Friday, June 23, 2017

Numbers Don't Lie... But Sometimes They Fib

May is now in the books, and it does appear that there might be a bit of a recovery in the works -

Courtesy of FH

As you will note, that pesky little blue line is inching upwards again, welcome news for one and all.  

More interesting to relate are the results from some specific markets:

Hong Kong is now up +18.1%

Italy is up 26.7%

and  China?   34.4%

Sounds really good, right?

Well, sorry to bring ants to a picnic, but there is more behind these numbers than I suspect the happy-shiny press releases are going to address.

Interesting to relate, watch brands are not heralding sales increases of the magnitude we are seeing from these numbers.  And the US?  Still in the red at -1.1%, with Japan still down at -3.2%.  BaselWorld and SIHH were stinkers both in terms of attendance and sales.

So this then brings up the next (let's be honest) obvious question - is something amazing going on in China, Hong Kong... and Italy?

I don't think so.  But there is a looming reality that could be spurring the export numbers to higher levels - the upcoming enforcement of "Swissness".  Because what this really means is that the vast number of watches already dressed-up with nowhere to go in the various Swiss warehouses?  They have to be out of the country, and soon.  Let's keep in mind that just because a watch has been exported, does not mean that it has, actually, been sold.  China and Hong Kong represent "safe harbors" where a big enough brand could shift the stock over to a subsidiary to either dump into the grey market, or to hang onto and strip for what they can get.  Italy while not in the same dire economic straights as, say, Greece or Spain still seems a bit unlikely to be a driver for as much watch "appetite" as these numbers would indicate.  One thing in Italy's favor?  Proximity, just across the border  ; )

So what does this all really mean?  Theories are just that, but mine is this:

We will, most likely, be seeing a very large number of grey market watches hitting the market very soon.  In other words?  Even more than now.  Some very large brands are currently investigating ways to sell their surplus watches via Amazon and other outlets.  And although several brands have cut production and are slowing down their output, there is still a mountain of unsold product which needs to be dealt with - and by the end of this year.

For the watch consumer?  It's going to be a great time to buy!


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Getting Personal - A Bespoke Watch From REVOLO

Courtesy of Google:
  1. 1.
    past of bespeak.
adjective: bespoke
(of goods, especially clothing) made to order.

"a bespoke suit"

I think it is safe to say that we have all had those moments where we wished we could change certain aspects of a favorite watch.  Back in the early part of the century (yes, 17 long years ago) there was a bit of a cottage industry that sprung up where you could get your watch modified.  Anything from hands to custom designed dials.  And that was okay.  You could even, for a price, reach out to the great and the good and maybe get a slight modification to one of their watches.

So when I heard about REVOLO I was both intrigued, and if I am completely honest, a wee-bit skeptical.  As mentioned, others have tried but really failed to deliver on a truly bespoke watch for the watch enthusiast of more modest means.

Spoiler alert - I am now a believer!

I ordered a REVOLO using the brand's online configurator feature and it arrived quite promptly, directly from Amsterdam where it had been assembled, just for yours truly.

Essentially, you go online, you make your choices, pay for the watch, and then the folks in the REVOLO workshop work to assemble your watch for you.

I opted for a 43 mm cushion style case, with a rose gold pvd finish.

Courtesy of REVOLO
I added a unidirectional bezel (also rose gold pvd), and a rose gold pvd crown -

I selected the blue "sandwich" dial, and a black, a black vintage style leather strap -

secured with a gold pvd buckle.

Courtesy of REVOLO

The movement I selected was the Miyota 821A -

Courtesy of REVOLO

Put it all together -

So, before we get into the review itself, let me explain some of the design decisions.

Way back in 1968, my father was given a gold filled Mido Ocean Star the day before I made my debut in Zanesville, Ohio.

 Yes, the photos are terrible!

Regular readers will know that the Mido my father received and passed on to me is now with my niece.  

So I wanted something with a gold look, ideally without the gold price ; )

The Mido while sentimentally important was a wee-bit too small for my wrist, and as we do not have kids, it needed to go to the "next eligible" family member.

The second design cue came from a brief piece I read in  
The Rake, which was doing a quick take on the actor Michael Nouri.  It listed some of his sartorial trappings and included what was reputed to be a Breguet chronograph in gold -

Shamelessly borrowed from the world-wide infoweb
Now some other things that influenced the decision - I am not (nor do I anticipate ever being) a diver.  I do,  however, like to use a rotating bezel for time countdowns.  I also am a sucker for blue dials and wanted a watch face that looked slightly more formal than plain old indices and dots.  So something semi-sporty, but not a sport watch, and in a gold finish, but not gold (remember pals and gals, I'm a humble English teacher).

I think most of all, I wanted something special, that I would always enjoy wearing.

So to finish it off, there were two additional flourishes:

Like the original Mido, I added a similar inscription.  This watch is for me after all, nobody else!

And as it happens, it was possible to add a customization to the watch box itself, so in for a penny, in for a pound -

Okay, so that's the background.  But let's get down to the proverbial brass tacks:

This is an INCREDIBLY comfortable watch!

Although the case measures 43 mm in diameter, owing to its cushion design it actually curves quite nicely where the lugs curve into the case.  As you can see, it occupies the space but clearly does not overwhelm my wrist.

More importantly, the watch sits flat on my wrist, no slipping or sliding.  And at that point I would like to sing the praises of the strap.  Unbelievably comfortable.  Described as leather, the top of the strap has a nice suede or nubuck feel to it.  All too often, a thick leather strap will not get softer, but rather stiffer (and crispier), not necessarily conducive to a comfortable wearing experience.  Not so with the REVOLO strap.  Soft, comfortable and really nice looking.

The crown is ideally sized, and does not screw down.  Again, given that I am not diving (or swimming) with it, this is ideal for me.  The crown itself is tactile without being "edgy" and the setting and winding motion are unbelievably smooth.  

The timekeeping is (sorry Rolex) superlative!  The folks at Miyota make an unbelievably accurate and robust movement.  More and more brands are making the move to them (even some smaller micro Swiss brands), because to them the cost benefit ratio that the Miyota offers far outweighs the expense and potential fussiness of a Swiss movement which would add a fair bit to the sticker price.  I have been within 26 seconds or so over the entire time period so far.

And the lume was not too bad either -

So all in all, I would highly recommend the REVOLO experience to anyone.  And the best part is that owing to the choice in movements, dials and cases there is not only something for everyone, the price points are downright reasonable.  For right around €500, you get a watch made just for you!  


The E-Commerce Micro-Edition

From Panerai -

Courtesy of Panerai

It would seem that the debate as to whether or not people will buy expensive watches online can now, pretty much, be put to bed.

Panerai is now offering a limited edition that will only be available through their online store.  100 of these will be up for grabs.  I have absolutely no idea how well the sales have gone, but if it's in your wheel house, you might want to move "sharpish".

Courtesy of Panerai

Here are the pertinents:

MOVEMENT Automatic Mechanical, Panerai OP XXX calibre. FUNCTIONS Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, calculation of immersion time. CASE 44 mm, polished AISI 316 L stainless steel. DIAL blue with Arabic numerals and applied luminous hour markers. Date at 3 o’clock, seconds at 9 o’ clock. POWER RESERVE 50H. WATER-RESISTANCE 30 bar (~300 meters).

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

When Translation Gets Lost in Space

Okay, it must be that the English teacher in me is still not fully switched off for summer vacation, but today's press release from Tag Heuer had me reaching for my red pen before I'd even finished my first espresso.

So grab your exercise books and let's get to it!  And I would ask that you read all the way through to the end because there is a point I am driving at.

Courtesy of Tag Heuer

The announcement was made during a press conference held for the very first time by an international brand inside the Rocket Launch Center.
This was also the first time a watch brand was able to bring medias and retailers to watch a real Rocket Launch!

Through a journey to the moon, TAG Heuer once again visits the galaxy! 

[June 19, 2017, Xichang] Today, TAG Heuer, the Swiss avant-garde watchmaker, was gloriously chosen as Strategic Partner and Official Timekeeper for Chinas Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP). 

I guess if you're going to be chosen, it ought to be gloriously...

Courtesy of Tag Heuer
Additionally, TAG Heuer is the first international brand to hold an official partnership with China’s aerospace industry! Mr. Leo Poon, TAG Heuer General Manager of Greater China, Mr. Xu Xingli, General Manager at Chang'E Aerospace Technology (Beijing) LLC, gathered in Xichang for this meaningful press conference together with guests and friends from the media, they witnessed the magnificent launch of the satellite. With its avant-garde spirit of #DontCrackUnderPressure, TAG Heuer will continue with its great support for China’s aerospace industry, following its first partnership signed in August 2016 with China’s Mars Exploration Program. The CLEP is now on time with TAG Heuer!

If you're going to take the time to have a press conference, and you're going to invite a hundred or so media and retail partners, let's hope it's meaningful!

Tranquil as the Moon, Rising as the Sun
I have absolutely no idea what "Tranquil as the Moon, Rising
as the Sun" is supposed to mean.
In 2004, the CLEP officially started, deploying with three phases of orbiting, landing and returning. In 2007, China's first lunar probe Chang'e-1 was successfully launched. Chang'e-1 is the first lunar probe to transmit back the most complete 3-D map of the lunar surface, marking the milestone of China becoming one of the countries with outer space exploration capability. Since the second phase of the CLEP being approved and initiated in 2008, Chang’e-2 and Chang’e-3 lunar probes were successfully launched and completed their mission. The strategic goals of the second phase have been fully achieved.

In 2014, the third phase of the CLEP has officially started. The plan is to implement Chang'e-5 mission by December in 2017, fulfilling the landing of surface and collection of samples. This does not only mean the third phase of “returning” will be accomplished, it will also achieve a milestone in the history of space activities in China -- “Quadruple Success”, including the first automatic collection of samples, the first take-off from lunar surface, the first unmanned space docking from the orbit of moon that is thirty-eight million kilometres away, and the first return of lunar soils in the speed of second cosmic velocity.


By breaking limits and combating challenges, Chinese people in aerospace created a glorious miracle with extraordinary national ethos and powerful exploration spirit on this grand journey. TAG Heuer’s great support for China’s aerospace industry demonstrated the avant-garde spirit of #DontCrackUnderPressure in the best way possible.
Double ???  

I am somewhat puzzled as to just what exactly "extraordinary national ethos and powerful exploration spirit" is.

Join Hands in the Vast Space

TAG Heuer is the Swiss avant-garde watchmaker for more than a century. As early as 1962, TAG Heuer became the first Swiss watchmaker in space with American astronaut John Glenn, pilot of the Friendship 7 spacecraft on Mercury-Atlas 6. In 2012, TAG Heuer once again proved its reliability and accuracy by bringing a watch to the International Space Station by SpaceX, and became the partner with S3 (Swiss Space Systems) ZeroG aerospace program after two years.
Courtesy of Tag Heuer
TAG Heuer’s collaboration with China’s aerospace industry originated in 2016. From its partnership with China’s Mars Exploration Program to kick off its global solicitation for program logo design, to becoming Strategic Partner and Official Timekeeper of the CLEP today, TAG Heuer has shown tremendous dedication and support to the development of China’s aerospace industry and achieving the dreams of Chinese people in aerospace!

Now let's be very, very honest with each other - this is a vivid example of language and culture colliding.  And I have a theory:

1.  Tag Heuer and their folks at Tag Heuer China have worked to create a unique partnership with CLEP (China Lunar Exploration Program).  And I think this is pretty cool.  And yes, I mean that sincerely.

2.  For this event, it seems clear that it was intended for the Chinese market (press and retail partners).  Again, that is understandable.  And therefore it is reasonable to assume that the original press release was drafted in (one would assume) Mandarin.  

3.  It was probably decided that this might be interesting to the global watch press - and yes, the partnership itself is interesting and newsworthy. This release was then, most likely, translated from Mandarin to English.   The fact that it is currently a somewhat slow watch news cycle (typical for this time of year) probably also influenced the decision to send this out to the global watch press. 

4.  There are translations, and then there are translations.  Language is more than words, punctuation and grammar.  It is also about culture, and most definitely about nuance.  This is a press release that is dripping with nuance - and I mean that as praise, not as snark.  But because this was a very cursory translation, that nuance gets lost, and actually becomes somewhat comical.  When it is put into English, without taking into consideration what is cultural nuance and what is merely language, it does not have the positive impact that it might.

5.  This translation may, in fact, be the work of a few teams.  And this is just a hunch, but my hunch is that none of these teams had a native English speaker on them. 

6.  It is clear that there was not a proofreader/editor tasked with ensuring that this release made sense to the intended audience.

Now, let's think about this from a more global perspective.  A LOT of money gets spent on a daily basis by companies for advertising and marketing.  And in most industries, the companies understand the importance of clear and correct language.  The watch industry is somewhat unique in its refusal to accept that the people that they have engaged (usually agencies in Switzerland) are not delivering on their commitment to not only translate, but proof and edit their documentation and marketing materials.  In many cases there is nobody at the company who is either willing, or able to tell the decision makers that there is a problem.  The translation company assures the brand representative that they have a crack team of top translators and writers working for them.  So like the (actually) naked emperor, the brand goes through life blissfully (and willingly) unaware that a good portion of their marketing and communication collateral is not correctly translated.  And like the aforementioned emperor, these materials can become a source of unintended amusement.

And it doesn't have to be this way!  If you have budgetary funds to pay for shirts, hats, bags, press junkets to go surfing in Hawaii, free watches (hint-hint), and champagne?  Then you can afford the $200 US to pay someone who will ensure that your press release makes sense.

You know where to reach me...

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Something Cool

form Mondaine
Courtesy of Mondaine
These are the two new Mondaine Helvetica No1 Regular 2nd Time Zone watches.  Available with a silver/white dial (above), and a black dial (below).

Courtesy of Mondaine
This model measures 40 mm in diameter, and offers two time zones.

The movement is Ronda's quartz 6203.B BIG DUAL.
Courtesy of Mondaine
The US retail is $425.  The perfect watch to help you keep time on your summer travels.