Sunday, November 29, 2009

Why are luxury watches so expensive?

I was reading an article over at Forbes the other day and wanted to share some of the information they wrote up.  It delas with the difference between a a watch that costs a couple hundrend dollars vs a watch that costs tens of thousands of dollars.

Most of the price of these watches deals with the hand finishing.

finishing a watch by hand

An appreciation of finishing is an insider passion even today. But a basic understanding of it can give the nonfanatic a new perspective on the price-value relationship of timepieces. Here are key points to remember.

Robotics have lowered the cost significantly for all luxury watches - A modern CNC cutter or spark- erosion machine can turn out parts that without further finishing can be assembled into high-precision micromachines. The 'bots make possible entry-level mechanical watches from Swatch, Seiko, Citizen, Orient, and Timex of a precision that would have been impossible at such a price point (often less than $500) a few decades ago.

Your watch is not more accurate from more finishing - Top-grade hand-finishing is really the connoisseur's delight--beauty in the eye of the beholder who knows how to recognize it.

Quality of finish and price tag don't always match - If a particular model becomes a collectors' darling (like the stainless steel Rolex Daytona chronograph), or if a brand is just plain hot, price follows suit, even if the watch has little or no hand-finishing.

Precious metals and gemstones (like diamonds) can quickly up the price - A machine-finished watch with one or both can cost more than one that is hand-finished. Rarity and peculiarities can make a watch expensive regardless of finishing.

Absent those factors, higher price means more finishing. A $12,000 watch, as a rule, has more hand-finishing than a $8,000 one.

At the high end, it's the finisseur. His painstaking work & skill bestows a pedigree price. A $1,000 chronograph with industrial finishing becomes a $25,000 one with hand-finishing.

Above that, complication comes into play. At the very high end, it drives price as much as finishing.

Finally, finishing is a three-tiered cake: basic (robot), machine, and hand.
  1. Basic Finish - Mechanical watches that sell for less than $1,000 compose the base. They have little or no finish beyond that produced by the robots that manufacture the movement.
  2. Machine Finish - ($1,000–$12,000) are mechanical models with varying degrees of machine-executed decorative finish: attractive beveling, blued-finish screws, gleaming countersinks, and engraving. Watches at the upper end of this layer also have some hand-finishing.
  3. Hand Finishing ($12,000 and up) in the top tier starts to predominate. North of $20,000, you're getting the full-on haute treatment, horology's equivalent of haute couture. A premium-grade movement like Vacheron's caliber 1400, the caliber 215 from Patek, or the caliber 3120 automatic from Audemars Piguet, is a singular object: The hand-finishing means no two are exactly alike.

One of the top watch finisseurs in the world is Maik Pfeiffer, the gentleman who finishes Lange watches.  He actually used modified dentals tools to hand finish watches at Lange.  See a picture of him below at work.

Maik Pfeiffer is a finisseur, he is one of the best watch finishers and finishes Lange watches

We understand why people ask,  "Why is a top-notch timepiece so expensive". But when you multiply the number of hours it takes to hand-finish just one part--more than half a day in some cases--by the number of components in the movement (easily 115 pieces in a Rolex watch) and then by the number of years it takes to learn how to finish a piece of metal the size of a fly antenna, it's easier to see how the price starts to add up. It's the hundreds of hours of niche expert human labor concentrated in a small universe on your wrist.

Read the original article here at Forbes.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Octavia Garcia, the artistic genuis behind Audemars Piguet

The making of a legend.  Where did this guy come from?

Educated in Switzerland, where he attended a school specializing in industrial design, Octavio Garcia familiarized himself with the craft principles and discovered the watch industry. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Industrial Design, his intuitiveness led him fiirst to Omega, and he designed the entire collection--including the Constellation, Speed Master, and Sea Master. Additionally, Garcia worked for Swatch and its subsidiaries. Such opportunities afforded Garcia with important positions at the world's finest watchmakers.
Octavia Garcia - Audemars Piguet - lead watch designer
The beginning of this artistic craftsmanship began with an architectural muse in the early urban industrial architecture of Chicago. Octavio became more interested in architecture and began his course in the arts. During his studies, Garcia met his wife, a citizen of Switzerland, and visited the country he now resides in.

Octavio Garcia, the design director of Audemars Piguet, is now a pillar in the luxury watch design industry. In a less than a year, Octavio Garcia has become one of two designers developing contemporary, neo-industrial concepts for Audemars Piguet, the only family-operated, watch-making manufacturer that prides itself on tradition. Of the company, Garcia states, "It is the only high-end company that experiments with new ideas." Involved with the design of the entire Piguet collection, Garcia focuses on the creation of the watch head, dial, and bracelet.. Upon taking over the creative mantle at Audemars Piguet, his first acts were to:
  • contemporize the brand’s classic collection, evinced by his updated Jules Audemars Equation of Time watch
  • unveil sleekly menacing, relentlessly modern watches
This first happened with the Juan Pablo Montoya Royal Oak Offshore watch that would come to define a large part of Audemars Piguet's contemporary brand equity as well as the prevailing creative substance of this era. The Royal Oak watch was named after a trio of warships christened Royal Oak, after the legendary Royal Oak (a hollowed out tree which offered King Charles II a safe hiding place from his pursuers) lent their distinctive name in 1972 to the luxury sports watch, Royal Oak. When examining the simple, yet refined stainless steel case, the face accented with dark blue, black, or silver, and a robber or Velcro fastening, the design elements incorporated by Garcia into this classically fashioned timepiece is indisputable. "It is a landmark. Essentially, we elevated the design. A soft re-style with a reflection of us with contemporary proportions. This was done to keep the soul of this landmark piece."

Royal Oak - Audemars Piguet - Octavia Garcia

Garcia’s Montoya was the first timepiece to take functional elements from F-1 cars and introduce them as aesthetic flourishes in his watch. While this has become de rigueur today, at the time, it was verging on Dadaist subversion. It was at Audemars Piguet — the manufacture famously associated with audacity — that Garcia flourished and distilled his singular brand of design magic. In 2006, he completely recreated the once-staid Millenary case into a palace of three-dimensional architecture. Together with his key collaborator Philippe Vaptzarof, he’s overseen some of the modern era’s most sought-after watches, including the Rubens Barrichello Offshore, the Maserati MC-12 inspired Millenary MC-12 Tourbillon Chronograph, the forged carbon fiber Alinghi Team, 2007’s drop dead gorgeous Millenary watch with deadbeat seconds, and much more.

Who do you think is the greatest living watch designer in the world?

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Criminal found his niche by only stealing Rolex watches

This local story caight my attention. It seems that this Miami, FL thief was so proud of how he made a "living" that he even tatooed the Rolex logo on his forearm.  Even after spending nearly 2 decades in prison for stealing these luxury watches, he returned to his trade as soon as he was released from prison.

Rolex tattoo on a prisoner

A Florida thief with a peculiar penchant for Rolex watches faces up to 25 years in prison.  Leonardo Perez has pleaded guilty to charges he stole eight gold Rolex Presidential edition watches, each worth $50,000, over four months in 2007. The crime spree began just after Perez finished a 17-year sentence for stealing Rolexes in South Florida.

The 36-year-old Miami native is so loyal he even has the Rolex logo tattooed on a forearm. He used his eagle eyesight to assist with his crimes.  Investigators say he's been able to glimpse and follow drivers wearing the watch from the other side of the road. He primarily found victims out shopping, followed them home and robbed them at gunpoint.

He is still awaiting trial.  Of course, having a 5 point crown tattoo is not a good idea to have tattooed on you anyway, especially in jail.  Their is a gang called "People Nation" that also uses the 5 point crown to symbolize their affiliation.

In closing, our advice for all those wearing Rolex watches is to make sure nobody follows you down your driveway at your home. Of course, we always should be aware of our surroundings anywere we go when we have a $50,000 watch on your wrist.  What do you do to prevent your luxury watch from being stolen when traveling?

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Rolex watch that doubles as a cellphone, mp3 & movie player

OK, I don't think that Rolex or Omega would ever come out with a watch that can double as a cellphone (except in a James Bond movie) but LG has and it looks to up the stakes again.

Most watch enthusiasts remember when the LG GD910 watch cellphone was first seen at the January Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in 2009. We expected great things and were overall impressed with the phone's specs. Of course once we had the phone, it didn't quite live up to it's hype. The new rumour is that LG is coming out with an update of the phone for the beginning of 2010 and should add some bold new colors and fix some of the problems customers have compained about:

- 80MB storage is really small
- backlight goes to low power mode when not in use so you can't read the watch in daylight
- No Internet Browser
- No live preview of what you are taking a photo of

Here's a quick rundown of what the watch has currently:

A VGA camera with 640 x 480 resolution (pretty much equal to a $10 Chinese digital camera). But it does provide the ability to make and receive video calls

The watch phone comes with a 1.4 inch TFT display touch screen which displays 256,000 colours at a pixel size of 128 x 160 pixels. The screen doubles up as the watch face as well as the display screen for all the enclosed functionality, which is accessed by using the flash user interface provided.

This is big for a watch face but really small for a video screen. If you want to pull having nice video with a watch you need a built in LCD projector or an adaptor to your video projection sunglasses for the 2012 model ;-).

It also provides text to speech capabilites (easier for texting than trying to ype on this thing) and an mp3 player.

This phone will likely not appeal to your typical luxury watch enthusiast. It lacks the style and distinction we look for in a watch. This is more suited for the ultra techno geek than a man wearing his Armani Suit and his custom Italian leather shoes.

I don't see Rolex ever coming out with a cellphone watch, ever. But what technological improvements could Rolex, Cartier, or Bvlgari make that would make you want one more? Any?

Herre's a great video faeturing the cellphone watch.