Wednesday

"Minute Man" by David Colman for The New York Times

From this weekend's New York Times "T" Magazine;

MINUTE MAN
WHO HAS TIME FOR COMPLICATED WATCHES? NOT DAVID COLMAN.

It was one thing when the cellphone replaced the cigarette. But now killer apps have replaced killer abs, and the chicest parties throng with guys showing how they can make their iPhones look like Magic 8 Balls. It’s enough to make a man long for the days when all you heard from even the costliest accessory was the faint tick of a sleek watch.

But these days, the watch thing is also complicated — literally. Watches, like phones, are now viaducts of nonessential information. And the more complications (as extraneous indicators are called in the trade), the rarer and more expensive the timepiece. Moon phases, leap years, multiple time zones, multiple-dial chronographs, depth meters, power reserves. One very cool watch, Meccanico, by de Grisogono, looks like an old-fashioned L.C.D. but is in fact mechanical, made of fluorescent green pieces that move in and out of slots to create those squared-off numbers. In a similar vein, Audemars Piguet has recreated the old-school chronograph with its Royal Oak Carbon Concept. Tricked out with ceramic, titanium and carbon with a special ‘‘linear chronograph,’’ the little time machine looks like something James Bond would use to stop a ‘‘Quantum of Solace.’’ Or, at the very least, maybe it could tell him when to duck to avoid one. It also features the most sublime and silly complication of all: the tourbillon, which is so complicated, almost metacomplicated, that I can’t understand what it really is or does, and have given up trying. If someone who does understand tries to explain it to you, move away quickly or you and your watch can kiss a few hours goodbye.

de Grisogono Meccanico (prev feature->link)

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Carbon Concept
(previous feature->link)

I can tell you this: it was invented at the turn of the 19th century by Abraham-Louis Breguet, one of history’s great watchmakers. In an effort to minimize the effects of gravity and instability on the pocketwatch and keep time more accurately, he devised a rotating cage for the escapement (please don’t ask) and balance wheel (ditto).

No one seems positive, however, that gravity is that big a problem for today’s watches. Even so, the tourbillon remains the last word in superfluous virtuosity, and whatever it does and whether it really uperfluous virtuosity, and whatever it does and whether it really does it or not, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and all the other best names make them, and they all cost as much as taking out a hit on your boss. So choose wisely.

Just to give you the most for your money, watchmakers put extra ingenuity in showing tourbillons whirling and whooshing away. The young and ambitious watch house Greubel Forsey makes, among others, a remarkable Quadruple Tourbillon that resembles a modern version of the Antikythera Mechanism, the ancient clocklike device recovered more than a century ago from an ancient Mediterranean shipwreck. Using X-ray tomography that allows them to peer through the centuries of corrosion and buildup, scientists have discovered that the fabled, mysterious 2,100-year-old thingamajig was able to keep track of, for starters, the four-year cycle of the Olympic Games, the frequency of solar eclipses and the entire Metonic calendar year (which was more like two decades).

Greubel Forsey Quadruple Tourbillon
(previous features->link)

Antikythera Mechanism
(previous feature->link)

So complications are nothing new. Lately, though, some watchmakers have forsaken the Old World charm of a 19th-century face for the midcentury masculinity that has made ‘‘Mad Men’’ such a hit. These include Vacheron Constantin’s fully customizable Quai de l’Ile (created by the same man who designed the Swiss bank notes), Girard- Perregaux’s Vintage 1945 Off-Center Hour, Patek Philippe’s newest version of its superthin Grand Complication and the one-handed watch by the ultrastylish Swiss watchmaker Jaquet Droz.

Vacheron Constantin Quai de l’Ile

Girard Perregaux 1945 Off-Center Hour & Minute

Jaquet Droz One-handed Numerus Clausus

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy understands the power of simplicity: the first lady of France made her flashy husband lose the chunky Rolex and gave him a simple, sleek Patek Philippe. It became an instant symbol of his newly understated presidential élan.

Then again, customizable watches like Vacheron Constantin’s choose-your-owncomplications beauty may soon be the 21st century’s most desirable status symbol. But if that’s the case, why can’t it be customized to indicate worthier complications? The size of my carbon footprint? My biceps? My bank balance? The sky-high number of my I.Q., or my discreetly low number of friends on Facebook? Or why not one that keeps track of my calorie intake, my stress level and my dry cleaning? You know, something more like a … wristwife.

But as any potential mate would soon discover, I also come fully loaded with complications.

Original article on The New York Times-->LINK

See also;
All Watch Complication Posts
All Tourbillon Posts


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