The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève ceremony took place yesterday, November 12, 2020. Although attendance was limited to winners and helium-filled balloons, the ceremony once again proved both the importance and self-importance of Geneva as a center for the luxury watch industry. Although most of the prizes went against my choices, some were well-deserved and no one asked for my vote in any case!
Regular readers of Grail Watch know that I have a particular fascination with watches that contain multiple separate movements in a single case. Ever since the Nappey Jumelles Times and Ardath Long Distance of the 1960s, watch makers have used compact “ladies” movements in oversized travel watches for men. Now a modern maker, Alexander Shorokhoff, has done the same, first with the Los Craneos an now with the new Levels model.
On Christmas Day, 1969, the Seiko Astron was launched; this was world’s first quartz wristwatch. Or at least that’s how the story goes. But the truth is much, much more complicated, as I have been researching and writing about for months. Only a few examples of that Cal. 35 SQ Astron were produced, and it was so expensive that not many were ever actually sold. And a raft of other watches (the CEH Beta 1, Longines Ultra-Quartz, various Beta 21 models, and even the Bulova Accuquartz) could make a credible claim. So what was the first?
The development of the quartz wristwatch was a turning point for the timekeeping industry and shifted the balance from Switzerland to Japan and the United States, despite the fact that the Swiss industry developed the first such watch. This is the story of the tumultuous and controversial creation of the world’s first quartz watch by the CEH in Neuchâtel.
Regular Grail Watch readers might have noticed that I have begun using the archives of Europa Star rather heavily in my research. The editors noticed as well, and have invited me to be a contributing writer to that fine journal. My first piece was published today, and delves into the history of an iconic model, IWC’s Da Vinci. The archive brought me fantastic information and illustrations, as we will discuss today.
I’ve recently written about the odd but surprisingly frequent practice of casing two movements into a single watch. From Nappey to Ardath to respected brands like Hermes and Cartier, many companies have used twin movements in a single watch. But what about squeezing in three, four, or more movements? The development of compact and inexpensive quartz movements made that possible in the 1980s, and this has lead to the creation of many novel oddballs.
Yesterday I talked about the Nappey Jumelles Times, the first dual timezone watch to use two separate movements in a single case. Although that model was quite obscure, today’s watch is much more famous. Ardath took Nappey’s formula and made it famous, producing a line of Long Distance watches that lasted a decade, including special models for Muslims and homemakers, and a cool sports model that reappeared in the 1990s!
You’ve probably never heard of Nappey or the Jumelles Times (“Twin Time”) watch, and for good reason: It was an obscure model in the 1960s that went nowhere. But the idea of a watch with multiple dials showing different timezones has become a common complication today. And it all came from this watch!
James Bond, Agent 007, has been linked with gadgets for decades. From the Aston Martin to the Rolex to that mini jet, the Bond movies have cemented these images in our minds. But the very first official James Bond watch didn’t come from Rolex, Omega, or even Seiko: It came from an obscure company called Moeris, which has a surprising connection to those companies!
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.