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.
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!
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.
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.
Given the clever retrograde chronograph movement, the Gran’Sport Chronograph is the pick of the Gran’Sport lineup today. It’s really too bad that gorgeous Reverso Chronographe Rétrograde is out of the price range for most people.
Seiko has been collaborating with Giugiaro Design since the 1980s. The most famous fruit of this collaboration was the “Aliens” watch line, which have been reissued in recent years. In late 2018, Seiko introduced another reissue: The SBJG multi-function digital models we will discuss today.
When Seiko reissued the 1980s-style “Aliens” Giugiaro watches between 2013 and 2015, collectors were thrilled. But after thoroughly exhausting color combinations on the “Ripley” and “Bishop” watches, where would Seiko go next? They turned to the less well-known 7A28-7A00 SBBJ “Speed Master” series, with angled faces inside a round case.
Today we’re looking at something truly special: A groundbreaking movement in a limited-edition watch that retailed for well over a quarter-million dollars. But there’s another story here, too: The grey market for expensive watches that are a bit past their prime, and the steep discounts that follow. The result is a $150k discount on a basically-new piece of haute horology.