Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Company Founded from The Great Kipton Train Wreck of 1891

The Ball Watch Company is dedicated to timekeeping precision. Precision not just founded on its dedication to excellent timekeeping, but founded to save lives.

The US in the mid 1800's saw an exorbitant growth of industry overtaking many European nations in the manufacturing of goods.
 Coal, iron ore, copper, lead, steel, timber and oil industries burgeoned.
Hard times in Europe - like the Irish Potato Famine - and promise of a golden future had huge amount of immigrants rushing to the shores of the America.
This was a time of extreme innovation and creativity.  From 1860 to 1890 an astounding 440,000 patents were submitted to the US Government. 
The biggest expansion was the railroad system as Congress granted land to lay tracks bringing people and goods from coast to coast.  Miles upon miles of railroad tracks were laid snaking across the country from end to end. Tiny hamlets became small towns as coal mines and steel foundries employed thousands of people. (Now  these places in States like Pennsylvania and Ohio are a desolate display of a teeming past).  Passenger trains limped from tiny station to station while fast mail trains hurtled across the country in a frantic race against time sending  plumes of acrid black smoke high into cloudless skies. Freight trains piled with coal lumbered on for miles.  Engineering advancements increased the power and speed of the locomotives which easily reaching speeds up to 50 and 60 mph.   By the end of the 1800's, the US had five transcontinental rail lines.
Accurate scheduling was crucial and timing errors were fatal.   This fact was made all the more pertinent  at the site of  "THE GREAT KIPTON TRAIN WRECK OF 1891 where nine people (six postal workers, two engineers, a fireman)  tragically lost their lives.
On April 19th, 1891 a fast mail train No. 14  bound east barreled without slowing past the Lake Shore Railroad at Kipton Station and slammed into the accommodation train, the No.21 Toledo Express, as the No. 21 was pulling into the siding in order to let the fast mail train pass. A line of freight cars had partially obstructed the Fast Mail Train's view and by the time the Train's Engineer applied the air breaks, it was too late. The violent wreck turned both engines, three mail cars and one baggage car into a smoldering pile of debris.   It was a custom for the Toledo Express to pull to the siding and let the fast mail train pass, but this time the Toledo Express was four minutes late, with disastrous results. 

Rescuers rushing to assist the victims of the wreck found the mangled body of Engineer,Charles Topiff. His charred hands still clinging to the throttle. The Postal Clerks sorting mail in  cages had no chance of escape and died trapped.

Why was the Toledo Express four minutes late? The engineer's pocket watch stopped for four minutes making him believe he had seven minutes before reaching the  Kipton Station when in fact he had only three.  The Conductor believed the engineers watch was accurate.  From the time the train left Elyria until the train reached Kipton, he did not consult his own watch.  For if he had, he would have noticed a discrepancy of four minutes.

After some investigation, The General Superintendent of Lakeshore lines realized a proper timekeeping system was crucial and appointed Webb C. Ball, an Ohio native and the first jeweler to use time signals after the 1883 Standard Time was adopted,  as Chief Inspector of the Lines. He was appointed to determine Time and Watch Conditions throughout the Lakeshore Lines.  Every two weeks Ball had all the watches of the railroad workers checked by approved watchmakers. This was done to ensure no watch varied more than 30 seconds. Thus the watches adhered within thirty seconds of Standard Time, and were the most accurate timepieces of the day.    Webb C. Ball implemented an inspection system which covered 75% of the railroad lines amounting to 175,000 miles of railroad even crossing the border into Canada and Mexico.

The foundation of the Ball Watch Company is based on an unwavering dedication to precision and efficiency sprung forth from a train wreck. All the Ball Watch Collections reference railroad personnel and their commitment to precision timekeeping.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Breitling Superocean Chronograph II Now In Vivid Red

The latest model of Breitling's chronograph version of its highly successful Superocean Collection is now available in Abyss red. Available but limited. to 2000 pieces. The unidirectional ratcheted rotating bezel in striking red rubber enables a diver crucial knowledge of dive time.

As with all good diving watches, Breilting has added critical safety features  to the bezel:
  •  Unidirectional or one-way rotating bezel, which ensures the diver will not turn the bezel the wrong way and confuse diving time. 
  • The rotating bezel is highly prominent due to its red color with bold white numerals and indices making read out in murky conditions a breeze.
  • The bezel is created with internal indents allowing the bezel to ratchet when turning enabling it to catch thereby,  aligning the pointer precisely to  where the minute hand is pointing. 
  • The outer edges of the bezel is notched allowing a diver to turn the bezel even while wearing gloves or underwater.
  • The bezel is easy to turn. 
Now here is where I can use those pesky syllogisms  ,ancient as Aristotle himself ,  one has to  learn in college wondering when one will ever have the chance to actually put it to good use.  Here it goes:

All Breitlings are Chronometers.
All Superocean Chronographs are Breitlings
All Superocean Chronographs are Chronometers

What I am getting at is - when one buys a Breitling one is assured the movement has undergone all the rigorous testing criteria required by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres or COSC to be deemed a Chroneometer.  Read more info about Chronometers.

The dial of the watch is highly suited for diving.  The sapphire crystal is extra thick; the hour markers and over sized hands are coated in luminescence (glow-in-the-dark); the crystal is treated on both sides with a glare proof substance; the crown is screw-locked with two gaskets (increasing water resistance); back is screwed in and safety push pieces are only activated when unlocked.  I don't see any mention of an Helium valve which is a good idea when scuba diving.

The movement is a highly efficient automatic Caliber 13, which utilizes an ETA Valjoux 7750 base movement housed in a 44 mm steel case and capable of a 42 hour power reserve.

1/4th second chronograph, as well as a 30-minute and 12-hour totalizers are distinctly placed on the dial.  A date aperture is located at the 3 'o'clock position. The watch is also available with various rubber and leather straps. The watch weighs in at 136.50 grams, which may be a tad heavy for some, but no surprise there, Breitling watches are known for their heftiness, which some people find quite appealing.  (I know! I've asked!).

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Let Live
Now I have blogged about Toxic Watches. Toxic Watches whereby luminescence was achieved by painting radioactive Radium on watch dials. Those watches meant for the military caused great harm, suffering and even death to the girls who used their lips to point the brushes to paint the Radium dials. I have mentioned this story again, slightly out of context, to remind one of the great tragedy that befell the Glowing Girls as a result of the Deadly Dials - Click to read their story.

Now on a happier note I will return to the subject of the blog - Toxic Watches. Toxic Watches is an unconventional rebellious watch brand - by their own admission, meant for the rebellious; however it is their dark and gloomy subject matter that interests me. The watch depicted is from a collection name Area 51 - named after a Military Base steeped in secrecy and used to test experimental aircrafts and weapons. I have even heard whispers about UFO's. Not surprising this watch is crafted from gun metal. The dial is covered with mineral crystal not sapphire crystal which is more prone to scratches. The case is quite large at 51mm, but all in the non conforming spirit. Aside from the watch material, collection name and large size, this watch seems quite ordinary; however their are other Toxic Collections which do look a bit odd. (Odd in a good way.)

Creepy, this watch looks quite vampiric. One almost expects fangs to extend from its half face. The Collection has been named the Toxic Half Life. Half Life ... Mmm... must be some vampire connection. But then again the term "half life" is used in connection with the disposal of radioactive wastes from nuclear reactors and other activities of atomic energy research. A problem of nuclear waste disposal arises from the long half-life of the radioactive waste products and the toxicity of the chemical compounds in which the radioactive material is found. It seams this watch is quite popular and is sold for just under $100.00.
Thus another interesting name for a collection.

The next set of watches are eerily evil and reference the dark side of humanity where nightmares run rampant and blood runs cold. Brrrr!

Carpe Noctem - Seize the night. A slogan associated with the goth subculture, vampires and things that bump in the night. "Carpe Noctem" is a phrase derived from the original "Carpe Diem" Seize the day ( a line in an ode, written by the Latin poet, Horace. The ode itself is devoted to or centered on the passage of time) Although Horace did not mention Carpe Noctem one may infer a positive meaning to the phrase encompassing the idea of living life to the fullest and working into the night to complete the day's work.

Corum Skull Watch
The last watch - Growing Dead. The name of this timepiece lends itself to much discussion and thought, especially since the dial sports a flowered skull. The watches are low end, some retailing on sites for less than 50 bucks.  Of course if you want a luxury timepiece displaying skulls and roses, there is always Corum.

TOXIC Watches do break the barrier of conformity in subject matter and timepiece names; however the quartz movement seems quite ordinary.  An interesting addition to an interesting wardrobe.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Harwood Watches Without a Crown

Harwood Watches are distinctly crown-less.  Which does sound a trifle strange since they do originate from  the Isle of Man - a self governing Crown Dependency of the United Kingdom.  As it just so happens a timepiece crafted by Harwood Watches does not depend on the crown for winding, but rather on a patented crown-less bezel adjustment system.

John Harwood
Harwood Watch Company does have quite an impressive claim to fame: The first watch company to incorporate an automatic winding system into a wrist watch.  Of course, Abraham Louis Perrelet invented the automatic winding system way back in 1770 and Abraham Louis Breguet, of tourbillon fame,  who managed to make it work, but it was Harwood's founder, John Harwood, who in 1924 patented crown less bezel adjustment system utilizing a weight which would swing back and forth hitting a small gear which would wind the watch (now referred to as a "bumper" or "hammer" self-winding mechanism.) John Harwood was a watchmaker and a soldier during World War I. He knew from experience the winding stem was a gateway for moisture and dust to enter and confound the movement.  He mulled over the possibility of a winding mechanism within the case of the watch.

Harwood Steel with Diamonds
While watching a couple of kids playing on a see-saw, in a flash the possibility became a reality.  After a couple of trial and errors, the first automatic winding system on a wristwatch was born.   John Harwood journeyed to Switzerland with  two working prototypes and intricate plans for design to and registered his invention at the Federal Office for Intellectual Property of the Swiss Confederation at Berne.  A year later  Harwood was issued patent No. 106583 . Between 1924 and 1929 Harwood commissioned Anton Schild S.A to help him develop the winding system and produce the raw movements, and Fortis S.A. finished them.  Fortis then brought this new line of automatic watches to market. Weird thing about this story is that in 1929, the year Fortis displayed this breakthrough line of automatic watches "Harwood perpetual" at Basel World, Harwood filed for bankruptcy and the company was liquidated two years later. 30,000 watches were made before the collapse, which I have no doubt are attractive collectors items.
John Harwood automatic prototype
The new Harwood, although the dial reads "The world's first manufacturer of automatic wristwatches - Patent NO 106583 - 1924 - Harwood Watch Co."  just beneath the bezel, has no real connection to the original company and no real claim to fame to the original patent. However, since it seems John Harwood barreled headlong  into the Great Depression with only 30,000 manufactured watches underneath his belt, and could not pull through ,groundbreaking invention or not, he deserves recognition and I applaud the current Harwood for that. 

Here is a great insightful  blog from Oriental Watchsite about the Harwood History.

As to the watches, I find the design comfortably appealing. The fluted bezel serves as the point of adjustment with a clear "safe mode" or "adjustment mode" at the 6 'o'clock just in case one turns the bezel by accident.   The watches are all automatic in vision  with the original Harwood invention. The watches are available in steel, gold, sterling silver (not often used) as well as an edition sporting 48 brilliant cut diamonds on the bezel.  The watches are sized at either 35mm or 39mm strapped to the wrist by high quality alligator leather straps.

To Commemorate 80 years of John Harwood receiving the automatic winding  patent, current Harwood unveiled Limited Edition Watch called the "HARWOOD LOUIS REGUIN"  The enamel dial is decorated with an exquisite vision of floating angels surrounded by china blue borders.  As the name suggests, the artistry on the dial is reminiscent of renowned Swiss miniature painter,  Louis Reguin (1872-1948). 
Platinum versions are limited to 25 pieces and steel versions to 100 pieces.   

Monday, May 14, 2012

Hublot Releases The Skull Bang - A Dark Watch

The Skull Bang roars upon the horological stage leaving open mouth onlookers with a fleeting glance of a shadowy skull transfer set on a black galvanic sunburst dial entirely surrounded by black ceramic.
 Hublot announced in a May 2012 press release, "The Skull Bang is a rock'n'roll rebel!" and indeed it is.
The pitch black Skull Bang exudes a powerful rebellious energy accompanied by a distinct understated elegance like a character from one of Anne Rice's novels.
Limited to a mere 100 pieces, the Skull Bang is already a coveted collectors item.  The "Classic Fusion" 45 mm case, bezel and crown are crafted in polished black ceramic.  6-H black PVD titanium screws on bezel; Hublot logo on crown and distinctive lugs in black composite resin is all Hublot. A HUB 1112 automatic movement is visible beneath a transparent skull outline via a scratch resistant sapphire crystal case back.  The oscillating weight is open worked with black PVD coating sporting a rare super hard high density chemical element segment known as tungsten. (chemical symbol W and atomic number 74). As a result of its high density, tungsten is often as weights and counterweights.

Clear read-out is enabled due to faceted, black galvanic, diamond polished, skeleton hands.

A black leather strap stitched onto black rubber creates the intriguing illusion of formality. The Skull Bang is water resistant to 50 meters and is capable of a 42 hour power reserve. A date aperture is located at the 3 'o'clock.
I would love to see who will be sporting The Skull Bang at the next big gig beneath pulsating lights and surrounded by the powerfully jarring crescendo of an electric guitar and screaming fans.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Jaermann & Stübi Stroke Play Watch Collection Keep Track of Golfing Scores

Jaermann & Stübi Trans Atlantic 2012
Stroke Play Order of Merit
If Tag Heuer is associated with racing; Corum with sailing, Ebel with football, Richard Mille with tennis, Omega with the Olympics then Jaermann & Stübi is associated with golf.

Jaermann & Stübi ,relatively unknown in the general public, is highly regarded  among golfers, since the watch is able to keep track of golfing scores, which can be quite complicated at times.
Complicated golfing scores is the precise reason why Urs Jaermann decided to design a "golf watch".   The idea was born from two opposite emotions - a dislike for keeping scores and a love for watches.

For ten years Urs Jaermann mulled this idea over in his head .
A chance encounter between Urs Jaermann and Pascal Stübi at a communication strategy lecture fused Urs Jaermann dream and Pascal Stübi experience in watch making.  From this meeting Jaermann & Stübi  was born.  It took two more years for research, design & development, and in 2007 the first Jaermann & Stübi was delivered.


Every facet of a Jaermann &Stübi Stroke Play golf watch is designed and built for the game of golf as well as crafted in the watchmaking tradition.  The watches are automatic mechanical powered by a  Caliber A10 movement and  capable of a 42 hour power reserve.   This Certified Chronometer  is equipped with shock absorbers.  Not all watches are equipped with the ability to withstand the sharp movements required by the game of golf.  Jaermann and Stübi, however,  developed a patent pending  "Shock­Guard" visible via a scratch resistant sapphire crystal on the case back.  If a golfer has a terribly bad day and sends his ball soaring into a distant marsh, his watch will remain water resistance up to 100 meters, since the case back is hermetically attached to the case by six screws.

Stroke Play Eagle Heart
When Jaermann & Stübi came up with this idea they were venturing into uncharted territory in watchmaking, as no such complication  had ever been developed.  To make this "golf watch" work,  innovation was required.  Jaermann & Stübi succeeded and recently patented the " Golf Counter Complication" or JS02 mechanism.  This complication  is entirely separate from the timekeeping mechanism. The Golf Counter Complication enables one to count the number of strokes per hole displayed in a sub dial beneath the 12 'o'clock position as well as  the hole played displayed on the retrograde dial at the 6 'o'clock position.  In addition an innovative turning bezel functioning with ceramic ball bearings enable one to compare ones results after 18 holes with ones handicap.  The watch is capable of displaying  total played strokes per round shown in the images as 72 indicated at the top of the dial by a white circle or triangle.  

The 44mm watch cases are crafted in either stainless steel, titanium or gold. The hnads,  dials, sub dials and indices are accentuated with complimentary colors enabling clear read-outs.  Emblazoned on every Jaermann & Stübi dial is the companies signature Griffin.

St Andrew Links Stroke Play 1759
Another great feature of the watch is its synthetic humidity absorbing inner band.  Leather bands do not do well with moisture and thus this inner band is the perfect solution to  a sweaty problem. See: Summer Caution for Leather Watch Band Wearers.

Steel versions of the Stroke Play Watches are between 8000 and 10,000 Swiss Francs.

 Jaermann & Stübi is the official sponsor of St Andrew Links - St Andrew is known as the "home of golf".  Situated in Scotland, it is one of the oldest golf courses in the world where golf has been played since the 15th century.

Each and every Jaermann & Stübi golf timepiece exudes exceptional good taste worthy to track time on the most prestigious of courses. Father's Day is next month and if your father is a golfing guy than this is absolute the best gift he can get.

The Movement of an Old Watch

In this world of gadgets and gizmos, one expects stuff to work; if not it gets thrown out or if the effort is worth it, gets fixed.

When it comes to antique or vintage mechanical timepieces, the younger generation may view Grandma's watch as an old broken thing that does not run on batteries. The watch may be a truly exceptional masterpiece from a great company like Vacheron Constantin or Patek Phillipe, but to the young recipient, the watch simply does not work.
He may be thinking: "Is the battery dead or something?" or "Out of all the cool things Grandma had, why did she leave me with this?"

One such story occurred to my neighbor and it took an aged indignant watchmaker to change her view on old watches:

My neighbor received a package from her mother. She opened it and gazed at a rose gold watch delicately wrapped in tissue paper. A faint whiff of mothballs tickled her nose.

“It was Grandma’s” she whispered gently closing the clasp around her wrist.

She admired the delicate Roman Numerals and studied the blue stone on the dial. Her grandmother had died a month before and her mother had only just found the watch among her things. The watch was not working and she decided to take it to an old watchmaker to see if she could get a battery for this watch. Wearing the watch would remind her of her grandmother and that was good.

The very next day she set out to the watchmaker. She had seen his store from the city bus. An old faded yellow sign hung above a tiny dusty store front. She entered the store and as she did a gentle chiming brought an elderly gentleman from behind a beaded curtain.

“Can I help you, mam?” he said looking at her over the tops of his glasses.

“I was wondering if you can make this watch workable …,” she said trailing off.

“It was my grandmothers…”

The watchmaker took the watch and held it close.

“It is a beauty,” he said and gently wound the watch.

He smiled and said reassuringly , “It can use a new mainspring, possibly another part or two; a good cleaning and oiling and it will be as good as new.”

“No! You don’t understand,” she said, “Can you take out all the old stuff and put in a battery or something like a regular watch?"

The elderly watchmaker grew visibly distressed, his nose turned slightly red and he leaned across the counter. My friend had no idea what she had said wrong, but owing to the watchmaker’s reaction it must have been quite awful.

“You want to remove the intricate mechanical craftsmanship and replace it with a battery? A Quartz Movement?”, he said.

“Yes! I think so.” my friend said now a trifle uncertain about her request.

“I will do no such thing, ” the watchmaker said. “To do this would be tearing the heart and soul out of your grandmother’s watch.”

My friend took the watch, puzzled, and went home. She did not attempt to visit another watchmaker.

Her grandmother’s watch survived its “quartz scare” and I filled my friend in on the marvel of a mechanical watch.

 The watch is her treasure now.

Friday, May 4, 2012

What Watch Would Mom Wish for... A Boucheron Hibiscus Tourbillon?

Mother's Day is approaching, and  I know you want to get mom the best of the best in luxury watches.  So if you have a pretty penny or not - dreams fuel productivity.
I have always said - "For Mom you can't go wrong with a Boucheron" (but lets keep my poetic abilities under wraps for now)
 Boucheron produces one of the finest collections in haute joaillerie luxury watches for women with exceptional movements. Boucheron is a company with a grand repertoire of breathtaking watches - many of them incorporating animal themes into the watch. Boucheron often partners up with other companies like MB & F and Girard-Perregaux to create timepieces which possess the allure of extraordinary movement in breathtaking settings. Boucheron often uses the vibrant cues from the animal world  to create bejeweled scenes in watches and jewelry.

Just in time for Spring, Boucheron introduces the mechanical hand wound Hibiscus Tourbillon -  a delicate representation of a hummingbird in mid-flap alighting upon a diamond encrusted bezel attracted by a bright pink hibiscus.  Between bird and flower, a flying tourbillon incorporating a Swiss escapement lever rotates beneath fallen leaves. A flying tourbillon is only supported on one side creating the illusion that it rotating whilst suspended in mid air -  unsupported by any means. A white - almost hazy mother-of-pearl dial -like a sky masked with high cirrus clouds, sets a gentle backdrop for a scene  created from white gold, blue and pink sapphires and diamonds. A dial framed by delicate plant like swirls is placed at the 1 'o'clock position.  A gentle reminder of  Boucheron's flagship boutique at number 26  place Vendôme.

A matching  blue karung strap secures the spring scene to the wrist.

  •   Karung is snake skin from a Karung or "wart" snake, elephant trunk snake or Java File  and is widely used for handbags and shoes. It lives in shallow tropical freshwater lagoons and streams in SE Asia. The snake is non-venomous and eats fish and eels. An adult Karung or Java file can reach 7-8 feet in length. It has loose skin and a flattened tail for swimming.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Ghost is Coming to Jacob & Co.

Ghost 1 - Stainless Steel Diamond Case
Ghost 2 - 18k Rose Gold Diamond Case
A little leery are we? Well it is rather understandable since the mention of veil like filaments and an ice cold rush of unknown origin can whirl one into utter panic. Do not despair my friends, the ghost I am referring to does not belong to a wretched soul wandering aimlessly in a mid void, but rather Jacob & Co's  first ever digital watch set to be released around October; although the actual date is unconfirmed.

The design is outrageously stylish and trendy fusing high class bling bling watches with an edgy techno look.  Personally I think this collection will be highly popular - if you can afford it, but don't think that digital means a bargain. The  price for the Ghost Watch will be around $6,000 to $20,000 depending on the stones.

Ghost 3 - Black PVD Coated Steel Black Diamonds
Both the Ghost and the Global Collection (Five timezone quartz watch)  Jacob & Co utilizes an intriguing pentagon dial shape. The 47mm pentagon dial shape of the Ghost Collection has softened rounded points creating an elegant appeal. The timepiece is highly versatile - one watch capable of matching an entire wardrobe.

The bezel can be switched from carbon to diamond to rose gold and diamond bezels or just to one of simple grace - depending on the party of course.

The watch is powered by a Swiss Quartz movement with a slight addition.  The watch is equipped with a tiny USB mini charge from the crown.  Another great feature of the watch is its ability for the LED numbers and names of the five time zones to change color  from green to blue to yellow to red. The color of preference shall  remain by a simple push of a button.
G5 Designer Jacques Fournier

The timepieces are water resistant to 50 meters  and are presented on an alligator strap.

The five timezone G5 collection including the Grand, Global and Digital Ghost Series was created and developed by the incredibly talented Jacques Fournier owner of Horology Design Limited . The G5 collection renders a fresh new signature look to Jacob & Co. 

Ghost 5 - Black PVD & Carbon Fiber Bezel
Jacob & Co. is founded and owned by Jacob Arabo - or "Jacob the Jeweler" and is quite popular among the celebs. A Jacob & Co. creation has been spotted on  Madonna, Mila Jovovich, Tom Cruise, David Beckham, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, Hally Berry, Brad Pitt and Geena Davis - just to name a few.

A special thanks to Jacob & Co. for answering my questions about the Ghost Collection.