Monday, June 18, 2018

A Few Minutes with Michiel Holthinrichs

One of the true pleasures of writing about watches is meeting the people behind them.  A little over a year ago, I got to meet Michiel Holthinrichs, the creator of the truly beguiling Holthinrichs watches.  Like many people with innovative ideas - such as using 3D printing technology to "build a better mousetrap", Michiel came to the watch world from outside.  And perhaps that is why his vision was perhaps a little bit clearer and he was better able to see opportunities where others had not.

And now, a few minutes with Michiel Holthinrichs -

Courtesy of Holthinrichs
James Henderson -
What was your first watch?  Was it a gift?  Is there a story behind it?

Michiel Holthinrichs -
My first “real” watch was an Omega pocket watch from 1929. During the early years of my studies I became interested in style and classic clothing, and how beautifully (hand made) details can enhance your appearance and sense of quality.  I thought that the perfect accessory would be a classic pocket watch, with a nice chain decorating a tweed vest.  I ordered it through Ebay, and as soon as I received it, and opened the back, I fell in.. I think, love. By now, I can really say it completely changed my life, as it had a great impact on my later decisions, and the things I find important in life.  That particular watch, I will never sell.


JH -
Where did you grow up?

MH -
I grew up in an old farmhouse in a tiny village in the Dutch countryside.  My parents bought it just after I was born to have enough space for their way of life. 
Even today, the house is completely packed with the art my mother creates, car parts from the 1920s-1980s - related to my father’s profession, and old stuff my parents collect for their intrinsic beauty and quality.  Mostly old French furniture, lamps etc.

You can imagine these were quite abnormal surroundings, and as a child I wanted to break free from all that old stuff, to be more like my classmates.  Later I started to realize how valuable this was for my creativity, and my appreciation for things of quality and durability.


JH -
What did you want to be when you grew up when you were a "little boy"?

MH - 
As I child, I was always drawing. From the age of eight I wanted to become an architect, just like my grandfather, so directly after I finished high-school I went to study architecture in Delft, and the for awhile in Paris.


JH - 
You studied Architecture prior to your "current" life.  Did you every practice as an architect?

MH -
Starting from my second year of my studies I came to work at an architectural firm as a side job.  I worked there every now and then until recently.  The firm is specialized in the restoration and redevelopment of early modern architecture, and I got to study and work on some very interesting buildings designed by famous Dutch architects from that era.  This refined my interest in details in design.  

Besides that job, three friends and I formed a design collective together to redevelop interesting architectural and industrial heritage.  We did a couple of projects, but then we started to all develop into other directions.  


JH -
You compare watch making and design quite a bit to architecture.  What are some of the parallels?  

MH -
What I find the most interesting in architecture is the power it can have on society.  I strongly believe that great design, which shows that attention is paid to the people actually using it, has a direct impact on the feeling and behavior of people.  Therefore, even the smallest detail has a tremendous impact on the whole, as it shows the actual level of attention and perfection.  However, I then became really disappointed in the architectural practice, as I learned that often it is not vision nor design ambitions, but money, and developers driven by money, who are actually calling the shots.

Then came the pocket watch. I discovered that watches are actually really about beauty, especially nowadays!  There has to be a perfect balance between design, craftsmanship and technology to make it a good and appealing object, something that can make you proud of owning it, and makes you feel good. This makes that watchmaking, or rather watch designing, has a lot in common with architecture, however in watchmaking, a designer does not have to make concessions, and really make what he or she believes in. In my case: the pursuit of finding my own definition of beauty.


JH -
What makes Holthinrichs watches special?
 
MH -
Attention to details, an honest story, and a product that is a true result of a real ambition to make good design.
Every part of the watch is developed by me, and I know all the involved producers personally, so that I can learn from them, and know how to make the best design for the specific techniques.  



Courtesy of Holthinrichs
The fact that it is intrinsically driven makes the product very personal, and that will attract specific customers, who I like to work for.

A search to find true beauty has a lot of frustrating obstacles and disappointments, but the good thing is that it is never ending. 

Courtesy of Holthenrichs
JH - 
What motivated you to utilize 3D printing?

MH -
This actually started during during my studies.  4.5 years ago, I had a first design ready for production.  3D printing was really becoming a hype in my faculty.  
 




Courtesy of Holthenrichs
I wanted to have full control over the process, so I needed to find a producer nearby.  However, the numerous details on the design, and the low quantities that would be produced made it practically impossible to use conventional methods.  As 3D printing provides a lot of opportunities for design, it was the way to make the details I desired, and the best thing is that it permits production in low quantities or even unique pieces.
Courtesy of Holthenrichs
The 3D printed product has a course exterior surface, which I think can add to the design.  Where smooth surfaces are desired, handicraft work (like that of a goldsmith) is required. 

Courtesy of Holthenrichs
This results in beautiful contrasts, and in my opinion really adds to the already existing crafts in watchmaking.  I really do think that this can be “A new craft in watchmaking”. 

Courtesy of Holthenrichs
JH -
You have two current pieces in your collection (correct?), has one proven to be more popular?
 
MH -
Correct! I started with the Ornament 1 – Ruthenium. 
Courtesy of Holthenrichs
A watch with a dark dial, very distinctive and discrete, just what I think is very stylish. Soon after the launch I made a version with a silver dial to be a more classic counterpart. Together they are limited to 250 pieces.



Courtesy of Holthenrichs
As a tribute to Delft, the beautiful city where I studied and started the brand, I made the Delft Blue. A very limited model (10 pieces) with a handmade Delft Blue inspired dial, and a bespoke hand engraved movement. The engravings are done by befriended Dutch engravers, real good and nice craftsmen. Thereafter the movement is finished in my atelier. 
Although this piece is more exclusive in numbers, and in pricing, it proves to be popular. I think a client willing to buy a watch from a small brand, or directly from the maker, they really appreciate a unique product, showing the authenticity of the brand.

The next steps will show new case designs, and bespoke artistic dials, made by me in my atelier.


JH -
As an independent watch brand, what are some of the bigger challenges that you are facing?

MH -
Proving your right to exist. Exposing what you can make (and developing that), and prove to be worth it to be interesting.

Why would anyone be interested in my work.

The designer has to be very loyal to his beliefs, “vision” and intuition, making decisions based on that.  This sometimes can be really hard, as there is so much to learn.

For every independent starter some of the biggest challenges is to really stay put




JH -
Who is the "typical" Holthinrichs customer?  

MH -
This surely is the niche customer with good taste. Someone who looks behind the famous brands (sometimes he already owns those famous model) to find interesting small and creative companies and really special and original watches.

Some customers insist to have a numbered version, in case the brand may become famous. They believe I my work, and my brand. This of course gives me some great motivation!

Some of my customers do not buy my watches as an impulse purchase, take their time to get information about the brand, and the watches I make. Because they are very involved in the making of the watch, and the client can have direct contact with me, they often purchase it as a family heirloom piece, dedicated to a special event (a wedding for example), or a special remembrance. This makes working on the watches very special.


JH -
You've taken the (somewhat) bold decision to open your own shop/boutique.  How has that been received?

MH -
Jups! Well, bold…: it is just the thing I had to do! There was no choice, and I tent to listen to my intuition, as it points me in directions I really want to move intrinsically, and thereby giving me a lot of energy to go ahead.

I opened it to be able to have an proper atelier clients could visit, and to strengthen my website and online appearance. The impact is immense, locally but also international. Although I opened it very recently, I directly noticed the neighborhood embraces it very warmly (a watchmaker I your street, how interesting is that these days!?), and I can surely say I already have made some extra sales which I would not have done without.


JH - 
What is right with the watch business?

MH -
In the better segments, the innovation, creativity, the sense of beauty, and the appreciation for what has been beautifully made and durable.


JH -
What is wrong with the watch business?

MH -
The fact that it is very speculative: marketing is often telling fake stories, and prices are rising beyond reason.


JH -
Who else is making watches that interest you?

MH -
There are quite a few. Obviously I like the niche, and my focus in on design. Movements are really important, but when the overall is ugly, what is then the point?

To name some:
Grönefeld brothers: Bold (movement) design, great finishing and materials.

Lundis Blues: Great case design, and really loyal to their original concept, and their own capacities. Furthermore simplicity in variation with great style.

De Bethune: Gosh what great designs!
 

 
JH -
If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing?

MH -
I would be building my own architectural firm. However, would that really be a real option?


JH -
What Advice do you have for the next Michiel Holthinrichs?
 
MH -
I really feel honored for being asked that question, and personally I am not sure jet if I am already in the position to answer this. However, I do think one should really listen to his heart, and do what it says. It will not always be the easiest thing to do, but would it make you happy? It sure does!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Rowing Blazers Pop-Up

One of my favorite online stores will make a limited brick and mortar appearance -

Courtesy of Rowing Blazers
Once you are done with your World Cup viewing, I highly recommend that should you be in NYC, you head on down to the corner of Grand and Centre in Little Italy/Soho.  The 2500 square foot space is at 221 Centre St. and 161 Grand St. There you will find Rowing Blazers and a very welcoming environment. You might even get in a game of ping-pong!

The pop-up will run from June 15th through September 15th.  A rotating lineup of brands will join Rowing Blazers in the space, starting with streetwear brand Eric Emanuel.



There are some pretty cool new things including some truly bitchin' rugby shirts -
Courtesy of Rowing Blazers
As well as other dope items that the sartorially aspirational will appreciate -

Courtesy of Rowing Blazers
 And seeing as this is a blog about watches -

Courtesy of Rowing Blazers

Well, the folks at Rowing Blazers have got you covered!

Courtesy of Rowing Blazers
You can scratch that horological itch while you up your wardrobe game.

Courtesy of Rowing Blazers

So should you be in the neighborhood and your teams have finished their opening round match, come check them out!

Courtesy of Rowing Blazers



The Daynight Guardian

From Deep Blue -



Courtesy of Deep Blue
Here are the pertinents, straight from the source -


46mm case, 13mm thick, 24mm Lugs,52mm L to L
Lightweight Poly Carbon Case
SEIKO NH 35 AUTOMATIC MOVEMENT
200 Meters - 660 Feet water resistant
T25 Tritium Capacity
UNIDIRECTIONAL ROTATING BEZEL w/WHITE NUMBERS
Tritium Markers on the Dial and hands (total 16 tubes)


Saturday, June 16, 2018

Shutter Buggy

Remember the Rolex SLR?  How about the Omega point and shoot?  Didn't thing so.

Every now and then, something comes across the old Tempus Fugit inbox that makes me and the Executive Publisher scratch our heads.  And well, gentle reader, this was one of them -

Courtesy of Leica
One is a time only model, the other is a GMT model.  

Courtesy of Leica


About all I can say is that this is a pretty goofy notion.  At a price point of (at least as I understand it) 9,900 Euro for the "base model", I am not sure that Leica didn't over-estimate the potential market for this.  

So let's get under the hood -

Courtesy of Leica
 And here is where things get, well, a bit hinky.

Courtesy of Leica
Now just how did Leica get the sudden skill to assemble what is a fairly sophisticated watch?  Well, just as in Switzerland they turned to a specialist, or perhaps two specialists (again, if I have understood the press info. and if the further digging I had to do was correctly linked).  Part one was Ernst Leitz who are, apparently,
Ernst Leitz Werkstätten who are a division of Leica, and design luxury products.  This, in turn, was somewhat farmed out to  Lehmann Präzision.  Never heard of them?  Well, me neither, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything.

The watches are, after everything is said and done, pretty basic in terms of their functionality.  The GMT function does not appear to be much more than a rotating internal bezel that is operated by an additional (rather bulky) crown.  The center crown is pretty self-explanatory (well, sort of, but more on that in a moment), and the push piece at 2 o'clock appears engages a date adjustment feature.  
For the crown, when you push it once, the dot near the center of the dial turns from white to red, which means that you can then set the watch without pulling out the crown.  Now in principle, it is sort of an interesting notion.  Interesting to the tune of work and expense that went into these two watches?  Eh...

Again, none of this was even remotely mentioned in the press release, and the first attempts to visit the relevant website led to a dead end.  Apparently word reached the folks in Germany because this morning not only was the site up and running, but those of us who did not get the "white glove" treatment reserved for other outlets who got advance copy  finally got let in on how things actually worked with these watches.  Granted, I only got this info. by going straight up on the Columbo tip ; )

So in their own words, here is the technological side of these watches, courstesy of Ernst Leitz, as told by their watch making partner, Markus Lehmann, of Lehmann Präzision  -

Normally, you have to slightly pull out the crown of a watch in order to adjust the watch hands. In other words, the crown has two positions: one for winding the watch, the other for setting the time; often, a quick-set mechanism for the date is also integrated. On the Leica watch, however, we have implemented a push-piece crown that has been coupled with a column wheel – not unlike on a chronograph. As soon as you push the crown, the small, circular status indicator on the dial turns from white to red, and you are able to set the time. The date, by contrast, is adjusted via a separate push-button. Integrating this mechanism into the construction of the movement proved to be a particularly challenging endeavour.

Now here's the part that maybe I am missing, essentially the folks in the design team felt that it would make much more sense to make a far more complex mechanism with more fiddly buttons and nobs to, essentially, do pretty much what any other movement on the planet already does without pulling out the crown.  Well, I guess it is a neat feature, but...

So the real question becomes, who is the customer for this?  

As anyone who regularly reads Tempus Fugit can attest, Leica is not providing photographic equipment or expertise.  Having said that, I would dearly love to have one and learn to shoot with it.  Unlike Playboy, you really do come here for the articles ; )

And from what I understand, Leica folks are a certain type of fan not unlike the extremely passionate Rolex collector who has memorized all of the serial numbers and can quote you chapter and verse.  And it might be, that for those hard-core Leicaistas that this is just the itch that they want to scratch.

My understanding is that this will be sold in Leica boutiques, and that makes sense, I guess.  But then again, apparently, they also plan to sell this in watch stores.  So stay tuned!

Here are the pertinents -



TECHNICAL DATA

LEICA L1, LEICA L2*



MOVEMENT

Calibre
L1, L2*
Type of calibre
Manual winding
Read-outs
Hour, minute, small second, date window, power reserve indicator with closing wings,
operating status display, second time zone GMT*, day-night display*
Frequency
28,800 A/h, 4 Hz
Jewels
25
Power reserve
60 hours


CASE

Materials
Stainless steel, 18 karat rose gold*
Diameter
41 mm
Height
14 mm
Front glass
sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on both sides, cambered, scratch-resistant coating
Transparent back cover
Sapphire crystal, screw-mounted
Crown
Patented crown allows hands to be set and seconds to be reset, separate date pusher, separate GMT crown*
Waterproofing
50 meters (5 ATM)


DIAL

Color
Matt black
Details
Appliqué around the small second


STRAP

Materials
Embossed calfskin with slightly cambered shape and matching stitching
Clasp
Stainless steel buckle with engraved Leica logo


*Model: LEICA L2
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Friday, June 15, 2018

Something REALLY COOL from Tag Heuer!

Courtesy of Tag Heuer
Earlier this afternoon, a press release snuck into my "in"box from Tag Heuer.  It announced a new Tag Heuer co-branded model - the Gulf Special Edition Tag Heuer Formula 1.  I am not going to lie, a first I was somewhat dubious.  All due respect to Mr. Biver and the team at Tag Heuer - I am a wee bit done with all of the partnerships that have been proffered lately.  My bone of contention is that these are, by and large, mechanical and, well, expensive.  

BUT -
to be clear, Tag Heuer has a much longer track record than Yours Truly, and although I was a successful brand manager, my own modest little brand was very nearly still-born.  So my own judgments aside, even if I don't agree with every move, they seem to be doing okay ; )

Courtesy of Tag Heuer
So I was very, very pleasantly surprised to find out that this is truly a watch made for BOTH watch and auto racing fans.  Yes, it is quartz.  You might remember quartz from such watch articles as:

"The Most Accurate Time Measurement Available"

Isn't that appropriate for a piece that pays tribute to time, speed and the race against both?

And best of all, this is priced at a level that will attract new people to Tag Heuer who might have felt that they were previously priced out of the market.

And it will do something else - it will give some of those people their first REAL taste of a cool watch, and perhaps it will kindle a love affair with Tag Heuer, which then in turn will probably lead to the creation of walking, talking ambassadors.  And maybe, just maybe some of those new devotees will then aspire to a more expensive mechanical model?  Stranger things have happened!

So a very hearty (and sincere) congratulations to the team at Tag Heuer!  This might fly in the face of what the "purists" deem as "horology", and fair enough.  Let them poo-poo it.  I think it's bitchin'!  

And I expect a lot of "as yet to be discovered" Tag Heuer ambassadors will agree!

Here are the pertinents -
 
DIAL
Blue dial with Gulf stripes
3 counters for chronograph
Indexes and hour/ minute hands with white superluminova®

CASE
43 mm diameter
Steel case
Aluminum blue tachymeter fixed bezel
Flat sapphire crystal
Black PVD steel screw-down crown
Steel crown protector
Steel screw-down case back
GULF logo special engraving
Water resistance : 200 meters

MOVEMENT
TAG Heuer quartz movement, one of the most reliable and accurate made in Switzerland
Powered by a battery
Regulator (time-measuring device): quartz crystal.
Electrical current that causes the crystal to vibrate very consistently and at a very high frequency (32,768 times per second).
Almost perfect precision (a variation of only a few seconds per month.)

STRAP

Blue calf skin strap with asphalt texture
Brushed steel pin buckle