto Coin.

Slim d’ Hermès L’Heure Impatiente: The Perfect Parking Meter Timer

Slim d’ Hermès L’Heure Impatiente

Slim d’ Hermès L’Heure Impatiente

In the press kit to introduce the new Slim d’ Hermès L’Heure Impatiente, Hermès included a short story it commissioned about a woman who lives five seconds in the future, with hilarious and tragic consequences. It is not an exact metaphor for the way the L’Heure Impatiente alters time, but it does capture the spirit of time tweaking. The L’Heure Impatiente can be set to count down from an “eagerly awaited event” to take place sometime in the next 12 hours. This time set by the wearer and appears on the subdial at 6 o’clock. A countdown begins one hour before the event in question, and that is displayed on the retrograde timer at 7 o’clock. When time is up, the watch chimes a single note.

Slim d’ Hermès L’Heure Impatiente

Slim d’ Hermès L’Heure Impatiente

Hermès sees this as a poetic complication: “Rather than measuring, ordering, and seeking to control [time], Hermès dares to explore another time.” For me, it is the perfect parking meter watch. Before going into a meeting, you can set the timer to ring when your parking meter expires, and as the meeting progresses you can keep tabs on the countdown. As you approach the “event” you can either duck out to put more coins in the meter or orchestrate the meeting to end in time to avoid getting a ticket. Thus, this is very useful function.

Placing the gong on the Slim d’ Hermès L’Heure Impatiente.

Placing the gong on the Slim d’ Hermès L’Heure Impatiente.

The last time Hermès played games with the passage of time was with the Arceau Le Temps Suspendu, using a movement designed by Jean-Marc Weiderrecht of Agenhor, based on Hermès Caliber H1912. It featured a function that could make time stand still and then revert to the correct time at the push of a button. The L’Heure Impatiente also contains a movement based on the automatic Caliber H1912, fitted with a 2.2mm module that drives the striking countdown feature. The 40.5mm case of the Slim d’ Hermès L’Heure Impatiente is rose gold, with anti-reflective sapphire crystals front and back. It is water resistant to 30 meters. The strap is blue matt alligator.

TAG Heuer’s millennial bait: The New Aquaracer

TAG Heuer Aquaracer Camo.

TAG Heuer Aquaracer Camo.

TAG Heuer is building a stable of millennial ambassadors in an effort to attract a younger clientele, and backing it up with a collection of Aquaracers aimed squarely at its target market. In addition to introducing the new millennial-baiting Smartwatch just before Basel, TAG Heuer debuted a new line of Aquaracers at Baselworld 2017 with entry level pricing, at $2,800 with automatic movements. The Aquaracer collection is priced from $1,500 to $3,950, with automatics beginning at $2,150.

TAG Heuer Aquaracer Camo.

The Camo and Khaki military-style Aquaracer models introduced last week at Baselworld are examples of how this collection offers great value for the price. The Aquaracer collection was launched in 2003 as a diver’s watch and these models have all the attributes of a quality sports watch. Both are water resistant to 300 meters, with cases made of Grade 2 titanium, with a matte black PVD treatment. The bezel is made of hardy ceramic, so it will not scratch, as the bezels on some other sports watches even at higher prices have been known to do. The bezel is unidirectional, so it works as a diver’s watch, and it has a minute track that is graduated with an index at every minute for the first 15 minutes, for countdown purposes. The date window at 3 o’clock is covered with a cyclops window in the anti-reflective sapphire crystal. The NATO strap on the Camo model is woven with threads of different colors, rather than printed with a pattern. The color of this model is a new take on the style, with blue replacing the usual green camo. TAG says it was inspired by the Siberian Tundra and calls it “Arctic” camouflage. The movement is the TAG Heuer automatic Caliber 5 a 4Hz movement that is also used in Formula 1 models. All of these qualities in a package priced at $2,800 represents great value for the price. Perfect for millennials.

TAG Heuer Aquaracer Khaki.

TAG Heuer Aquaracer Khaki.

This is the substance behind the growing stable of TAG Heuer ambassadors in that age group. But it is worth noting that while TAG’s ambassadors are young, it is not just their age that qualifies them as poster-millennials for the brand. It is their peer reach. J Balvin, a 31-year old Colombian rapper, songwriter and record producer who was inducted into the ambassador ranks at a press conference in Miami Beach last February, has 14.7-million Instagram followers. Cara Delivigne has 37.9-million. Bella Hadid posts to an Instagram audience of 10.7-million, and footballer Cristiano Reynaldo tops them all at 93-million followers. “It will make the TAG Heuer brand younger, trendy,” says CEO Jean-Claude Biver says of his strategy to reach a younger audience for the brand. “You will never change an older person’s mind, so we are going to people whose minds are not yet fixed. We have huge activity, thanks to these ambassadors.”

TAG Heuer ambassador J. Balvin.

TAG Heuer ambassador J. Balvin.

Mr. Biver says TAG Heuer had its best year ever in 2016, a year that was very difficult for most Swiss watch brands, particularly at the luxury level. The hope is that attracting millennials now and introducing watches at a low entry-level price point, they will later aspire to some of the brand’s more expensive offerings, including a tourbillon, in the future.

Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph For Ladies: Because Women Also Drive

Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph

Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph for ladies.

There is more to Chopard for women than Happy Diamonds and high jewelry watches. The ladies’ Mille Miglia is a smaller, diamond-set version of this year’ special-edition Mille Miglia for men, a mechanical sports watch with substance. Chopard has been a supporter of the Mille Miglia, a scenic, 1,000-mile race from Brescia to Rome, since 1988, and each year introduces a new special-edition timepiece in commemoration. A couple of years ago, Chopard started producing ladies’ Mille Miglia editions, and this year the men’s and ladies’ are identified as a duo.

Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph for ladies.

Essentially they are the same model, but the ladies’ is 39mm compared to the men’s, which is 42mm. The ladies’ model has a mother-of-pearl dial with or without a diamond-set bezel (the two elements that most often distinguish a ladies’ watch from a men’s watch), and the men’s has a black or silver dial. Both contain the same COSC-certified automatic chronograph movement, ETA Caliber 2894-2. The rubber strap is inspired by the tread on 1960s Dunlop racing tires. Hands and indexes are coated with Super-LumiNova. Prices range from $4,800 to $12,140.

Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph; men's on the left, ladies' on the right.

Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph; men’s on the left, ladies’ on the right.

Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph Ladies' without diamonds.

Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph Ladies’ without diamonds.

 

Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph Ladies’

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Five Watches Tough Enough To Wear On A United Airlines Flight

Scheduling a flight on United Airlines? You’d better dress for the occasion. In addition to padded head gear and a gel mouthguard, you will need a timepiece that can help you not only count down the minutes until your flight safely leaves the ground but that can take a few knocks in the event of spontaneous re-accommodation. It should also have at least 100-meter water resistance in case you are thrown from the plane mid-Atlantic. Here are five timepieces tough enough to survive an encounter with United Airlines.

Casio G-Shock.

Casio G-Shock.

The Casio GST-W300 is part of the G-Shock line, built for high-impact sports activities. This model has a Layer Guard Structure, a fusion of metal and resin materials that make it possible to reduce the size of the watch without losing shock resistance. It is solar-powered and radio-controlled, with functions that include a world timer, 1/100-second time measurement, split timing, a countdown timer, calendar, battery level indicator, super illuminator and alarm functions. It is water resistant to 200 meters.

Sinn US 1..

Sinn U1 S.

The case and crown of the Sinn U1 S diver’s watch is made of the same steel used for German submarines. It is known for its extreme seawater resistance and high non-magnetic properties. Also, the case was made using Tegiment technology, a surface-hardening process that raises the hardness of the base material. The US 1 is given a shock resistance rating of DIN 8308 which means it has survived a drop test from a vertical height of one meter onto hardwood. It is water resistant to 1,000 meters.

Omega Planet Ocean Big Blue.

Omega Planet Ocean Big Blue.

The Omega Planet Ocean Big Blue is a combination GMT (second time zone) and diver’s watch with an indestructible case made from a single block of ceramic. The bezel is also made of blue ceramic, with an orange 15-minute countdown index. Even the folding clasp on the rubber strap is made of ceramic. An orange GMT track runs along the inner bezel. The hands and indexes are 18k white gold, coated with Super-LumiNova. It is water resistant to 600 meters.

Panerai LAB-ID Luminor 1950 Carbotech 3 Days.

Panerai LAB-ID Luminor 1950 Carbotech 3 Days.

The size alone of the Panerai LAB-ID Luminor 1950 Carbotech 3 Days should intimidate or at least block any would-be attacker. This 49mm watch is almost entirely composed of carbon based or carbon-coated materials. This includes movement components which will never need traditional lubrication. Panerai guarantees the watch for 50 years. The case is made of a composite carbon material that is very light and “resistant to external stresses.” It is water resistant to 100 meters.

Citizen Eco-Drive Pro-Master Professional Diver 1000.

Citizen Eco-Drive Pro-Master Professional Diver 1000.

The Citizen Eco-Drive Pro-Master Professional Diver 1000 is water resistant to 1,000 meters. The case is made of Super Titanium, a titanium that has been hardened by other metals, including DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon). It is light-powered, with a running time of 1.5 years when fully charged, and the hands and indexes are luminated for readability even in the dark depths of a United Airlines flight.

Baselworld 2018 Will Be Two Days Shorter; Ongoing Declines Plague Swiss Watch Industry

Baselworld 2017 opening day.

Baselworld, the annual watch and jewelry show in Basel, Switzerland, will run for six days instead of eight days next year, in the wake of lower attendance and declining sales in the Swiss watch industry. The decision comes on the heels of the 2017 show, which ended March 27. The fair officially hosted 200 fewer exhibitors (a drop of 13.3%) and for next year, there will be at least one defection by a major brand – Hermès – which announced it will join the Geneva Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, held in January. In a post-show statement, Sylvie Ritter, managing director of Baselworld, said “the industry is currently going through a challenging phase, which particularly affects smaller companies. Listening to our exhibitors and in agreement with the members of the different committees, we have decided to reduce the duration of the show and adjust the prices accordingly.” Baselworld 2018 will be held from Thursday 22 to Tuesday 27 March 2018.

Hermès will decamp for SIHH next year.

The reduced presence at Baselworld is a reflection of the state of the industry, rather than the show itself. Following two straight years of decline, global exports of Swiss watches have continued to tank for the first two months of 2017. According to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH), exports declined 10% in the month of February, with a 26.2% decline in exports to the crucial U.S. market. In 2016, the value of Swiss exports stood at 19.4 billion Swiss francs, which is 9.9% lower than in 2015. “With this result, the industry has returned to its 2011 level and seen an end to the growth of 15% achieved between 2011 and 2014,” says the FH. If the two-year decline becomes a straight three-year decline, it will be the first time such a long slump has occurred since the 1980s, the height of the quartz crisis.

There are more than 2,000 exhibitors at Basel, and the fair is attended by 106,000 visitors.

Industry expert Joe Thompson of Watch Time magazine, who has been covering the industry for more than three decades, says the situation is worrisome. “Even the great recession of ’09 only lasted a year; we have just had two straight years of decline, and first the two months of this year are off to a bad start. So, if it hasn’t hit bottom, then it’s getting serious.” The reasons for the current downturn are more complex than the quartz crisis that edged out mechanical watchmakers in the ’70s and ’80s. Significant forces have plagued the industry over the past two years. The boom in China during the 2000s has been stifled by the Chinese government’s crackdown on luxury gift-giving, resulting in a 50% drop in exports to Hong Kong over the past four years. Currency fluctuations have also had a negative effect, particularly the strong Swiss franc, and declining tourism in the U.S. and Europe for political reasons have curtailed luxury shopping.

Evening rush hour at Baselworld 2017.

The result is a watch industry that is overstocked and, many say, overpriced, resulting in a surge in the grey market. Richemont, whose brands include Cartier, Piaget and Vacheron Constantin, bought back millions of euros in inventory from retailers in 2016, and cut 200 jobs from its watchmaking staff. As for coping strategies, companies have been reducing prices and revising product development strategies, boosting lower-priced categories and putting the brakes on new high-horology showpieces, a trend that was evident at this year’s Baselworld fair.

Baselworld 2017: The Bulgari Serpenti Twist Your Time Lets You Have It Your Way

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Bulgari Serpenti Twist Your Time

Bulgari has found a way to give buyers 312 options in one timepiece. The company that has made horological history with the world’s smallest tourbillon and minute repeate, and introduced a ladies’ complications, including the Serpenti Incantati Tourbillon and the Lucea Moon Phase, has now created the ultimate fashion watch. The Serpenti Twist Your Time program literally lets you co-design a watch with Bulgari, and you even get to engrave your own name, in the font of your choice, on the caseback.

There are 312 possible variations.

Variations using different case, strap, dial, gemsetting and caseback engraving options add up to 312 possible variations. Bulgari has even developed an app to facilitate the selection process, so you can watch your watch being created on-screen and change your mind about the combination as many times as you want. The 27mm case can be steel or pink gold, with or without diamonds. Dials are black, red, green or white, in mother-of-pearl, sunburst guilloché or lacquer. Strap options include calfskin or exotic Karung (snakeskin) in several color choices – Karung in black, red, white, green or chestnut brown; calfskin in sapphire blue, agate white, ruby red, sandy beige, black or emerald green. Since they are double-wraparound style, the colored straps make a strong statement, and two of them are included with each watch. By the way, they are easily interchangeable, even by a tired journalist on the final day of Baselworld, which you can see here:

 

Bulgari has created an app for choosing your combination.

Bulgari Serpenti Twist Your Time

One of the options is to engrave the caseback with your name, in the font of your choice.

Bulgari Serpenti Twist Your Time.

The Serpenti Twist Your Time contains a quartz movement, and it is water resistant to 50 meters. The program is being rolled out in a select number of brand boutiques this year.

Baselworld 2017: Patek Philippe Haute Joaillerie Ref. 4899-900G with flawless gems and a legendary caliber

Patek Philippe Haute Joaillerie Ref. 4899-900G Calatrava.

Patek Philippe’s best men’s debuts at Baselworld 2017 – including the wonderful Ref. 5320 Perpetual Calendar – had to compete for the spotlight with the sensational Haute Joaillerie Ref. 4899-900G Calatrava. I have seen many gem set watches from Patek with impressive carat content and perfectly executed setting, but never have I seen something this creative. It is spectacular without being over the top, which is pure Patek, and a loupe will tell you that it is set with perfect, perfectly-matched gemstones: 149 flawless diamonds and 182 pink sapphires in several shades, for a total aggregate weight of 4.35 carats. The background on the upper dial is natural pink mother-of-pearl, which is rare. It is also delicate, so it is a testament to the steady hand of the engraver that the mother-of-pearl is carved with feather motifs. Another subtle but exquisite detail is the engraving on the 18k gold hands, also to resemble feathers.

Patek Philippe Haute Joaillerie Ref. 4899-900G Calatrava.

The movement is the ultra-thin automatic Caliber 240 with an integrated micro-rotor, silicon-based components and a 70-hour power reserve. Patek celebrates the 40th anniversary of the 240 this year. Remarkably, the movement was developed at the height of the quartz crisis in 1977, when men’s wristwatches were much smaller than they are today. Any movement developed at that time had to be slim to compete with the much smaller proportions made possible by quartz technology.

Automatic Caliber 240 in the Patek Philippe Haute Joaillerie Ref. 4899-900G Calatrava.

Creating a slim automatic was a particular challenge. The key to keeping it slim was a small off-center rotor, recessed into the plate. The micro-rotor kept the 240 to the proportions of a manual-wound movement (it is 2.53mm thick), and today it is a mainstay of the slim Calatrava collection. It has also served as the base for several high complications, including the Celestial Ref.5102 and the World Time Ref. 5110, as well as several perpetual calendars. The Caliber 240 is used in three variations in new introductions this year from Patek Philippe, including the high jewelry Ref. 4899-900G – for which the 240 is perfect, allowing space for the gemsetter to work his magic.

Even the buckle is set.

Case side of the Patek Philippe Haute Joaillerie Ref. 4899-900G Calatrava. Perfectly integrated strap.

Baselworld 2017: Patek Philippe’s Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5320 G

Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5320 G.

There are many reasons to love the Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5320 G, introduced at Baselworld 2017: The stepped case, the claw lugs, the generous lume, the vintage font, the 40mm diameter, the cream-colored lacquer dial. It is firmly at the top of my list of men’s watches I’d love to own. The dial seems both retro and modern at the same time, with those elegantly readable Arabic numerals and detailed minute track. The watch was in fact inspired by Patek models from the 1940s and 1950s. Patek Philippe has created some 30 perpetual calendars in the past 90 years, beginning 1925 with Ref. 97-975, the world’s first perpetual calendar wristwatch – it resides in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva. Beginning in 1941, the perpetual calendar with a Patek movement became a regular part of the company’s collection, establishing some of the brand’s signature design codes for that function, including the double window for day and month displays.

Plenty of lume on the Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5320 G.

Arabic numerals appeared on the original 1941 piece, but the 5320G has a font closer to a 1944 perpetual calendar, Ref. 1591, in a font that has not since been used on a Patek Philippe perpetual calendar; with a few exceptions, most have had simple straight markers or Roman numerals. On the 5320G, the large applied blackened-gold numerals with plenty of lume have a 3-D quality, sitting there on the dial like Stonehenge monuments that glow in the dark. The five-minute cabochons are also treated with luminous coating, as are the large hands, and overall that gives it almost the look of a sports watch. In fact, the fine-tipped baton hands are inspired by those on a Patek Philippe chronograph, Ref. 1463 from the 1950s. The 18k white gold case was inspired by the Ref. 2405 a Calatrava, from the 1940s with fluted sides and a complex, three-tiered lug profile. A greated nouvelle-vintage feature is the thin bezel with a boxed crystal, which we saw a lot of at Baselworld 2017. The crystal is dramatically cambered with parallel inner and outer sides to prevent optical distortion of the dial from any viewing angle. In the 1940s and 1950s, it would have been technically impossible to craft such a sapphire crystal to current quality standards. Back then, easily formable but highly scratchable Plexiglas was often used instead.

Clawed lugs and stepped case on the Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5320 G.

The lush, cream-colored lacquered dial has a small round day/night aperture between 7 and 8 o’clock and a round aperture for the leap year cycle with Arabic numerals from one to four between 4 and 5 o’clock.The caliber 324 SQ is an updated version of the self-winding Caliber 324, with a large central rotor in 21k gold that rests on ball bearings. Through the sapphire crystal caseback, you can see the decorated bridges with round-chamfered and polished edges, côtes de Genève striping and gold-filled engravings, polished screws, chamfered slots and polished countersinks. Its maximum rate deviation ranges between -3 and +2 seconds per day. It is priced at $82,784. I want this watch almost as much as the Haute Joaillerie Calatrava Ref. 4899-900G.