2015 marks the 50th year that Seiko has been manufacturing dive watches. To celebrate that impressive achievement the Japanese horological giant released two limited edition pieces, one of them being the Seiko Marinemaster Professional 1,000m Diver’s Hi-Beat Limited Edition SBEX001 reference – a long name (and hence a lot of features) and nothing short of what we would expect to see to mark such an occasion. Before going into greater detail on this limited edition of 700 pieces, let’s take a brief look at what Seiko has achieved over the last half a century when it comes to evolving dive watches.
It’s always nice to see brands celebrating their heritage appropriately. The new Arnold & SonDTE Double Tourbillon Escapement Dual Time watch does just that. Few brands around these days have the luxury of being able to claim their founder played a role in the creation of a complication, much less one as famous and ubiquitous as the tourbillon. Despite the fact that Arnold & Son have not been in continuous operation since the foundation of the company in 1764, the renaissance of the brand owes much to the longevity of John Arnold’s professional legacy, embellished through time by his personal friendship with Abraham Louis-Breguet.
John Arnold was one of the finest watchmakers of his time. A chronometer specialist by trade, his influence on his contemporary, and ultimate legend, Abraham-Louis Breguet is debatable, but the respect the two shared is not. Both men sent their sons to study under the other. And it is through Breguet’s most famous invention – the tourbillon – that the two become indelibly linked for all of time. You see, it was in Arnold’s watch – the No. 11 movement – that Breguet’s famed complication made its first appearance. And now, almost 250 years later, the reborn Arnold & Son honors that collaboration with the release of a twin-tourbillon model that is packed full of brand DNA and practical features.
The Arnold & Son DTE Double Tourbillon Escapement Dual Time watch case shape is quintessentially Arnold & Son and measures 43.5mm wide in 18k white gold. It is a very elegant design, with smooth, flowing lugs that affix to either a brown or black hand-stitched alligator strap – the choice is yours. The Arnold & Son DTE Double Tourbillon Escapement Dual Time watch is styled to match both colors well, which is a thoughtful touch that could well tip the scales for a potential purchaser. What this case does well is make its presence known without overbearing the main event. It is effectively a highly polished frame and it plays this role very well. It retains its own character thanks to the twin crowns (one at two and one at eight o’clock). Not only is their placement unusual (and totally functional), they are really beautifully fashioned things, featuring the proud logo of this historic brand. I’m a sucker for a good crown, and this one is up there as one of the best, in my opinion. Having two of them only makes it better and, for me, changes this case from boring to quietly cool.
So what do those two crowns do? Although we have covered the Arnold & Son DTE Double Tourbillon Escapement Dual Time watch before, for those who are seeing it for the first time, we will elaborate on that. As the name of the watch – which can be shortened to the Arnold & Son DTE – suggests, this watch features more than the two dial-mounted tourbillons, as those are matched to two time zones as well! Now, this isn’t your run of the mill world timer, with a proxy hand to indicate a second time zone, oh no – this is a dual time watch in the literal sense of the word. Those two silvery opaline dials on the face of the watch can be independently set by those two crowns so that any time can appear on either. In fact, these dials are so independent of each other, they even have their own train, escapement, and thus, tourbillon. They do, however, share a pair of barrels that are wound by the 2 o’clock crown and generate an impressive power reserve of 90 hours.
The first practical advantage of being able to set two dials independently is that not all time zones are separated by one hour increments. There are some that need to be set to half past the hour and a couple that require a quarter-hour differential. The second cool feature – and one that is arguably much more useful – is that you can set one of the dials to 12:00 and use it as a 12-hour chronograph (with to-the-minute accuracy, as there is no seconds hand).
The time is displayed by blued hour and minute hands, which, along with the dial backgrounds, are identical despite the fact that one dial (at 6 o’clock) features Arabic numerals and the other (at 12) Roman numerals. It was wise of Arnold & Son not to add seconds hands to these two independent dials: they are governed by separate escapements, which means their timekeeping would be unavoidably different – although for the ultimate watch nerd experience, it sure would be cool to see by how much the two are off from one another. One would hope that a properly functioning tourbillon would eliminate the majority of positional error, but even so, we could expect infinitesimal fluctuations.
You can’t ignore the depth of this dial – for me, and I am sure I am not alone with this, a multi-levelled dial can really make a watch stand out. A common criticism of dials of this nature is that they are too modern. Traditional techniques result in a much more 2D effect, but with the Arnold & Son DTE Double Tourbillon Escapement Dual Time watch we see an example of how both camps can be satisfied. Sure, it’s not going to be to everyone’s taste, but it is a good attempt at establishing a common ground.
The Arnold & Son DTE Double Tourbillon Escapement Dual Time contains the A&S8513 calibre, which is a nickel silver movement with an NAC gray coating. The bridges and wheels are hand chamfered with polished edges, and the screws are bevelled to further enhance the play of light across the many surface finishes. There is a see through sapphire case back and the watch is water resistant to 30 meters. The movement is 37.3mm wide (making the most of the 43.5mm case), 8.35mm thick, and operates at 21,600vph.
Stylistically speaking, this is one of my favorite watches to hit the market this year – it’s a shame that there are only going to be 28 of them! I love the symmetry of the dial, the luxuriousness of the 18k gold tourbillon bridges, the synchronized dance of the twin-tourbillons, and the NAC gray-coated face, finished with Geneva stripes. Aesthetically, this watch brings to mind one of my all time favorites, the MB&F Legacy Machine 1 (hands-on here), which, incidentally, also has two independent time indications, albeit governed by one single escapement. The Arnold & Son DTE Double Tourbillon Escapement Dual Time does add two tourbillons, transforming itself it into more of an horological heavyweight (not that the LM1 would be anything but a marvel of modern horology). It’s no longer a new thing to display a tourbillon on the dial, but it does seem to be a sensible place to put it if your watch contains one. They are so interesting to look at. Even if you forget what it’s there for, it still looks really, really cool. And two is always better than one, right?
Unfortunately, multiple tourbillons come at a price. This is a limited run, and there will only be 28 of this Arnold & Son DTE Double Tourbillon Escapement Dual Time model available, each one with a price tag of $218,865. In my opinion, the Arnold & Son DTE Double Tourbillon Escapement Dual Time is a beautiful watch and one I would love to have on my wrist. It handles its size with grace, and that vertical symmetry is a treat! Alas, such class does not come cheap, but if you do have the money (or a very rich, generous friend) it’s not a bad thing to spend it on.
In an era of bulk and ostentation, the Piaget Altiplano Chronograph stands out for its old-school values. As the thinnest flyback chronograph in the world, this model builds on the legacy that began with the release of the world’s thinnest hand-wound and automatic watches in 1957 and 1960, respectively. While others are concerned with space-consuming complications or eye-catching shock value, the Altiplano harks back to a simpler era, when luxury items were more restrained.
In the case of the Piaget Altiplano Chronograph, less is certainly more. The aesthetic is clean and direct. Single black lines to mark the hours and minutes, while parallel lines mark the even hours. The three sub-dials are decorated with tall, slim Arabic numerals and are located towards the centre of the dial at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. Unusually, the 9 o’clock sub-dial is actually a GMT dial, not an hour counter as one might expect.
This may annoy some, but given that this watch’s main complication is a fly-back chronograph, it seems justifiable (fly-backs are more often used to time shorter periods). The fly-back function simply means that the chronograph hands can be reset to zero and restarted with a single push of a button. This is handy if you are trying to time something accurately and accidentally false start, or if you are timing a sequence of events with little or no pause between the end of one and the beginning of another. Whatever use you find for it, its most prolific might be as a conversation starter.
This is a custom, specific, proprietary movement developed to break records. It is, in this sense, a work of art and engineering in harmony. You could find plenty of examples of major brands that charge just as much for a bog-standard ETA, cleverly hidden in or disguised by a glitzy case. The Piaget Altiplano Chronograph is no pretender; it is classy to its core. The eagle-eyed might notice that the case is actually larger than it needs to be – the Calibre 883P could easily fit in a case under 40mm diameter, but Piaget have chosen to give the Piaget Altiplano Chronograph a bit more width to satisfy modern tastes.
The result is that the sub-dials appear somewhat bunched-up in the centre of the dial. I, personally, like the look and the space that the central busyness leaves for the hour markers to breathe, but it may not be to everyone’s taste.
The 41mm rose gold case is noticeably sharp. Its plain, straight sides, and angular bezel give the whole watch the appearance of size, despite remaining comfortable to wear – the case comes in at a remarkable 8.24mm tall. Due to the starkness of the flanks, the watch is able to satisfy the modern requirement for presence, while remaining slight enough to fit comfortably under a cuff. The Piaget Altiplano Chronograph retains a consistent identity through the use of stout, polished pushers that blend in with the otherwise uncluttered silhouette. The pushers need to be there because it’s a chronograph, but their presence is muted and all the better for it.
This kind of balance does not happen by accident. Great pains have been taken to reduce the thickness of almost every component in the watch. Piaget state that the canon pinion is 0.12mm thick, the barrel staff 0.115mm, and the chronograph gear finger a staggering 0.06mm. The Calibre 883P is a world-leading 4.65mm thick. Despite its diminutive size, it also boasts a 50-hour power reserve.
These impressive feats have been achieved because of the way Piaget’s design team has integrated all of the chronograph components into the movement rather than going for a modular construction that would have added height. The movement itself is an aesthetic treat. I love the gilded logo, engraved against a circular Geneva Wave pattern. The screw balance is on show, and there is just enough visible motion to entertain the eye without sacrificing the necessary rigidity of the bridges. Blued screws add a flash of color to proceedings, while bevelled edges catch the light brilliantly. One of the greatest challenges faced by watch designers is finding a way for the wearer to actively engage with his or her timepiece. Being able to see the effect of the pushers when actuated by exposing the polished column wheel is a really nice touch.
With the Piaget Altiplano Chronograph, Piaget has reconfirmed its status as a major player in the ultra-slim market. These days, it is a more niche sector than it has been in the past but still attracts plenty of interest. It is good to see other brands making an effort to steal Piaget’s crown. For example, the Arnold & Son UTTE currently holds the world record for the slimmest Tourbillon, but the Breguet Classique Extra-Thin Automatic 5377, showcased at last year’s Baselworld, will take its place when released. With the increasing ubiquity of new and curious complications, the ultra-slim market could be due a renaissance. It seems natural that improvements should follow a simple evolutionary process: conception – complication – refinement. Once a complication has been mastered, what more can one do but make it smaller and simpler?
Mired in a world of wrist giants as we are, it may be hard to see a return to the old ways, but reducing the size of the movement simply increases the potential of big watches to house even more mechanical magic. For example, you could very nearly fit two Calibre 883Ps in the case of an Omega Planet Ocean – imagine the possibilities raised by a duplex movement! For that reason, I think Piaget’s continued work in this field is more than a quaint reminder of how things were, and rather a soul-stirring glimpse at what the future could yet hold.
The price of the Piaget Altiplano Chronograph is $29,000 and it will be released in September 2015. For those who don’t think a rose gold chronograph is fancy enough already, there will also be a white gold, diamond bezel version.