3. Basel 2012
Well here we are, the final Basel report. Finishing with two of my favourite Independent Watchmakers, both ironically not located in Switzerland, which may or may not have anything to do with their consistent production of quite opposite in terms of style, lovely watches for our enjoyment. Stepan Sarpaneva has finalized the Korono K0, his version of a dive watch. Marco Lang has created a subtle version of his Friedrich August 1st watch, yet it contains a unique movement, the mainplate and bridges being fossilized mastodon ivory!
First up was Stepan:
The new all SS K0 Korona, 46mm.
The SS K0 Korona with DLC bezel and crown.
The all DLC SS K0 Korona, a great looking watch.
Close up of all DLC SS version.
Love that crown!
The solid back of K0 Korona, it is after all a sport watch!
The other pieces I had seen previously, but thought them worth remembering as they are stunning. The Korona K3 Northern stars, which Stepan makes in either polished SS, Matt DLC SS or 18k R.G. or W.G. It is stunning in any variant!
Here is this stunning blue dialed and RG moon version of the Korona K3 Northern lights.
On the wrist, a lovely piece.
The RG variant, another lovely piece, and one that I could easily own myself.
The pair of beauties...
The back of the Korona K3 Northern Lights.
My two favourite versions of the Korona K0, love those blue dial elements.
The Korona K1 SS with the rustbrown dial on Mrs. Jackson's wrist.
And one of the more unusual watches, Stepan's amazing Korona Moonshine, which has the hours on a revolving disc, read at the bottom of the dial, together with the moonphase that slides across the opening also behind the hour disc. A very interesting piece by Stepan! I happen to love it and when he showed me the prototype in Basel 2 years ago with slight trepidation, I strongly suggested he put it into production. Here it is:
Apologies, not my best effort at photographing this lovely watch. The silver Moonface is now Stepan's signature logo. A cool look and quite sublime.
Leaving Stepan's stand, we wandered across the aisle and met up with Marco Lang, who was there with his sister and colleagues. I had heard about Marco's project from him a while back when he visited us at Passion in Solana Beach last autumn, and was not aware of how it might look, only that fossilized Mastodon ivory was to be used in the movement. I was quite shocked to be presented with this lovely & elegant version of the Friedrich August 1st with the arabic numeral 3 layer enamel dial and new for me, blued steel Louis XV hands. Upon turning it over, I was confronted with a lovely creamy warm caliber, using traditional wheels, jewels in chatons etc as in the Caliber I from Marco, except the plates, bridges & cocks are made from the fossilized ivory. I suspect it is unique in todays modern watchmaking. Marco told me that he got the idea from an old pocketwatch that used some form of ivory for the bridges & plates. The small series will be only 25 pieces.
The lovely 18k RG Friedrich August I with the enamel dial.
Here you go, Marco says the tricky part is in making the parts due to the inherent flexibility of the fossilized ivory compared to the brass in his standard calibers.
Here you can see the grain structure of the ivory a bit better in this light.
Janna looking at the piece with Marco on her right.
Another view of the sublime Friedrich August I.
While at the AHCI stand, Thomas Prescher introduced us to a young man from Japan, who is a student of another AHCI candidate Masahiro Kikuno. This young man had made his first watch, an extra-ordinary Tourbillon. Not delicate, but certainly a marvelous effort and huge kudos to him for making a wrist watch in the first place and a tourbillon to boot! Bit of a contrast to the preceding piece from Marco though in terms of styling...
Here is the tourbillon by Shuhei Imose:
Cased in a gold plated brass case to start, the single tourbillon is designed as an inline going train caliber.
The back is a bit plain for my taste, then again that is the aesthetic he is going for!
Not great lighting I'm afraid, but you get the idea.
Some notes from the maker, clearly laid out for use to see. Quite helpful as his English was fairly limited.
We then ambled over to the cafe adjacent to the AHCI and had a brief meeting with the Habrings, Maria & Richard. They were present in Basel to meet with some clients and also some of their vendors and I suspect their clients in the watch business that use the HABRING² expertise for movement and complete watch development. We were shown images of the recently released Doppel2 split seconds chronograph, based on Richard's original design from his days at IWC, but improved and updated. This small series of 20 watches is being made somewhat unusually for HABRING² in a greater number than the standard 12 per year of any model, due to the fact that it is the 20th Anniversary of the design. It is a superb looking watch, and one that will have many takers I'm sure!
Here are their images recently sent over:
Love the galvanic blue dial with the silver subzones, reminds me of my old Carinthian Sports Chrono with a similar dial, and then adding to it the orange second hand and matching stitching is my type of watch! I'm excited to see it live here in the store. We will only get a small allocation though, so don't wait to long to get a deposit in!
As is typical with the HABRING² calibers, they are finished to a fairly basic level, choosing to not go in for the elaborate and lovely, but much more expensive, hand finishing that many of their colleagues spend time doing in the Independent watchmaking world. They can do it, but find the majority of their clients prefer it this way.
So "Here endeth the lesson" as my old school master in England used to say to us small boys. It is done, Baselworld 2012 was fascinating as always. Plenty of new pieces and people to meet. At this narrow segment of the horological world, much to be happy about and I continue to be impressed with what I see and experience with these wonderful people who create my type of micro-mechanical art, for all of us to appreciate. Thank you for joining me on this journey and I appreciate the kind words many of you have expressed over the past 2 weeks.
Rounding up day three in Basel, we made our way over to Hall 4 to meet up with on old friend of mine from 10 years back, when I was asked about one of his watches by a collector in the SF Bay Area. In doing some research and a few phone calls later, we ended up being a representative for Martin Braun. In time, Martin needed a injection of capital into his business in order to develop his own caliber and expand his business into more of a brand. His choice of partner was Watchland aka Frank Muller group, he was to stay on and work only in the development of new caliber, leaving all the oftentimes messy business aspects to the group and it's minions. After a year or so, he realised this was a bit of a mistake, and the rosy picture that had been painted wasn't quite so rosy. So he departed his namesake company and went into developing his own caliber again on his own terms and found a partner in Bruno Jufer, a veteran of the Swiss watch business, who could put all the other bits and pieces of a small watch company together.
As you can see I have followed Martin's progress closely and find him a straightforward and all around good guy, who has been in a tough situation or two, and has I hope come out on the other side better for it. He is also a damn good watchmaker, who designed a lovely automatic chronograph 6 or 7 years ago , that I thought was superb and very reasonably priced. Alas it was not to be, and I think the caliber being owned by Watchland, got used in a completely different brand of watch!
Anyway, fast forward to today, last year he created an interesting manual wind perpetual calendar caliber with a huge slow beat balance wheel, using his own design of a silicon anchor and escape wheel for precision and less maintenance over the course of it's life. This year he showed a new watch, the Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar. Speaking with Martin, one gets his excitement about watchmaking and I am very happy for him in his new work environment. Enough talk, to the pictures:
Last years offering, the mighty RG silver dialed Perpetual Calendar.
From memory the huge balance wheel is 17.5-18mm in diameter!
A new DLC version, a sharp looking watch!
Here it is, the RG Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar with a regulator style dial. Gone is the big date in favor of a retrograde date and again the massive titanium balance wheel in the titanium tourbillon cage.
The WG version with the stunning black dial!
Here is a close up of the tourbillon showing the silicon or silicium, same thing BTW, anchor and escape wheel designed by Martin. Quite hi-tech and as described by Martin, a significant improvement over the standard lever escapement. We are also excited to announce a watchmaker dinner with him in October around the time of the WatchTime/Jeff Kingston "Inside Basel/SIHH " events in San Francisco and Los Angeles. We will also be attending these two shows as representatives of Antoine Martin.
Heading over to the AHCI again, I finally got to see the Grönefeld brothers, Tim & Bart. I had seen them over the course of the show, enjoyed a coffee or two with them and a beer, but hadn't to this point seen their new versions of the One Hertz in my hand. Five years ago they sketched out the idea on a piece of paper for me in Basel and I was intrigued, the first version cased in steel and limited to 12 pieces sold out, now this year they showed a stunning platinum version, again limited to 12 with a lovely galvanic blue dial and a titanium version with 3 differing dials variants. I only got to see the grey/orange dial in the Ti piece and of course the platinum piece. I have to say I still love the One Hertz 3 years on, and I think offers collectors a truly interesting and unique execution of complication, the independent dead seconds. Tim & Bart are great watchmakers, having worked in Switzerland for Renaud & Papi, in their complications department, Tim specialising in Tourbillons and Bart, Minute Repeaters. They returned to their native country, Holland, and to their ancestral town of Oldenzaal, and opened their own business. The workshop now resides in the same building where their grandfather, a watchmaker, had a workshop 100 years ago. To the watches...
The lovely platinum One Hertz with a great blue dial. Love this version! Then I am a sucker for blue dials especially in platinum.
The killer movement.
I just happened to have the perfect suit on that day, to wear with this watch...different lighting has an effect on this lovely creation.
Here is the titanium One Hertz Fire with the modern dial
After leaving our Dutch friends, we headed over to see another friend Scott Rosen, who now works for De Bethune. A client had asked me about a particular piece, the Mayan watch, so while making inquiries for him and snapping some pictures, I was able to see a few of their special pieces. Although I am not a representative of theirs, I appreciate what they are doing and thought I'd share these pictures.
A trick silicium balance wheel amongst other things!
Love this piece!
Mirror polishing of the bridges and plates, unique finishing to my knowledge and not easy to execute!
The Mayan watch, checkout the sapphire crystal hands with blued steel ends and edges, meanwhile, the dial is beautifully done!
Close up of a tourbillon with a dead seconds mechanism.
Another version of the same complication, this time dial side.
Well that's all for now, stay tuned for my final report, my friend the crazy Finn, Sarpaneva and Marco Lang's only new watch of 2012, which wasn't shown publicly, except to a few lucky people...