Most enthusiasts could instantly name the watches pictured below, but they’d be wrong: This isn’t a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, its an Eska Sesame! By the 1980s, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s signature model was forgotten and the company was struggling to survive. Yet just a decade later, the Reverso would lead the entire industry back from the brink. This is the story of the fall of Jaeger-LeCoultre and the resurrection of the Reverso.
Almost all clocks turn “clockwise”, with the hands moving from the top of the dial to the right. But for the last few decades a few oddball watches have used hands moving in the other direction! This corner of horology is not well understood, so I decided to take a stab at documenting this revolution. It begins conceptually with the digital mechanical watches of the 1970s. Then Beuchat, a fashionable French brand of the 1980s, produces the first such watch. Swiss quartz behemoth Ronda pitches in, bringing forth an odd watch from the venerable house of Juvenia before today’s Klokers gets it right.
Although unconventional time displays are popular today, very few watches had so-called retrograde hands to display the time until the 1990s. Sector displays first appeared in pocket watches as early as 1650 and were wildly popular in the early 1900s thanks to the Sector pocket watch from Record. But it was not until the Le Phare Sectora, LIP Secteur, and Wittnauer Futurama of the 1970s that this complication appeared on the wrist. These watches are rarely seen or discussed today, but were truly groundbreaking even as the quartz revolution challenged watchmaking.
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.