2016: a #nerdseye view

It started, as it always seems to nowadays, during the final weeks of the previous year: pre-SIHH announcements littered December, as the Richemont brands clambered to fill the dead space of the Holiday Season.

IWC updated the Aquatimer range with new colour ways, while Jaeger-LeCoultre teased the Reverso Tribute Duo for the 85th anniversary of their iconic model. Panerai also introduced some novelties, the highlights of which were probably the PAM662 and PAM663 models, that aimed to recreate the “tropical” discolouration of vintage dials. In the Carré des Horologers, the technically challenging RM 67-01 Automatic Extra Flat from Richard Mille caught my eye, as did the HYT H2 Tradition, which managed to combine old and new in an unexpected way.

I missed SIHH, and the accompanying Geneva Watch Week, so didn’t get to see (m)any of these watches in person. However, ‘blogs such as HODINKEE, the Horologium and Monochrome filled the gap, with “live” reporting, up-to-minute Tweets and some rather good photography. As an aside, I really do feel believe 2016 was the year that the best watch ‘blogs pulled away considerably from the field, leaving many of us behind.

Unexpected horology from Agenhor and Fabergé
Fabergé Visionnaire DTZ

Fabergé (as you can tell from one of my increasingly rare posts) also caught my eye. I’d largely missed the launch of the Dual Time Zone watch, but managed to see it with friend and fellow ‘blogger Horologium in September. The watch officially launched in the UK earlier this month, at a party at the top of Southbank Tower, and it was lovely to see Aurelie Picaud, and (almost) the entire Wiederrecht family, including a couple of the watchmakers behind the movement.

2016 was also the year in which some rather notable events occurred: in December, the first Horology-related PhD was awarded to Rebecca Struthers; and the first Women’s Watch Awards was held in October. This latter evening opened my eyes to, perhaps, another side of watches – or at least to another view. It’ll be interesting to follow these Awards – and indeed the excellent Eve’s Watches – in 2017.

MB&F surprised us all (again) by releasing a watch that refused to follow their numerical pattern, and instead combined two previous models to produce un extraordinary whole. Like the DTZ above, I found the HM8 a little underwhelming from the photos, but as soon as I got to see it (at SalonQP), it all dropped in to place. Suddenly the roll bars, the use of the HM3-style battle axe motif and the HM6-style readout made sense. Probably.

Another extraordinary piece on display at MB&F was the HM6-SV, the incredible sapphire and rose gold version of Capitaine Flam’s spaceship.

MB&F’s HM8, and the sapphire HM6-SV RG

I think it’s fair to say that SalonQP was a little different this year. Overall numbers appeared to be reduced (perhaps in line with the sale of luxury watches generally), and there was a slightly downbeat feel to the event. However, the quality of exhibitors, exhibitions and seminars remained high, and it remains the only way I know to get unfettered access to some of the best and most friendly watchmakers in the world.

Where else would you be able to spend twenty minutes one-on-one with the developer of one of 2016’s most unusual movements? Claude Greisler, Technical Director at Armin Strom, valiantly tried to explain the complexities of the ARF 15 calibre that powers the Mirrored Force Resonance. Thirty months in the making, the ARF 15 is effectively two separate manually-wound movements operating in opposite directions; the bottom balance drives the timekeeping, while the top only powers a hackable running seconds. Connecting both of these escapements is the “clutch”, a steel spring, as illustrated below.

This clutch is attached in five places: once to each balance wheel bridge; to the terminal curve of each hairspring; and to a shock-protecting stud in the middle. With each vibration of the hairspring, energy is transmitted down the spring towards the central fingers. As resonance is achieved, both fingers will begin to move in time, illustrating resonance and evening out the timing of both balances. It’s the steel clutch that’s unique; Claude said that the production version follows eighteen or nineteen previous attempts.

Armin Strom’s ARF 15 calibre

Also at SalonQP wasChristopher Ward. The brand gets some pretty short shrift at times, and some of their designs have tended towards the derivative. But there’s no denying that their 2014 merger with Jörg Bader’s Synergies Horlogères was a clever way of growing their technical capabilities and movement development, and in doing so, leap-frogging much of the competition. Their very impressive young watchmaker / designer Johannes Jahnke was eager to talk about their plans for the automatic SH21 movement (below), explaining the new finishing techniques that are being applied to reflect Christopher Ward’s latest rebranding.

SH21 movement (sans rotor) from Synergies Horlogères

Away from the watch shows, I also attended numerous Antiquarian Horological Society events, such as Jane Desborough’s fascinating exploration of watch dials during the two hundred years up to 1770, and the AHS’s 62nd Annual General Meeting, at which Rory McEvoy spoke about Weems / Hour- Angle watches and Dr James Nye provided a rather moving talk, entitled Stop All the Clocks. Speaking of Rory, he very generously gave up some of his time earlier this year to provide a peek at some of the more unusual pieces in the Royal Observatory.

Medhurst pocket watch, with unusual champlevé dial (from the collection of the ROG)

I still find it remarkable how many genuinely nice people I meet through this hobby. While watches become ever more popular – perhaps due to the increasingly bonkers auction values of Pateks, Rolexes and the like – I am consistently surprised by the generosity and kindness of so many associated with watches, clocks and horology.

the #watchnerd

the #watchnerd
The #watchnerd: the most interesting watch 'blog you've never read. Probably.

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