Thursday, April 8, 2010

Did You Know...

Have you ever wondered what is exactly Grand Sonnerie is??

Well, Grande sonnerie (French, meaning 'grand strike') is a complication in a mechanical watch or clock which combines a quarter striking mechanism with a repeater. On the quarter-hour, it strikes the number of hours audibly on a gong, and then the number of quarter-hours since the hour on a second gong. In addition it can strike the hours on demand, at the push of a button. The term is sometimes used erroneously for a mere quarter striking mechanism.
It is more complex than the petite sonnerie, which merely strikes the hours on the hour and the quarter hours on the quarter, with no repeater function.

What's the big deal? And how does it work?

In the noted horology book "Britten's Old Clocks and Watches", G.H. Baillie defines a Grand Sonnerie movement as follows:

"A form of quarter-striking in which the hour last struck is also repeated at each hour."

It works like this, striking the quarter-hour on one gong and the hour on a second, slightly lower-toned gong:
  • At 3:15 the clock strikes once on the higher chime to indicate the quarter hour, followed by three strikes on the lower chime to indicate the hour.

  • At 3:30 the clock stikes two times on the higher chime (half-hour), followed by three chimes on the lower gong (hour) ...etc.

This way, if you are within hearing distance of the clock, day or night, you can tell exactly what time it is at each quarter hour.

Petite Sonnerie
A "petite sonnerie" movement strikes once on each quarter and then the hour on the hour.

F.P. Journe- Sonnerie Souveraine

All you really need to know about this watch is that it costs half a million bucks and has a waiting list of two to three years. Requiring ten patents and six years of development (as you can see in the right photo there's some really crazy stuff happening on the inside), the F.P. Journe Sonnerie Souveraine ($560,000) is a grand-strike clockwatch and minute repeater. What does this mean? Basically, it sounds the hours and quarters — like dong, dong, dong... ding-dong, ding-dong for 3:30. This might not sound like a big deal, but it's apparently huge in real watchmaking.

Journe’s Sonnerie Souveraine is much more than ‘simply’ a grand sonnerie; it is a grand et petite sonnerie plus a minute repeater. A sonnerie is a clockwatch; that means that it sounds the time (hours and quarters) in passing - just like an old grandfather clock: although a grandfather clock is likely to strike only the hours or perhaps half hours. A grand sonnerie (full strike) sounds the hours and the quarters at each quarter (every 15 minutes), i.e. at 4.45 we would hear four dongs (hours) and three ding-dongs (quarters). A petite sonnerie (small strike) sounds only the hour at the hour the quarters at the quarters, i.e. at 4.45 we would hear only the three ding-dongs of the quarter hours."

Technical Data:
Calibre 1505: Manually wound. 40 jewels. 400+ pieces in movement
Movement Dimensions: 35mm x 7.8mm
Balance: 4 adjustable weights. 21,600 v/h. Free-sprung.
Power Reserve: 120 hours/5 days without chime. 48 hours with grand strike. 24 hours of autonomy after strike runs down.
Case: Steel. 42mm x 12.25mm

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Jaeger Le Coultre- Master Minute Repeater

Since 1833, when the inventive Charles Antoine LeCoultre established this venerable watchmaker, it has produced some of the most outstanding and innovative timepieces. It wasn't until 1931, however, that the Jaeger-LeCoultre brand rose to international fame. It was then that the Reverso - an ingenious reversible watch - was unveiled to the public.

Two years in development, this is a stunning addition to the Jaeger lineup. It is the first minute-repeater that is water resistant to 50 meters. It displays its functions on the front dial which offer a view into this miniaturized wonder of mechanical engineering. The watch chimes - which are sublime to hear and which were designed in collaboration with the Orchestra Leader Georges Prêtre - produce a very sonorous 55 decibels (at two feet away). An incredible 15-day power reserve. Limited to a very exclusive 200 individually numbered pieces.

Also features: Luminescent hour markers. All parts are hand-chamfered and polished. Nickel silver sunray-patterned bottom plate.

Technical Data:

Case:   Titanium
Dial Color:   Open-worked
Watch Bracelet / Strap:   Leather - Purple Alligator
Watch Clasp:   Titanium Deployant Clasp
Movement:   Mechanical Manual
Engine:   Calibre Jaeger-LeCoultre 947 (21,600vph, 41 rubies)
Functions:   Hours, Minutes, Power Reserve, Minute Repitition, Quarters and Hours Repitition.
Crystal:   Sapphire - Anti Reflective
Case Diameter:   43.0 mm
Caseback:   Sapphire Crystal display back. Gorgeous rear decoration.
Bezel Material:   Titanium
Bezel Function:   Fixed
Water Resistance:   50m / 165ft (suitable for showering; not usually suitable for swimming; unsuitable for diving)
Crown:   Titanium, Fluted
Power Reserve:   15-day power reserve

Monday, April 5, 2010

Gerald Genta- Octo Minute Repeater

The first in the world to be associated with jumping hour and retrograde minute functions.

It’s been more than 30 years since Gérald Genta revived the popularity of striking watches, the incredibly complex mechanical models that tell the time through music. Formerly intended for nocturnal use in a world without electricity, they testify to a genius that continues to fascinate connoisseurs of contemporary watchmaking art. On request, a minute repeater model strikes the hours, quarters and minutes – each hour on a low-pitched note, each quarter on alternating low and high-pitched notes, and each minute on a high-pitched note. Gérald Genta watches chime the Gs and Cs at an optimally musical cadence. At 11:59, the 31 notes required ring out in about 15 seconds, a period that is neither too lengthy nor too rushed and creates a tune that is both melodiously and clearly audible.

The Octo Minute Repeater features baroque-inspired ornamental dials adorned with multiple geometrical motifs. Red or black lacquered, engraved in white or red gold, they form typically sophisticated Gérald Genta compositions each of which is produced in a limited edition of one. The jumping hour appears through an aperture cut-out in the traditional 9 o’clock position, while the retrograde minutes move across a 180° semi-circle exactly opposite. The brand’s signature read-off style is thus both instinctive and easy.

The Octo cases reserved for this exceptional edition are crafted in red or white gold with polished middles and satin-brushed bezels. On the surfaces, polished studs punctuate the sweeping run of the retrograde minutes. On the other side, a key of G sign discreetly signals the minute repeater pusher that replaces the conventional sliding bolt in order to ensure the case is perfectly water resistant, and also matches the beaded winding crown. Onyx and hawk’s eye cabochons subtly distinguish one from the other.

The self-winding movement constitutes a new feat from the Manufacture Gérald Genta. It is to date the only calibre to combine minute repeater, jumping hour and retrograde minutes, and its construction is remarkably slender. The central minute repeater calibre is the thinnest in the world (3.12 mm thick) and complete with the oscillating weight and the jumping hour-retrograde minute plate measures a mere 7.38 mm in all. Thanks to this major technical accomplishment, the watch itself features an extremely moderate size. Its undeniable elegance is further enhanced by the pleasure of hearing it chime with a delightfully resonant tone stemming from over five years of pioneering acoustic research conducted by the brand.

The innovative Grand Complication is sublimated by a hand-engraved personalised decorative pattern reflecting the style of the dials and extending over the bridges featuring twelve segments evoking the twelve hours. This refined touch complements the traditional fine watchmaking finishes such as bevelling, polishing, circular satin brushing and hand-drawn flanks, as well as the concentric circular graining and the “Potter finish” old gold colour typical of Gérald Genta movements. This work of art may be admired through a sapphire crystal case-back, complete with its solid gold oscillating weight exquisitely openworked around a signature G motif.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Vacheron Constantin- King Fouad I pocket-watch

The King Fouad I pocket-watch sold for a record SFr 3,306,250, making it the most sought-after pocket-watch in this sale and the 5th most sought-after pocket-watch in the world.
This superb piece was presented as a gift in July 1929 by the colony of Swiss people living in Egypt to mark the visit to Switzerland of King Fouad I. This remarkable 18K gold timepiece features a silver dial graced with 12 complications: a split-seconds chronograph with 30-minute register, a perpetual calendar, displays of the date, day, month, leap-year and moon phase, as well as a minute repeater striking three gongs on demand, grande sonnerie striking the hours and quarters on three gongs, and petite sonnerie striking the quarter hours on three gongs. The striking mechanism possesses its own winding train distinct from that of the 46-jewel movement.

Sidetrack history regarding King Fouad I,

Born in 1920, Egypt’s last monarch, King Farouk I was a notorious glutton, kleptomaniac, skirt chaser and, to top it all off, he was extremely whimsical too. He ascended the throne at the age 18 as a wide-eyed idealist all set to always be good only to discard these ideals as time wore on. Psychologically unhinged, he could shed tears seeing a dead bird during a promenade and the very next moment he could grab a cat and smash it smack against the wall. Becoming king, Farouk immediately issued a decree outlawing red cars in his country. Simply because all of his 100-plus cars were of exactly that color… Soon after he had so much antagonized all of his onetime allies and the army that the revolutionaries did not find it at all difficult to overthrow him…

After the 32-year-old Farouk left the country never to get back again, the new regime quickly moved to auction off the king 's vast collection of trinkets and stolen treasures, including a huge collection of pornographic magazines and the world’s largest collection of post stamps. Searching the royal palaces, they found whole rooms laden with things at various times and places pilfered by the kleptomaniac monarch — empty bottles, coins, watches and untouched toothpaste tubes. And pricier things like, for example, a ceremonial sword Farouk had picked up right from the coffin of the Shah of Iran and a priceless pocket watch stolen from Winston Churchill.

At the age of 18 Farouk fell in love with the 17-year-old beauty Safinez Zulfikar and shortly after married her but not before he made her change her name. From then on Safinez was supposed to go under the official name Farida which in Arabic means “the only one”. It wasn’t long before the young king started having flings with other women though. Farouk was spending much time and effort to make his subjects believe he was an insatiable lover and convince them he certainly did! Always a glutton, the king would devour huge amounts of meat, fish, and eggs and was a real sucker for carbonated soft drinks. His gluttony for fine cuisine soon made the six-foot-tall former king dangerously obese, weighing nearly 300 pounds (136 kilos).

A great fan of night clubs and gambling, Farouk would often sit in casinos entertaining himself by spitting on passing waiters and guests and flirting with women. Those of the latter who ignored his attentions could easily wind up in one of his five palaces without their consent. Farouk was particularly partial to married women often blackmailing them to divorce their husbands. And it seems he just couldn’t care less about the feelings of his wife Farida who bore him three children during their 11 years together only to see her husband divorce her in the end. Shortly after the breakup the king, eager to win back his people’s love and respect, tied the knot with Nariman Sadeq, a 16-year-old commoner who looked so much like the woman he once craved for… After the 1952 coup Nariman followed her husband into exile in Italy but two years later she returned home and obtained a Moslem divorce.

Farouk continued to live a lavish life even in exile, and continued his obsessive accumulation of material goods squandering what had remained of his once vast fortune. In Rome he made the acquaintance of the 18-year-old aspiring actress Irma Minutolo. The two met during a beauty pageant Irma was taking part in. She never won any awards but managed to win the heart of the playboy ex-king who bought her a plush apartment and was paying for her music and singing lesions. Until Farouk’s last day Irma Minutolo remained his lover which did not prevent him looking for and finding ever new bedfellows…

Farouk died in Rome, on March 18, 1965. On the night he died, he was again eating in his favorite restaurant in the company of a new and his last girlfriend. He was only 45…