Archive for the ‘Haute Horlogerie’ Category

The Driver’s Watch: Quick Overview of Watch-Car Collaborations

September 1, 2008

What is it with watches and cars? I guess a few obvious common grounds can easily be pinpointed: engineering, performance, prestige, design and status.

In that respect, it should come as no surprise that there are plenty of watch brands and models that are in a certain way associated with historic or modern day motoring and racing events, F1 teams or drivers. But more interestingly, in my view, are the (more than a few) examples of watch and car manufacturers that have really linked their brand names to one another.

The best-known example is probably the collaboration between Bentley and Breitling. The so-called Breitling for Bentley models (no less than 13 of them currently listed on the official website) cleverly incorporate design elements from the cars, such as a rubber band reminding of car tires, or a bezel motif inspired by the distinctive Bentley grills.

Another partnership, resulting in some very fine timepieces, is that of Audemars Piguet and Maserati. The AP’s with the Maserati trident emblem are said to be inspired by Maserati engines, dashboards and high-tech materials. As it turns out, the trident looks just as impeccable on the watches as it does on a Maserati grill.

A perhaps somewhat less known car-watch alliance is that of Girard Peregaux and Ferrari. The watches from the ‘Girard Peregaux pour Ferrari’ line bear the staggering horse emblem on their faces. This partnership turned out to be non-exclusive as Ferrari later attached its name to Panerai as well throug the ‘Officine Panerai Engineerd for Ferrari’ range of watches.

Among all of the above power collaborations Mercedes Benz, of course, did not just sit still and has entered into its own partnership with Tag Heuer. Initially, this partnership resulted in the SLR Chronograph only available to the happy few that can call themselves owner of a McLaren SLR. Subsequently, Tag Heuer introduced another product as part of their partnership with Mercedes Benz simply named Tag Heuer SLR. This watch was more affordable than its bigger brother, but its availability remained rather limited as there were only 3,500 pieces of them ever manufactured.

Like the Ferrari partnerships described above, the Mercedes Benz partnership with Tag Heuer wasn’t an exclusive one either: enter the AMG version of the IWC Ingenieur. An interesting fact is that, unlike watches from the other partnerships, the Ingenieur AMG does not sport a Mercedes Benz or AMG logo on its face. Instead, there is an AMG engraving on the back cover – beautifully discrete.

Perhaps you noticed that another very interesting watch-car collaboration has not been mentioned yet in this overview: that of Jaeger Lecoultre and Aston Martin. The so called AMVOX models are yet another highly desirable result of watch-car partnerships. The most recent fruit of this partnership is the AMVOX2 DBS Transponder. Apart from the design and engineering elements you would expect from such a collaboration, the AMVOX2 DBS Transponder has a very cool gadget incorporated as well: the car can be locked and unlocked by simply tapping on the sapphire crystal of the watch. And yes, you guessed it, this watch is exclusive to Aston Martin DBS owners.

If you’ve been reading the above drooling away as I have been writing it, ask yourself: what IS it with watches and cars? 😉

Advertisements

The Masters of Haute Horlogerie

August 14, 2008

Recently, I have been watching a series of videos on TheTimeTV titled “The Masters of Haute Horlogerie”. Being relatively new to the world of watches, it was really nice to be able to have a deeper insight about the various positions in the watchmaking world.

Technically speaking, these videos (as well as many other similar videos) can be found in the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie website (which I did try to find), but to me, I found it a little difficult to navigate around. But, there are so many interesting tidbits and I still had a good time reading about them. It is really amazing that there are so many dedicated professionals who are still faithfully producing the watches by hand.

I was watching with fascination about the movement designer, stone setter, the engraver and many more.  I am also beginning to wonder more. For example, in the instance a the stone setter, there seems to be zero tolerance of trembles. Any slight movements seems to be able to cause a failure. In fact, only the skilled stone setter understands how to combine precious stones with metal in a harmonious manner. As for the movement designer, he seems to have the biggest responsibility of all. He has to be responsible for the design and layout of combining all the various components and harmonising them as one.

Nonetheless, I think everyone who is interested in watches should still take a look at the articles or watch the videos at least once. As for me, I have watched them at least twice, and each time, I get more amazed and strengthen my belief that as long as there are these passionate professionals around, the watch industry is only going to get better. Perhaps you really need to take a look to believe my words? You can find them all in Fondation de le Haute Horlogerie or TheTimeTV.

Are brands being diluted?

August 4, 2008

I was reading the statistics by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry a couple of weeks ago, and it appeared that in 2008, Hong Kong is the top watch buyer of swiss watches with more than CHF1.3 Billion from Jan to June. Although it is not surprising to see that Asian countries are becoming more and more important markets in terms of luxury watches, but to see Hong Kong outpacing even America was indeed a surprise. That drew me back to the latest World Wealth Report 2007 by Merrill Lynch. It seems that for the past couple of years, luxury watches are ranked No. 1 in terms of “investments of passions” among Asians.

Countries such as China, Singapore, India etc are all experiencing record growth in HNWIs, and even among the working professionals, many of them have no qualms about spending 10k on a watch or even a dress. Its no wonder why everyone seems to be flocking there now. However, one of my main worries is that many brands will end up diluting their brand image. For example, there is a prestigious brand and it was deemed as an ultra-luxury brand. However, one of my friends recently told me that in Asia it seems that everyone can afford to buy it as it is producing cheaper models. It seems like luxury is no longer so exclusive after all.

Therefore, it was very encouraging for me to see that there are still many watchmakers out there who are still focusing on the traditional aspects of the industry. Companies that are focused on building a relationship, and not focused on building an empire. I had the chance to meet up with a couple of independent watchmakers, and you could really see the fire in their eyes. Some of them are producing just 15 to 20 watches per year, but they are more focused on giving individual attention to the watches even if they are capable of increasing their output. I just wished that there are more out there with this passion.

Meanwhile, check out some of the independents – Académie Horlogère Des Créateurs Indépendants at this website www.ahci.ch and learn more about the passion.

Free tickets to “Juwelen in het Amstel” for this weekend

June 16, 2008

Juwelen in het Amstel – Exclusive Event in Amstel Hotel Amsterdam

Invitation Juwelen in het Amstel by Ace Jewelers

This is the third time Ace Jewelers Group will be presenting the following watch brands: IWC, Omega, Breitling and Baume & Mercier, exclusively during the elegant event: ”Juwelen in het Amstel” in the luxurious Amstel Hotel in Amsterdam. During the weekend of Friday 20th of June until Sunday 22th of June, 2008, Ace Jewelers will also exclusively present the jewelry of the international brands: Noor Diamonds, Jean-Marc Garel, Marco Bicego, MeeVIDA, Baskania, Stockert Diamonds en Royal Asscher Diamonds.

As CEO of Ace Jewelers I am honoured to offer the WatchFreaks on this blog, ten entrance cards free of charge, valid for 2 persons. Please send an e-mail before Thursday June 19th, 2008 to: amstel@acejewelers.com and the first ten senders, will receive the entrance cards by mail.

Name of Event: “Juwelen in het Amstel” – Amstel Hotel Amsterdam
Entry Fee: EUR 45,– per person
Date and Time: Fri 20/Sat 21/Sun 22 June – whole day
Address Details: InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam, Prof. Tulpplein 1, 1018 GX Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Additional info: http://www.interevent.org/ja

Hope to see you there. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

Breaking News: Gucci buys stake in Sowind Group (GP & JR)

June 14, 2008

On April 25th we reported that another independent watchmaker was taken over by a big luxury group (LVMH bought Hublot). Today we report the purchase of 23% of the Sowind Group (Girrard Perregaux and Jean Richard) by Gucci Group (owned by PPR).

Please share your opinion about this fact. Is it a positive or negative move by an independent watch manufacturer? And will the other independent watch manufacturers be ‘tempted’ to sell their companies as a result of the huge sums of money offered by the big luxury firms?

Here follows the official press release by PPR:

“PPR and Girard-Perregaux sign a long-term strategic partnership.

 PPR announced the signature of a long-term strategic partnership with the Sowind Group, a Swiss holding company based in La Chaux de Fonds headed by Luigi Macaluso. The Sowind Group includes the Haute Horlogerie brands Girard-Perregaux and JeanRichard, a Research and Development Centre, as well as Sowind Manufacture, maker of high-end watch movements. Under the partnership, PPR will own a 23% interest in the Sowind Group, with the possibility of increasing its stake under the terms of a shareholders’ agreement. Mr. Macaluso will retain control of the company.

This strategic partnership represents the materialisation of a shared vision between the two partners regarding long-term growth prospects in the Haute Horlogerie segment. It will allow PPR and Girard-Perregaux to combine their know-how and knowledge base in terms of R&D, design, brand management, distribution networks and sourcing. Mr Macaluso will join the Gucci Group Management Committee and the Boucheron Board of Directors. François-Henri Pinault and Robert Polet will become Directors on the Sowind Board.
 
This long-term agreement offers Girard-Perregaux, one of the last independent, high-end Swiss watch “Manufactures”, and the JeanRichard brand the means to fully exploit their potential for growth and innovation by teaming up with one of the major players in the luxury goods industry. As for PPR, the agreement confirms the Gucci Group’s goal of building a strong presence in the Haute Horlogerie segment, one of the most promising luxury goods markets. The Gucci Group brands will thus benefit from outstanding watch-making expertise and will extend their sourcing for timepiece components.
 
François-Henri Pinault, Chairman and CEO of PPR, declared: “I am pleased that the bonds between our two groups are being strengthened, as we build a joint future in one of the most prestigious sectors of the luxury goods business. The PPR and Sowind groups share the same entrepreneurial values passed on through long family tradition. I have a great admiration for Girard-Perregaux, a brand founded in 1791 whose identity and worldwide influence is exceptional.”  
 
Luigi Macaluso, Chairman and CEO of the Sowind Group, stated: “I am extremely pleased to be able to work with a major group like PPR and, specifically, with the Gucci Group. This will be a truly rewarding experience. Our varied and complementary skills are based on common values of excellence. This agreement will mean new synergies and new long-term projects.”
 
Robert Polet, Gucci Group CEO, said: “This is a tremendous opportunity for our brands to be in contact with the greatest watch-making expertise of Sowind. We are convinced that this
agreement will create a number of important synergies for our watch brands and their further development.”
 
About PPR 
PPR develops a portfolio of high-growth global brands. Through its Consumer and Luxury brands, PPR generated sales of EUR 19.8 billion in 2007. The Group is present in 90 countries with approximately 93,000 employees. PPR shares are listed on Euronext Paris (# 121485, PRTP.PA, PPFP).
To explore the universe of PPR brands go to www.ppr.com: Fnac, Redcats Group (La Redoute, Vertbaudet, Somewhere, Cyrillus, Daxon, Ellos, The Sportsman’s Guide, The Golf Warehouse and brands of the plus-size division), Conforama, CFAO, Puma and the Luxury brands of Gucci Group (Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Yves Saint Laurent, YSL Beauté, Balenciaga, Boucheron, Sergio Rossi, Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney).
 
Sowind Group, the pinnacle of Swiss watchmaking Art
The Sowind Group is a Swiss « Haute Horlogerie » company owned by Luigi Macaluso who has been heading it since 1992.
Based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, the Group incorporates the Girard-Perregaux and JeanRichard brands, a watch « Manufacture » that develops and produces a complete portfolio of high-end movements (more than 100 variations) and collections of mechanical watches.
The Research and Development Centre is the company’s cornerstone, with more than 80 patents and a strong percentage of the firm’s turnover being re-invested in it.
Girard-Perregaux’s roots date back to 1791 and the company history is rich in innovations bringing together design and technology, like the renown Tourbillon with three gold bridges created by Constant Girard in the 19th century.
 Girard-Perregaux is represented globally in 550 prestigious points of sale and several exclusive boutiques, like the one in Gstaad.
JeanRichard is a brand dedicated to Daniel JeanRichard (a pioneer of watchmaking in the Neuchatel region during the 17th century) and presents a daring and innovative interpretation of the codes of traditional Swiss watchmaking.
 
Key Figures:
§ 350 employees
§ An annual production of around 20 000 units
§ Watches with prices ranging from around 6 000 to 500 000 Euros
§ Two unique museums: the Girard-Perregaux museum in Villa Marguerite and the museum dedicated to watchmaking tools and machinery in the Villa JeanRichard.”
 

Show-off-ish?

May 16, 2008

As a watchfreak, I’m sure you have come across people who think you’re just being a show off with your fancy watches. Or, at the least, you must have been in situations in which you preferred to tuck your watch away under your sleeve. I know I certainly have. Of course, watches are luxury articles. Like many such articles, the modesty in most of us urges us to play it down a little in certain situations.

 
In my former career as a tax lawyer, I picked which watch to wear in the office and when visiting clients very carefully. In fact, I have never worn my steel Daytona even once during business hours. Not even my Explorer I. Instead, I often had a Heuer Monza around my wrist. With its black leather band and classic overall look it just seemed like a more appropriate watch to wear in the office than a Rolex, which is in my view THE show off brand in the eyes of the uninitiated.

 
I’m guessing you’ll appreciate my prudence in this respect. You just don’t want to wear a more expensive watch than your clients or even your boss. But also apart from the more obvious reasons for prudency in a business context, I think the most of us just don’t want to be too show-off-ish in general with our watches. So I’ve been asking myself, what makes a watch show-off-ish? Where is the line in haute horlogerie between a fine classic watch and a show off model? Is it the size? The use of precious stones? The material? The color? The price? The brand? It’s probably a combination of things.

 
The funny thing is we all think we recognize a show off when we see one, but we just can’t seem to point out exactly what qualifies it as such. I have compiled a short list of random watches below and took a shot in qualifying these watches as either classic or show-off-ish. You are invited to share your opinion on these watches with us in the comment section!

1. Jacob & Co. Five Automatic Chronograph

Let’s kick off with an easy one: show-off-ish. The bright colors and the excess of diamonds in the bezel (and the face of certain models) are simply too much. Another, at least equally important reason for such qualification is the people associated with this brand.

 
2. Zenith Academy Tourbillon Black Tie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A truly beautiful flamboyant classic watch. Yet I get the feeling there would be some occasions I wouldn’t feel too comfortable wearing it considering its distinctive looks (I must admit this is a tough call for me – it’s a thin line!!).

 
3. Chanel J12 Tourbillon

Regardless the discussion on fashion watches/couture watches vs. haute horlogerie, I think Chanel managed to make a beautiful and classic watch. Even though its bright color and stones don’t make it a very easy watch to wear, I’d say somehow there’s still plenty of class. 

 
4. Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon

Another Tourbillon in this list, but this time no question about it: CLASSIC. So high end yet so beautifully modest.

 
5. Rolex Daytona Steel

Although not too shiny, not too big, no crazy colors and no diamonds, it’s not an all-occassion watch to me like I mentioned above. Probably because of the brand perception with (predominantly) the uninitiated and its highly sought-after status. Or is it just me?

 
Again, please do share your opinion with us!

Breaking News: LVMH buys Hublot

April 25, 2008

Yesterday, it became official that LVMH bought the watch manufacturer Hublot!

“LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton agreed to acquire Geneva-based watchmaker, the Hublot group, for an undisclosed amount, from Hublot’s founder Carlo Crocco and a company controlled by Jean-Claude Biver. The Hublot brand joins other watch brands in the LVMH portfolio including TAG Heuer, Zenith, Dior Montres, Louis Vuitton watches and the watch collections of jewelers Chaumet and Fred.” as stated in the Rappaport Weekly News Letter.

This is an interesting development: It shows that the large groups (LVMH is the largest luxury group out there) are still ‘hungry’ to buy up any independent watch companies. It also shows that the luxury groups strongly believe in this industry.

I don’t know if we need to congratulate Mr. Crocco, who founded the company only 1980 and handed the reigns to the ‘whiz kid’ Biver (former CEO of Omega and Blancpain) in 2004. In 2004 Biver announced that he would blow up the Hublot brand… Indeed, he created the Big Bang watch, but apparently he succieded…

Hereby the official press release of LVMH:

LVMH acquires the Swiss watchmaker Hublot

Paris, 24 April 2008

LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the world’s leading luxury group, announces that it has signed an agreement to acquire the Hublot group, a top of the range watchmaker enjoying very strong growth.

LVMH will acquire Hublot from Mr Carlo Crocco, who founded the group in 1980, and a company controlled by Mr Jean-Claude Biver, who has managed Hublot since 2004.

Hublot is a brand that is highly complementary to LVMH’s existing watch portfolio comprising TAG Heuer, the world leader in prestigious sport watches and chronographs, the Swiss Watch Manufacturer Zenith, Dior Montres, Louis Vuitton watches sold exclusively in Louis Vuitton stores, and the watch collections of jewellers Chaumet, Fred and De Beers.

STRONG GROWTH POTENTIAL

Hublot, which has its headquarters and workshops near Geneva, has started building a factory at Nyon to accommodate its expansion plans. Having grown at a rapid pace since 2004, the brand achieved net revenue of more than CHF150 million in 2007 with an excellent profitability. A very significant increase in revenue is expected in 2008.

Today, Hublot has a very selective and efficient distribution network which is limited to 300 stores worldwide.

Hublot has a well-balanced geographic footprint spanning Switzerland, Spain, France, Germany, the US, Latin America, Middle East, Russia, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore… The brand has recently been launched in China and India and has strong growth potential in Asia, Japan, North America and in certain European markets.

EXCEPTIONAL WATCHES AND CHRONOGRAPHS
Hublot offers ranges of exceptional quality watches that are innovative, very differentiated and combining fusions of materials, precious metals, (gold, platinum,…) technological metals (titanium, tantalum…), ceramics, diamonds and natural rubber.

The renowned Big Bang collection includes models equipped with automatic movements whose prices range from €8,000 (steel and ceramic) to over €300,000, integrating precious metals and technical complexity.
A new Big Bang collection for women was launched at the last Basel watch fair with great success.

Finally, the traditional classic line has been recently redesigned using natural rubber, zircon, gold and ceramics.

Carlo Crocco, founder of Hublot, said : “I am happy that Hublot, an innovative brand since is creation, is joining the LVMH group, the world leader in luxury goods, whose creative passion is without any doubt a value that I have always shared.”

Jean-Claude Biver, the architect of the success of the Big Bang collection and the recent strong growth of Hublot, commented: “I am delighted that Hublot will be able to benefit from LVMH’s support and strategic  leadership in the luxury goods industry and so maximise its growth potential in the years to come. I am happy to be pursuing this adventure and to be able to contribute to the development of LVMH’s watchmaking division alongside Philippe Pascal.”

Philippe Pascal, Chief Executive Officer of LVMH’s Watches & Jewelry business group, added: “Hublot is a strategic and very complementary acquisition. Its high-end positioning, selective distribution, financial performance and growth potential make Hublot a ‘rising star’. Hublot will strengthen our Watches & Jewelry business group which, over the last three years, has been growing strongly. We are very happy that Jean-Claude Biver will, along with the management team of Hublot, continue on this remarkable journey and contribute his considerable expertise to our development in this promising sector.”

SIHH 2008 Trade Show Review

April 11, 2008

Yesterday, I traveled from Basel to Geneva early in the morning and spent there from noon to 8 pm at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva, Switzerland. This was the 18th time the SIHH took place in Geneva and next year it will start on January 19th, 2009! This means it will take LESS than one year to receive news & new models from the following brands that present their novelties during this exclusive event.

This year the following brands were present at the SIHH:

+  Richemont brands:
– Cartier
– A. Lange & Sohne
– Jaeger –LeCoultre
– IWC
– Mont Blanc
– Panerai
– Vacheron Constantin
– Van Cleef & Arpels
– Dunhill
– Baume & Mercier
– Piaget

+ Independent brands
:
– Audermars Piguet
– Girard Perregaux
– Jean Richard
– Parmigiani
– Roger Dubuis

Hereby a review of the fair with some snap shops. In advance I want to apologize for the poor quality of the photographs, this had two reasons: some window cases & the lighting were very pour and we were in huge rush.

SIHH Impression
Impression of SIHH 2008

SIHH Impression
Another impression of SIHH 2008

SIHH Impression
One of the 16 brands present at the SIHH.

SIHH Impression
Any business is people’s business: Food is a catalyst in doing business 😉

Van Cleef & Arpels
Van Cleef & Arpels

Audermars Piguet
Audermars Piguet

Audermars Piguet
Audermars Piguet

Panerai
Panerai

Jaeger-LeCoultre
Jaeger-LeCoultre

JeanRichard
JeanRichard

JeanRichard
JeanRichard Window

Girard Perregaux
Girrard Perregaux

Cartier
Cartier
Cartier
Cartier

Vacheron Constatin
Vacheron Constantin Window

A. Lange & Sohne
A. Lange & Sohne

Roger Dubuis
Roger Dubuis

Dunhill
Dunhill Vintage

Dunhill
Dunhill Vintage

Mont Blanc
Mont Blanc
Baume & Mercier
Baume & Mercier

IWC Da Vinci
IWC

IWC Pilot St. Ex.
IWC

Today I had some additional meetings in Geneva and I am traveling back to Amsterdam at this very moment. I have some more picture of SIHH and will try to post tomorrow some trends presented at the Salon.

BaselWorld 2008: Trends

April 7, 2008

Today was my first day at the trade show and I wrote a post about the following brands on www.aceblog.info:

– Rado
– Longines
– TAG Heuer
– Ace Watches
– U-boat
– Welder

Usually when you have walked around for a couple of hours on the fair, you get a sense if it is a slow year, a year of line extensions or a revolutionary year. The year 2008 seems as a year of line extensions and as I call it, a period of consolidation. The brands are consolidating their successes. The successes of the last decade are prolonged and these are the trends for 2008 in my opinion:

1. Diamonded watches for ladies AND men are STILL hot:

Corum
Corum Diamond Watch (for men)

Corum
Corum Diamond-Ruby Watch (for Ladies)

Patek Nautilus
Patek Philippe Nautilus Full Diamonds (men or women)

Longines Conquest
Even Longines has jeweled watches and this is a special piece where the side of the lunette/bezel is set.

2. Big is still the trends, we thought that 46mm is large, well:

Longines HydroConquest
Longines made the HydroConquest in 47,5mm, see the differecen compared to my fathers 46mm IWC Big Pilot.

Welder K29
Welder made another watch 55mm with 3 time zones

3. Black cases are still very trendy, black PVD on steel or titanium or ceramic:

Tag Heuer Grande Carrera
TAG Heuer Grande Carrera RS2 Limited Edition

Rado
Master of Ceramic: Rado!

U-boat
U-boat makes black watches with black PVD on steel, titanium or complete ceramic cases.

4. Pink Gold is here to stay (it was in the 1920s and the 1950s):

Tag Heuer Grande Carrera
TAG Heuer Grande Carrera Limited Edition

Patek
Patek Philippe World Timer

Longines L990
Longines L990 Manufacture Limited Edition

5. HiMech = HiTech Mechanical Watches:

Chopard
Chopard Chrono

Blancpain
Blancpain is the only one with a real watchmaker on the fair

Patek
Patek Philippe Advanced Research Lab was the first to create a silicium escapement!

AND I WANTED TO SHARE THIS WITH YOU, THE CEO OF THE SWATCH GROUP (Nick Hayek Jr.) SCHLEPPING A CHAIR TO THE GLASHUTTE MEETING ROOM (IS THIS BRAND GETTING EXTRA ATTENTION?!):

Nick Hayek Jr.

Tomorrow more news…

BaselWorld 2008: Rolex Update

April 7, 2008

Unfortunately we did not have a chance to enter the Rolex stand today, but I promised my co-author, RJ, to make some picutures of Rolex today, hereby:

Rolex is not the first stand when you come in, but does have a prominent stand:
Rolex stand

Rolex Daytona in Pink Gold (sorry for the bad pictures, was in a rush
Rolex Daytona

Rolex Day Dates II
Rolex Day Date II

Rolex Submariner White Gold with Blue bezel (aka The Smurf)
Rolex Sub

Rolex NEW Sea-Dweller (43mm) is also nick names Dipsy (Deep-Sea)

Rolex Sea Dweller

Rolex Sea Dweller from the side (I believe 18mm thick!)
Rolex Sea Dweller Side View

More Rolex Sea Dweller
Rolex Sea Dweller

Can’t get enough of it 😉
Rolex Sea Dweller

OK! Now it is enough! Tomorrow more news 😉