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.
The 2019 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève features a grail for every price tag, from the affordable Ming 17.06, Tudor Black Bay P01, Seiko Prospex LX and Kudoke 2 to the insane Urwerk AMC with its atomic clock “docking station”. It also heaps praise on the long-running Audemars Piguet Royal Oak line and Chanel’s fantastic J12. Truly something for everyone!
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!
Once people realize I’m a “watch guy”, they tend to ask the same question: “What’s the best watch under $x price?” And most often, that price point is $1,000. There seems to be a psychological barrier to spending more than a grand on a piece of jewelry that has long since had its essential function taken away by electronic gadgets and computers.
Is the Apple Watch a personal communication revolution like the iPhone, a well-executed gadget like the Apple TV, or a total miss? Does it mark the end of the the world as we know it for watches? And what’s it like to use one? I’m a watch guy and a gadget guy, so perhaps my perspective will be of some value.