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A Brief History of the IWC Pilot's Watch

in Learn | Saturday, May 31. 2008

In the early 1900's aviation was revolutionizing the world, bringing us to new and exciting levels of discovery in the world and technology. The new form of travel brought many new challenges for watchmakers to tackle. With the higher altitudes came a slew of new advances to compensate for the new extreme conditions. Shatterproof glass, a rotating bezel, luminescent features and antimagnetic movement were all developed to offset the effects of this new environment. While IWC was not the only brand to make watches specifically designed for pilots, they have contributed some of the best and most innovative pilots watches to date.

IWC Mark XVIIn 1948 IWC introduced what has proven itself to be their most famous watch, the Mark 11, which was produced for almost 40 years. Most notably the watch's 89-calibre movement was the first to have an additional soft iron inner case which shields it from magnetic fields. Today the Pilot's Watch Mark XVI is continuing the tradition of greatness, with protection against magnetic fields and a glass secured against drops in air pressure, the Mark XVI is indeed a reliable companion for the everyday to the most extreme of conditions.

IWC Big PilotWith its introduction in 2002 the IWC Big Pilot has become the new must have pilots watch. It features one of the largest automatic movements in the world, calibre 51111. As its name indicates this is an oversized watch at just over 46mm wide with a height of 15.8mm. It is produced in stainless steel and white gold, recently a rose gold version was released as a limited edition of just 50 pieces.

The ladies Twenty~4 watch from Patek Philippe was first introduced in 1999, it was created to be a contemporary version of the Gondolo ladies model and was insiped by Art Deco design. The collection also includes a line of Twenty~4® rings and earrings that compliment the various designs. They are available in stainless steel, rose gold, yellow gold and white gold. Each Twenty~4 has an onyx or a diamond solitaire on the crown. The two newest addition to Patek's Twenty~4 collecion are the 4910/52G and the 4910/48G, each only produced in 18k white gold.

Patek 4910/52GThe first new Twenty~4 is model 4910/48G has a medium case size that is 25 x 30mm and has been set with diamonds in a beautiful Art Deco inspired pattern. It has a total of 500 diamonds with 499 set on the case, dial and bracelet and a single diamond set on the crown. The silvery sunburst dial displays hours and minutes and has diamond-set Roman numeral markers at twelve and six o'clock. The ultra thin Caliber E 15 quartz movement has 6 jewels and 57 individual parts and is marked with the geneva seal hallmark.

Patek 4910/52GThe second new addition to the Twenty~4 collection is model 4910/52G also has a medium case size that is 25 x 30mm. The case, dial and bracelet have a custom pave diamond setting which unlike most pave settings uses several sizes of diamonds to create a unique effect. There are a total of 2458 diamonds included in the overall design with 12.65 carats on the case, dial and bracelet and a single 0.05 carat diamond on the crown. The ultra thin Caliber E 15 movement has a diameter of 16.30 mm and is 1.80 mm thick. The battery life is about three years.

Patek Nautilus 5713/1G-001Patek Philippe has introduced a new Nautilus for its Joaillerie collection. The new white gold model has a 40mm case and is set with 48 round brilliant-cut diamonds. Unlike other white gold nautilus models which have tradionally been on straps, the 5713/1G model has an 18k white gold bracelet. The black-blue shaded dial has gold applied hour markers with luminescent coating and displays hours, minutes, seconds and date. Patek Philippe used their Caliber 324 S C movement, it is comprised of 213 hand-finished components and measures 27mm by 3.30mm. It also features a Gyromax balance wheel, Geneva Seal hallmark, 29 jewels, 45 hour power reserve, and it produces 28,800 vph. The water resistance of this model is rated at 120 meters.

Patek Nautilus 5713/1G-001Another new edition to the Joaillerie Nautilus collection is the 5722G, a beautiful complicated Nautlius watch set with 32 baguette diamonds. This complicated timepiece features moonphase, pointer-style date and power reserve indicators. The 40mm case is white gold and has a sapphire crystal caseback. Patek used their caliber 240 PS IRM C LU movement which is stamped with the coveted Geneva Seal. The strap is made from shiny navy blue alligator with square scales that is hand-stitched.

Though Patek Philippe's archives do not indicate which is true, it is thought that the name Nauitlus was inspired by either the vessel in the Disney movie Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (1954) or the US Navy's first nuclear powered submarine. Designd by well known Gerald Genta, it was first introduced by Patek Philippe in 1976 and was one of the world first sport watches. The Nautilus is easily distinguisable from other Patek models by its trademark rounded octagonal bezel.

Vacheron Les MasquesThe Les Masques watches from Vacheron Constantine are not traditional by any means, and perhaps even a far cry from what many have come to associate with the Vacheron brand. But this observation is not an insult to these new additions to the Métiers d’Art collection, in fact far from it. I find these watches to be visually refreshing and I marvel at the attention to detail taken while reproducing the masks. They are a unique accomplishment, melding the best of design and function. And while some people will balk at the non-traditional use of masks on watches such as these, I find myself drawn to them. The only problem I foresee would be choosing which one to wear first, were I lucky enough to own them.

Vacheron Mask WatchThe Masque watches, released in 2007, are only the first four of the twelve to be created. When complete, the collection will consist of 3 sets, with one set released each of the three years. There will be four watches in each set, 25 pieces of each. Each of these twelve watches will have a different ancient mask on the dial. The four masks chosen for the first set are a Chinese death mask, a Congolese face mask, an Indonesian theatre mask and an Alaskan frontal mask. They are exact miniature reproductions of actual primitive art masks from the Barbier-Mueller Museum in Geneva. The miniatures were created by scanning the real masks to get a three-dimensional image. Then producing a prototype in gold that was given to an engraver who meticulously carved the masks to replicate the exact look of these ancient artifacts.

Vacheron Constantin MaskAfter the masks themselves are produced they are then incorporated into the watches. The way the masks are placed and the specially-treated glass makes them seem to be floating in space. Each mask is set on a sapphire dial that has been tinted in a complementary color. Each dial is engraved with an individual poem written by a famous a French writer named Michel Butor. The poems themselves are only visible at certain angles accomplished by engraving the underside of each crystal with the words of the poem before filling the engraving with gold. The placement of the hours, minutes, days and date in four separate dials is somewhat non-traditional in itself. The 40 mm cases are produced in white gold for the Alaskan mask, pink gold for the Indonesian mask, yellow gold for the Chinese mask, and platinum for the Congolese mask.

Vacheron Constantin Mask WatchWhile the design of the Les Métiers d’Art “Les Masques” watches are unique, the movement used is the same cal. 2460 found in the Les Métiers d’Art “4 Saisons” unveiled for Vacheron Constantin's 250th anniversary which took place in 2005. They have a transparent caseback and are water resistant to 30 meters.

A Brief History of The Breguet Type XX

in Learn | Saturday, May 3. 2008

Audemars Piguet Perpetual CalendarThe name Breguet is indeed one of the most recognizable name in watchmaking. It has accomplished much in its long history as a brand, such as the invention of the tourbillon. The Breguet Type XX was first introduced in 1954, as a pilots watch produced for the French Airforce. Previously pilots had been carrying a pocket watch version of the chronograph, and now it had been produced in wristwatch form.

The Breguet name has made its mark in aviation in other ways than the design and production of watches for its pilots. The fifth generation descendant of the original Breguet watchmaker, Abbraham Louis Breguet, was Louis Breguet who used his technical genius to manfacture airplanes. He was one of the original founders of Air France. The Breguet XIX made history in 1922 when it made the first non-stop flight from Paris to New York in 37 hours.

Audemars Piguet GinzaThe Breguet Type XX was originally equipped with a 30 minute recorder, a flyback function and a straight-line lever escapement. Today it has evolved to include a 30 minute and a 12 hour totalizer, and a graduated rotating bezel. Breguet has also expanded production to include a titanium version as well as the original stainless steel. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Type XX the Type XXI was introduced. The Type XX had a slightly smaller 39mm case while the Type XXI is 42mm. The Type XXI also includes a flyback minute totalizer and a 24 hour time display and a stunning 18k pink gold version is available.