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The Watch Appreciation Thread (Reviews and Photos of Men's Timepieces by Rolex, Patek Philippe, Brei

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by gdl203, May 20, 2007.

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  1. k4lnamja

    k4lnamja Senior member

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  2. ~ B ~

    ~ B ~ Senior member

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    Thank you Culverwood, I am merely an amateur watch designer but a relatively experienced watch collector, so I hope punters like and enjoy my designs. For me, a watch is like a pair of fine shoes. These are accessories first and foremost, and should constitute an understated component of a gentlemen's ensemble. A watch should not stand out in a thuggish manner; a huge, gaudy multi-coloured watch is like a pair of bright blue exotic shoes.

    Mind you I am hardly a shrinking violet (regularly wear Testarossa red butterfly loafers) but in some cases bright colours can harmonise with an ensemble, although a huge diamond-encrusted monstrosity is more suited to the rubbish bin.

    And agree with you, there are some bad hats in China selling rubbish, just as there are in any country (food scandals for example are hardly limited to China). But it would be tragic to overlook the very many amazing craftsmen that still exist in what, to an extent, remains a very traditional country. These masters are mostly to be found in the rural parts of China that have yet to be industrialised, and so preserve the ancient way of doing things.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2013
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  3. ~ B ~

    ~ B ~ Senior member

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    Thank you RogerP.

    Will be posting up pictures of my Cream dial shortly.

    The completed prototype watch will also be posted up in the next few days. I am waiting for a bespoke strap from SF favourite Hughes Handcrafted, to properly show its beauty off!
     
  4. ~ B ~

    ~ B ~ Senior member

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    Absolutely. Thank you Apropos and Newcomer for the responses, and let the tough criticisms flow (it is only thus that we can improve!).
     
  5. ~ B ~

    ~ B ~ Senior member

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    double post.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2013
  6. ~ B ~

    ~ B ~ Senior member

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    No harm done Apropos, and thank you for your gracious apology. No need for sorries among friends. :) (I think we have a mutual friend in Gshen of Vanda btw)

    And no worries with confusing Sea-Gull and Beijing. It is quite common among those not intimately familiar with the Chinese Big 3 watchmakers. Beijing and Sea-Gull both produce mid- to high-end watches, but Beijing is much smaller production (10% of Sea-Gull) and more focussed on the high-end spectrum with its in-house resonance watch, freesprung balance tourbillons, and recently a double-axis and even triple-axis tourbillon. It formerly had the services of a Chinese AHCI master, who now works for me on some of my upcoming projects.:D

    I did not intend my sig to read like a spec sheet. It is just a quick summary of the various features of the special movement in the watch. The whole lowdown and the full press release are all available on my blog.

    The 3/4 plate, chatons and engraved balance cocks are not exclusive to German watches (even in the modern era, Moser and a few independents use chatons, engraved bridges are used by MB&F if I recall, and almost all tourbillons use a 3/4 plate architecture) and in fact the Germans adopted these 3 features from the English pocketwatches of the 18th and 19th century. You will, I'm sure, know the story of how Made in Germany used to be a mark of inferior manufacture imposed by the English on German export pocketwatches. It was because German watches at the time imitated English watch and movement designs, so the mark of provenance was necessary to distinguish them.

    Watch designs are normally limited to the movements available (even Patek and Vacheron face this same constraint). If I were to develop a new movement, it would take 3-5 years and about 5 million dollars. This money would have to be amortised over my 100 watches. This is why I am using one of China's prettiest time-only handwound movements, the SB18 (the B24 resonance movement is also extremely attractive). My SB18 is also a special one, being the 6th and latest iteration from Beijing. This new movement is more stable than the old one and my watches are the first on the global market with these movements. And of course, for those getting the hand-engraved version, these 50 special movements are veritably priceless in collector and historical value.

    In the future I am definitely planning to have true bespoke movements for my 6 digit watches, in fact I am already developing a new movement together with my AHCI master friend.

    Thanks for the suggestions. Do you think linking a WUS thread is appropriate for a sig?

    Oh thank you, it just occurred to me as well. Yeah it does look sort of like a pallet fork.

    Send on more criticism if you have any!

    Cheers,

    Ben
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2013
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  7. ~ B ~

    ~ B ~ Senior member

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    Here is the finished dial of the Rice Paper Cream Dial Edition of the CELADON Imperial.

    The dial colour takes its name from the esteemed Xuan paper of Jingxian County in Anhui Province, an area renowned for the finest rice paper in the world for more than two thousand years. More than one hundred laborious steps are required to produce Xuan paper in the proper manner. The quality of this paper is so exceptional that paintings and calligraphy drawn on Xuan paper from the Warring States period (475 BC - 221 BC) still exist in museums and private collections.

    Note the sharpness of the printing of the four calligraphic characters, and the depth and three-dimensionality of the plum blossom guilloche. Our dials are produced solely by China's finest dial craftsmen.

    The plum blossom is foremost among the Four Noble Flowers in traditional Chinese culture. Because it blooms most brilliantly amidst the ermine snow and icy cold of winter, the plum blossom or "Mei" is a symbol of the triumph of the human spirit in the face of tremendous adversity. It embodies the indomitable spirit of the millions of people who perished in defence of their homeland against aggression and unimaginable evil, as the original Flower of Nanjing. Every spring, millions journey to Nanjing during the annual Plum Blossom Festival to bask in the sublime beauty and perfumed air of 35,000 plum blossom trees, many of which are centuries-old.

    The Imperial itself, with its signature guilloche, resembles a plum blossom flower in full bloom covered in snow. It is the honour of CELADON to adopt this beloved icon as our House symbol.

    Both the plum blossom and Xuan paper have profound connections to classical Chinese poetry, calligraphy and painting - the Three Great Arts that a Confucian scholar was expected to be exemplary in.

    The applique dial signature on this dial has also been individually blued by hand over a 300 degree flame, the only watch in history to have such a feature. The sobre, elegant contrast that results between ermine dial and ennobled steel was inspired by the fine Ming dynasty imperial kiln blue-and-white "Meiping" (plum blossom vases) in our Founder's private collection.

    And finally, with incalculable pride, we can announce that the finished prototype Imperial ticked its first heartbeat on the Third of September, 2013. In a few days we shall have live pictures posted of this watch, the living soul of the next chapter in the Grand Story of Chinese Horology that began five hundred years ago.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  8. mimo

    mimo Senior member

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    I resent the implication that wearing such a thing would be ungentlemanly! Had I not been about to order your watch, the alternative purchase would be a reasonable match to this description!

    But seriously...I wanted to chip in on this subject. We've all had the occasional irritable rant online, that felt terse and logical at the time, but in retrospect sounded a little harsh. As Nuke said, it's a testament to the quality of this thread and its participants that no jackets had to be removed and honour remains intact. We are all friends here indeed, and fine ones it seems.

    So to the matter at hand: firstly, as B has acknowledged manfully, the "Made in China" brand has its problems, and not entirely without justification. But to my mind, that's really why what he's doing is so admirable. When I was a young child in the 70s, the expression "Jap crap" was not uncommon when talking about imported goods. Considering the woeful state of British manufacturing at the time, that stereotype was rather ironic, but nevertheless not completely wrong. Japan had moved to an export-driven economy, with many products based on duplication, incredibly tough demands on industrial workers, and a competitively-priced currency. The results were a mixed bag: some manufacturers began to move their supply chains to Japan, and the resentment at "exporting jobs" from Europe and the US only fueled the prejudice against lower-cost Japanese imports. After about twenty years of trying, Japan made its serious entry into Western consumer goods and technology markets. It wasn't really until the 80s that the idea of a premium Japanese brand became credible: I'd give that credit to Sony, that managed to deliver both its own innovation and a reputation for quality, that transformed the subconscious associations of the phrase "Made in Japan". And so Datsun becomes Nissan becomes Infinity. Etc. Some people even buy Seikos. :)

    The same process can be applied to Taiwan, and Korea: initially known for cheap rubbish, now I'm personally working with top technology from the former, and as for the latter, well, Samsung is bitch-slapping the ghost of Steve Jobs and you can buy a big Hyundai V8 and forget it's not German. China will eventually go the same way, at least in part. So back to our friend B. It takes some big balls, I think, to resolve on single-handedly creating a premium product from China, when China is probably still a decade behind Korea and three behind Japan in its coming of international age.

    And I admire people with balls. I'm a great believer that nothing is impossible, there are just varying degrees of difficult (and, in most cases, difficult just means expensive). In this case, I do think B has some issues with the Maison Celadon brand, that I hope he doesn't mind my raising in public, as a response to Apropos' initial polemic:

    My concern, put simply, is that it's too cheap. Not that I mind from a personal point of view - I'd love to have one of these watches and indeed more than one. What's going into them is so full of heart, purpose, purity of intent and integrity, that I find the prospect of being "in at the ground floor" so to speak, compelling. But what I'm asking myself is how many like me are there?

    There are maybe tens of people who read this thread. Hundreds, even thousands, who've read the posts on watch forums and as a result, the Tumblr page with the details. For argument's sake, let's say there are ten thousand people who, however fleetingly, have been aware that B has designed a watch and is having it made in China. It's a fair assumption that some of them are planning on buying a new watch in the near future. But how many options do they have? How many other threads are there on that forum, or how many have been mentioned in this thread in the last month? If one in a hundred are planning on buying a watch soon, that's a hundred people ready to buy this. But how to persuade them that this is the one over, say, a similarly-priced Stowa mentioned above. This is more special than a Stowa. But it's also completely unknown. In fact it doesn't exist yet. And it's not made in Switzerland on the inside and Germany on the outside. It's Chinese. to the bone.

    Hence the emphasis on premium brand, which is right. But then the price doesn't reflect the positioning: logically speaking, a $1000 watch should be showing itself off in the "Poor Man's" thread (where I should probably be, too, but this one is just prettier..), emphasising that for the price of a Tissot or a Longines, you can get hand-finished uniqueness. And the prices aren't any higher than a mid-range mass-produced Sea Gull. That would be one way to go about it. But the brand identity of tiny, obscure, artisan ateliers, of venerable Chinese masters in exclusive Swiss watch-elf elites, of golden chatons and hand-engraved balance cocks, doesn't play the "value for money" card. Value for money is a Kia. But the language around this brand is of a Morgan.

    And if you don't mind my beating the car analogy to death, there is a problem with that: a Morgan is an old-fashioned looking car on a modern chassis, made in a shed by skilled artisans. But so is a kit car. One costs $100k+, one costs $20k. And even if the cheaper one looks just as nice, is made with just as much skill, and goes even faster, it's not as desirable. Part of the desirability, the credibility of a Morgan made in a shed, is that it's expensive. That's reassuring. It matches the brand identity of specialness, originality, exclusivity. It matches the siren song to the collector that says "only you men of taste and knowledge would get this".

    A thousand dollar watch based on a BWC movement is always going to sound like a kit car. A cheap base, put in a case made up by a small company and marketed as looking like something retro and expensive. Now I believe that B is actually building a Morgan: the Celadon isn't just a fibreglass body on top of a Nissan Sunny. It's a hand-crafted alloy wonder, with significant bespoke engine modifications and an artisan-stitched leather interior. But something tells me that it needs to sound just a little more like what it is, and cost a little more as a result.

    Apart from the price, the other thing that sets a premium brand apart from an economy brand - of similar quality - is the fluff. The brochures, the website, the fancy boutiques with wood paneling and well-tailored sales associates. It all appeals to that air of snobbery. Omega sell a decent watch for under $3000 dollars. But their solus boutiques are every bit as marble-clad and carefully colour-themed as those where I looked at pieces priced a hundred times higher and more. And of course, that's why their cheapest watch is $3k, not $1k. I'm under no illusions that a basic three hand Omega on a strap costs significantly more to produce than a Hamilton. But it costs a lot more to sell. The boutiques, the brochures, the advertising...have to be a thousand bucks per watch in themselves.

    So that's where all this stuff meets: I'm not suggesting that James Bond has to wear a Celadon in the next movie, or that B's Maison has to sponsor Wimbledon and the Americas Cup. But I do think that at some point, in order to actually survive and grow, Maison Celadon has to look like an established maker with a few of an established maker's trimmings. There are only so many romantics reading watch forums who are going to sign up at the beginning. Sooner or later, Google has to know the name, a website has to inform on a network of retailers or just contain an online shop. A glossy ad, even a glossy Facebook ad, might have to exist somewhere at least. A review on a watch site shouldn't be hard to engineer. The principles and the stories can sell this watch to the non-aficionado just as well, and at some point will have to, and that means acting like it's something for sale as well as an exclusive club for watch-lovers.

    I believe that this product can exist as that genuine unicorn, the premium Chinese brand. But for the next batch at least, a Tumblr page and posts on a forum will be inadequate, even a hindrance. It needs to act bigger, even if that means a bigger price too, and the bigger price in itself would be a mark of confidence. Get a proper website, with real pictures and a means of ordering. Don't "save shipping costs" with a lighter packaging: that's all well and good, but shouldn't "premium Chinese" mean a heavy, lacquered, monogrammed hardwood case, even if it comes with a leather "travel case" inside? And a "basic leather strap" is OK, but show some of those fancy upgrade options, costed, and at least put a croc or something interesting on the top model as standard - the word was "premium". Act more premium and don't be shy. :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2013
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  9. wurger

    wurger Senior member

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    mimo, thanks for the time in writing all this, just finished reading it!
     
  10. jbarwick

    jbarwick Senior member

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    Very good post Mimo!

    I have thought about raising some questions and points but have resisted.
     
  11. RogerP

    RogerP Senior member

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    Mimo, this is me standing and applauding that post.
     
  12. ~ B ~

    ~ B ~ Senior member

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    Whoa thank you Mimo for writing such a detailed and well-explained post. The effort and time you spent on it is truly appreciated.

    I'm at dinner right now and will reply to your post and comments later on.
     
  13. rnguy001

    rnguy001 Senior member

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    B

    Thanks for all the updates. If I may be nitpicky: on looking at your photos, some of the shiny applied hour markers don't seem to be set correctly in that they do not point directly towards the middle. (if you drew an imaginary line from the tip of the hour maker, it should intersect at the middle of the dial right?) If you look at the dial, it clearly has very nice radial lines for every hour that extend from the center out to the perimeter, but the actual hour makers themselves seem to be a little off. Some of the markers also appear offset between the perimeter 'ticks" (there are 10 between each hour marker I believe), with some inconsistency spaced between these ticks and hour markers..

    This could very well be an optical illusion, or the way the picture was taken, but just thought you should know.

    Kind regards

    R
     
  14. Newcomer

    Newcomer Senior member

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    Well, this topic sure has become very interesting. I have gone back and forth on my opinions since this discussion first started, and it is Mimo's post that has finally allowed me to gather my thoughts. So, I will just piggy back a little bit on his post.

    I will be completely honest. When I first read B's post, I was hesitant. B speaks about the rice-paper guilloche, the hand-blued logo, etc., and when I read those features, I was rather dismissive. It came across as fluff. I wanted more substance. It was only when I read Mimo's post that I realized that this is the same kind of information that I eat up from other brands. When Grand Seiko speaks of their Zaratsu Katana Blade polishing style, I am riveted. When AL&S talk of their gold chatons, I eat that stuff up. When Patek speaks of blackened gold indices, or an officer's caseback than took three years to engineer, I am utterly captivated. So why was I so dismissive with B's "press release?"

    To quote our dear friend Reevolving, perhaps it is a little bit of... cognitive dissonance? Sorry, just had to go there. But seriously, when I hear about some of the features on the Celadon watches, I think to myself that there is no way that a watch can offer that much in the way of features for around $1,000. I think to myself that something has to give. But Mimo's post made me think to myself that maybe we are really drinking the koolaide. Maybe a watch can have gold chatons and be under $20,000. I really have such a miniscule understanding of what these things actually cost.

    I remember seeing this "watch meme" on WUS that made me chuckle a little bit:

    [​IMG]

    But doesn't it really speak to a very important issue? Let us not forget that the luxury watch industry is effectively a watch-selling oligopoly. They set the prices, and their output is dictated by the market / economists, not by their watch makers. I will respond with more later, but I wanted to lay out what I think may be on the minds of many.
     
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  15. Dino944

    Dino944 Senior member

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    Mimo Great post.

    I think what Ben is attempting to do is very impressive and noble. Its definitely a tough road to travel. I think the "Made in China" label will be tough for many to get past particularly if some of the watches end up costing a few thousand dollars. People (particularly those outside of Asia) just don't associate Asia as being a producer of high quality luxury watches.

    Even those that academically think the Grand Seikos are great watches, don't often buy them. In the past few people told me how great the Grand Seiko is and that they would buy one...funny thing is that when they have been able to buy a luxury watch they seem to come home with a Rolex, Omega, or other brand more commonly associated with luxury goods, rather than the Grand Seiko they previously spoke about purchasing.

    I admire what Ben is doing and I hope that he will have success doing it, or at least a lot of fun.
     
  16. mimo

    mimo Senior member

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    I'm not sure the origin is holding back Grand Seiko. I just don't think they're pretty enough. Ben's ideas are, IMHO.
     
  17. in stitches

    in stitches Senior member Moderator

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    Been away too long to properly respond to all that has been going on here, sorry.

    Just want to share a cool birthday cake.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2013
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  18. no frills

    no frills Senior member

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    That is an awesome birthday cake, stitchyI I would be overjoyed if someone gave me this as a cake on my birthday hahahah!

    This being TWAT, I feel morally obliged to point out a few things:

    1. This being a chrono, I am not sure where the pushers are.

    2. I love all the all-gold + bracelet construction but I suspect Rolex might have a beef with Patek if Patek came out with an oyster bracelet-like thingy on one of their references.

    3. Where is the "1"? It goes from "31" to "2" - and, as you yourself might point out, there ain't no dot between the "31" and "1" (well, because there is no "1").

    Just being facetious here. I love the coolness factor of this heh heh.

    mimo - I am not ignoring your concise analysis of what goes into play when it comes to watch pricing. I do like how you wrote out what many of us were probably thinking about relative pricing. As I believe apropos pointed out in a post long ago, here or perhaps in TPP, at the end of the day it does boil down to certain watchmakers charging what they do for their timepieces... because they can; because the market will take it; because customer demand for their output is such that even if the absolute number of watches sold drops (because fewer people can or want to pay for them), their profitability still increases because they earn more revenues for charging higher prices.

    And since you mentioned economists, what I basically said translates to: dq/dp < 0 but dTR/dp > 0 -> d(profits)/dp > 0. [​IMG]
     
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  19. Hayward

    Hayward Senior member

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    Re Grand Seiko;

    I'm considering one. Either the Snowflake or the SBGA073. I think the big problem with GS is that so many models look like each other or have the most subtle of differences. I do like the overall design cues. For me the big attractant would be the Spring Drive. I don't see buying any of the conventional escapment models vs. say an Aqua Terra.

    I really like the Spring Drive. My Landmaster gains less than a second a day and its power reserve lets me manage wearing my other watches.
     
  20. RogerP

    RogerP Senior member

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    Grand Seikos are bloody fantastic. I'm not sure I accept the generalization that people talk about admiring them but don't actually buy them - I know plenty of guys who have taken the plunge, myself included. I have absolutely no doubt that I will own one again.

    Keep in mind that they aren't produced in great numbers and aren't widely available in brick and mortar North American retailers (precious few in the States and all of one in Canada). Comparatively speaking, there's a Rolex available for purchase on every street corner. It's hardly shocking that their representation among watch enthusiasts (not to mention the hordes of mindless badge whores and pretentious poseurs who wouldn't touch a Seiko with a 10 foot pole) vastly exceeds that of GS.

    [​IMG]
     
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