When people learn about my interest in watches, the conversation eventually turns to cost. Why pay so much for a watch? This is especially true once they learn that what they thought was expensive (a $10,000 Rolex) isn’t even considered “high end” in the world of watches, and once they discover that a modern gold or gem-set watch costs five times that much. Why are high-end watches so expensive?
Grail Watch isn’t just a blog anymore! Today I’m officially launching Grail Watch Reference, a site full of technical information about watches for horology nerds like me. It’s a database of watch movements, with official information organized into a standard format for research. I will continue to write here on the blog, and on Instagram and Facebook, and will continue to contribute to Watch Wiki. Each site has its own purpose and audience.
Seiko launched a mechanical Galante line in 2010 as a cheaper alternative to the Spring Drive watches the brand was known for. This SBLL line featured an “open heart” highlighting the ticking balance and the design focused on the city of Tokyo.
Among Japanese watchmaking giant Seiko Group’s vast array of watch lines, perhaps none is as odd as Galante. A high-end brand with a modern, avant garde look that expresses a different face of Japan, Galante features novel construction and high-end finishing. The initial Galante models, from 2005 through 2009, all used Seiko’s Spring Drive movement and were sold with a combination of sex and celebrity.
The Royal Oak Chronograph was a latecomer to this celebrated line and has remained remarkably consistent throughout its two-decade life. All share the same movement and a single lineage passes from the original Ref. 25860 to the subtly-redesigned Ref. 26300, the up-sized Ref. 26320, and the new Ref. 26331. It was only this year that a second model, the 38 mm Ref. 26315, was added. Yet on closer examination, a world of differences emerges, from the City of Sails to the Leo Messi, to the new 41 mm dial. Through it all, the Royal Oak Chronograph remains one of the classiest and most comfortable watches available.
Over 18 years, Parmigiani Fleurier produced just five Bugatti watch models, and I have come to respect their engineering, design, and finishing. With the two companies going their separate ways, it is hard to imagine any other watch company doing justice to the Bugatti name.
A recent question on Quora prompted me to ponder the common yet often pointless seconds hand. Why do watches have a seconds hand anyway? When were they added? I researched the history and function of the seconds hand and came to some interesting conclusions: They’re a lot older than I had guessed, but didn’t really become common until the 20th century.
Overall, the Mondaine Helvetica Smart watch falls short of the high bar set by Swiss competitors and Apple alike. In my review, I was surprised by the high-quality materials and finish evident in my steel Apple Watch. The reverse is true with the Mondaine; it’s just “good enough”. Combined with lackluster “smart watch” functionality, I’d call this a “do not buy”.
Some of the most recognizable and sought-after collectible watches weren’t all that expensive when they were new. One example of the low-end grail is the line of 7A28 Seiko chronographs designed by Italian designer, Giorgetto Giugiaro. These odd asymmetric watches were used in the 1986 film, “Aliens”, but were not considered collectibles at the time. Now they are so in demand that Seiko has reissued them as limited edition models in their home-market Spirit line.
Many novices assume that a movement that “ticks” more than once per second is a trait of high-end watches, but it’s actually nothing special. Nearly all mechanical watches, from Chinese and Japanese value lines to Haute Horology, tick at least 5 times per second! The smooth 8-beat seconds hand now associated with fancy Rolex watches isn’t the pinnacle of technology. Seiko and Zenith popularized 10-beat movements in the late 1960’s, and some exotic pieces tick even faster!