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.
After over a year delay, I finally received my Chronotechna Ultimate Black watch, with its NanoBlack coated dial, cut-out luminous numerals, and black case and strap. It’s really black, but was it really worth the wait? Yes and no. It’s a good watch with a cool dial, iffy lume, and a horrible strap. But at least I got mine!
Browsing through the archives of Europa Star, I came across a groundbreaking watch I had never encountered. The Jean d’Eve Samara was not just the world’s first automatic-winding quartz watch, it was also a remarkably novel design! My research rabbit-hole lead me to learn not just about this watch but about an entire dark corner of horology.
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.
Chronotechna promised “the blackest watch ever made” but hasn’t delivered on their promises. Or, in my case, hasn’t delivered at all!
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!
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.