Welcome to WatchXO, the online display for your private timepiece collection. Not only you can showcase your private timepiece collection to the world, but you can also share or read useful watch related information here.

A Simple Review of A Chinese Tourbillon (Minorva TU-139)

NIKKO • 2017-04-26

Today, I am going to do a simple but special review of a tourbillon wristwatch. For some reason, tourbillon has become extremely popular. There were probably less than 1,000 tourbillon wristwatches in the world before the 1970s, but now almost everyone has heard of the term. Personally, I am not that interested in tourbillon mainly because it is pretty useless in a wristwatch. The mechanism is mainly for decorative purposes or novelty in wristwatches. The biggest issue is the price tag. A Swiss luxury brand tourbillon watch typically costs more than fifty thousand US dollars. Even though TAG Heuer just released a more affordable tourbillon, but it still costs around US$ 15,000. Nevertheless, tourbillon is slowly losing its prestige aura. The recent price reduction trend is likely due to the competition among the Swiss watchmakers, and, probably, Chinese made tourbillons.

I am more interested in pocket watches, but antique pocket watches with tourbillon are usually sold for more than US$ 30,000 at auctions. I never thought I could afford a tourbillon until I saw that the price of a Chinese made tourbillon wristwatch can be less than a thousand. I was very intrigued by this new “specie.” The general impression of Chinese made watches are cheap, poorly made or fakes. Not many reviews on Chinese watches can be found on the media. However, most Chinese tourbillon reviews I found have been positive, but almost none of them tested the watch on the timing machine (except one). Out of curiosity, I decided to buy one to try it out myself.

I intentionally picked an unbranded, skeleton design. There are several Chinese watchmakers that are capable of making tourbillon movements, and I think the one I chose was made by Shanghai Watch Company. The whole ordering process went very smoothly, and the seller shipped the watch promptly. However, I was stunned when I received it, because the tourbillon was still in motion when I opened the package. Tourbillon is a rather fragile mechanism that can break easily upon impact, especially when rotating. Of course, I understand the seller was being cautious and tested the watch beforehand, so the watch went straight into the package after the inspection. I do not know if the delivery guy kicked the package like soccer, but throwing the package around during the transit would probably be the daily routine. Fortunately, the seller packed the watch pretty well, so the watch looks unharmed. Once, my friend and I were joking that watch magazines should really do a review on how durable tourbillon watches are by dropping Swiss and Chinese made tourbillon watches onto the floor. Obviously, this Chinese tourbillon passed the first test, and that was a great first impression.

The first thing would be putting the watch onto a timing machine to see if it is still operating normally after the bumpy ride. I would be a happy man if the watch can still maintain its discrepancy less than 20 seconds a day. However, the result really amazed me. Except the 6 o'clock position (about 11 seconds), the error margin is less than 5 seconds in the remaining five positions. The tourbillon were also pretty stable according to the graph. Interestingly, we had a Vacheron Constantin tourbillon watch beside us, so we put it onto the timing machine to do a comparison, and the Chinese tourbillon was even more accurate than the Vacheron Constantin one.

I will not comment too much on the appearance and finishing of the watch because it has more to do with person tastes. I intentionally picked a skeleton style of movement, and I think this watch is great for the purpose of observing the tourbillon. There is no second hand on the watch, but there is a sharp point on the tourbillon wheel. Since the tourbillon rotates once every minute, so the tourbillon wheel itself can be treated as a second hand. The design of the case is rather old fashioned and the strap is probably cheaply made, plastic fake leather, but I do not worry about those too much as they are easily replaceable. Most parts were stamped out, and that is expected. The quality of the coating looks nice but remains to be seen. The pictures say them all, so I will not go into the detail. The only complaint I have is those fake blue steel hands and screws. I would prefer the original metal color than the poorly dyed blue color.

I really feel this tourbillon worth every penny of its price. Again, I will emphasize that this is not an imitation but a real tourbillon. It is one of the most affordable tourbillons on the market, and you get exactly that. When compared with an ordinary model of a luxury brand, this watch offers way more for the price. It costs less than one fiftieth of a Swiss tourbillon, so virtually everyone can afford it. More importantly, the Swiss watchmakers definitely will feel the pressure from those strongly performing but affordable Chinese tourbillons.

Personally, I think Chinese watchmakers are capable of making quality tourbillons; what they need are better overall designs, quality control and attention to details. However, that does not mean Chinese watch brands can challenge Swiss brands, at least for now. Take automobile as an example, even if Toyota is capable of making a car that is better than Mercedes-Benz in term of performance and specification, in the end, it is still a Toyota. Even though this Chinese tourbillon outperformed the mentioned Vacheron Constantin, the Swiss tourbillon represents more than just accuracy and design. The owner of the Vacheron Constantin is showing his wealth, the history of the brand, and even a high-class, elegant impression of country Switzerland; that is not replaceable in a short time. Besides making better products, Chinese has to elevate the reputation of its people and country as a whole before they have a chance to challenge the Swiss brands. Only when Chinese rich people start choosing Chinese high-end watches over Swiss ones, Chinese brands are ready to conquer on the world, then.

Patek Philippe Calibre 89

NIKKO • 2017-04-15

If you followed the horological news closely, you probably would know that a Patek Philippe Calibre 89 will be up for auction in Geneva by Sotheby's around mid-May, 2017. While most people might not be familiar with Calibre 89, it is a commemorative watch manufactured by Patek Philippe for celebrating its 150th anniversary of the brand in 1989. Aimed at making the most complicated watch in the world, Patek Philippe spent five years in development and four years to manufacture this watch, which has 33 complications including a thermometer and a star chart. The watch itself contains 24 hands and 1,728 parts. Total of four pieces were made: one in platinum and three in 18K gold (yellow, white and rose). Although it is called a pocket watch, it has a diameter of 9cm, thickness of 4 cm, and weighs about 1.1kg. It probably would feel like carrying a dumbbell if you chose to wear it, so it is more like a decorative clock than a practical watch.

The watch last appeared at an Antiquorum's auction in 2009 and was sold for 5.12 million Swiss francs. It was a particular hot topic in the horological community in Taiwan because the winning bidder was a Taiwanese who lives in Kaohsiung. The auction house flew three agents directly from Geneva to deliver the five million dollar watch to the buyer in Taiwan. Although this historical piece stayed in Taiwan all these years, the owner never exhibited the watch publicly. Unlike Western collectors who tend to collaborate with museums to showcase their collections, collectors in Taiwan like to stay in low profile. General public in Taiwan, therefore, rarely has a chance to see those wonder pieces. The buyer probably did not want to draw too much attention for security and tax reasons; the watch, which was manufactured in 1989, would not be considered as an antique, and is subject to a 10% import tax if enforced by the Taiwan National Tax Bureau.

The yellow gold version of the Patek Philippe Calibre 89 that will be up for sell in Geneva is the “King of Complications” which was hidden in Taiwan since 2009. Why the seller decided to sell the watch remains a mystery, but it is almost certain that it has nothing to do with the economics. Collectors at this level of caliber rarely sell their watches just to cover their daily expenses, “got bored with it” probably was the mentality behind it. Interestingly, the owner bought the watch from Antiquorum's auction but decided to switch to Sotheby's for selling. In general, auctions houses are willing to give a lot of incentives, from security deposit to lower commission rates, just to get a headlining item like this one. Unless Sotheby's was willing to give better deal than Antiquorum, customer experience and word of mouth among the collectors would be the deciding factor here. The competition among watch auction houses is rather fierce recently. With the decline of the Asian market, Antiquorum already has difficulty maintaining its leading position. Unlike other major auction houses that closed their watch auction departments in Asia last year, Hong Kong still remains one of the strongholds of Antiquorum. However, the slipping of this giant deal, especially in the Asia, to Sotheby's would be a punch in the stomach for Antiquorum, a leading auction house specialized in timepieces and majority owned by a Hong Kong investment group.

Putting all these dramas aside, people are more interested in how much the watch will sell for. The biggest selling point of Calibre 89 is that it is a Patek Philippe 150th anniversary commemorative watch; also the most complicated watch Patek Philippe has ever made. The white gold version was sold for 6.6 million Swiss francs in 2004. In 2009, the hammer price of the yellow gold version dropped to 5.12 million Swiss francs. The estimated price by the Sotheby's this time is 6.5 to 10 million Swiss francs. Personally and unprofessionally speaking, I do not think the final price will be higher than the 5.12 million mark made in 2009. First, the title of “the world's most complicated watch” was overtaken in 2015 by the Vacheron Constantin Reference 57260, a pocket that has 57 complications. Second, unlike Patek Philippe Supercomplication, Calibre 89 is not a purely handmade, unique vintage piece; it has three identical siblings made of different materials. Instead of getting one of the four champions in 2009, you are getting one of the four silver medals now. Finally it has to do with the current world situation. Chinese buyers are more subtle now after the economic decline and luxury ban imposed by the Chinese government. The Middle Eastern countries also lost their controlling position of oil price due to the new shale competition. Europe is still chaotic after the Brexit and refugees. Of course, top-tier buyers will never be affected by those events. However, instead of buying one of the world's “second” most complicated watches, a potential buyer with 10 million (rumored price of Vacheron Constantin Reference 57260) on hand may want to contact Audemars Piguet to see if it is possible to custom build a new world's most complicated watch. Record breaking is always a win-win situation for both the watch company and the customer. Let's wait until May 14th to see if the Calibre 89 has what it takes to break the record again.

Patek Philippe Calibre 89 Auction Page:
(The image is the property of Sotheby's)

From Heshen to Western Timepieces in the 18th Century China

or those who are not familiar with Chinese history, Heshen (和坤, 1750-1799) was an official of the Qing dynasty who was favoured by the Qianlong Emperor (乾隆). However, what makes him famous (or infamous) was not how powerful he was, but the amount of wealth he collected through corruption during the years. Heshen probably is the richest man in the history of mankind (not counting the kings). Although the total amount of Heshen’s wealth are still being debated, the fact that the total value of confiscated property after his death exceeded the sum of 15 to 20 years’ tax revenue of Qing government is acknowledged by most historians. How rich is that? In the 18th century, China was the largest economy in the world; Chinese gross domestic product (GDP) accounted f...
Continue Reading...  

Fundamental Clockwork for Dummies

ou can often encounter terms like “escapement” from watch magazines, or “broken staff” and “balance wheel not spinning” from your watchmaker when you try to get your watches fixed. Unless you are familiar with inner workings of watches, you probably have no idea what exactly those terms mean. Fortunately, the basic principle of clockwork is actually very straight forward. I will try to explain it using a pullback toy car.

A pull back toy car has a spring coil. When you push the car backward, the spring coil winds and stores the kinetic energy. Once you release the finger, the spring coil releases the kinetic energy, so the wheels start spinning to drive the car forward. The watch minding mechanism works exactly the same way.

Now, let’s add a pendulum....
Continue Reading...  

A piece of history that money can buy

fter the “quartz crisis” in the 1980’s, most of the Swiss (and a few from other countries) watchmakers are being consolidated into a few big groups in order to survive. Now, most watchmaker brands are owned by a few major companies, and those watch company histories or stories you read from the magazines are just marketing materials written by their marketing department. While most of those stories are true, the stories have little to do with the company now. Take Bovet for example; although not many people have heard of the brand, but Bovet was a prestige watchmaker that once dominated Chinese pocket watch market in the 19 century. Bovet claimed to have 190 years of history, but there was a long hiatus before the brand was purchased by Parmigiani Fleurier, ...
Continue Reading...  

How to replace pocket watch crystal

hanging pocket watch crystal is a pretty straight forward and easy job to do. However, the difficult part is fitting the right crystal to your watch. Unless you have various crystals of different sizes, it is very easy to purchase the wrong size for the first time. That is why watchmakers charge more than the actual crystal cost. Besides the labor, they also need to invest on those watch crystal inventories.

Before you even start looking for the right crystal, you need to measure the size of your watch bezel. First, you need to know the size of your watch bezel opening, which is the distance B (black) indicated in the diagram. If the crystal is too big, it will not be able to pass through the bezel opening. It is also useful to know the size of your cryst...
Continue Reading...  

How to take pictures of watches with your smartphone

aking pictures is an easy thing to do as almost everyone has a smartphone with camera capability nowadays. However, I often see blurry pictures when I browse through online forums. Nothing is more frustrating for both the owner and viewers trying to identify a watch with only blurry pictures on hand. Of course, with proper lighting equipment and a decent camera, it would be even more difficult to take a blurry photo, but no everyone has access to those. Fortunately, it is possible to take studio-like pictures of your watches just using a smartphone. I am here to share a few tips so everyone can take nice, clear pictures of watches using just his smartphone and proudly present them to the world.

The goal is very straight forward: to take ready-to-upload pict...
Continue Reading...  
About |  Terms |  Privacy |  Contact |  Help |  語言:
Page loading time: 0.005 second(s)