Monday, November 3, 2008

SPACEMAN-TIME CONTINUUM - The Spaceman Watches of 1972-77

All obsessions have their own unique Big Bang and appropriately enough, my compulsive watch collecting was born from these Spaceman watches of the seventies.

Below is an article I wrote for QP Magazine reminiscing about going back to the future with these Spacemen.

TIME-SPACEMAN CONTINUUM - Spaceman Watches of 1972-1977
Leaving New York one chilly winter day, late in 1999, I found myself come unstuck in time and arrive in Basel at the dawn of 1972.


My time travel led me to a world filled with hundreds of Spacemen, sitting undisturbed in a Basel watch factory with no plans of visiting the moon anytime soon. This grounded crew was actually a secret stash of vintage Spaceman watches I unearthed at a former distributor of the timepieces designed by Andre LeMarquand, an architect from Neuchâtel . The futuristic watches had fallen out of style during the 80s and 90s but I was ready to fly them out of their dark Swiss graveyard and back onto the wrists of space-age sentimentalists like myself.

In the late sixties Claude Lebet, owner of the Bulle based watch brand Catena asked Le Marquand to create a timepiece inspired by man’s conquest of the moon and the astronauts who made it there. Mr. Le Marquand provided him with his first wristwatch design called, what else, the "Spaceman".

The Spaceman was unlike anything seen before and Catena introduced the fleet at the Basel Fair of 1972. The large oval case appeared to be docked on your wrist held by a triple-forked Corfam strap by DuPont. The case also had a coned dome crystal half concealed by a coloured metal visor that allowed viewing of the dial to only the wearer. All hands and markers were perfectly seventies orange with models in a variety of colours only possible during that special decade.

The watches were powered by automatic and manual winding mechanical ETA movements and were distributed by a variety brands, among them Jules Jurgensen, Fortis, Tressa and Zeno.

Automatic Spaceman Audacieuse

The success led to the development of new Spaceman a few years later, an audacious design by Le Marquand and appropriately named, the "Audacieuse".


The new Audacieuse was angular yet aerodynamic, looking more like an early miniature prototype of a B2 Stealth Bomber than a watch. The extreme design was square with a hooded dial, similar to the original semi-sideview concept. The straps were oversized and wide as the case itself, available in stainless steel or colored leather. A few very rare models with mechanical jump hour digital displays were also out there and a few quartz-digital "Spacesonic" were produced until the Spaceman series came to an end in 1977. Having completed his mission, the Spaceman stepped aside for the next giant leap in timekeeping – light emitting diodes (LED) and liquid crystal displays (LCD).

1977 LCD "Spacesonic"

My close-encounter with the past was fuelled by reading Pieter Doensen's rare book, "Watch - History of the Modern Wrist Watch". This was been my launch pad to the world of vintage-modern watch design and technology and it has been described as the "the first comprehensive study of the collectible modern wrist watch". Flipping through the book, one can feast their eyes on Richard Arbib's Hamilton Electrics of the fifties & sixties, Roger Tallon's LIP Mach 2000's of the seventies and a multitude of other horological advancements over the past fifty years. But it was the futuristic charm of Andre LeMarquand's Spaceman that first abducted my interests.


All White Spaceman Audacieuse
(manual winding)

Very Collectible Audacieuse with Lighting Display

Gloss Burgundy Audacieuse

Leather/Woodgrain Audacieuse

Ultra-Rare Tiger Eye Dial Version

Assorted shots of the Audacieuse

VERY RARE Spaceman Jump Hours (above)

Prototype Dynamic Scattering LCD Spacesonic

Inner dial of the Spaceman Oval


On-the-wrist Shots

Brown Oval (Corfam Straps)

Blue Oval

Red Oval

Original Spaceman Advertising (Click to view)

Spaceman Watches

| Watchismo Blog | Watchismo Shop | Send us tips | Subscribe |

Monday, October 27, 2008

Harvest Moonphase - Sarpaneva's Korona K3 Red Moon


The red hued harvest Moon is something typical for Europe during this period of the year, and with the fall just having started in Europe, and Halloween only a few days away, it's a perfect time for Finnish watchmaker Stepan Sarpaneva to introduce his KORONA K3 RED MOON. It differs from all the other Sarpaneva models currently available, in that it sports a black DLC treated case combined with an 18-carat red gold moonphase indication, marking the first entrance of the use of red gold within the Sarpaneva collection in a dramatic combination.


Stepan Sarpaneva: “People ask me where the idea came from for the KORONA dial, and it is a typical story for me. One night really late, walking home with my friends, the Moon was full and bright and shining on the circular, open worked and rusty iron gratings that surround the base of the trees on the street near my home. For some reason those details just popped into my head and stayed there. So, next day I started drawing and playing with the form; made a paper cutout of such an open-worked shape and began piling them one over the other, and those kinds of things. When I repeated this with metal parts, a friend of mine noticed that it also began to have something suggestive of the outward shimmering, the corona, around the Sun’s edge during a solar eclipse. That’s how the dial of the KORONA series was formed – just a passing glance at something that you normally see every single day – but somehow never really notice.” The Moonphase indication of the KORONA K3 grew from that departure point. “The open grates of the dial, despite the metalwork, also were suggestive of a forest, or a cloudy night-time sky, or outer space somehow. I realized that by putting the Moon under this dial it would allow you to actually ‘see’ the moon approaching its phases – this is something quite simple really, but which I personally have never seen in a wristwatch before. So said, so done, and the only question was how the Moon should look.”

Some writers have commented on the Moon’s somber face in the KORONA K3, but Stepan has other ideas about that.

Stepan: “You know, here in Finland, we are not a very extrovert kind of people. Maybe it has to do with our past history and having been taken over by the Swedes and then the Russians, but everyone here floats around with an aura of slight melancholy – I don’t know how else to describe it. So a smiling moon was out of the question, also because a Moonphase smiling at me all the time is too much like those yellow smiley faces they put in emails. So I decided to give the Moon an aura of aristocratic melancholy, with a bit of indecision as to whether he is basically happy or sad in nature. The expression of the Moon on the KORONA K3 just ‘is’ – same as the Finnish people here, and I think it fits the fall period perhaps the most of all.”


Creating the two deep hued, 18-carat red gold Moonphase discs for the KORONA K3 RED MOON itself is also a complicated task. The first dilemma concerns the dimensions, as the face is only 0.4mm thick yet has four levels of elevation. The first step requires creating a drawing six times the actual size, followed by cutting a rough model from plate stock, one piece corresponding to each level of elevation of the oversized model. These parts are then fixed together to form the model plate for the pantograph, which will mill the shapes into a small piece of copper the actual size of the Moonphase indicator. This copper version, which will serve later as an electrode, is then cleaned up and fine-tuned by a master engraver before the contours are electro etched 0.4mm deep into a steel pressing block, thus creating a negative image of the face. Last, the eyes are modeled by hand into the negative image and the whole is finished by a master engraver and diamond polished before undergoing hardening. This is followed by yet another polishing. Only now can the production of the Moonphase begin. The whole process from drawing to finished Moon takes a specialist company, also located in Finland, about two weeks to complete.


Sarpaneva Watches is Finland’s only mechanical watchmaking company, solely dedicated to the design and production of mechanical wristwatches. Located in the country’s capital Helsinki, the workshop was started in 2003 by Stepan Sarpaneva after years of training in both Finland and Switzerland that covered watchmaking in all its varieties, including hands on experience at several of Switzerland’s major houses with highly specialized work on complications. The Sarpaneva workshop’s philosophy towards watchmaking is firmly anchored within Stepan Sarpaneva’s deep desire to express himself in more ways then solely through the purely mechanical side of watchmaking. For this reason his firm’s foundation is to unite a long-term and timeless visual design concept together with that of high quality mechanical watchmaking. Unlike the majority of brands on the market today, this is a fundamental aspect that sets Sarpaneva Watches apart from the rest; here is one man with the ability to create novel wristwatch designs as well as unite them with the mechanical know-how of a master watchmaker.

Sarpaneva website-->Link

See Also;
All Sarpaneva Posts at The Watchismo Times

| Watchismo Blog | Watchismo Shop | Send us tips | Subscribe |

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Clone of Vianney Halter's One-of-a-Kind Satellarium

A unique Vianney Halter piece will be on show during Salon Belles Montres in Paris (27th to 30th of November).

In 2001 Halter realized a series of 108 Jumping Hour and Moonphase Watches
for Egana Goldpfeil.

The “Faces of Time” project also included a one-of-a-kind watch. For that one, Halter imagined and realized a very special timepiece that was called “Satellarium” due to his very special shape. For this, Vianney worked with the french designer Pascal Pagès who also contributed to the JHMP and to the Opus 3.

This piece is like 3 round cases linked together and inserted into a structure. In the larger case is the Hour and Minute display while in the lower “satellite” case is the moonphase and in the upper “satellite” case is a very unexpected thermometer. The whole is in platinum and powered with an automatic movement.

This unique piece was delivered to Goldpfeil in 2001 and sold. As far as we know, it now belongs to a Russian collector. It was rumored to be for sale four years ago for $450,000 USD.

But the truth is this piece is not that unique as Vianney also made a back-up piece so as to secure the delivery to Goldpfeil. This piece is slightly different than the one delivered to Goldpfeil as only “Vianney Halter” brand name appeared on it while the other one was branded “Gold / Pfeil” on the main dial.

Via Horomundi

The original Goldpfeil Satellarium

Vianney's Jump Hour "JHMP" for Goldpfeil

Vianney Halter's landmark Antiqua

Vianney Halter Website-->Link

See Also;
All Related Vianney Halter Posts on The Watchismo Times-->Link

| Watchismo Blog | Watchismo Shop | Contact Us | Subscribe |

Monday, October 20, 2008

Japanese Oddvertisements of Seiko in the Early Eighties

A memoriam of dead rock stars and seiko watches...very strange indeed, especially when they show a pool for Brian Jones. I was totally expecting to see a toilet for Elvis. Their point? Maybe if they wore a Seiko, their time wouldn't have run out?? Video-->Link

A group of three commercials that include Mary Lou Retton creeping out a Doberman, A supercool car with hydrolic watch storage and lastly a commercial that can only be seen, not described. Video-->Link

Caffeinated watches! Video-->Link

Creepy sweating cracking mannequins. Video-->Link

Time-lapse decomposing watches. Video-->Link

See Also;
All Watch Commercials at The Watchismo Times-->Link

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

First Look at the HM3 - Horological Machine No 3 Starcruiser & Sidewinder!

I was lucky enough to be one of the first people in the world to see the latest from Maximilian
Büsser & Friends this morning. Max and Stephen Hallock of MB&F met me for breakfast at NYC's Brasserie to unveil the coolest Horological Machines yet. I hate to use one word to describe the HM3 Sidewinder and Starcruiser, but here it is... WOW.

Summed up, this watch has two variations. The red gold Starcruiser (above) and white gold Sidewinder (below) with two sapphire cones rising up from the case to reveal hours and day/night indicator and the other cone for minutes - transmitted via ceramic ball bearings to laser-cut hands and visible as a drivers style watch, on the side. Each watch shown here displays 10:45 am.

But what really sets it apart is the fact the movement with automatic rotor is upside down! No more turning your watch over to show off its most essential element. The signature Grendizer battle axe rotor swings wildly under each dome adding to the many layers of the most dimensionally effective Horological Machine to date.

The date wheel surrounds the movement through each dome and indicated by an arrow cut into the case.

Two styles are available in both red gold and white gold. The Starcruiser has both cones on the inside of your wrist and the Sidewinder with cones vertically next to your hand. Both are read easily without turning your wrist. Great when you're driving so fast you can't take your eyes off the road...or sky.

HM3 Starcrusier & Sidewinder

MB&F Website-->LINK

See Also;
All Max Busser & MB&F Posts-->Link

Press release;

Horological Machine No3

Warning! Horological Machine No3 (HM3) is so far outside existing timekeeping references that it may cause sensory overload. The mind first attempts to take in the kinetically active movement, paradoxically seen in all its glory on the top of the watch and partially circumscribed by a ring of large numerals. However before that information can be processed it is assailed yet again, this time by twin cones rising majestically from the sculptured three-dimensional case. No wonder many struggle to reconcile the reality that this dynamic sculpture is actually a highly technical wristwatch that tells the time and date.

Welcome to the world of MB&F!
Individualists demand choice, so HM3 is available in two versions: ‘Sidewinder’, with cones lined perpendicular to the arm and ‘Starcruiser’, with cones in line with the arm. Each version has its own very distinct visual characteristics and each offers its own angle on telling the time.

The twin cones respectively indicate hours and minutes, with the hour cone capped by a day/night indicator. An over-sized date wheel allows for large, legible numbers with the date indicated by a neatly engraved triangle on its perimeter.
However, it is the spectacular open-air theatre presented by the finely finished movement, with its swinging battle-axe shaped automatic rotor and fast oscillating balance wheel, which mesmerises the eye and astounds the senses.
Turning the watch over reveals the technical secret behind HM3’s inverted movement: two large high-tech ceramic bearings efficiently transmitting power up to the cones and date wheel.

About MB&F

After decades learning and conforming to the corporate rules of watchmaking, Maximilian Büsser broke the chains and started a rebellion - a rebellion called MB&F. MB&F is an artistic and micro-engineering concept laboratory in which collectives of independent horological professionals are assembled each year to design and craft radical Horological Machines.
The ramifications of these audacious projects are profound. Respecting tradition but not shackled by it, MB&F fuses traditional high-quality watchmaking with cutting-edge technology to create three-dimensional kinetic sculptures.

Horological Machine No3 is the third chapter in the story of MB&F’s horological revolution; it is a story of adventure, of excitement and of passion.

“The Earth is a cradle of the mind, but we cannot live forever in a cradle.”
-Konstantin E. Tsiolkovsky, Father of Russian Astronautics, 1896.

Inspiration and Realization: Horological Machine No3 was developed to display the machine’s beautifully finished movement in operation. Harmoniously crafted bridges, rapidly oscillating balance wheel, gearing and distinctive battle-axe shaped automatic winding rotor are all open to view. This allows the wearer to fully appreciate the art and craft that makes up HM3 and draws the viewer’s gaze inside the highly complex machine; a machine comprising more than 300 fine-finished, high-precision components.

The movement of HM3 has been literally turned upside down to allow for an uninterrupted panorama of the solid gold winding rotor’s graceful arcs and the high-speed oscillations of the balance wheel. Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, winner of the inaugural award for Best Watchmaker at the 2007 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, was entrusted with turning the drawings and designs of Max Büsser and designer Eric Giroud into horological reality and, with his team at Agenhor, he not only met but surpassed the challenge.

White gold Starcruiser

Starcruiser and Sidewinder: MB&F’s Horological Machines are for individualists who demand art, craft, excellence, exclusivity . . . and choice. To cater to these demanding aficionados, Horological Machine No3 is available in two versions: ‘Sidewinder’, with its cones lined perpendicular to the arm and ‘Starcruiser’, with its cones in line with the arm. Just like their potential owners, each is very special, each is very different.

Red Gold Sidewinder

The three-dimensional time-indicating cones allow for telling the time at a glance, whether driving or typing; however, the fact that nothing like them had ever been attempted before in horology posed considerable challenges. The top caps of the truncated cones are brazed (not glued) to ensure maximum water-resistance and the red ‘hands’ of the hour and minute indicators had to be cut by laser to obtain the incredibly high precision with minimum mass that the design necessitated.

The over-sized date wheel is actually a larger diameter than the movement, a fact that allows for very legible and well spaced 2.5mm high numbers. A neat triangle engraved into the top of the case marks the date.

Exposed automatic rotor, domes and hands

Mystery Rotor: the prominence of the 22K solid gold battle-axe shaped rotor on the dial of HM3 is certain to increase the recognition of this already iconic MB&F symbol. The rotor is a ‘mystery’ because it appears to defy the laws of physics in being symmetrically balanced instead of having a visibly off-centred mass. This is achieved by machining the underside of one arm to a razor-thin edge so reducing its mass.

“The knack of flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”
-Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Horological Machine No3
Technical Innovations:

Ceramic Bearings: Time indications are usually located on the top, or dial side, of a movement. As the movement of HM3 is inverted to display its operation, an efficient solution was needed to bring power from the bottom of the movement to the timekeeping cones and date wheel at the top. Standard pinions set in jewels would have required complex, friction-generating gearing, and would require support top and bottom – a factor which would increase the height of the movement, and thus the watch. So instead of standard jewelled pinions, HM3 features two large-diameter (15mm) high-tech ceramic bearings. These minimize the number of gear-wheels (and thus friction) because of their large diameter and, as they only require support at one end (the base) due to the rigidity resulting from their ultra-high precision design and manufacture, they allow for a thinner movement.

Large Date: The over-sized date ring has a diameter larger than the movement. While the design allows for large (2.5mm high) easy-to-read numbers, the considerable distance between each number, while aiding legibility, required great ingenuity in enabling the date to be adjusted. Technical constraints in using the crown to operate the date meant that a pusher was called for; however, a pusher has an approximate travel of only 1mm – far short of the 4mm needed to move the date wheel from one day to the next. An ingenious system of amplifying the pusher’s travel was developed using efficient gearing to multiply by four the distance travelled by the pusher.


Sapphire cones: Three-dimensional cones have never been used to display time before, and no wonder as their manufacture was said to be impossible. Fortunately the impossible just took a little longer. The difficulty lay not in actually fabricating the cones, but in polishing the interior of their (originally) translucent surface until transparent. The caps of the truncated cones are brazed (a high temperature soldering technique) to their gold rims, a technique which is aesthetically pleasing and ensures a solid and waterproof construction.

Screw heads: Perfection lies in the details, form follows function. Those two statements explain both the reason MB&F has gone to the effort of redesigning the slots of the case screws and their unusual cloverleaf shape. Sharp-edge shaped screw slots require sharp-edge shaped screwdrivers, a tool tailor-made for scratching polished gold screws. The rounded cloverleaf pattern in the head of HM3 screws is not only pleasing to the eye, it reduces the chances of damage to the screw. Horological Machines are micro-mechanical works of art and demand that each and every component both looks superb and functions impeccably.

Case and finish: Though totally original in design, the double indications, idiosyncratic play of matt and polished finished surfaces, iconic mystery rotor and slope-sided case ensure that HM3 is unmistakeably, 100 per cent pure Horological Machine.

"Traveling through hyper-space ain't like dustin' crops, boy."
Han Solo in Star Wars

Horological Machine No3 – Technical Specifications


Three-dimensional horological engine designed by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht/Agenhor;
Girard-Perregaux oscillator and gear
Balance oscillating at 28,800 bph.
22k rose gold battle-axe shaped ‘mystery’ automatic winding rotor
Hour and minutes information transmitted via ceramic ball bearings to laser-cut hands.

Number of jewels: 36 (all functional)
Number of components: 304


Hour and day/night indicator on one cone
Minutes on second cone
Date around the movement


2 versions: Starcruiser (cones in line with arm)
Sidewinder (cones perpendicular to arm)

Both versions available in 18k white gold/ titanium or 18k red gold/titanium.
Screwed-down crown
Dimensions (exclusive of crown and lugs): 47mm x 50mm x 16mm
Number of case components: 53 - Starcruiser , 57 - Sidewinder

Sapphire crystals:

Cones and both display backs with anti-reflective treatment on both faces.

Strap & Buckle:

Black hand-stitched alligator with 18k gold and titanium custom designed deployment buckle.

MB&F Team

'Friends' responsible for Horological Machine No3

Concept: Maximilian Büsser/MB&F

Product Design: Eric Giroud – Eric Giroud Design Studio

Technical and Production Management: Serge Kriknoff/MB&F

Movement Development: Jean-Marc Wiederrecht/Agenhor, Nicolas Stalder/Agenhor

Movement manufacturing: Georges Auer/Mecawatch, Salvatore Ferrarotto/APR Quality

Ceramic ball bearings: Patrice Parietti/MPS

Movement assemblage: Didier Dumas/MB&F, Gilles Dalloz/Agenhor

Case and buckle construction and production: Philippe Marti, Dominique Mainier and Stéphane Lhomme of G.F.Châtelain

Sapphire cones: Sébastien Sangsue and Grégory Esseric/Sebal, Peter Bloesch/Bloesch

Dials: François Bernhard and Denis Parel of Nateber

Hands: Pierre Chillier, Isabelle Chillier and Félix Celetta of Fiedler

Strap: Olivier Purnot/Camille Fournet

Presentation case: Frédéric Legendre/Lekoni, Isabelle Vaudaux/Vaudaux


Graphic Design - Alban Thomas and Gérald Moulière of GVA Studio
Product Photography - Maarten van der Ende
Display Architecture - Frédéric Legendre/Lekoni
Portrait Photography - Régis Golay/Federal
Webmasters - Stéphane Balet and Guillaume Schmitz of Sumo Interactive
Texts - Ian Skellern
Project Manager - Estelle Tonelli/MB&F

MB&F - The Genesis of a Concept Laboratory

The projects that gave Maximilian Büsser the most pleasure and personal satisfaction during his seven year tenure as head of Harry Winston Timepieces, were those working with talented independent watchmakers on the exciting Opus series watches. An idea for his own personal utopia emerged; that of creating a company dedicated solely to designing and crafting small series of radical concept watches in collaboration with talented professionals he both respected and enjoyed working with. The entrepreneur in Büsser brought the idea to reality.

MB&F is not a watch brand, it is an artistic and micro-engineering concept laboratory in which collectives of independent horological professionals are assembled each year to design and craft radical Horological Machines. Respecting tradition without being shackled by it enables MB&F to act as a catalyst in fusing traditional high-quality watchmaking with cutting-edge technology and avant-garde three-dimensional sculpture.

MB&F is independent people creating for independent people.

Biography– Maximilian Büsser

Maximilian Büsser was born in Milan, Italy, before moving at an early age to Lausanne, Switzerland where he spent his youth. Growing up in a multi-cultural environment and family - his father was a Swiss diplomat who met his mother, an Indian national, in Bombay - led Büsser to develop a cross-cultural broad-based approach to his life and to business.

In July 2005, at the age of 38, Maximilian created the world’s first horological Concept Brand: MB&F (Maximilian Büsser & Friends) in which he is now partnered with Serge Kriknoff. Büsser's dream with MB&F is to have his own brand dedicated to developing radical horological concepts by working in small hyper-creative groups composed of people he enjoys working with. MB&F presented its first timepiece, Horological Machine No. 1 (HM1), in 2006and followed that up with HM2 in 2007 and HM3 in 2008, and Büsser has more radical machines in the development pipeline.

Entrepreneurship is Maximilian Büsser's forte. In 1998 and only 31 years old, he was appointed managing director of Harry Winston Rare Timepieces in Geneva. During his seven years there Büsser developed the company into a fully-fledged and well respected haute horlogerie brand by developing the strategy, products, marketing and worldwide distribution, whilst integrating design, R&D and manufacturing in house. The results were a 900% increase in turnover and the positioning of Harry Winston as one of the leaders in this very competitive segment.

Prior to Harry Winston, Maximilian Büsser's love for high-end horology was strongly imprinted by his first employer, Jaeger-LeCoultre. During his seven years in the senior management team during the 1990s, JLC strongly increased its profile and multiplied its turnover by a factor of ten. Büsser's responsibilities at Jaeger-LeCoultre ranged from Product Management & Development to Sales & Marketing for Europe.

Maximilian graduated in 1991 with a Masters in Micro technology Engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne.

MB&F Website-->LINK

See Also;
All Max Busser & MB&F Posts-->Link

| Watchismo Blog | Watchismo Shop | Contact Us | Subscribe |