Sunday, July 23, 2017

In Honor of the Tour de France - A Family that Does NOT Crack Under Pressure!

Cycling, particularly Le Tour?  It's all about time.  

Today is the grand finale of the 2017 edition, and as I type this the riders are approaching the Avenue des Champs-Élysées for the final circuits of this year's race.  

Cycling is still exciting, but I long for the time when there was a bit more grit to it.   No radios taped to riders ears, and the only performance enhancing substance was a ham sandwich and a bottle of pilfered red ; )

But this year is very special, and for many ways the Tag-Heuer / 7-ELEVEN story line has come full circle - Taylor Phinney, the son of two-time Tour de France stage winner Davis Phinney will be completing his first ever Tour de France.  The Phinney's in many way typify what the Tag Heuer motto is all about.

Shamelessly borrowed from the world-wide infoweb

Following his cycling career, Davis Phinney was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at the age of 40.  While it would have been easy to curl up in a ball and feel sorry for himself, he created the Davis Phinney Foundation in 2004 to help support people with Parkinson's.  

Shamelessly Borrowed from the world-wide infoweb

And as for the son?  Taylor Phinney became a professional racer and was showing a rather precocious talent.  This year he surprisingly found himself in the polka-dot jersey reserved for the King of the Mountains. 

Shamelessly borrowed

It was a short-lived honor, but one that Phinney the Younger relished and enjoyed - reminding us that there is actually meant to be some joy, wonder, and passion in sport!

Shamelessly borrowed

And truth be told, we didn't really think we'd see him do so well.  In fact, many cycling experts weren't sure if Taylor Phinney would be able to be able to walk unassisted at this point.

Shamelessly borrowed

In the 2014 US National Road Race championship he suffered a horrendous accident that was so bad, his future as a cyclist was a secondary concern to whether on not he would even get to keep his left leg.  Yes, it was that bad.

But here we are, 3 years on, and another Phinney is helping animate 3 magical weeks in France.

Connie Carpenter and Davis Phinney - image shamelessly borrowed from Cycling News

Of course you could site genetics for his natural ability - his mother was not exactly a slouch on the bike... Connie Carpenter, the winner of the first ever Olympic Road Race for women at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

But that is just about the innate talent, what this family embodies is well beyond their skill and speed on a bike.  They are unbreakable, and it is their every day lives, facing adversity and coming back from it that make them so inspiring.

So Tag Heuer, if you're reading this (and I'm sure you are) here are some famous people who did not crack under pressure!

And on that note, a summer repeat:

Remembering my First Tag Heuer and Team 7-ELEVEN

The year was 1990.  I was in my final year at the University of Oregon, and was visiting my father over the summer break.  I had one more term to go, and two days before I was set to head back to Eugene, my Bullova watch pooped out.  Trying to find someone capable of changing the battery was on par with finding an honest politician - it just didn't seem to be possible.  So on what must have been the fifth attempt to get a battery changed with no success, I looked down in the display case and saw what would become my first Swiss watch.  The Tag Heuer Formula 1, circa 1990.

I realize that we all had different introductions to Tag Heuer, and this was mine.  And out of necessity, a passion was born.

I have shamelessly borrowed this advertisement image from Calibre 11 - not directly Calibre 11, it was pulled-up via a Google search for images.  Hope you don't mind ; )
All of the models in this ad were available, but the one that went home with me was the third from the left, the red case, green strap and bezel - or as I came to refer to it - the 7-ELEVEN Tag Heuer Watch!

Borrowed shamelessly from the internet
Andy Hampsten and the 7-ELEVEN team were my cycling idols in the 80s.

And he was the first American winner of the Giro D'Italia back in 1988.

Courtesy, clearly, of someone else!
And the Tag Heuer connection to cycling (and my passion) went even further and was clearly shared by others, including one of the main voices of Tour de France television coverage today (at least here in the US) Bob Roll, a team mate of Hampsten's on team 7-ELEVEN.

Bob Roll on the left, Andy Hampsten on the right
Bob, or "Bobke" as he is often known is perhaps my all-time favorite cyclist.  Not because of his many wins in big-time races... let's face it, there weren't many!

Shamelessly borrowed
But Bob, Andy and the rest of the 7-ELEVEN team perhaps best embodied what Tag-Heur's motto is today - they did NOT "Crack under pressure".  No matter what the odds, Bobke put it all out there!

Courtesy of, clearly, someone else
Apart from Hampsten, and Davis Phinney, they were a team made up of journeymen dreamers.  Riders who had a sort of, "what the Hell, let's give it a go" attitude.  Keep in mind, this was the era of a certain fellow known as "the Badger" and a host of other cycling GODs.  But these guys threw their hats in the ring and gave it a go.  And in an age where US cyclists were viewed more as amateurs, they came to Europe and impressed the Europeans.

I got to meet one of my heroes in person when I was working for DOXA Watches and we presented him with a  Yellow DOXA Divingstar in San Francisco -

My identification with Tag Heuer went beyond just the 7-ELEVEN connection.  It was clearly a great brand with a great watch, but like team 7-ELEVEN people didn't just take that at face value.  Tag Heuer had to put in a lot of time and effort to get where they are today.

So as we wait to hear how much the Cara Delevingne auction brings in, I thought it might be fun to think back to some other "underdogs" that Tag Heuer partnered with, back in the 80's.

Enjoy your watches!

The Martin M-130

From Towson Watch Company -
Courtesy of Towson Watch Company
We don't get to hear as much about Towson as we should, so I thought this morning I would jolt you out of your Sunday slumbers with this delightfully bright pilot's chronograph.

The case measures 42 mm in diameter and it houses the 7750.

Courtesy of Towson Watch Company
The watch is named for Martin M-130 which was produced by the Glenn L. Martin Company in Baltimore, Maryland.

Hours, minutes, seconds, date and 3 register chronograph.  Available direct from the folks at Towson.

Here are the pertinents -

Case 42mm
Dial Super LuMinova Markers and Hands
Movement Highest Grade 25 Jewel Automatic Chronograph Cal. 7750 Adjusted to 5 positions, 46 Hour Power Reserve, Incabloc Shock Absorption, Nivorox Hairspring, Glucydure Balance
Crystal Domed Sapphire Crystal with 2 Sided Anti-Reflex Coating
Functions Sweep Second, Minute, Hour, Date, Stop Funtion with Minute Counter at 12-O’Clock and Hour Counter at 6-O’Clock, Constantly Rotating Second at 9-O’Clock, Start/Stop Pusher at 2-O’Clock, Back To Neutral Pusher at 4-O’Clock
Water Resistance 5 ATM (50m)
Strap Width 20mm x 18mm

Friday, July 21, 2017

News from Tempus Fugit!

The management at Tempus Fugit is very happy to announce the promotion of Tallulah Henderson to the position of Associate Editor.  This is a rapid rise for Tallulah who joined the staff here at Tempus Fugit a little over 2 months ago as a Cub reporter.

The team enjoyed a special lunch in honor of her promotion, and Tallulah is excited about expanding her role on the editorial team.

Congratulations to Tallulah on her new appointment, and the entire team at Tempus Fugit is looking forward to continuing to bring you our independent take on watches and the people who make them.


In Honor of Belgian National Day

When we think of Belgium our thoughts might first go to:

Shamelessly borrowed from the world-wide infoweb

 Or possibly this guy -

Shamelessly borrowed from the world-wide infoweb

Or as we are in the final days of the Tour de France -

Shamelessly borrowed from the world-wide infoweb
But as this is allegedly a blog about watches, I thought it would be worthwhile to have a look at two of my favorite watch brands (which just so happen to be based in Belgium) and the guys behind them.

Gavox is the no-longer-small micro brand launched by Michael Happe.  Based in suburban Brussels, Michael has created some truly wonderful watches, and I am the proud owner of two of them.  He has an ability to take the seemingly mundane, and sprinkling in the secret spice that makes the ordinary something special.

In case you missed it, here is a repeat of my interview with Mr. Happe.  This first ran in 2014, about 2 and a half years ago -

A Few Minutes With Michael Happe

Wendy and I had the very good fortune to spend some time with Michael Happe over lunch and a beer in Brussels a few weeks back.  That will be a different post ; )  But that planted the seeds for this interview which you'll find below.  And now, a few minutes with Michael Happe -

Tempus Fugit - What was your first watch?  Was it a gift?  Is there a story behind it?

Michael Happe - My first watch was a Kelton which I received when I was 8.  It was supposed to be water resistant to 25 meters  and I loved it.  However from time to time, when I went swimming with it, water leaked in.  This is when I started getting a closer look at the movement. 

TF - When you were a boy, what did you want to be when you "grew up"

MH - I wanted to be a pilot and Astronaut.  The sky, space and sciences were great sources of inspiration for me and are still today. 

TF - What did you study in school?

MH -I graduated from university with a Diploma in Agricultural Engineering.  I loved my studies and learned so much. I do believe this is one of the best programs if you want to study all science topics. 

TF - What got you into the world of watches in the first place?  

MH - At the age of twelve I discovered the LCD and Quartz revolution and started collecting watches.  Later the mechanical watches caught my attention. And now it is a dream to make my own watch brand. 

TF -  So what is the idea behind GAVOX?

MH - My aim is to make technical and ergonomic watches that are easy to use and possessing useful functions.  Moreover, to offer this at the best quality for a fair price.  I offer watches in three categories: higher (aviation and space exploration) farther  (land and see exploration) and deeper 
(ocean and depth exploration) .

TF - I know that it is hard for a "father" to choose his favorite "child", but which is your favorite GAVOX?
MH - This is a difficult question for me to answer.  On one hand it would be the Gavox Squadron as this was born from a collaboration with the Belgian Air Force and myself, and I am so pleased that many pilots wear these watches with pride.
Courtesy of Gavox

Courtesy of Gavox
On the other hand I love the Gavox Legacy Navy, my first automatic watches with a lot of hidden detail to look at.

TF - What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced so far?

MH - My biggest challenge was and is the creation of the 
Gavox Aurora. This watch will bring some real innovation and I challenged many suppliers to produce the best parts that they could. This watch will be very innovative and unique. 

TF - What has been the most successful GAVOX model? 

MF - The Gavox Legacy Collection is very successful.  I often receive happy customer feedback telling me the watch is better in real life than in pictures.

TF - What is your strongest market?

MH - Europe and all English speaking countries. I sell mainly through my web shop to clients who want something unique that is offered in small series. 

TF - Who else out there is making watches that interest you? 

MH - I love all smart and simple innovations like Oris has made with the Big Crown ProPilot and Aquis Depth Gauge.  I appreciate the people who have managed to get mechanical and simple devices to measure altitude and depth in a watch.  I also love many of the watches from Sinn and Nomos.

TF - Having visited Belgium recently I was surprised by what a "watch place" it was.  Has it always been this way?

MH - Belgium was always kept in the shadows regarding watches with very talented people working in Switzerland after a good watch study scholarship in Belgium.  However in terms of Belgian watch brands it mainly took at new turn in 2005 with Icewatch.  Today  We have great watch maker full of ideas in Benoît Mintiens with his great brand Ressence.

TF - I understand that you have a few "famous" customers, can you tell us a bit about some of your more "well-known" GAVOX clients?

MH - James, I understand your curiosity ;-)  Out of respect of my customers, I can't disclose this type of information.

TF - Please tell us about your partnership with some of Belgium's flying squadrons.

MH - It started with my passion for aviation, I was a glider pilot and was trained on a Cessna.  I have many good friends who are pilots who flew in the Belgian Air Force some years ago.  They introduced me to two Belgian squadrons and we developed a watch that fit their needs and specifications. Their logos have been integrated on the dial and case back of the Gavox Squadron. 

TF - What do you like to do in your "down time"? 

MH - The first thing I like to do is to take some time with my wife and children, playing board games, visiting museums and going on city trips.  I love meeting new people and discovering new culture.  I also have other passions like volleyball, whisky, folding knives and art.

TF - What advice do you have for the aspiring watch "start-up"? 

MH - Stick to your dreams and face the challenge, it will only make you stronger.  Ask advise but follow your instinct.  If you believe in your product your will reach your client .  Good Luck and have fun!
But wait, there's more!  Another interesting guy doing interesting things is the man behind Ressence, Benoît Mintiens.  Here is a repeat of my conversation with him from 2011 -

A few minutes with Benoît Mintiens

One of the most talked about people at BaselWorld this year was the creator of the Ressence watch.

So now, a few minutes with Benoît Mintiens -

James Henderson - What was your first watch, was it a gift? Is there a story behind it?

Benoît Mintiens - My first watch that i can remember was probably a transparent Swatch. It worked for 6 months I think.  I found it very fun to see the components... but my first love was the Bulova Accutron Space view.  It is such a beautiful concept to give time with a wavelength!

JH - When you were a boy, what did you want to be "when you grew up"?

MB - It was only at the age of 18 that I discovered that design was a profession.  Before that I thought of being an engineer or something.  As a kid I used to design things all the time and build them, being an industrial designer was the perfect solution to translate my hobby into a profession.

JH - Where did you go to school, what did you study?

BM - I have a Master degree in Industrial design and a Master in Business administration.  ( 7 years in total... )

JH -  When people think of Belgium, watch making is maybe not the first profession that comes to mind.  How did you get started in the watch industry?
BM - This is a very long story.  I had always been attracted to new watch concepts but was realistic enough not to love them to much. The Ressence project started with a friend who asked me to design a watch with lots of diamonds - but for men.  While working on the project and after TAG Heuer launched their Diamond fiction watch, my friend left for Hong Kong and I was left bitten by the watch virus.  So, I decided to design a watch for me.

JH -  Did you ever consider doing something else for a living?

BM - My job ( the one that pays the bills at the end of the month ) is as a consultant in industrial design.  My work for Ressence is for serious fun!

JH - You've now been at it for awhile.  How is the Ressence brand evolving?

BM - Ressence is a niche product for people that can appreciate the values I have tried to put into the product.  For the moment people are buying a watch concept, to some extent, Ressence is only a name.  The brand will have to build from that.  As this needs huge marketing resources, this will take time.
For the moment my priority is to develop new models.  

JH - Thinking back to the start, were there ever nights where you woke up in a cold sweat, wondering if things would work out?

BM - I still have sleepless nights.  I think it is normal ( I hope )! 
My biggest concern being the difficulty to produce the parts.  
I don't know why but it is very hard to get your parts in time.
And as I'm only starting, I need to go through a learning curve with every step.

JH - What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced?

BM - The biggest challenge was to create a network of suppliers.
Not being Swiss, not being a watchmaker and not living is Switzerland, I can tell you it is not easy to start for the simple reason that I did not know where the start was...

JH - Having spent a little time by your booth at BaselWorld it seemed as if your watch was one of the hottest things this year - what do you attribute the Ressence's popularity to?

BM - I can not judge because I did not move from my booth.
When I listen to the reactions from people that pass by, they 
usually stop for the unconventional design.  They found it 
attractive and start looking closer. At that point they think the 
watches are fakes/dummies.  In fact they are working models!
I often hear: Oh, the display is printed on the (plexi) glass?  
The ones that know a lot more than me about watches say -
"oh, yeah, I see it's a regulateur but different"...
When they see that the screen they saw, is animated they usually smile.

JH - Who else out there is making watches that interest you?

BM - I'm too much of a Belgian to give names ;-) 

JH - If you weren't doing this, what do you think you might be doing?

BM - Running a design company

JH - What is a typical "day in the life" of Benoit Mintiens?

BM - Are you sure you want to know this?
Get up, get my kids cleaned up, bring them to school, and  go to work.  As a designer I work within a European agency.
I often work for French clients like SNCF, Veolia, RATP.   
But I also do some work for Browning,  Frisk, Thalys, Siemens, Bombardier, etc... 

A project usually starts with the question why, for who and how.
For example, for the moment we are designing the new tram for Basel.   ( yes, in Switzerland )

Depending on the project you need to focus on different aspects.
If you're asked to design a new TGV for SNCF, you first have to think:
How do people what to experience a high speed journey?   What does it mean to be French in a European high speed market? Who are the travelers, what do they need? 
What is their mindset in the morning and in the evening? etc... 

JH -  What do you like to do in your spare time?

BM - For the moment my spare time is reduced to zero because  of my double activity.  But when it is good weather I like is to drive my old-timers. ( after years of working on them... )

JH - What was the inspiration for the Ressence?

BM - This is impossible to say.  Why does anyone have an idea?
One day I just had it (the idea).  What can I say, the guy that can 'generate' idea generation is called God I think?   No?  Essentially, creativity is 5% inspiration and 95% labor.

JH - What advice do you have for the future Benoit Mintiens out there?

BM - I understand this question as "what advice would you give to yourself?"
In the short term, try to stabilize my activities and balance it better.
In the longer term, transform Ressence into a brand.

The Bivouac 9000

From Favre Leuba -

Courtesy of Favre Leuba
On the surface of things, it looks like a cool vintage inspired watch.  But there is much more to the Bivouac 9000 than meets the eye.  

Hours, minutes, seconds and date are there.  But add to that a power reserve indicator at 12 o'clock, and an altimeter?

You've got something pretty special.  

The case is titanium, measuring a hearty 48 mm, with a theme appropriate stone grey dial.

Here are the pertinents, straight from the source:


Hand-wound FL311 movement, based on the EMC 3903M caliber; specially designed mechanisms for ­altimeter and power-reserve indicator; power reserve of 65 hours


Hours, minutes, small seconds, central hand to display altitudes of 3,000 m per full rotation, sub dial for displaying altitudes of up to 9,000 m and air pressure in hPa, power-reserve indicator, date display


Bidirectional rotating bezel with anodized aluminum insert; screw-in crown; sapphire crystal with anti reflective coating on both sides; screwed and aligned case back; diameter 48 mm, height 18.7 mm, water-resistant up to 3 bar/30 m


Applied indexes; luminous indexes and hour and minute hands, red hand for altimeter