IN THE HEARTBEAT OF HUMAN CULTURE
True watch enthusiasts swear by ticking mechanisms, the heartbeat of human culture. They alone, in principle, guarantee a preservation of values. Only a few watches from current production come into question as a speculative investment for short-term profit maximization. The reason: Everything, which can be bought at short notice at a specialist shop, can at best be sold for acquisition price. And that only with a lot of luck. Things however look different from a perspective view. As a result of increased manpower and material costs alone, watches are becoming predictably more expensive. A notable example is the legendary Omega „Speedmaster Professional“. From 1993 to 2017 the public price for the so-called „Moonwatch“ with manual winding chronograph works increased to roughly 3.3 times its original price. A similar trend can be observed for all classics for the wrist. Starting for example with „Lange 1“ from A. Lange & Söhne to „Reverso“ from Jaeger-LeCoultre through to „Nautilus“ from Patek Philippe.
Of course there are current shooting stars, which promise an immediate increase in the capital invested, because they are either a strictly limited edition or are extremely difficult to obtain, i.e. with a long waiting period. But who wants to part from such a masterpiece, if it took ample fortunes or good connections to finally manage to get hold of it.
The manufacture of the link chain for the jet black Royal Oak from Audemars Piguet took five times as long as the standard method. The reason for the lengthy production time is light, anti-allergic ceramic. The hard high-tech material gives everything that wants to leave scratches the cold shoulder. The expressive work of art with a perpetual calendar, astronomic moon phase indication and week display can currently only thrill 100 customers. By no stretch of the imagination can the family run business manage at present to produce more casings and chains in one year. If possible the object, with its flat manufacture automatic 5134, should not fall on a hard floor. The material is brittle and can therefore break.
Should one of the worldwide 50 owners of the „LAB-ID Luminor 1950 Carbotech 3 Days“ have a problem with the high-tech watch in the first 50 years following purchase, Panerai will deliver a new one free-of-charge. The 49 mm large „Carbotech“ casing of PEEK carbon fibre protects the manufacture manual winding works with three days power reserve and rear winding reserve display. Thanks to carbon, among other features, the automatic calibre can operate without the usual liquid lubricant. Silicon is the material used for the escape wheel and the anchor. Carbon is after all also used in the jet black dial in the Panerai typical sandwich structure.
In 2016 Patek Philippe celebrated the 40th birthday of the sporty „Nautilus“. It was designed by Gérald Genta. When the steel icon, reference 3700/1A, came onto the market in 1976 at the price of a small car, it was anything but a resounding success. That was also probably due to the polarizing advertising. A huge step into the future was made in 2006 on its 30 year anniversary. The ticking inner workings could and can be seen through the transparent back of the three part steel casing of the 40 millimetre reference 5711/1A in the form of the company’s automatic calibre 324 SC. Retailers keep waiting lists for this watch. Significantly more than the official price is paid on the parallel market. But Thierry Stern isn’t even considering increasing production.
In 1967 the steel casing of the „Submariner“ received a patented helium valve. Marking the birth of the „Sea-Dweller“, waterproof up to 122 bar. The underwater instrument appealed primarily to professional divers. On its 50th birthday Rolex presented a new 43 millimetre version with scratch-resistant cerachrom rotating bezel. The automatic calibre 3235 with bidirectional self-winding mechanism and 70 hours power reserve is protected by 14 patents. The entire watch deviates a maximum of -2 and +2 seconds from atomic time per day. The worldwide guarantee extends over five years. The appeal of the reference 126600 speaks volumes. Rolex should produce more, but intentionally does not.
The watch revolution of the 21st century, presented on 14th September 2017 by Zenith, has several faces. Rendering obsolete the lever escapement for portable timepieces that Christiaan Huygens developed in 1675: the balance and metal spiral balance wheel. The future lies in the monolithic, only 0.5 mm high, Sémon oscillator. The seemingly complex component, produced in monocristalline, temperature stabilised silicon, replaces no less than 31 mechanical components, oscillates with 15 hertz, withstands even strong magnetic fields and guarantees daily a maximum +/- one second accuracy deviation in 48 hours. Despite a high frequency the automatic movement, assembled from 148 components, runs 60 hours at a time when fully wound. Only ten watch enthusiasts worldwide will be able to don the “Unique Pieces” on their wrist as a special-edition from the “Défy Lab” with the no less revolutionary casing of “Aeronith”, the world’s lightest aluminium composite material. Making the question of value appreciation obsolete.
ILLUSTRATION: HILBRAND BOS
Photos Copyrights: Hilbrand Bos, Audemars Piguet