This Week’s Fresh Design Products: Vol. 102

Fresh Design Products is a regular series in which we highlight and celebrate fantastic new products that have been recently uploaded to the marketplace by new and seasoned Creative Market shop owners. It’s sort of like a quick stroll through a farmer’s market of design and creativity. Enjoy the sights, pick up new products, and follow talented shop owners. The products and shops curated for this series are selected by our Community Curator, Matt Borchert.

Brand New Shops

Talented designers are opening shops in the marketplace each week. We’re spotlighting a few promising new shop owners who are knocking it out of the park by uploading beautiful new design products to launch their shops! The previews you see here are often just a small taste of each shop’s full future offering, so be sure to follow them to stay tuned for more amazing assets.

saltandpepperdesigns

Salt and Pepper Designs showcases a diverse initial font offering.

adam.mc

Adam helps your photos come to life with presets that have a purpose.

zharkovairis

Irina loves to create beautiful things that other people can use.

scandistock

Sigrid shares her love of Nordic style with her photography.

ndesmonda

Nathania creates playful illustrations.

wripple

WRIPPLE offers handcrafted wedding stationary at a reasonable price.

Debut Uploads

In this section, we highlight new shop owners who have recently uploaded their very first product. If you like what they have to offer, encourage them to add more products for sale by commenting on and purchasing their first product.

Seasoned Veterans

Some of our shop owners at Creative Market have been in the marketplace and our community for quite some time. We want to recognize these hard working creators by sharing select new products as they release them. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the latest offerings from our popular and up-and-coming shops.

Free lettering worksheets


Download now!

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Download now!

Getting started with hand lettering?

Download these worksheets and start practicing with simple instructions and tracing exercises.

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Hands-On: The Timex Marlin, A Sub-$200 Mechanical Watch Is Now Back In Stock

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Last month, Timex dropped something totally unexpected – a hand-wound, vintage-inspired wristwatch called the Marlin. This is the first time Timex has made a mechanical watch since 1982 (yeah, I know, right?) and the Marlin made quite a splash, if you’ll pardon the pun. In fact, the model sold out almost immediately. I should know – I wanted one and waited too long. 

Luckily, it’s back in stock! Not only is this watch attractive, it also costs $199. Yes, you read that correctly: one hundred and ninety-nine dollars. In a world where watch prices only seem to go up, this Timex offered a refreshing option for those of us who can’t afford a 5790. While I wasn’t able to buy one for myself, I was able to spend a little time with the Marlin a few weeks back, so I thought I’d share my impressions.

The Timex Marlin is back in stock after a successful launch in November.

The big thing about this watch is the fact that it is a manual-winding watch, and Timex’s first in three-and-a-half decades. Timex is no stranger to bringing back old designs, either. There have been lots of heritage models over the years, including those military watches for J. Crew that everyone seemed to be wearing a few years back. But, I digress.

An original Timex "Marlin." (Image: courtesy of TimexMan.NL)

As far as I’m concerned, Timex hit it out of the park with the Marlin. While it may in fact look and feel like a $200 watch – not all watches can or should be fancy – it’s worth taking a closer look. The watch is a re-issue of the original Marlin produced in the 1960s. The time-only stainless steel watch was named after the Marlin fish and its water-resistance (yes, fish are water-resistant). Today, the new version of this watch doesn’t look much different from its predecessor. It still has a 34mm stainless steel case that comes in at a slim 10mm thick. Retaining the original measurements makes the new Marlin rather small for a modern watch, but honestly it wears great and looks like something right out of the mid-century. It is great to see that Timex is sticking to its roots on this one. 

The caseback of the Timex Marlin.

The watch’s biggest strength is its dial. The silvered dial is brushed and more than a little reflective. Adding to the luster are the stylized Arabic numerals on the even hours, which are both legible and pleasing. I think it’s important to point out here that the detail of the indexes go a long way for the Marlin. While many companies skimp on the details (rhymes with Nathaniel Shmellington) Timex didn’t here. They clearly put thought and effort into remaking a vintage model with attention to both detail and affordability.

On the wrist the Marlin looks great with its vibrant brushed steel dial. 

As I mentioned, the movement is manually-wound, but Timex doesn’t really speak too much about the provenance of the particular caliber. I followed up with Timex directly to see where the movement was made and they unfortunately won’t confirm. However, it does say "Made in China" on the back, and therefore is likely something produced by Seagull or another Chinese manufacturer. Normally we would shy away from something like that here on HODINKEE, but this is a $200 Timex after all, and I am just excited by the prospect of a manually-wound watch that has good looks and costs less than a plane ticket.

<p>The Timex Marlin features cool Arabic numerals like those on the original.&nbsp;</p>

The Timex Marlin features cool Arabic numerals like those on the original. 

<p>The center-seconds watch is the first mechanical watch produced by the maker since 1982.</p>

The center-seconds watch is the first mechanical watch produced by the maker since 1982.

<p>Chic.</p>

Chic.

On the wrist, I found the Marlin to be incredibly comfortable. Elegant yet understated, the 34mm steel case looks great on any size wrist and wears well. It has the vintage feel that many of us crave, but without the usually steep price tag. Maybe the best of both worlds? Also, there’s not a hint of fauxtina in sight, which is great for some of us (mostly me).

You can learn more and order the Timex Marlin online

Source: http://ift.tt/1IiKaDm

A Conversation with Ben Burtt on Perserverance

This interview was originally conducted for inclusion in our “Failure” theme. Some extenuating circumstances kept it in the wings for a while, but it’s Ben Burtt. How could we not post it?!

…and, you know, better late than never!

DS: This month we’re looking at the subject of failure…

BB: [Laughs] Really?

DS: Yeah, we’re going a little self reflective with our theme this month. When we were hanging out in here one day a few months ago, listening to those bullet ricochets you recently recorded in the desert, I asked you a question. They were really unique, and hand this modulated tumbling quality that I haven’t really heard before, and I asked you how you got bullets to sound like that. You response was, “It took decades.”
To me, that implies that you tried over and over again to get these unique sounds.

BB: Yes. Thousands of rounds have gone down the barrel of a gun. My interest in ricochets goes back to my love of the films I listened to growing up; either westerns on TV or what I saw at the movies. I got very familiar with the old movies, because I used to make tape recordings off of television, and listen to them for fun…just for entertainment. There were no DVRs or DVDs in those days to instantly recall things. I recognized immediately that studios and movies had sound effects that often repeated in different films. You could tell the difference between a Paramount movie and an MGM movie, or Warner Brothers, because they had unique libraries.

A lot of what we heard in movies…a face punch, a ricochet, a rifle in a canyon…these are things we only heard in movies. We didn’t hear them in our every day life; so we tended to think that they sounded just like they did in that last John Wayne movie we saw. When I started designing sounds I found that not to be the case. When recording ricochets and gunshots, they didn’t sound like they did in the old movies. They sounded and recorded differently. There was some kind of translation taking place. I got frustrated, because I was hoping to get things much closer to the style of the older movies that I wanted to imitate…the things that I loved. And that sent me off on a quest every once in a while to search how something might have been done, until I got the right answer. I wanted to get something that was “classic,” in my sense of the term.

So that’s a pretty long answer to a question… You’re asking specifically about ricochets?

DS: Well it seemed like an interesting way to get into the subject, because here’s something that a lot of people think is straight forward to record (though not simple). Your response to that question was “decades” though. It took a lot of trial and error to get to something that you were happy with.

BB: Yes. I went out as a teen with my recorder and a .22 rifle, and I thought all you had to do was shoot at a rock. “If I put a microphone near a rock and shot at it, I’d get a sound just like all those war movies.” And it didn’t happen at all. I’d get no sound, or maybe a faint little hum, or a zing. I concluded that the sound that you hear in real life wasn’t what was presented in movies. What happened in movies was either not really a ricochet, or it had been enhanced in some way, because I couldn’t get that sound.

When the regular .22 bullets didn’t work, we tried firing some pellet guns. We tried loading the pellets into the gun backwards so that they would fly down range with the open end into the air flow. I thought maybe they would tumble and I could get a sound that was better than the regular bullets. The sound was very, very quiet and the sound seemed to not be anywhere near where the bullet hit the rock. It was much further away, so I kept moving the mics further and further away. Eventually, I wasn’t getting anything.

We did a lot of ricochet recordings for the first Indiana Jones film. On Raiders we were, in many ways, updating the classic adventure movie, so I took that feature as an approach to the sound. You could have gone to many of the existing libraries and gotten face punches, gunshots and fire, but I wanted to pay homage to the best of things that I used to hear in old movies…try to redo them in high fidelity, do them in stereo with Dolby noise reduction, but exaggerate them a lot more… Stylistically, they would hearken back to these old movies. I believe there’s a cinema language. What we expect in movies is based on what we’ve heard in the past. With Raiders, we wanted it to seem like it was an old movie, but be very updated technically. So a lot of effort was put into that movie, and its sequels, to reproduce those classic sounds with better frequency response and greater dynamics.

We came out here to the ranch property, right where the Tech Building is now. In this open canyon, we set up a shooting range. We did a lot of different weapons: .22s, shotguns, various rifles and pistols of different calibers. We tried bouncing bullets along the ground, started hitting bullets off of cement blocks, we’d bring rocks down from the hillside…this sort of thing. We got some good sounds, but I was never satisfied. We did use some of them in Raiders, but I had to take them back to the studio and slow them down to get the pitch down to what I thought was a more interesting range…like what I heard in the old movies.

We got some good ricos, and I found that one of the problems was that, when you fire a gun, you’ve got the report of the gun itself and then you have the ricochet. The ricochet is very quiet compared to the actual gunshot. That muzzle blast, if you’re in a place with echoes, overlaps the ricochet. You can’t separate them back out later; the ricochet is not clean and by itself. So you try to find ways of separating the ricochet sound from the gunshot itself. The first attempt was to take the gunshot much further away: Move it to the other side of the valley and use a telescopic site. Then shoot at a target and microphone that was hundreds of yards away. That helped. It reduced the sound of the muzzle blast, and it also delayed the sound for a fraction of a second. It still wasn’t perfect, because you still got too much gun echo.

Next we tried building a shelter for the gun. We assembled a box out of hay bales with a tiny hole in the front of it. We got inside that with the gun. We hoped that the hay would help muffle the sound of the blast, and keep it away from the microphones. That helped a little bit, but still not enough. It just became a hassle; all of these different things to try.

DS: You’re talking about a lot of different experimentation…

BB: We did many experiments. Gary Summers and I would come out to the ranch on a quiet afternoon. We didn’t have a recording studio that was quiet, so we go to where it was very quiet. We would stage all different types of sound events; whether they were foley type sounds, driving a vehicle, or fire. I would periodically say, “Let’s try some more ricochets.” I’d come up with a new idea for separating the gun, or we’d find different kinds of ammunition. You could eventually buy a kind of indoor target ammunition, which was very low power. The gun wouldn’t make more than a little pop, like a cap gun. That helped, and the bullet travelled a lot slower. And that was good, because the sound of the ricochet…which is where the bullet hits something and begins moving out of balance (or tumbling)…since it has a lower muzzle velocity, the pitch is lower. That’s much more interesting to me, like the old movies.

DS: To go back to the experimentation idea…

If you go with the definition of a scientific experiment, you have a hypothesis that you’re testing. Does it work, or is it wrong? How much of your sound design is experimentation, and how much is what people tend to describe as experimentation…which is actually play?

BB: You mean improv.

DS: Yeah, improv. Do you let your instincts overrule a hypothesis? Sticking to a purely scientific approach can feel a little stifling sometimes, can’t it?

BB: I do both. I was trained as a scientist. I was a physics major. My parents were professors, as well as my grandfather. So I knew what the scientific method was. My general approach was, first, look at something scientifically. Why does something sound the way it does? Take note of it, and then say, “Can I reproduce those circumstances?” Now that I understand those circumstances, can I move the variables around to get something, different, new or undiscovered.”

I was always experimenting. There was always another hypothesis. Trial and error. We would fail, and then the next day a new idea or technique to try would dawn on us. It was important to try radical things and just listen to the results. Eventually, once I’ve got a certain set of data or ideas, then I improvise with that and just play. I analyze first, and then improv afterwards.

DS: I think that’s what’s interesting about experiments, failure is a valid result.

BB: Absolutely!

DS: And it’s something you can learn from, and draw more information from to inspire your improv later.

BB: I learned that I would have a theory as to why something should sound a certain way. I would investigate it, and it might not work at all. I’d get frustrated, but I would always keep in mind what HAD happened. I’d tuck that information away; for the knowledge would certainly become useful for a future sound design project.

We had a phrase early on called a “chicken hit.” We were trying to create a good face sock in the Indiana Jones movie. Gary Summers, who was my assistant at the time, and I were trying all sorts of different things. You know, “You just hit yourself…that should work!” It doesn’t sound like anything on mic. One day, I can’t remember if it was Gary or me said, “You know, the perfect thing would be to beat a dead chicken. We’ll get a chicken at the store, thaw it out and sock it.” You can hit it hard enough, and that should be a good sound. You’re hitting flesh and bone.

When we recorded it, it was just a smack…like a click. It wasn’t any different than smacking a book closed, or slapping some paper down on a desk. We said, “That’s a chicken hit!” That became our word for failure. For example, we wanted some gigantic hangar doors opening for Empire Strikes Back; big rolling back doors. “OK, where are the biggest doors we have access to?” Well, it was Moffett Field’s zeppelin hangar, south of San Francisco. Their doors are 200 feet high. They slide open, and they’ve been there since the place opened in the 1930’s. Those were going to sound exactly like we want. We made arrangements, went down and recorded those doors…and it was a chicken hit. It was just a little bit of air hiss, and a little rolling sound. It wasn’t what we wanted at all. We expected it to be this big rumble.

Later, we’re recording some clocks at a clock store in San Rafael. We needed some ticking for a mechanical sound. We wanted a whole bunch of clocks together. The shop owner goes to a glass fronted display case and slides it open to get an antique clock out, and that sliding glass door made a great rumble. It had a big doppler effect to it. We recorded that, and it became the main component of the giant door. A failure had led to placement in our wish list, “We want to find this giant door sound,” because it turned out not to be that actual giant door. Of course, any sound effects person can tell you that it’s more often something unexpected that has the right character of the sound you’re looking for. That’s especially true if it’s an imaginary sound, or something that doesn’t exist. So failure is important because it forces you to await the success of the unexpected.

In the long run, what I’ve learned is that any sound that catches my attention is worth recording. I may not be able to think of any use for it at the time, but if it catches my attention, there must be something appealing, perhaps emotional, about that sound. “It has a quality to it. I associate it with some feeling perhaps. It’s going to be useful to me someday.” That idea has held true. I learned this, through many failures, that you can’t always reason it out ahead of time. You have to try some things, be patient and go off and do something else. Then, one day, you’re going to hear something that’s exactly what you’re looking for.

That kind of trial and error method is a scientific method…it’s empiricism. The empirical process is where you try things and keep track of your data; eventually, you’re able to predict what something will do. Failure led to that loosening up of my scientific approach, of trying to reason it out ahead of time. You go on a recording expedition to record rockets at White Sands missile range in New Mexico. None of the actual rockets sound very interesting, even though they’re real rockets. But the broken air conditioner in the motel you’re staying in has a nice rumble and tremolo to it, and that becomes your space ship. Those kinds of things have happened throughout my sound design career.

DS: I imagine also… Well, we all have a bit of experience with this. Since we’re in a collaborative medium trying to help someone else’s vision of a story, you’re going to run into failures from that perspective as well.

BB: You absolutely run into failures, because you’re always working for a client. They’re in charge, and your progress is dependent on that person’s subjectivity. You’re going to create a sound and say, “Here’s the sound of the monster you’re going to hear.” You play that for the director, and he looks skeptical. He shakes his head and says, “What are you thinking of? That sounds like a cat!” or, “That sounds like a squeaky door.” You’re hurt and you’ve failed because they didn’t like what you made. Everybody hears things differently. That’s part of the process.

One of the early failures I had in this regard was with Ridley Scott on Alien. I went to the U.K. to create sounds for the movie, and he wanted something very specific. He wanted the sound of an alien transmission from this crashed space ship. It was a homing beacon that broadcasted out over the galaxy and was luring our protagonists to the crash site. His description of it was, “Something that’s about 8 seconds long, it repeats itself over and over again, YET…it always seems different and evolving. It has to be evocative, fascinating, you can’t take your attention away from it…”

DS: So a really low bar. [Laughs]

BB: Right. That’s the simple description. I say to myself, “Wow. That’s going to be a challenge!” Scott continued: He said, “You might even hear this sound constantly for the first 20 minutes of the film, until we get to the crashed space ship.” I worked on many versions of this and sent tapes off from the studio in California. It was obviously difficult to collaborate when it is not face-to-face. You don’t know how they hear it. I made lots of possibilities, but he didn’t like any of them. Word came back from the producer, “Nope. He’s decided he’s just going to cut that whole thing out of the movie.”

In the final mix of the film the passengers of the Nostromo talk about the beacon, but the audience never hears it. So for me this was a devastating failure. I could not come up with something that made Ridley Scott feel that it was right for him. However, my favorite sound of all the ones I made, I later used for the sound of the ghosts coming out of the Ark in Raiders of the Lost Ark. That got me an Oscar.

DS: [Laughs] So it’s all about context.

BB: It’s all about context, yes. My ghosts were not his alien beacon. Ironically, I did notice that when they re-released Alien on Blu-Ray a while ago, and they did a new cut of the film, they put that sound back in. One of the original sounds I sent.

DS: We’re going to have a bunch of our readers pulling up Alien and Raiders now, and playing them side by side to compare.

BB: Did they use the one that was in Raiders?

Two of my sounds, including the one used in Raiders, are mixed together for the alien beacon.

Context is important. It always hurts when you fail. It’s hard not to take it personally. You may feel sometimes that it’s career ending, but it happens to everyone. As time goes on, you learn that you can’t come up with something that pleases every one of your clients. You might have two hundred sounds to make in a movie that might be considered particularly special to the director, and you’re going to find cases where they just don’t hear what you did the way you do. It should also be important to note that it is often that collaboration that has taken me to a higher level. Whereas I might have stopped at a certain point and said, “I like that sound. Let’s go on to the next thing,” the client says, “It just isn’t right yet. It needs more low frequency, or it needs a voice.” Some pushing through failure results in wonderful undiscovered worlds that both client and sound designer never would have found alone.

There’s many, many, cases like that. It’s important to have a collaboration that’s fruitful; one that promotes trust.

DS: So, to have the opportunity for failure.

BB: You have to recognize that. I’ve been a picture editor as well. You don’t achieve the final cut of your movie the first time that you cut it. It’s too big of a job. You assemble the first cut based upon all of your best available knowledge. You’re finding your way through the story. You’re checking notes, a script, and seeing what the material might dictate. Then you build each successive cut, and you see what’s wrong and what’s right. It takes time and a series of developmental steps. No director want to rush through it. The same process should hold true for sound design. There needs to be a development phase where you have the same type of time to experiment, fail, and nurture the sound design to full bloom in all its beauty.

Failure without punishment is what we want in this business. [Laughs] There are frequent circumstances nowadays where clients are just too impatient. They want immediate solutions to sound design issues they perhaps can’t even describe. When that happens you need to operate collaboratively with mutual trust to find the answer. It takes time, and it always takes encouragement.

DS: Anything else you’d like to say about failure before we wrap up?

BB: Just, again, what I’ve learned through failure is that any sound that interests me should be recorded. You can’t always reason it out, and you don’t know what something is going to be useful for. It’s great in this age of miniature recorders. I’d always have one with me if I can, in case I hear something. A few years back I go into a convenience store to get a soda, and open up the refrigerator and hear this amazing sound.

It happened in San Anselmo, there was a refrigerator that went “woowoowoowoowoo”…one of the fans wasn’t in sync with the other. I walked out to get my little Zoom recorder from the car, and walked back in and pretended to be shopping. Turn it on, put it in record, open the door and put it in the refrigerator. You go shop some more while it’s recording this motor. You get it back to the studio later, and it makes a great force field or something when it’s slowed down. It’s that kind of stuff I love to discover.

Trial and error, is that maybe a better term than failure?

DS: I think that’s the big take away that a lot of people should consider. Eventually, if you keep going, a failure can turn into something else.

BB: I’ve even labeled things failures that have made me eat my words later. I was giving this high-minded talk about gun shots a while ago at the Rafael Theater. I talked about going into canyons and getting these great echoes, using the right compression to achieve this wonderful western gunshot, and I brought a gun onto the stage with blanks in it. I said, “If you just fire a gun into a room like this, it’s pretty dull.” I fired this gun… with the blank…and it was just a loud “pop.” . Later, when I was playing back the video of it, I thought, “Hey, that’s a pretty good gunshot.” I was working on the film Munich, and on Munich we were trying to go for a very documentary style. I couldn’t use Indiana Jones style, hugely bassy, cannon-like things. I wanted something more like a news recording of a gunfight on a street. I had this crazy, poorly recorded, off-mic video of a gun being fired. And that sound was the perfect gun for Munich.

DS: In the context…

BB: Yeah, in the context. To me, it sounded like a real documentary sound. It’s nothing fancy. It’s just a bang, and that was it. So I ate my words on that one! I love learning those lessons…as long as you can afford it along the way. [Laughs]

Source: http://ift.tt/ZsssYX

PEUGEOT and BENETEAU present the Sea Drive Concept Boat

Sea Drive Concept Boat is the result of cooperation between Peugeot and BENETEAU. It’s built around the iconic and successful Peugeot i-Cockpit, this time, this highly functional and ergonomic control panel will be connected to Ship Control Technology developed by BENETEAU. What you get is like the best combination of both worlds, a beautiful boat with the next generation steering station.

The characteristics of i-Cockpit are highly visible at first glance, it offers you compact steering wheel just like cars. also, just like most recent Peugeot vehicles, the compact size makes it easy and more agile to handle. There’s a large 17-inch touchscreen display for immediate access to the boat’s electronic functions. The folding panel displays essential navigational information, there are toggle switches on either side of the wheel to give the captain direct access for main functions.

PEUGEOT and BENETEAU present the Sea Drive Concept Boat

PEUGEOT and BENETEAU present the Sea Drive Concept Boat

As a true on-board computer, Ship Control technology interface provides support and assistance for both navigation and on-board comfort. There are several tablets that can be connected locally to the interface where each member of the crew can access all functions available. Even though Sea Drive is just a concept at the moment, this project is able to illustrate the next generation of a boat’s steering station.

PEUGEOT and BENETEAU present the Sea Drive Concept Boat

PEUGEOT and BENETEAU present the Sea Drive Concept Boat

PEUGEOT and BENETEAU present the Sea Drive Concept Boat


Source: http://www.tuvie.com

Cash wrap counter to die for. It’s massive!

We used IKEA components to build a massive cash wrap counter for our petstore.

Materials:

  • 3 x KALLAX 4×2 shelving units (Art no: 202.758.85)
  • 2 x KALLAX shelving units (Art no: 202.946.19)
  • 1 x KALLAX 5×5 shelving unit (Art no. 703.015.42)
  • Frames to cover the back of the 2×4 KALLAX units
  • 4″ ABS pipes
  • Laminate top

We used 2 of the KALLAX (4 square x 2 square shelves), on their sides. Then a 2×4 frame was attached to the back of them.

Massive cash wrap counter. IKEA Kallax hack

Then, two additional units (Art no: 202.946.19) were placed on the back.

Massive cash wrap counter. IKEA Kallax hack

We used 4″ ABS pipes for the legs.

For the L section we used another 4 square x 2 square unit.

Then a large piece off plywood was placed on top and after a couple weeks of agony I chose a laminate top.

Massive cash wrap counter. IKEA Kallax hack

We used one of the really big units (5×5 KALLAX) behind the desk where we keep sample bags of pet food.

The project was way beyond what we could do on our own, so we did have to hire a contractor. Labor and materials outside of the items we bought from IKEA were significant. I think the entire set up, with the big unit behind us was about $2500. But considering how huge it is, I think it was a great price.

Massive cash wrap counter. IKEA Kallax hack

This is at Bobcat Pets in Eugene OR.

~ by Tara


Take a look at these other cash wrap counter ideas

#1 Make it pretty

expedit cash wrap counter
While in the process of opening a retail shop on a very small budget I spent months searching for a cash wrap counter with clean modern lines and portability so that I could easily move it around to suit redecorating, only to find that what I was looking for was well out of my target price range. The perfect solution actually turned out to be the Expedit 4×2 unit in gloss white. Read more.

#2 Make it small

Small cash wrap counter

We needed a cash-wrap station with room for supplies but with a small footprint. Since we use a mobile payment system on a tablet computer there is no need for a register to clutter our space. Our Lack-Akurum hack suits our needs and gets quite a few compliments. Read more.

#1 Make it display

HEMNES dresser turned cash wrap counter

We took a HEMNES 8-drawer dresser, black-brown and turned it into a cash counter with shelves to display our products. Read more.


 

The post Cash wrap counter to die for. It’s massive! appeared first on IKEA Hackers.

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Four Revolutions: Part 3: A Concise History Of The Mechanical Watch Revolution (1976-1989)

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Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of articles on four revolutions over the past 40 years that have created the modern watch world. Previous articles include Joe Thompson’s Introduction to the series, A Concise History Of The Quartz Watch Revolution, and A Concise History Of The Fashion Watch Revolution. This installment will be in two parts, with the second coming next week.

In 1976, with the watch world agog over LEDs, LCDs and quartz analogs, George Daniels, the world’s greatest living watchmaker, was fed up. “I was furious with ‘electricians,’” he told Norma Buchanan, my colleague on American Time magazine, in 1999. “Electricians” was Daniels’s disdainful term for proponents of electronic watches, as well as the electric watch which was its forerunner. “I was angry with the way they just strode through the watch world saying, ‘This is the future.’”

Daniels got mad and vowed to get even. He got to work in his native Britain inventing a new mechanical escapement. “Daniels had been pondering the lever-escapement problem [i.e., friction requiring lubrication] for most of his life,” Buchanan reported, “but it was the quartz revolution that catapulted him into action. He wanted to prove that mechanical watches were as good as quartz – even better, because they didn’t need batteries.” 

George Daniels

Daniels had an idea for a new escapement with two escape wheels instead of the traditional one, superimposed on the same axle, that he believed would make mechanical watches more accurate and require less service. A new co-axial escapement – that would show the electricians! 

Daniels’s response to the quartz crisis was more than quaint. It was certifiably crackpot: the notion that in 1976 a new and improved escapement would prevent the mechanical’s rendezvous with the buggy whip on history’s scrap heap was laughable. The mechanical watch was doomed and everybody, absolutely everybody, in the watch industry knew it – except, it seemed, George Daniels. Daniels was, indeed, laughed at.

A look at the movement of Daniels’s exceptional Space Traveller pocket watch.

But he would have the last laugh. The mechanical watch, as we know, defied its doom and staged one of the most astonishing comebacks in the history of industry. It was a long, hard slog. (It would be 23 years before Daniels saw his Co-Axial escapement go into commercial production.) But it did happen.

Just how it happened merits a full-length book (followed by a major motion picture!). All I can offer here, as one who began covering the watch industry the year after the cranky Mr. Daniels got cranking on his Co-Axial, is an episodic summary of some of the main characters and major turning points. This account will be in two parts: this one covers developments from 1978 to 1989; the second from 1990 to 2000. Here, in short, is what happened.

First Stirrings

There was a time when wristwatches – even complicated watches from storied brands – were considered undesirable as collectibles in comparison with pocket watches.

The first sign of new life for mechanicals in the quartz era came in 1978. Osvaldo Patrizzi, co-founder of Galerie d’Horlogerie Ancienne, a pocketwatch dealer and auction house in Geneva, noticed that pocketwatch collectors were expressing interest in vintage wristwatches. Part of it was nostalgia for wind-up watches now that they were about to become obsolete. And part of it was an awareness that their pending rarity might make them more valuable. Patrizzi decided to include a special session devoted to wristwatches in an upcoming pocketwatch auction. 

That was a first. At that time, wristwatches were stepchildren to prized pocketwatches in the collector world. People told Patrizzi he was crazy to muddy his auction with wrist pieces. “Osvaldo, what are you doing? No one will buy these watches,” they told him.

They were wrong. In his first sale, a Patek Philippe perpetual calendar went for CHF6,500, a record price for the watch. Encouraged, Patrizzi held a second sale of wristwatches. A Patek Philippe perpetual calendar with chronograph bought CHF18,000. The vintage wristwatch boom had begun. 

Patrizzi began holding auctions devoted only to wristwatches through a new company, Habsburg Feldman, which later became Antiquorum. Other auction houses took notice. Sotheby’s held its first major wristwatch auction in 1980; Christie’s in 1981. The recession of the early 1980s slowed down the vintage market, but it came roaring back in the mid-1980s (more on that in a minute). 

Jean-Claude Biver

Meanwhile, in Swiss watch executive suites, there were pockets of resistance to the quartz wave. George Daniels was not the only quartz-watch counter-revolutionary. Some Swiss watch executives had the same blind faith in the durability of the mechanical. Two of the biggest believers were Jean-Claude Biver and Rolf Schnyder.  

In 1982, Biver, who today heads the LVMH Group’s watch division, hatched what at the time seemed a truly loony idea. Biver had just resigned from Omega, along with a group of other young executives known as “The Young Turks,” who were frustrated by Omega’s timid response to the quartz crisis. Biver was aware that Omega had a dormant sister brand called Blancpain. In its 1950s heyday, Blancpain was best known for its Fifty Fathoms dive watch. During the quartz crisis, however, it still made some mechanical movements, but the brand had disappeared. Biver’s brainstorm was to buy the brand and resurrect it as an expensive mechanical watch. He joined forces with Jacques Piguet, owner of Frédéric Piguet S.A., a mechanical-movement maker in Switzerland’s famed Vallée de Joux, who had plenty of mechanical movements. 

The very first Blancpain minute repeater ever made.

They bought the rights to the Blancpain name for the equivalent of $9,000 in January 1983. At a time when world production of digital watches had just surpassed mechanicals, Biver came to market with a spanking new mechanical watch from a totally obscure brand. Everything about the scheme seemed cockamamie – except the marketing. Biver did two clever things, a sign of the marketing genius that would be a hallmark of his career. He unearthed a founder for the brand, a certain Jehan-Jacques Blancpain, a watchmaker who had lived in Switzerland’s Jura Mountains in the first half of the 18th century. True, the quotes attributed to the founder in Blancpain promotional literature (“As he used to repeat, ‘We are writing today a page in the history of tomorrow.’”) were a little too sound-bite slick. But why quibble?

The Ulysse Nardin Astrolabium Galileo Galilei was everything watches typically weren’t in the 1980s – mechanical, complicated, and extremely expensive.

More importantly, Biver came up with an advertising slogan to describe the essence of the brand: “Since 1735, there has never been a quartz Blancpain watch. And there never will be.” It was true enough. Nobody had made a quartz watch until 1969. But that was not the point. The slogan implied that Blancpain had been making mechanical watches since the days of Jehan-Jacques. And it boldly conveyed the Blancpain credo: We believe in the beauty, tradition, and value of a hand-made mechanical watch. If you want to buy a commonplace, machine-made quartz watch, go right ahead. But if you value traditional craftmanship, buy a Blancpain. Biver’s bold anti-quartz campaign was startling in 1983. And it worked. Blancpain sales grew. Biver’s pro-mechanical marketing was an early ripple that helped create the mechanical-watch wave of the next decade.

The same year that Biver and Piguet bought Blancpain, Rolf Schnyder, a Swiss who was making watch parts in Kuala Lampur, purchased another quartz crisis casualty, Ulysse Nardin. The company employed two people: one full-time, one part-time. Despite the damage quartz watches had already inflicted on the company and the industry, Schnyder wanted to continue making mechanicals, and only mechanicals. He had a slam-dunk rescue plan: a mechanical watch that would provide such arcane data as the times of the solar and lunar eclipses, true solar time, the presiding astrological sign, and the position of the moon and stars in the sky? As a feat of mechanical wizardry, the Ulysse Nardin Astrolabium Galileo Galilei, made by a young watchmaker Schnyder hired named Ludwig Oechslin, was amazing. More amazing, though, was that in its debut year, 1985, Schnyder sold 80 of them at a price of CHF37,500.  

The Mechanical Establishment

The Henry Graves, Jr. Supercomplication inspired Patek Philippe to continue developing highly complicated watches.

New mechanical-watch entrepreneurs were crucial to the mechanical revival. But the newbies were pygmies compared to the mechanical-watch establishment, led by Patek Philippe and Rolex in Geneva. Their continued support for the mechanical, while the rest of the industry scrambled to convert to quartz, was essential to its survival. 

Philippe Stern

In 1979, Philippe Stern, managing director of Patek Philippe, met with his team in a planning session for the company’s 150th anniversary, which would come in 1989. Stern made a fateful decision. In the year that ETA introduced the 1.95 mm quartz Delirium watch to show that Switzerland could compete with the Japanese in quartz technology, Stern decided that Patek Philippe’s 150th anniversary watch would be a mechanical. A very special mechanical: Stern wanted his team to make the world’s most complicated mechanical watch, surpassing the 24 complications in the Patek Philippe Graves watch of 1932, which still held the “world’s most complicated” title. His technical team got started on it in 1980. 

Across town at Rolex, André Heiniger, the president of Rolex, also weighed in for mechanicals and against quartz. “André Heiniger was a true visionary. His opinion was that the originally very costly quartz watch would soon be banal,” writes Lucien Trueb in his book “Electrifying the Wristwatch” (Schiffer Publishing, 2013). “This had already happened with transistor radios, TV sets, and pocket calculators,” Trueb continues. “Top quality mechanical movements would always remain expensive and exclusive due to the large amount of highly qualified labor required for manufacturing the parts and assembling them. The inescapable fact that a mechanical device can only tell time approximately could easily be hidden by writing “Superlative Chronometer, Officially Certified (i.e., the COSC certificate) on the dial … wealthy people don’t need an instrument that tells time: they want a beautiful and exclusive object on their wrist.” 

Consequently, the mechanical remained king at Rolex, despite years of research into quartz technology that Heiniger himself had authorized in the 1970s. Rolex made quartz watches. But not many. Patrick Heiniger, André’s son and successor as president, called the amount “negligible” in a 1994 interview with me. 

Even brands like Rolex were making quartz watches as mechanical timekeeping was under threat.

At the other end of the Swiss watchmaking arc, in Schaffhausen, near the border with Germany, Günter Blümlein, CEO of IWC Schaffhausen, was also sticking with the mechanical. Blumlein came in as chief in 1982. One of the first things he did was suggest that Kurt Klaus, the company’s head watchmaker, make a little change in a project he was working on. Klaus was a fan of perpetual calendars. 

When the quartz crisis arrived, “there was only enough work to keep me busy four days a week,” he told me in 1996. “On the fifth day, I would tinker around with ideas and designs.” Particularly on perpetual calendars. He was working on a perpetual calendar wristwatch with an automatic movement when Blümlein joined the company. When he showed it to Blümlein, the new boss was underwhelmed. What would be impressive, Blümlein said, would be a perpetual calendar with an automatic chronograph movement. Klaus couldn’t argue, considering that no one had ever produced a perpetual calendar automatic chronograph wristwatch. Daunted, Klaus went back to his drawing board. He worked on the watch, making drawings and calendar calculations and prototypes for two years. 

The DaVinci was a bold, complicated watch from IWC that came at a critical time.

IWC unveiled the watch, called DaVinci (a tribute to Leonardo), at the Basel Fair in 1985, with a whopping $25,000 price tag. The watch, if kept wound, would keep track of the day, date, month, year and phase of the moon accurately and without adjustment for the next 214 years. IWC employees took bets on how many DaVincis would sell at the Basel Fair. Many figured 10 to 15, given its price and the weak market for mechanicals. The most optimistic was 30. But IWC took orders for more than 100. The DaVinci convinced Blümlein that the tide was turning, that the classical mechanical watch would not drown in the flood of cheap quartz watches after all. Buoyed by its success, IWC decided to storm the horological Mount Everest. The company assembled a team to go where no watch producer had ever gone before: create a Grand Complication watch for the wrist. 

The Indies

Svend Andersen released his first worldtimer in 1990.

That same year, two established independent watchmakers, Svend Andersen and Vincent Calabrese, created an organization to perpetuate the art of independent watch and clockmaking. AHCI (Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants) exhibited at the Basel Fair the next year. The AHCI display at the fair became an important platform to showcase the work of its artisanal watchmaker members, who were increasingly embattled in a quartz-watch world. Roland Murphy, a Baltimore-born watchmaker, was a perfect example of the plight of the independent watchmaker. In the year AHCI debuted in Basel, Murphy graduated from Switzerland’s prestigious WOSTEP (Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Program) school. Upon graduation, not only did he have zero job offers, he had zero job interviews. He managed to get a position as a product development manager working on quartz watches at Hamilton in Lancaster, PA. It was not ideal. “I was a watchmaker,” Murphy says. “I hated quartz watches.” (More on him in Part II.)

Roland Murphy is an American watchmaker whose RGM is based in Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, interest in mechanical wristwatches, albeit old ones, was soaring. “By the middle of the decade, the vintage wristwatch market awoke with a vengeance,” wrote Norma Buchanan in 1988. “Prices began to skyrocket and speculators parted with five-and-six-figure sums in the hope that watches by what had become known as “the big five” (Patek Philippe, Rolex, Cartier, Vacheron Constantin, and Audemars Piguet) would put their kids through college.” As an example of the steep price acceleration, one Florida vintage watch dealer said that a Patek Philippe perpetual calendar with chronograph that sold for $50,000 in February 1987 was bringing $70,000 to $80,000 a year later. 

The vintage watch boom helped revive the image of and interest in mechanical wristwatches. What the Swiss counter-revolutionaries needed, though, was a boost in interest in new mechanical watches. Around 1985, they got it.

The Chrono Craze

Once the Italians decided the Daytona was "in," all bets were off.

The mechanical watch renaissance, as we know it today, started in Italy. Italians adore watches. In the mid-1980s, they started to swoon over mechanical chronographs. They liked vintage pieces but they were also buying new ones. The aviator look – leather bomber jacket and sunglasses – was the rage among Italian men then, and a Rolex Daytona or a Breitling Navitimer, even a stylishly proletarian Russian military watch, pulled the ensemble together perfectly. 

The chrono craze soon spread throughout Europe and eventually hit the United States. It is credited with creating the Daytona mania that led to shortages of the watch for years, and for giving a much needed boost to Breitling. Breitling had been still another quartz-crisis casualty. A new owner, Ernest Schneider, had taken over the financially strapped company in 1979. A successful businessman, engineer and pilot, he gave Breitling a facelift, while keeping the line’s signature instrument-panel look. He also shrewdly arranged for the Italian Air Force to wear Breitling watches – mechanicals, of course. Soon Breitling pilot watches were lionized by the Milanese glitterati as the epitome of horological chic. As thin quartz watches became commonplace, Breitling’s busy, bulky mechanical chronos defined a new watch style.  

Italy’s watch mania created another new phenomenon: the consumer watch magazine. Three different monthly watch magazines sprung up within the space of a few months in 1987-88. That phenomenon, too, would spread throughout Europe and eventually reach the United States. The magazines played an important role in creating new interest in mechanical watches among a new generation of watch aficionados.

Italy’s chrono craze got the mechanical ball rolling. In 1988, Swiss production of mechanical watches rose for the first time since 1982. Their value jumped 17% to the equivalent of $1.23 billion. Roland Schild, a prominent Swiss industry expert in those days, told me, “Clearly mechanical time is enjoying a comeback.”

Then came Patek Philippe’s big anniversary bash. The timing was perfect.

Calibre 89

In 1989, Patek Philippe celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding in Geneva by Count Antoine de Patek. The highlight of the anniversary was an auction of 301 Patek Philippe watches. The final lot was the watch that Philippe Stern and his team had decided to make 10 years before. Called Calibre 89, it was the most complicated timepiece ever made, with 33 “complications.” It had 1,728 parts, two main dials, 12 subdials and rings and 24 hands. It weighed 2.5 pounds and was the size of a softball. Fittingly, the auctioneer was Osvaldo Patrizzi. Calibre 89 sold for $3.17 million, including taxes and commission. The entire auction brought in $15.2 million. 

Calibre 89 was a turning point in the mechanical watch recovery. It made headlines around the world, shined a spotlight on the marvels of mechanical timekeeping and introduced a watch term most people had never heard before: “complication” (i.e., any function other than simple timekeeping, called “functions” in quartz watches). One sign of the stir Calibre 89 caused: Saturday Night Live covered it in its Weekend Update segment. Comedian and faux-news anchor Dennis Miller noted that a watch that does all sorts of things sold in Geneva for $3.1 million. Tapping his pencil on his desk, he wisecracked something to the effect of “Yeah, well, for three mil, I’ll tell you what it’s going to have to do for me, baby” to peals of laughter. Patek’s big mechanical was big news.

Two months before the auction, I got a preview of the watch from Philippe Stern and Patrizzi in Geneva. In a preview article, I wrote, “Part of Calibre 89’s mystique is that everything about it stands in defiant contrast to contemporary timekeeping, from its oversized pocket-watch construction, to its nearly 2,000 parts, to its nine-year gestation. But the watch is not a mere remembrance of timers past. Patek’s achievement is to have created with the old technology a multi-function watch as sophisticated as any high-tech quartz timer.”

Calibre 89 was the best example yet of “high mech:” the use of new technology to design and produce mechanical movements and watches. Among the many challenges Patek faced in producing Calibre 89 was how to fit 33 complications into a single watchcase. “That really was the most difficult thing,” Stern said. Stern, then 50, had the foresight to put a 28-year-old engineer, Jean-Pierre Musy, in charge of the Calibre 89 project. Musy was a controversial choice. “The old watchmakers were very negative,” Stern told me. “They said, ‘You don’t make a watch with an engineer, especially a young engineer. Only watchmakers – and only the best watchmakers – are able to do this.’ They were a little bit jealous.” But Stern said, “We felt we had to have the involvement of young engineers who could construct a complicated watch in a new way.” 

They found a solution to the so-many-complications problem: a computer. Standard equipment for an engineer, but heresy for an old-world watchmaker. Patek spent $640,000 on the company’s first computer-aided design (CAD) equipment. Over the next several years, the Calibre 89 team made 1,600 design blueprints, which enabled them to make the watch.

Switzerland’s embrace of revolutionary micro-mechanical manufacturing technology – CAD/CAM, CNC machines, automated wire cutting and more – was a major factor in the mechanical comeback. It supplemented Switzerland’s traditional hand-made craftsmanship. The new technology enabled the creation of a new generation of watches with high complications that came in the wake of Caliber 89. In 1990, for example, Kurt Klaus and his IWC team delivered their Grand Complication wristwatch, a world first. Blancpain followed with the world’s second one in 1991. The complication boom was on.  

We’ll review this and much more in the The Mechanical Watch Renaissance (1990-2000), coming next week.

Source: http://ift.tt/1IiKaDm

Four Revolutions: Part 3: A Concise History Of The Mechanical Watch Revolution (1976-1989)

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Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of articles on four revolutions over the past 40 years that have created the modern watch world. Previous articles include Joe Thompson’s Introduction to the series, A Concise History Of The Quartz Watch Revolution, and A Concise History Of The Fashion Watch Revolution. This installment will be in two parts, with the second coming next week.

In 1976, with the watch world agog over LEDs, LCDs and quartz analogs, George Daniels, the world’s greatest living watchmaker, was fed up. “I was furious with ‘electricians,’” he told Norma Buchanan, my colleague on American Time magazine, in 1999. “Electricians” was Daniels’s disdainful term for proponents of electronic watches, as well as the electric watch which was its forerunner. “I was angry with the way they just strode through the watch world saying, ‘This is the future.’”

Daniels got mad and vowed to get even. He got to work in his native Britain inventing a new mechanical escapement. “Daniels had been pondering the lever-escapement problem [i.e., friction requiring lubrication] for most of his life,” Buchanan reported, “but it was the quartz revolution that catapulted him into action. He wanted to prove that mechanical watches were as good as quartz – even better, because they didn’t need batteries.” 

George Daniels

Daniels had an idea for a new escapement with two escape wheels instead of the traditional one, superimposed on the same axle, that he believed would make mechanical watches more accurate and require less service. A new co-axial escapement – that would show the electricians! 

Daniels’s response to the quartz crisis was more than quaint. It was certifiably crackpot: the notion that in 1976 a new and improved escapement would prevent the mechanical’s rendezvous with the buggy whip on history’s scrap heap was laughable. The mechanical watch was doomed and everybody, absolutely everybody, in the watch industry knew it – except, it seemed, George Daniels. Daniels was, indeed, laughed at.

A look at the movement of Daniels’s exceptional Space Traveller pocket watch.

But he would have the last laugh. The mechanical watch, as we know, defied its doom and staged one of the most astonishing comebacks in the history of industry. It was a long, hard slog. (It would be 23 years before Daniels saw his Co-Axial escapement go into commercial production.) But it did happen.

Just how it happened merits a full-length book (followed by a major motion picture!). All I can offer here, as one who began covering the watch industry the year after the cranky Mr. Daniels got cranking on his Co-Axial, is an episodic summary of some of the main characters and major turning points. This account will be in two parts: this one covers developments from 1978 to 1989; the second from 1990 to 2000. Here, in short, is what happened.

First Stirrings

There was a time when wristwatches – even complicated watches from storied brands – were considered undesirable as collectibles in comparison with pocket watches.

The first sign of new life for mechanicals in the quartz era came in 1978. Osvaldo Patrizzi, co-founder of Galerie d’Horlogerie Ancienne, a pocketwatch dealer and auction house in Geneva, noticed that pocketwatch collectors were expressing interest in vintage wristwatches. Part of it was nostalgia for wind-up watches now that they were about to become obsolete. And part of it was an awareness that their pending rarity might make them more valuable. Patrizzi decided to include a special session devoted to wristwatches in an upcoming pocketwatch auction. 

That was a first. At that time, wristwatches were stepchildren to prized pocketwatches in the collector world. People told Patrizzi he was crazy to muddy his auction with wrist pieces. “Osvaldo, what are you doing? No one will buy these watches,” they told him.

They were wrong. In his first sale, a Patek Philippe perpetual calendar went for CHF6,500, a record price for the watch. Encouraged, Patrizzi held a second sale of wristwatches. A Patek Philippe perpetual calendar with chronograph bought CHF18,000. The vintage wristwatch boom had begun. 

Patrizzi began holding auctions devoted only to wristwatches through a new company, Habsburg Feldman, which later became Antiquorum. Other auction houses took notice. Sotheby’s held its first major wristwatch auction in 1980; Christie’s in 1981. The recession of the early 1980s slowed down the vintage market, but it came roaring back in the mid-1980s (more on that in a minute). 

Jean-Claude Biver

Meanwhile, in Swiss watch executive suites, there were pockets of resistance to the quartz wave. George Daniels was not the only quartz-watch counter-revolutionary. Some Swiss watch executives had the same blind faith in the durability of the mechanical. Two of the biggest believers were Jean-Claude Biver and Rolf Schnyder.  

In 1982, Biver, who today heads the LVMH Group’s watch division, hatched what at the time seemed a truly loony idea. Biver had just resigned from Omega, along with a group of other young executives known as “The Young Turks,” who were frustrated by Omega’s timid response to the quartz crisis. Biver was aware that Omega had a dormant sister brand called Blancpain. In its 1950s heyday, Blancpain was best known for its Fifty Fathoms dive watch. During the quartz crisis, however, it still made some mechanical movements, but the brand had disappeared. Biver’s brainstorm was to buy the brand and resurrect it as an expensive mechanical watch. He joined forces with Jacques Piguet, owner of Frédéric Piguet S.A., a mechanical-movement maker in Switzerland’s famed Vallée de Joux, who had plenty of mechanical movements. 

The very first Blancpain minute repeater ever made.

They bought the rights to the Blancpain name for the equivalent of $9,000 in January 1983. At a time when world production of digital watches had just surpassed mechanicals, Biver came to market with a spanking new mechanical watch from a totally obscure brand. Everything about the scheme seemed cockamamie – except the marketing. Biver did two clever things, a sign of the marketing genius that would be a hallmark of his career. He unearthed a founder for the brand, a certain Jehan-Jacques Blancpain, a watchmaker who had lived in Switzerland’s Jura Mountains in the first half of the 18th century. True, the quotes attributed to the founder in Blancpain promotional literature (“As he used to repeat, ‘We are writing today a page in the history of tomorrow.’”) were a little too sound-bite slick. But why quibble?

The Ulysse Nardin Astrolabium Galileo Galilei was everything watches typically weren’t in the 1980s – mechanical, complicated, and extremely expensive.

More importantly, Biver came up with an advertising slogan to describe the essence of the brand: “Since 1735, there has never been a quartz Blancpain watch. And there never will be.” It was true enough. Nobody had made a quartz watch until 1969. But that was not the point. The slogan implied that Blancpain had been making mechanical watches since the days of Jehan-Jacques. And it boldly conveyed the Blancpain credo: We believe in the beauty, tradition, and value of a hand-made mechanical watch. If you want to buy a commonplace, machine-made quartz watch, go right ahead. But if you value traditional craftmanship, buy a Blancpain. Biver’s bold anti-quartz campaign was startling in 1983. And it worked. Blancpain sales grew. Biver’s pro-mechanical marketing was an early ripple that helped create the mechanical-watch wave of the next decade.

The same year that Biver and Piguet bought Blancpain, Rolf Schnyder, a Swiss who was making watch parts in Kuala Lampur, purchased another quartz crisis casualty, Ulysse Nardin. The company employed two people: one full-time, one part-time. Despite the damage quartz watches had already inflicted on the company and the industry, Schnyder wanted to continue making mechanicals, and only mechanicals. He had a slam-dunk rescue plan: a mechanical watch that would provide such arcane data as the times of the solar and lunar eclipses, true solar time, the presiding astrological sign, and the position of the moon and stars in the sky? As a feat of mechanical wizardry, the Ulysse Nardin Astrolabium Galileo Galilei, made by a young watchmaker Schnyder hired named Ludwig Oechslin, was amazing. More amazing, though, was that in its debut year, 1985, Schnyder sold 80 of them at a price of CHF37,500.  

The Mechanical Establishment

The Henry Graves, Jr. Supercomplication inspired Patek Philippe to continue developing highly complicated watches.

New mechanical-watch entrepreneurs were crucial to the mechanical revival. But the newbies were pygmies compared to the mechanical-watch establishment, led by Patek Philippe and Rolex in Geneva. Their continued support for the mechanical, while the rest of the industry scrambled to convert to quartz, was essential to its survival. 

Philippe Stern

In 1979, Philippe Stern, managing director of Patek Philippe, met with his team in a planning session for the company’s 150th anniversary, which would come in 1989. Stern made a fateful decision. In the year that ETA introduced the 1.95 mm quartz Delirium watch to show that Switzerland could compete with the Japanese in quartz technology, Stern decided that Patek Philippe’s 150th anniversary watch would be a mechanical. A very special mechanical: Stern wanted his team to make the world’s most complicated mechanical watch, surpassing the 24 complications in the Patek Philippe Graves watch of 1932, which still held the “world’s most complicated” title. His technical team got started on it in 1980. 

Across town at Rolex, André Heiniger, the president of Rolex, also weighed in for mechanicals and against quartz. “André Heiniger was a true visionary. His opinion was that the originally very costly quartz watch would soon be banal,” writes Lucien Trueb in his book “Electrifying the Wristwatch” (Schiffer Publishing, 2013). “This had already happened with transistor radios, TV sets, and pocket calculators,” Trueb continues. “Top quality mechanical movements would always remain expensive and exclusive due to the large amount of highly qualified labor required for manufacturing the parts and assembling them. The inescapable fact that a mechanical device can only tell time approximately could easily be hidden by writing “Superlative Chronometer, Officially Certified (i.e., the COSC certificate) on the dial … wealthy people don’t need an instrument that tells time: they want a beautiful and exclusive object on their wrist.” 

Consequently, the mechanical remained king at Rolex, despite years of research into quartz technology that Heiniger himself had authorized in the 1970s. Rolex made quartz watches. But not many. Patrick Heiniger, André’s son and successor as president, called the amount “negligible” in a 1994 interview with me. 

Even brands like Rolex were making quartz watches as mechanical timekeeping was under threat.

At the other end of the Swiss watchmaking arc, in Schaffhausen, near the border with Germany, Günter Blümlein, CEO of IWC Schaffhausen, was also sticking with the mechanical. Blumlein came in as chief in 1982. One of the first things he did was suggest that Kurt Klaus, the company’s head watchmaker, make a little change in a project he was working on. Klaus was a fan of perpetual calendars. 

When the quartz crisis arrived, “there was only enough work to keep me busy four days a week,” he told me in 1996. “On the fifth day, I would tinker around with ideas and designs.” Particularly on perpetual calendars. He was working on a perpetual calendar wristwatch with an automatic movement when Blümlein joined the company. When he showed it to Blümlein, the new boss was underwhelmed. What would be impressive, Blümlein said, would be a perpetual calendar with an automatic chronograph movement. Klaus couldn’t argue, considering that no one had ever produced a perpetual calendar automatic chronograph wristwatch. Daunted, Klaus went back to his drawing board. He worked on the watch, making drawings and calendar calculations and prototypes for two years. 

The DaVinci was a bold, complicated watch from IWC that came at a critical time.

IWC unveiled the watch, called DaVinci (a tribute to Leonardo), at the Basel Fair in 1985, with a whopping $25,000 price tag. The watch, if kept wound, would keep track of the day, date, month, year and phase of the moon accurately and without adjustment for the next 214 years. IWC employees took bets on how many DaVincis would sell at the Basel Fair. Many figured 10 to 15, given its price and the weak market for mechanicals. The most optimistic was 30. But IWC took orders for more than 100. The DaVinci convinced Blümlein that the tide was turning, that the classical mechanical watch would not drown in the flood of cheap quartz watches after all. Buoyed by its success, IWC decided to storm the horological Mount Everest. The company assembled a team to go where no watch producer had ever gone before: create a Grand Complication watch for the wrist. 

The Indies

Svend Andersen released his first worldtimer in 1990.

That same year, two established independent watchmakers, Svend Andersen and Vincent Calabrese, created an organization to perpetuate the art of independent watch and clockmaking. AHCI (Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants) exhibited at the Basel Fair the next year. The AHCI display at the fair became an important platform to showcase the work of its artisanal watchmaker members, who were increasingly embattled in a quartz-watch world. Roland Murphy, a Baltimore-born watchmaker, was a perfect example of the plight of the independent watchmaker. In the year AHCI debuted in Basel, Murphy graduated from Switzerland’s prestigious WOSTEP (Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Program) school. Upon graduation, not only did he have zero job offers, he had zero job interviews. He managed to get a position as a product development manager working on quartz watches at Hamilton in Lancaster, PA. It was not ideal. “I was a watchmaker,” Murphy says. “I hated quartz watches.” (More on him in Part II.)

Roland Murphy is an American watchmaker whose RGM is based in Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, interest in mechanical wristwatches, albeit old ones, was soaring. “By the middle of the decade, the vintage wristwatch market awoke with a vengeance,” wrote Norma Buchanan in 1988. “Prices began to skyrocket and speculators parted with five-and-six-figure sums in the hope that watches by what had become known as “the big five” (Patek Philippe, Rolex, Cartier, Vacheron Constantin, and Audemars Piguet) would put their kids through college.” As an example of the steep price acceleration, one Florida vintage watch dealer said that a Patek Philippe perpetual calendar with chronograph that sold for $50,000 in February 1987 was bringing $70,000 to $80,000 a year later. 

The vintage watch boom helped revive the image of and interest in mechanical wristwatches. What the Swiss counter-revolutionaries needed, though, was a boost in interest in new mechanical watches. Around 1985, they got it.

The Chrono Craze

Once the Italians decided the Daytona was "in," all bets were off.

The mechanical watch renaissance, as we know it today, started in Italy. Italians adore watches. In the mid-1980s, they started to swoon over mechanical chronographs. They liked vintage pieces but they were also buying new ones. The aviator look – leather bomber jacket and sunglasses – was the rage among Italian men then, and a Rolex Daytona or a Breitling Navitimer, even a stylishly proletarian Russian military watch, pulled the ensemble together perfectly. 

The chrono craze soon spread throughout Europe and eventually hit the United States. It is credited with creating the Daytona mania that led to shortages of the watch for years, and for giving a much needed boost to Breitling. Breitling had been still another quartz-crisis casualty. A new owner, Ernest Schneider, had taken over the financially strapped company in 1979. A successful businessman, engineer and pilot, he gave Breitling a facelift, while keeping the line’s signature instrument-panel look. He also shrewdly arranged for the Italian Air Force to wear Breitling watches – mechanicals, of course. Soon Breitling pilot watches were lionized by the Milanese glitterati as the epitome of horological chic. As thin quartz watches became commonplace, Breitling’s busy, bulky mechanical chronos defined a new watch style.  

Italy’s watch mania created another new phenomenon: the consumer watch magazine. Three different monthly watch magazines sprung up within the space of a few months in 1987-88. That phenomenon, too, would spread throughout Europe and eventually reach the United States. The magazines played an important role in creating new interest in mechanical watches among a new generation of watch aficionados.

Italy’s chrono craze got the mechanical ball rolling. In 1988, Swiss production of mechanical watches rose for the first time since 1982. Their value jumped 17% to the equivalent of $1.23 billion. Roland Schild, a prominent Swiss industry expert in those days, told me, “Clearly mechanical time is enjoying a comeback.”

Then came Patek Philippe’s big anniversary bash. The timing was perfect.

Calibre 89

In 1989, Patek Philippe celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding in Geneva by Count Antoine de Patek. The highlight of the anniversary was an auction of 301 Patek Philippe watches. The final lot was the watch that Philippe Stern and his team had decided to make 10 years before. Called Calibre 89, it was the most complicated timepiece ever made, with 33 “complications.” It had 1,728 parts, two main dials, 12 subdials and rings and 24 hands. It weighed 2.5 pounds and was the size of a softball. Fittingly, the auctioneer was Osvaldo Patrizzi. Calibre 89 sold for $3.17 million, including taxes and commission. The entire auction brought in $15.2 million. 

Calibre 89 was a turning point in the mechanical watch recovery. It made headlines around the world, shined a spotlight on the marvels of mechanical timekeeping and introduced a watch term most people had never heard before: “complication” (i.e., any function other than simple timekeeping, called “functions” in quartz watches). One sign of the stir Calibre 89 caused: Saturday Night Live covered it in its Weekend Update segment. Comedian and faux-news anchor Dennis Miller noted that a watch that does all sorts of things sold in Geneva for $3.1 million. Tapping his pencil on his desk, he wisecracked something to the effect of “Yeah, well, for three mil, I’ll tell you what it’s going to have to do for me, baby” to peals of laughter. Patek’s big mechanical was big news.

Two months before the auction, I got a preview of the watch from Philippe Stern and Patrizzi in Geneva. In a preview article, I wrote, “Part of Calibre 89’s mystique is that everything about it stands in defiant contrast to contemporary timekeeping, from its oversized pocket-watch construction, to its nearly 2,000 parts, to its nine-year gestation. But the watch is not a mere remembrance of timers past. Patek’s achievement is to have created with the old technology a multi-function watch as sophisticated as any high-tech quartz timer.”

Calibre 89 was the best example yet of “high mech:” the use of new technology to design and produce mechanical movements and watches. Among the many challenges Patek faced in producing Calibre 89 was how to fit 33 complications into a single watchcase. “That really was the most difficult thing,” Stern said. Stern, then 50, had the foresight to put a 28-year-old engineer, Jean-Pierre Musy, in charge of the Calibre 89 project. Musy was a controversial choice. “The old watchmakers were very negative,” Stern told me. “They said, ‘You don’t make a watch with an engineer, especially a young engineer. Only watchmakers – and only the best watchmakers – are able to do this.’ They were a little bit jealous.” But Stern said, “We felt we had to have the involvement of young engineers who could construct a complicated watch in a new way.” 

They found a solution to the so-many-complications problem: a computer. Standard equipment for an engineer, but heresy for an old-world watchmaker. Patek spent $640,000 on the company’s first computer-aided design (CAD) equipment. Over the next several years, the Calibre 89 team made 1,600 design blueprints, which enabled them to make the watch.

Switzerland’s embrace of revolutionary micro-mechanical manufacturing technology – CAD/CAM, CNC machines, automated wire cutting and more – was a major factor in the mechanical comeback. It supplemented Switzerland’s traditional hand-made craftsmanship. The new technology enabled the creation of a new generation of watches with high complications that came in the wake of Caliber 89. In 1990, for example, Kurt Klaus and his IWC team delivered their Grand Complication wristwatch, a world first. Blancpain followed with the world’s second one in 1991. The complication boom was on.  

We’ll review this and much more in the The Mechanical Watch Renaissance (1990-2000), coming next week.

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Four Revolutions: Part 3: A Concise History Of The Mechanical Watch Revolution (1976-1989)

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Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of articles on four revolutions over the past 40 years that have created the modern watch world. Previous articles include Joe Thompson’s Introduction to the series, A Concise History Of The Quartz Watch Revolution, and A Concise History Of The Fashion Watch Revolution. This installment will be in two parts, with the second coming next week.

In 1976, with the watch world agog over LEDs, LCDs and quartz analogs, George Daniels, the world’s greatest living watchmaker, was fed up. “I was furious with ‘electricians,’” he told Norma Buchanan, my colleague on American Time magazine, in 1999. “Electricians” was Daniels’s disdainful term for proponents of electronic watches, as well as the electric watch which was its forerunner. “I was angry with the way they just strode through the watch world saying, ‘This is the future.’”

Daniels got mad and vowed to get even. He got to work in his native Britain inventing a new mechanical escapement. “Daniels had been pondering the lever-escapement problem [i.e., friction requiring lubrication] for most of his life,” Buchanan reported, “but it was the quartz revolution that catapulted him into action. He wanted to prove that mechanical watches were as good as quartz – even better, because they didn’t need batteries.” 

George Daniels

Daniels had an idea for a new escapement with two escape wheels instead of the traditional one, superimposed on the same axle, that he believed would make mechanical watches more accurate and require less service. A new co-axial escapement – that would show the electricians! 

Daniels’s response to the quartz crisis was more than quaint. It was certifiably crackpot: the notion that in 1976 a new and improved escapement would prevent the mechanical’s rendezvous with the buggy whip on history’s scrap heap was laughable. The mechanical watch was doomed and everybody, absolutely everybody, in the watch industry knew it – except, it seemed, George Daniels. Daniels was, indeed, laughed at.

A look at the movement of Daniels’s exceptional Space Traveller pocket watch.

But he would have the last laugh. The mechanical watch, as we know, defied its doom and staged one of the most astonishing comebacks in the history of industry. It was a long, hard slog. (It would be 23 years before Daniels saw his Co-Axial escapement go into commercial production.) But it did happen.

Just how it happened merits a full-length book (followed by a major motion picture!). All I can offer here, as one who began covering the watch industry the year after the cranky Mr. Daniels got cranking on his Co-Axial, is an episodic summary of some of the main characters and major turning points. This account will be in two parts: this one covers developments from 1978 to 1989; the second from 1990 to 2000. Here, in short, is what happened.

First Stirrings

There was a time when wristwatches – even complicated watches from storied brands – were considered undesirable as collectibles in comparison with pocket watches.

The first sign of new life for mechanicals in the quartz era came in 1978. Osvaldo Patrizzi, co-founder of Galerie d’Horlogerie Ancienne, a pocketwatch dealer and auction house in Geneva, noticed that pocketwatch collectors were expressing interest in vintage wristwatches. Part of it was nostalgia for wind-up watches now that they were about to become obsolete. And part of it was an awareness that their pending rarity might make them more valuable. Patrizzi decided to include a special session devoted to wristwatches in an upcoming pocketwatch auction. 

That was a first. At that time, wristwatches were stepchildren to prized pocketwatches in the collector world. People told Patrizzi he was crazy to muddy his auction with wrist pieces. “Osvaldo, what are you doing? No one will buy these watches,” they told him.

They were wrong. In his first sale, a Patek Philippe perpetual calendar went for CHF6,500, a record price for the watch. Encouraged, Patrizzi held a second sale of wristwatches. A Patek Philippe perpetual calendar with chronograph bought CHF18,000. The vintage wristwatch boom had begun. 

Patrizzi began holding auctions devoted only to wristwatches through a new company, Habsburg Feldman, which later became Antiquorum. Other auction houses took notice. Sotheby’s held its first major wristwatch auction in 1980; Christie’s in 1981. The recession of the early 1980s slowed down the vintage market, but it came roaring back in the mid-1980s (more on that in a minute). 

Jean-Claude Biver

Meanwhile, in Swiss watch executive suites, there were pockets of resistance to the quartz wave. George Daniels was not the only quartz-watch counter-revolutionary. Some Swiss watch executives had the same blind faith in the durability of the mechanical. Two of the biggest believers were Jean-Claude Biver and Rolf Schnyder.  

In 1982, Biver, who today heads the LVMH Group’s watch division, hatched what at the time seemed a truly loony idea. Biver had just resigned from Omega, along with a group of other young executives known as “The Young Turks,” who were frustrated by Omega’s timid response to the quartz crisis. Biver was aware that Omega had a dormant sister brand called Blancpain. In its 1950s heyday, Blancpain was best known for its Fifty Fathoms dive watch. During the quartz crisis, however, it still made some mechanical movements, but the brand had disappeared. Biver’s brainstorm was to buy the brand and resurrect it as an expensive mechanical watch. He joined forces with Jacques Piguet, owner of Frédéric Piguet S.A., a mechanical-movement maker in Switzerland’s famed Vallée de Joux, who had plenty of mechanical movements. 

The very first Blancpain minute repeater ever made.

They bought the rights to the Blancpain name for the equivalent of $9,000 in January 1983. At a time when world production of digital watches had just surpassed mechanicals, Biver came to market with a spanking new mechanical watch from a totally obscure brand. Everything about the scheme seemed cockamamie – except the marketing. Biver did two clever things, a sign of the marketing genius that would be a hallmark of his career. He unearthed a founder for the brand, a certain Jehan-Jacques Blancpain, a watchmaker who had lived in Switzerland’s Jura Mountains in the first half of the 18th century. True, the quotes attributed to the founder in Blancpain promotional literature (“As he used to repeat, ‘We are writing today a page in the history of tomorrow.’”) were a little too sound-bite slick. But why quibble?

The Ulysse Nardin Astrolabium Galileo Galilei was everything watches typically weren’t in the 1980s – mechanical, complicated, and extremely expensive.

More importantly, Biver came up with an advertising slogan to describe the essence of the brand: “Since 1735, there has never been a quartz Blancpain watch. And there never will be.” It was true enough. Nobody had made a quartz watch until 1969. But that was not the point. The slogan implied that Blancpain had been making mechanical watches since the days of Jehan-Jacques. And it boldly conveyed the Blancpain credo: We believe in the beauty, tradition, and value of a hand-made mechanical watch. If you want to buy a commonplace, machine-made quartz watch, go right ahead. But if you value traditional craftmanship, buy a Blancpain. Biver’s bold anti-quartz campaign was startling in 1983. And it worked. Blancpain sales grew. Biver’s pro-mechanical marketing was an early ripple that helped create the mechanical-watch wave of the next decade.

The same year that Biver and Piguet bought Blancpain, Rolf Schnyder, a Swiss who was making watch parts in Kuala Lampur, purchased another quartz crisis casualty, Ulysse Nardin. The company employed two people: one full-time, one part-time. Despite the damage quartz watches had already inflicted on the company and the industry, Schnyder wanted to continue making mechanicals, and only mechanicals. He had a slam-dunk rescue plan: a mechanical watch that would provide such arcane data as the times of the solar and lunar eclipses, true solar time, the presiding astrological sign, and the position of the moon and stars in the sky? As a feat of mechanical wizardry, the Ulysse Nardin Astrolabium Galileo Galilei, made by a young watchmaker Schnyder hired named Ludwig Oechslin, was amazing. More amazing, though, was that in its debut year, 1985, Schnyder sold 80 of them at a price of CHF37,500.  

The Mechanical Establishment

The Henry Graves, Jr. Supercomplication inspired Patek Philippe to continue developing highly complicated watches.

New mechanical-watch entrepreneurs were crucial to the mechanical revival. But the newbies were pygmies compared to the mechanical-watch establishment, led by Patek Philippe and Rolex in Geneva. Their continued support for the mechanical, while the rest of the industry scrambled to convert to quartz, was essential to its survival. 

Philippe Stern

In 1979, Philippe Stern, managing director of Patek Philippe, met with his team in a planning session for the company’s 150th anniversary, which would come in 1989. Stern made a fateful decision. In the year that ETA introduced the 1.95 mm quartz Delirium watch to show that Switzerland could compete with the Japanese in quartz technology, Stern decided that Patek Philippe’s 150th anniversary watch would be a mechanical. A very special mechanical: Stern wanted his team to make the world’s most complicated mechanical watch, surpassing the 24 complications in the Patek Philippe Graves watch of 1932, which still held the “world’s most complicated” title. His technical team got started on it in 1980. 

Across town at Rolex, André Heiniger, the president of Rolex, also weighed in for mechanicals and against quartz. “André Heiniger was a true visionary. His opinion was that the originally very costly quartz watch would soon be banal,” writes Lucien Trueb in his book “Electrifying the Wristwatch” (Schiffer Publishing, 2013). “This had already happened with transistor radios, TV sets, and pocket calculators,” Trueb continues. “Top quality mechanical movements would always remain expensive and exclusive due to the large amount of highly qualified labor required for manufacturing the parts and assembling them. The inescapable fact that a mechanical device can only tell time approximately could easily be hidden by writing “Superlative Chronometer, Officially Certified (i.e., the COSC certificate) on the dial … wealthy people don’t need an instrument that tells time: they want a beautiful and exclusive object on their wrist.” 

Consequently, the mechanical remained king at Rolex, despite years of research into quartz technology that Heiniger himself had authorized in the 1970s. Rolex made quartz watches. But not many. Patrick Heiniger, André’s son and successor as president, called the amount “negligible” in a 1994 interview with me. 

Even brands like Rolex were making quartz watches as mechanical timekeeping was under threat.

At the other end of the Swiss watchmaking arc, in Schaffhausen, near the border with Germany, Günter Blümlein, CEO of IWC Schaffhausen, was also sticking with the mechanical. Blumlein came in as chief in 1982. One of the first things he did was suggest that Kurt Klaus, the company’s head watchmaker, make a little change in a project he was working on. Klaus was a fan of perpetual calendars. 

When the quartz crisis arrived, “there was only enough work to keep me busy four days a week,” he told me in 1996. “On the fifth day, I would tinker around with ideas and designs.” Particularly on perpetual calendars. He was working on a perpetual calendar wristwatch with an automatic movement when Blümlein joined the company. When he showed it to Blümlein, the new boss was underwhelmed. What would be impressive, Blümlein said, would be a perpetual calendar with an automatic chronograph movement. Klaus couldn’t argue, considering that no one had ever produced a perpetual calendar automatic chronograph wristwatch. Daunted, Klaus went back to his drawing board. He worked on the watch, making drawings and calendar calculations and prototypes for two years. 

The DaVinci was a bold, complicated watch from IWC that came at a critical time.

IWC unveiled the watch, called DaVinci (a tribute to Leonardo), at the Basel Fair in 1985, with a whopping $25,000 price tag. The watch, if kept wound, would keep track of the day, date, month, year and phase of the moon accurately and without adjustment for the next 214 years. IWC employees took bets on how many DaVincis would sell at the Basel Fair. Many figured 10 to 15, given its price and the weak market for mechanicals. The most optimistic was 30. But IWC took orders for more than 100. The DaVinci convinced Blümlein that the tide was turning, that the classical mechanical watch would not drown in the flood of cheap quartz watches after all. Buoyed by its success, IWC decided to storm the horological Mount Everest. The company assembled a team to go where no watch producer had ever gone before: create a Grand Complication watch for the wrist. 

The Indies

Svend Andersen released his first worldtimer in 1990.

That same year, two established independent watchmakers, Svend Andersen and Vincent Calabrese, created an organization to perpetuate the art of independent watch and clockmaking. AHCI (Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants) exhibited at the Basel Fair the next year. The AHCI display at the fair became an important platform to showcase the work of its artisanal watchmaker members, who were increasingly embattled in a quartz-watch world. Roland Murphy, a Baltimore-born watchmaker, was a perfect example of the plight of the independent watchmaker. In the year AHCI debuted in Basel, Murphy graduated from Switzerland’s prestigious WOSTEP (Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Program) school. Upon graduation, not only did he have zero job offers, he had zero job interviews. He managed to get a position as a product development manager working on quartz watches at Hamilton in Lancaster, PA. It was not ideal. “I was a watchmaker,” Murphy says. “I hated quartz watches.” (More on him in Part II.)

Roland Murphy is an American watchmaker whose RGM is based in Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, interest in mechanical wristwatches, albeit old ones, was soaring. “By the middle of the decade, the vintage wristwatch market awoke with a vengeance,” wrote Norma Buchanan in 1988. “Prices began to skyrocket and speculators parted with five-and-six-figure sums in the hope that watches by what had become known as “the big five” (Patek Philippe, Rolex, Cartier, Vacheron Constantin, and Audemars Piguet) would put their kids through college.” As an example of the steep price acceleration, one Florida vintage watch dealer said that a Patek Philippe perpetual calendar with chronograph that sold for $50,000 in February 1987 was bringing $70,000 to $80,000 a year later. 

The vintage watch boom helped revive the image of and interest in mechanical wristwatches. What the Swiss counter-revolutionaries needed, though, was a boost in interest in new mechanical watches. Around 1985, they got it.

The Chrono Craze

Once the Italians decided the Daytona was "in," all bets were off.

The mechanical watch renaissance, as we know it today, started in Italy. Italians adore watches. In the mid-1980s, they started to swoon over mechanical chronographs. They liked vintage pieces but they were also buying new ones. The aviator look – leather bomber jacket and sunglasses – was the rage among Italian men then, and a Rolex Daytona or a Breitling Navitimer, even a stylishly proletarian Russian military watch, pulled the ensemble together perfectly. 

The chrono craze soon spread throughout Europe and eventually hit the United States. It is credited with creating the Daytona mania that led to shortages of the watch for years, and for giving a much needed boost to Breitling. Breitling had been still another quartz-crisis casualty. A new owner, Ernest Schneider, had taken over the financially strapped company in 1979. A successful businessman, engineer and pilot, he gave Breitling a facelift, while keeping the line’s signature instrument-panel look. He also shrewdly arranged for the Italian Air Force to wear Breitling watches – mechanicals, of course. Soon Breitling pilot watches were lionized by the Milanese glitterati as the epitome of horological chic. As thin quartz watches became commonplace, Breitling’s busy, bulky mechanical chronos defined a new watch style.  

Italy’s watch mania created another new phenomenon: the consumer watch magazine. Three different monthly watch magazines sprung up within the space of a few months in 1987-88. That phenomenon, too, would spread throughout Europe and eventually reach the United States. The magazines played an important role in creating new interest in mechanical watches among a new generation of watch aficionados.

Italy’s chrono craze got the mechanical ball rolling. In 1988, Swiss production of mechanical watches rose for the first time since 1982. Their value jumped 17% to the equivalent of $1.23 billion. Roland Schild, a prominent Swiss industry expert in those days, told me, “Clearly mechanical time is enjoying a comeback.”

Then came Patek Philippe’s big anniversary bash. The timing was perfect.

Calibre 89

In 1989, Patek Philippe celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding in Geneva by Count Antoine de Patek. The highlight of the anniversary was an auction of 301 Patek Philippe watches. The final lot was the watch that Philippe Stern and his team had decided to make 10 years before. Called Calibre 89, it was the most complicated timepiece ever made, with 33 “complications.” It had 1,728 parts, two main dials, 12 subdials and rings and 24 hands. It weighed 2.5 pounds and was the size of a softball. Fittingly, the auctioneer was Osvaldo Patrizzi. Calibre 89 sold for $3.17 million, including taxes and commission. The entire auction brought in $15.2 million. 

Calibre 89 was a turning point in the mechanical watch recovery. It made headlines around the world, shined a spotlight on the marvels of mechanical timekeeping and introduced a watch term most people had never heard before: “complication” (i.e., any function other than simple timekeeping, called “functions” in quartz watches). One sign of the stir Calibre 89 caused: Saturday Night Live covered it in its Weekend Update segment. Comedian and faux-news anchor Dennis Miller noted that a watch that does all sorts of things sold in Geneva for $3.1 million. Tapping his pencil on his desk, he wisecracked something to the effect of “Yeah, well, for three mil, I’ll tell you what it’s going to have to do for me, baby” to peals of laughter. Patek’s big mechanical was big news.

Two months before the auction, I got a preview of the watch from Philippe Stern and Patrizzi in Geneva. In a preview article, I wrote, “Part of Calibre 89’s mystique is that everything about it stands in defiant contrast to contemporary timekeeping, from its oversized pocket-watch construction, to its nearly 2,000 parts, to its nine-year gestation. But the watch is not a mere remembrance of timers past. Patek’s achievement is to have created with the old technology a multi-function watch as sophisticated as any high-tech quartz timer.”

Calibre 89 was the best example yet of “high mech:” the use of new technology to design and produce mechanical movements and watches. Among the many challenges Patek faced in producing Calibre 89 was how to fit 33 complications into a single watchcase. “That really was the most difficult thing,” Stern said. Stern, then 50, had the foresight to put a 28-year-old engineer, Jean-Pierre Musy, in charge of the Calibre 89 project. Musy was a controversial choice. “The old watchmakers were very negative,” Stern told me. “They said, ‘You don’t make a watch with an engineer, especially a young engineer. Only watchmakers – and only the best watchmakers – are able to do this.’ They were a little bit jealous.” But Stern said, “We felt we had to have the involvement of young engineers who could construct a complicated watch in a new way.” 

They found a solution to the so-many-complications problem: a computer. Standard equipment for an engineer, but heresy for an old-world watchmaker. Patek spent $640,000 on the company’s first computer-aided design (CAD) equipment. Over the next several years, the Calibre 89 team made 1,600 design blueprints, which enabled them to make the watch.

Switzerland’s embrace of revolutionary micro-mechanical manufacturing technology – CAD/CAM, CNC machines, automated wire cutting and more – was a major factor in the mechanical comeback. It supplemented Switzerland’s traditional hand-made craftsmanship. The new technology enabled the creation of a new generation of watches with high complications that came in the wake of Caliber 89. In 1990, for example, Kurt Klaus and his IWC team delivered their Grand Complication wristwatch, a world first. Blancpain followed with the world’s second one in 1991. The complication boom was on.  

We’ll review this and much more in the The Mechanical Watch Renaissance (1990-2000), coming next week.

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Modern Mexican Build With Tropical Gardens

Contemporary brick architecture is combined with traditional style stone walls within the build of this house located in Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico. Put together by AE Arquitectos, the classic parts give a nod to the rich history of Jalisco, because after all, ‘Jalisco es México’. The home utilises vast amounts of planting to feather the sharp edged exterior. A central courtyard has been wrapped in glazed walls, providing lush green tropical decor to the interior of the home. The dominant presence of plants in this home design makes perfect sense with the biodiversity of the Jalisco area, which contains all five of Mexico’s natural ecosystems.

Our first glance of the home shows us right off the bat that this is architecture at the cutting edge, but its linear modern design is juxtaposed somewhat by rustic stone walls that support the upper volumes.

By night we can further appreciate the visual warmth granted by the exterior stonework. We also get a better look at the internal courtyard located on the opposite side of the sprawling open plan living room, kitchen and dining space.

The garden around the outdoor pool is smooth lawn but we can already see moments of planting emerging at the borders and over a stone balcony wall.

Exterior strip lighting runs around the edge of the outdoor swimming pool and along the perimeter of the neatly manicured lawn. Further strips of light trim the set of exterior steps to improve safety underfoot in low lighting conditions. The ground level lighting also provides a cosy glow and makes the outside of the home a usable area throughout the nighttime hours rather than just during the day.

Beyond the length of the swimming pool, the garden is defined by low level chunky stone walls that match the exterior of the home. These are raised flowers beds to provide further opportunity for including a variety of plant species into the garden scheme. The lawn that begins poolside sweeps down through these raised flower beds, creating a soft grassy pathway.

The plants in the raised flower beds, which thrive on the opposite side to the pool and the house, have their own special lighting here too.

For the first time here we can also note that the outdoor swimming pool is not just a long and narrow lap pool but actually an L-shaped design that wraps around the deck. The wooden pool deck has raised stone flower beds adjacent to the outdoor dining area. Opposite we can see that the garden melds into trees. Jalisco has tropical deciduous & thorn forests, tropical evergreen forests, and temperate forests with pine, fir and oak trees, as well as its grasslands, plus arid and semi arid scrublands.

Moving to the interior of this design, it’s possible to see that the classic stone walls continue within. The home has retractable glass walls to enable a seamless indoor-outdoor living style that works perfectly for warm climates. The living room opens fully on both sides, allowing the homeowners to have unrestricted access to the central tropical courtyard and to the garden that includes the pool.

The upstairs of this home is presented as a mezzanine level. Downstairs, furniture materials are all very natural and neutral, allowing the calming natural greenery to be the ultimate focal point.

The internal courtyard has an arrangement of wooden walkways running through the groupings of plants. The level planking is set to encourage short wanders through nature, and creates a place for a calming little pitstop hidden amongst the leaves whilst taking in a breath of fresh air.

Here too we see subtle yet effective use of warm exterior lighting, showcasing the details of a natural beauty spot.

An internal courtyard balcony is decorated with planting to work in tandem with the lower level, creating a dual level courtyard effect. Upstairs we see a change in window style. In contrast to the unobstructed open expanses of glass seen downstairs, the upstairs windows are quite busily framed, in a Colonial style. However the black lattice framing style also creates almost a Japanese Shoji window effect, which in turn adds an unexpected zen garden vibe to the Mexican courtyard.

Rustic stone walls butt right up against expanses of modern brickwork, crashing old into new.

Even the smallest corner of this home is accessorised with an array of potted plants.

The plethora of pants are in harmonious cohabitation with the homeowners, taking up almost equal space in and around the dwelling.

A large stripped back log bench is sandwiched between two gardens, within a warm glass hallway.

A glass balustrade flanks each side of the open tread staircase, ensuring garden views remain unobstructed. An LED illuminates each step. On ascending the staircase we pass by two exposed feature walls; one of traditional stone on the ground floor, followed by modern brick up on the first level.

Outside, behind an explosion of greenery, we can see the stepped composition of the building, with four volumes incrementally moved back.

More trees disguise the modern outlines.

Accent furniture and area rugs predominantly tie in with the traditional flavour of the stone walling rather than the influence of cool contemporary architecture.

The array of wildlife envelops the walls of the home from the top and bottom, like a hug from Mother Nature.

Recommended Reading: An Atmospheric Approach To Modernist Architecture In Mexico

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Four Revolutions: Part 3: A Concise History Of The Mechanical Watch Revolution (1976-1989)

Blancpain.jpg?ixlib=rails 1.1

Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of articles on four revolutions over the past 40 years that have created the modern watch world. Previous articles include Joe Thompson’s Introduction to the series, A Concise History Of The Quartz Watch Revolution, and A Concise History Of The Fashion Watch Revolution. This installment will be in two parts, with the second coming next week.

In 1976, with the watch world agog over LEDs, LCDs and quartz analogs, George Daniels, the world’s greatest living watchmaker, was fed up. “I was furious with ‘electricians,’” he told Norma Buchanan, my colleague on American Time magazine, in 1999. “Electricians” was Daniels’s disdainful term for proponents of electronic watches, as well as the electric watch which was its forerunner. “I was angry with the way they just strode through the watch world saying, ‘This is the future.’”

Daniels got mad and vowed to get even. He got to work in his native Britain inventing a new mechanical escapement. “Daniels had been pondering the lever-escapement problem [i.e., friction requiring lubrication] for most of his life,” Buchanan reported, “but it was the quartz revolution that catapulted him into action. He wanted to prove that mechanical watches were as good as quartz – even better, because they didn’t need batteries.” 

George Daniels

Daniels had an idea for a new escapement with two escape wheels instead of the traditional one, superimposed on the same axle, that he believed would make mechanical watches more accurate and require less service. A new co-axial escapement – that would show the electricians! 

Daniels’s response to the quartz crisis was more than quaint. It was certifiably crackpot: the notion that in 1976 a new and improved escapement would prevent the mechanical’s rendezvous with the buggy whip on history’s scrap heap was laughable. The mechanical watch was doomed and everybody, absolutely everybody, in the watch industry knew it – except, it seemed, George Daniels. Daniels was, indeed, laughed at.

A look at the movement of Daniels’s exceptional Space Traveller pocket watch.

But he would have the last laugh. The mechanical watch, as we know, defied its doom and staged one of the most astonishing comebacks in the history of industry. It was a long, hard slog. (It would be 23 years before Daniels saw his Co-Axial escapement go into commercial production.) But it did happen.

Just how it happened merits a full-length book (followed by a major motion picture!). All I can offer here, as one who began covering the watch industry the year after the cranky Mr. Daniels got cranking on his Co-Axial, is an episodic summary of some of the main characters and major turning points. This account will be in two parts: this one covers developments from 1978 to 1989; the second from 1990 to 2000. Here, in short, is what happened.

First Stirrings

There was a time when wristwatches – even complicated watches from storied brands – were considered undesirable as collectibles in comparison with pocket watches.

The first sign of new life for mechanicals in the quartz era came in 1978. Osvaldo Patrizzi, co-founder of Galerie d’Horlogerie Ancienne, a pocketwatch dealer and auction house in Geneva, noticed that pocketwatch collectors were expressing interest in vintage wristwatches. Part of it was nostalgia for wind-up watches now that they were about to become obsolete. And part of it was an awareness that their pending rarity might make them more valuable. Patrizzi decided to include a special session devoted to wristwatches in an upcoming pocketwatch auction. 

That was a first. At that time, wristwatches were stepchildren to prized pocketwatches in the collector world. People told Patrizzi he was crazy to muddy his auction with wrist pieces. “Osvaldo, what are you doing? No one will buy these watches,” they told him.

They were wrong. In his first sale, a Patek Philippe perpetual calendar went for CHF6,500, a record price for the watch. Encouraged, Patrizzi held a second sale of wristwatches. A Patek Philippe perpetual calendar with chronograph bought CHF18,000. The vintage wristwatch boom had begun. 

Patrizzi began holding auctions devoted only to wristwatches through a new company, Habsburg Feldman, which later became Antiquorum. Other auction houses took notice. Sotheby’s held its first major wristwatch auction in 1980; Christie’s in 1981. The recession of the early 1980s slowed down the vintage market, but it came roaring back in the mid-1980s (more on that in a minute). 

Jean-Claude Biver

Meanwhile, in Swiss watch executive suites, there were pockets of resistance to the quartz wave. George Daniels was not the only quartz-watch counter-revolutionary. Some Swiss watch executives had the same blind faith in the durability of the mechanical. Two of the biggest believers were Jean-Claude Biver and Rolf Schnyder.  

In 1982, Biver, who today heads the LVMH Group’s watch division, hatched what at the time seemed a truly loony idea. Biver had just resigned from Omega, along with a group of other young executives known as “The Young Turks,” who were frustrated by Omega’s timid response to the quartz crisis. Biver was aware that Omega had a dormant sister brand called Blancpain. In its 1950s heyday, Blancpain was best known for its Fifty Fathoms dive watch. During the quartz crisis, however, it still made some mechanical movements, but the brand had disappeared. Biver’s brainstorm was to buy the brand and resurrect it as an expensive mechanical watch. He joined forces with Jacques Piguet, owner of Frédéric Piguet S.A., a mechanical-movement maker in Switzerland’s famed Vallée de Joux, who had plenty of mechanical movements. 

The very first Blancpain minute repeater ever made.

They bought the rights to the Blancpain name for the equivalent of $9,000 in January 1983. At a time when world production of digital watches had just surpassed mechanicals, Biver came to market with a spanking new mechanical watch from a totally obscure brand. Everything about the scheme seemed cockamamie – except the marketing. Biver did two clever things, a sign of the marketing genius that would be a hallmark of his career. He unearthed a founder for the brand, a certain Jehan-Jacques Blancpain, a watchmaker who had lived in Switzerland’s Jura Mountains in the first half of the 18th century. True, the quotes attributed to the founder in Blancpain promotional literature (“As he used to repeat, ‘We are writing today a page in the history of tomorrow.’”) were a little too sound-bite slick. But why quibble?

The Ulysse Nardin Astrolabium Galileo Galilei was everything watches typically weren’t in the 1980s – mechanical, complicated, and extremely expensive.

More importantly, Biver came up with an advertising slogan to describe the essence of the brand: “Since 1735, there has never been a quartz Blancpain watch. And there never will be.” It was true enough. Nobody had made a quartz watch until 1969. But that was not the point. The slogan implied that Blancpain had been making mechanical watches since the days of Jehan-Jacques. And it boldly conveyed the Blancpain credo: We believe in the beauty, tradition, and value of a hand-made mechanical watch. If you want to buy a commonplace, machine-made quartz watch, go right ahead. But if you value traditional craftmanship, buy a Blancpain. Biver’s bold anti-quartz campaign was startling in 1983. And it worked. Blancpain sales grew. Biver’s pro-mechanical marketing was an early ripple that helped create the mechanical-watch wave of the next decade.

The same year that Biver and Piguet bought Blancpain, Rolf Schnyder, a Swiss who was making watch parts in Kuala Lampur, purchased another quartz crisis casualty, Ulysse Nardin. The company employed two people: one full-time, one part-time. Despite the damage quartz watches had already inflicted on the company and the industry, Schnyder wanted to continue making mechanicals, and only mechanicals. He had a slam-dunk rescue plan: a mechanical watch that would provide such arcane data as the times of the solar and lunar eclipses, true solar time, the presiding astrological sign, and the position of the moon and stars in the sky? As a feat of mechanical wizardry, the Ulysse Nardin Astrolabium Galileo Galilei, made by a young watchmaker Schnyder hired named Ludwig Oechslin, was amazing. More amazing, though, was that in its debut year, 1985, Schnyder sold 80 of them at a price of CHF37,500.  

The Mechanical Establishment

The Henry Graves, Jr. Supercomplication inspired Patek Philippe to continue developing highly complicated watches.

New mechanical-watch entrepreneurs were crucial to the mechanical revival. But the newbies were pygmies compared to the mechanical-watch establishment, led by Patek Philippe and Rolex in Geneva. Their continued support for the mechanical, while the rest of the industry scrambled to convert to quartz, was essential to its survival. 

Philippe Stern

In 1979, Philippe Stern, managing director of Patek Philippe, met with his team in a planning session for the company’s 150th anniversary, which would come in 1989. Stern made a fateful decision. In the year that ETA introduced the 1.95 mm quartz Delirium watch to show that Switzerland could compete with the Japanese in quartz technology, Stern decided that Patek Philippe’s 150th anniversary watch would be a mechanical. A very special mechanical: Stern wanted his team to make the world’s most complicated mechanical watch, surpassing the 24 complications in the Patek Philippe Graves watch of 1932, which still held the “world’s most complicated” title. His technical team got started on it in 1980. 

Across town at Rolex, André Heiniger, the president of Rolex, also weighed in for mechanicals and against quartz. “André Heiniger was a true visionary. His opinion was that the originally very costly quartz watch would soon be banal,” writes Lucien Trueb in his book “Electrifying the Wristwatch” (Schiffer Publishing, 2013). “This had already happened with transistor radios, TV sets, and pocket calculators,” Trueb continues. “Top quality mechanical movements would always remain expensive and exclusive due to the large amount of highly qualified labor required for manufacturing the parts and assembling them. The inescapable fact that a mechanical device can only tell time approximately could easily be hidden by writing “Superlative Chronometer, Officially Certified (i.e., the COSC certificate) on the dial … wealthy people don’t need an instrument that tells time: they want a beautiful and exclusive object on their wrist.” 

Consequently, the mechanical remained king at Rolex, despite years of research into quartz technology that Heiniger himself had authorized in the 1970s. Rolex made quartz watches. But not many. Patrick Heiniger, André’s son and successor as president, called the amount “negligible” in a 1994 interview with me. 

Even brands like Rolex were making quartz watches as mechanical timekeeping was under threat.

At the other end of the Swiss watchmaking arc, in Schaffhausen, near the border with Germany, Günter Blümlein, CEO of IWC Schaffhausen, was also sticking with the mechanical. Blumlein came in as chief in 1982. One of the first things he did was suggest that Kurt Klaus, the company’s head watchmaker, make a little change in a project he was working on. Klaus was a fan of perpetual calendars. 

When the quartz crisis arrived, “there was only enough work to keep me busy four days a week,” he told me in 1996. “On the fifth day, I would tinker around with ideas and designs.” Particularly on perpetual calendars. He was working on a perpetual calendar wristwatch with an automatic movement when Blümlein joined the company. When he showed it to Blümlein, the new boss was underwhelmed. What would be impressive, Blümlein said, would be a perpetual calendar with an automatic chronograph movement. Klaus couldn’t argue, considering that no one had ever produced a perpetual calendar automatic chronograph wristwatch. Daunted, Klaus went back to his drawing board. He worked on the watch, making drawings and calendar calculations and prototypes for two years. 

The DaVinci was a bold, complicated watch from IWC that came at a critical time.

IWC unveiled the watch, called DaVinci (a tribute to Leonardo), at the Basel Fair in 1985, with a whopping $25,000 price tag. The watch, if kept wound, would keep track of the day, date, month, year and phase of the moon accurately and without adjustment for the next 214 years. IWC employees took bets on how many DaVincis would sell at the Basel Fair. Many figured 10 to 15, given its price and the weak market for mechanicals. The most optimistic was 30. But IWC took orders for more than 100. The DaVinci convinced Blümlein that the tide was turning, that the classical mechanical watch would not drown in the flood of cheap quartz watches after all. Buoyed by its success, IWC decided to storm the horological Mount Everest. The company assembled a team to go where no watch producer had ever gone before: create a Grand Complication watch for the wrist. 

The Indies

Svend Andersen released his first worldtimer in 1990.

That same year, two established independent watchmakers, Svend Andersen and Vincent Calabrese, created an organization to perpetuate the art of independent watch and clockmaking. AHCI (Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants) exhibited at the Basel Fair the next year. The AHCI display at the fair became an important platform to showcase the work of its artisanal watchmaker members, who were increasingly embattled in a quartz-watch world. Roland Murphy, a Baltimore-born watchmaker, was a perfect example of the plight of the independent watchmaker. In the year AHCI debuted in Basel, Murphy graduated from Switzerland’s prestigious WOSTEP (Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Program) school. Upon graduation, not only did he have zero job offers, he had zero job interviews. He managed to get a position as a product development manager working on quartz watches at Hamilton in Lancaster, PA. It was not ideal. “I was a watchmaker,” Murphy says. “I hated quartz watches.” (More on him in Part II.)

Roland Murphy is an American watchmaker whose RGM is based in Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, interest in mechanical wristwatches, albeit old ones, was soaring. “By the middle of the decade, the vintage wristwatch market awoke with a vengeance,” wrote Norma Buchanan in 1988. “Prices began to skyrocket and speculators parted with five-and-six-figure sums in the hope that watches by what had become known as “the big five” (Patek Philippe, Rolex, Cartier, Vacheron Constantin, and Audemars Piguet) would put their kids through college.” As an example of the steep price acceleration, one Florida vintage watch dealer said that a Patek Philippe perpetual calendar with chronograph that sold for $50,000 in February 1987 was bringing $70,000 to $80,000 a year later. 

The vintage watch boom helped revive the image of and interest in mechanical wristwatches. What the Swiss counter-revolutionaries needed, though, was a boost in interest in new mechanical watches. Around 1985, they got it.

The Chrono Craze

Once the Italians decided the Daytona was "in," all bets were off.

The mechanical watch renaissance, as we know it today, started in Italy. Italians adore watches. In the mid-1980s, they started to swoon over mechanical chronographs. They liked vintage pieces but they were also buying new ones. The aviator look – leather bomber jacket and sunglasses – was the rage among Italian men then, and a Rolex Daytona or a Breitling Navitimer, even a stylishly proletarian Russian military watch, pulled the ensemble together perfectly. 

The chrono craze soon spread throughout Europe and eventually hit the United States. It is credited with creating the Daytona mania that led to shortages of the watch for years, and for giving a much needed boost to Breitling. Breitling had been still another quartz-crisis casualty. A new owner, Ernest Schneider, had taken over the financially strapped company in 1979. A successful businessman, engineer and pilot, he gave Breitling a facelift, while keeping the line’s signature instrument-panel look. He also shrewdly arranged for the Italian Air Force to wear Breitling watches – mechanicals, of course. Soon Breitling pilot watches were lionized by the Milanese glitterati as the epitome of horological chic. As thin quartz watches became commonplace, Breitling’s busy, bulky mechanical chronos defined a new watch style.  

Italy’s watch mania created another new phenomenon: the consumer watch magazine. Three different monthly watch magazines sprung up within the space of a few months in 1987-88. That phenomenon, too, would spread throughout Europe and eventually reach the United States. The magazines played an important role in creating new interest in mechanical watches among a new generation of watch aficionados.

Italy’s chrono craze got the mechanical ball rolling. In 1988, Swiss production of mechanical watches rose for the first time since 1982. Their value jumped 17% to the equivalent of $1.23 billion. Roland Schild, a prominent Swiss industry expert in those days, told me, “Clearly mechanical time is enjoying a comeback.”

Then came Patek Philippe’s big anniversary bash. The timing was perfect.

Calibre 89

In 1989, Patek Philippe celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding in Geneva by Count Antoine de Patek. The highlight of the anniversary was an auction of 301 Patek Philippe watches. The final lot was the watch that Philippe Stern and his team had decided to make 10 years before. Called Calibre 89, it was the most complicated timepiece ever made, with 33 “complications.” It had 1,728 parts, two main dials, 12 subdials and rings and 24 hands. It weighed 2.5 pounds and was the size of a softball. Fittingly, the auctioneer was Osvaldo Patrizzi. Calibre 89 sold for $3.17 million, including taxes and commission. The entire auction brought in $15.2 million. 

Calibre 89 was a turning point in the mechanical watch recovery. It made headlines around the world, shined a spotlight on the marvels of mechanical timekeeping and introduced a watch term most people had never heard before: “complication” (i.e., any function other than simple timekeeping, called “functions” in quartz watches). One sign of the stir Calibre 89 caused: Saturday Night Live covered it in its Weekend Update segment. Comedian and faux-news anchor Dennis Miller noted that a watch that does all sorts of things sold in Geneva for $3.1 million. Tapping his pencil on his desk, he wisecracked something to the effect of “Yeah, well, for three mil, I’ll tell you what it’s going to have to do for me, baby” to peals of laughter. Patek’s big mechanical was big news.

Two months before the auction, I got a preview of the watch from Philippe Stern and Patrizzi in Geneva. In a preview article, I wrote, “Part of Calibre 89’s mystique is that everything about it stands in defiant contrast to contemporary timekeeping, from its oversized pocket-watch construction, to its nearly 2,000 parts, to its nine-year gestation. But the watch is not a mere remembrance of timers past. Patek’s achievement is to have created with the old technology a multi-function watch as sophisticated as any high-tech quartz timer.”

Calibre 89 was the best example yet of “high mech:” the use of new technology to design and produce mechanical movements and watches. Among the many challenges Patek faced in producing Calibre 89 was how to fit 33 complications into a single watchcase. “That really was the most difficult thing,” Stern said. Stern, then 50, had the foresight to put a 28-year-old engineer, Jean-Pierre Musy, in charge of the Calibre 89 project. Musy was a controversial choice. “The old watchmakers were very negative,” Stern told me. “They said, ‘You don’t make a watch with an engineer, especially a young engineer. Only watchmakers – and only the best watchmakers – are able to do this.’ They were a little bit jealous.” But Stern said, “We felt we had to have the involvement of young engineers who could construct a complicated watch in a new way.” 

They found a solution to the so-many-complications problem: a computer. Standard equipment for an engineer, but heresy for an old-world watchmaker. Patek spent $640,000 on the company’s first computer-aided design (CAD) equipment. Over the next several years, the Calibre 89 team made 1,600 design blueprints, which enabled them to make the watch.

Switzerland’s embrace of revolutionary micro-mechanical manufacturing technology – CAD/CAM, CNC machines, automated wire cutting and more – was a major factor in the mechanical comeback. It supplemented Switzerland’s traditional hand-made craftsmanship. The new technology enabled the creation of a new generation of watches with high complications that came in the wake of Caliber 89. In 1990, for example, Kurt Klaus and his IWC team delivered their Grand Complication wristwatch, a world first. Blancpain followed with the world’s second one in 1991. The complication boom was on.  

We’ll review this and much more in the The Mechanical Watch Renaissance (1990-2000), coming next week.

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