Thursday, July 19, 2018

You Can't Go Home Again

IKEPOD was, for a short time, one of the coolest, most talked about watches around.  I first discovered them when I was living in Finland, via Wallpaper, which was at the time a very fun magazine.
The design was unique, and it was a serious watch.  I am still searching for a Seaslug GMT Alarm model ; )

And while everyone talks about Marc Newson, a key to the original IKEPOD was Oliver Ike.  You need artistic vision, but you also need grown ups.  Oliver Ike was what made the company possible, as otherwise it would have merely been an artistic experiment.  The rise and fall of IKEPOD is, even after all these years, very regrettable.  Regrettable, but is is now starting to become a more common story.  I have spoken with Oliver more than a few times about the roller coaster ride that was IKEPOD 1.0 and remain convinced that IKEPOD could certainly have made it.  But what's past is past.

And that brings us to IKEPOD: 3.GodKnowsWhat.

The new and improved IKEPOD will be just like the original... 
not exactly.  The designs are somewhat reminiscent, but lacking the depth and execution of their namesake.  Having seen the watches on the latest IKEPOD website, I feel that at best these are homages.  And by homage, I mean just what you might think.  And if I am honest, it makes me wonder why the new owners invested the time and money in the first place, as they could have done something very similar without bothering to revive the IKEPOD name.  The watches will be quartz, and "Proudly Made in Hong Kong".  And in fairness, there is nothing wrong with that.  But what made IKEPOD special was the melding of really cool design with a mechanical watch.  I realize that I might be alone in this opinion, but I disagree with Outlet X stating something to the effect that IKEPOD is being "saved".  IKEPOD was dead, autopsied, cremated, and the ashes were spread at sea.  It's not like there were employees, a factory, a town counting on the brand to keep going.  IKEPOD was (and I suspect still is) an administration office with a designer and some investors.  And again, in fairness?  This makes them no different than several big brands whose factory you will never see - because they don't have one ; )

Sometimes, you just have to let go.  As I write this, I am reminded that I used to be young and handsome, once upon a time.



Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Wrapping up the Montfort Strata James - Part Two

What makes the Strata James, and Montfort special?

Well, it is actually several things.  Starting with the dial -


A close up of the dial reveals that it is, in fact, full of texture.  And holes!  Well, not exactly holes.  But what the dial of the Strata James and all of the other Strata pieces proudly displays is the result of a 3D printed dial.  Now in fairness, you could easily print 3D dials... if you simply wanted a flat, typical dial.  But that is not what the folks at Montfort were after.  There are plenty of flat dialed watches, but not too many out there with actual texture.  Add to that the challenge of making hundreds of dials that will be exactly the same?  Well, that's more than just an afternoon's worth of tinkering ; )



Long story short, Montfort partnered with the Swedish firm Digital Metal to create the dials for the Strata collection.  


The goal was to create a dial reminiscent of the birthplace of Montfort which is not exactly flat.  To this extent, the dial of the James Strata is somewhat topographic in nature.  Although you will likely never take the dial out and touch it, you can almost feel the rise and fall of it's texture with your eyes.    


Now for me (and this might just be my take on it) the dial was what really made the watch for me.  The pattern is described as "Clous de Paris".  It is extremely pleasant to look at, and wonderful to see displayed on a watch at this price point.  Montfort was also aware that this is a watch that also needs to be, well, readable!  And to that end they used an outer chapter ring with a 60 minute/second scale as well as six very prominent markers at 1, 3, 5,7, 9 and 11 o'clock.  There is nothing printed on the inner (main) dial itself, the logo and text are on the crystal, almost floating above the mountains and valleys of the dial.

Now the second innovation is the case.  It is not made from mere stainless steel.  It is, quite literally, Super Stainless Steel.  And I have to be honest, this is where my ability to adequately describe technical stuff hits the wall, so I am going to quote Montfort -

Super Stainless Steel has been developed in conjunction with AIM SA of Switzerland and Expanite A/S of Denmark. Initially developed for offshore and aerospace applications this gaseos carbo-nitriding technology is unparalleled in its flexibility, hardening performance and anti-corrosive properties.

By diffusing at low temperature both nitrogen and carbon into the surface of the material, a layer is formed with a case depth of approximately 0.04mm (0.0016 in) with a surface hardness around 1200 HV (Hardness Vickers scale). The treated steel is 8 times harder than standard steel improving drastically the resistance to scratches.

Now if you're like me, and I know some of you are, you will scratch the bejeepers out of your watches.  I have fortunately not had to put this technology to the test, but it is comforting to know it's there.

One last point I'd like to make is the finishing of the movement, most specifically the rotor -

Courtesy of Montfort
I opted to use Montfort's own photo for this as they have captured the movement much better than my own ham-fisted attempts.  The movement is the Sellita SW200, it features a black galvanic coating, blued screws and "CÔTES DE GENÈVE" on the rotor.  Is this an "in house", manufacture movement?  Of course not, and thank goodness!  Because sooner or later, you will want to get your watch serviced, and the way things are going, I will wish you good luck if you are trying to get anything other than a "standard", mass produced one taken care of without having to pay to put your watch maker's kids through private school.

And while we are on the topic of the movement, it ran very accurately with no major deviations.  I also wound very smoothly with very good crown engagement.  The screw-down crown is solid and secure without being too tight or too loose.

To sum it up, this is an intriguing watch.  Comfortable to wear, and  very versatile, you can wear it with pretty much anything.  It has some great technological advancements, offers some fun surprises and very real value at its suggested retail price point of 1,990 CHF.

For the record, here are the specs straight from the source -


CASE: 4 PIECE CASE IN HARDENED "SUPER STAINLESS STEEL”

SIZE: 44 MM

WATER RESISTANCE: 100M/330FT (10ATM)

CRYSTAL: SAPPHIRE CRYSTAL GLASS (TOP AND BOTTOM) WITH BLUE ANTI-REFLECTIVE COATING

DIAL: 3D PRINTED STAINLESS STEEL DIAL "CLOUS DE PARIS"

HANDS: HOUR & MINUTE : SKELETON RHODIUM POLISHED WITH ‘COOL GREY’ LUMINOVA, SECOND: BLUE PVD COATING

MOVEMENT: SWISSMADE SELLITA SW200 AUTOMATIC MOVEMENT IN BLACK GALVANIC COATING, BLUED SCREWS, "CÔTES DE GENÈVE" ON OSCILLATING MASS AND 26 RUBIES

STRAP: BLACK, SEMI MATTE ITALIAN LEATHER STRAP WITH BLACK STITCHING AND BLUE ‘LORICA’ LINING – 22/20MM

Monday, July 16, 2018

Wrapping up the Montfort Strata James - Part One

The past seven days have been pretty eventful - I turned fifty, France won the World Cup, and I got the opportunity to wear a watch that bears my name!


For those of you who are not yet acquainted, Montfort is a relatively new brand that currently occupies the "microbrand" space, but has the potential to grow beyond it.  

The model that was sent for review is the Montfort Strata James, which is part of the original Strata collection.  Spoiler alert, I really have enjoyed wearing this watch, and have been very impressed with its build quality, look, and wearing comfort.


Jumping straight to the "wearability" of the watch -
The case measures 44 mm in diameter, and is crafted of some pretty special stainless steel (more on that in a moment).  While the case has ample size on the horizontal, it falls into the "Goldilocks" size and fit category (at least for me) in that it is "just right".  The actual thickness of the case is much more sane -


This allows for a very pleasing wearing experience.  The temptation for a lot of watch brands is to make something "macho".
By that, I mean that a watch has to be bigger in every way, not just a large diameter, but it should sit like a hockey puck on the wrist, and the strap should be more reminiscent of something to put around your waist as opposed to something to secure a watch to your wrist.


In terms of wrist size I am, to quote Joe Walsh, "an ordinary, average guy".  The Strata James fits and wears very comfortably.

The strap is really something fun.  It is made of leather, with a stitched and padded exterior which adds an extra level of texture.


It is subtle, and it adds an extra little "whats-it".  While the exterior of the strap is leather, the interior of it is lorica.  Don't worry, no loricas were harmed in the manufacture of the strap linings ; )  


Lorica is a synthetic type of leather.  The advantage of this is that because it is synthetic, it does not have the same "rot" factor of leather, meaning that the strap will last longer.  And with a fun little twist, the interior of the strap is a different color, in this instance it is blue.  You will also notice that the strap uses quick change spring bars, which allows for easy strap changes.

The lug width is 22 mm, and the strap tapers down to 20 mm at the buckle.  The buckle itself is interesting -


It is also of stainless steel, it is structured, well shaped and ample without being excessive.  You notice anything else?  The buckle itself is not polished in the same manner as the rest of the watch case and crown.  This was not an oversight from the folks at Montfort. This was very intentional.  As yourself a question - where does the buckle of your watch strap usually sit?  Moreover, it is safe to assume that it will be coming into constant contact with tables, desks, doors, etc.  So Montfort opted to have a buckle of hardened steel without polishing.

Wait a minute, what is hardened steel?  We'll get into all of that and more when Part Two of this review goes up this evening.

Stay Tuned!


 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

We Wrap up the Montfort James

Tomorrow!


Stay tuned!


The Incredible Shrinking Fair

So news has filtered its way to the North Shore, and if the rather loud whispers are to be believed, it would seem that BaselWorld will be contracting once again.  Hall 2 will be closed and for all intents and purposes, the entire fair will all be in Hall 1 in 2019.

Now for many of us who had to race back and forth between Hall 1 and Hall 2 it meant often being late, and running a very real risk of contracting second-hand lung cancer as we passed through the wall of nervous sales reps and indolent influencers doing their level best to boost tobacco sales by 23% every BaselWeek.  For us, this is not such a bad piece of news.  And if I am being very honest (if unkind) the atmosphere and "decor" of Hall 2 was often more reminiscent of the Jackson, TN Greyhound bus station than of a luxury destination -

Courtesy of roadarch.com
Having gotten off the bus at 11:45 at night at this very station, I can tell you that, well... it's pretty depressing.  

When I worked for DOXA, Hall 2 (somewhat in the right armpit of the building) was where we were located.  The advantage was that the sausage stand was a mere 45 second walk away, the disadvantages?  Too many to count.  When you are in a shitty location, people are more likely to miss their appointments, and not make any effort to reach out for a "make up".  As a rule, nobody goes to Hall 2 unless they have a reason, because the sausage stand has moved across the street.  It just isn't sexy.

And for the fair organizers?  One less building means fewer security guards to pay, lower power bills, etc.  Logistically?  Smoother, easier to deal with.  

In terms of public perception?  Not so good.  Over the last few years we have seen the fair shrink from four halls, now down to one.  The number of attendees (journalists, fans, and retailers) has drastically reduced has well.  And more and more brands have been looking for "alternative" accommodations by renting out cafes, restaurants, shops, even houses rather than drop the cash on space in any of the halls.  And my suspicion is that the powers that be might try to "adjust" pricing to reflect the "exclusivity" of being in Hall 1.  So if you were a brand that was saving some pennies by being in Hall 2, you will be paying Hall 1 prices, or you will be looking for something different.  The question then becomes, will Hall 1 be able to accommodate everyone who wants space?  Or potentially more worrisome, will the potential uptick in price encourage some of the potential tenants to skip the whole thing altogether, leaving a look and feel like a dead shopping mall?

Courtesy of Architectural Afterlife
Let us hope that the new regime in charge of organizing this shin-dig will view it as an opportunity for rebirth and reinvention.  And more than anything else, let's hope they fill the halls and support the brands, the journalists and the retailers - because that will be the true measure of a successful BaselWorld fair.