Seiko: keep it functional

Grand Seiko, the epitome of advances made in Japanese Breitling replica watchmaking, is fifty-five this year. Last year its Hi-Beat GMT version won the plaudits of the judges at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, one of the highest accolades a watch can achieve.

If a watch really is eternity in a case, as LVMH’s watch guru Jean-Claude Biver claims, it would be no stretch of the imagination to say that Japanese watchmaking is for ever contained inside the Grand Seiko. “When my predecessors imagined the Grand Seiko in 1960, their idea was to produce an accurate, reliable, legible timepiece,” says Shu Yoshino, managing director of the brand’s marketing division, at Baselworld. “How the watch looked was also a matter of importance, with a wide dial opening achieved by the bezel-free construction, a facetted case and our own Zaratsu polishing, but this was not the main concern. As always at Seiko, function took precedence and we have never strayed from this principle.”

A serious rival

Exactly how important functionality was to the Grand Seiko soon became apparent. By 1967, Seiko had fitted its luxury Breitling replica watches with the brand’s first automatic movement, the 62GS. And to make it clear that the Grand Seiko no longer needed hand-winding, the crown was recessed and placed at 4 o’Clock. A year later, in 1968, Seiko took another step forward and equipped the Grand Seiko with a high-frequency movement beating at 36,000 vibrations/hour to measure tenths of a second. Only one Swiss manufacturer, Girard-Perregaux, could match this precision, having introduced the first high-frequency calibre to its Gyromatic range in 1966 (Zenith‘s El Primero, the first chronograph with a 5 Hz frequency, would make its debut in 1969). With a “machine” like this, Seiko could legitimately rival Swiss watchmaking’s finest, even challenging them on home ground in the late 1960s by entering the Grand Seiko in timing trials at the Geneva and Neuchâtel observatories.

These institutions were longstanding references in watchmaking circles, but no longer carried the same impact following the advent of quartz. Electronic precision threatened to send mechanical watchmaking into the filing cabinet of history, and the Grand Seiko with it. “Everything changed with quartz”, as Shu Yoshino recalls. “At Seiko, we carried on making mechanical watches but they no longer corresponded to the high-end positioning symbolised by the Grand Seiko, and by the 1980s we had virtually ceased production. There was no longer any demand. We did try to relaunch it with a quartz movement in 1993, but to no avail.”

Pragmatic and precise

No matter. As Japanese wisdom reminds us, patience is one of life’s treasures. From the first stirrings of a mechanical replica Breitling watches revival, Seiko was ready. In 1998 the company returned centre-stage with a Grand Seiko driven by a completely new, in-house movement. “At first it was a niche product,” notes Shu Yoshino. “There was a community of diehard fans who remembered what the Grand Seiko stood for and who were immediately receptive. But nothing extraordinary. We had to wait another ten years for the product to really take off, when bling-bling watches began to lose their shine and people were turning to timepieces that suggested more substantial values.”

The context was ripe for the Grand Seiko to meet its public. In little time at all, sales in Japan doubled, prompting Seiko management to increase production capacity and launch the Grand Seiko outside its home market, winning a new international audience for this most pragmatic of watches. With the anniversary models, equipped with Calibre 9S65 beating at 28,800 vibrations/hour, and the two new hi-beat versions (Calibre 9S85), Seiko delivers precision of -3 to +5 seconds/day, which is a smaller tolerance than the margin of -4 to +6 seconds imposed by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC). As a brand that manufactures all its components, including strategic parts such as the regulating organ, Seiko is a very “Grand” watchmaker indeed.

The Women’s Section

According to Jean-Claude Biver, President of the LVMH Group’s Watch Division, “Women are the future of Breitling replica watchmaking.”

A few years ago, it was still unimaginable. Display cases turned mothers into seven-year-old girls—back when owning a pink Flik Flak gave life meaning. At Baselworld 2015, women have (at last) been given their own collections. And they cover the full spectrum, from precious to sporty, with complications and mechanical or automatic movements. “I think that women are definitively an important part of the future of mechanical watchmaking,” confirms Aldo Magada, CEO of Zenith. “Yet again this year, we’ve come to Baselworld with new models that meet the needs and desires of our female clientele.”

Zenith, who produced more women’s models than men’s models at one point in its history, is celebrating its 150th anniversary with a Panerai replica watches that combines glamour and fine workmanship: the Star 33 mm. Crafted from 18-karat white gold, its case houses the automatic Elite 681 movement. The dial, meanwhile, features a flower surrounded by blue leaves, whose center is not the customary axis of the hours and minutes hands, but that of the small seconds at 9 o’Clock.

At Chopard, where women’s watch sales account for more than 65% of turnover, the new Happy Sport 30 mm Automatic leads Caroline Scheufele to explain: “We mustn’t forget that men are often the ones buying watches for their wives, and they prefer good mechanics.” It’s clear that Chopard’s Co-President and Artistic Director strongly supports the decision—which dates back to the 2013 36 mm model—to introduce the automatic movement into this iconic collection.

The mechanics of desire

She’s not the only one putting her money on women. With its annual calendar, Patek Philippe’s Reference 4948 is meeting “the demand with the highest potential,” according to CEO Thierry Stern. Rolex has also hit the bullseye with its Oyster Perpetual Lady-Datejust 28 model, which features a mechanical movement (caliber 2236) and a diamond-set bezel. As for Blancpain, its Day Night model offers the originality of two retrograde systems (hours and seconds) that distinctively accompany the minutes hand. As the brand’s CEO Marc A. Hayek explains: “Certain complications don’t exist in any men’s model. So they should satisfy all our female customers, who are increasingly interested in mechanical watchmaking.”

Art and substance

Another equally popular opportunity is the artistic crafts. “While it’s often easier to design women’s watches like pieces of jewelry, we’re looking to attract female customers through our choice of materials, colors and the lightness of our products in particular,” admits Jean-Claude Biver, President of the LVMH Group’s Watch Division. “This is why Hublot launched its jeans Breitling fake watches uk last year and an embroidered watch this year.” Hublot reinterprets the artistic crafts with its Big Bang Broderie model, a tribute to the memory of needlework featuring fine Saint Gall embroidery—a 100% Swiss-made ancestral art—carried out by Bischoff, the most noteworthy Swiss name in the field.

Its technical production required several months and resulted in a highly original timepiece characterized by a rebellious spirit with a skull and crossbones motif, a dial enhanced with eleven diamonds, and arabesques on the bezel and strap. Harry Winston, meanwhile, has succeeded in bringing together lace and mother-of-pearl—two age-old crafts embodying femininity in their own way—in its Premier Lace 31 mm model. As the list of demands grows, wrist sizes are getting smaller, it would seem.

De Bethune DB25 Quetzalcoatl

Quetzalcoatl is a composite name in the Nahuatl* language derived from quetzalli and used to describe the Breitling replica watches uk large, precious green feathers of the sacred quetzal bird; and coatl, meaning snake. It is one of the main divinities of the Mesoamerican civilisations and the feathered serpent, its most iconic incarnation, reigned for many long centuries over pre-Columbian America.

This powerful symbol of Mesoamerican culture was the core of worship and sacred rituals. The related myths and legends appear in the writings of the colonial period. In conjunction with the evening star, it was considered to govern the cycle of time from dawn to dusk. This deity of the summer winds was naturally closely associated with agriculture and in particular with corn farming, as well as being the sovereign protector of goldsmiths and Artisans, and the inventor of the calendar.

Stemming from an age-old tradition of artistic crafts and engraving, the solid gold dial of the DB25 Quetzalcoatl, exquisitely fashioned by the gifted engraver Michelle Rothen – based on drawings by David Zanetta – is a natural continuation of the brand founders’ research and exploration. Above and beyond fine craftsmanship and the Swiss Breitling replica watches exercise in style, the ultimate aim is to enable owners to wear on their wrist a portion of the history of humankind, steeped in legends, emotions and universal culture.

The symbolic unity around Quetzalcoatl, formed by the sculpted solid gold hands, takes on an almost mystical aura and enlivens the heart of the dial that constantly evolves in tune with the passing of time. The latter is read off by the tip of the serpent’s head, while its tail indicates the minutes. Quetzalcoatl appears coiled in the centre of the model in varying positions in step with the ever-changing times of day. This fascinating vision, magnified by the microlight finishing on the dial centre, endows this creation with exceptional depth and mystery.

The aesthetic construction gives pride of place to an element that is steadily becoming the unmistakable hallmark of the Manufacture: research on materials and the way light reflects off their finishes – at time radiantly glowing like the circular guilloché motif on the central part; and at others matt, such as the soft patina on the hour indicators formed by a cheap Cartier replica watches series of temples viewed from the sky. Nothing escapes the keen eye of David Zanetta; nothing is too slender, too subtle or too elaborate in this bold endeavour to reproduce several centuries of history within the modest few square centimetres available on the dial. This historical dimension is clearly perceptible thanks to an unusual perspective that provides an aerial view of the ruins of the Aztec temples from the city of Tenochtitlan. This highly personal vision of the archaeological site naturally leads one to step back and adopt a certain observation distance imposed by the higher vantage point.

The various finishes of the mirror-polished bridges adorned with De Bethune decorations highlight the silicon heart of the patented annual balance of Calibre DB2005, alongside a number of innovations and patents from the Manufacture. This mechanical hand-wound movement beating at a frequency of 4 Hertz is equipped with a self-regulating twin barrel ensuring a 6-day power reserve, the famous triple pare-chute shock-absorbing system protecting the regulating organ, a silicon escape-wheel and a balance-spring with flat terminal curve ensuring optimal concentric development.

While some will see it as a model bearing the effigy of a Mesoamerican culture in pre-Columbian America and others will be touched by the symbolism of Quetzalcoatl, all will admire the meticulous care and detail devoted to the engraving.

This benevolent deity that has given rise to countless legends and sacred myths is more relevant than ever in the present age. Symbolising the union of body and mind – by associating Earth represented by the best Breitling fake watches serpent and the Sky depicted by the feathers – it interprets an eminently contemporary theme that will take on its full meaning on the wrist of a few enlightened connoisseurs.

Tudor hits the mark

Tudor came to Baselworld with its first two Breitlingrelica watches uk to be powered by an in-house, COSC-certified calibre. The product of a perfectly mastered industrial project, as one would expect of Rolex’s sister brand, these timepieces are hitting the market at extremely competitive prices.

At the end of the day, Swatch Group won on all counts, including ideological, and can phase out supplies of movements and parts to third parties until 2020, when it will pull the plug entirely. While a week is a long time in politics, in industrial terms five years is just around the corner, meaning companies in the watchmaking sector have had no choice than to wake up to reality and look for alternatives. Movement manufacturers can offer solutions but only within limits, hence the increase over recent years in the number of new calibres to be designed and produced by the brands themselves. Not just anyone, however, can take this road as two examples clearly show. The factory which TAG Heuer opened in Chevenez in 2013, initially geared to produce 50,000 movements a year, took a CHF 40 million investment. When setting up Fleurier Ebauches, which should produce in the region of 20,000 movements this year, Chopard had to put CHF 25 million on the table.

A two-stage approach

Several companies are nonetheless convinced that the end justifies the (substantial) means. Tudor is one of them. “For some years now I have been considering the idea of making a watch that our agents could sell at a more modest price than our Rolex fake watches uk, and yet one that would attain the standards of dependability for which Rolex is famous,” wrote Hans Wilsdorf in 1926 when founding Montres Tudor SA, the company tasked with making and selling just such a timepiece. Large-series production began twenty years later, in 1946. As Swiss daily Le Temps notes in its watch supplement, Tudor equipped all its timepieces with third-party movements, more often than not Calibre 390, developed in 1952 by Fabrique d’Ebauches de Fleurier and personalised for Tudor. ETA, which in the early 1980s became part of Swatch Group, also supplied Tudor from 1962. Its ETA 2824-2 movement became a particular favourite as of 1987.

That, however, is history. A wind of change has been blowing at Tudor for some time now. This was first evidenced by a completely new approach to the product, with models inspired by vintage styles and clearly positioned as “tool watches” cut out for adventure. Models with names like Pelagos for diving, Fastrider for speed junkies, or Ranger and its image of dogs dragging sleds across frozen landscapes. This first stage was essentially based on the image of ruggedness and reliability which these vintages styles inspire. It now gives way to a second stage highlighting the “engines” inside, and which makes its debut at Baselworld with the first two Tudor watches to be driven by in-house movements. They are Pelagos (Calibre MT5612) and North Flag (Calibre MT5621). Most of the attention is being focused on the latter of the two, for the simple reason that it brings with it a new and still relatively virgin territory, where snow permanently encases rocky outcrops and glaciers form deep rifts. Its historical reference is the British North Greenland Expedition of 1952 to 1954, in which Commander James Simpson led a team of thirty scientists, all equipped with Tudor watches.

Solid and precise

These new Tudor movements, with their generously sized “old-school” construction, ooze solidity from the mat silver finish to the balance bridge, variable inertia balance and cut-out rotor. They deliver a 70-hour power reserve, beat at 28,800 vph and have a silicon balance spring. Precision is certified by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC), another first for Tudor. This new calibre can be admired through the sapphire crystal back of the North Flag’s monobloc 40mm case in satin-brushed steel. The bezel is also in steel with a ceramic edge. An instantaneous date, power-reserve disc and stop-seconds complete the line-up.

Tudor has succeeded in positioning its new offering, the result of a major industrial project, at a highly competitive price point. Many of the brands showing at Baselworld are making distinct efforts to deliver products at prices likely to win new recruits to the mechanical watch. But at CHF 3,400 for the North Flag on a leather strap and CHF 4,200 for the Pelagos, featuring a ceramic unidirectional bezel, helium valve and water-resistance to 500 metres, Tudor is offering a lot of cheap Breitling replica watches uk for the money. The brand with the shield is out to (re)conquer fans.