Tudor is not a brand we have covered often (if at all) here on The Watch Lounge. Not because there is anything wrong with them of course, far from it in fact but simply because they just weren’t really doing anything that exciting from our point of view. It seems though that that is no longer the case, with the brand increasingly becoming too cool to ignore. Case in point, the slick new Fastrider Black Shield timepiece unveiled today at Baselworld.
This is the question I seem to keep unwittingly asking myself as I read more and more about the unfolding ‘Save The Time’ saga here in Australia. Since Australian watchmaker Max Schweizer appeared on video decrying the move by unnamed Swiss watch manufacturers to cease the supply of spare parts to independent Australian service centers, the Internet has been rife with rumor and conjecture about who’s involved, the legality of such a move and so forth. No real surprises there but what is surprising (relatively speaking) is the response from the watch industry so far. Or rather, the lack of response.
Mum’s The Word
Ok, admittedly it’s not that surprising. The Swiss watch industry is notorious for being tight-lipped at the best of times and almost operates, to a degree, in a shroud of secrecy. That was until yesterday when Rolex Australia broke the unspoken code of silence to speak to the Australian media about the allegations leveled by the ‘Save The Time’ campaign (click here to read the full article.)
What I do find fascinating however is that all of a sudden people are coming out of the woodwork with stories of their brother’s wife’s sister’s boyfriend who had one unpleasant experience with an Authorized Dealer, or indeed the brand itself, and therefore as a result the allegations made must be true. These are the same people who claim to be devotees of the brand and indeed own one or several of their timepieces already, yet I haven’t really seen any concerted efforts by brands to address these concerns. To some outside of the industry this may be an unfathomable concept, especially in this age of social media domination we currently find ourselves in, but unfortunately it is an all too common scenario.
Which again causes me to ask myself the question; does the Swiss Watch industry have an image problem?
Time To Speak Up?
As an independent observer who is not privy to all the facts I am not in any position to comment on the legitimacy of the claims made by either side. What I can say though is that I think this situation presents an excellent opportunity for brands within the industry to engender some serious goodwill with their customers by speaking up.
I think it’s fair to say that many brands, especially those belonging to the major groups (i.e. Richemont, Swatch, etc.) have been painted with a broad brush, with many taking their silence as acknowledgement of guilt even though they may still be readily supplying spare parts to independent watchmakers.
Conversely, this is also an opportunity to explain to consumers why they have chosen to take that course of action, if indeed they have, as Rolex attempted to do yesterday. For example, is it a refusal to supply all parts? Or is just parts for timepieces made a certain number of years ago? Are independent watchmakers able to gain some sort of accreditation that will allow them to become part of the brand’s authorized network? What is the overall impact on the consumer? What are the benefits of this decision?
Social Media provides an excellent platform for communicating directly with customers.
From what I have seen it does not seem like this issue is isolated to just Australia, however the response by brands does seem to vary Continent by Continent. For example in Europe, Rolex UK General Manager David Cutler has said that the luxury watch brand will continue to work with accredited independent watchmakers in the UK, in spite of the company’s decision not to do so in Australia.
Again, there may be legitimate reasons for making these decisions however the lack of communication ensures that these remain unknown. Whether this will impact negatively on the long-term strength of major brands remains to be seen. To be honest I think it is unlikely however that doesn’t necessarily mean that this opportunity to connect with customers on an individual level should be overlooked.
The Final Word
Firstly, to answer my original question, no, I don’t think the Swiss Watch industry has an image problem. Let’s face it, these are arguably some of the strongest brands in the world, and with good reason. As to the situation itself however, whatever your opinion, it will be really interesting to see how this all plays out and indeed if any meaningful change will be achieved as a result of the action taken by the ‘Save The Time’ organization. Again, as an independent observer I cannot comment on the accusations however I can highlight the opportunity that I think exists here, and I do commend Rolex Australia for at least providing some form of clarification.
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below as I would really love to get a discussion going on this highly interesting topic!
As the ‘Save The Time’ campaign we told you abouta few weeks ago continues to pick up momentum in Australia, watchmaking goliath Rolex has entered the fray, defending its decision to cease the supply of spare parts to independent watchmakers.
Dismissing allegations that the brand was looking to monopolise the local industry in Australia, Mr Patrick Boutellier, the general manager of Rolex in Australia, instead cited quality control concerns in explaining the brand’s motives in a recent interview with TheAustraliannewspaper.
“We are not looking to have a monopoly or anything like that at all,” he told The Australian. “For Rolex as a premium brand, we want to maintain the quality at the highest level. Our aim has always been that we can service the watches with acceptable delivery times and prices, so there is no need for us to further extend our network of watchmakers.”
It’s an interesting move by the brand as it effectively confirms the claims made by the ‘Save The Time’campaign and puts Rolex squarely in the spotlight, especially as no specific brands were named previously by the campaigners. Whether that makes any difference in the long run remains to be seen as I am not sure there is any legally enforceable way in which the brand can be forced to sell their products to third parties.
One thing is for sure though, this story is far from over. Stay tuned for further developments.
“Each time an old man dies, it’s a library that burns” – African proverb by Ahmadou Hampathe Ba.
George Daniels built his reputation restoring and repairing the exceptional creations of Abraham Louis Breguet and, like his predecessor had a century before him, made it his life’s work to constantly search for ways to improve watchmaking. During his legendary career spanning 42 years he created 37 different watches completely by himself, excluding prototypes, with each designed as a way to test new ideas, new processes. Whilst most manufacturers focus on registering new patents and developing new materials, Daniels was more concerned with generating new ideas and then finding ways to implement them.
His most notable invention, the now well-known co-axial escapement, was simply too ahead of its time for the watchmaking industry when he first created it back in the 1970s. It’s not common knowledge but Daniels actually struck out with Rolex and Jaeger-LeCoultre first before Omega agreed to buy the new technology. It’s hard not to imagine that the fate of either of those manufactures could have been changed significantly if they had given Daniel’s escapement the credit it deserved. (Editor’s Note: Although fortunately both brands are still doing exceptionally well.)
Although Daniels left this world a highly respected, watch-making legend, his beginnings were incredibly humble.
“We were really scruffy gutter kids.”
These words from Daniels are indicative of the impoverished household in which he grew up, sharing what little possessions he had with his 8 brothers and sisters as the world struggled through the Great Depression. His first experience with watches came at the tender age of six when he discovered a watch in the house. According to Daniels he didn’t know who it belonged to, but as far as he was concerned it was fair game to open it up with a bread knife and examine its contents. Although it wasn’t functioning the movement he discovered inside still had all the potential qualities of the complexity of a watch, which he found very intriguing.
As time went on and Daniels grew older, the opportunities to work increased and as a consequence so did his level of remuneration. He had his own money now, not a lot mind you but maybe just enough to buy his first few broken watches to repair, but this was 1944 and fate had other plans for Daniels. Like every other healthy young man his age at the time, he was conscripted into the British Army.
“For the first time in my life I had a bed to myself”, said Daniels.
Unperturbed by this interruption however Daniels pursued his passion for watch-making and watch repairs, using his time as an enlisted man to start honing his skills:
After finishing his service in the armed forces Daniels made his way back into mainstream society, eager to continue the development of his horological endeavors. Of course at this stage he only saw himself as a watch repairer, the idea of becoming a world famous watch-maker too outrageous to even warrant a second thought. As time went on and he honed his skills working on a variety of different timepieces it became clear that he was in possession of an extraordinary talent, one that would enable him to transcend the world of watch repair.
“Breguet, the most celebrated watchmaker…
but not the greatest“. That’s what history tends to forget explains Daniels, “Everything necessary for the creation of a precision watch had been done. I had to surpass him ».
In 1968 the quartz movement (excuse the pun) was already well under way and makers of mechanical watches the world over were holding their heads in despair. However Daniels found inspiration in this new innovation, it gave him another reason to make his own watch: “My plan was to build a watch the could outwit the quartz watch. And when I was satisfied (with the watch I made), there was always another nutcase like me waiting to buy it “.
One of these so-called ‘nutcases’ was his friend Sam Clutton. He bought the first Daniels watch for 1200 £ in 1969. In the 90’s, the last one Daniels made sold for 200’000 £.
Of course, Daniels is known above all for his ability to make a watch from scratch – literally – including the tools themselves. Perfection was the goal he constantly aspired too, and in spite of his technical brilliance he never overlooked the importance of aesthetics in watchmaking: ”The beauty of a watch is geometric and aesthetic and about timekeeping “, he said. Of course CNC had no place in his creations, as he put it he liked to use “primitive tools. There was no point in changing them. I used lathed, files, pliers, wirecutters, screwdrivers, hammers, saws. Everything by hand. AutoCAD does not understand elegance “.
“I outdid Breguet”
When Omega bought his co-axial escapement, Daniels showed the world that his invention was as simple as it was necessary: “My idea was that the co-axial had to keep better time than any other mechanical escapement or quartz watch, and it does. The co-axial utilizes the last of the remaining unused principles in the impulsion of the escapement. Watchmakers may have to work five hundred years to find a better escapement“.
There is one thing for sure, Mr Daniels: even in 500 years, we will remember your work, your passion, your devotion and your invaluable contribution to the watch world.
Thank you Sir.
Original story by Olivier Müller – Quotes from the excellent book of Michael Clerizo, “Masters of contemporary watchmaking” that you can order here.
We know, we’ve said it before; we are not vintage watch experts – not by any stretch of the imagination! However, every now and then something particularly intriguing comes across our desk which we just have to share with you, such as this extremely rare No Valve Prototype Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date Double Red Sea Dweller Submariner (wow, try saying that three times fast!) What makes this piece even more appealing however, is that it will be auctioned – along with a number of other exceptional timepieces – on the 21st of May by Swedish auction house Kaplans Auktioner.
Deep Sea Discoveries
Many of you will no doubt be familiar with the infamous Submariner and Sea Dweller models produced by Rolex, arguably two of the brand’s most popular and ageless collections ever. What makes this piece particularly special however is that according to the auction house it is from the first round of Sea Dweller prototypes manufactured in the latter part of 1967.
It is estimated that only about 30 of these prototypes were produced and unlike later models, these have a thinner case and lack the classic engraving on the back case. The most notable difference however is the fact that it does not feature a helium escape valve. This is particularly important because the purpose of these prototypes were for them to be tested in real life diving situations. For that reason they were distributed to professional deep sea divers to be used on diving expeditions.
Now any of you who are at all familiar with dive watches would be aware that prior to the addition of helium escape valves the glass on the watch, the weakest point of the construction, had a tendency to come loose due to decompression. Such was the case with a number of these prototypes and as a result most of them were sent back to Rolex.
Fortunately a solution to the decompression issue had been found and Rolex had already incorporated it another one of their famous models, the special Submariners delivered to the COMEX (Ref no. 5513 and 5514). The company therefore decided to apply for a patent for a new Sea-Dweller which would feature a helium escape valve and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Watch In Question
The piece up for auction is rather unusual as not only is it a no valve prototype but the dial is actually from a later model (Mk II, about 1971). The year of the dial matches up against the date the watch was first sold and so it seems highly likely that this piece was one of those originally returned to Rolex after the failed tests in 1967 and then updated by the brand for the Sea Dweller launch in 1971. Whether this will impact on the final sale price is anyone’s guess as what drives value in the world of vintage watches is a fickle concept indeed.
As you can see above the piece will be sold complete with the chronometer certificate as well as all other certificates/papers and the original box.
The Final Word
We know what you’re thinking – so, what’s it worth? Good question! As we said at the start we are not vintage watch experts by any stretch of the imagination. All we can say is that a similar piece was auctioned by Antiquorum in 2008 and sold for US$200,000 (including buyer’s premium). With that in mind the opening bid price of 325,000Kr (approximately US$52,000) seems pretty reasonable to us but we doubt it will stay at this level for long.
If you are interested in bidding on this or any other pieces in the upcoming auction on the 21st of May, 2011 please visit the official website for more information.